Travelling with teens and tweens in New York City while keeping everyone happy? With some planning and flexibility, it is possible!
New York is a city that knows how to eat, learn and play, just like your teen/tween. It is a city that intrigues many teens and tweens, and has lots of photo ops. Do some research (enlist the kids to some of the research!) before you go, bring your walking shoes, your sense of exploration and wonder and get ready to take a bite out of the big apple.
The way to a teen/tween’s heart, I’ve found, is through their stomachs, so I try to plan trips around eating. Pathetic, I know, but everyone is happier and travels better when they’re well fed. Planning your day around where (or what type of food) you will eat can be a great incentive to get your teens/tweens up in the morning and out the door to see the city.
Best teen/tween food bets in NYC pair their New York ideals (eg. Italian food in Little Italy, deli and famous bagels pretty well everywhere) with your budget. Small, neighbourhood restaurants work well, and are usually close to the sights. An internet map search will show you what restaurants are close to your destination.
On a recent March Break trip to NYC our family ate at a tiny bagel restaurant, Tal Bagels (they have several locations) and munched on bagels and cream cheese, smoked whitefish and lox. Classic deli. The ruggelach (an eastern European pastry that is ubiquitous in NYC) looked great, but we were still reeling from an earlier visit to our favourite coffee and cake splurge at Café Sabarsky earlier that day.
Housed in the Neue Gallerie, a museum dedicated to early 20th century Austrian and German art and design, Café Sabarsky is a from-another-era Austrian Café. Feeling that we had stepped into Europe, we ordered strong espresso coffees, hot cocoas and delicate cakes. Thereby fortified, we visited the Neue Gallerie’s collection.
While many teens and tweens may not jump at the chance to visit a museum, NYC gives you a chance to try out museum visits and take a few chances. Check out the free and reduced-priced entries (usually a week-day evening) which are perfect for a 1-2 hour visit.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a good bet: the Egyptian Temple of Dendur (inside the museum!!) never fails to impress. On our last visit our teen explored the Met’s modern art section on his own, which he loved.
Remember to keep the museum visits short (with food breaks planned!) to keep everyone happy. Most museums have downloadable museum guides for kids and adults (not for teens, though – perhaps this could be a new feature in the future??). Museums are the least crowded in the early morning – too bad this is the most difficult time to get a teen/tween to visit a museum! – and get busier as the day goes on. I’ve found, however, that teens and tweens don’t seem to care if a museum is crowded – it only seems to make the museum more attractive.
While New Yorkers have amazing cultural institutions all around them they also love to play: small parks tucked into small corners all over the city have basketball courts, handball courts and amazing playgrounds. Central Park is the place to be on a nice week-end day, when New Yorkers use the park as their backyard.
If you are visiting NYC during the summer, check out the many splash parks as a way to cool off during your trip. Nurse your tired feet by choosing a park bench close to a mini-park’s handball or basketball courts and watch New York street sports in action.
Handball is a made-for-New-York game: the courts look like a squash court, but instead of hitting the ball with a raquet players use their hands, playing with a specially-designed handball. This game is fast and fun to watch.
If you are travelling with a big sports fan, consider bringing or buying a bastkeball to check out the courts. There are sports shops all over New York – finding a ball to play handball is an adventure. Our boys loved playing handball in New York; the courts were most available during the day. Our last trip was in March, so we didn’t take a Frisbee with us, but it would have been a great way to while away an afternoon at Central Park in the fairer weather.
New York’s excellent tourism website makes it easy to plan your trip, and also has great information about New York’s other 4 boroughs (visitors often just stay in Manhattan). Check out Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island or the Bronx!
New Yorkers are friendly and approachable, and are always happy to give you directions and ideas. If you feel uncomfortable approaching people on the street, ask staff at your hotel or restaurants – they want you to be a part of it, New York, New York!
Feature image courtesy of samandale at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
About Jane Snyder
Jane Snyder is a bilingual travel writer and writes about active, family, low-carbon travel experiences, as well as travel with children and teens.