Finding a vacation spot the whole family will love is a challenge, especially if you’re parents of a teenager. Your chosen destination must be enticing enough for a teen to appreciate but also filled with entertaining activities. After all, the last thing you want is a bored teenager on your hands.
There’s a reason families from all over the world flock to New York City. Between the history and the landmarks, there’s so much to see and explore. Which means, as a family, you get to take advantage of the endless things to do in NYC with teenagers.
For the trip of a lifetime, bring your family to these NYC hot spots and activities.
1. Times Square
If this is your teenagers’ first time in the city, a trip to Times Square is a must. While this area is typically avoided by locals and those who have been to the city several times, it’s perfect for a first-time tourist.
Your teenager will marvel at the sheer size of the neon lights, visit iconic stores such as M&M World, and feel the rush of the city. While in Times Square, take advantage of nearby attractions including:
- Gulliver’s Gate
- National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey
- Madame Tussauds
- Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Let your teenager choose their Times Square adventure! Whether they want to go shopping, experience attractions, or just walk around, they’ll have plenty to do in this area.
A word of advice: know what tourist traps are in Times Square before you go. Trust me, your teenager does not need a picture with the creepy looking Mickey Mouse or a $50 “I Love NY” coffee mug.
2. NYC Museums
What’s your teenager interested in? Chances are, there’s a museum for that in New York City. From the New York Transit Museum to the Museum of Food and Drink, your teen is bound to find a museum that interests them.
Of course, among the best things to do in NYC with teenagers are the iconic museums known worldwide. These museums are filled with ancient artifacts, remarkable artwork, and interactive exhibits designed to intrigue and educate all ages. A few of the renowned museums include:
- 9/11 Memorial & Museum
- Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
- American Museum of Natural History
Since these museums are a top destination among tourists of all ages, the crowds can be quite intense. Purchase your museum admission in advance to guarantee entry and skip the lines.
3. Broadway Shows
Every first-time NYC visitor has to see a Broadway show. It’s a rite of passage. Some of the shows that captivate teenage audiences include:
- The Phantom of the Opera
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- King Kong
- Book of Mormon (best for older teenagers)
- Mean Girls
- Dear Evan Hansen
While you’ll be able to buy tickets for the majority of shows ahead of time, other tickets are a little harder to come by (We’re looking at you, Hamilton.)
If you’re unable to get tickets for your teen’s show of choice, look to see if the production offers a lottery system or rush tickets. These will be available day of and are a bit of a gamble, but worth it if you’re the lucky winner!
Pro tip: Never purchase Broadway tickets from scalpers. Sure, the price is unbeatable… for a ticket that won’t get you in the door!
4. NYC Sports Teams
For competitive families, some of the greatest things to do in NYC with teenagers can be found at Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, or other sports arenas around the city.
Bring your family to a game and cheer on one of New York’s pro sports teams, such as:
- New York Rangers (NHL) – Madison Square Garden
- New York Yankees (MLB) – Yankee Stadium
- Brooklyn Nets (NBA) – Barclays Center
- New York Mets (MLB) – Citi Field
- New York Knicks (NBA) – Madison Square Garden
- New York Islanders (NHL) – Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum & Barclays Center
While NYC does have two NFL teams (the Giants and the Jets), both teams play at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. If you’re able to take a bit of a drive to catch a game, it’s worth it!
5. Take a Tour
Just like NYC museums, there’s a tour for practically everything in the city.
Does your teen love movies? There’s a tour for that.
Music? Yep, there’s a tour.
Street art? Ditto.
Trust your teenager to choose an awesome tour for your family to embark on. Whether they choose one of the many Statue of Liberty tours or food tours, your family is in for a great time on one of NYC’s famed tours.
6. Central Park
Of course, every family vacation to New York City must include a trip to Central Park. Teens love the abundance of things to do in the park, including:
- Ice skating (seasonal)
- Watch street performers
- Take in a concert (seasonal)
- Visit the Strawberry Fields’ Imagine Mosaic
- Check out Belvedere Castle
- Roam through the Conservatory Garden
- Go for a ride on the historic carousel
- Visiting the North Meadow Butterfly Gardens
With 843 acres to explore, your family could spend an entire day roaming the grounds.
However, if a trip to Central Park won’t work out, you can visit alternatives such as Bryant Park or Washington Square Park. Although not as big, both parks offer a variety of things to do in NYC with teenagers.
7. Brooklyn Bridge
As with most teenagers, I’m guessing yours is a fan of Instagram. Bring them to the Brooklyn Bridge for unparalleled views and Instagrammable spots. Seriously, no matter which way you look or turn, the Brooklyn Bridge offers exceptional photo opportunities.
Plus, at Brooklyn Bridge Park, your teen can enjoy the beach (weather permitting, of course,) ample greenways and spaces, along with a variety of sports including basketball, handball, and bocce.
8. Get Tickets to Jimmy Fallon or SNL
Did you know you can attend a taping of Jimmy Fallon or Saturday Night Live completely free? Plus, when you go to a taping, your teen will have the chance to see some of the world’s top celebrities in addition to Jimmy Fallon and the cast of SNL.
However, acquiring tickets to a taping can be tricky. Each television show follows a strict and specific process for show tickets. Do note that audience members may not be under the age of 16 for either show, too.
9. Luna Park at Coney Island
If your teen is a bit of a thrill seeker, it’s not hard to see why Luna Park is among the exciting things to do in NYC with teenagers. Located at Coney Island in Brooklyn, Luna Park boasts several amusement park rides and games such as the infamous Cyclone Roller Coaster.
The park is open seasonally, so you’ll need to plan your vacation accordingly if Luna Park is on your itinerary. Plus, every Friday night the park offers a free fireworks spectacular.
10. NYC Pizza
Need I say more?
Make it your teen’s mission to try as many of the top NYC pizza spots as possible before. Keep notes along the way and determine which pizza joint was your family’s favorite at the end of the trip!
Although, if your teen isn’t a fan of pizza, you’re in the food capital of the country. Pick a cuisine, any cuisine. You’ll find it in NYC.
11. See the NYC Skyline
There are a few ways to see the breathtaking New York City skyline. First, the Empire State Building is a popular choice among tourists. However, this landmark tends to be incredibly crowded, leading to hours of wait time before reaching the top. But, if you’re a first-time visitor, it’s a must-see! The views from the top are exceptional.
You can also head to One World Observatory. The observatory is located on the 100th, 101st, and 102nd floors of One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. Throughout the observatory, guests can also interact with engaging exhibits that show you the future of the city. Plus, the views are mesmerizing!
Or, if your teen is up for a thrilling adventure, book your seat on a helicopter tour! You’ll soar far over the city for unbeatable views of the cityscape and skyline below. Choose between a daytime or nighttime tour for a memorable experience.
12. Visit Other Boroughs
Keep in mind, the greatest things to do in NYC with teenagers aren’t confined to Manhattan. There are four other boroughs for your teen to explore!
In Queens, you and your teen can visit Flushing Meadows-Corona Park or Rockaway Beach, if the weather is nice. Or, visit the Jim Henson Exhibition at the Museum of Moving Image.
Over in the Bronx, your family can catch a Yankees game or fill up on the best Italian food you’ve ever had on Arthur Avenue.
Take a trip to Prospect Park in Brooklyn where your teen can do everything from horseback riding to visiting the Prospect Park Wildlife Center. And, every family vacation deserves a stop at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
Lastly, on Staten Island, your teens can explore the Historic Richmond Town, a 100-acre living history and museum complex. Or, explore High Rock Park and Willowbrook Park for outdoor fun.
Remember, there’s far more to New York City than just Midtown Manhattan. Far more!
13. Jet Ski in NYC
Yes, you read that correctly. Your teenager can go jet skiing in NYC.
These seasonal tours combine thrills and sightseeing into one memorable tour experience. No wonder it’s one of the coolest things to do in NYC with teenagers. And don’t worry, parents. It’s safe! Plus, teens must be at least 18 years old to drive their own jet ski, or 16 years old to ride with a parent.
Experience the Best Things to Do in NYC with Teenagers
To ensure your teen has the vacation of a lifetime, book your NYC activities and experiences now. You’ll escape the endless ticket lines and spend more time together as a family in New York City. A win-win!