17 Fun Experiences to Make New Friends in NYC

A group of women having dinner as a way of making friends in NYC.

As a local New Yorker, I’m no stranger to the challenge of making friends in NYC. And I’ll be the first to admit it’s not easy here. In fact, New York City, in all its bustling glory, can be one of the more closed-off places in the country. We’re known for our guarded nature, and for good reason, it’s a safety mechanism.

But despite this, the need for community is paramount. After all, we humans are tribal creatures by nature. And right now, loneliness is being called the silent epidemic of our times; touted as the number one killer, comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

This grim reality is compounded by the lack of what sociologists call “third spaces” – those informal meeting places beyond home (first space) and work (second space) where social bonds are formed and strengthened. With the rise of remote work and the fading schoolyard days, finding these third spaces has become even more challenging, especially as we age. 

But fear not! I’ve embarked on a mission across the boroughs of New York City, seeking out spaces and opportunities that nurture meaningful connections. In this article, I’ll share my growing treasure trove of tips on exactly how to make friends in NYC. From eclectic art studio cafes where creativity meets conversation to dynamic book club bars that turn narratives into dialogues to tailored meet-ups for women seeking sisterhood, I’ve got you covered. 

Whether you’re a lifelong New Yorker or a recent transplant, this guide to making friends in NYC is designed to help you weave your way so you can learn to meet people in NYC.

I. The Challenges of Making Friends in New York City

You’re not crazy. I’m a born-and-raised New Yorker and I can tell you that meeting people in NYC is hard. Especially compared to other friendlier cities in the country like New Orleans or Denver. Below are some reasons why with the solutions coming up next!

  • Fast-Paced Lifestyle: NYC is known for its fast-paced, high-energy environment. People are often in a rush, focusing on their careers or personal goals, which can make it hard to slow down and invest time in building new friendships.
  • Transient Population: People frequently move in and out of NYC. It’s a particularly transient place. This can make it difficult to find and maintain a consistent social circle throughout the years. 
  • High-Stress Environment: The pressure to succeed and the overall stress of city living can take a toll on people’s mental health and well-being, leaving less energy and motivation to socialize.
  • High Cost of Living & Socializing Options: In NYC, the steep living expenses, including high rents, often lead to a hectic work life for many. This not only impacts one’s budget but also restricts social activities, as going out typically involves costly bars and restaurants. Such environments, with their loud music and focus on alcohol, aren’t ideal for meaningful conversations. Additionally, living with roommates, a common scenario in the city, makes it challenging to host intimate gatherings at home, further limiting relaxed, cost-effective socializing options.
  • City’s Vastness: NYC could easily be 50 cities in one. It’s HUGE. And we scattered throughout the five boroughs and beyond. The sheer distance between places can be a hurdle – for instance, it takes me about two hours to travel by train and bus from Brooklyn to visit a friend in the Bronx. This geographic spread makes spontaneous meetups harder.

II. Understanding ‘Third Spaces’

The term ‘third spaces,’ coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, is pivotal in comprehending the challenges within NYC’s (and much of the United States’) social fabric. 

‘Third Spaces’ are the places where we spend time outside of our homes (‘first’ places) and workplaces (‘second’ places). They serve as natural hangout spots for exchanging ideas, enjoying leisure time, and building relationships. Back in the day, this used to be churches, parks, recreation centers, pubs, hairdressers, gyms, the mall, and even fast-food restaurants – physical locations where routine and easy interaction fosters a sense of community. 

For many young Americans, the concept of third places has shifted towards the virtual realm – from social media platforms like Facebook groups to chat rooms and group texts. However, as Oldenburg emphasizes, the most effective third spaces for nurturing real community ties tend to be IRL (in-real-life) physical places where people regularly connect. 

In New York City, the creation and sustenance of such third spaces face a significant challenge due to the city’s high rent. This economic factor makes it difficult to maintain places solely dedicated to free socializing and community-building. Consequently, we’re left with restaurants and bars, further complicating the quest for meaningful connections.

III. 17 COOL Places to Meet New People in NYC

1. Girls That Gather

Girls That Gather is a social club dedicated to creating a safe space for women to authentically connect, create lasting friendships, and cultivate a strong community through carefully curated gatherings. 

Chelsea, the creator, meaningfully orchestrates monthly events that range from artistic experiences and pamper sessions, to holiday celebrations. These events change seasonally, so keep an eye out for each! 

Everyone arrives solo with the intention of connecting with others. So you’ll feel like you belong in no time!

If you’re looking for new friendships that prioritize meeting girl’s-girls, this is the place for you. Sign up here and follow them on Instagram to get updates for their upcoming events. You’ll never know, you might meet a strong support person here!

2. CRUX Queer Rock Climbing

Enjoy being active? CRUX is a non-profit group dedicated to building an LGBTQ community through activities like rock climbing and outdoor recreation in the metropolitan and eastern areas of the state. Their goal includes educating and increasing visibility within the climbing community as a whole.

Together with Movement Gowanus, they host bi-monthly rock climbing gatherings specifically for queer femmes in Brooklyn (Gowanus) and Manhattan (Harlem). The Harlem one is at 7:30 AM and is FREE. The Brooklyn one is at 7:00 PM and costs $15.

You’ll have the opportunity to socialize, connect, and engage in rock climbing with the group. The best thing about it is that individuals of ALL skill levels are encouraged to join! And afterward, you can all grab drinks/food at the cute next-door restaurant (to further get to know each other).

If you’re not queer-femme, but still a part of the LGBT+ community, they also hold other related rock climbing events for you to join, too!

3. Reading Rhythms

There’s something about a space cultivated for book nerds seeking connection and set in Brooklyn that made it so easy for me to befriend others through meaningful conversation here! Reading Rhythms’ tagline is “not a book club, a reading party.” With live music in the background setting the mood, you come here to read your book, and during guided intermissions, you have truly enlightening conversations.

I arrived at 7:00 PM, and we mingled for 30 minutes. At first, I was nervous, but immediately, all of those nerves melted within seconds as the friendly bookworms around me introduced themselves. Then, we read our books for 30 minutes, followed by a 15-minute discussion, during which I befriended two amazing women! Then, you read for another 30 minutes, and the event ends with another 30-45 minutes of intentional small-group discussions.

I loved the thought-provoking discussions and new ideas. Everyone here was so open-minded, curious, friendly, and welcoming, and there were so many interesting personalities, too. I went home with new book recommendations, a change of perspective, relaxation from reading, and new friends with similar interests!

4. Well Read Sistas 

The Well Read Sistas book club is a safe space where Black women read books together written by Black women. Amazing! Aside from book discussions, members show support to each other’s personal and professional development by sharing success tips and talk about issues unique to the Black woman’s experience.

There are no requirements! Just show up with the book of the month, which is chosen via “book ballot.” At the end of the discussion, you’ll share (optional) a piece of the book that heavily resonates with you. 

The founder, Glory Edim, is also the author of “Well-Read Black Girl” and has been a transformative figure in promoting diversity in literature, particularly uplifting black women’s voices in the media. 

Meetings are held on the last Sunday of every month at The Well Read Manor in Harlem. 

5. Friend of a Friend Collective Dinners

Inspired by the idea that people’s unique qualities make relationships grow, Friend of a Friend Collective is a community of diverse, unique individuals that allows space for meaningful connections between community-driven New Yorkers. They host dinners for 4-8 individuals, but they also hold bigger events from time to time! You can do their dinners for 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds, 20-year-olds, queers, and general meet-ups!

To join, it’s super easy. Just introduce yourself by signing up for their website. I like that they vet each person’s profile, and everyone I met had an interesting story and more mature vibes! After you apply, they’ll be in touch and invite you to an exclusive dinner (RSVP) that you have to pay to reserve a seat. 

Note: they accept memberships for individuals who are 21+ years old and above. And there is a $10/monthly fee. But I kind of like that because it shows that the people are more intentionally committed to prioritizing community-building and possibly leading with a more abundance mindset.

6. Bookstore Bookclubs

Bookstores are some of the easiest places to meet and befriend new people. A few ones in New York City host book clubs.

  • Yu and Me Books: This female Asian-American bookstore in Chinatown, Manhattan is also a bar and cafe. Highlighting diversity and the immigrant experience, the place makes a space for passionate readers who advocate for change.
  • Silent Book Club: A place where introverts can read in companionable, comfortable silence with others. Bring your book and a friend (optional) and order a drink. At the end, you may socialize with others by sharing what you’ve read or book recommendations. This is a great place to meet other introverts!
  • Book Club Bar: Technically, this is not a book club, but a bookshop slash wine bar in East Village. They host weekly events such as book clubs, literary-themed trivia nights, and live music performances. Who knows you might find your reading best friend here?

7. Dinner with Friends NYC 

Dinner with Friends NYC hosts home-cooked meals in someone’s home where you show up solo and leave with new friends. The menu is inspired by the diverse crowd and hosts who love to cook from appetizers to desserts, but aren’t pro chefs. 

The vibe is casual: everyone digs into family-style dishes, chats, and laughs at a shared table. The dinners are purposefully small, fostering an environment where conversations flow as freely as the paired drinks.

Due to its popularity (I told you we’re HUNGRY for community), Dinner with Friends NYC uses a lottery system for reservations. Sign up for their newsletter for their future dinners. Who knows, your next best friend in NYC might just be a dinner away!

8. RecCreate Collective 

RecCreate Collective is a beautiful art studio in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. They offer creative events where you can express your creativity, cultivate a hobby, and build new connections through art and crafts. Some of their events include weaving workshops, vision board making, drawing lessons, and tin-wallet making. 

They will ask you to share prompts to better connect with others around you! You might end the day with a friend who has similar interests to explore different creative pursuits with!

9. Kolkata Chai Co.

Are you a chai lover looking for new friends? Aside from serving amazing masala chai, Kolkata Chai Co. cafe hosts game nights! Enjoy various chai products, play nostalgic games, and meet someone new. Follow their IG to get updates on their game nights!

10. Studio 45 BK 

Studio 45 is an art-focused community space in Bushwick. Artists and creatives can gather over fun activities such as zine and accordion making, silkscreen printing, terrarium workshop, stamp making, or as simple as a classic dinner party!

Accessibility: For their workshops and gatherings, they also implement a sliding scale to make it more accessible to the community! The three tiers are: base fee, break-even fee, and full support fee. 

11. Wowza Hangout 

Wowza Hangout created a way for New Yorkers to meet new people and explore this big city. They match you to a group then you can gather at random pre-planned events such as walking at Central Park, watching jazz performances, having drinks in the bar, playing board games, watching a film, and visiting MoMA. Currently, hangouts are limited to Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens.

If you enjoy just doing random things with others, sign up to their website to know more about their next hangouts!

12. City Girls Who Walk

Want to meet new people while staying active? City Girls Who Walk is not only a walk club, but one that hosts various events as well. These include book clubs, fitness and mindfulness classes such as workout and yoga sessions, and happy hours! It’s a great way to maintain a healthy body and mind and connect with other like-minded women!

13. Happy Medium Art Cafe

If you’re wondering about where to meet people in NYC that’s art-related, Happy Medium is a great place! Visit this laid-back Lower East Side art cafe (or their new Brooklyn location) and can order art supplies from their menu. 

When you arrive, you’re handed a menu of experiences to order. You can choose painting, clay-building, making a collage, and more. You can also attend lessons by them, including furniture building, pottery, and painting workshops as well as figure drawing classes.

If you’re in full mode to unleash your creativity, give this place a chance and you might find yourself an art buddy here!

14. No More Lonely Friends 

Founder Marissa Meizz saw the need to create a community during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, she created No More Lonely Friends, which have been turning strangers into friends after those years of social isolation. 

They host various indoor, outdoor, large-scale, and small-scale meetups and events in major cities such as NYC and LA. Everyone of all ages and backgrounds is welcome! If coming alone is daunting, know that you can bring a friend!

15. Volunteer to Worthy Causes

Consistently volunteering for worthy causes provides a shared purpose and sense of community, fostering connections with like-minded individuals who also prioritize making a positive impact. Engaging in volunteer work not only allows you to contribute to meaningful initiatives but also creates a natural space for forming genuine relationships!

  • New York Cares: This organization facilitates a wide range of volunteer opportunities, connecting individuals with impactful projects that address diverse community needs. Here you can help by simply teaching photography, playing with kids, packing meals, and leading a yoga session, among others.
  • Prospect Park: The Brooklyn park offers nature lovers a chance to contribute to the maintenance and enhancement of this beloved green space. 
  • The Bowery: If you’re passionate about making a difference, team up with this organization to address homelessness and hunger in NYC by serving meals, tutoring, and mentoring.
  • Save a Pet: If you’re an animal lover, you can extend a hand by caring for animals in a shelter, helping in obedience training, and bringing pets to their assisted living homes.

The Bowery NYC, Save a Pet NYC, and Animal Haven NYC are organizations dedicated to supporting and rescuing animals, providing opportunities for animal lovers to volunteer their time and efforts towards the well-being and care of pets in need.

16. City Señoras

Have you ever felt like having brunch in the morning is so much better than staying out late or gotten excited about cleaning products? Gotcha! You’re in your señora era.

City Señoras, is a social club spearheaded by two Mexican-American women who guide others to build a community with like-minded people through self-care. Their events are super laid back and simple such as grabbing a coffee, going for a walk, having zumba sessions, and ice skating.

Sign up for their newsletter or follow their IG for more information. You might meet your coffee or zumba buddy here!

IV. Healthy Strategies for HOW to Make Friends in NYC

Building a solid network of acquaintances in NYC often takes about a year of dedicated effort. Adult relationships are inherently more complex than those we form in our youth. We’re no longer bonding just over our favorite color. We have more defined filters, values, personal healing/growth pace, and interests. Friendships also require consistent and persistent efforts to cultivate and maintain. 

  • Finding events and places where you can be a regular is key, as is the effort to connect with people at these venues.
  • Take initiative: After a long day, the temptation to retreat home is strong, yet building relationships necessitates pushing past this inertia. Instead of the non-committal “let’s catch up sometime,” be specific in your invitations. Suggest a concrete plan, like “Let’s meet next Wednesday after work for dinner.” If someone can’t make it, ask for alternative dates. Avoid flakiness, both in yourself and in the people you choose to befriend.
  • Befriend the right people: It’s crucial to seek out individuals who are also looking for genuine friendships, not just temporary companions until their next romantic partner comes along. And people who are reciprocating the vibes/effort!
  • Pursuing interests/hobbies can aid the friend-making process since, for example, fitness enthusiasts often find support and camaraderie in soccer meet-ups or weight-lifting competitions.
  • Proximity: Find people who live near you! It’s harder to maintain friendships with people in Brooklyn if you live in the Bronx.
  • Values: What are deal breaker values for you?
  • Emotional & Communication Skills: Not everyone has the emotional maturity or communication skills necessary for building and maintaining healthy friendships. Are you a good listener or do you interrupt too much? Do you care to get to know the person or are you talking too much about yourself? Are you too negative/complain too much? Have you worked on your codependent habits? I recommend both mental therapy and mindful exposure therapy (learning via intentional practice which often requires “fumbling the bag” a bit until you get it).
  • Technological Isolation: Let’s get off TikTok and go outside! The reliance on technology for communication can hinder the development of deeper, in-person connections.

V. Other Places For How to Make Friends in NYC:

  • Meetup.com: For all sorts of meetup groups in NYC. Just beware the people that show up aren’t that vetted. So there will be a lot of single men looking to meet women romantically (and if that’s not your thing, it can get weird fast). So make sure it’s a very specific theme/topic of the meet-up. 
  • Programs: Join programs revolving around something you’re passionate about like when I joined Remarkable Voices for BIPOC creators and continue to attend their meet-ups in NYC (pictured above).
  • Bumble BFF: Great place to make new friends. Just make sure YOU TAKE INIATITIVE. Don’t flake! And if someone flakes on you, keep it moving to the next potential bestie!
  • Mutual Friends: Ask your friends to host a dinner. Everyone brings a new friend that you get to meet!

VI. My Related NYC Blog Posts

VII. Author: Gerry Isabelle

Gerry is the editor and founder of Dominican Abroad, a popular travel and culture blog that shows people how to travel meaningfully, highlighting cultural gems and unique experiences. Follow her on Instagram @DominicanAbroad.

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