14 Fun Things To Do in NYC with Teens You’ll Love
Planning a holiday full of attractions for teenagers can be tricky. They have their own fun things to do that don’t always align with yours. In addition, they can have very strong opinions when they don’t like or want to do something.
Thankfully, NYC is one of the few places in the world where you can easily find many activities, attractions, excursions, food, and award-winning shows that will satisfy everyone. Quite honestly, it will not be “What to do with teenagers in NYC?” but “How in the world can we choose the most fun things to do in NYC with teens?”
Unfortunately, New York is an expensive destination, although there are lots of free teen activities to choose from too. 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 14 of the best things to do in NYC 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’ll feel that you saw both the most popular and significant sites, but also had a few unique and off-the-beaten-path experiences.
When is the best time to visit New York?
If you fancy being out for the majority of your trip, the best times to visit are spring and fall. In the summer, the city can reach uncomfortable temperatures, while the winter makes outdoor activities tricky.
Is New York safe for family vacation?
New York is one of the safest cities in the United States for a family vacation.
How much do activities cost in New York?
Our list of teenage attractions range from free to $100 per person, depending on the activity.
What are the must-see places with teens in NYC?
- Empire State Building (a must for their social media)
- Times Square (full of activity, and perfect for people-watching)
What are the fun and interactive places in NYC to visit with teens?
What are the cool outdoor activities in NYC to try with teens?
See New York from above at the Empire State Building
A must-see on your list of things to do with teens
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’s 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. The Empire State Building is an exciting must-see no matter your age, and should definitely be on your list of things to do with teenagers in NYC.
Top tips for the Empire State Building
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 for things to do in NYC with teens.
Explore the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Take a ferry and 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 can be accessed by ferry.
Climb Lady Liberty’s Pedestal
If you want to climb up to the Pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, you can 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 — it tops many bucket lists of things to do in NYC.
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. You’ll save plenty of time to spend going to more fun places in NYC for teenagers.
Way to save money: Take the free ferry to Staten Island which passes 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. Just be sure to avoid the ferry during rush hour, when residents of Staten Island are leaving for or returning from work.
Bike around Central Park
Have fun with teens biking in NYC
Central Park is a 843 acre park in the heart of the city. If you visit in late spring, summer or early fall, one of the most moderately priced and best things to do with teens in NYC 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.
Best places to make a stop in Central Park
The park is enormous but there are some must-see sights along the way. Make sure you hop off and see Strawberry Fields, the mosaic honoring John Lennon. Bethesda Fountain is another must-see. It’s one of the most iconic fountains in the world, and features in countless movies and TV shows based in New York City. And if you’re looking for a perfect place to take an Instagram pic, then the Gapstow Bridge rates quite high.
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.
Find picture-perfect exhibits at the Museum of Illusions
Explore this interactive world of optical illusions
Located in the West Village of NYC is the Museum of Illusions. This small museum will confuse and amaze you with its interactive exhibits that challenge your sense of sight and balance. It teaches you how the human brain perceives reality, all while entertaining you.
Get that perfect pic!
With tons of picture-worthy moments, your teen will delight in snapping those holograms, jaw-dropping showpieces and optical illusions, including the tilted room, mirrored infinity room and even a head on a plate. It’s a very cool and fun activity for teenagers to do in NYC.
Way to save money: You can book family rate tickets at the Museum of Illusions, making this a reasonably-priced activity in NYC. However, make sure you purchase your online time-stamped ticket far in advance.
Take the subway and experience New York like a local
Ride the largest and busiest underground rail system in the world
The New York City subway is 150 years old, goes almost everywhere and is open 24/7. It’s an inexpensive, safe and quick way to see all the attractions in NYC with teens. It is also where you are going to see real New York City residents living their real life. From locals and tourists to celebrities, everyone uses the subway — it’s a simple and fast way to get around.
An amazing people-watching experience
This experience can be gritty, 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. The best chance to catch an impromptu show is on trains between Manhattan and Brooklyn, where the journeys are longer. It’s an amazing people-watching experience, and your teenagers are bound to love it.
The New York subway services a city of millions. It’s best to avoid traveling at peak times (07:00 AM – 10:00 AM, and 05:00 PM – 08:00 PM on weekdays), when it can get very crowded. To stay safe on the subway, make sure you keep your bag or purse in front of you, and don’t put your wallet in a back pocket, especially at busy times when there could be pickpockets. If you’re traveling on an almost-empty train, ride where the conductor is, in the middle carriage. The trains run 24 hours, 7 days a week, but less regularly at night so expect longer wait times.
Top tip: Save money traveling by subway by buying a MetroCard and using your free transfers. Rides include a free transfer between the subway and local buses, as well as between local buses. You should also refill your current MetroCard instead of paying $1 for a new card. Remember that kids under 44 inches tall can often ride subways and buses for free — it’s always best to check.
Use Google maps to figure out your train route or download a map and work out where you are headed in advance to make sure you don’t get lost!
Become a spy for a day
Learn about real-world spies and uncover their secrets at SPYSCAPE
If you or your teenagers have ever wondered what it would be like to be a spy, look no further than the fantastic fun and interactive SPYSCAPE. This adventure puts you into the world of secrets, where you will dodge lasers, break codes and catch liars.
Best time to visit SPYSCAPE
It’s a great indoor option for those days when it’s too cold or hot to explore outside. Purchase time-stamped tickets and see who in your family could lead a double life. This spy museum is arguably one of the most interactive and fun things to do with teens in NYC.
Top tip: Don’t forget to scan your wristband one last time before you leave to see a breakdown of your progress and your key spy attributes. The SPYSCAPE algorithm will reveal what type of spy you’d be: Hacker, cryptologist, intelligence operative or even spymaster.
Explore Times Square: NYC’s liveliest and coolest hotspot
Soak up the exciting atmosphere of Times Square
Times Square is another landmark that symbolizes New York. Taking up 5 blocks in Midtown NYC, this cool and urban mecca of shops, jumbo-trons, lights, noise, outdoor sculptures, art installations, and masses and masses of people screams New York. It’s busy, chaotic, loud and bright — the perfect combination for teens.
Treat your teens to a Midnight Moment
You step outside into the streets and are immediately enveloped by it all its free, cool, and crazy sights and attractions, and your teen is bound to love it. Broadway shows and theaters are located nearby so in addition to visiting Times Square during the day, add it to your list of things to do in NYC with teenagers at night to get the full experience.
If you’re treating your teens to a late night, then pop by before midnight and catch the brilliant nightly Midnight Moment show. This synchronized art exhibit pops up across many of the billboards of Times Square from 11:57 PM to 12:00 AM, showcasing the work of exciting contemporary artists.
Top tip: Your teens will love M&M’S World in Times Square — the ultimate M&M’s experience. This 3-storey candy store is full of colorful chocolate fun.
Walk NYC’s High Line
Check out The High Line’s funky art, cool street food and awesome views
Outdoor time gives you and your teens some breathing space while you’re sightseeing in the city. The High Line is a 1.45-mile long elevated park and greenway developed on a former New York Central Railroad on NYC’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.
Don’t miss the Whitney Museum and Hudson Yards
This is a free activity, but the tempting food stands and fantastic shopping available near the Whitney Museum at the start of the High Line may make this “free” attraction very expensive. You can also explore Hudson Yards on the other end — with its huge architectural centerpiece, Vessel, and shops and restaurants to suit all tastes.
Top tip: Make sure you check out the website for upcoming events, free tours, and stargazing, among other things.
Thrill your teens at Luna Park
Have a day at the beach with teens in NYC
If you’re looking for something fun to do with teens while you’re in NYC then look no further — the 200-year-old Luna Amusement Park on Coney Island is a must for anyone who loves rides, carnival food and the beach. Experience heart-stopping roller coasters, including the historic wooden Cyclone thrill ride and Thunderbolt, a modern twisty sidewinder sure to make you scream.
Let loose and have fun on the rides and roller coasters
Aside from the rides, you’ll find games, go-karts, an arcade, restaurants, food stands and much more at Luna Park. Stroll along the boardwalk where you’ll find even more attractions and cafes — and don’t forget to sample a famous Coney Island hotdog! If you visit on a Friday evening in the summer, you can also enjoy the 9:30 PM firework display.
Way to save money: Buy an “extraordinary wristband” to get unlimited rides for 4 hours. They are available online for a discounted rate.
Discover some wartime legends at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Explore iconic aircraft and see the space shuttle
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a fun and interactive venue that’s ideal for teens and gets you up close and personal to all sorts of wartime aircrafts. You’ll see it all, from WWII bombers and sumbarines to space craft and everything in between. You’ll also get the chance to see the space shuttle and explore Intrepid, the aircraft carrier that survived 5 Kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike during its career.
Experience life on an aircraft carrier
The museum, located on Pier 86, is broken into 3 main parts. As you board the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier area, you can easily imagine what it was like to live and work on such a vessel as you climb up and down through different hangars to visit the aircrafts and spacecrafts on the Flight Deck. For more, visit the submarine Growler and get to know the only American guided missile submarine.
While you’re at the museum you can also try different flight simulators, films, and VR experiences to enhance your knowledge and add to the fun.
Way to spend money: Buy the extra ticket to go inside the Concorde, the fastest plane to fly across the Atlantic ocean.
Create some cool art with a Graffiti Lesson
Release your inner artist and create some graffiti
A graffiti lesson has got to be just about the perfect fun activity for families with teens to try while visiting NYC. At this truly hands-on workshop you’ll be able to create your own graffiti art project with the help of an authentic NYC graffiti artist. Learn all the tips and techniques of aerosol art, from fill-ins to masterpieces, and step right into the world of graffiti art culture.
Learn about the art of graffiti and take your work home
Through this hands-on workshop experience, you will learn about the history of graffiti in NYC, as well as how graffiti is made. Then you will separate into pairs so you can create your own unique piece of art. At the end, you’ll get to take home your creation.
Top tip: On your way to class, take a long walk around the Bushwick Collective, an open-air gallery featuring street art, graffiti, and murals, to find some inspiration for your own graffiti art.
Grab some sweet treats at the Museum of Ice Cream
Treat yourself to unlimited ice cream and selfies
Eating unlimited sweet treats and taking masses of cool selfies has got to be at the top of any teen’s list of fun things to do in NYC. The Museum of Ice Cream offers just that. A fully interactive experience full of bright colors and life-size art and, of course, lots and lots of ice cream. Dive in and have a good time while you learn about ice cream, not forgetting to have a swim in the sprinkle pool or a glide down the 3-storey slide.
Get ready for photo-worthy fun
Book your tickets online then show up and get ready for some entertainment. There are 3 floors of interactive displays and a room filled with an all-you-can-eat display of ice cream desserts. Everything is photo-ready and fun-filled for both teens and grown-ups. Top off your experience with even more treats at the cafe, bar and retail shop.
Top tip: Have your teen wear their best Instagrammable outfit so everyone feels comfortable and happy to have a photoshoot.
Float high above NYC on the Edge Observation Deck
Challenge your teens to life on the Edge
If you’re looking for something thrilling to do in NYC with your teens then visit Edge, the highest open-air observation deck in the Western Hemisphere. Not only will you feel the difference in the air at 1,130 feet, but a piece of the flooring is made of glass, giving you the immense feeling of floating high above New York City. The views are spectacular and you can have fun challenging your teens to step onto the glass 100 stories above the ground.
Experience the super fast 100 floor elevator ride
Enter the skyscraper near the Hudson Yards Mall then get to the 4th floor. From here, show your tickets and you’ll be taken all the way to the 100th floor via super fast elevator. Visit the Sky Deck on the 100th floor and then walk up to the 101st floor for 360-degree views of the city.
Way to save money: Eat before you go so nobody is tempted to buy any of the expensive snacks and drinks up at the top.
Brooklyn Bridge & Dumbo
Explore the hip and cool around Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge is arguably one of the best known sites in New York. Take your teen there to sneak in a history lesson about this iconic piece of architecture, while giving them a chance to enjoy the views (and get some cool Instagram shots). Once you’ve crossed over the bridge, they’ll feel hip and stylish while exploring the trendy neighborhood of Dumbo with its cobblestone streets, boutiques and art galleries.
Make the most Brooklyn Bridge’s spectacular views
On the Brooklyn Bridge & Dumbo walking experience, you’ll enter from the Manhattan side across from City Hall. The bridge itself is about a mile long so expect to be walking a little while. You’ll get amazing views of both Manhattan and Brooklyn from the bridge, as well as unique views above the passing cars underneath. Walk along and hear stories about the architecture and purpose of the bridge, and take some amazing photos of the views all around.
Way to spend money: Once in Dumbo, stop by Ample Hills Creamery for the best local ice cream. Alternatively, visit TimeOut Market where even the pickiest eater will find something delicious.
There are an extraordinary number of amazing, fun and interactive activities to do with teens in NYC. 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.