Local Tip: What Tweens Like in New York City
More about NYC for tweens and everyone else in our At a Glance Section.
A few years ago, I decided it would be a brilliant idea to bring each of my husband’s three young nieces to New York City for a week when they became tweens to give them a taste of art and culture. I had visions of nourishing their young souls with the splendors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Philharmonic. We would excite their curiosity at the National History Museum. We’d open their eyes to the subtler pleasures available when you simply look around during walking tours of the West Village. Culinary horizons would be also expanded at little neighborhood eateries and ethnic holes in the wall.
Two tweens into the experiment, I’ve learned a few things. Age 12 is a tad young to expect rapt attention to a lesson (albeit one aimed at kids) on perspective in art. It’s also a bit much to expect a kid raised on macaroni and cheese to dive into a plate of pasta with squid ink.
We fell back on the razzle-dazzle power of the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum and caved in to clamoring to visit the giant retail stores, which were big hits. Thank you, Walt Disney and American Girl. Here’s how a few other classic New York tourist attractions rate on the tween-o-meter.
• Coney Island: A big hit with both, especially the Cyclone roller coaster. Be aware, the amusement parks charge by the ride and it adds up quickly. Consider picking one and buying an unlimited bracelet. Nathan’s is a must for hot dogs and crinkly fries served with a tiny red pitchfork. The right kid will love the Freak Show just off the board walk.
• The Met: Doable in small doses. Be wary of kid-programs with too big of an age range. Niece #1 grew bored listening to 4-year-olds excitedly answer basic questions during a workshop. Try the sculptures (Greek and Rodin) and period furniture rooms in the American Wing. The Temple of Dendur in the Egyptian wing was a hit with both girls. The Art Trek tour guides do a good job of engaging older and younger kids.
• Architectural walking tours. In the West Village with Niece #1 we got as far as Magnolia Bakery, where cupcakes won out over tales about notable townhouses and churches. Relegated to the “what were we thinking” file.
• Double-decker bus tour: Hop-on, hop-off all day long. Perfect for when the kids get pooped. There are two loops, downtown and uptown. Neither kid asked to get off at any of the Uptown sites like Grant’s Tomb, Columbia University and Harlem. We stopped quite a bit on the downtown loop.
• Empire State Building: A must-see that thrilled both. Ignore all the hucksters outside. Don’t forget your camera to catch that very rare site: Tweens smiling.
• Note: The NYC CityPass includes admission to the Empire State, the Met and many other attractions. There are two passes for shorter or longer stays. If you make the most of them, can can offer very good value.
Elizabeth Wine is a freelance writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered everything from travel and interior design to real estate. Her work has appeared in More, the New York Post, Newsday, Interior Design, Smart Money and The Wall Street Journal’s RealEstateJournal.com.