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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A guide to solo female travel in New York

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N

ew York: the city that never sleeps.

Even if a shop looks closed, behind the scenes there are countless workers cleaning, restocking, and readying the next shift for when doors open to busy clients and curious customers.

They say that if you’re “tired of London, then you’re tired of life,” and as a female traveller I think this also applies to New York — a city in which there is always something to see or snack on when I’m travelling alone.

Here’s my take on solo travel for women in the Big Apple.

Best time to visit New York?

The best time to visit the Big Apple is probably during autumn or “fall” — specifically October. The end-of-year season appeals more than brutally hot summers and biting winters in New York.

New York is prettiest in autumn

/ Andy Orin

In autumn you will have fantastic weather for strolling around and exploring the city, better even than in spring. Rainy spells are less common than you think around late September to early November. Another reason to choose the hallowed season is to beat the buzzing crowds. Christmas in New York is absolutely magical, but you’d better be prepared for massive touristy crowds clogging up every cute alleyway.

Another bonus: prices will likely have dropped. A big fat New York price tag is expected, but peak season is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. If those aren’t enough reasons, then let’s also throw in the most stunning seasonal colours. Seeing Central Park in glorious honey and burnt sienna is absolutely stunning. Other parks to catch in full beauty are Prospect Park, the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park.

Which neighbourhood is best to stay in?

This is probably the most difficult (and personal) decision to make because there are so many options. Every area in New York is unique and will give you a very different experience. Your best bet is to research a few different areas in depth and then decide where you’d most like to get lost.

If you’re looking for the city’s most famous attractions, then Midtown Manhattan is the place to be. You will be surrounded by skyscrapers, beautiful museums like the iconic Moma and close to Central Park for a nice morning or evening stroll.

Manhattan bridge

/ Unsplash/nirmal-rajendharkumar

Meanwhile, if you prefer to stay slightly further away from the action, head towards downtown. In the East Village you will be on the doorstep of Lower Manhattan artistry — and you might even spot a celebrity or two. A short subway ride will get you right back to the city centre.

Brooklyn is one of the most populated areas and the slice-of-life nucleus of urban culture. It’s home to iconic attractions like Coney Island, the Brooklyn Bridge and Prospect Park.

Queens is by far the largest borough of the five — and probably most underrated. While Brooklyn is the “New Manhattan”, some are saying that Queens has become the “New Brooklyn”. Sport aficionados have a lot to see alongside a botanical garden, zoo, vintage fairgrounds and the “original Hollywood” studios where Goodfellas and Sesame were filmed. Another bonus is the exquisite Chinese food scene owing to the fastest growing Chinese community in New York residing in Queens – away from Manhattan’s Chinatown.

What to do?

A must do for solo travellers is a pub crawl — it’s one of the best ways to meet new people. Not only will you make new memories with fellow travellers, but also likely bump into plenty of locals.

Do get yourself over to the “Top of the Rock’’ perched at the peak of the Rockefeller Centre. Why not the Empire State Building? Because from the Top of the Rock you will actually be able to see the Empire State building with all its surroundings. Best if you book the tickets online in advance and, if you do go in the winter, then you’ll also find the most Instagrammable Christmas tree at the bottom.

If you love architecture and/or movies, then you should definitely visit Grand Central station. In the heart of Midtown, this spot has been featured in countless Hollywood classics. The structure is absolutely stunning even if you know absolutely nothing about architecture. Just sit at the Oyster Bar and enjoy some fantastic people watching — commuters, tourists, shoppers, and all.

New York New York: exploring the city that never sleeps

/ Unsplash/andre-benz_

Central Park is huge, so if you want to really explore every inch of it, rent a bike. Again, you can find online providers to book cheaper in advance. My favourite spot is the Balto statue of a real hero of a dog. To fully appreciate it, watch the documentary-style movie Togo beforehand — you can find it on Disney+.

Another one of my favourite spots, albeit touristy, is the High Line. It runs through the Meatpacking District and Chelsea and is the perfect spot for watching the sunset. It used to be an old railroad line from the 1930s intended for demolition — and thankfully avoided. Later it was converted into a leafy, beautifully designed elevated highway with lots of places to sit down, relax, have a drink and simply enjoy a New York sunset right in the middle of a busy street.

Is New York safe for solo female travellers?

For a newbie, the city might seem a bit overwhelming at first. But with careful planning and preparation it will be an experience you’ll never forget. When it comes to safety in New York, the best advice I would give is to always be aware and mindful of your surroundings. If you’re already living in a big city like London, then this will probably already be second nature to you.

As a solo female traveller, connecting with other women, whether locals or travellers, is a great idea. You can do this through apps like TravelSisters.co or simply by gathering with others from the hotel or hostel that you’re staying at. There are lots of NYC-focused Facebook groups where you can reach out to others, too.

Last but not least, a few don’ts based on my experience exploring the city that never sleeps…

Don’t…

…expect that you’ll manage to do everything on your bucket list in a day.

…think that you will avoid queues. Even when I say “beating the crowds” it is very likely that you will still have to wait in line. New York is just that popular.

…rent a car. Parking is expensive and traffic can be very confusing.

…leave your accommodation without a charger. Seems a no-brainer nowadays, but be sure to always have a power bank or cable (with the right plug!) with you. Because if you get lost, your phone might be your best friend to find your way home.

… walk around dodgy areas alone at night. Be mindful of your surroundings and keep an eye on your things at all times.

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