It is the mark of a true New Yorker that he or she is never, ever alone. There are over eight million people in this city, clogging the streets, subways, stores, museums, parks, bars and restaurants at all hours. At home, there are roommates, significant others, plus wanted & unwanted animal friends. Even the dead have 30 bodies buried on top of them and frankly, it's downright terrifying to suddenly find yourself standing in solitude on a street corner sometimes. So where do you go when you need a few moments of lone bliss, other than a locked bathroom? IS THERE ANY ESCAPE?
Yes and no. In New York, you learn to appreciate being alone in a sea of people. Sometimes, the mere illusion of being alone is enough—a quiet corner in a park, for instance, or the silent stacks of a peaceful bookshop will suffice, for a time. We've culled a list of some of our favorite spots in the city to catch a few unaccompanied moments; as always, leave yours in the comments.
Courtesy Vivienne Gucwa's flickr
THE PARK BENCH: Shakespeare Garden in Central Park
In this city, even a natural manmade oasis like Central Park tends to be overrun with human bodies pretty much all the time. Sheep's Meadow and the Great Lawn, for instance, should be avoided at all costs from May to October, the Reservoir is packed with tourists taking photos and blocking traffic, and a leisurely stroll along the park's roadway will guarantee death by cyclist/runner stampede. But the oft-overlooked Shakespeare Garden, perched inconspicuously (and fittingly) behind the Delacorte Theater, serves as a solid break from the madhouse outside its wooden gate.
In keeping with Shakespeare garden tradition, the four acre, century-plus-old space is lush with flowers and plants ripped from his body of work, like pansies, thistle, roses and a mulberry tree. Wander the stone pathway and park yourself on a romantic wooden bench for some solo contemplation—just note that the area is a popular spot for weddings and wedding photos, so bring an airhorn to ward off any intrusive bridal parties.
The Shakespeare Garden is located in Central Park, near the West Park Drive and 79th Street transverse in Manhattan (centralparknyc.org).
THE HOTEL BAR: The NoMad Library Bar
Hotel bars are practically tailor-made for lone drinking. They're often frequented by out-of-town businessmen who are also alone, there's ample people-watching/eavesdropping entertainment and you probably won't run into anyone you know. There are plenty of swank or otherwise unique hotel bars here that will serve your hermitic purpose (see our full list from last year), but our favorite is the NoMad Library Bar, where you can sit by yourself in a room full of books, delectable cocktail at hand. Stop by on a weeknight sometime after the après work rush, spring for a summery Start Me Up ($16)—a combination of bourbon, rum, strega, honey, ginger, lemon and orange bitters that sits in a tab of crushed ice—pull out a copy of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. and imbibe in gentle silence.
The NoMad Hotel is located at 1170 Broadway between 27th and 28th Street in Flatiron (212-796-1500, thenomadhotel.com).
THE PUB: Freddy's Bar
This South Slope dive might not seem like a first choice spot to fly solo, but if you're going to hang at a bar by yourself, it might as well be this one, particularly on a weekday afternoon. Bartenders here are always friendly, though they won't judge you if you choose to pair your beer with a book. Drinks are cheap and there's plenty of room to sit, so you're not idling alone awkwardly by the bar. If crowdwatching's not enough entertainment for you, bizarre videos are looped on a TV above the bar, plus you can stoke your solitude with a serving of buffalo wings and a lettuce, guac, bacon and tomato (LGBT) sandwich.
627 Fifth Ave between 17th and 18th Streets in South Slope, Brooklyn (718) 768-0131, freddysbar.com)
Courtesy Sean Jones's flickr
THE ART MUSEUM: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Okay, yes, on the surface, spending a day at one of the city's top tourist attractions is probably not the best way to forge some alone time. But the Met is comprised of two million square feet, and if you can't find a few quiet corridors, you're not looking hard enough. Once upon a time, one of my favorite alone time activities involved sticking on a pair of noise-canceling headphones, taking advantage of the Met's pay-what-you-wish ticket policy and scavenging for unexplored territory. Some areas of note: the soon-to-be-departed Modern Wing, hidden in a southern corner of the museum, is near silent on weekday afternoons; the Asian Art section is fairly tranquil, particularly if you can find the lovely Chinese Astor Court on the second floor.
And ne'er forget the American Wing, where rooms upon rooms of 18th century furniture and portraits of bewigged white men await you—the only tourists you'll find there are a few unhappy stragglers who opened the wrong door on their way out of the Temple of Dendur. There are more hidden sections out there, but I'll let you find those on your own, now that I've blown up all my special spots.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side (212-535-7710, metmuseum.org).
THE MOVIE THEATER: Matinees at Sunshine Cinema (Or anywhere, really)
Sadly, you can only experience the joy of a weekday matinee if you don't work a weekday 9 to 5, or happen to casually come down with a "stomach bug, it's nothing, maaaaaybe norovirus." But if you do have the blessed opportunity to catch a film in the afternoon, DO IT. You will find, at maximum, three people in the theater with you, you can douse your popcorn in butter without a friend/date/seat-mate judging you, and NO ONE will kick your seat or yell at the screen (conversely, if you are alone in the theater, YOU can yell at the screen without inciting rage). The Sunshine is a particular favorite—matinees start around 11:50 a.m., and the few attendees are either die-hard film folk or longtime locals looking for some free air-conditioning.
The Film Forum in the West Village is another good spot for lone movie watching, with arthouse films kicking off at 12:45 p.m. And if you're looking for something a little more mainstream, a number of larger multiplexes (AMC Kips Bay, for instance) offer cheaper tickets for movies that start before noon.
Sunshine Cinema is located at 143 East Houston Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side (212-330-8182, landmarktheatres.com).
THE BOOKSTORE: Unnameable Books
As the bookstore hurtles toward extinction, so too does the distinct pleasure of parking yourself in the stacks, brand new tome in hand. Thankfully, some of the city's bookstores have managed to stay afloat thus far, and they're ready for solitary readers to invade. Quiet Prospect Heights shop Unnameable Books is one of the best spots for lone reading, boasting a spectacular collection of eclectic reads ripe for perusal in strategically-placed piles, along with a few scattered chairs you can sit in to test out a chapter or two. Though, please actually purchase books there, lest the Amazon Kindle Warriors snuff out the written word for good.
Unnameable Books is located at 600 Vanderbilt Ave between Dean Street and St. Marks Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-789-1534).
Courtesy br1980's flickr
THE DAY TRIP: The Cloisters
This one's a little like cheating, since technically The Cloisters is part of the aforementioned Met, but this out-of-the-way spot is much more serene than its Upper East Side counterpart, with peaceful courtyards, stone-walled interiors and covered outdoor walkways that harbor exemplary medieval art. Getting there takes some finesse—you can take the A up to Dyckman Street and walk over, or you can bike up the Henry Hudson River Parkway and make a day of it. Once you're there, spend some necessary time taking in the famed unicorn tapestries, but DON'T miss the reliquaries. There's no better way to spend your alone time than by looking at the finely-decorated skulls of saints.
The Cloisters is located at 99 Margaret Corbin Drive in Fort Tryon Park (212-923-3700, metmuseum.org/cloisters).
Courtesy wallyg's flickr
THE WATER: The Red Hook Piers: The Louis Valentino, Jr. Pier earned accolades from us for being one of the best outdoor spots in the city, but one of the best things about it is that there's rarely anyone there. If you can make it out there early in the morning, you'll have the pier to yourself, and with it a spectacular view of the New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. You can also fish off the pier, and/or amble through the neighboring small park's grass for a lone dose of nature.
Valentino Pier is located at Coffey and Ferris Streets in Red Hook, Brooklyn (nycgovparks.org).
Courtesy chschulz's flickr
THE GREATER UNIVERSE: The Hayden Planetarium
Nothing will make you feel more alone than plummeting into the deep, dark depths of space, even if you're surrounded by a thousand screaming school groups while doing so. Take in a star show at the Hayden Planetarium, and you'll be forced to reckon with the fact that, no, Brooklyn is not the center of the universe, and that if you magically floated off the face of the Earth and found yourself bouncing around the Milky Way, you'd be nothing more than a speck of dust in a mighty, mighty world (also, you'd be dead.)
Right now, Hayden Planetarium's space show is Dark Universe, an epic trip through the history of the universe as narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Sit inside the theater's 67-foot-wide hemispheric dome and shoot into the pitch-black yonder for a half hour, to the tune of $27.00 (film + museum admission).
The Hayden Planetarium is located at 175 Central Park West on the Upper West Side (212-769-5000, amnh.org).