Solo travelling is something everyone should do at least once.
Solo travelling is a daunting thing, especially to a huge city like New York. But that’s what I did last week, and it was one hell of an experience.
I have been to New York twice before this solo trip, so I had done every touristy thing under the sun. I was also meant to move there in March 2020 but didn’t due to Covid, so I really wanted to experience the city in a way I had missed out on. This time, my main plan was to spend a week seeing as many Broadway musicals as I could. While it might seem insane to some people, theatre is something I adore and every other time I’ve been to NYC, it’s felt unfair of me to drag friends or family to more than one show.
So going on my own and seeing these shows on my own meant I didn’t have to worry about forcing people to do something they really didn’t enjoy just because I did.
Arriving on the Monday afternoon, any Broadway fan will know there are no shows on a Monday. Thinking I’d have a chill night changed when a friend of mine over there had a spare ticket to see The 1975 in Madison Square Garden. I had never been to The Garden and experiencing a concert there was something on my bucket list, and the perfect way to kick off my trip.
My idea of solo travelling may be different than others, while I wasn’t backpacking, I did stay in a hostel – mind you, it was a private room in one, but a hostel nonetheless. Barely spending any time there, I spent most of my days wandering different neighbourhoods. The best way to really experience any city is to wander and as I had already seen every touristy thing imaginable here, this was the perfect way to spend my time.
The main area I wanted to walk for hours was Greenwich and the West Village, mostly to pretend I lived there and live my very best Carrie Bradshaw life. The biggest disappointment here was that they weren’t filming And Just Like That on the day I went, so all round it was just the most beautiful spot and I unexpectedly met some lovely people on my adventure. While there, I stopped for a drink at Marie’s Crisis Cafe, which is a well known musical theatre piano bar (it’s the one at the end of the first season of The Politician where Ben Platt sings Vienna) and what an experience, despite befriending two musically theatre trained voices belting out show tunes and me not having any talent whatsoever.
Exploring Central Park was something I had never properly done, and after this trip I am yet to still do it. The day I planned to go was the day the heavens opened on the city, and a H&M umbrella can only do so much. I made it as far as The Met and headed home before I had to meet my cousin… someday I’ll reach the other end.
For the other days, I kept myself busy by going to different markets across the city, and if you’re there in the lead up to Christmas, you need to go to the Bryant Park market to really get into the festive spirit. But if you want a view of the Manhattan skyline and not pay $50 or more, head to the top of the Dumbo Market in Brooklyn, the view is simply breathtaking. Another spot for this that was insane and completely accidental was 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar, it gives you a full view of the Empire State Building but few layers, it gets so, so cold.
While I adored walking around and taking everything in, there were times I wished I had someone there with me. Times when I heard something outrageous being said or quirky places that looked interesting, but you wouldn’t want to do alone. Queuing for anything alone or going on the subway was the biggest issue I faced, as that’s when you really just want to stand and chat to someone.
As the insane person I am, I went to eight Broadway(ish) musicals. I say ish as one was off-Broadway. Three were matinees and the rest were all evening shows, which meant I had something to do each night I was there, something I was thankful for as a solo traveller. I saw Funny Girl, A Strange Loop, Into The Woods, Little Shop of Horrors, Beetlejuice, Some Like It Hot, Hadestown and Kimberly Akimbo.
I tried to only see shows I hadn’t seen before, with Funny Girl being the exception – and by god was it exceptional. It’s an old show and when I saw it before I wasn’t impressed. And not knowing what to expect from Lea Michele was nerving. But of course, she was made for this show and a complete standout. And the Glee fan in me would have killed me if I hadn’t gone.
A Strange Loop won the Tony this year, and it was my least favourite from what I saw. Maybe I just didn’t connect to it but it just felt overrated. Into The Woods was one I was overly excited for and it didn’t disappoint. A cast full of theatre legends, it was beautifully reimagined from Sondheim’s original and a moving tribute to him. Little Shop of Horrors was exactly what anyone would expect, and completely hilarious the entire way through as well as being a genuinely brilliant production.
Beetlejuice was one that I have wanted to see since it opened, and now that’s it is closing next year, it was a must. This was surprisingly my favourite of all the shows I saw, I laughed, I cried, the humour was relevant but universal and still managed to keep to the film’s story. It was made for the stage. I last minute decided to go to Some Like It Hot which has only opened in recent weeks, and I knew nothing about it going in. Set in the 1930s, it made sense to a modern audience. It was that classic old Broadway musical with a modern day element but worked.
Hadestown won the Tony back in 2019 and I loved the idea of this show and the cast recording. When I got there, I was on the end of a set of two rows filled with children aged between 10 and 14. Of course, there is normally nothing wrong with that but these children were constantly checking their phones, falling asleep for an entire act, whispering to each other and doing their BeReals. It ruined the show for me.
The final show was another last minute one before my flight home and Kimberly Akimbo was simply outstanding. It’s a new musical and is so, so funny. It’s a story that has never been done on the stage before and if you are to see anything, see this. I will place my bet now that it will win Best Musical at the 2023 Tony Awards.
To finish up with this, I want to talk about money involved here because going to NYC and seeing this many shows is not cheap. I tried to keep costs as low as possible, I bought the flight during the summer Aer Lingus sales, I stayed in a hostel rather than hotel and lived off 99c pizza slices and Dunkin Donuts. I went to very few bars and treated myself to a nice meal once. I only brought a carry on bag to prevent me from blowing a lot of money in Sephora and thankfully, it paid off. I understand this is not a cheap trip, but this was something I had budgeted and planned for in advance which is the best approach to take with it.
The shows themselves were the expensive part but there are ways around it. I’ll admit I paid a lot for the Funny Girl ticket, but that was my big treat. The ticket to Little Shop of Horrors was a birthday present from my parents and the majority of the rest were bought any time I would get paid in the lead up to my trip.
I bought most of them through Broadway.com, expect for two shows which worked out a lot cheaper. Admittedly, most tickets were the worst seats in the house to keep them cheap. I bought the Hadestown ticket on SeatGeek for $49 but as I was checking out, I remembered from when I used to watch his videos that David Dobrik had a promo code with them. Using that, I got $20 off my first order.
Broadway.com is a nice way to order them as they tell you the full price from the offset, whereas other sites add the tax and fees later which often make the ticket so much more expensive. Another unexpected way to get ticket cheap is to walk straight up to the box office at the show. I did this at Some Like It Hot 15 minutes before curtain and asked for their balcony ticket, knowing it was available and for around $60. The man at the desk then said he could put me in a partially obstructed seat in the orchestra for $40 – no fees or taxes added. I immediately said yes and the view was nowhere near obstructed, and I had saved $20.
If you want to go somewhere and none of your friends have days left to take on holiday or simply won’t do it, go on your own. It’s nowhere near as daunting as you might think it is.