Entertaining little kids in New York City is easy—there are toy stores, museums, ice cream shops and playgrounds at every turn. But keeping a teenager happy is another story; after all, their job is to make their parents' lives difficult. But the City actually offers plenty of activities that could make even the surliest teens crack a smile and enjoy themselves (though they may not give you the pleasure of letting you know just how much). Take them to hit some golf balls, to listen to their peers do stand-up comedy, to peruse a computer store or to shop at some trendy hotspots. Read on for suggestions that will appeal to older kids, whether they're just visiting the City or they call it home. Who knows? They may even thank you.
478 Broadway, 212-966-9555, SoHo
If you've got British style envy, do not fear. This recently established SoHo outpost of the popular chain is the perfect place for fashion-savvy teens to snap up affordable apparel. Think skinny jeans, lots of leggings and sequins upon sequins. It's a trendy mini–department store that can outfit your teens (both boys and girls) from head to toe. They'll be sure to want to hit the Shoe Lounge or check out the changing special collections that often include Kate Moss' signature lines. Make sure your teen brings a school ID to grab a 10% student discount.
6 E. 57th St., 212-891-6453, Midtown East
If your kids love sneakers—and if they're teens, they probably do—send them to Midtown East's massive, five-story Niketown to see all that bears the iconic swoosh. Think of it as almost a Nike museum; you'll even find displays of sneakers and equipment of such sports superstars as Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong. Plus, it's fun to watch the sneakers shoot up through plastic pneumatic tubes from the lower warehouse level to the floors above. And if your teens can't find what they want here, then they can always design their own one-of-a-kind version, complete with customized colors, materials, graphics and more.
Gotham Comedy Club
208 W. 23rd St., 212-877-6115, Chelsea
If your kids think they're too young for the club scene, tell them to think again. Gotham Comedy Club opens its doors to tweens and teens one Sunday a month, when the funniest kids in town, ages 13 to 18, perform stand-up during Kids 'n Comedy. Demetri Martin and Dave Chappelle wannabes write their own material making fun of their teachers, parents, politicians, national news—even those crazy cafeteria ladies and their hairnets. Come for lunch, drinks (sodas for those under age) and humor. And do not fear: the jokes are guaranteed to be rated PG.
1981 Broadway, 212-209-3400, Upper West Side
Computer geeks and those who just love music, gaming and having fun online should head over to the new Apple store on the Upper West Side, where, from 9am to 9pm daily, you can check out the company's many toys. Try a Mac, call a friend, listen to some new tunes. You can even sign up to take a workshop to learn how to compose a song with GarageBand, how to create an animated video with iMovie or how to DJ by turning your Mac into a turntable with iTunes. Best of all, it's all free…unless you decide to buy something to take home.
Columbus Avenue (bet. West 76th and West 77th Streets), 212-239-3025, Upper West Side
If your teen loves the thrill of the hunt and finding something special and unique, then they'll love the year-round GreenFlea Market, located in a schoolyard on Columbus Avenue. No cookie-cutter booths at this market; instead, it's a refreshing combination of antique shop, rummage sale and handicraft fair where bargaining is encouraged and a good deal is a given. You never know what you'll find, from 25-cent trinkets to more expensive architectural salvage (to uniquely decorate a teen's room), vintage clothing and everything in between. The Sunday market is open regardless of the weather, both inside and out, from 10am to 5:30pm (till 5:45pm April through October).
Gossip Girl Tours
Madison Avenue and East 51st Street, 212-209-3370, Midtown East
Do your kids want to see the trendy stores where Blair and Serena shop? Check out the Constance Billard School for Girls (actually the Museum of the City of New York)? Or the "secret" nightclubs where the TV teens hang out? Experience a day in the life of those infamous privileged private-school kids from the scenes of the hit TV show by jumping on a Gossip Girl–themed bus tour. You'll ride around town on a coach bus and get the scoop as you travel from the Meatpacking District to the Upper East Side. Don't forget to study up on your trivia; you'll get quizzed. And if you take friends who are not fans of the show, before long they too will be experts in all things Gossip Girl.
West 23rd Street and the Hudson River, 212-336-6666, Chelsea
If the lack of exercise is getting to you and your kids during these cold winter months, head to the City's indoor sports-lovers' paradise at Chelsea Piers and move those muscles. At this 28-acre sports village, you can bowl, ice-skate, hit a bucket of golf balls, climb a 23-foot-high rock wall, practice your swing in a batting cage and jump into a foam-ball pit. Check the Chelsea Piers website for daily drop-in programs and open hours. If your kids plan to try several activities, ask about the silver passport ($35) or the gold passport ($60), which includes entrance to the health club for anyone over age 16. Or for $30, try a "Rock-n-Roll" session and get 45 minutes each of rock climbing and trampoline time in the field house (ages 5 to 16). If that doesn't get you off the couch, nothing will!