New York is a great city. There are no two ways about it. It’s packed with everything you’d expect from a major city. Shops, restaurants, parks, hotels and museums. Many of the world’s most famous brands also have their flagship store here. It’s an all round fantastic city and if you’re thinking of visiting New York with teens the following information may be of interest to you.
The flight to New York takes 7 hours 55 minutes. We hadn’t flown with American Airlines before but found the flight to New York comfortable and the crew good. There was plenty of entertainment for us and the teens and we all enjoyed the food and drink. In fact, us adults managed a bit of shut-eye but our 2 were far to busy playing games and watching movies for that! Maybe you need less naps the younger you are!
Transfer from Airport
We flew into John F Kennedy airport in New York. There are two other airports serving New York City. Newark and La Guardia. John F Kennedy airport is approximately 26 km from New York City Centre. Transfer time to the city centre depends on which way you choose to travel to your Hotel. In normal traffic it will take 45 minutes by car. A yellow cab will cost around £50. You can also use the subway which you can get to by using the AirTrain at JFK. A cheaper option is to travel by bus but will take longer.
As we were visiting New York with teens we decided to transfer by the iconic yellow cab. The cabs charge a flat fee before tip and tolls of $52.
We always transfer by cab. They are easy to find and the journey to the city centre allows you to take in the Manhattan skyline. You also get dropped at the door of your hotel.
Both of our teens are massive Netflix fans so for them this was where the filmset feeling began.
Accommodation when visiting New York with teens
Before we went, we did a fair bit of research on where to stay in New York as a family. We wanted to be close Central Park and Fifth Avenue, but somewhere quieter than Times Square.
Fairly early on we decided we wanted to stay at the Intercontinental New York Barclay for a number of reasons. It ticked the boxes in relation to the location, being close to Fifth Avenue and Grand Central Station. The hotel also has great heritage and history and was the residence of Ernest Hemmingway when he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. We were not disappointed with our choice.
The Barclay has an opulent feel throughout. The lobby and rooms are very well designed and decorated and staff were friendly and informative. Our room had two double beds and both were very comfortable. One thing to note is that, although there was room for the four of us, we’ve always found New York hotel rooms smaller than average. We booked the hotel through booking.com
When to visit New York with teens
A year-round destination, our preference for visiting New York with teens is during Winter. We all absolutely love it there in the run up to Christmas but February was really good too. It’s one of the cheapest times to visit but can be cold although we had great weather. Temperatures reached 21 degrees on one of the days. It was dry and mild to warm except for one day which was misty. We didn’t find any need for the thermals we had brought!
What we also find in February is that there’s plenty going on, it’s not too hot (like in Summer) and the queues are much shorter. So you don’t get the old ‘I’m bored’!
How to get around
Where we could, we explored New York by foot. We think this is the best way to see most cities. Especially where they are compact enough to do so. This guidebook helped with the planning.
In our opinion New York City is one of the easiest in the world to navigate. This is because it’s streets and avenues are built on a grid system. Streets run East-West from 1st to 228th and Avenues run North-South 1 to 11 although some are named instead of numbered.
We did buy tickets for the Big Bus Tour, choosing the 2-day Deluxe ticket online before we went. This included a night tour, entry to the Museum of the City of New York, 1-hour free bike hire from Blazing Saddles and tickets for the Empire State Building. This did turn out to be good value for money and cost $284.40 (£214.12) for four. Entry to the Empire State Building alone would have cost us $142.
You have to visit the Big Bus Tour office in Times Square to collect the tickets and validate the 48 hour pass. We arrived at the office just before 3 p.m. and had our tickets validated. Unfortunately had we got there after 3 p.m. the tickets would have been valid for a whole 48 hours but the tickets only provided us with transport for the rest of that first day and the following day.
All of these things provide a great opportunity for teens to navigate one of the World’s largest cities. That’s a great learning experience which will stand them in good stead for their future. They were really good at it too! Much better than us 😆😆
We used the subway to travel to Battery Park and tickets were easy to buy at the station. It was a tight squeeze on the subway station as we had to travel at rush hour. However, it offered the chance to interact with some of New York’s commuters who we found very friendly and helpful.
We found the subway easy to navigate, straightforward and not dissimilar to the London Underground system. For us it was another opportunity to get a real sense of how this city works. It was also efficient and well-maintained.
We have used the Staten Island Ferry in the past. It’s warm, free and you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty without going to Liberty Island.
We made sure our teens were fully involved with route planning and ticket purchasing. And again they were better than us at it. We found them leading us on a few occasions. And we all enjoyed that.
Money when visiting New York
The currency of New York is the US Dollar. At the time of our travel the exchange rate was $1.35 to 1GBP and we got ours from the Post Office. We found that cards and cash were widely accepted.
New York may be a little more expensive than the UK but we like to sample as much street food as we can and this option turned out to be quite good value. We got breakfast for $5 each. A three course meal at Trump Towers came to $28 per adult which we thought was very reasonable.
Entry to the Empire State Building was $37 for an adult and $31 for a child. Ferry and entry tickets to the Crown of the State of Liberty (and also Ellis Island) for 3 adults and one child totalled £104.50 which we thought was amazing value for such an iconic and interesting place.
We got in to the Natural History Musuem for free as we arrived after 4.30 in the afternoon. Admission to the Musuem is $23 for an adult, seniors and students $3 and children 2 – 12 $13. There are loads of things to do for free in New York as a family such as strolling through China Town, Little Italy or Central Park.
Handling foreign money is always good experience for our children and ours enjoyed having their own. The got to grips with it far more easily than we thought. Sometimes, we probably don’t give them the credit they deserve. Their far more capable than we think.
Food and Drink in New York
We all enjoyed everything we ate in New York. Trying as much of the local cuisine as we can is a big part of the experience for us and it’s great for teens. They wanted to sample hot dogs on the street as well as famous New York Pizza and freshly cooked Doughnuts! And they did. And we joined them. Well, we thought it would be rude not to!
Having opted to stay on 48th Street we were really fortunate to come across Mama Jo’s Breakfast Cart. Serving breakfast from about 4.30 a.m. for New York commuters, the breakfast special deal was an egg roll (which could include bacon or sausage), a doughnut (or pastry for a little extra) and a coffee or orange juice all for just $5. We’d grab a few of these, take them back to the hotel room, and share them out. That was actually really good fun and everyone got something they enjoyed 😋 . As well as the money it also saved us a lot of time which is pretty important when visiting New York with teens!
What teen doesn’t enjoy snacking and street food?
There are loads of small street vendors, coffee shops and bakeries all over the city. As a tourist hot-spot some can be quite expensive and sometimes don’t list their prices so take heed.
We saw a very disgruntled American lady buy an ice-cream cone from a vendor at Central Park who was charging $10. She was not happy. We got ice-cream for $5 each further along the Park. So choose carefully!
And what teen doesn’t love Pizza?
We got ours from 2 Bros Pizza, a small independent chain of takeout pizzerias.
There’s no frills here but the deals were amazing and the pizza was delicious. Lots of locals were eating here including construction and office workers as well as Police Officers eat here so you know it’s going to be good. And it gave a chance to mingle with the city’s residents. Our teens liked that and they loved hearing the accent and the way of talking.
You can buy pizza by the slice or as a whole.
We went to Little Italy with the intention of having lunch but Instead had coffee and cake from a Patisserie. This was, we thought, overpriced but very nice just the same.
Being honest, we were all a little disappointed with Little Italy.
We had a table service meal at Trump Towers Grill and really enjoyed the whole experience here. Our teens in particular. From the security at the main door, to the restaurant staff to the Trump Store everyone was so friendly. And again it gave an opportunity to interact with the people who live and work here. We think that’s a vital part of travel. And learning.
The restaurant served a set menu (with a choice of three starters and mains) for $28 per adult. A kids pasta dish was $12. We plumped for Brownies as our desert. All in all our meal and drinks came to $108.29 excluding gratuity. We though this was a great price for a 3-course meal for 4 on 5th Ave.
Must do's when visiting New York with Teens
Empire State Building
Heading up to the top of a skyscraper is kind of a must do when visiting New York. There are lot’s of options now but our favourite has always been the Empire State Building. Our teens loved this.
At over 840 acres Central Park is huge. Probably bigger than you think. It is open every day at 6 a.m. and closes at 1 a.m. but you would need a lot of time to get around it all. It’s a must do in our opinion though.
Even if you don’t like shopping, Fifth Avenue is still very interesting. Most of the world’s biggest brands have their flagship store here. Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo, Adidas, Nike, Converse. All the shops a tach-savvy, fashion-conscious teenager could want. They’re all here! It’s also home to the original Tiffany’s store which is worth a look around, even if just for the history.
Central Park, the Plaza Hotel and Rockefeller Centre are all within a stone’s throw from here.
Statue of Liberty
As iconic as it comes this is absolutely a must do when visiting New York with teens. It’s not easy to organise but well worth it. Check out our Things to do in New York post for more information on how to.
Ours love everything about this. From the boat journeys to the climb to the top. And those views which will live long in the memory. Incredible!
Ground Zero / 9/11 Memorial
Ground Zero is a quiet, peaceful and poignant place. The memorial is open 24/7 and free to visit but there is an entry charge for the museum. Amongst the things to see here are St. Paul’s Chapel, a memorial to the survivors, the Sphere sculpture that survived 9/11 and One World Observatory.
We were a bit surprised by the reaction here. Quiet teens in thoughtful contemplation.
From as quiet as it gets, to as loud as it gets! Probably no visit to New York with teens is complete without taking in Times Square.
It’s usually busy but not too bad early in the morning. You’ll probably find yourself wandering through on the way to somewhere else even if you don’t make a point to see it.
Our teens have never forgotten it.
Our opinion on visiting New York with teens
We loved visiting New York with teens. And they loved it too! So much so, that they say, when asked, they’d go back in a heartbeat. Next time around Christmas.
If you’re weighing up visiting New York with your teens we would to say it’s an excellent time to go. They still want to travel with you for one thing. And for another, they’re old enough to enjoy a lot of what’s on offer here. Whilst, doing a lot of the leg-work themselves.
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