New York City attractions

10 Best New York City Attractions With Teens (2024)

Last Updated on March 11, 2024 by Nicole

Going to New York City is an expensive proposition for anyone. Add in three perpetually hungry, shopping obsessed teenagers and you might as well mortgage your home before you arrive. In this blog, I am NOT going to list 10 of the best things to do with teenagers in summer in New York City on a tight budget. Quite frankly, those three phrases – New York City, teenagers, and a budget – raise false hope and should never be said in a sentence again. However, I am going to describe 10 fantastic things to do in New York City with teens. Some of them are cheap, and others are just plain “plug your nose” expensive. Regardless they are all amazing experiences that my teens loved on our 5 day visit to New York City.

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Helpful Tips For Visiting New York City

I have been to New York countless times over the last 30 years. My husband lived and worked there for over 4 years and later, our daughter also lived and worked in NYC. These trips and experiences have given us insight and an understanding of the city that is hard to come by through the occasional random trip.

I have put together a list of some of the best tips for visiting New York whether it is your first or hundredth trip. From how to save money, how best to get around, how to stay safe, and where to stay, this article has it all. Take a look! I guarantee that you will find something helpful – 50 Best New York City Tips.

For a completely different New York City itinerary that we also did with our teens on another visit, please see Action Packed New York City Weekend With Teens

Best Things To Do In New York City In Summer With Teens

Here are the 10 best things that we did when we visited New York City in the summer. All of them appealed to my four kids who were 13, 15, 17, and 21 years old when visited.

Stay At The Knickerbocker Hotel

We stayed at the Knickerbocker which was a gorgeous hotel just steps from Times Square.

First of all, the rooms were huge and very luxurious. More importantly, it was one of the few hotels in New York City that offered two queen beds in a standard room. In my experience, most hotel rooms in New York City are small and barely fit one bed. Rollaways are illegal and not offered.

The location was amazing with easy access to all New York City attractions. The service was exceptional.

Finally, the hotel had a killer roof top bar that we loved. My husband and I seemed to end up there most nights and felt that we were getting a taste of the spectacular New York City night life that we had enjoyed on previous trips.

Enjoy The Craziness Of Times Square With Teens

Times Square is an assault on your senses. It is precisely for this reason that my kids loved it.

For me, this is one of my favourite New York City attractions because it is FREE! Of course, it also helps that it is one of the iconic symbols of New York City.

New York City attractions
Walking around Times Square at night.

It is blocks and blocks of multi-story jumbo-trons advertising every cool product or new movie around. It is PACKED with people, with lots of outdoor free seating to people watch.

There is normally a big police presence. It was easy for my kids to access and they ended up wandering around it on their own whenever we had downtime. It was literally around 20 steps from the Knickerbocker Hotel.

New York City attractions
The craziness of Times Square.

For those theater crazies in your family, consider taking a Times Square and Broadway Theaters tour led by a real Broadway performer! You not only get the history of the area, but also hear backstage and audition stories from your guide.

Laugh Away On “The Ride” In Summer With Teens

The Ride is a bus tour unlike any other bus tour that you have ever or will ever take. Out of all the things to do in New York City with teens, I would say that this one was, by far, the most popular for every one in my family.

At first, it seemed like any normal bus tour as we waited to climb aboard. But, as soon as we took two steps inside, we realized we were greatly mistaken.

First of all, there are two hosts at each end of the bus interacting with the passengers, cracking jokes, and grooving with the music playing.

Second of all, we sat down in theatre like seats all facing floor to ceiling windows that made the streets of New York centre stage.

Then, the bus pulled away from the curb and the real fun began.

For 75 minutes, the two hosts cracked joke after joke based upon what was unfolding in front of us. Interspersed with some factual information about sites that we passed and unscripted jokes about the people or events that we saw, seemingly random street performers amazed us. 

We had a ballet dancer, a rapper, a hip hop dancer among others come out of nowhere to perform for us all over the streets of New York. You never knew who it was going to be or what they were going to do, and it was truly UNBELIEVABLE.

New York City attractions
Getting on the “Ride” bus tour.
New York City attractions.
One of our hilarious hosts getting groovy with the music on our bus tour the “Ride”.

The Ride is a popular New York City attraction. For advanced tickets, please click here

Take The New York Subway

As crazy as this might seem, taking the New York subway is a pretty interesting, inexpensive and adventurous experience. 

First of all, at least in the summer, no train seems to actually go or stop where the map tells you it’s going. Every time we hopped on the subway car, we seemed to be heading to a subway station that was not in service for some reason or another.

Not that we knew that prior to getting on the train! Accordingly, we ended up getting off somewhere other than we intended and then, wandering the streets of New York trying to find our way back. Sounds frustrating, but it was actually fun and a great way to see different parts of the city.

The New York subway is over 150 years old. Most subway stations looked and felt like they were 150 years old! In other words, they felt gritty – a little dirty, dark and cramped. Nevertheless, we never felt unsafe, so the grittiness was kind of cool.

Riding the subway felt more like a “real” New York city experience versus a tourist one. There were lots of awesome street performers in the stations, and some that hopped on and performed on the train in between stops.

It goes without saying that the people watching was awesome. It was an excellent way to get around the city and to reach all the New York City attractions.

For something totally cool and different, take a private underground subway tour. You will learn about legends and secrets about abandoned levels, hidden stations and fake houses that disguise escape routes around the city.

Go See A Broadway Show With Your Teens

There are few New York City activities that are more symbolic of what New York City represents than Broadway! The talent of the actors and quality of the shows are simply unbelievable.

However, it is a very expensive activity. You will be hard pressed to find tickets to a show for less than $75 each (taxes and service charges included). Ticket costs for popular Broadway shows will more likely average $120 each or more if you can even purchase regularly priced tickets.

New York City attractions
Waiting for the start of a Broadway Show.

How To Get Cheaper Broadway Tickets

You can find less expensive Broadway tickets. However, you will need to be more flexible about which show that you go to see. 

TKTS  offer a selection of same day Broadway tickets for 20%-50% off the original price. There are various TKTS booths throughout the city and you will need to purchase them in person.

Broadway Box is a website that lists discounted Broadway shows and offers a means to purchase them weeks in advance. You can subscribe and also receive weekly notifications of new discounted shows.

Many shows, including sold out ones, offer online lotteries for discounted tickets one day to one week before the date of the show in which you are interested. Further, many shows offer “rush” tickets which is the ability to purchase same day discounted tickets at the box office of a particular show.

Playbill provides a comprehensive list of these shows. Here is the link. – Broadway Rush, Lottery and Standing Room Only Policies.

Head Up The Empire State Building

I think seeing New York City from above is a really cool thing to do. My kids loved going to the Empire State Building, one of the best observation decks in New York, and the views were killer. The inside of the building was also pretty spectacular with lots of beautiful art deco architectural features. Even the ride up the elevator was unique and fun.

New York City attractions.
Juliet looking over the top of New York City from the Empire State Building.
New York City attractions
New York City from the Empire State Building.

Standard adult tickets take you to the the main deck (86th floor).

You can also purchase tickets to the top (102nd floor) but they are significantly more. We did not do that as I didn’t think the view 16 floors higher would be worth the additional price.

In the end, I was happy with that decision. The views from the 86th floor were breathtaking and very satisfying. I am hard pressed to believe that the view from 16 floors higher would have been all that much better.

This is a popular attraction. It is highly recommended that you book advanced tickets that will also allow you to skip the line. For a unique experience, consider returning in the evening to see the New York City skyline at night. For discounted tickets that allows you entry to both, please click here.

Get The Go City Pass or Do A Hop On Hop Off Tour

If you want to save money, consider purchasing the Go City Pass. You get access to your favorite 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 or 10 attractions or tours, from over 90 New York city activities, and save up to 50% (compared to buying individual attraction tickets). 

Even better, you have up to 60 days to use the pass once you first use it so it is an excellent option if you think you may return to New York.

Another excellent tour that we always do in new cities is to take a Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. This allows you to relax while taking the bus to iconic attractions where you decide to either get off the bus to explore further, or merely look at and learn about before you continue on your way. You can purchase one day or multiple day passes. They also offer the tour in multiple languages.

Hop On A Guided Bike Tour of Central Park In Summer With Teens

We did a two hour guided bike tour of Central Park. It was an excellent tour for a very reasonable price.

Central Park is 778 acres and, as the name suggests, found in the centre of New York City. Within that 778 acres, is a zoo, horse stables for horseback riding, lakes and ponds, fountains, dozens of playgrounds and fields, among other things.

It was designed to intentionally cause a visitor to lose their way and to immediately insulate you from the hustle and bustle of New York. 

A highlight – cars are no longer allowed in Central Park! It is easily one of my favourite New York City attractions to do in the summer.

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A view from Central Park.
New York city attractions
John Lennon Memorial in Strawberry Fields In Central Park.

The bike tour allowed us to bike around the whole park to get a feel for all it had to offer, something that is virtually impossible to do on foot in one day. Our guide was full of fun facts about the park which kept the tour relevant for all of us, including all the New York movies that had been filmed there.

***For a handy list of all of the best things to do in summer in New York City with teens, links to relevant websites, and helpful hints, please input your information below and click “Download”!

Blow Your Diet With Black Tap

Black Tap is a hip restaurant that serves gourmet burgers and fries. However, what makes this one of the best things to do in New York City is the milkshakes.

I have never seen milkshakes like this! The bottom half is completely normal. A glass filled with ice cream, milk and syrup. But then, your eyes reach the top and nothing has prepared you for what you will see.

Above the top of the glass is another foot of cake, cookies, chocolate, candy and whip cream, depending on the type of milkshake that you order. It is an indulgence that your family must absolutely try the next time you are in New York City.

Or ditch the kids and mark this down on your list for great date night ideas!

It’s a little expensive, but totally worth it!

New York City attractions
A couple of delicious milkshakes from Black Tap (Photo courtesy of Black Tap website.)

Climb Statute of Liberty and Explore Ellis Island In Summer With Teens

For all the times that I have been to New York City, I had never found my way to the Statute of Liberty or Ellis Island. I managed to get to Battery Park, but no further. This time, I was determined to change that.

The Statute of Liberty is 93m or 151 ft tall and sits on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. It is a national monument that symbolizes democracy and freedom. 

Ellis Island is an adjacent island which houses a museum located in the the former immigration station complex. Until it closed in 1954, 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island. Today, the descendants of those immigrants account for almost half of the American population!

We absolutely loved the afternoon that we spent exploring these New York City attractions. Not only was it fun and interesting visiting these iconic sites, but it was very reasonably priced. We also loved spending time on the water and being able to see New York City from a different perspective.

New York City attractions
The view of the Statue of Liberty and New York City from the ferry.

Purchase Advanced Tickets

Anyone can line up to catch the ferry to the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island. The amount of time you wait depends on demand. When we were there in summer, the line up was HUGE.

A better way is to purchase advanced tickets. We did that and we skipped the line to get on the ferry faster.

If you wish to climb up the Statue of Liberty, you have to purchase separate tickets. Only a limited number of tickets are available each day to actually go inside and up the Statute of Liberty and they sell out months in advance. If interested, you must purchase them through the National Park Service.

I purchased our tickets 2 months in advance and we literally got the last advanced tickets offered during our stay. 

New York City attractions
No better place to pucker up!

Go Shopping

New York wouldn’t be New York without its shopping. This activity could totally bankrupt you depending on your kids. There are hundreds of cool stores that would make you the most popular parent in the world if you took your kids there AND bought them something. It would be impossible for me to identify what those stores are based upon individual taste. However, I can make two recommendations.

First, my kids spent a ton of time at the Foot Locker at Times Square. They offered limited edition running shoes only available in New York or Los Angeles and for in-store purchase.

Second, I would recommend Century 21 Department store which offered top designers at discounted prices. We all had a really good time shopping and finding killer deals here. You know your kids will find at least one thing to buy but with its’ fantastic selection, you might even leave with something!

For something extra special, consider hiring a personal stylist who will take you shopping at the best stores that suit your budget and style. You’ll visit everywhere from sample sales and pop-ups to niche boutiques to find the perfect items.

Last Word

When you take your teenagers to New York City, you want to make sure that you have found the best things to do to capture their attention. There are a lot of New York City attractions to chose from and not all of them fit this bill.

My four kids loved the 10 that made this list. They were the perfect blend of history and iconic experiences, with current pop culture moments.

Be prepared to spend money… New York City is a tough US city to visit on a budget!

If you would like to save this article for future use, please click on the “Save” button on one of the photos below!

You only have a few days in New York City and want to show your teens the best time. Here are 10 New York City attractions that I guarantee you your teens will love. Mine did! #travel #familytravel #travelwithkids #travelwithteens #NewYork |America, bike tour, Black Tap, Broadway, bus tour, Central Park, Century 21 Department, Ellis Island, Empire State Building, Foot Locker, Knickerbocker, milkshakes, Playbill, shopping, Statue of Liberty, subway, The Ride, Time Square, TKTS, USA

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  1. It’s interesting to see people’s perspectives of your home city, glad you enjoyed NYC. There are def budget friendly places to eat, shop, and do activities you just have to get out of the times square area ( tourist trap lol)

    1. I totally agree! Times Square is there for the tourists. And you can always find inexpensive places to eat or free activities. But, part of the experience of going to NYC is to see and do a lot of the things that you have heard about or that you have dreamed about doing. You might be happy walking by the Empire State Building, but it is quite another to actually go up and see the view yourself. So, I think that people should be prepared to have a generous budget when going rather than not be prepared.

  2. I don’t have kids, but I am like a big kid. We’re actually going to NYC in October, so I’m going to have to check some of these out. That bus tour looks extra fun.

    1. It’s funny. I totally agree with you about being like a big kid. Organizing trips with my teens in mind makes me choose different kind of activities some of the time than what I might have booked if it was just for me and my husband. Usually, they end up being surprisingly fun and totally worthwhile. It’s something for me to keep in mind once they are grown and have left home.

  3. What a great list and tips. Although I have no kids , it’s still a helpful (and inspiring) post. I live in Toronto and still haven’t made it over to New York!!

    1. I grew up in Toronto too. I didn’t get to New York for the first time until I was an adult. It is an expensive city if you do all the things you want to do and there are a lot more cheaper places that you can go to while money is tight. So, I completely understand. But, if you are a city girl, you will have a total blast once you get here!

  4. Great list! I have a 5-year-old. I definitely want to take him to one of the Broadway shows once he grows into a teenager. And Central Park. Can vouch for it. Works well for everyone.

    1. When we were in Central Park, there were so many beautiful playgrounds and ponds for children. I could see spending many many days there if I had a young child in New York City.

  5. I don’t have teens anymore but my grown daughter lives in NYC and I’m always looking at new things to do when I visit her. I’ve never heard of the ride but I’d love to take her on it – even though she’s now a local. And we did those shakes at Black Tap – aren’t they something?

    1. Oh I’m jealous! To “have” to go to New York and visit your daughter…! How awesome! Definitely check out the Ride. They have some other tours that look very cool as well. I’ll try them the next time I visit!

  6. I never knew that rollaway beds were illegal, how crazy is that?! Do love the sound of that hotel – though I’d be travelling with my mum rather than any teenagers LOL x

    1. Yes, rollaways are considered a fire hazard. We tried a few hotels just wondering if it was a hotel policy versus a city policy, but it definitely was a city policy. I guess it makes sense when you see how small most of these hotel rooms can be. Enjoy your travels with your mom! I enjoyed every thing on my list as much as my kids!

  7. “Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. I wanna be a part of it, New York, New York.” This is one of the cities that I really want to visit. I also want to visit the 9/11 Memorial.

    1. Lol! I should have started my article this way! My husband and I visited the 9/11 Memorial a few months ago, so put off visiting again with the kids this time around. However, I would highly recommend going. It is very, very well done. It was amazing how much of the details I had already forgotten so I was very glad to have returned.

  8. You have perfectly listed out all the fun things to do New York City. Its not just for teenagers, these places are a great way to enjoy for adults as well. Would love to try all of these especially the milkshakes when I visit NYC.

    1. I agree. I loved these activities as much as my kids. One of the great things about having kids and doing things that will make them happy, is that you have an excuse to do some pretty fun things. It has taught me a lot about how to create fantastic itineraries, even if there aren’t kids around.

  9. This is a wonderful variety of activities to do with teens. While I now have teens, we last visited NYC a few years ago when spending hours at toy stores entertained them more than Broadway shows. I loved the idea of doing a bike tour around Central Park. Yum on those milkshakes that I’m sure kept the teens’ energy level up.

    1. Oh the good old days of spending hours in toys stores and playgrounds! Sometimes I miss those days, especially when paying for a teenager’s meals or shopping! But, I have to say, I love sightseeing with my teens. Their interests and mine are usually pretty closely aligned these days so I get to do what a lot of what I want to do and they seem to be happy!

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