14 things to do in New York with a 14-year old

My son Oliver and I were fortunate to spend 5 days in New York City during his spring break, leaving on his 14th birthday.  We stayed with our friend Judy in her wonderful brownstone in the upper West Side.  Our family did a house exchange with Judy and her late husband five years earlier.  It was fun to be back in the same apartment.  My wife Karen (Oliver’s mom) wasn’t able to get the time off from work, so it was just a boys trip.  These are the things we did that resulted in Oliver having one of the best spring breaks he says he ever had.

American Museum of Natural History

The exhibits are so engaging, in fact I was often ready to move on to the next exhibit but Oliver was still busy reading about the current one.

Replica of an Easter Island moai
Model of a blue whale in the Hall of Ocean Life
Oliver reading an exhibit at the Rose Centre for Earth and Space

Times Square / Broadway

Oliver couldn’t get enough of Times Square.  We went there both during the day and in the evening just to hang out and feel the energy of the crowds.  We also went to a Broadway show (we saw Miss Saigon – I was a bit nervous about some of the plot, but the helicopter scene was awesome).

Miss Saigon

Circumnavigate Manhattan by Bicycle

We rented bikes and circumnavigated the entire island of Manhattan – it took about 6 hours including lunch and breaks, and was a highlight of the week.

Get a Haircut

Why not take advantage of your time in NYC to pick up some NYC style.  Following our epic bike ride, we got haircuts at a local barbershop.

Go to Church

Seriously.  We were in the city on a Sunday, so we went to Hillsong New York, a branch of the huge church based in Sydney, Australia (we’ve been to that one too).  Hillsong is famous for its music, and attending a Sunday service is like attending a rock concert and church service in one. We always leave inspired.

Hillsong Church

Shop in Soho

New York’s Soho neighbourhood is the destination for serious teenage shopping, with stores like Adidas, A Bathing Ape and Supreme (we hit them all), as well as the usual favourites like H&M.

Outside the Adidas store in Soho

Attend a Sporting Event

We got tickets (through Groupon) to see the New York Knicks play the Detroit Pistons at Madison Square Gardens.  It was a great experience.

Knicks at Madison Square Gardens

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building is within walking distance of Madison Square Gardens, so after the game that is where we went for some amazing night-time views of the metropolis.  Being later at night, we didn’t have to wait in the usual long lines to get to the top.

9/11 Memorial & Museum

Ladder 3 Truck

The 9/11 Memorial, built on the foundation of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, honours those lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  It powerfully evokes a sombre and reflective mood, for young and old people alike.

The museum is about 70 feet below ground, of a “deconstructivist” design resembling a partially collapsed building.  The multimedia exhibits are very engaging.

Wall Street

Wall Street is just blocks away from the 9/11 Memorial.  Oliver is interested in business, so a visit to the epicentre of American capitalism was in order.  At the west end of Wall Street is historic Trinity Church, and we enjoyed walking through its cemetery looking for the oldest and strangest graves we could find.

New York Stock Exchange
Child’s gravestone from 1745 in Trinity Church cemetery

Run in Central Park

We ran the short distance from our West Side brownstone to Central Park and then around the Reservoir, which has a nice 1.6 mile running track around it with some of the best views in the city.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Temple of Dendur and the rest of the Egyptian wing is so impressive.  Oliver also loved the Arms and Armour exhibit.

The Temple of Dendur
Knights in the Arms and Armour exhibit

The Met Cloisters

Admission to the Met also provides same day access to the Cloisters, a branch of the museum located in Fort Tryon Park, near the northern tip of the island of Manhattan, specializing in medieval Romanesque and Gothic art and architecture.

Entrance to the Cloisters
Unicorn tapestry

Churches, Ivy League and Seinfeld

After the Cloisters we took the 1 train from the Dyckman Street station (two blocks east of the A line Dyckman station).  The 1 train runs above ground between 133 and 122 streets, which is cool.  We got off at the 125th Street station and walked to the huge Riverside Church, built between 1927 and 1930 and modelled after the 13th century gothic cathedral in Chartres, France.  The interior was very impressive.  We then walked a block east and a block south to Columbia University and through its impressive ivy league campus (hoping to encourage post-secondary dreams).  Just south of the campus is the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the fifth largest Christian church in the world.  After touring the cathedral we walked one block west to Broadway for a bite at Tom’s Restaurant, the restaurant featured in pretty much every episode of the Seinfeld TV series.

Columbia University
Tom’s Restaurant

We ❤️ NYC!

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