Solo in the City: 7 free things to do in New York City

Playing in the fountain in Washington Square

Lots of energy in the people playing in the fountain in Washington Square

There’s something very special about being in a big, bustling city, yet being solo.

Anonymity can feel relaxing. Getting lost in crowds, exhilarating. Being silent amid noise, quieting.

Sometimes I travel alone to get away from it all. And, while I love being out in nature, getting away from it all can  also mean going to a city where I’m not known.

New York –  known as the city that never sleeps – is also the perfect place to go and consume all that energy solo and (more or less) silent.

You can quietly observe the sites or partake in the fun, in NYC.

The Naked Cowboy in New York City

The Naked Cowboy, Times Square.

Statue of Ghandi in NYC

Statue of Gandhi, Union Square.

10,000 paper cranes hang in the WTC Tribute Center.

The famous Flatiron Building.

7 Free things to do In New York City

  1. Big Apple Greeter:Big Apple Greeter is a non-profit organization that matches visitors with friendly and enthusiastic New Yorkers who are happy to share the city they love solo travelers. No charge. No tipping. A donation to the organization is appreciated.
  2. Central Park: Great for wandering away from the frenzie of New York but also a place to go for events all year round. Check out their calendar.
  3. Museums: Watch for free times for visiting the many museums in the city. The Museum of Modern Art offers free admission from 4-8pm on Fridays.  Museum at the Fashion Institute is always free. There are others. You can also Google  “pay what you can” and museums to find better times to go.
  4. Neighborhoods: Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen, the Upper West Side… NYC is a city of neighborhoods that have been brought alive on film and in books. Why not choose one to explore on foot.
  5. Upscale hotels: Dress up and drink in the ambiance of famous hotels like The Plaza or the Trump Hotel for the price of drink. It may be an expensive drink but the scene is worth it.
  6. Times Square: The lights, the crowds and the Naked Cowboy, a walk through Times Square is a must. It’s also where you can buy discounted tickets to the theater.
  7. Classic Buildings: Standing in Grand Central Station is an experience in itself. Don’t miss it along with The Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center.


  • Kim

    Don’t forget Shakespeare in the Park during the summer! You have to get in line early to get tickets but you spend the morning hanging out in Central Park people-watching then see an amazing production at the Delacorte that evening. Lots of friendly NYCers in the line and chatting them up is a great way for the solo traveler to get recommendations for little unknown restaurants and shops to visit.

  • judy

     be aware they want 3-4 weeks lead time to plan your greeter visit. I did a greeter tour in CHicago, twas wonderful

  • Connie

    It’s so funny, everyone seems to see the Naked Cowboy but me! I lived less than two blocks from Times Square for almost 4 years and not once ever caught a glimpse of him. I’m wondering if he exists at al! :-)

  • Erica

    I had no clue that the museums offer free times – super awesome tip!

  • Justin Morris

    Great bunch of tips here! Am planning a trip to NYC later in the year and will definitely look up the Big Apple Greeters. Can’t wait to check out the famous landmarks as well like the Empire State building, Statue of Liberty etc.

  • N. Jerdan

    The High Line is great for a stroll. I understand the wine bar is now open. My daughter and I were in NY in May (I’m a native New Yorker) and found the High Line to be a wonderful green space.