This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The fast-paced, high-intensity nature of New York City may seem like the wrong setting for your next family vacation, however, as an adventurous 17-year-old, I tend to think otherwise. Here are a few things to do that are fun for all ages, especially teenagers.
1. Catch a Broadway Show
If you love theater, you know that no trip to NYC is complete without seeing a show on Broadway — watching amazing performances in tiny-yet-extravagant theaters that host the most popular shows at the moment is so much more intimate and captivating than seeing the same show on tour. On my last trip, I saw “School of Rock,” an energetic musical with an impressive cast made up of mostly young children, and it was great!
I recommend purchasing tickets at the red TKTS booths located in Times Square, the South Street Seaport or Downtown Brooklyn, or entering in the Broadway Direct lottery for bigger shows that are more difficult to get tickets for. Note that specially discounted tickets from TKTS and Broadway Direct will only get you show access for the day of the performance, so it’s important to plan accordingly.
Here are some current top picks for family-friendly Broadway and Off-Broadway shows.
2. Appear on Your Favorite Morning Show
Some of the most popular morning shows are filmed in New York City, so if you’ve been looking for your 15 minutes of fame — or you just want to tell your mom that you love her on live TV — stop by one of the studios. On this trip, my family booked general admission tickets to see “Live With Kelly and Michael” for Michael’s last show, which, by the way, you can pretty much do for any studio audience show, as long as you apply early — unfortunately this time around, because the show was so big, we just missed the cutoff. “Good Morning America” and “The Today Show” are easier to get on though — just make a big sign and walk up to the barricaded area to get your morning news and be seen.
3. Check Out The High Line
The NYC sun is often masked by skyscrapers, so one of my favorite things to do is take a walk along the High Line, a public park that’s actually above street level, stretching over a completely redesigned former freight rail line. As you walk, you’ll see gardens filled with plants similar to the ones that grew naturally alongside the trains when they still ran, as well as great views of the surrounding buildings.
4. Stop by Chelsea Market
A fun side-trip that’s right off the High Line is Chelsea Market, nestled within the city’s trendy Meatpacking District. Because Chelsea Market is known for its gourmet food vendors, it’s the perfect place to grab a bite. You’ll find several small food courts that contain bakeries, chocolate shops and a bunch of other tasty food options, plus special pop-up shops that appear depending on the season. Here’s another run down of cool spots to eat in NYC.
5. Get Your Aura Read on Canal Street
After seeing celebrities post about their experiences getting their auras read in Chinatown, I knew I had to try it out myself. In a tiny shop called Magic Jewelry, you can purchase stones and other trinkets, and get your aura photographed (yes, photographed). By placing your hands on metal sensors, your aura is captured in a photo and is then analyzed and explained to you. My reading was on point — in fact, most of the shop’s reviewers also agree that their readings were pretty accurate. I found it nice to take a few minutes to relax and partake in some self-reflection in the middle of such a busy city. Aura readings cost $20 and made a fun keepsake from my trip to NYC.
6. Explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is high on my list of places that are overwhelming, but in the best way possible — it’s home to incredible pieces of art from almost every area of the world that range from almost every period of time. From intricate tribal artifacts to works by Degas and Van Gogh, the museum gives visitors a taste of so many perspectives that are simply priceless — while admission prices are not established here, visitors are encouraged to be as generous as they can. If you’re planning to visit, I recommend taking a guided tour (which is free with admission). For a real treat, stop by The Costume Institute’s fashion exhibit, which changes annually for each Met Gala.
7. Get Some Fresh Air at Central Park
The fast-paced nature and noises of New York quickly slip away when you enter Central Park. It’s my favorite place to escape from the chaos and just take a break. Although the park itself is open and vast, you’ll get great skyline views along the edges. Head to Belvedere Castle to get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening within the park or to the edge of The Great Lawn to get a glimpse of the city.
8. Visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum
Because I was only two years old when the September 11 attacks occurred, I don’t remember the enormity of that day — a feeling I think many young people today might identify with. The National September 11 Memorial and Museum beautifully reflects on the sequence of events as well as the heroes who rose to the occasion — being beneath the place where it all happened was a chilling experience to say the least. Visiting the memorial also gave me a great amount of respect for the first responders and everyone else who contributed to the restoration of Ground Zero. It’s free to walk around outside and view the memorial fountains, where the names of the victims are etched in the place where the two towers once stood. Admission to the Museum is $24 for adults; $18 for seniors, US veterans and college students with a valid ID; and $15 for those ages 7–17.
New York City dazzles me every time I visit and I simply can’t get enough! I’d also recommend walking through Times Square, shopping your way through SoHo, visiting the Statue of Liberty and eating pasta in Little Italy. If you ever go on a family trip to NYC and try any of my recommendations, I’d love to hear about it! Keep up with all of my travels and let me know where I should head to next on Twitter and Instagram: @alycerchiai.
What are your favorite things to do in New York City? Leave your tips in the comments, below.
Here are some other resources if your family is planning a trip to NYC:
- Best Broadway and Off-Broadway Shows in NYC for Kids
- Tips for Navigating New York City With Kids
- Enjoy New York City With the Family — Without the Tourist Traps
- Affordable Activities for Families Visiting New York City
- 5 Family-Friendly Hotels in New York City Where You Can Use Points
- Your Points and Miles Guide to New York City
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,200
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.