From fun shopping to unique food, from museums to carnival rides, discovering these unique neighborhoods with your teens will make you appreciate the Big Apple in a whole new way.
I’ve been exploring New York City for decades, first as a resident of the city and now as a commuter from the outer ‘burbs. But after my son, Aidan, turned 13 last year, I noticed a side of the Big Apple I’d been missing. Visiting with a newly minted teen has opened a window into neighborhoods I’ve never spent time in before — places that offer unique opportunities to eat, wander, and, yes, even learn a thing or two. Best of all, they’re just as interesting for adults as they are for teens and tweens.
This once-industrial neighborhood is located on the far west side of Chelsea along Eighth Avenue, roughly from Horatio Street to 17th Street. The trendy cobblestone streets are now packed with cool shops (hello Apple Store and Artists & Fleas) and inexpensive spots to grab a bite to eat (Chelsea Market is an especially good choice).
My son and I love to walk along the High Line, a former elevated railroad track converted into a rambling walkway over the Meatpacking District and Chelsea. The path is packed with art installations, snack carts and cool seating, including a section of stadium-style seats that face a glass window overlooking 8th Avenue — the perfect spot for people watching.
Also don’t miss:
- Whitney Museum: This glass-walled museum overlooks the Hudson River. You’ll find a vast collection of quirky contemporary and bright modern art is sure to capture teens’ imaginations. I’m a fan of the permanent display of unusual portraits; Aidan enjoys the special film exhibits featuring everything from 3-D glasses to beanbag chairs where you sit and watch multicolored images bounce across a 180 degree screen.
- Sugar Factory: Okay, yes, I paid $30 for a nonalcoholic drink at this popular teen-magnet filled with crystal chandeliers and photos of Kardashians. But I view it as the cost of admission for a theatrical experience: the rainbow-hued goblets of beverages come to the table smoking and bubbling (with dry ice as the magic ingredient) and rimmed with giant lollipops and candy. Your teen, like mine, will be in full Instagram mode as they sugar fuel themselves for your next adventure.
Sugar Factory accepts reservations on OpenTable; take advantage of this digital perk to avoid standing in line.
Although you might not realize it when you’re in the heart of the neon lights of Times Square, New York City actually has sandy beaches just a short subway ride away. The most teen-friendly one is Coney Island, Brooklyn. We love walking the boardwalk with mangos on sticks and stopping at the New York Aquarium to view the sea lion show and watch the sharks swim. For a completely different experience, we enjoy the fascinating Circus Side Show featuring contortionists and fire eaters.
A few more favorites:
- Ride time: While the entire family is usually up for a spin on the iconic Wonder Wheel Ferris wheel, I leave it to my son to fly along the tracks of The Cyclone wooden roller coaster, a New York classic since 1927.
- Nathan’s Famous: We eat healthy when we’re home, but in Coney Island, we head straight for the original location of Nathan’s. It’s been around for more than a century, serving up garlicky beef hot dogs, crisp crinkle cut fries and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
If you have a teen who appreciates theater, book tickets to School of Rock the Musical on Broadway. And The Beast speedboat tours down the Hudson River are perennially popular with teens and adults alike.
This bustling city-within-a-city is a banquet of unique sights, sounds and tastes. For teens who love to shop, this is the neighborhood offering the most bang for those babysitting bucks. You’ll find stalls full of trinkets including NYC souvenirs, decorative pom poms, and whatever is the newest trend (fidget spinner alert!). Aidan loves getting bubble tea from storefront stands and picking up chopsticks and Pokemon ephemera for his growing collections.
Additionally, check out:
- Aji Ichiban: This our favorite spot for self-serve Asian sweets sold by the pound. You can even sample before you buy. Some snacks are easy on the palate, such as dried mango or candied ginger, and some — like the seaweed and dried fish snack mix — are an acquired taste. But the overall experience is big fun.
- Golden Unicorn: For a taste of Chinatown, don’t miss this multilevel dim sum palace. Savor authentic dumplings and small dishes of noodles, fried rice, and even chicken feet. Don’t worry, you get to look under the bamboo lids before you commit! For my always hungry teen, this is a favorite way to eat — he recommends the steamed pork buns and shrimp shu mai.
Where to Stay: