Traveling with tweens and teens to New York? Senior editor Norie Quintos shares some tips and tricks from a recent trip to the Big Apple with her 12- and 14-year-old sons.
Limit the number of museums and choose them carefully. Just because there are dozens of world-class museums in the city doesn’t mean you have to see them all. Whiny teens are worse than whiny toddlers. I’d read about a temporary exhibit at the Guggenheim by the Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who worked with exploding gunpowder and cars hanging from the ceilings. Bingo. We hit the museum on Friday evening, when admission was pay what you want (I noticed most New Yorkers weren’t paying anything, so we didn’t either.)
Central Park is good for any age. Try to go with a plan, say, to catch the remote-controlled sailboats in the Conservatory Water or skate dancers in the Bandshell. Because my kids are Beatles fans, we went on a John Lennon pilgrimage to Strawberry Fields and the Imagine mosaic, then walked over to the Dakota building where the singer was shot. Plan your visit with the interactive map of Central Park.
Do something active. We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, a leisurely 45-minute stroll. It’s one of the world’s most iconic spans and there is a separate path for walkers and bikers, so you aren’t inhaling car fumes. You can view the Statue of Liberty from here. Tips: To avoid constantly craning your neck looking back at the incomparable Manhattan skyline, take the subway to Brooklyn and walk towards Manhattan. Also, be sure to stay off the bikers’ lane, lest you get clipped or cursed at by speeding cyclists.
Go for the high view. With the World Trade Center towers sadly gone, there are two spots to take in bird’s-eye-views of the city. The Empire State Building is the classic, sentimental choice, and there’s that sappy scene from Sleepless in Seattle, which many teens have seen. However, there’s a newer, hipper spot to go, and since we’d been up the Empire State before, we opted for Top of the Rock, meaning Rockefeller Center. The expansive three-level viewing deck surrounded on all sides by thick safety glass reopened in 2005 after being closed for 19 years. Head there after the sun goes down for far-out views of the City That Never Sleeps.
Teach them something. With financial markets in disarray, there is no better time to teach teens about the stock market, and no better place than in New York. Our hotel, the Loews Regency, offers a package which features a tour of NASDAQ, including attending the opening bell. After a power breakfast in the hotel restaurant (in which we spotted director Spike Lee), a car service picked us up for the ride to the cylindrical NASDAQ building, in the heart of Times Square, its wraparound video monitors broadcasting the financial news of the day. A guide squired us into the building to the studio, from which we watched the countdown to the 9 A.M. opening bell of the electronic stock exchange. A great lesson, but you don’t need a fancy package to experience this. The NASDAQ studio, like those of the national morning shows such as Good Morning America, are visible to the public through large plate-glass windows.
Eat authentic. Food doesn’t have to be expensive in New York. Hotdogs and pretzels are a must. You can have them at any street-corner stand or if you want to turn it into a mission, visit the 24-hour Gray’s Papaya on 8th St. and 6th Ave. New York-style pizza is another staple. Try Joe’s in Greenwich Village (7 Carmine Street) or Grimaldi’s under the Brooklyn Bridge. Other cheap eats: pastrami on rye with Dr. Brown’s soda at a Jewish deli (try Katz’s or Carnegie) and Chinese food in Chinatown (try Hop Kee).
Getting there is half the fun. There’s no reason these kids, who know their way around Second Life and other online worlds, can’t figure out how to get uptown on the subway. Give them a map, put them to work, and follow two paces behind.
Photos: Norie Quintos