Last weekend we took B to New York City to celebrate his 12th birthday. Here are all of the preteen-friendly things we did on our visit!
In our family, we decided that we’ll take each of our boys on a solo 12-year-old trip for their birthdays! We took B to NYC last week and had a blast. I had a ton of questions about what we did, so I’m going to share all about our trip today!
What to Do With Teens in NYC
We let B look at a few travel guides and all the major landmarks and let him decide what he wanted to do, so the whole trip was directed by him. I love anticipating a trip, and I think planning it is half the fun.
You may want to surprise your child with the trip, and that’s fun too, but consider letting them do some research with you so they’re that much more excited when you actually arrive.
Where we stayed in New York City
We stayed at the Hyatt Grand Central.
It was a family friendly hotel and we used Hyatt points to book so we got our rooms for free, which helped a ton with savings on the trip as a whole.
It was also very convenient to be right next to the Grand Central Station subway terminal, so we could get anywhere quickly! We bought subway passes our first night so we were able to use them all three days without having to purchase passes for each trip.
What we did in NYC
Big Bus Tour
- This was B’s first time in New York City, and since we just had a long weekend (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning), we wanted him to see as much of the city as he could. A Bus Tour is a little cheesy, but it was a good way to get a feel for the city in a short amount of time. There are two routes on the tour we took, one for upper Manhattan and one for lower Manhattan. We planned to do both tours, but we ended up only doing the lower one, which covered Times Square, Wall Street, Statue of Liberty, World Trade Center Memorial, Hudson Yards, etc. It had an audio tour as you drove on the bus and pointed out landmarks and shared some interesting facts. You could jump on and off as you liked, but the bus didn’t come around very often, so we ended up just staying on for the full loop (about 90 minutes).
Empire State Building
- We planned to do a night time ride up the Empire State Building the night we arrived (late Thursday night) but sadly the late tours are closed due to COVID. So instead, we booked a last minute tour on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t busy at all, so we walked past and booked a tour right then. You can purchase additional tickets to go up to the higher deck (103rd floor), but it was windy and cold on the outdoor deck on the lower floor (86th floor) so we saved our pennies and just stuck with the lower deck, which was plenty beautiful! I don’t think the higher deck is worth the extra cost, personally. We all had a great time and highly recommend this!
Natural History Museum
- B really wanted to go to the Natural History museum, so we made sure we had time for that. We bought tickets ahead of time, which made a big difference…we could walk right in, versus the huge line out front for people buying tickets at the counter. It’s a huge museum, so when we got inside we chose a few rooms that he really wanted to see (gems and minerals, space, dinosaurs, etc) and prioritized those.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- This is apparently the second most popular show on Broadway right now, so plan on purchasing tickets early so you can make sure you get in. B and I have been reading the whole Harry Potter series together for the last few years and when we decided to go to a Broadway show and he chose this one, we knew we had to finish the series before we went. We had to listen to the second half of book 7 on double speed on Audible to finish in time, but we made it…literally finished as we left our hotel room to go to the play! We absolutely loved it…the special effects were fantastic and we hadn’t read the screenplay so we were totally blindsided by the plot. It was very fun!
- We’re a big LEGO family, so of course we had to stop at the LEGO store. It wasn’t a huge store, but it had lots of fun sets to look at, and a little station where you could make your own minifigs. We made three and each of them looked like one of the boys, each with a little New York shirt on. It was a great little affordable souvenir!
Harry Potter Store
- This was a highlight for sure! We went to Universal Studios last year and went into many Harry Potter stores there, but this was definitely special. There was a virtual queue to get in, so we scanned the code and got in the virtual line, which ended up taking about forty five minutes (there were 300 people in front of us). We wandered down through Eately a few blocks down while we waited, and they texted us when it was our turn in line. The details inside the store were so fun, with lots of picture opportunities. If you have Harry Potter fans, highly recommend. There was a ride inside the store as well, but we heard it was really bad if you get motion sick easily, so we skipped it.
Grand Central Market
- Since we stayed in the hotel in Grand Central Station, we had to go check out the Grand Central Market! There’s so much good food in there and it’s totally an experience. We grabbed Magnolia Bakery banana pudding, a delicious NY bagel, and an almond croissant, but there were plenty of other good snacks and foods.
- You can’t go to New York and not go to Central Park! We considered renting bikes, but decided to just walk through. The weather was perfect and the views of the skyline were incredible.
- I absolutely love walking along the Highline, and B loved it too. It was cold and windy the night we walked, but it was peaceful and beautiful as we walked down it during sunset. A great opportunity to see good views and just walk and talk.
- I love Bryant Park…it’s a beautiful little park, and on a sunny day it’s filled with people playing ping pong, reading, walking dogs, sitting around, etc. They also have chess tables and anyone can play on them, so we found an open one and the boys played a round of chess. It felt so iconically New York and will be something B will remember forever.
What we ate in NYC
- Black Tap Burger
- B is a huge burger fan so we had to check this place out. It’s actually famous for its crazy milkshakes. The burgers weren’t anything super special (we got the BBQ one and it was good), but we got the birthday cake milkshake and it was divine. The cake itself was delicious and it had a whole huge slice on top of the milkshake! It was stupid expensive, but definitely an experience.
- Los Tacos No 1
- This taco place has become super popular and is delicious! If you’re in town, definitely check it out — there are a few locations around the city.
- There are restaurants inside, but we just walked through cause it’s fun to check out, and grabbed some gelato and a donut on our way out.
- Ice Cream Truck
- There are soft serve ice cream trucks all over the city and it’s literally the best soft serve ice cream you’ll ever taste. Try it!
- Dominique Ansel Bakery
- This bakery invented the cronut (croissant-donut) and they have a monthly flavor of cronuts. This month is passion fruit vanilla and we had to try it out. They were amazing!! You can order them on DoorDash and avoid the huge queue or worry about them selling out. We ordered the night before and got four of them without a problem!
- Magnolia Bakery
- We tried their famous banana pudding when we came in the fall and had to introduce B to it too. They sell a tiny cup of it and it was the perfect taste. B loved it too!
What I wore in New York City
DAY 1 OUTFIT:
- MADEWELL WHITE SHIRT | SIMILAR DENIM JACKET | KATE SPADE SKIRT | GOLDEN GOOSE SNEAKERS | MADEWELL SUNGLASSES | WHITE WOVEN BAG
DAY 2 OUTFIT:
A lot of you asked questions on Instagram about the trip, so I’ll be answering those over on Instagram today – head over there and check them out!