NYUpperWestNew York City can be daunting to families traveling with kids. Its size and pace can be overwhelming. And if you are traveling with teens, you face the added challenge of finding activities that pass their critical eye.

In this series of articles, we have put together itineraries around New York City for families traveling with teens. Chances are you will stay in Manhattan. But there’s much more to New York than Manhattan. This series offer day trips (easily undertaken if you happen to be staying in Brooklyn or New Jersey as well) that would please my teens and, we hope, yours too.

The Upper West Side

You’re traveling with teens, so you’ll want to start with sustenance.  Since you probably can’t rouse your teen before 10 a.m., head straight to Barney Greengrass, the Upper West Side icon that has been feeding generations of New Yorkers smoked fish for more than 100 years. The self-proclaimed ‘sturgeon king,’ Barney Greengrass has nova or its saltier cousin lox, scrambled with eggs or on a bagel, whitefish, smoked sable, pastrami salmon. No reservations, of course, so expect a wait.


541 Amsterdam Ave, between 86th and 87th Streets

Subway: take the 2 or 3 train to 72nd St, then walk across the platform for the 1 train to 86th St

Columbia University

Even if your teens are not Ivy League material, the Columbia campus is open to walk around (you can’t get in the buildings without an ID, but a parent with a teen is usually waved in by a current student).  Pick up a map for a self-guided tour in the Visitors Center, in Low Memorial Library, open Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm.

Subway : #1 to 116th St; by bus, M4, M5, M11 or M60, M104.

Walk a couple of blocks down to the magnificent Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine,112th St and Amsterdam Avenue. On a Saturday, take the Vertical Tour, where you climb up spiral staircases to the top of the world’s largest cathedral. The roof offers great views, and the tour lets you see the stained glass up close. For ages 12 and up; reserve at (212) 932-7347.Saturdays, noon and 2pm. If you are running late, take the tour before going to Columbia. There are other tours Tuesday –Saturdays, 11am 1pm and Sunday, 2pm. You also may spot a peacock walking around outside.

Subway: #1 from 1 from 110th Street / Cathedral Parkway

By this point, you will probably need a snack.

The Shake Shack is on Columbus and 77th Street. Frozen custard is the thing here, in thick shakes including an eco-conscious “Fair Shake” made with organic, fair trade coffee. If you are traveling with always hungry teen boys and looking for something more substantial, there are burgers, hot dogs and fries, and yummy portobella burger for vegetarians. If you are not ordering hot food, be sure to stand on the express line.

Subway : #1 to 79th Street.

Time to shop

By now, it should be late afternoon. Columbus Avenue has boutiques, including a Patgonia store at 80th Street and Berkeley Girl, for tween girls, between 79th and 80th. There is also a large outdoor flea market on weekends, at 77th Street. Broadway has a North Face store at 73rd Street, where the cool subway stop has a glass dome to allow light to filter down. Your teen will probably notice that some stops along the 1, 2 or 3 and the 4, 5, 6 have cell service.

Beatles fans should stroll over to the Dakota, a stunning apartment building on 72nd Street and Central Park West, where John Lennon lived and was shot. The Strawberry Fields memorial is just inside the park, at 71st and 74th Streets.  You often find a guitarist there, strumming ‘Imagine.’

7:30pm The American Museum of Natural History http://www.amnh.org/ has an alternative music show, SonicVision, some Fridays and Saturdays, at 7:30 and 8:30pm. If you teen is too cool for the planetarium show, this version with music by Coldplay, U2 and David Byrne and computer generated colorful graphics fits the bill. You can also see a bit of the Rose Center for Earth and Space while you wait, which may inspire your teen to see more of the museum. The museum has entrances on 79th St and Central Park West  and Columbus and 79th Street during the summer; for the planetarium show, enter on 81st Street between Columbus and CPW.

A late dinner

Walk over to Josie’s. http://www.josiesnyc.com/josie_west/josie_west.html , Amsterdam at 74th Street. The restaurant was one of New York City’s originators in the locavore movement, so it should please a virtuous teen, whether a meat eater or vegan. Organic grains, sustainable seafood and free range beef dominate, yet you can still indulge with warm chocolate pecan pie.

To return to your hotel, take the 1, 2, or 3 from 72nd Street. If your teen is still energetic, stop first at Lincoln Center with its newly redesigned plaza. It tends to draw crowds late at night and the Barnes and Noble across the street is open until midnight daily. The closest subway is the #1 at 66th Street.