A Weekend In New York City with A Teenager
Taking your teenager to New York City can be overwhelming! Will they get bored with too many museums? Will they understand the history and culture that comes with an NYC visit?
The truth is, New York City is a GREAT place for teenagers to visit. And not just because their favorite YouTuber or celebrity lives there (although that helps). But if you find the right activities, NYC can be one of the most memorable trips your teenager will take.
My daughter had been begging to see NYC and when she turned 13, it was the perfect surprise trip. We spent 4 days (3 nights) in New York and she had the time of her life. Here is what we recommend you see in New York City with a teenager.
Fun Things to Do In New York City For Teenagers
Teenagers are fun to travel with because they are at a point in their lives where they understand different cultures and the historical significance of certain places. They are also old enough to get up early, do a lot of walking, and be a part of making plans. But yet young enough to have fun and get wide-eyed at things they’ve never seen before.
Taking my daughter to New York City for the first time was more fun for me than the previous times I’ve gone in my life because seeing her excitement meant everything.
This is our list of what we did in New York City with a teenager that she will never forget!
Mid Manhattan consists of the upper east and west side. You’ll be able to group some of these places together and get around very easily by either walking or a short cab ride. Here are some of the highlights around Mid-Manhattan…
1 – Times Square
You can’t go to New York City with a teenager without visiting the iconic Times Square. Keep your teen close! Even though they are older, there are big crowds at night and a lot of stuff going on.
- I like to keep my valuables safe with a Body Belt Bag. It securely fits close to your body and is slim enough to fit under your jacket or shirt, making it very difficult to get pickpocketed.
Times Square is best seen at night! You’ll see all the bright lights and tons of performers. Even large dressed-up characters walking around (although they all are looking for those tips so be careful who you take a photo with!)
You can visit the world’s largest M&M store, several NYC gift stores, or even some of your teen’s favorites like Urban Outfitters.
Times Square is also a great place to experience a true NYC pizza, There are grab-and-go pizza places all over the place where you can get a slice for just a few dollars.
We ended up going back to Times Square 3 times because my daughter enjoyed walking around it at night so much. But you can easily see Times Square in an hour or two so no need to schedule too much time in your day for it.
2 – Central Park Carriage Ride
Central Park is an absolute must-see for any age. But it is BIG. Like HUGE. So it’s pretty hard to see all of it. My recommendation is to start off with a carriage ride tour.
There are plenty of horse carriages lined up on the edge of Central Park so you’ll never have to make a reservation. And it’s a great chance to give your feet some rest (you do a LOT of walking in New York City), and see Central Park in a peaceful and beautiful way.
The guides are really great as well and will point out several places of interest from where certain movies were filmed and even what nearby penthouses certain celebrities live in.
Plan to spend at least half a day in Central Park if visiting in the summer. The carriage ride will give you a good overview of part of the park, but there’s more to visit than just that.
Skip the zoo. A zoo is a zoo to a teenager! Visiting some of the fountains will be more exciting as several movies have been filmed in Central Park.
3 – The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Located just outside Central Park, the “Met” or Metropolitan Museum of Art is a fun place for teenagers. They will love walking up the big iconic steps and imagining all the celebrities who have been there previously while attending the Met Gala.
The museum itself is one place I do recommend you take teens. It has educational sections like mummies and ancient Egypt, famous paintings, and sculptures. And it even has some fun displays that teenagers would love like “fashion through the decades”. Just look at some of these cool displays they had…
The Met can take an entire day if you want to, but if you’re just looking for the highlights and Teen-approved displays, you can easily get through this in 2-3 hours.
We started our day with the carriage ride through Central Park, went to The Met for about 2 hours, and still had about half a day left for other activities.
4 – Rockefeller Center and the “Top of the Rock”
Visiting Rockefeller plaza was not on the top of my daughter’s list when we visited New York City. But I told her to trust me, and she’s glad she did!
Start off early in the morning and head down to the plaza to get a chance to be on TV. You can easily be a part of the crowd for The Today Show. Although most teens don’t watch the morning news, it’s still very exciting to be on national TV and they can call their friends to tell them to tune in.
We even got to see Ryan Reynolds getting interviewed while we were there!
You will want to get there early for this. They start filming at 7 am and the cameras start coming outside around 8-8:30 am. But if you want a spot up front to guarantee to be on camera, you’ll probably want to get there a little before 7 am.
5 – The Top of the Rock
When in New York City is as it sounds… it’s the very very top of The Rockefeller building. You’ll get amazing views of Central Park and all of Manhattan.
I actually recommend visiting the viewing deck here over the Empire State building for a few reasons. First, you actually get a really amazing few of the Empire State Building. And second, you are closer to Central Park and that view is the best.
6 – Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station is near Rockefeller center and not too far from Central Park either. While there isn’t very much to do here, it is a great place to visit just for the ambiance.
If your teenager likes Instagram and Tiktok, they will absolutely love visiting Grand Central station just for photo opportunities.
7 – Designer Shopping
You can’t visit New York City with a teenager and not do a little designer shopping! After we finished with Central Park and the Met, we took a casual stroll just south of the park down 5th avenue for some shopping.
You’ll find some of the nicest stores on earth here. Barney’s, Prada, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Tiffany’s… in no way could we afford any of these stores. But your teenager will get a thrill just walking through some of the most expensive stores in the world.
There are also some regular and more affordable stores there too if you feel like doing some shopping. There are also some really great restaurants and lots of New York Deli if you want to plan a lunch stop here.
Mid Manhattan and Lower Manhattan may not seem very far from each other, but when visiting New York, they are like worlds away. So try to plan your days around these 2 different areas. They are definitely a long (and expensive) cab ride apart, so I would recommend the subway to get between the two.
Here are some really great Lower Manhattan sites your teenager will love when visiting New York…
8 – 9/11 Memorial and Museum
This museum should be at the top of your list when you visit New York City. More than likely, your teenager wasn’t even alive when 9/11 happened. But they still study about it in school, and visiting this site can be a really great way to learn a piece of our history.
Because I was around and remember 9/11 like it was yesterday, this was a great opportunity for my daughter and me to have discussions about why something like this happened. She had so many great questions and it really sparked some good conversation.
I will tell you, this museum is extremely emotional. You probably will cry, so bring some kleenex with you.
I could go on and on about our experience at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. It was probably one of the most memorable places I’ve ever visited and I highly suggest you add this to your New York itinerary.
We started with the memorial in the morning to give ourselves as much time here as we needed. Even with taking our time and going through the whole museum, it only took about 2 hours.
9 – Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Well duh, you’re going to New York City so, of course, you are going to visit the Statue of Liberty. But here are a few tips you might not have known.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are both on small islands very close to each other. In order to access them, you need to buy tickets for a ferry that will take you over. There is only one ferry. So don’t bother looking around for other ways to get there.
When you visit one, you visit both. The ferry starts at the tip of lower Manhatten and first heads over the Statue of Liberty, then goes to Ellis Island, then back to lower Manhatten. It continues in this loop all day long. You don’t have to visit both. You can just choose to stay on the ferry and wait for it to head to the next location.
You actually get the best views of the Statue of Liberty from the ferry as it cruises by. Sit on the right side of the boat, on the top deck and you’ll get the best photos.
Both places are important to visit because, well, it’s pretty obvious. But both places are pretty quick. There really isn’t a lot to do. So you kind of just go, check it out, and head back. Meaning, don’t plan to be here all day. You can easily do both in an hour or two.
10 – The Tenement Museum
One thing I never see anyone mention when they visit New York is the Tenement Housing Museum. And yet, it was one of our favorite places to visit.
A short cab ride from the Statue of Liberty, the Tenement Museum of New York is a series of buildings where immigrants used to live from time periods such as the late 1800s, the 1920s, and the 1950s.
The housing has been perfectly preserved with furniture and household items so you can see what it was like for people to live during this time period in New York City.
It is 100 percent worth it to pay for the tour. Your tour guide will tell you the stories of each family that lived in the houses you visit. They have records of the family members and some pretty cool stories of who lived there and what happened to them.
This is a really great and unique way to see some of New York City’s history.
11 – China Town
The tenement museum is located within China town so when you are done with the museum, just start walking around and enjoy this unique area of New York City. You can grab some really great food here too, but just the atmosphere alone is worth it.
12 – Washington Square Park
Another famous spot for fun social media photos. The arch in Washington Square park is iconic to New York City and many movies have been filmed here.
But the reason your teenager will really enjoy this spot is that it’s also home to New York University. So there are tons of college students walking around, hanging out with friends, and reading on the grass.
There are also a lot of really cute shopping and restaurants here. If you are looking for a good place to eat with an outdoor sidewalk patio for dinner, Washington Square Park is the place to go.
13 – Brooklyn Bridge
You don’t need to plan too much time here. There really isn’t much to do on the Brooklyn Bridge except just walk over it. But it has become one of the most photographed spots in NYC and I guarantee your teenager will want a photo of themselves sitting on the edge like all their favorite influencers.
14 – River Cruise
When in New York City with a teenager, a river cruise is a fun and relaxing way to get a panoramic view of the entire city. You can go small and do an hour-long cruise or go big and do a sunset dinner cruise around the entire island of Manhatten.
New York City river cruise is a fun and relaxing way to get a panoramic view of the entire city. You can go small and do an hour-long cruise or go big and do a sunset dinner cruise around the entire island of Manhatten.
There are lots of choices for this one depending on your time or budget. But it’s a fun experience and a chance to get off your feet for a while (you do a LOT of walking in NYC!)
15 – Subway Ride
It’s not really a “place” to visit but worth a mention. If you are going to spend a weekend in New York City with a teenager, you must let them experience a subway ride. (Note: Going from Upper Manhattan to Lower Manhattan is faster and cheaper than a cab ride).
My teen wasn’t thrilled with the smell of urine or homeless people sleeping near the tracks. But it was definitely a cool experience she will never forget and in her words “made me feel like a real New Yorker!”.
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