8th June 2019

15 Fun Things to Do with Teenagers in New York

night time sky scrapers

Back in February Steve and I took Coby and Lucy, our two teenage children, to New York for the half term break and I think, no, I know it’ll be one of those holidays we’ll never forget. New York has been a dream trip for as long as I can remember and it’s fair to say it stole all of our hearts. It’s the one place we promised we’d only visit together, and somewhere we know we’ll absolutely return to. Soon.

We landed in the afternoon just as the sun was beginning to set, meaning that our drive (in a yellow taxi of course) from JFK to our hotel in Midtown was basked in sunlight and marked the beginning of a fresh exciting adventure.

Yellow taxi in New York
Views over New York

Now, for those of you have been to New York you may nod along and agree with all the things I’m about to list, and for anyone who hasn’t been but is planning to go soon, you may have these things on your list already and be counting down the days until you go. But if you’ve been to New York, maybe more than once, then yes, this post is a little bit of a cliché…but maybe next time, we’ll do something a little more unique! I’m not apologising for this though, these are all the things you SHOULD be doing in New York (plus more).

(AD) We had a family CityPass (which I was gifted) and it was an absolute joy to be able to queue-jump and turn up to different attractions when we liked. CityPasses are quite common with tourists, but that’s because they do save you quite a lot of money if you decide to get one. Ours allowed us entrance to six different attractions and would cost far more if you paid individually. Find more details here, there’s usually a big discount at checkout too.

1. Go to Central Park

Everyone has seen Central Park on the TV or in a movie and you know it’s big, (843 acres) but until you set foot in it, you have no idea! New Yorkers escape here, there are street performers, people enjoying picnics and dog walkers around every corner. It’s beautiful! You can ice-skate, walk for hours and eat if you get peckish.

Central Park in February

Coby and Lucy both loved the whispering bench and sat here for ages whispering secrets (or rude jokes most likely) and even played their music on the lowest volume, each trying to guess the song.

We walked through Strawberry Fields, spotted the Home Alone bridge with the pigeon lady scenes and we even got involved with a very funny street act. The best thing about it, it’s free! And that’s a rarity with teenagers 😉

Strawberry Fields Floor tiles

We woke up one morning with a fresh blanket of snow and strolled out into the crisp morning air in search of breakfast and again ended up in Central Park. We were drawn to it and I think if Steve and I went without the children we’d probably walk around it even more than we did on this holiday.

Snow in New York

There’s a central park map here if you need help with finding certain sights and paths.

2. Find a Cupcake Shop

I think you all know by now that I’m a sucker for anything sweet. Particularly when it’s swirled in buttercream, covered in sprinkles and I can eat a few in one go… yes I’m greedy, but I’m helping you all out for when you go to New York and need to find cupcakes. It’s all in the name of research really. 😉 Promise.

When I was planning out our New York trip I was reading and seeing all these gorgeous photos of bakeries that sell cupcakes. I then realised that there were SO many and that I should probably chance it and see what I came across and discovered naturally. So I left the maps and the virtual pins and bookmarks and let my sweet tooth and eye for a pretty cupcake shop do all the work.

My favourite was Molly’s Cupcakes on Bleecker Street. Fitted out with tables fashioned from vintage school-desks and a counter made from old swings, it’s fun and quirky.

Cupcakes at Molly's New York

3. Go to the Top of the Empire State Building at Dusk

Want an iconic shot of the New York City skyline? Then you need to head to the 86th or 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. Hop in the lift right up to the observation deck that gives you 360-degree views of Central Park, the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

You can go twice in one day with a CityPass, and night-time was definitely my favourite.

night time sky scrapers

4. Walk, Walk, and Walk some more!

There’s really no better way to see and experience New York than by walking. Both Coby and Lucy got tired, and we often headed back early evening just so they could have some chill time, but they didn’t mind walking for miles with us. There’s just something to see (and eat) every corner you turn.

5. Visit Times Square

Do you ever think of New York without Times Square crossing your mind? No? That’s because it’s one of the best things to do whilst there. It’s a staple on any New York itinerary with its huge billboards, and screens lighting up the night. It’s insanely busy which is part of the appeal, but it’s also deadly silent at 6am!

Wake up early and take advantage of the empty streets.

6. Take a Boat out to The Statue of Liberty

The day we went out to The Statue of Liberty was possibly the coldest day we had whilst in New York. Wrap up warm if you go in Winter, like us, it’s freezing on that water!

To be honest I don’t think Coby and Lucy were that fussed about the Statue of Liberty no matter how much we tried to encourage some interest from them. They stayed in the cafe at the bottom (most likely taking advantage of the WiFi) and we want for a wander and a closer look.

7. Visit the 911 Memorial

Freedom Tower is a tribute to all those who lost their lives in 9/11. While it’s a sobering experience, it’s a chance to delve deeper into the 2001 tragedy. The memorial features two twin pools and the largest man-made waterfalls in North America. The names of everyone who died on that horrible day are inscribed in gold panels that edge the pools, and when it’s their birthday, they light up!

What I didn’t expect from the 911 memorial was to feel so moved. It totally took me surprise and I wouldn’t be fibbing if I told you I shed a tear or two. It is emotional, and when I saw this little old lady sobbing in the corner something just set me off! Now, I’m not usually the type to get emotional in public, but there was just no stopping it.

I now think it’s incredibly important to visit the 911 memorial, no matter what you believe or think happened/didn’t happen.

And I’d never witnessed a straight hours silence from Coby and Lucy before either. 😉

8. Go Find the FRIEND’S Apartment

Any Friends fan HAS to go to Monica’s apartment. Ross’s apartment is just across the road and you can make it part of your route after walking the High-Line (#14 below) and moving on for a walk around the very cool Chelsea area of New York.

9. Order Room Service (aka Kevin style)

One night we were so exhausted, our feet were killing and there was no way we could find the energy to go out and find food. Coby and Lucy had their own room so we told them they could order room service (within reason) and they were so excited! Coby, being Coby, ordered the most expensive dish on the menu – steak! and Lucy was all modest and insisted she just wanted a milkshake.

10. Eat as Many $1 pizza slices as you can

Steve is the pizza-king, which if you read my blog regularly you’ll know that from this post and this post. He honestly would live off pizza if he could. There’s one on every corner and it’s also great if you’ve got a teenage boy who never gets full!

‘Grab a slice’ whenever you can. Just take the long walk home! 😉

11. Go to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre

What I knew about the Rockefeller Centre before we visited was quite limited and most of what I did know was related to the comedy show 30 Rock, or that I’d seen people ice-skating on TV there.

(It’s true what they say; Being in this city really feels like walking through a never-ending movie.)

We learnt that the Rockefeller Centre, which first opened in the 1930s, actually includes 19 buildings (with spanning over 22 acres. It is bounded by 48th and 51st Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues, with its central plaza sitting directly across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Basically, it’s huge!

The views from the top are insane and the best way to describe a trip to the observation deck at the Top of the Rock is that it makes you feel like you’re “in the middle of it all.”

Top of The Rock

12. Take a Bus to the Shopping Outlet

And shop till you drop!

Shopping in New York is fun, but both Coby and Lucy had been saving their money for months and were dying to grab a few bargains. We headed on out to Woodbury Common and shopped until we could carry no more!

It’s easy to get to, just catch the 1hr bus from the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

13. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge

And admire great views of the Manhattan skyline, downtown Brooklyn and the Statue of Liberty. It doesn’t take long as its only 1.3 miles and we took a coffee with us to keep our hands warm too.

Once you reach Brooklyn you can explore the historic neighbourhoods of Dumbo and Williamsburg. We’d planned to eat pizza (yes, more pizza) at Grimaldi’s but it was shut. It’s sister restaurant Juliana’s is next door so we ate there instead.

Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge

14. Walk the Highline

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long park that was built on an old elevated railway. The park features food vendors, art, and an incredible view of the Hudson River and NYC skyline.

If you enjoy snapping photos of the very cool graffiti, then this is the place for you.

Steve went back on his own when us three went shopping and apparently we’d missed a big chunk of it the first time, so don’t do that!

15. Eat all the New York Themed foods you can

Which I’ve kind of covered above already, but let’s be honest, one of the best things to do in NYC is to eat! There are so many different markets, restaurants, bars, and cafes to choose from – it’s a foodie paradise!

Pretzel

We ate bagels, pretzels, pizza, pancakes, taco-bell, milkshakes and the kids tested the meaty options; pastrami, hot-dogs, and burgers.

And don’t forget the coffee!

Other activities you may enjoy

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2 responses to “15 Fun Things to Do with Teenagers in New York”

  1. pigeonpairandme says:

    We haven’t visited New York, and I’m wondering when would be the best time to take the kids. Your post is inspiring! Ours are 7 and 9. What’s the optimum age, do you think?

    • hellocuppies says:

      I think any age would be amazing, but your 7-year-old may struggle with all the walking maybe? Unless he’s used to walking, of course. Otherwise, there’s yellow cabs or UBER everywhere which helps. I hope you get to go. 🙂

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