It’s been a decade since I had a solo travel experience to New York City(NYC). As someone who often travels to bigger cities like Atlanta and LA, I was surprised that I hadn’t visited NYC in so long. However, upon my return, I found that the city was just as I remembered it: vibrant and exciting.
In this blog post, I will share tips and tricks on how to explore New York City solo, especially if your traveling from Chicago or other parts of the Midwest.
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Planning My Trip from the CHI to NYC
From the moment I arrived in New York City, I was immediately struck by its energy and vibrancy. It had been a decade since my last visit, and I was surprised by how much I had missed it. The reason for my visit was to attend Culture Con, a creative conference for people of color looking to enhance their careers with professional and personal skill building, workshops, and networking.
The conference was a fantastic experience, and I learned a lot about my creative ambitions and overall career goals. After the conference, I decided to extend my stay in the city to explore all that it had to offer. I was able to experience world-class art, incredible food, and amazing architectural wonders during my stay.
How to Travel to New York City from Chicago
If you’re looking for the quickest and most affordable way to experience solo travel from Chicago to New York, flying is your best bet. With a flight time of just 1 hour and 45 minutes, you’ll be in the Big Apple in no time. And the good news is that you can find roundtrip flights for as low as $100 from most major airlines!
New York City has two major airports, LaGuardia and JFK. I personally flew in and out of LaGuardia, which has recently been renovated and really enhanced my travel experience. Just be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, as traffic in both Chicago and New York can be overwhelming with fellow travelers.
Where to Stay in New York City
If you’re planning a trip to NYC, it may be wise to consider hotels instead of short-term rentals due to strict regulations on the latter. While black-market rentals may seem enticing, they come with potential risks such as scams or lack of protection for your money.
I stayed in Manhattan at The FIDI Hotel which was located in the Financial District of Manhattan. It is close to plenty of subway locations and walkable to popular destinations.
To find affordable rates, you could look for hotelsin the boroughs outside of Manhattan or even in New Jersey, but it’s important to keep in mind the distance between the things you are looking to do and where you plan to stay.
How to Get Around New York City
New York has some of the best public transportation in the world! The subway is the most efficient and cost-effective way to experience solo travel within the city. You can get a MetroCard for easy access to subways and buses, which is a huge time saver! Plus, you can download it digitally to your phone for even more convenience.
But don’t forget about walking! NYC is a super easy city to walk around in, especially in Manhattan. It’s a great way to see different neighborhoods and get your steps in. I highly recommend a pair ofgood walking shoesfor your trip—you’ll definitely need them.
And if you need to travel further or prefer a different mode of transportation, you can take a bus, taxi, ride share, or bike.
Just remember to check for service updates and plan your route in advance, especially if you’re using public transportation. Each mode of transportation offers a different perspective of the city, so feel free to mix and match based on your preferences and the distance you need to cover.
Why Do So Many People Love NYC
New York City is a bustling metropolis known for its iconic skyline, diverse culture, and vibrant energy. It has a has a population of over 8 million people, making it the most populous city in the United States. The entire metropolitan area, which includes surrounding areas in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, is even more populous, with over 20 million residents.
New York City is often referred to as “The Big Apple” and is composed of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Each borough has its own unique character andattractions.
From finance to fashion, New York city is a global hub for so many things, which is why it is great to experience as a solo traveler. Tourists in particular flock to New York City for its iconic landmarks, melting pot of cultures, reflected in its diverse neighborhoods, world-class museums, and a thriving culinary scene.
In essence, New York City’s allure lies in its dynamic and fast-paced lifestyle, cultural richness, and the endless array of experiences it offers to both residents and visitors alike. The city truly never sleeps!
A Comprehensive List of Things to Do in New York City
If you’ve been to a big city before or even lived in one, your solo experience in New York might be unique. It could be touristy, or it could be something completely different. Here are some ideas on how you can explore the city and find something new that your hometown might not have.
Visit an iconic museum
In New York, there is a museum for everyone. From art to history, fashion and photography, there is something for for all ages to enjoy. During my trip, I stopped by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and experienced their prominent collection modern art which is featured on several floors throughout the museum.
Explore a cool New York City neighborhood
Like Chicago, New York has plenty of incredible neighborhoods to explore. Each offering their own unique cultural attractions, food, and entertainment.
During this trip, I stopped by the Brooklyn Public Library to see The Book of Hov, a free and reflective exhibit showcasing the life and work of Jay-Z, a Brooklyn-born rapper who is a globally recognized mogul.
For food, I tried OxKale Caribbean To Go, a Brooklyn based restaurant that had simple yet soulful cuisine and a NYC staple, “chopped cheese”, I picked it up a one of the many bodegas in the area and have to say it was one of my favorite meals from the trip.
There are several other activities that are a must when exploring this neighborhood. First, you should walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. From end to end, the walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn is just over one mile and has incredible views of Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. Along the way, be sure to take plenty of photos and perhaps checkout a street vendor or two. Visiting the Brooklyn Museum is also a must. This museum has unique exhibitions that are deeply rooted in New York culture. Finally, you have to experience the nightlife in Brooklyn which is comprised of cool bars and hidden warehouse parties.
Sing-a-long at a Broadway Show
If you’re a fan of live performances, then you know that nothing compares to the magic of Broadway. I’ve been fortunate enough to see some incredible shows in Chicago and Dayton, Ohio, but I have to say, my first Broadway experience seeing The Lion King was absolutely mind-blowing.
The level of production and performance was unparalleled, from the stunning costumes to the intricately designed stage. And if you’re looking for something to do during your solo travel, this is is a highly unforgettable experience to try. For amazing steals and deals to a Broadway show, check out my favorite websitehere.
Grab a drink at a swanky rooftop bar
I absolutely love grabbing drinks at a cute hotel bar in Chicago, and I was excited to do the same in New York. I didn’t want to miss out on the breathtaking views of the city, so I made sure to find a spot that offered an uninterrupted view. And let me tell you, it was totally worth it! The views were amazing and I got some really cute photos too.
Before the after-work rush, I hopped on a train to the NoMad neighborhood and made my way to Nubelez – a stunning rooftop bar on top of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. The ambiance was simply to die for, and the views were absolutely breathtaking. However, I have to admit that the drinks were a bit of a letdown. They were definitely theatrical and cute, but not worth the hefty $30 price tag. So, if I ever visit this rooftop again, I’d probably just opt for a straight-up drink (maybe just water) and take advantage of the stunning views.
Find something unique at one of the many shopping districts
For anyone visiting NYC solo, shopping is an absolute must. I think it’s part of the experience to walk down 5th Avenue, windows shop or even visit just to say you did it. But, some of the best shopping can be found in neighborhoods like Soho.
This area has more independent labels, trendier brands, and designer vintage shops with great deals. My favorite find was 2nd STREET Noho, a small vintage store that carries brands like Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton, Off-White and more.
Eat at locally recommend hot spots
New York is a food city, and my, does it have plenty of it! One of my favorite meals was my final dinner in the city at Fish Cheeks, a Thai seafood, family-style restaurant, which was recommended by a NYC local. I tried the Crab Fried Rice and Wings, and let me tell you, it was all worth it!
If you are looking for other food options in New York, consider local favorites like New York style pizza and cheesecake, Bagel with lox and cream cheese, or even one-of-a-kind ethnic eats that you won’t find anywhere else.
Is New York City safe for solo female travelers?
As a solo traveler, especially as a black woman, it is always important to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings regardless of the city, town, or country. However, in my opinion, I feel safe exploring New York City solo. Apart from being vigilant, here are some other tips and tools that could be useful for solo female travelers:
- Keep your ears and eyes open and alert at all times. Avoid looking down at your phone or having earbuds in.
- Make eye contact with people that you walk by, so they know that you see them.
- Stay in well-lit areas. If there are no lights present, be sure to find another area that you can walk in with more people and more light around.
- If you feel comfortable, carry some sort of self-defense weapon.
New York City has so much to offer for solo travelers. Don’t get me wrong, Chicago is amazing too, but you can’t compare the two because they both offer unique experiences that can be enjoyed alone. From culture to entertainment to delicious food, there’s something for everyone in the “Big Apple” around the clock. So be sure to add it to your solo travel list and use this guide to help plan your adventure.