No matter how old you are, New York City is a place where you can have a blast. It’s a city that never sleeps with residents that are like no other. Don’t relegate yourself to the same old New York attractions, like Rockefeller Center and the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead, try something new — like riding around on a giant glass art exhibit or listening for a mysterious hum in Times Square.
Table of contents: ()
- 1. Take a Ride on the SeaGlass Carousel
- 2. Try Pickle-Flavored Ice Cream
- 3. Visit a Hidden Indoor Rainforest
- 4. Whisper Secrets at Grand Central
- 5. Satisfy Your Cravings at a Dessert Bar
- 6. Visit the Smallest Piece of Private Property
- 7. Stand in Awe of the Federal Gold Reserve
- 8. Play Custom-Made Arcade Games
- 9. Listen to the Times Square Hum
- 10. Visit the World’s Oldest Hologram Gallery
- 11. Meet up With the Ghostbusters
- 12. Stock up on Your Magic Needs
- 13. Have a Picnic on the Elevated Acre
- 14. Balance Your Mind With a Thermal Bath
- 15. Learn to Make Homemade Italian Pasta
- 16. Shopping for a Unique Souvenir
- Lodging and Logistics
- The Best Attractions for Teens in Manhattan
1. Take a Ride on the SeaGlass Carousel
The SeaGlass Carousel is located in New York City’s Battery Park, most easily accessible through the State Street or Pier A Plaza entrances. The attraction is housed in a 2,575-square-foot glass shell that sits atop the original New York Aquarium. Tickets are just $5 to hop on, and the ride is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The ride, which was designed by George Typsin, features 30 fiberglass fish, each with an individual motor that provides riders with unobstructed views. Different than a traditional carousel, the fish spin and swirl independently of each other. In the meantime, aquatic music plays on the speakers, and LED lights display a colorful show.
2. Try Pickle-Flavored Ice Cream
Lucky Pickle Dumpling Co., located on Amsterdam Avenue in the Upper West Side, is known for its homemade assortment of tasty noodles and dumplings. However, it also offers a menu item you won’t find anywhere else — pickle soft-serve ice cream. Temper the heat of spicy curry pork dumplings with a dessert that’s fresh and tangy.
Those who have tried the odd treat, made with fresh-pressed cucumber juice, say the flavor is subtler than a pickle. Light and creamy, the swirl offers a hint of brine and is topped with dried cucumbers. If you’re interested in grabbing a cone, the establishment is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, you can grab a late-night snack until 2 a.m.
3. Visit a Hidden Indoor Rainforest
Located in the Ford Foundation Building on East 43rd Street in Murray Hill is a hidden tropical jungle. Outside, you’ll witness the typical goings-on of the city — honking cars, racing taxis, crowding pedestrians — but once inside, you’ll realize you’re in a 12-story high greenhouse masquerading as an office building. The Ford Foundation, a humanitarian charity, is housed inside.
Made of glass and steel and encompassing 10,000 square feet, this urban garden features lush greenery, including giant trees, colorful magnolias, and dwarf shrubs. Open to the public all year, visitors can relax on the garden terraces or reflect by the water pools. The two glass walls and ceiling create the tropical conditions needed for plants to thrive year-round. Rainfall is collected on the roof and adds to the steam condensation inside to fill pools and water plants.
4. Whisper Secrets at Grand Central
When you lower your voice to a whisper, people far away can’t hear you, right? Challenge everything you know by heading to the lower level of Grand Central Terminal, near the Oyster Bar restaurant. There, if you stand in the domed intersection of the walkways and place your ear against the wall, you’ll discover something incredible — anything you whisper, no matter how quietly, can be heard over the din of the crowds.
This acoustic oddity, called a whispering gallery, can be created accidentally or intentionally through the use of meticulous tile work referred to as Guastavino tiles. The tile’s acoustical abilities were first discovered by Rafael Guastavino, whose careful work can be admired at Grand Central and other spots around the city. Whispering galleries exist all over the world, including the Temple of Heaven in Beijing and the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.
5. Satisfy Your Cravings at a Dessert Bar
If you’re walking through Manhattan at night and don’t know what to do, consider stopping in at Spot, a dessert bar known for its exciting, late-night dessert offerings. One favorite is the Milky Puff, a warm puff pastry filled with bananas and white chocolate honey crumb topped with ice cream. You can also try the Matcha Waterfall, a soaked cake filled with custard and fresh whipped cream and topped with vibrant green matcha powder.
The dessert bar first got its start in 2009 and was backed by Chef Ian Kittichai, Iron Chef of Thailand. His confectionery creations are all masterfully put together and come in at an affordable price of $11.95. As you view the night’s selection, you’ll have a hard time choosing just one from options like the Mango Crepe Soufflé, Green Tea Lava and Miso Butterscotch. Spot has three locations across Manhattan, with two in the East Village and one in Korea Town.
6. Visit the Smallest Piece of Private Property
In 1910, a plan to construct new subway lines meant the city streets had to be widened, condemning hundreds of buildings to demolition. Many were against the project, believing it would destroy the authenticity of Greenwich Village. One man, David Hess — a Philadelphia entrepreneur and investor — fought the city to keep his five-story apartment house known as the Voorhis.
Hess resisted the laws of eminent domain for years. The Hess family took the battle to court and ultimately lost. However, in a wry twist of fate, the land surveys completing the project made a mistake, leaving behind a tiny triangle that was deemed the private property of the Hess Estate. Snap a picture of the smallest piece of private property in Manhattan — approximately 25 by 27 inches —in front of Village Cigars on the corner of Christoper and Seventh Avenue.
7. Stand in Awe of the Federal Gold Reserve
If you want to see more gold than you will likely ever see again, stop by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. More than 80 feet beneath the sidewalk is a special vault built into the bedrock housing thousands of gold bars from central banks around the globe. Most of the gold arrived during and after World War II, when countries wanted to store their money in a safe location.
The vault contained more than 12,000 tons of gold at its peak. Today you can see around 7,000 tons, which is approximately 5% of the gold ever mined. Located on Liberty Street in the Financial District, the Federal Reserve offers free tours to the public Monday through Friday. With only two tour slots per day, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., it’s recommended you make reservations.
8. Play Custom-Made Arcade Games
If you want to have fun when you’re in Manhattan, don’t miss the chance to hit up a Babycastles exhibit. Both art gallery and arcade, this collective nonprofit that got its start in 2010 and features homemade arcade cabinets and art games. When you visit the gallery, you’re encouraged to play and interact with the exhibits.
Most exhibits showcase video games, but other themes include mixed media, visual art, and digital media. Events are held up to four nights a week, including exhibition openings, artist talks, coding shows, and live music. You can also join in the fun or learn how to design video games with development workshops, co-working nights and creative salons. Check the Babycakes website or Twitter to learn about the latest exhibit locations.
9. Listen to the Times Square Hum
Times Square is noisy and crowded. It’s an iconic New York City location filled with bright blaring screens, mile-wide crowds and vendors trying to get your attention. It can be hard to focus on anything, let alone notice the ever-present hum beneath the surface of it all. If you want to experience the myth-like sound, head to the north end of the pedestrian island between 45th and 46th Streets.
The hum is an art installation titled “Times Square” created by Max Neuhaus in 1977. With no signage or information, most would consider the hum — a mechanical, almost grinding sound — to be nothing more than a natural part of the city. Others might not hear it at all. The installation, which was removed in the early ‘90s, was restored by the Dia Art Foundation.
10. Visit the World’s Oldest Hologram Gallery
Holograms, high-quality 3D images, are likely part of the future — a new way to watch the Sunday football game, perhaps? However, technology also has a fascinating history rooted in New York City. On East 26th Street you’ll find Holographic Studios, founded by Jason Sapan. Sapan worked for Bell Laboratories on the first public exhibition of holography in the U.S. and has been creating, displaying, selling and teaching it for more than 40 years.
Take a guided tour to see portraits of celebrities like Andy Warhol and Isaac Asimov. See holographic sculptures from Russian museums that look the same as the real-life versions. Take in the world’s most extensive collection of motion image holograms, graphics that move and change before your eyes. For $30, you’ll also get to explore the laboratory deep beneath the island of Manhattan.
11. Meet up With the Ghostbusters
If you’re obsessed with a certain 1984 film featuring a ghost-fighting trio, make a trip to North Moore Street in TriBeCa to check out Hook & Ladder Company 8. Initially built in 1903, this building was used to shoot exterior scenes where the Ghostbusters planned their operations. Walkable from downtown or the Brooklyn Bridge, this location is instantly recognizable by the bright red door and painted Ghostbusters logo.
The building — which also appeared in the Will Smith movie “Hitch,” the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot and the Seinfeld episode “The Secret Code” — is free to visit. If the firefighters are available inside, ask to take a tour of their collection of melted clocks and phones, accumulated from years of fires. As the building remains a full-functional firehouse, try to stay respectful of the firefighters’ time.
12. Stock up on Your Magic Needs
If you’re looking to learn some trickery or want to impress your friends, stop in at Tannen’s Magic Shop, the city’s oldest operating magic store. It’s been in operation since 1925, supplying famous and novice magicians alike with tricks and stunts. Located on West 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan, the store offers goods like invisible paint, rabbit-producing hats, magic canes, multiplying billiard balls, and much more.
If you have time, see if any classes or lectures are scheduled. Visiting magicians like R. Paul Wilson and Max Maven will perform tricks, share stories, present new methods, and talk about personal experiences. Talks are typically held at 7 p.m. and cost $20 to $30. The new Tannen’s location in Herald Square is also down the hall from the Flosso-Hornman-Martinka store, former home to Harry Houdini.
13. Have a Picnic on the Elevated Acre
If you want to visit New York City’s best-hidden oasis, stop by the Elevated Acre on Water Street near Battery Park. Here you’ll find a one-acre meadow raised above the bustling and noisy streets of the Financial District. You won’t suspect a thing from the sidewalk, but once you take the escalator from the entrance, you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush gardens and plants.
This urban green space features a wide-open lawn, perfect for enjoying a picnic or a fresh slice of New York pizza. This is a good place to watch helicopters take off from Pier 6. You can take a lap of the park to get stunning views of the Brooklyn Bridge and East River or stop by Sky55, a local eatery on the premises that always offers a secluded space to grab a bite.
14. Balance Your Mind With a Thermal Bath
When you’re in the hustle and bustle of downtown New York City, you might think there’s no possible way to relax. However, located in the heart of TriBeCa on Franklin Street is a place you can cleanse both your body and your mind — AIRE Ancient Baths New York. Sit in a candle-filled room, formerly a textile factory built in 1883, as you soak in various baths with water at different temperatures.
Try something cold, an ice bath at 50 degrees, to shock your body and provide you with a natural dose of energy. Soothe your muscles in the 97-degree water of the Balneum, the bath of a thousand jets. Once you’ve spent enough time in the water, you can experience a relaxing massage or spend time in the steam room. The baths are open seven days a week and reservations are recommended.
15. Learn to Make Homemade Italian Pasta
Located in Lower Manhattan Mulberry Street is Aunt Jake’s, an Italian restaurant known for some of the best modern cuisines in the city. Instead of just grabbing a bite to eat — athough the food will be delicious — take a hands-on approach by signing up for Aunt Jake’s Pasta Lab. In a group with up to 12 people, you can make your own pasta and taste your creation afterward.
The shop, run by Chef Carmine Di Giovanni, takes a contemporary look at traditional Italian cuisine. You can choose from a variety of pasta types and mix-and-match with different sauces. The end creation, whether a salad, pasta, or another entree, is something unique.
16. Shopping for a Unique Souvenir
Anyone can pick up a cheap I Love NY t-shirt from Times Square or swag from the broadway show that they attended but if your teenager is a shopper New York City is a unique city to buy up a spectacular souvenir. It might be looking in thrift stores or flea markets or shopping in China Town. But whether you are looking for vintage clothing, electronics, or just a snowglobe, New York is made for shoppers.
Lodging and Logistics
Finding a hotel room where your teen can have some space of their own can be particularly tricky in New York City. Search for hotel rooms but also consider an Airbnb where you might be able to get some more space (get $50 our first stay with Airbnb).
You don’t want to drive into New York City. It is not fun and it is expensive to park. It is easier to get into the city by train. If you arrive earlier in the day before you can check-in or if you have to check-out hours before you leave, you can arrange to store your luggage with LuggageHero.
If your teen is old enough and trustworthy enough, you can get them their own MetroCard so that they can have some freedom of movement while they are in the city. Let them guide you on a few journeys to make sure they can manage the subway.
The Best Attractions for Teens in Manhattan
Going to New York City doesn’t mean visiting the same old places like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. With sites like the world’s largest collection of moving holographics and a one-acre park situated above a parking garage, there are plenty of hidden gems guaranteed to turn your trip into an experience you won’t ever forget.