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New York CityPass Itinerary with Teens

Planning a trip to New York City, with teens, is no easy feat.

Trust me.

I’ve been to the Big Apple several times with my own kids.

If you’re like me you may be limited on time, money, or both and you’re trying to figure out how to see as much of the city as possible in the shortest amount of time. I created a sample itinerary just for you!

I hope this provides some options for you and helps you plan an amazing trip to NYC, no matter who you’re traveling with.

Visiting NYC with Teens: a Sample 3-Day Itinerary using CityPASS in NYC.

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New York CityPass Itinerary with Teens

There’s a reason New York City is called the Big Apple. It’s HUGE! When it comes to planning a visit, if you want to see even a tiny fraction of what the city offers, you should count on some very busy, very full days.

I’ve only been to New York City a handful of times so I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I did make the most of each of those experiences, fitting in as much sightseeing as I could.

While I’m typically not the type of person to over schedule on vacations and getaways, New York City is one place where I will make an exception.

If you’re planning a trip or thinking about visiting NYC with teens, you should find this post helpful.

at-the-top-of-the-empire-state-building

How to get the most out of my Sample Three Day New York City Itinerary with CityPASS

1. As you view this sample itinerary, keep your fellow travel partners in mind. While this itinerary can be tweaked to best fit your situation, I was traveling to New York City with my daughter so I planned it specifically to experience with teens.

2. Feel free to omit, add, substitute or rearrange this plan so it works best for you. Remember, this is just a guide, it will work better if you tweak it to fit your schedule and your family.

3. Purchase a CityPASS for each member of your party to save time and money. A New York City CityPASS can save you 44% off the normal everyday purchase price of some of New York’s most popular attractions.

Each CityPASS contains actual admission tickets to New York’s top six attractions. 

    • Empire State Building Observatory
    • American Museum of Natural History
    • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
    • Guggenheim Museum OR Top of the Rock Observation Deck
    • Ferry Access to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island OR Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise
    • 9/11 Memorial & Museum OR Intrepid Sea, Air or Space Museum

At many sights, CityPASS provides VIP access, allowing travelers to bypass an attraction’s main entrance ticket line which can save you a ton of time. 

 New York City Itinerary – Day One in NYC

New York City Travel Tip: Our first day in NYC began by hopping on an early morning train in New Jersey. Staying outside of the city could be a great alternative to paying high lodging prices within New York City- especially if you can bunk with friends or relatives who live in the area. Just make sure that you factor in how much money you’ll pay for transportation costs to get around each day.”

window-shopping-in-nyc

Ride the subway to the Metro Station at Times Square/42nd St.

This is a great place to begin your exploration of the city because it allows you to get a quick glimpse of Times Square. Though it’s most impressive at night, it’s neat to see during the day so you can compare the two scenes.

From the subway, we walked a few short blocks to the New York City Public Library. We couldn’t resist taking pictures with the lions, Patience and Fortitude that flank the front steps. Keep in mind it’s a pretty popular spot for photographers.  

From the library, we headed north on 5th Avenue to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Fifth Avenue is a shopper’s paradise. You’ll find stores for the kids like Build-a-Bear and the American Girl Store, souvenir shops and the famous Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store.

If you have time this would be a great time to visit nearby Rockefeller Center.

From the cathedral, we backtracked a few blocks because my daughter and I really wanted to catch the subway at Grand Central Station. The building is beautiful and not to be missed.

grand-central-station-in-nyc

We took the subway to Union Square to meet for a pre-reserved tour with a Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours. The tour was amazing and I highly recommend that you check it out. Not only is it very entertaining, but the tour also allows you to rest your feet on a comfortable bus and eat at two of Brooklyn’s best-known pizzerias. Plus, the tour guide (we had Tony) is a hoot! Highly recommended. You can book this pizza tour here

If pizza isn’t your thing, you may prefer the Slice of Brooklyn Chocolate Tour or the Brooklyn Christmas Lights tour. You can’t go wrong with either. 

We had some time to spare before our tour began so we decided to pop into Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man and get our daily chocolate fix. The restaurant is the coolest space and they offer FREE chocolate samples.

My daughter was on a mission to step foot in every single Forever 21 in the city. Lucky for her, there just happened to be one in Union Square.

A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza tour took us to Brooklyn where we were treated to a beautiful view of Manhattan, learned some great movie trivia, ate some delicious pizza and stopped at Coney Island, America’s oldest amusement park.  The bus dropped us off where we began in Union Square so we hopped back on the subway and headed south to the Financial District.

a-slice-of-brooklyn-pizza-tours

*To save steps, you could opt to visit the 9-11 Memorial when stopping at Battery Park to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

We toured St. Paul’s Chapel, Manhattan’s oldest building in continuous use and used as a command center for volunteers after the 9-11 attack. It’s located across the street from the site of where the World Trade Towers once stood. I visit this small chapel each time I visit the city.

Warning: I can’t imagine anyone would visit this site and not tear up. It’s a good idea to pack some tissues so you have them handy. 

st-pauls-chapel-in-nyc

If you think ahead, you can reserve advance tickets to the 9-11 Memorial, tickets to the memorial are free but a $2 service fee is charged and they happily accept donations.  If you opt to tour the museum, you can use the New York CityPASS to save money and time. If you plan to visit the museum on Tuesday evening from 5 – 7 p.m., admission is free with a ticket.  You can pick up a ticket at the window, tickets are limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. If you don’t have time to visit the museum, by all means, visit the memorial and save the museum for another time.

If you prefer to skip the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, your CityPASS will grant you access to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

At this point, you may want to call it a day or you can hop on the subway and head to the Chelsea Market in Chelsea. This is the perfect place to grab a souvenir or a bite to eat. We especially enjoyed nosing through Artists & Fleas before calling it a day.

If you decide not to eat at the market, there is a Sichuan Chinese restaurant, Legends, located several blocks from the subway that offers HUGE portions of delicious food. Service was a bit slow, but worth the wait if you aren’t too tired. I suggest the Pumpkin Soup to start, followed by the Beef and Broccoli. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.

Day Two in NYC

NYC from the top of the Empire State Building

A visit to the Empire State Building is a great way to start the day. The lines are shorter and it’s definitely less crowded. Plus, with CityPASS, you can bypass the lines to purchase your ticket, get a free audio guide and can purchase a map to help you identify what you’ll see from the top of the observation deck.

From there we headed to the American Museum of Natural History (your CityPASS admission also includes a show at the planetarium) just so my daughter could see Dum Dum from the Night at the Museum. Clearly, this Easter Island Statue is a favorite tourist draw. We were surprised to see a line of people waiting to hug the large stone statue and take photos and selfies with the popular attraction.

We cut through Central Park to get to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were able to see the Ramble, the Belvedere Castle, and the Obelisk. I had originally planned to spend a lot more time in Central Park, but it started to rain. Make sure you pack a small umbrella so you’ll be prepared.

at-the-met

You could easily spend the entire day at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. When I visited with my son in 2011, we spent nearly five hours in the galleries and still didn’t feel like we’d made a dent in viewing all the museum has to offer. Non-art lovers should still appreciate the impressive Egyptian wing and Armor Court.

Serendipity 3 is a unique eatery that your teen will love. You must try the Frozen Hot Chocolate but heed my warning, it’s way too big to consume by yourself. Serendipity offers a great atmosphere, great service, and amazing desserts. This stop was definitely a favorite for my daughter and me.

If you didn’t consume enough sugar at Serendipity, you’ll pass Dylan’s Candy Bar on the way to the subway. Even if you plan not to eat or shop, it’s a fun store to pop in and check out.

Now is the perfect time to check into your New York hotel and put your feet up. Don’t get too comfortable though, because you won’t want to miss the chance to see Times Square at night.

My daughter loved all of Times Square and can’t wait for another NYC mother/daughter getaway. Visiting Times Square with Teens can be a lot of fun. Make sure you don’t miss Elvis in M & M World (if you’re a fan of the chocolate candies), Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum or take in a Broadway Play. Take some small bills to pose with one of the characters that are plentiful in Times Square but keep in mind that they aren’t happy with a dollar or two. They seem to be more interested in $4 or $5 for their time.  My daughter and I loved Toys R Us, and were sad to hear of the store’s closing.

Day Three in NYC

rrockefeller-center

You may have been up late exploring Times Square, but don’t miss your opportunity to see the view from the Top of the Rock at sunrise. Though entrance to the observation deck of the Rockefeller Center is included in your CityPASS, if you want to see the view at sunrise or sunset, it will cost you a bit more, but well worth the price.

If you decide to pass on the Top of the Rock and prefer to start your day indoors, you can head to the Guggenheim Museum, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most known structures.

From there, you can wrap up your visit to NYC with the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with your CityPASS or you can take a Circle Line Sightseeing Cruise of the New York harbor.

You could easily spend an entire day exploring the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island so if you have the time to extend your trip, I’d advise doing so. Viewing the Statue of Liberty for the first time is breathtaking and if you have family members that entered the US through New York City, you can find a record of their journey through Ellis Island. Make sure you’re armed with their full name and birthdate to access their records.

things-to-do-in-nyc-with-teens

A Hotel Recommendation in NYC

My daughter loved our stay at a hip and trendy lodging in New York City, but make sure you read my post to find out if the Yotel is for you. I certainly don’t suggest it for everyone but you can view other New York City Deals here!


If you’re looking for more things to do in New York City with teens, be sure to check out this list of 35 things to do in New York City with teens and if you’re traveling for a romantic getaway you’ll find these romantic NYC hotels helpful. 

Do you want to learn how to save money in New York City? Check out the CityPASS. This discount booklet is also available for  Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Hollywood, Houston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California and Toronto, saving you time and money.

Have you been to NYC? What would you add to my itinerary?

More Travel Tips with Teens:

35 Things to do with Teens in NYC
40+ Things to do with Teens in Atlanta
10 Tips to Keeping the Peace when Traveling with Teens

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Andrea Abrahao

Friday 12th of May 2017

Hi, Tonya! Thanks a lot for the tips! Very useful for me! I'm coming with my 2 teens on summer for 4 days in the city! I haven't thought about the citypass. Seems to be good!

Tonya Prater

Saturday 24th of June 2017

I hope you have a great trip! CityPASS saved me time planning and saved me time in lines. I've used it twice in NYC and once in Atlanta. I'm a fan.

Brigett

Tuesday 1st of March 2016

I know that this is an older post but I am wondering if you ever felt unsafe in the City? I would love to take my 2 oldest teens, both girls, but I truly am concerned for this reason. I have not been sInce I was a teen myself, more than 20 years ago, and always accompanied by my Dad. Also, where did you stay in NJ? And what was the cost to travel from NJ to NY? Thanks!

Tonya

Tuesday 1st of March 2016

Hi Brigett,

I've only been in the city 5-6 times, but I've never felt unsafe. It probably did help that two times I was there with someone who knew the city fairly well. We stayed with family in NJ and boarded the train in Hamilton. It's been a couple years since we did that trip and it cost about $60 RT per ticket. Plus, I paid to leave my car there when we did spend the night in the city- but I had gotten a great deal on a hotel room and we wanted the experience. Times Square is a bit crazy, we didn't feel unsafe, but it would be easy to get separated. My daughter and I had a plan of where to meet if that happened but she stuck close to me. She did find the costumed characters "creepy". One of the reasons she wanted to go to Times Square was to get her photo taken with some of the characters but one decided to hug her a bit closer and longer than necessary for the photo- you may want to skip photos with characters.

We stayed at the Yotel and while we loved the hotel and didn't have any problems, it was a bit of a walk from the train station and we did walk through an area that seemed to be a bit of a hangout for what I assumed were some homeless people. We did walk from there to Times Square and back with no problems though.

If you have any other questions, feel free to leave another comment or email me. thetravelingpraters at gmail dot com.

Lori

Tuesday 15th of December 2015

Just a heads up. Metropolitan museum of art and museum of natural history have suggested "donations".too. This however does not apply to planetarium . No one in NYC pays full price admission. Use your city pass on other attractions. Also try to avoid on weekends at all costs.

Hop the FREE Staten Island ferry for the best views of the Statue of Liberty . 2016 they will be breaking ground for the NY EYE in Staten Island as well

Soho shopping is ridiculously expensive. But if you must - also Check out Macy's and other high end 5th ave stores especially during the Christmas season. Their window displays are fantastic

Avoid the area near St Patrick's cathedral and Saks fifth Ave. during the Christmas season -especially on weekends- unless you want to spend a half hour locked in a herd of thousands of angry people.

Check out the high line in warmer months, grab some gelato and check out some chic eateries for Sunday brunch.

Chinatown is a great little area to explore but no native New Yorkers eat there. It's questionable... But if you are feeling lucky, go ahead. This also applies to street food. But sometimes you just crave a "dirty water dog" :)

Yelp is your best friend when it comes to food. There's no one place for pizza or Chinese. There are thousands. Restaurants come and go daily. Just avoid chain restaurants if you want a real NYC experience. The Olive Garden in Times Square is strictly for tourists.

New Yorkers get a bad rap, but most people are helpful and want you to enjoy our town. Just remember no one is friendly between the hours of 5-7. This is rush hour. We move fast and have no time for questions. Keep your wallets in your front pockets, wear black to blend in and dont whip out a map on a random street corner. Be safe and have fun

Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

The Educational tourist

Tuesday 5th of May 2015

New York city has so much to offer! We are still traveling with kids - not quite teens and my ebooks are geared for them. I love hearing what teen travel is like. We'll be there in no time!

Thanks for a great post! Natalie, The Educational Tourist www.theeducationaltourist.com

Tonya

Friday 22nd of May 2015

I think I enjoyed traveling with my kids as teens more than I enjoyed any other stage. Something for you to look forward to! :)

Lisa

Monday 4th of May 2015

What is the difference between the City Pass and the NewYorkPass?

Tonya

Friday 22nd of May 2015

The CityPass is great for those visiting NYC for the first time, who want to see the top 6 tourist attractions, and only have a couple days and don't want to run themselves ragged. The New York Pass features more attractions and some of the lesser known attractions, but is better for those with more time to explore or those who tend to want to see it all, do it all. You'd really need to pack in some heavy sightseeing to save the most by your purchase.

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