Visiting New York City is on many people’s bucket lists. It is a lively city filled with countless attractions all ages will enjoy. Teens wil certainly enjoy a trip to NYC. If you plan to take your teens on a family vacation, these are the best things to do in NYC with teens!
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Best Things to do with Teenagers in NYC
As a parent of three teens who have visited New York City several times, and aunt to two teens who live just outside of NYC, I have a lot of experience when it comes to teen things to do in NYC. I’ve asked all of them to contribute to this article and share the best of NYC for teens. Here’s what they had to say.
1. See a Broadway Show
While it’s possible to see Broadway shows all over the US, there is just something special about seeing the Broadway shows in New York City. Be sure to check out which ones will be playing during your trip and get tickets in advance, so you don’t miss it.
You can buy discount tickets on the day of the show at the TKTS booth in Times Square or use the TodayTix app. Super easy and much cheaper than full price!
2. Visit the Statue of Liberty
Visiting the Statue of Liberty is probably one of the first things your teenagers will want to do when you arrive. Liberty Island is a must visit at least once in your lifetime. Take a fun tour of the Statue of Liberty and learn more about this amazing national monument.
If you want to climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty, it’s a good idea to purchase tickets in advance. Keep in mind there is no elevator to the top and you will need to climb 393 steps to the top, including 162 narrow steps from the top of the pedestal to the crown. Get tickets here.
3. Learn about the immigration experience on Ellis Island
Many Statue of Liberty tours will include a visit to Ellis Island, but make another stop here with your teens if they don’t. The National Immigration Museum experience involves seeing the room where immigrants arrived and learning about their stories.
The museum does an excellent job of describing what it would have been like for families coming to the “new world” and there are displays with photos and artifacts that give a more complete picture.
If your ancestors are connected to Ellis Island, you can do research through their genealogy center. This is a great thing to do with teenagers in NYC.
4. Explore Central Park
Central Park is a must visit if you are traveling to New York for the first time. There are many cool things to see in Central Park that your teenager will love.
Favorite spots include: Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, Belvedere Castle, Loeb Boathouse, Central Park Carousel, the Conservatory Garden, and Strawberry Fields (a memorial to John Lennon).
This public park also has playgrounds, skateparks, concerts, events, carriage rides, and ice skating rinks in the winter. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to fully enjoy this park.
5. Rockefeller Center and head to the Top of the Rock
The Top of the Rock is a huge observation deck on the top floor of Rockefeller Center. It is thrilling to be up 70 floors overlooking this beautiful city. It’s a great opportunity to see Central Park from above. Your teens will love the views!
Tip: Buy your tickets in advance. You can purchase a specific date and entry time with a general admission ticket.
If you’re hungry, we recommend grabbing a bite to eat in one of the many restaurants inside. There’s everything from bagels and cream cheese to burgers and ice cream.
Don’t know where to stay? Check out our favorite family-friendly hotels in NYC!
6. Take it all in at Times Square
It’s almost impossible to visit New York City and not visit Times Square at least once. While this is the busiest part of the city, it is worth it to visit and let the teens see it “in real life”. Be mindful of your belongings, and know that it can be overwhelming when it’s really crowded.
Note: There are some great restaurants in NYC, but one that we like near Times Square is John’s Pizza. This pizza place is in an old church and they have delicious pizza and calzones!
7. Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum
Teens will also enjoy visiting the Intrepid Sea Air & Space Museum during their stay in New York City. This is an amazing museum features an aircraft carrier, submarine, a Concorde plane, and even a space shuttle pavilion. If your teen is a fan of air and space, this is the place to be!
8. One World Trade Center and the National September 11 Memorial and Museum
One World Trade Center (also known as the Freedom Tower) is the tallest building in New York City, and home to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. You can take an elevator ride 102 stories up to the One World Observatory. Here you will find the Sky Portal, a floor made of glass overlooking the city below.
After visiting the observatory, head for the museum. This is obviously more of a somber museum to visit, but it’s important that teens know about what happened on 9/11 and the aftermath. The museum does an excellent job telling the story of the World Trade Center attacks, the heroes of the day, and the people we should never forget.
9. Take a walk on the High Line
Enjoy a stroll in the High Line and take in the beauty of this remarkable park. The park and walkway were built on top of an old freight rail line. It sits above street level, so it is relatively quiet.
If you’re heading from The Vessel to Chelsea Market, this is a great way to make your way there.
10. Metropolitan Museum of Art
Does your teenager love art? Then take them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art! This is one of the largest art museums in the entire world.
You can easily spend hours exploring this museum as you and your teen find your favorite art pieces. Some of the highlights include: the Arms and Armor Hall, the Egyptian Art gallery, the Greek and Roman Art collection, and the Tiffany windows.
11. American Museum of Natural History
Another awesome museum to visit in New York City is the American Museum of Natural History. There are so many fun artifacts to explore here, including diamonds, sharks, and dinosaurs!
12. Yankee Stadium
Is your kid a baseball fan? If so, you can’t miss a visit to Yankee Stadium! Located in Concourse, Bronx, New York City, you can tour this famous stadium or catch one of the baseball games if you’re there in the summer.
13. The Beast Speed Boat
If you’re looking for thrilling adventures in NYC for teens, be sure to grab tickets to ride The Beast Speed Boat! This boat will zoom through New York Harbor and around the Statue of Liberty for a thrilling 30-minute ride.
14. Empire State Building
Another epic monument worth seeing is the Empire State Building. This 102 story skyscraper is one of the most visited places in New York City and it has one of the coolest observation decks.
From the top of the Empire State Building you can see a large part of the city, including the Statue of Liberty. It’s definitely worth a visit!
15. VR World NYC
VR World NYC is a virtual reality club that NYC teens love and your teenagers will love too. You can play video games, go on rides, and fight zombies all night long. Guests must be at least 9 years old for VR World.
They accept walk-ins, or you can preorder your tickets.
16. Central Park Zoo
Who doesn’t love the zoo? The Central Park Zoo has indoor and outdoor visits, a 4D theater, and so much more. Take a quick walk around to find your favorite animal and enjoy being in nature.
When you’re finished take a 15 minute walk to Serendipity 3 (225 E. 60th Street). We promise their hot chocolate and sweet treats are worth it!
17. See the city from above via helicopter
For a unique perspective of New York City, why not book a helicopter ride? Teens will think this is the epitome of cool as they take in the Big Apple from above.
If they would rather keep their feet on the ground, a Big Bus Tour is another great way to see the city with hop-on, hop-off spots near popular attractions.
18. Shop and Eat at The Oculus
The Oculus is located at the World Trade Center and teens will be blown away by its stunning architecture. There are dozens of stores where you can get all of your shopping done and enjoy some delicious dinner.
19. Chelsea Market
The Chelsea Market is one of the coolest indoor marketplaces globally and is a must see with teens. Here you can get all the fresh ingredients you can imagine, from meat to fish, to cheese, this place will have it all. And if you just want to eat, there are dozens of restaurants to choose from!
20. The Vessel at Hudson Yards
The Vessel at Hudson Yards is a beautiful work of art that is actually a spiral staircase. It has over 2500 stairs spread out between154 flights. Unfortunately, it is not open for climbing at this time.
It’s worth a visit to take photos, go shopping in Hudson Yards, or grab a bite to eat. We recommend dinner at Wild Ink, which has a beautiful view of The Vessel at night.
21. Summit One Vanderbilt
If your teens are looking for a really unique observation deck in NYC you’ll want to head to Summit One Vanderbilt. Ride up over 1200 feet in a glass elevator as you see the most amazing views.
Once you’re at the top, there are mirrors everywhere creating some crazy optical illusions. Another room is filled with balloons, and as you go up another level, you will find an outdoor observation deck and a snack bar.
There’s also a glass ledge that sticks out from the building. It’s one of the most Instagrammable places in NYC, and your teens will love it here!
22. New York Public Library
If your teen is a book lover, check out the second-biggest public library in the United States! The New York Public Library is a National Historic Landmark that occupies some massive real estate in Midtown Manhattan, right across from Bryant park. It is so easy to get lost inside as you explore all the books you love and admire the architecture.
23. Ice Skating
Ice skating is always a fun activity with teenagers, and there are plenty of rinks around New York City. There are even places where you can skate year round.
If you visit NYC during the summer, head over to the Rockefeller Center or the Chelsea Pier, as they are open year round. Try Bryant Park or LeFrak Center if you are visiting during winter.
24. The Frick Collection
Another art museum that shouldn’t be missed is the Frick Collection. The collection has been temporary relocated to Frick Madison while the museum’s original home undergoes restoration.
Here you will find pieces from the Renaissance all the way to the twentieth century. All of the work was collected by Henry Clay Frick who bequeathed the art and his mansion as a public gallery. Art lovers will enjoy viewing all of the amazing masterpieces here!
25. Luna Park at Coney Island
If your teen loves theme parks, be sure to stop at Luna Park at Coney Island. This amusement park has tons of fun rides, including the Coney Island Cyclone!
26. Go Shopping
Teens love to go shopping, so why not take them during your trip to New York City? We recommend heading to one of these places for a teen shopping fix: Hudson Yards (UNIQLO, Aritzia, H &M, Madewell), Nike House of Innovation, Zara, and Brandy Melville (on 5th Avenue), INA Designer Consignment (Chelsea), and AuH20 is an upscale thrift shop in Ukrainian Village.
Williamsburg in Brooklyn has a ton of thrift shops, Madison Avenue has all of the high-end stores, Soho has trendy boutiques and shops while Greenwich Village has a variety of fun and quirky places. There are countless shops; you can easily spend the entire day shopping if you want!
27. Tenement Museum: Immigration Museum NYC
If your kids are into history, the Tenement Museum is a great place for them to learn about the immigrant experience in early 19th century New York. The museum allows them to explore restored tenement buildings while learning about immigrants who lived in New York’s Lower East Side.
The museum also offers walking tours, where you can see the hidden gems of the neighborhood and learn more about its history.
28. Walk Across the Brooklyn Bridge
A trip to New York City would not be complete without a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. It usually takes between 30 to 60 minutes to walk across the bridge depending on the crowds.
29. Explore Brooklyn
Take some time to explore Brooklyn and grab photos of Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge Park. A couple of fun things to do in Brooklyn include spending time in DUMBO and visiting the Time Out Market.
If you have time, go to Brooklyn Bowl to see an amazingly huge bowling alley and try to get your own lane.
30. Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise
Hop aboard a boat on the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise! During this cruise, you will be able to see all of Manhattan’s famous landmarks. This cruise is two and a half hours and is great for teenagers.
31. Bronx Zoo TreeTop Adventure
The Bronx Zoo TreeTop Adventure is definitely a must visit in NYC for teens. Here you will find a zipline and ropes course over the Bronx River. Teens will love zooming through the trees!
32. Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology
The Fashion Institute of Technology Museum has free admission and is another fun place to visit in New York City with teens. Here you can see clothing pieces from the 18th century up until now. It is definitely interesting and a must visit for teens who love fashion!
33. Attend a TV Show Taping
How fun would it be to attend a TV show taping, especially if it is a show your teen loves? Check a few months before your visit to grab your free tickets!
Some TV shows you can attend as an audience member in New York include Lip Sync Battle, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and many more.
34. Big Apple Circus
Check out the Big Apple Circus if your teen has always wanted to see a live circus. This is a huge tourist attraction and one your teenager will love to see in person!
35. SPYSCAPE HQ
SPYSCAPE HQ is a 60,000 square foot building filled with immersive experiences. Travel through seven different zones and complete different challenges that will reveal your superpowers.
Dodge through lasers, find the bad guys, and become a superhero! Teenagers will definitely enjoy this activity.
36. Trapeze School
Does your teenager love trying daredevil stunts? Here in New York, teens can go to a trapeze school and learn the skill of flying through the air! This is a school any teenager will want to go to, even on vacation.
37. The Edge
Edge NYC is one of the newest sky decks in NYC and it puts a unique spin on the experience. It is the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere and the platform is suspended off the side of the building. It allows you 360 degree views of the city from above.
Adventurous teens will love Edge’s City Climb, an opportunity to scale the outside of a skyscraper from 1200 feet above the ground.
38. Take a Tour
There are countless tours all over New York that are fun to do to get familiar with this busy city. You can go on a Hush Hip Hop Tour and see key music locations or go through a special private NYC Walking Tour.
You might even like one of the New York Ghosts Tours if you enjoy haunted houses.
39. Fun games at SPIN
SPIN New York 23 is a ping pong social club that’s fun for all ages. Kids are allowed to play before 9pm, but you will need to reserve tables in advance. If your family is looking for a fun group activity in NYC, this definitely fits the bill.
40. Fantastic food destinations
If your teens love to eat, don’t miss the fabulous food halls in NYC. Some of our favorites include: Eataly, Mercado Little Spain, Gotham West Market, Le District NYC, Brookfield Place, and Gansevoort Market.
Instagram worthy spots that are worth a quick stop include: Sweet Moment (in Little Italy and Soho), Taiyaki (in Chinatown), Black Tap (Soho and Midtown), The Bagel Store (Brooklyn), Levain Bakery (Upper West Side) and Starbucks Reserve Roastery (in the Meatpacking District). The Starbucks space is over 23,000 square feet making for epic pictures without the coffee!
These are just some of the best attractions to visit in New York City with teens. Choose from this long list of ideas with things you know your teen will enjoy, making this the best vacation ever!
Book Your Flights
You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Hotels.com and Expedia.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Tiqets is another place to purchase tickets for attractions.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is take photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threat or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.