Have you ever turned a trip that was an obligation into a mini vacation for your family? I do this all the time depending on where I am going. Most recently I turned a work trip into a NYC getaway with my kids who happen to be tweens and teens. Here’s everything you need for a successful trip to NYC with tweens.
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Trip to NYC with Tweens
I travel to NYC, off and on throughout the year for work and as often as possible I try to bring my kids along. There is so much to experience in NYC that in between working I will take the kids and venture around the city. Now my kids are old enough that they can stay in a hotel room and take care of themselves while I am at conferences, so this may not work for everyone, but here’s how I do it.
Usually, my ticket has been paid for by a company and since NYC is a direct flight from Portland on Delta it’s fairly easy to pick up tickets for my kids on the same exact flight. When we get to JFK we either take Lyft or Via into the city or we catch the subway. Either way, give yourself at least an hour to get from the airport to the heart of NYC.
Hampton Inn Chelsea
Also taken care of by the company is the hotel room. In NYC the hotel room can easily be the most expensive part of the vacation so that’s one of the perks of turning your trip into an “oblication”. On our most recent trip to New York City, we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Chelsea. I really like this hotel and location for a couple of reasons. First off it is super close to the subway, including the lines that only run during peak times. I like being able to get around easily with the kids. Second, the Hampton Inn has breakfast. Even if I have to take off early for a meeting the kids can take themselves downstairs and load up on food. They are teenagers, so they are always hungry. It doesn’t hurt that Hampton Inn also offers breakfast bags to go. I will grab one on my way to my meeting and eat it along the way. Also nice is having two queen beds in the room. Many rooms in NYC are not big enough for a family.
Other Places to Stay in NYC
While I’m at work the kids stay in the hotel. They do not go out in the city without me yet, they are familiar enough with NYC and soon they will be able to. I squeeze in various things to do in the afternoons and evenings when I am not working. Here’s a 4 day NYC itinerary to keep you quite busy and a 3 Day NYC Itinerary with Teens if you are traveling with kids.
When staying in Chelsea, I like to walk the Highline with them to dinner. We get to enjoy awesome views of the city and we do not have to stop and any streets this way. There are many fantastic places to eat in Chelsea, including the incredible Chelsea Market. At the market, I recommend eating at Los Tacos and skipping Mokbar. Wherever you eat inside of Chelsea Market take some time to look around the building. It’s a cool Instagrammable space.
If your kids love milkshakes like mine do then there are two burger places worth visiting, Black Tap and Buns Bar. The milkshakes are so big at both places you could skip eating a meal and just have a shake or you could opt to split a shake between two or three people.
A pub near the Hampton Inn Chelsea with good drinks and a fancy library vibe is the Cropton Ale House. They have a pomegranate champagne cocktail that is unbelievably good and the kid meals are large, perfect for those slightly older tweens.
Another place I like to take my kids to hang out is Bryant Park. During the summer they have an assortment of fun things set up to do and they are all free. While my kids play a free game or two out in the grass I can enjoy a glass of wine on the Southwest Porch patio. Nearby is a place I like to go if we can catch their happy hour, Calle Dao a Cuban/Chinese fusion restaurant with an affordable happy hour in a cool atmosphere.
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Plan at least one full day with the kids where you do not have to work. Maybe you tack on an extra hotel night at the end of your work trip. With a full day available I suggest you take off early for the Statue of Liberty. On the boat stand out front or get a window seat to enjoy the views. Once at the Statue of Liberty take a walk around and there are so many spots to get photos. If you want to go up into the Statue of Liberty you need to buy tickets pretty far in advance. Get tickets.
When you get back on the ferry get off at Ellis Island. Here I recommend getting on one of the free tours that the National Park service offers. If you do not go on the tour, your kids will be bored out of their minds. Then when you are done with the tour go look for your family’s name on the wall.
9/11 Memorial and Reflecting Pools
Once you are done with the Statue of Liberty head over to the 9/11 Memorial. Walk around the pools and if it’s a clear day go up in the Freedom Tower. If all of your kids are over the age of 10 visit the memorial museum as well. The memorial is well done and powerful.
A hip place to eat near here is The Malthouse. The space is rustic and the food is incredible. What’s even better is the bottomless drinks during brunch on the weekends.
You cannot visit NYC without hitting Times Square and seeing a Broadway show. Teens and tweens will enjoy shopping at the massive H & M in Times Square and they will probably enjoy seeing all the randomness and jumbo screens everywhere.
As far as which Broadway show I would try and go for one all the kids will enjoy. I took my kids to see Phantom of the Opera. One tween loved it, my other tween slept through it, and my teenage son hated it. (He would have hated whatever show we went to, so his enjoyment did not factor in.) This was the second show Jonah has slept through so keep that in mind when deciding how much money to spend. Just imagine how upsetting it would have been if I had bought $400 Hamilton tickets and Jonah slept through it. There is a half-price ticket stand in Times Square underneath the bleachers. I got Phantom of the Opera tickets for about $70 each.
If you want to take your kids on a tour of the city I recommend going on The Ride. This is a tour bus, but it’s not your normal tour bus. They have performers waiting along the streets. As you drive by various places they start singing, dancing, and rapping. The hosts on the bus are sarcastic and entertaining. This is awesome for teenagers because it’s bizarre.
Get Travel Insurance
I use Skyscanner to find flights. I use it so much, I wrote an entire guide to finding cheap flights with Skyscanner! My second favorite site to find flights is Momondo, another great site for finding cheap flights.
Book a Place to Stay
If you prefer staying in a vacation rental instead, I recommend VRBO.
Rent clothes for your trip with Travel Style Expert for only $50 a month!
Choose Activities and Tours
To find great activities in any area I use Get Your Guide and Viator. If we are visiting a city with lots of popular attractions I always check CityPass and GoCard to see if they have discount cards available.
When I want to book a full-on multi-day tour I use TourRadar. They’ve got fantastic weekly deals.