The plan was to pick my son up from college in Connecticut, take the train to NYC and enjoy a day and a half in the city before flying home. But mild panic ensued…what to do with your teen in NYC? You know how it is. You’ve gotta keep the interest going or you’ll lose them to their phone in a New York minute!

NYC Doesn’t Have to be Expensive.

Fortunately, there’s so much to do in NYC (that’s cheap or free) that you should never have a dull moment. We covered a lot of territory, eight miles on Saturday alone ensured my teen was cooked by the end of the day (so bring your walking shoes). Good news is all of the recommendations below have my 18-year old’s thumbs-up approval.

Eat at neighborhood restaurants.

Tourist attractions tend to be loud, expensive, and rarely good. We found a local Japanese restaurant our first night that was filled with folks winding down from the work week. Sushi Tsushima served up fresh fish, quick service and reasonable prices. We could even hear each other without yelling which is always a bonus in my book.

Use the Subway.

Next morning we loaded up our MTA cards and jumped on the number 7 subway to check out Hudson Yards. The Hudson Yards subway station itself is a marvel of clean, spacious modernity. Walk past the ubiquitous stalls selling buttons and felafel and you are greeted with a few architectural stunners, like this one. Vessel in the Public Square is super cool looking, but if you want to walk around on it get your tickets online in advance.

Vessel at Hudson Yards NYC

Vessel at Hudson Yards is Instagram-worthy

Hudson Yards is full of the usual suspects – fast fashion, some high end retailers, but there was one shop that captured my teen’s attention – b8ta. The shop exists to showcase the products of innovators who only have one item in production and need a place to connect with shoppers IRL. Each invention was accompanied by an iPad that explained the product and allowed you to buy it with a click. There were quite a few cool items at b8ta and my teen enjoyed browsing the shop.

b8ta is an interesting shop at Hudson Yards NYC

A shop a teen can love

Public art is free.

NYC is full of public art. So is Hudson Yards.This one invited the public to leave a message or draw a picture.  It’s worth walking through the building to check it all out. We also walked over to The Shed (part of the Hudson Yards complex) and saw a free exhibit there.

Interactive public art at Hudson Yards NYC

All ages get in on the action at this interactive wall

Next we tried Snark Park, which is billed as “a multi-faceted exhibition space that will house a series of immersive art installations”. At $17 a person I was expecting a pretty cool experience. It wasn’t nearly as large as we had expected and after about 15 minutes we were done. I think the current exhibit might be better suited to little kids who can get lost in the layers of fabric. We didn’t think it was worth the price but future exhibits might be.

Snark Park at Hudson Yards NYC

Now you see him, now you don’t

Eventually we got hungry. We wanted to try the Jose Andres’ Spanish Market but it didn’t open until 3 pm. So we went upstairs to Belcampo for the most expensive burgers and fries I have ever bought. But oh, those fries! We ordered the duck fat fries and the beef tallow fries. Fortunately for me, he liked the beef tallow best, because I loved those duck fat fries. Super crispy, full of flavor and salted just right. And if you feel the need to eat something healthy, the bone broth on tap is just the ticket.

Bone Broth on tap at Belcampo in Hudson Yards NYC

Never seen this before!

NYC is made for walking.

We took the subway uptown to 56th St. and headed to Central Park. It was one of those glorious spring days where everything is green, the tulips are in full bloom and everyone in NYC is outside walking around. We definitely worked off our high-calorie lunch as we headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Students attending college in NY, NJ and CT can pay what they want at the Met (and he let me as the parent do the same!).

My son and husband had recently visited the Met and participated in a Museum Hack tour called Un-Highlights @ the Met. He remembered it so well that he took me all over the museum and told me fascinating trivia about works of art. This “renegade tour” gave my son a very different experience of what a museum has to offer and he dug it.

We highly recommend SPYSCAPE.

Sunday morning was grey and wet and I needed to find something to do indoors pronto. I stumbled upon SPYSCAPE and it was a winner. We got the extra tickets for the current James Bond exhibition and, as big fans, it was a blast.

James Bond's Aston Martin DB5 at SPYSCAPE museum

Yes, this is the Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger and Spectre!

From the moment you step onto the elevator, which is as big as a room, you know you’re going to have fun. When you first check in they place an RFID wristband on your arm. As you go through the museum, you stop at electronic kiosks and answer questions about yourself, solve puzzles, work through encryption challenges and more. The displays cover spy craft from WWII through the present. When you finish the tour you enter a room that analyzes all the data it has collected on you and tells you what kind of spy you should be. The museum is completely immersive so it never gets boring. Perfect for teens.

There’s never a reason for a teen to be bored in NYC. We weren’t in the city very long, but we had a great time.

About Indra Gardiner Bowers

Indra Gardiner BowersIndra has been traveling since she was three months old. She hopes she never stops.