Keeping picky teenagers engaged and entertained is a tall order anywhere, but New York City has tons of activities that teens will love. Step up to the challenge with this itinerary, and we bet the teenager in your life will take a break from texting for at least five minutes.
Sports and Fitness
For school athletes and other energetic kids, NYC can be a literal playground. See the sights in the City on two wheels, thanks to tour operators like Bike and Roll and Bike the Big Apple, which rent bicycles for guided tours through Central Park, across the Brooklyn Bridge, along the Hudson River and all around town; Bike and Roll offers rentals and self-guided tours. On the river during the warmer months you'll find the Trapeze School New York, which offers single-class sessions so your adventurous teen can soar alongside the skyline; in winter, classes are in Long Island City's Circus Warehouse. (The school recommends the classes for kids 6 and up—and accommodates aspiring trapeze artists as young as 4—so younger brothers and sisters can join in on the fun, too.) Meanwhile, the facilities at Pier 62 feature a carousel and a Cali-style concrete skate park, plus multiple gardens and a huge lawn for frolicking and picnicking on the waterfront. Skateboarders in particular will also enjoy Maloof Skate Plaza, the skate park at Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens. The venue was built in 2010 to host the Maloof Money Cup pro-am skateboarding competition and is now permanent and open to the public. There's fun to be had indoors as well: Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge and Brooklyn Bowl are two of New York's trendy bowling alleys for the drinking crowd, but they're all-ages during the day (Lucky Strike, Monday through Friday until 5pm and Saturday and Sunday until 7pm; Brooklyn Bowl, Saturday and Sunday only, from 11am to 5pm). For those who'd rather be spectators than sports stars, New York's sports teams are some of the best in the world.
Getting a teenager to laugh can be like pulling teeth. Luckily, the lineup at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre never fails. Its Sunday improv show Asssscat 3000 frequently features special guests from Saturday Night Live and other shows. (Kids attending should be 16 or older unless accompanied by a parent.) Gotham Comedy Club also serves up a lot of laughs through its Kids 'N Comedy program. And that's not all: the City offers a plethora of theatrical performances that will satisfy both teens and their parents (and even younger kids). Intense percussive experiences like Blue Man Group and Stomp are all guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Teens will also be impressed by The Quantum Eye, an entertaining Off-Broadway show by mentalist Sam Eaton that will leave them trying to figure out how he read their minds (parents could probably pick up a few pointers, too). The New Victory Theater features special teen-interest performances that are perfect for siblings or friends to check out sans parents. Meanwhile, Arts Connection's High 5 program provides teens tickets to dance, music and theater performances, film screenings, art exhibitions and more for just five bucks a pop with a student ID, making cultural events affordable and accessible enough for younger audiences. Teens can get an additional $5 ticket for an adult, or a group of five $5 tickets and a sixth ticket free. Tickets can be purchased online at high5tix.org.
Art and Music
Budding artists will be inspired at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MoMA PS1, two of the City's most prominent contemporary-art institutions, while the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)—especially its BAMcafé Live music series—is perfect for musicians (or critics). And The Panorama—an insanely detailed scale model of the entire city, showing every building built before 1992—is alone worth a visit to the Queens Museum. For a real-life bird's-eye view of the City, head up to the Empire State Building Observatory or Top of the Rock Observation Deck, both of which overlook all of Manhattan and beyond. (Fans of NBC programs might prefer the latter, since they can head downstairs afterward and hit up the Shop at NBC Studios for exclusive fan gear.)
Tours and Food
The City even offers entertainment for those finicky adolescents who would rather be home watching TV. On Location Tours brings groups to the sites featured in popular TV shows and movies, including Gossip Girl, The Sopranos and Sex and the City. Or watch live TV like never before at one of the many New York City television-show tapings. (Keep in mind that some shows, like Saturday Night Live, have age minimums. Be sure to check before booking tickets.) And if there's one thing most teenagers are good at, it's eating. In addition to the many stellar restaurants in NYC, teens can enjoy a culinary adventure fit for their taste buds. Food on Foot Tours and A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours, for instance, both offer excellent (and age-appropriate) fare.