I have to admit a certain bias when it comes to solo travel, in that there are very few huge metropolitan areas that I put at the top of a "must go" list. I equate big cities with noise, crowds and more noise and crowds, and I'm not a fan of that. However, there's one exception: New York City. I love it there.
There's something about the energy in New York City that's truly unlike anywhere else in the United States. Yes, a solo traveler needs to be safe when venturing out, but that applies in any city. But New York City is a city built for walking, shopping, entertainment, and even serenity, if you know where to look. This trip is one to save for, but it's worth it.
First, plan your vacation to leave on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, and try to return on one of those days as well if your budget allows (Tuesday through Saturday is a nice vacation stretch). Those days are generally the least expensive days to fly, but be flexible and use a fare watcher. You can find a great flight if you're patient.
Second, buy tickets ahead of time. I've already extolled the virtues of using CityPASS and I would do that again in a heartbeat. You get tickets to six top New York attractions: Empire State Building, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island OR Circle Line Cruise, Top of the Rock OR Guggenheim Museum.
Don't forget to purchase tickets for Broadway! Go to BraodwayBox.com for a list of current discounts available (be patient, the site can be slow), or you can visit popular sites like Orbitz Tickets and Broadway.com for tickets.
Third, book a hotel that's centrally located. I usually choose Broadway-Times Square. Plan about $200 - $250 a night for a room. I think it's worth it.
Fourth, take great walking shoes and plan to spend time in Central Park and at the Bronx Zoo. They're worth taking your good camera, too.
Fifth, you can get nearly anywhere you need to in New York on the Subway or in a cab. Buy a Metro Card and take cash for your cabs. Plan on tipping doormen for hailing cabs for you, and also plan on tipping 15 - 20% of the cab fare to your driver.
Put NYC on your travel itinerary this year - whether you get there this year or next, it's a solo traveler's haven.