What to do with a tween in New York City? That’s exactly what I googled ahead of a family trip, and I didn’t find too much online. I found stuff for teens, but it’s not always ideal for that 8-12 year-old age group.
While I certainly don’t have all the answers, here are a few things our 10 (almost 11) year-old enjoyed doing in NYC:
See a Broadway Musical
This should pretty much be a no brainer. While your tween may not act overly excited about heading to the theatre, they’ll absolutely enjoy it — especially musicals.
We watched both “Aladdin” and “The Music Man.” Each of them kept her attention throughout. However, the 8pm ET start time was a little rough. Check around for earlier options or matinees.
Watch a Network News Show
I didn’t think my tween would be too excited about this, but she asked if we’d take her to TODAY one morning. We did and she had a great time! Al Roker was kind enough to greet everyone who came to watch, and she had the opportunity to interact with Hoda Kotb.
Even if she didn’t get to meet the celebrity newscasters, she would’ve enjoyed seeing the production, cameras, and live television.
See the Statue of Liberty
She wasn’t overly excited about the idea of going to stare at an inanimate object, but the boat ride over is a pretty fun experience. She had a good time taking pictures of the statue and looking at the displays, but there isn’t a ton to capture a tween’s attention (but she makes her own fun. See below).
Due to COVID, some of the unique tours and spots to sightsee were closed.
We made it a pretty quick trip and decided not to stop at Ellis Island.
Shop ’til You Drop
The stores and street vendors easily kept my daughter’s attention. Every few feet, she was asking me if we could go into a store and look around. I spent quite a bit of time saying, “no you can’t get that.”
Even though she wasn’t able to pile up the souvenirs, she enjoyed looking around and seeing everything. That included NYC versions of her favorite retail stories.
One word of caution: A lot of the souvenir shops display shirts with four-letter words. Keep those eyes to the ground, kiddos!
Our tween absolutely loved looking around Chinatown. She went there with the idea of landing dumplings and bubble tea, so I let her decide where she wanted to get it.
We had lunch at a hole-in-the-wall diner that was just fantastic. On top of that, it was the most affordable meal we ate in NYC.
She adored the experience and taking in all the cultural sites.
Dine on a Rooftop
The Big Apple offers views you probably can’t get where you live. Our tween loved dining from a not-so tall rooftop (she wasn’t interested in going too high up) and sipping on a Shirly Temple. She wasn’t too pleased when we told her we didn’t plan to stay there for dinner.
Be sure to check out the menu and prices before you make the commitment. The prices will probably be lower on the ground!
Experience a Bubble Show
We had tickets for a Yankee game that ended up being rained out, so I found myself in a spot looking to do something unique on a rainy night that wouldn’t make my wife too jealous (she was working). The result? Enter a bubble show!
“The Gazillion Bubble Show” starts at 7pm ET and only run an hour — so you won’t have to be out too late.
It’s one of those things that may sound silly on the surface, but I almost guarantee your kids will get lost in. He or she will actually act like a kid.
This probably trends a little better for tween girls and younger-tween boys.
Go to a Super-Sized Version of their Favorite Restaurant
We had to make a pit stop and my tween was enamored with a 3-story McDonald’s. She thought it was the coolest thing ever.
If I was a little smarter, I probably would’ve saved a few bucks and dined there. You’ll find massive versions of your kid’s favorite fast food stops throughout NYC and Times Square.
One word of caution: You can almost guarantee the place will be packed!
Ride the Subway to Times Square
There’s no shortage of things to look at in Times Square. From the billboards to the unique displays to the standout shops, she probably could’ve walked around most of the day.
She loved stopping in Hershey’s Chocolate World and M&M’S New York.
But her favorite part? The ride there. And the subway is a lot cheaper than a roller coaster!
Stroll in Central Park
Our tween enjoyed taking in all the sites at Central Park. From the bridges to the flowers to the ducks, she had a great time checking things out and staying active.
Depending on your child, you may want to watch out for (or watch) the big rats! She was good with them as long as they were far away — and it was a lot cheaper than taking her to the Central Park Zoo.
The one thing she wanted and never got: a hot dog from a vendor.
Oh well, we need something to look forward to next time! 😉