New York City is the perfect place to travel with teenagers: they don’t need their hands held, they want to explore and they’re starting find their own sense of style. This starter list combines independence, adventure and self-expression for a refreshing twist on family time. (You may make it through the day without a single eye roll.)
1. Do a Hamilton-inspired itinerary in the greatest city in the world
Sing your way through Fraunces Tavern, Hamilton Grange and the Morris-Jumel Mansion—just a few downtown and uptown Manhattan places to get some context for the musical that’s taken the City, and the world, by storm.
2. Take a ride to Rockaway Beach
Spend the whole morning at the edge of Queens. Sign up for surf lessons, play volleyball on the sand and definitely get tacos as a reward for making the pilgrimage to the Ramones’ favorite waterfront strip. (Note: part of the beach has been closed due to erosion, but Jacob Riis and the surf areas are among the stretches that remains open—and NYC offers plenty of other sandy spots for fun and recreation.)
3. Score some vintage outfits in Brooklyn
Fashionable clothing store Beacon's Closet, which carries old band T-shirts, denim jackets, designer dresses and stylish accessories, has outlets in Greenpoint, Bushwick and Park Slope—Brooklyn neighborhoods that happen to have good bookstores and record shops as well, a likely bonus.
4. Join the skate circle in Central Park
Come Saturday and Sunday, strap on some skates, let the music play and get rolling in this all-ages Manhattan skate-dance party. The Central Park Dance Skaters Association organizes the long-running event at the Skater’s Circle, just north of Sheep Meadow. Watching can be fun on its own, and, of course, there’s the rest of the park—with all its sights and activities—at your feet.
5. Create your own exotic menu at the Queens Night Market
There’s something cool about hanging out after dark on a Saturday night to sample the market’s array of unusual international cuisine—say, Persian stew or Thai roasted crickets—and bobbing along to the sounds of DJs spinning tunes.
6. Check out the scene on St. Mark’s Place
While it may not have the artsy edge it once did, the Village’s main people-watching strip is still an exciting place for a stroll and to check out the odd comic shop and old-school egg cream. The musically inclined can also look for the building from the cover of Led Zep’s Physical Graffiti and, a few blocks over by Tompkins Square Park, Charlie Parker’s home.
7. Hit a minor (or major) league baseball game
The family may well get to witness fireworks afterward at the Staten Island Yankees stadium, with the Manhattan skyline providing a classy backdrop. Coney Island also hosts a minor league team, the Cyclones, where games take place within view of the speedy Thunderbolt roller coaster. Seeing big leaguers is fun and easy, too, at the Bronx’s Yankee Stadium or Citi Field in Queens.
8. See what’s on at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology
Is there a budding fashionista in the crew? This free cultural institution lets you look at punk fashions, pink dresses or whatever might be on display at the moment—and might also give you an idea for where to send the kids to college.
9. Take in hip-hop history on a Bronx bus tour
Thanks to Hush Hip-Hop Tours, old-school MCs and DJs are on hand to point out major landmarks in the development of the genre, which created a new cultural language and musical landscape for today’s youth (and, yes, for many parents too).
10. Get a civics lesson at the United Nations
There’s weird public art, there’s insight into how the UN functions to keep peace and there’s the thrill of entering the inner sanctum where debates on the world’s problems take place. (There’s also a tour specifically designed for younger kids.)
Bonus idea: Try dim sum in Sunset Park
Tacos dominate on Fifth Avenue in this Brooklyn neighborhood; farther east, dim sum palaces like Pacificana and East Harbor Seafood Palace make fine destinations to try authentic Cantonese dim sum—and inexpensive enough that you won’t mind as your ravenous teen points at plate after plate on the trolley cart.
More fun for all ages
NYC Activities with Tweens
Hop on rides, visit Broadway and eat pizza with the family across the five boroughs.
NYC Activities with Young Kids
Get outdoors, see wildlife and enjoy Italian ices when visiting NYC with your little kids.