Larger than life flashing billboards, glaring neon lights, the top stores in the country and hundreds of consumers and tourists crowding the streets is a pretty accurate summation of what one can expect to find in Times Square.
While I was a bit reluctant to make the pilgrimage to the neon Mecca, my dear 16-year old daughter couldn’t wait to be right in the midst of all the chaos.
Times Square has so many enticing attractions that it may be difficult to decide where to disperse your vacation budget. You could catch a Broadway show, visit Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, wander through the collection of Ripley’s Believe it or Not? Odditorium or play games at the huge Dave & Busters arcade.
All of those options would have been really cool when visiting Times Square with teens, but we opted to walk through the streets people watching, window shopping and gawking at the store displays while we searched for the Naked Cowboy. Granted it was kind of rainy and more than a tad bit cold, but my daughter was convinced she would find him. We did not.
We did find a few other characters to pose with, like this grumpy costumed Batman who wasn’t happy with the dollar bill that we tipped him.
Or the cookie monster that latched on to my daughter and started singing her a song. In her words… “Creepy. Eww.”
(Tip: Though I’d read that a dollar was acceptable, I’ve since learned that a buck is like a slap in the face- the characters really want a minimum of $5 to pose.)
We didn’t take the time to watch Mary Poppins, but my daughter sure thought it would be fun to pretend that she was her…for a few minutes anyway.
(Update- Toys R Us no longer has their store in Times Square which is unfortunate)
The huge multi-level Toys R Us was amazing and even has a Ferris wheel inside the store. If you think you’re too old to visit Toys R Us, think again! From the animatronics dinosaur to the huge Lego display showcasing some of New York City’s most beloved landmarks, a trip to Toys R Us should be on everyone’s list of places to see.
Toys R Us also offered fun photo ops around every corner. We rushed from one amazing display to another, happily snapping pictures and posing at various displays throughout the store.
My daughter even forced me to pose for a picture or two. You know, because teens can’t have all the fun!
Tips for Exploring Times Square with Teens
1. Times Square is busy, busy, busy and it wouldn’t be too difficult to get separated from your child. Have a plan in place in advance, in case the unthinkable were to happen.
You could meet at a certain store, or at your hotel, but since it’s easy to get turned around in Times Square, I directed my daughter to stand at the nearest crosswalk, call me and tell me what intersection she was at and wait, in the event that we were separated. (I was equipped with a map and my Smartphone so I was sure I could find her).
2. If you’re staying over night in the city, book a hotel in the heart of Times Square.
Our hotel was only a few short blocks from the heart of Times Square and it was amazing, but next time around, it would be nice to stay smack in the thick of things.
3. Depending on the age of your child and where you live, you should plan to offer supervision.
I really would never turn my kids loose in Times Square. Not my daughter anyway. My boys are older and at 19 and going on 18, they’re another story. I can envision them complaining a bit if they weren’t allowed to explore on their own.
If your children are older and you do allow them to strike out on their own, you may want to have some clear boundaries in advance of where they can go and what time you expect them to meet you.
There are also elements in Times Square that are not family-friendly but there is so much going on that it’s easy to overlook the negative.
4. Don’t miss out on Times Square because you’ve already spent your travel budget elsewhere in NYC. As I’ve mentioned, there is plenty to see without spending money.
5. Make sure your teen has some spending money.
My daughter didn’t spend any money on our trip until we ventured into Times Square.
She’d been dying to pick up an “I love New York” t-shirt and picked one up for under $10 from one of the many souvenir shops in Times Square.
6. Make sure you have your camera handy and a full memory card.
You will want to take LOTS of pictures of the things that you see.
7. Have fun with your teen and make memories.
My daughter and I had a blast. I may have felt funny striking a funny pose in Toys R Us, or with Morgan Freeman but hey, that’s what memories are made of. Have fun!
8. While nighttime is certainly optimal for the full “Times Square” effect, don’t miss an opportunity to visit during the day. It’s still pretty awe inspiring.
Have you been to Times Square with teens? What made your experience memorable?
Other posts about New York City:
© 2012 – 2016, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.