Traveling to New York City with teens is a great idea! This city is a constant source of inspiration and teenagers can’t help but be dumbfounded by the towering skyscrapers and buzzing streets.
And if you’re traveling to New York City with teens you’ve come to the right place. In this post we’ll go over all the best things to do including where to eat, the best stores and unforgettable activities.
If all goes according to plan both you and your teenager’s camera rolls will be full of all the fun memories you’ve created. But hey, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, what do you say we dive right in?
Tips for Visiting New York City with Teens
Cater to their interests: With so many must-see places in New York City it’s easy to put your teen’s interest on the back-burner, but this is their trip too. Try to dabble into their interests! Do they like sports? Attend a game. Do they have a passion for fashion? Let’s go shopping! Are they in love with theater? Visit Broadway, baby.
Add your credit card to their Apple/Samsung wallets: The subway uses “tap to pay” and it’s much easier to add your card info onto your teen’s phones than to pass a single credit card around like a hot potato.
They might be embarrassed to take photos, but take them anyways: A trip to New York City with your teens is special. While I’m a big believer in respecting boundaries you should emphasize how much you’d like to remember this trip with them. Take pictures often, you’ll regret the the pictures you didn’t take, not the ones you do!
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid). Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Things to Do With Teens in New York City
Visit an Observation Deck
One of your top priorities when visiting New York City with teens should be buying tickets to an observation deck. It’s impossible not to be giddy when looking down on the New York City streets, regardless of age.
You have five observation decks to choose from, but I’ll keep it short and sweet. My recommendation if you’re visiting NYC with teens is Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Center, soaring to a height of 850 feet.
You have stellar views of the Empire State Building, Central Park and even the One World Trade Center. All these iconic landmarks will be highlights on your teens’ Instagram stories, and you’ll be parent of the year.
Want to sweeten the deal? Book tickets for sunset and you’ll make the type of memory to last a lifetime.
Once you’re grinning ear to ear (and braving the wind!) you’ll understand why climbing an observation deck is one of the best things to do in New York City with teens.
Further reading: If you can’t sneak Top of the Rock into your itinerary read our article: All Five Observation Decks in New York City (Ranked + Helpful Tips!) for more suggestions!
Enjoy a Broadway Show
There are a total of 41 Broadway theaters in New York, and on any given day more than half of them are running a production.
So if you’re visiting New York City with teens you’re bound to come across something that’ll entertain you. From romantic plays to morbid musicals, every interest is covered.
If you’ve never seen a Broadway performance you should prepare to pick your jaw up off the ground. The production value is second to none – there is no expense spared on the sets, wardrobes or sound-design.
And you should *especially* prioritize a Broadway play if your teen is thinking about joining theater in high-school. Theater can be a lifestyle, and to thespians Broadway is their Super Bowl.
All this to say one of the best things to do in New York City with teenagers is to make the time for a Broadway show. I’ll admit it can be an expense, but it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
We have an article covering 10 Brilliant Broadway Shows, but the highlights include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, & Juliet and Hamilton. As a bonus the article explains how to save money on tickets!
Bonus: Museum of Broadway
If attending a Broadway musical isn’t in the cards but you’re visiting New York City with teens who love theater I recommend the Museum of Broadway as an alternative.
Tickets are (significantly) less expensive than a performance and theater-nerds will love taking a peek behind the curtain of some of the most famous shows to ever grace a Broadway stage.
Scratch Your Competitive Itch at the Uncommons
Not every teenager should enjoy a cup of coffee, but they can all appreciate board games. That’s why taking the time to visit The Uncommons, a board game cafe, is one of the best things to do in New York City with teens.
You pay $10 (and pay for drinks/food you order) to access the cafe’s full stock of board games. Classics like Catan and Scrabble sit next to uncommon (no pun intended) board games that help keeps things interesting.
The cafe’s location in the Greenwich Village makes it a great place to stop for a break after a day of exploring New York City with teens. It’s often full of young folks since it’s right next to the NYU campus.
You can enjoy a caffeine-boost while your teenagers enjoy some smoothies, all while going to toe to toe against each other in Apples to Apples, Monopoly or Battle Ship.
Address: 230 Thompson St, New York, NY 10012
Beat the Clock at the Escape Game
If you’re visiting New York City with teens and the weather sours you can always head indoors at the Escape Game.
The premise of the Escape Game is you’re locked in a room that has clues to help you escape. If you piece the clues together and beat the clock you win, but if the clock runs out you lose.
There are 5 different rooms to choose from, each at different difficulty levels. Rest assured all the rooms available are rated 13+ so if you’re visiting NYC with teens they’re all fair game.
My personal favorite was the Gold Rush room, which my friends and I beat with less than 5 minutes to spare (talk about cutting it close!). It was so much fun that when asked if we wanted to play a second round, we cancelled our lunch reservations and said absolutely. The games are borderline addicting, it’s like a mental roller-coaster!
Plus it’s a great way to bond since you have to work as a team. If you’re visiting New York City with teens this is a great way to get them off their phones and spend some quality time together, working hand in hand.
Address: 295 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10017
Explore Little Island
Now there are a lot of great parks in New York City, and more than one deserve a shout-out. Having said that, Little Island is the one I recommend visiting most while exploring New York City with teens.
Little Island is a redesigned pier that sits over the Hudson River on bulbous, cement supports. Visiting this unique New York City park is free, and rest assured teens will love it.
Take the short hike up to the viewpoint where you’ll enjoy stunning panoramic views of Lower Manhattan. When you’re done climb back down and enjoy a bite at one of the seasonal food trucks.
Best of all the park is small, so you can see it all quickly and continue enjoying the best things to do in New York City with teenagers.
Address: 62 Chelsea Piers, New York, NY 10011
Go Vintage Shopping
I don’t need to tell you that thrifting has become all the rage, you have a teen so I’m sure you already knew this! Naturally one of the best things to do in New York City with teens is to go on a vintage shopping extravaganza.
As one of the fashion capitals of the world NYC is abounding with quirky vintage stores your budding fashionista will love. From collectible band tees to rare sneakers, the curated collections at some of these stores is first class.
Now as the parent of a teenager you also know this: thrifting isn’t a way to save money, it’s expensive.
Thrifting has become such a fad the clothing is just as expensive as new items, if not more! But even if you don’t plan on buying, just perusing the stores is fun.
I could never mention them all, but some of the best vintage stores to visit while exploring New York City with teens include Awoke Vintage, Buffalo Exchange, L Train Vintage and Mr. Throwback.
For more vintage shopping suggestions check out 12 UNIQUE Thrift Stores in NYC to Find Hidden Gems.
Sign up for a Television Taping
While planning your trip to New York City with teens I highly recommend signing up to be part of a live audience at a television show taping.
The big one I recommend trying to get tickets for is The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. His guests are the biggest pop-stars and celebrities, all but guaranteeing to leave your teenager star-struck.
As part of the audience all you have to do is clap when your told to, which is easy enough. Between commercial breaks Jimmy Fallon walks around the audience, and the live band keeps energy sky-high.
Most episode recordings are free, you just need to apply in advance, hang tight on a wait-list, and pray you have some luck. I know it might seem like a long shot, but I’ve gotten into about half of the tapings I’ve applied for.
Something worth mentioning: Attending a television taping is one of the best things to do with teens in New York City who are 16 and older. Younger kids often aren’t allowed to be part of the audience.
Peruse a Museum
Teens are impressionable and curious, so while visiting New York City you should make the time to squeeze in at least one museum. The caveat here is that there isn’t a “one size fits all.”
Some websites will try to convince you that there is a single museum that all teens will love, but that’s simply not true. You know your kid best, and you should try to pick one that fits their inquisitiveness.
If your visiting New York City with teens that love science then the American Museum of Natural History is your best bet. If your teen loves machinery and the military then The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a solid choice. Visiting NYC with teens that love history and art? You can’t do better than the The Metropolitan Museum of Art!
And who’s to say you even want the typical museum experience? Maybe your visiting New York City with teens who love Instagram, so point photo-ops become top priority. For that you should book the Museum of Ice Cream.
Cast a Spell at the Harry Potter Store
Are you a muggle? Or are you privy to the world of witchcraft and wizardry? Because if you come from a magic-loving family one of the best things to do in New York City with teens is to stop by the Harry Potter Store.
The two-story store is a mythical wonderland and it’s no wonder why parents consider this one of the best activities in New York City with teens. You can buy hoodies to rep your house, wands and much, much more.
And not only can you shop, this is one the one place you can drink a brew in New York City with teens! That’s right, you can sit down and enjoy a nice, foamy glass of butter beer. 😉
I’ll give you fair warning though: the weekends, holiday season and rainy days draws both tourists and locals alike in droves. Don’t be shocked if there’s a line to get in while visiting New York City with your teens.
Go to a Sport’s Game!
New York City has professional teams in all five of the major sports leagues. This means that almost regardless of what time of year you visit you can squeeze in a game of some sort.
And if you’re visiting New York City with teens who love sports, there are few better things to do. Most of NYC’s teams are accessible via public transportation and depending on the sport, tickets don’t have to break the bank.
New York City professional sports teams include:
- The New York Yankees
- New York Mets
- The New York Rangers
- New York Jets
- The New York Giants
- New York Knicks
- Brooklyn Nets
- New York City FC
- The New York Red Bulls
Snap Some Pics at Instagrammable Cafes
If there’s one thing teenagers love it’s updating their stories on Instagram. Luckily cute coffee shops in New York City are a dime a dozen and adulty enough to make your teens feel sophisticated.
Cafes like Maman, Felix Roasting Co. and Ralph’s Coffee are easy stops where you can enjoy some much-needed caffeine while your teens enjoy colorful teas or cute capuccinos (if they’re allowed to drink coffee, of course).
Half the draw of these coffee shops are the aesthetics and they’re used to folks taking pictures. As an added bonus, making the pit-stop is one of the best ways to rest your legs after a long day exploring New York City with teens.
For more recommendations, a map and pictures be sure to check out 20 Cute Cafes in New York City (Worth adding to Your Instagram Story).
Visit Your Teen’s Favorite Pop Culture Landmarks
New York City is the stomping ground of the rich and famous, and while visiting with your teens it might be fun to visit some pop-culture landmarks that your kids could find interesting.
The first place to come to mind is Taylor Swift’s former townhouse in the Greenwich Village (which just sold to the tune of $18 million). The home at 23 Cornelia Street is like hallowed ground for swifties.
Or if you’re exploring New York City with teens who love Marvel superheros you can make the trip to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Here you can swing by Peter Pan donuts, where MJ works in the movies.
And let’s not forget Firehouse, Hook & Ladder Company 8 from the Ghostbuster films. I know the originals are from the 80’s, but the two new films in the franchise (2016 and 2021) have developed a new generation of fans.
All this to say, one of the best things to do in New York City with teens is to take them to places they find interesting. Not every kid cares about history or architecture, so make their trip memorable by personalizing it.
Play Some Put Put (Seasonal)
One of the best ways to enjoy quality time with your teens in New York City is through friendly competition… at the mini-golf course. Putting Green in Williamsburg is one of the best places to practice your swing.
Although only open seasonally (May to October) the wait is worth it. The mini-golf course has 18 holes on the East River waterfront and the views of the Manhattan skyline are second to none.
You can make a date of it while visiting New York City with teens. Take the ferry to Williamsburg, play a round and finish off with dinner at any of the nearby restaurants (L’Industrie & Fini pizzerias are only 15 minutes away).
Explore the Nintendo Store
In the age of screens and video games the Nintendo Store is like heaven to teenagers. You’ll find it at the Rockefeller Center, and visiting is one of the best things to do in New York City with teenagers.
Whether they like Super Mario, Pokemon or Fortnite the store has everything needed to make your gamer giddy.
Not only are the video games sold here, but merch is too. You can walk out hoodies, mugs, toys and even special edition Mario Oreo cookies. And before you ask, yes, you can play video games here. 😉
Here’s a fun fact you can share with your teens while exploring New York City: There are only three Nintendo stores in the world, two are in Japan and the other is right here in NYC! Talk about exclusive.
Experience Times Square at Night
If I’m being honest Times Square can be a lot to handle. The dense crowds, whiffs of marijuana and sensory overload can be overwhelming, but for some reason teenagers love it.
Maybe it’s because they’re in the prime “dreamer” age and the bright lights are inspiring. Maybe it’s simply because they love posting the iconic location on their social media pages.
But regardless of the reason, visiting Times Square is one of the best things to do in New York City with teens. My suggestion is to visit after sunset, when the lights are brightest.
Sip on Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3
There’s no shortage of great treats to be had in New York City with teens, and thankfully calories don’t count on vacation, or so I’m told.
One of these treats is the frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity 3. Yes, you read that right and it’s just as sugary as it sounds. Topped with a mountain of whipped cream the drink will make your teen act like a kid again.
Between sips take the time to admire the decor at Serendipity 3, which is colorful and vibrant. The dessert shop will be a highlight of you & your teens trip to New York City, and you’ll probably take plenty of photos to prove it.
Address: 225 E 60th St, New York, NY, 10022
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Trust me on this one, walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the best things to do with teens in New York City.
It’s impossible not to put your phone down and admire the views, especially if you cross from Brooklyn towards the Manhattan skyline. In actuality, you might be using your phone quite a bit but it’ll be to take a ton of pictures.
Spanning a little over a mile, walking the Brooklyn Bridge takes about 20 minutes, or 30 to 40 if you stop for pictures. The trek is one of the best things to do in New York City with teens and the entire family.
P.S. The Brooklyn Bridge is older than London’s famous Tower Bridge by 11 years (click here for more thought-provoking NYC facts you probably don’t know).
Try the Viral Round Croissant at Lafayette Bakery
It’s estimated nearly two-thirds of teens use TikTok, so viral sensations come across their screens every day.
And one of the most viral treats as of late are the round croissants at Lafayette Bakery, so while visiting New York City with teenagers you can take them to try the real thing.
You might have to wait in line, but they’re so worth it. The croissants are available with both chocolate and pistachio fillings, and there is a third seasonal flavor that rotates regularly.
Get Matching (Permanent) Souvenir Bracelets at Catbird
One of the best ways to remember your trip to New York City with teens is with matching souvenirs. Although the iconic I Love New York shirts are iconic, they might be a little to cheesy for a “cool” teenager.
My suggestion is to get matching souvenir bracelets from Catbird, a jewelry store with a few locations across NYC. You get them welded on, so they’re permanent and still cool enough for a teen to show off and commit to.
Costs vary depending on the bracelet you choose, but you can expect to pay between $150 and $250 each. The price can be steep, but considering these are “forever” bracelets it’s not that bad. Book an appointment online here.
Things to Do with Teens in New York City (Post Summary)
- Visit an Observation Deck
- Enjoy a Broadway Show
- Bonus: Museum of Broadway
- Scratch your Competitive Itch at The Uncommons
- Beat the Clock at an Escape Room
- Explore Little Island
- Go Vintage Shopping
- Sign up for a Television Taping
- Peruse a Museum
- Cast a Spell at the Harry Potter Store
- Experience a Sporting Event
- Snap Some Pics at Instagrammable Cafes
- Visit Your Teen’s Favorite Pop Culture Landmarks
- Play some Put Put
- Explore the Nintendo Store
- Experience Times Square at Night
- Sip on Frozen Hot Chocolate at Serendipity 3
- Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
- Try the Viral Round Croissant at Lafayette
- Get Matching (Permanent) Souvenir Bracelets at Catbird
Best Things to Do in New York City with Teenagers (Map)
And there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this roundup of things to do in New York City with teenagers. Until next time, cheers.