New York City Solo Trip | Travel
And I’m back! I’ve returned safely from my five-day solo adventure in New York City.
After getting the aeroplane – for the first time on my own! – I arrived at JFK airport at 6:25pm.
After queueing for nearly an hour only to have the customs officer barely check my passport (I was his last passenger of the day and he wasn’t bothered anymore) I was officially in America.
First lesson: Always bring a range of dollars and coins with you – not $50 notes like me.
If you’re getting the AirTrain, Long Island Rail Road or Metro from JFK to Manhattan you can only get a maximum of $9 change from the ticket machines. These tickets cost about $1-$10 each. I had to ask a shopkeeper to sell me a bottle of water for $1 with a $50 note in order to get change. That was a stressful entrance.
I got my first ever yellow taxi! The first item of my bucket list ticked.
It was tipping it down with rain when I got to Penn Station and I was shattered after being up since 7am BST that morning, so about 18 hours by this point. I really enjoy sleep so if I’m up for more than 15 hours I’m generally shattered.
I chose to stay at a hostel rather than a posh hotel as I wanted to encourage myself to spend as much time as possible out of the comfort of my room to investigate and get things done.
My room was extremely bare, but that’s a hostel for you. But it was comfortable enough and had a fabulous view of Central Park as the hostel was on the Upper West side of Manhattan. Right next to Trump International Hotel and Tower. (Boo!)
Day 1 in New York City
After waking up at 4am and not being able to fall back to sleep (damn jet-lag!) I read my New York City tourist guide and went over my plan for the day. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do but I needed to figure out my route in advance – since I had no data I had to make use of the hostel’s wi-fi while I could.
I decided on getting up and going for breakfast at The Village Den – a healthy eating restaurant run by Antoni Porowski from Queer Eye, and some of his fitness friends. Unfortunately, since I had left so early – 7am – when I got there they were open but were only serving coffee. Apparently, people lie-in on Saturdays and nothing is open – or no food is cooked – until 9am.
Too impatient to wait I took a photo and hopped across the street for a Starbucks.
Nearby to The Village Den was Chelsea Market. This place was heavily recommended to me by friends of mine who have been to NYC many times, and it was also a great place to join the High Line – an abandoned railway line turned scenic walkway.
Most of the shops at Chelsea Market were not open yet but the building was open and practically empty which meant I got to enjoy its unique decor in peace and quiet. I really liked it!
Luckily for me, there was a bread shop open and serving hot food so I got a bacon, egg and cheese griddle. Then I popped into a bookstore – yes, I found a bookstore open at 8:30am.
I had a fantastic time browsing this store with its wide selection of classics, comedies and New York related reads. In the end, I settled on purchasing a book on solo travelling as that seemed very apt for my trip.
I am going to do a full post on what I bought in NYC as I did a lot of shopping while in the city.
After the Chelsea Market, I joined the High Line and was blown away – literally, it was very windy – by the sights of NYC in the early morning.
Since it was still so early there was barely anyone on the High Line so, unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, which I did later, there were no crowds to interrupt my taking in the sights.
I also did some minor celeb spotting as Natasha McElhone was jogging along happily as I walked.
After the High Line I got the Subway back to 59 St Columbus Circle which was near where I was staying and went to the Columbus Shops. A mall of affordable and high-end shops where I went to town in H&M and the Amazon Bookstore.
After returning to my hostel to drop my shopping and have a short break, still very jet-lagged, I wandered out of the hostel and up the side of Central Park West to go to Strawberry Fields.
In my last trip to NYC I did Central Park with my best friend and got quite a lot done but we missed Strawberry Fields and since it was only 10 blocks away from where I was staying it made sense to drop by.
It’s a giant mosaic on the floor where people take photos. What else can I say, I’m a cynic.
After Strawberry Fields I took the brave – some would say stupid – decision to go to the American Museum of Natural History. The reason I say brave/stupid decision is because I have a fear of dinosaurs. Yes, I know.
But I went in. I paid $23 for the pleasure of feeling faint at seeing the first replica of a dinosaur’s skeleton. It wasn’t even the real deal!
I braved a few floors of dinosaur bones and murals before giving up. I lasted 46 minutes (I timed myself) so for 50c a minute I was content.
After this excursion, I went the long-way-round back to my hostel via another bookstore (my happy place), a thrift store (the first of many) and Magnolia Bakery.
By this point, I had really bad back-ache (planes!) and I was really tired so I skipped the cake at Magnolia’s and went back to my hostel deciding on having a nap before going out for dinner.
I fell asleep at 4pm and woke up at 3am. So dinner was out.
Day 2 of New York City
I managed to get back to sleep but only until 5:30am and did the same as the day before: decided what I would do.
I had a reservation for lunch at Serendipity 3 Cafe at 1pm so I planned my day around that.
First up was a trip into Times Square. I have already done Times Square but I promised my cousin I would go hunting for a Nemo toy to go with her little girl’s favourite Dory toy.
I literally went to find Nemo.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find him and had to order one – ironically the best availability was in the UK so I ordered a Nemo to my flat back in the UK from the USA.
After telling my family I was in Disney Store – I had to tell them I was alive every day by the way – I had requests from my sister and mum for toys so I spent a good hour or so in here. I then treated myself to a selfie on the Red Steps before walking to Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) for a light wander before lunch.
I really enjoyed the MoMA last time I was in NYC with my best friend, but she is an artist so I kind of fed off her enthusiasm and understanding of the artwork. I still enjoyed it but it was so crowded that I was in a rush to leave. I really don’t like crowds.
I still got to stare admirably at Jackson Pollock’s work – laughing at the number of people saying ‘I don’t get it’ and ‘well this is crap’ – while I was enraptured.
The walk to Serendipity 3 was pleasant as I wandered past Radio City and Bloomingdales.
Serendipity was big on my NYC bucket list this time around. I love Serendipity, the movie with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, and my mum is always going on about it.
The staff were very pleasant to me and didn’t bat an eyelid that I was eating alone.
I got a chicken and basil (pronounced bay-zel) dish with a $7 bottle of water (my eyes watered for free at this price) plus a compulsory Frozen Hot Chocolate.
It was a relaxing hour but my god was it expensive. Nearly $60 after tax/tip.
Afterwards, I popped into Bloomingdales but, again, the prices made me turn right around again. Same for Dylan’s Candy Bar ($12 for a tiny bar of chocolate – I think not).
I was still in a shopping mood though so I decided to go on a hunt for some books.
I took myself off to Strand Bookstore and I’m afraid to say it wasn’t my favourite. It’s massive and very, very crowded and the shelving didn’t make sense to me.
This is the sort of bookstore you go to for the tote bags and badges and less so the books I think. Still an experience.
My next shopping destination was Beacon’s Closet, a thrift store.
I picked my way through the crowds and endless rails of clothes to find things to try on and take home with me. Ultimately buying a brightly coloured wrap dress with a really interesting collar design – to be seen in my shopping haul!
I was hoping to go to Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe and Washington Square Park after this but unfortunately, my back was, again, really aching so I turned around and headed home.
Once again I passed out and woke up at 2am, which was a shame as I was planning on going to a bar to watch Game of Thrones episode 3 with a load of other fans.
Day 3 in New York City
Of course, Day 3 started with me desperately trying to find a place to watch Game of Thrones and I succeeded and freaked out! Any GoT fans who have seen the episode will know why. It was a great way to start Day 3.
Also I woke up at 7am – a relatively normal time – which meant I didn’t get out until 10am and brunch had officially started!
I decided to head into Brooklyn for the first time.
I had an itinerary of thrift shopping and zero-waste shopping to do.
First was food. I popped into the House of Small Wonders, a little Japanese brunch bar for eggs and potato gratin which was delicious. I also had a mimosa because why not! I was on holiday.
After this sustenance, I headed into a feminist print shop called Bulletin Broads to browse and buy some computer sticks with feminist phrases I love!
Then I came across a thrift store I had never heard of: Crossroads. It was massive and full of designer brands! I was able to get a Michael Kors bag for $20! Plus a gorgeous dress and shirt.
There were quite a few other thrift stores after this but none of them lived up to Crossroads.
Whilst in Brooklyn I also stopped by Package Free, NYC’s first zero-waste shop, which was fab! We have a ton of food zero-waste stores in London but this was the first lifestyle zero-waste shop I had come across and they had so much to offer.
I had a lovely time browsing and talking to the employers – who were fascinated to hear that we Brits also do zero-waste.
Yes America, we do recycle.
It was lovely and sunny out so I soon found myself heading to Brooklyn Bridge.
I decided to skip Dumbo and the Brooklyn Park and just do the bridge as I had things to get done in Manhattan.
Brooklyn Bridge itself was nice, but it reminded me of why I had chosen to come to New York as a solo traveller in the first place. I wanted to avoid doing the ‘tourist’ things because they get so unbelievably frustrating so quickly. The number of times people just stopped in front of me to take a selfie and the number of bikers that hurled abuse because of this.
The bridge itself is very narrow and whilst lovely to walk across when it’s calm (I imagine), to walk across in the throngs of tourists not so much. I was glad to reach City Hall and get on the Subway.
That evening I went to my first Off-Broadway production: Puffs!
A play about Hufflepuffs, specifically an American Hufflepuff called Wayne, who was at school for ‘magical boys and girls’ the same time as a ‘certain boy wizard who lived’.
The audience wasn’t very full – which I find unusual since the West End is very rarely empty – and the play was enjoyable but reminded me a lot of school play.
The storyline is an American fan-fiction of the Hufflepuffs experience during those 7 years of Harry Potter school-time and whilst very funny in places, ‘door-slamming’ sums up my experience of the play in one word. A full review is to come.
Nevertheless, I was proud to be a Puff that evening. #ThirdOrNothing
I feel it is worth mentioning that after watching Puffs I went to McDonald’s for some dinner and managed to get a breakfast McMuffin as they serve All-Day McDonald’s breakfasts in New York City. #Mindblown!
Day 4 in New York City
And it was time to pack.
I got up at 8am and packed everything away: all the books, clothes, gifts and Oreos I had bought. Oreos taste so much better in the USA than in the UK for some reason.
I checked out and left my luggage for a few hours whilst I went off for a few last minute excursions in the city.
First up was brunch at the Westside Diner for another plate of eggs and potatoes – they really love their eggs and potato brunches in NYC – then to a Goodwill for some last minute book bargain shopping.
Sidenote: I love being called Ma’am – as in ham, not palm – whilst in America.
I then finally managed to get to Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe where I spent a good two hours perusing all of the bookshelves and finding a book to take home. I showed great restraint I thought.
I returned to Columbus Circle for some final shopping in the Mall before returning to the hostel to pick up my luggage and head to JFK. I wanted to get there early as I hate the feeling of being late and it felt like my time in NYC was done.
Aside from a few shops that I chose not to go to in the end, I managed to get nearly all of my NYC bucket list done. I certainly feel like I got a lot out of my holiday and I did nothing but enjoy myself.
That and get over jet-lag and realise that my fear of dinosaurs is not going anywhere anytime soon.
I would love to go back one day, but I think a different portion of America is up next first.
But until then, happy travels!