9 Fun Things To Do in NYC Manhattan with Teens You’ll Love
Best time to visit: If you fancy being out for the majority of your trip, the best times to visit are spring and fall
Safety: New York is one of the safest cities in the United States
Activities prices: From free to 100$/person depending on the activity.
– Empire State Building
– Times Square
– Museum of Illusions (highly instagrammable!)
– Spy Museum (very interactive!)
Ferry rides: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island (great view on islands and Skyline)
Biking: Central Park ($)
Walking: The Highline (free)
Planning a holiday with teenagers can be tricky. They have their own interests that don’t always align with yours. In addition, they normally have very strong opinions about things when they don’t like or want to do something. Thankfully, Manhattan is one of the few places in the world where, without much effort, you can easily find many activities, attractions, excursions, food and award winning shows that will satisfy everyone. Quite honestly, it will not be “Is there anything that we can do?” but “How in the world do we choose?”
Unfortunately, New York is an expensive destination, although there are lots of free things to do. If you plan things right, you might be able to save a few dollars here and there, splash out on a few memorable experiences, and become a pretty cool parent in the process.
Here are 9 of the best things to do in Manhattan with teens. They include an excellent mixture of fun, interesting, and inspiring activities. Some are free, while others are very much worth the cost. By the time you leave New York City, you will feel that you saw both the most popular and significant sites, but also had a few unique and off-the-beaten-path experiences.
Table of Contents
1. See New York from above at the Empire State Building
The Empire State Building is one of the most significant symbols of New York. Built in 1930, this art deco skyscraper was intended to be the world’s first 100 story building. Today, it is a functional office building until you reach the 86th and 102nd floors where you will find exhibits and observation decks with unbelievable views of New York City.
Way To Save Money: Purchase tickets for the 86th floor and skip the lines. You might be tempted to purchase tickets that also include the 102nd floor. However, the cost of the tickets are almost double in price and the views are not that much better. There are better ways to spend your money in Manhattan with teens.
2. Explore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
There is something otherworldly about seeing the Statue of Liberty in person. This magnificent statue sits on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Nearby is Ellis Island and the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration. Both are part of the National Park System and are accessed by ferry.
Purchase a tour of Liberty and Ellis Islands, and their museums, and skip what are normally enormous lines at Battery Park for the ferries to them. Saving time for doing more things with teens would be very helpful.
If you want to climb up to the Pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, you must purchase separate tickets from Statue City Cruises, the only official vendor. Be aware that the tickets are very limited and sell out months in advance.
Way to save money: Take a free ferry to Staten Island where you will pass the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Although you won’t step onto the islands, seeing them and the New York City skyline from a different vantage point is fantastic. However, avoid this ferry during rush hour when residents of Staten Island are leaving or returning from work.
3. Bike around Central Park
Central Park is a 843 acres park in Manhattan. If you visit in late spring, summer or early fall, one of the most moderately priced and best things you can do with teens is rent a bike and explore. Cars are no longer allowed in the Park, so the paved roadway is an inviting path that easily allows you to explore the whole park at your leisure.
Make sure you hop off and see Strawberry Fields, the mosaic honoring John Lennon and Bethesda Fountain, one of the most iconic fountains in the world, featured in countless movies and TV shows based in New York City.
Way to spend money: Take a private horse-drawn carriage ride. This is an extravagant experience but a very special one. A horse-drawn carriage ride is a fairytale experience no matter what age you are. Your teenager will remember it forever.
4. Go to the Museum Of Illusions
Located in the West Village is the Museum of Illusions. This small museum will confuse and amaze you with its interactive exhibits challenging your sense of sight and balance. It teaches you how the human brain perceives reality all the while entertaining you.
With tons of Instagrammable moments, your teen will delight in snapping those optical illusions. Make sure you purchase your online time-stamped ticket far in advance. Family rates are offered which makes this a reasonably priced activity in Manhattan.
5. Take the subway
The New York City subway is 150 years old and goes almost everywhere. It is an inexpensive, safe and quick way to get across Manhattan to see all the attractions. It is also where you are going to see real New York City residents living their real life.
This experience is gritty. The subways and subway stations are old and often dirty. Most of the time, you will share the subway with everyday people living their life, but you will also see tons of street performers in the stations, and even some that will hop onto your subway car to perform for a stop or two. It is amazing people watching and your teenagers will love it.
6. Become a spy
If you or your teenagers have ever wondered what it would be like to be a spy, then look no further than the fantastic interactive Spyscape Museum. This adventure puts you into the world of secrets where you will dodge lasers, break codes, and catch liars. It is a great indoor option for those days when it is too cold or hot to explore outside. Purchase time-stamped tickets and see which of you could lead a double life. Spy museum is arguably one of the most interactive and fun things to do with teens.
7. See Times Square
Times Square is another landmark that symbolizes New York. Located over 5 blocks in Midtown Manhattan, this urban mecca of shops, jumbo-trons, lights, noise, outdoor sculptures, art installations, and masses and masses of people screams New York. It is busy, chaotic, loud and bright. You step outside into the streets and are immediately enveloped by it all. It is free and crazy, and your teen will love it. Broadway shows and theaters are located nearby so in addition to visiting Times Square during the day, swing by at night before or after a show to get the full experience.
8. Pay your respects at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum
On September 11, 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City collapsed after terrorists deliberately flew planes into each of them. Almost 3,000 people were killed as a result of these and other attacks across the country on that day. Today, a memorial comprising two enormous reflecting pools sit exactly where each tower once stood — the names of each victim etched into the bronze edge — surrounded by eight acres of trees, benches, and other public spaces open to everyone.
The Museum sits next to the Memorial. This stunning building is filled with captivating exhibits that take visitors through the events of the attack. It is a fascinating and somber experience that is an educational experience for all, not only those young enough to not have lived through the events.
Top tip: The Memorial is free but make sure you purchase your online time-stamped entry ticket to the Museum far in advance. For the amount of time that you will spend at the Museum and Memorial, and the experiences that you and your teen will have, this is a very well priced activity.
9. Walk the High Line
Outdoor time with teens gives breathing air. The High Line is a 1.45-mile long elevated park and greenway developed on a former New York Central Railroad spur located on Manhattan’s west side. It offers beautiful gardens, funky art installations, food stands and cool views along the way. There are several access points in case you don’t want to walk the whole line. Make sure you check out the website for upcoming events, free tours, and stargazing, among other things.
This is a free activity, but the tempting food stands and the fantastic shopping available near the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District at the start of the High Line, and Hudson Yards on the other end — with its huge architectural centerpiece, Vessel, and shops and restaurants to suit all tastes — may make this “free” attraction very expensive.
Summary of Experiences at a Glance
1. Empire State Building General & Skip-the-Line Tickets $$
2. Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island: Ticket Options with Ferry $$
3. Biking in Central Park Free
4. Private Horse-Drawn Carriage Tour $$$
5. Subway street performers Free
6. Spy Museum $$
7. Times Square Free
8. Broadway Shows $$$
9. 9/11 Memorial & Museum Timed-Entry Ticket $
There are an extraordinary number of amazing and fun activities to do with teens in Manhattan. With little effort, you can create an itinerary filled with exciting events that will capture your teen’s attention. Some attractions are free while others are reasonably priced in light of the experience that is offered. A visit to New York with your teen will be an amazing time for both of you.
I’m Nicole Hunter, and I’m passionate about authentic adventure travel. I believe that people and relationships grow through unique, authentic travel that digs deeper and goes further. I hope to ignite fearless discovery and heart-opening exploration, while at the same time, encouraging respect for the world, leaving a small footprint. Follow my adventures on Go Far Grow Close.