There are plenty of awesome things to do alone in New York, but on the days when you’re desperately missing the Thelma to your Louise, it’s nice to know that there are ways to make friends instantly in the city. Much like the world’s best dating apps, there are Gotham-centric friend-making apps and meet-up groups that match folks up with their future bestie. That’s why we asked our editors to test ’em out and make an attempt to fulfill their #squad goals. The results? Go on—see for yourself!
We try out apps for making friends in NYC
Jennifer tries Hey! VINA
How it works: If you want to form a girl gang comparable to Taylor Swift’s #squad, the six-month-old, 400-cities-strong Hey! VINA makes the initiation process a breeze. The interface of the app, which links up badass women—yup, this one’s just for ladies—is like Tinder: Swipe left to skip or right to say “hell, yeah,” then wait for your girl crush to do the same. You can take a compatibility quiz (à la OkCupid) that includes pretty irrelevant questions like, do you prefer coffee or wine? But the app’s best feature—assuming you loathe writing about yourself as much as I do—is that it’s super easy to fill out your profile. Describe yourself in five emojis or more? Piece of cake. (Or…five piece-of-cake emojis.)
What happened: After swiping a few times, I waited about 48 hours before I matched with Alicia—a Tavi Gevinson look-alike with perfectly winged eyeliner who appreciated the Heathers reference I used in my profile. I knew instantly that we would be pals. We met up at Pizza Party in Bushwick—a kitschy dive complete with beer bongs hanging above the chalkboard bar. After casual introductions (“Where do you work?”), we got into some deeper shit. We bonded over our love for Brooklyn and how we wanted to better ourselves and adopt after-work hobbies rather than binge-watch Teen Mom. We gushed about the strong, successful women we admire and chatted about how much we despise dating during this virtual hookup era—or, er, at least I did (she has a bae in Maryland). One beer and a vodka soda later, we parted ways and made our friendship Facebook official. My girl crush solidified for real once I realized her cover photo is an image from Daria. Forgive my cheeseball moment—I feel like I just really lucked out with Alicia—but Hey! VINA might be the app that makes you lay that #nonewfriends hashtag to rest.—Jennifer Picht
Jaime tries Meetup
How it works: Meetup is the OG of online friend-meeting services—it’s been around since 2002—and it shows in the site’s dated interface: There is a seemingly endless number of groups—this is for going on an adventure en masse, not courting one would-be BFF—so it’s a lot to slog through, but more is better than less! Users create profiles before searching for groups or events based on interests or availability. After R.S.V.P.-ing to one (examples include Shorewalkers and Salsa New York), users communicate on a discussion board that outlives the gathering so people can continue to chat, post photos or hit the “Good to see you” button (the Meetup version of a Facebook poke).
What happened: I had a few requirements for my first Meetup: No large groups. (I’m very anti-mingling.) No all-day events, ’cause going on a hike upstate with no escape sounds like hell to an introvert like me. No singles events, because that’s not what I’m doing this for, people. In the end, I R.S.V.P.-ed to a dinner for 10 in Chinatown with the group New York Wanna Do, which has been going since 2011 and focuses on trying out new experiences. At the Malaysian restaurant Nyonya, I was greeted by a slew of friendly faces, mostly—but not all—women ranging in age from twenties to seventies, and felt a very natural, homey vibe. After introductions, we dived right into ordering. We came up with a huge selection to share, quickly creating a comfortable atmosphere. There are no awkward pauses when everyone is happily sampling roti canai or saying, “Hey, pass me that plate.” Less than two hours later, I had eaten a great meal and decided I wouldn’t mind seeing these people again. In New York, that says a lot.—Jaime Brockway
Dan tries Bumble BFF
How it works: Bumble ain’t just for dating anymore. This new friends-only feature on the popular app allows users to sift through platonic suitors. One caveat: While Bumble’s dating function offers flexibility in preference—men, women or both—the BFF side is surprisingly limited to same-sex connections. (I know. Weird.)
What happened: Since I was a Bumble virgin, I created an account, copying and pasting my foolproof “must drink, must love dogs” bio from Tinder, and switched my app settings to BFF to hide my profile from anyone seeking romance. Right off the bat, it was clear that the number of people in the friend zone was far lower than in the dating pool. Even though I’d set my radius to 15 miles, I ran out of potential BFFs in just 20 minutes. (Let’s be real, Bumble. I’m not even traveling that far for my IRL friends.) But soon my phone beeped with my first match (huzzah!). Our budding bromance prompted a plan to lift some weights together after work, but our schedules weren’t as much of a match as we were: A call for an emergency surgery on his end nixed our gym sesh. (Hope you’re okay, bro!) I then exchanged numbers with a recent L.A. transplant. We met for coffee before work and hit it off quickly, bonding over our frustration in the lack of Vietnamese food in the city and the fact that we were each other’s first real-life meet-up from the app. The verdict? While my experience ended up being a success, I’d say Bumble BFF needs more peeps participating to start turning some heads.—Dan Q. Dao
Will tries RentAFriend
How it works: Think of RentAFriend as prostitution but without the sex stuff, a website where you can throw down some moolah to hang out with someone. (I know. It sounds icky. But from my experience, it’s not.) To join, you must pay a monthly membership fee of $24.95, which allows you to message “friends for hire.”
What happened: When I first visited the site, it seemed so old—pages took forever to load—that I immediately double-checked that it’s not a scam or a front for people who are actually looking to rent a friendship-with-benefits. Still nervous, I created a profile and posted a “friend request,” which allows users to specify the exact activity for which they seek a rented friendship. Since I was already planning on going to a rooftop party that night, I posted that I was looking for someone to hang out with on a roof in midtown for an hour. An hour went by with no responses, then all of a sudden, 24 folks were interested in hanging out that night. (I started to wonder if the site’s Windows 96–inspired design might be the culprit of its server’s operating speed.) I messaged six of them asking if they were interested in going. One dude wanted $80 for the hour, which was too steep for this writer. The other guessed that I was writing a story on the experience, based on my listed occupation, and declined. The third agreed to meet me outside the bar at 8pm. His fee was $40 for the night. As I approached the bar, a recognizable face walked past me on the street. “George?” I asked. “Hey!” he said, throwing his arm around me. “This is crazy, right? This is actually the first time I’ve done this!” He seemed completely normal and excited. I handed him $40. We headed up to the roof, and as we waited to get a drink, a random woman offered him her mistakenly poured cocktail. “Sure, why not!” he said and threw it back without knowing what it was. It was then that I knew we would have an enjoyable hour together. Three rounds later—after we talked about our jobs, shared details on our love lives and got photos with two tall women in headdresses—we headed back down to the street. “This night was crazy! You’re, like, a really good friend,” he told me. “You too!” I replied, sincerely. We even took a selfie. Overall, the night was fun, but I can’t help thinking I got lucky. And let’s be honest, for those prices, I could probably buy a friend.—Will Pulos