Sleeping, shopping, and, err, safety in New York
July 14, 2008 9:24 PM   Subscribe

I'm a 19-year-old female going to New York, alone, for a night. I would like to shop, have fun but preferably not get injured/mugged/killed.

I'm heading to NYC for a few days at the end of the week. While I will be with friends for most of the trip, on Thursday (the 17th) I'll be staying alone in a hostel. (I'm uncomfortable giving out the exact name, but its very close to the Empire State Building.) Questions I have:

* So I'm 19 and female. The hostel I'm staying in is a co-ed dorm style. Should I be worried? What should I do to keep myself/my possessions safe? I plan to be in the hotel (it has a restaurant and internet access) by dark because I'm not comfortable alone in NYC at night (sorry, small town Midwest girl here). Any other tips?

* Are there any under-21 friendly events, festivals, etc. going on Thursday, either during the day or in that area?

* Shopping-wise: I need a new pair (or two, or three) of jeans. Where can I find quality denim (I'm a fan of Sevens, but anything of that caliber works) for reasonably cheap? At the very least, not full-price. Last time I was there I really enjoyed Strawberry -- anything more like that?
posted by elisabethjw to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1) You'll be fine. New York, especially Manhattan, is the safest large city in the country. Your hostel will be just fine, and there's really no need to hurry home after dark. The scary stories you may have heard refer to a time when New York was quite a different place.

2) Rely on Time Out for events information.
posted by nasreddin at 9:33 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Uniqlo down at Prince & Broadway is a great place for cheap denim- and they do same day hemming on all their pants, which totally makes the experience for me.

I plan to be in the hotel (it has a restaurant and internet access) by dark because I'm not comfortable alone in NYC at night (sorry, small town Midwest girl here). Any other tips?

Bring a good book, because you're going to be sitting there by yourself while everybody else goes out. NYC after dark during the summer is where it's at, we all spend months in our cramped, dirty apartments dreaming of when we be free to roam the streets during those satin summer nights. You can go out by yourself and not be alone in almost the entire city- stick to active areas (Times Square, Herald Square, East Village, Lower East Side, to name a few), don't engage with strange strangers and you'll be fine.

Your hostel should provide lockers where you can lock up your stuff during the day, if necessary.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:36 PM on July 14, 2008 [4 favorites]

Yeah, if you're in one of the popular touristy areas of Manhattan like the ones TPS mentions you really don't need to worry for your safety. Times Square at night is more crowded than many urban areas during the day; you won't be wandering around deserted streets with shady characters lurking in the shadows.
posted by danb at 9:40 PM on July 14, 2008

You're going to have to try hard and stray far in order to run afoul in Manhattan. TPS is right on the money when she mentions how lovely and fun it will be after dark. Bury your nose in Time Out, find three things you want to go see that evening, and go do them all.

As for your hostel, you'll probably be safer out in the city all evening than you would be alone in the whole building with whatever one or two people decide to stay in and join you. If it's safety in numbers you're about, then you might as well at least go ride the ferris wheel in Toys R Us all night.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 9:45 PM on July 14, 2008

Please relax. Everything I am typing is coming out more obnoxiously than I intend, so I am hoping someone else will put it in a way that is encouraging to you, but if you walk around NY worrying about danger, you will be missing a lot of the experience the city has to offer. And if you scurry away to your room before dark, obviously even more so.

As far as something to do that will also incorporate shopping, I would recommend wearing some comfortable shoes, some light, summery clothing, and walking down Broadway (If you don't want to walk and feel comfortable taking the subway - which you should - you can start the trip around union square). When you get down to the NYU/Village/SoHo areas there will be lots to see, and plenty of trendy shopping opportunities.

Enjoy your time in New York! Presumably that is the reason you are going. And if you freak out, don't be afraid to ask people for directions or advice.
posted by Bun at 9:46 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

NYC is much safer than you think. You need to: keep your wits about you, not do stupid things (like leave your cell phone and wallet on a cafe table), and have an open mind.

At the hostel, don't bring your laptop and keep your iPod/mobile phone and wallet in your bed with you. Most everyone in the hostel also doesn't want their shit stolen. Many hostels even have little safes for you to put anything valuable in.
posted by k8t at 9:54 PM on July 14, 2008

I've lived in NYC and I can attest to it being very, very safe. No need to worry. Just use common sense, relax, and have a good time. If you want to stay in Manhattan, I would recommend the East Village/Lower East Side for wandering around: lots of restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs, nightlife. Enjoy yourself.
posted by ornate insect at 10:17 PM on July 14, 2008

I'm from small-town Midwest myself, and went to NYC my first time at age 16. At 18 I lived there most of a year. At 24 moved there, and lived for years.

I've been mugged twice. Both times in the city next to my Midwestern suburb. NEVER any bad experiences in NYC, at all. And my experience dates back to the early 70's. Of course, I am a large male, so that helped...except it didn't prevent my being mugged twice, back in Michigan.

NYC is a night place. Days can be harsh, especially in summer. The night is more gentle. It's all well lighted and very much alive. And things start to pick up with excitement at 10pm.
posted by Goofyy at 10:29 PM on July 14, 2008

Like everyone else has told you, please don't spend so much time worrying that you miss out on all NYC has to offer! The area you'll be staying in is very touristy and safe. Just trust your instincts and don't do anything that is obviously dangerous or silly. Time Out is a good resource. I also browse New York Magazine too.

As for keeping your possessions safe in the hostel, try calling ahead to see if they have lockers. I'm sure the hostel sells lock too, but it's usually cheaper if you bring your own. Or you can stop by a Duane Reade and buy one if you forget (they're pretty ubiquitous).

I've never been, but I think Century 21 sells designer discount items including jeans.
posted by mixed greens at 10:30 PM on July 14, 2008

Manhattan is soooooooooooo safe, all day and all night. Seriously. I mean, you could use common sense like "stay out of obvious dark alleyways and don't go through Central Park in the dead of night", but even if you did you'd be fine. Besides, you're never more than 4 feet from a taxi in Manhattan. So, although you do not need this for your safety, because you are SAFE, -- here is a small idea for peace of mind: keep $40 in your shoe. If you ever get scared, flag a taxi & use the cash to go home. But you won't, because at night most of Manhattan is about as brightly-lit and crowded as a mall. Have fun!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:11 PM on July 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I was worried, too, about safety before my first visit to NYC last year, but I never had any problems wandering round at night, even when one night I went too far west and ended up walking down a couple of streets that had boarded up stores and no people around.

The area you're staying in is a busy tourist area. There'll be lots of people around at night. Muggers don't like that. And one of the things I noticed about NYC in comparison with London is how many police officers I saw. The subway is fast and I found it to be very safe (but then I'm used to subway travel from working in London, so it didn't faze me. It might take some getting used to for someone not accustomed to using a Metro system). And if you're really worried, make sure you have a spare $20 tucked away to take a cab back to your hostel, if you need to.

Enjoy the city, it's a wonderful place. And, if you're an ice cream fan, get down to the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park, which you'll come to if you walk down Fifth Avenue, and have one of their amazing frozen custard ice creams.
posted by essexjan at 11:13 PM on July 14, 2008

You will be one of thousands of 19 year old girls wandering around Manhattan not getting murdered that night! Have fun! (I'll be one of those 19 year old boys doing the same)
posted by phrontist at 11:38 PM on July 14, 2008

I'm a twenty-year-old female who could probably be bested in a fight by a large-ish third grader. I just wandered out alone at 3 am in Manhattan to go buy ice cream, and thought nothing of it. Pounding the pavement's the best way to see New York, especially if you're broke. It's safer than my small home town, so go wander about!

If you get in by dark (which I don't think I've ever done), you'll miss the best part of your trip. Have fun!
posted by bergeycm at 12:10 AM on July 15, 2008

I visited NYC a number of times for work, and never felt the slightest bit in danger when wandering the streets at odd hours of the morning (2-4am, I'm a night owl). As plenty of people have mentioned, it's bright, it's crowded, and pretty darn safe.

As long as you don't go wandering down alleys, or poking crazy homeless people with sticks, you should be just fine.
posted by ceberon at 12:28 AM on July 15, 2008

If it is the Gershwin Hostel, I can report that a few years ago when I stayed there, I (female) shared a room with five guys... who were all male models and spent much of their time lounging in their underwear. YMMV. There were some activities going on there like comedy nights or something, but mostly it was fairly quiet.

To be honest, I found the area immediately around the hostel a bit quiet at night, in terms of being comfortable walking around. It is not far off the main, busier streets, but there weren't so many people immediately outside it. Maybe things have changed.. by contrast, earlier in my trip, I stayed on a fairly busy street on the West Side, and felt more comfortable there.

Anyway, that may not be your hostel. Aside from that, I felt perfectly safe walking around and taking the subway by myself at night.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:48 AM on July 15, 2008

I was in town for a relative's wedding, and rather than book a hotel, I walked around St. Marks Place all night. My danger radar never went off. The city is much better than its reputation, which I think dates from the 1960s - 1980s, when parts of Manhattan were extremely dodgy.
posted by zippy at 3:58 AM on July 15, 2008

Agree totally with what everyone says about danger. The subway, too, is very safe.

But this gal needs shopping tips! You might want to try Googling "sample sales New York" or something like that. Sample sales are when designers sell off their samples, simple as that. You can get fancy togs for much less than usual. Also, there might be decent sales going on at boutiques and department stores - since the economy is so bad and people are scared of buying, stores are trying to lure customers.

The suggestions of Uniqlo and Century 21 made above are good ones.
posted by MaudB at 5:19 AM on July 15, 2008

Ok, agreed about the overall lack of danger, but be a little careful going to bars by yourself. A young woman from not-around-here could get herself into trouble by being friendly and having some dude follow her around all night. Probably more of a pain than a threat, but I wanted to throw a little caution in there. Roaming around neighborhoods at night though, no probs.
posted by sweetkid at 5:30 AM on July 15, 2008

Also, re my earlier point, just make some buds at the hostel and hit the town with them if you want.
posted by sweetkid at 5:31 AM on July 15, 2008

If it were the 80s you could be concerned about a lot of things.

I believe there's a cop in the middle car of the subway after dark. (reference?)

I will second the shopping references listed above. The different areas of the city will cater to the different styles of clothes. (ie soho will be trendier than madison ave.)
posted by thetenthstory at 5:34 AM on July 15, 2008

I'll second both Century 21 and Uniqlo. Both great choices for good quality at reasonable prices. Plus Uniqlo you can only really get in NYC (at least in the US.)
posted by gen at 5:35 AM on July 15, 2008

I live here, and I can vouch for the majority opinion of the safety issue. The best tip I can offer you is to know where you're going, and walk there with a sense of purpose. That way, you won't look like a tourist. :)

Anyway, on to the tips. If you like theater, there's a minor festival going on.

As for shopping, this route should have a lot of shops that are right up your alley, including Uniqlo (which a few people have already suggested, I took the liberty of purring a placemark there): Google map with route. The southern end is right smack in the middle of Chinatown, which will make for its own tourist experience, as well as a really good lunch. The places with poultry hanging in the window are a good start. :)

Good luck, and have a great time!
posted by Citrus at 6:46 AM on July 15, 2008

If you're really paranoid, get home by 2 or 3, but really--it's not 1980 anymore in this city.

You might want to check out, which has both events and a good search function to find ratings of stores and places to eat right by you.

(on preview I see that everyone else is saying its not the 80's anymore, but I think it needs to be said a few times!)
posted by shownomercy at 7:10 AM on July 15, 2008

I wouldn't worry too much. Manhattan is very safe overall. Still, I'd advise against getting into any unmarked cabs. There are some shady people who pretend to be car services but are looking to harm women. This is rare but it happens. If it isn't painted like a cab and you didn't hail them, don't get in.

One thought, just to be extra safe and insure having fun, why not put an ad on the New York Craigslist in the friends section? Say you are looking for another girl in her early twenties to hang out with on that date. Chances are good there is someone like you also visiting the city alone. You'll get responses from many people. Some will likely be men who want to hook up with you, just delete those. (Don't get upset and write back or they will have your email.) Pick someone with potential and suggest meeting in a public place for lunch or dinner (not your hotel and don't name your hotel). If they want you to meet somewhere non-public, drop them. My old roommate met her NYC friends this way and she was quickly on her way to enjoying the city with other people.

As for shopping, I also recommend Uniqlo for the jeans. I have two pairs and I love them so much I threw out my other ones. They make regular, slim fit and super skinny. Century 21 is good too but try to go early to beat the crowds. Shopping on Broadway is always good.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 7:17 AM on July 15, 2008

I will chime in with everyone else about how safe Manhattan is. And if you don't believe all of us, will you believe Wikipedia? New York is ranked 50th in crime rate out of 72 that are listed. Below Toledo, Tulsa, Mobile, Columbus, Minneapolis, etc....
posted by Grither at 8:26 AM on July 15, 2008

Uniqlo and Century 21 will definitely work. If those strike out, go to Macy's. Go to the visitor's center. Tell them you're from out of town; you'll need to show some ID like a driver's license. Then, they will give you some discount coupons.

Free/cheap activities to do in NYC

This Thursday night, you can easily catch some all ages concerts:
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists play Castle Clinton in Battery Park, 7:00 PM, free
The Fiery Furnaces play East River Amphitheater in the East Village, 7:00 PM, free
DJ Shadow, Cut Chemist play McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg, purchase tickets on Ticketmaster
posted by kathryn at 8:39 AM on July 15, 2008

New York is huge, and you've heard a lot of scare stories. But it is very easy to navigate, and generally pretty safe. You can maximize that by learning to walk purposefully. Stop in a store if you need to look at the map. Take a cab if you are unsure of the route by bus. If you're really nervous, make sure you have pockets, and don't carry a purse that could be snatched.

If there's an event not too far from your hotel, consider going out. You may meet other people your age at the hostel, and go out with them. Stay open to possibilities. You'll have fun.
posted by theora55 at 8:55 AM on July 15, 2008

And if you're really worried, make sure you have a spare $20 tucked away to take a cab back to your hostel, if you need to.

This is great advice. More than likely, you'll be able to catch a cab from wherever you are in Manhattan. If it makes you feel safer, take a cab home.

Sometimes it will feel like a scarier place than it actually is, so just be brave, keep aware of your surroundings, and cross the street if you feel like there's someone you'd like to avoid - no one will be offended.

If it helps at all, at night by myself, I prefer the Yellow lines (N/Q/R/W) to the Blue lines (A/C/E), because the trains run more frequently (IMO) and they are a bit more central to the city. The Red lines are all new trains which is kind of nice (1/2/3/9) and they run on the east side. If you are staying near Times Square, the Yellow Lines will probably take you very close to your hostel. And the Times Square station is ALWAYS packed with people.

I would suggest a walk down Broadway from Times Square all the way down to Canal St. It will take you through the heart of Manhattan - from Times Square to 34th St./Herald Sq through the garment district to 14th st./Union Square, right down to the shopping district of SoHo (UniQlo among many other stores), and Canal St/Chinatown. You will see an amazing mix of people and stores and it is very safe.

You can then hop on the R train at Canal and get to Century 21, which is further south across from (what was) the World Trade Center. You can take N/R and be back in Times Square in 20 minutes.

Hang out in Brooklyn next time you are here!
posted by anthropoid at 11:43 AM on July 15, 2008

The Red lines are all new trains which is kind of nice (1/2/3/9) and they run on the east side.

Sorry, meant GREEN lines 4/5/6, not red...
posted by anthropoid at 10:36 AM on July 16, 2008

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