10 Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas

A trip to New York with teens is one of those holidays that requires a lot of planning! We spent a fabulous five days in the Big Apple over Christmas with our three tween/teen daughters. So, to save you a bit of time, here are my 10 things to do in New York with teens at Christmas – just in case you are planning your own trip!

Why take teens to New York at all?

Taking three teens to New York is not a cheap option but there are some compelling reasons for delaying your New York trip until your kids are a bit older.


  1. They want to go. Older teens do not have to go on holiday, they could feasibly be left at home. However, ours actively wanted to visit New York. They’d seen it in films, looked at pictures of it on social media and it is generally regarded as a cool destination for a short break by IG influencers. Job done!
  2. They like the shopping. New York is not the bargain-hunter’s paradise that it was when the pound was stronger against the dollar but there are still iconic stores to visit and some good deals to be had.
  3. They appreciate the sights. Young children are not going to be so interested in the 9/11 memorial or care very much about the view from the Empire State Building.
  4. It looks good on IG. If you can’t take an IG worthy picture in New York at Christmas then you have lost the right to call yourself an adolescent.
  5. They can cope with the walking. We walked everywhere and clocked up loads of steps. There are several advantages to this. Firstly, it is free. Secondly, you get to experience being out and about in New York and you get to see more than you do on the subway or in a cab.
  6. They will remember they’ve been there! I’m unlikely to ever visit New York again with all my kids so they’d better damn well remember it! It took a lot of effort to arrange.


10 Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas

We visited New York between 22nd and 27th December and so we experienced the height of the Christmas festivities. The advantage of visiting at this time of year is that the tourist sites and the roads are quiet for much of your stay and the accommodation is reasonably priced.

The airfares, however, may be more expensive because it is a popular time to travel and obviously the shops can get very crowded. As for the weather…well we were fortunate that it was not too cold during our stay.  When it gets cold in New York it gets VERY cold and we escaped the major freeze that took place in early January 2018.

Nevertheless, it was very chilly and I was glad of my hat, scarf, boots and thermals. Teens are notorious for being under-dressed and unwilling to wear a coat as my fellow blogger Everyone’s Buck Stops Here pointed out in this hilarious post which I thought about many times when I was there!

If they dress like that in New York they will actually get hypothermia so on this one occasion you have the right to over rule their opinions and dictate what clothes they take. They will thank you for it when you get there!

So, here’s  our top 10 things to do in New York with teens at Christmas

#1 Stay in a mid-range hotel in Midtown Manhattan

Going on holidays with teens is not cheap and so compromises have to be made. We opted for a mid-range hotel that was close to all of the things that we wanted to visit. It was called the Tryp by Wyndham. We could get to most things on foot and only resorted to the subway once. The hotel was clean and lovely and warm. There are 5 of us and we booked a large family room which had two bathrooms. Very useful when you have three daughters.

#2 Day 1 – Hop on Hop off bus

I opted to buy us New York Explorer Passes from Attraction Tickets (https://www.attraction-tickets-direct.co.uk/new-york-attraction-tickets/new-york-multi-attraction-passes/explorer-pass) which gives you 5 attractions for £95 (£68 for our 12 year old) and I used one of my credits for the Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus New York: Classic Tour 1-Day Tour which took us downtown to the 9/11 museum and memorial.

This proved a cost-effective way of seeing the main attractions and I avoided a few (albeit small) queues which is vital when you are on a tight schedule. I can imagine that at the height of the tourist season they would be invaluable. Spending your first day on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a good way to familiarise yourself with the layout of the streets and get a mental picture of where everything is.

The grid layout of avenues and streets is easy to navigate once you get the hang of it. There are seats upstairs and downstairs and you get a free waterproof poncho if it rains and ear phones so that you can listen to the commentary which is excellent.

#3 Day 1 – 9/11 memorial and museum

Day 1 was spent in a reflective mood as we visited the 9/11 museum and then went outside to the memorial which is close by. This is both upsetting and interesting. Our teens are too young to remember the event taking place but the tragedy has shaped the world that they live in and they specifically asked to see it. It is an important part of the things to do in New York with teens at Christmas.

Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas art work at the 9/11 memorial


There is a lot to see. You need to set aside several hours and I recommend that you take a break for a coffee (or lunch) in the middle of your visit. I also recommend starting off with the information film ‘Facing Crisis: A Changed World’. This gives the background about what happened and lasts about 20 minutes. It sets the scene for the rest of the museum and memorial.

#4 Day 2 morning (Christmas Eve) – Central Park and The American Museum of Natural History


Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas

You can’t go to New York and not visit Central Park. We walked through it to get to the American Museum of Natural History. I have fond memories of watching Night at the Museum with the girls when they were younger and we wanted to approach the museum from the park just like the scenes from the film. The revolving doors are there too! Be warned, the museum opens at 10 but you can’t get a coffee until 11!

#5 Day 2 afternoon (Christmas Eve) Top of the Rock Observatory

Late afternoon on Christmas Eve seemed like the ideal time to go to the Top of the Rock Observatory. From the 70th floor open-air roof deck we watched the sun set over the city and the lights gradually turn on. Then we grabbed a hot chocolate and headed out with the crowds, past the ice-rink and to the huge Christmas tree. By now the city was practically at a standstill. My major challenge was trying not to lose a member of my family. The NYPD (which is represented by numerous officers) did a good job of keeping the traffic flowing but as pedestrians we got pretty squashed.

Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas view at dusk from Top of the Rock observatory

Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas view of Rockafellar centre lit up at night

#6 Day 3 morning (Christmas Day) – Empire State Building

After a quick breakfast we headed to the Empire State Building which has the windiest viewing platform I have ever been on! I actually lost control of my legs as soon as I lifted them up from the floor and we were all in stitches as we struggled to get back inside. While we were there, a young man proposed to his girlfriend on the 102nd floor. This prompted a round of applause from everyone on the viewing platform. Thank goodness she said yes!

Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas lobby of Empire State Building

Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas view from top of Empire State Building

#7 Day 3 lunch time (Christmas day) – O’Donoghue’s Irish Bar

This was a tricky one. We were quite keen to have a turkey dinner on Christmas Day. However, that is more widely available in the USA on Thanksgiving than on Christmas Day. The cost of some set menus in the better known restaurants and hotels was prohibitive. As all I had in the room was a coffee making machine (which I was finding a bit complex to use) and an iron, I was unlikely to be able to cook a traditional roast. It was time for some research! I found a reasonably priced offer at a charming Irish bar called O’Donoghue’s.

We were not disappointed. We enjoyed an excellent three course Christmas menu (including roast turkey) for $45 per head. With half a pint of Guinness and a rendition of ‘Fairy-tale of New York’ it was as close to perfect as you can get. It earned its place in my  top 10 things to do in New York with teens at Christmas.

#8 Day 3 evening (Christmas Day) School of Rock musical on Broadway

This was absolutely outstanding. It was funny and moving with fantastic songs delivered by hugely talented young musicians. All five of us were spell bound from the moment the curtain lifted until the final actor left the stage. If you ever get the chance to see it – do so! You won’t be disappointed. this is right at the top of the things to do in New York with teens at Christmas.

Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas view of School of Rock Musical on Broadway

#9 Day 4 (Boxing day) Cruise around the Statue of Liberty and up the East River

This was the coldest day of our trip and it was very chilly as we waited to embark our ferry on the Hudson river. Once aboard it was lovely and warm with plenty of coffee and hot chocolate to keep us going. We opted to stay below deck and out of the bitter wind so we could hear very little of the commentary. It was a crisp clear day and the views of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan were breath taking. This is certainly on my list of things to do in New York with teens at Christmas.


We walked back to our hotel past the gorgeous and very Christmassy Bryant Park to see the craft market and skating rink. The highlight of the evening, however, has got to go to the glorious Saks on 5th Avenue and their spectacular light and music show. A glorious way to end Boxing Day!


#10 Day 5 Shopping and departure

Shopping was highly likely to feature in a list of things to do in New York with teens at Christmas. It is not my favourite activity but I could hardly deny them could I? We had lunch at Chef Street in the cellar at Macy’s which was very tasty but a bit confusing. You choose your food and pay before you enter and then queue up at various counters to get your food.

Laden with bags we struggled back to the hotel to await our pick –up. We had organised a private transfer to the airport which I assumed would be the least stressful option. However, thanks to the infamous NY traffic, it turned up three quarters of an hour late. This led to a moderately stressful dash to JFK airport. Thank goodness we made it in time for our flight back to the UK!

So, there are my ideas for things to do in New York with teens at Christmas! Overall, I would highly recommend spending Christmas in NYC with your teens. I felt safe, the people were mostly friendly and there are police officers everywhere. Teens are fantastic company in a city like New York and their enthusiasm and energy is infectious. Be prepared for airport level security at the iconic buildings and loads and loads of walking.

It’s not a restful holiday! But I came home with heart full of wonderful memories that I will always treasure and an empty bank account!

If you are planning a get away with your teens this year you can save £15 on your stay by reserving your stay through Booking.com using this link.*

*This is an affiliate link. When you book using it we get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.

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  19 comments for “10 Things to do in New York with teens at Christmas

  1. January 15, 2018 at 3:48 am

    Wow, your 5-day trip seems really packed with activities. I like that you were able to visit historical landmarks. I like traveling with my teens too. Traveling lifts the spirit and gives renewed energy. I notice that in them. And lets them see the other parts of the world, their culture, foods, etc. We went to Cambodia last year. The Angkor Wat in Siem Reap was mystical. My teens were in awe of the ancient ruins. They recognized it from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie. We stay in budget hotels too whenever we travel and try local cuisine. My family has a penchant for museums, castles, temples, and ancient ruins. We hope to see The Great Wall of China or the pyramids in Egypt next, if the budget permits.
    Dawn recently posted…How Do I Discourage My Teen From Keeping Secrets?My Profile

  2. January 16, 2018 at 10:14 am

    I have never visited New York, nor have I got teenagers ( they are grown. Now) but after reading this, I just have to go there sooner rather than later #teenstweensandbeyond@_karendennis
    Karen, the next best thing to mummy recently posted…Give teenagers a chance!My Profile

  3. January 16, 2018 at 11:44 am

    To spend Christmas in NYC is my dream – fingers crossed it will happen one year! #TweensTeensBeyond
    Celine Bell recently posted…When parenting makes the bed go cold – why shagging and parenting don’t mixMy Profile

  4. January 16, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    The last time I visited New York was when I was a newly wed. Such fun it was and I have a pic with the World Trade Center in the background. Would love to go again with the kids now. I am sure they will enjoy all the landmarks — Times Square, Empire State Bldg., Statue of Liberty, WTC Memorial etc. What a beautiful city NY is! And the folks are so well dressed. 🙂

  5. January 16, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    Christmas day sounds perfect, although I was wondering what you could cook on an iron and in a kettle, noodles and toast? we took 4 kids to Vegas, they were 18, 15, 11 and 7, best holiday of their lives and lots of walking and piggy backs for the youngest Christmas in New York is on my wish list #tweenteensbeyond
    chickenruby recently posted…Assisting a School leaver into workMy Profile

  6. January 16, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    I visited a year ago this fall with girlfriends (we saw Hamilton!!) and it was very fun. I could see where my kids would soak it up when they are a bit older. I’ve never been at Christmas time and would love to see it then.

    Katy recently posted…In Defense of Being 11 Years OldMy Profile

  7. January 16, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Oh I was looking forward to hearing about your trip! My daughter went before Christmas and did many of the things you did. It looks amazing and as you say, a brilliant place to take teenagers. I’ve never been so would love to go! Thanks for the post. #tweensteensbeyond
    Sophie recently posted…How to Maximise Space When You Can’t Upsize.My Profile

  8. January 17, 2018 at 2:05 am

    I love the proposal story and wow it must have been windy I think I would have been terrified my children would blow away lol. I still remember 9/11 so vividly, even though I am far away in Australia it really did change the world as we knew it, I can not even begin to imagine how devastating it must have been for New Yorkers! I would love to visit New York and love to take my children, but I do honk my two youngest are still too young as I would want them to remember it and really appreciate the history. Fantastic post!! i love also that you could book a large room, so many Hotels don’t seem to cater well for having 3 children. #tweensteensbeyond
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…girls are more than future wives and mothersMy Profile

  9. January 18, 2018 at 1:39 am

    Sounds like you all had a fab time. It’s not my kind of holiday (I’d rather be hiking over a soggy moor) but I can imagine my youngest wanting to go before very long – fortunately she can take herself now 🙂 #tweensteensbeyond
    Mary Mayfield recently posted…Last Day of Christmas at ChatsworthMy Profile

  10. January 19, 2018 at 2:17 pm

    I actually haven’t been to New York myself yet. I have driven through it but haven’t had the pleasure of visiting. I hear Christmas in New York is one of the best sight seeing events to go to. I also have been wanting to take both of my kids to the 9/11 memorial. Maybe this year we will finally get to go:) #TweensTeensBeyond
    Michelle recently posted…Positive Thinking Improves Mental HealthMy Profile

  11. January 19, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Sharon reading this brought back many happy memories. We took ours a couple of years ago in the October half term and had the best time. As you say the key is to keep them engaged and there is not a shortage of things to do in NY. I loved all your pictures of the fabulous views. My eldest made the mistake of looking through the grill and down at the top of the Empire State Building and almost passed out. My advice to look ahead fell on deaf ears! Glad you got the turkey in too. A holiday you won’t forget that’s for sure and all those memories to hold dear. X

  12. January 22, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Ive really enjoyed hearing and seeing your pictures of your trip. New York is certainly on my list of places to visit…..might even take the kids when I tick that one after reading this #tweensteensbeyond
    daydreams of a mum recently posted…An evening at HOME ManchesterMy Profile

  13. January 25, 2018 at 10:42 am

    What a wonderful magical place to spend Christmas. I had to laugh at the fact that if you haven’t got a Christmas shot in NYC on IG then you’re can’t call yourself an adolescent! We’d love to take our three there one day but they’re not quite old enough to fully appreciate it yet I don’t think. #TweensTeensBeyond

  14. January 27, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Thanks for this Sharon, I am taking my teenage girls to NYC in July and was slightly concerned about the walking (and moaning!) plus didn’t know where to start with the site seeing. Useful information about the tourist tickets – I think they are probably well worth investing in. I’ll be bookmarking this for a few month’s time.

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