Part 3 of our guide to sightseeing in New York City for parents and teens. Here’s the lowdown on our favourite places to eat in NYC with teenagers, a hip boutique hotel in Lower Manhattan and tips on getting around and choosing a New York sightseeing pass.
Who went, where and when: My sons, Nick 18, Ed 16, and I flew from London Heathrow to JFK with British Airways in July 2015. We stayed at the Sohotel in Lower Manhattan. Post updated April 2018.
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Great eats with teenagers in NYC
Thanks to recommendations we ate well. Here are the places we’d go to again – and again. Most are in SoHo and NoLIta, others we came across when we were out sightseeing. Try these spots next time you’re in New York with teenagers.
The Cupping Room Café
Cool, roomy, comfy, this is a place to spend a long leisurely brunch. On our visit Serena Williams was winning the Wimbledon finals on a big screen – with sound discreetly turned off and subtitles on.
We loved: the classic American menu: wondrous pancakes and French toast with perfect berries and little jugs of maple syrup on the side. 359 West Broadway
Just down the road from our hotel the newly opened Seamore’s was packed with a hip young clientele enjoying the locally sourced seafood. No reservations here but we persevered and finally got a table thanks to the helpful wait staff.
We loved: the Reel Deal – choose fish from the daily menu and match it with a sauce. Tile fish was delicious with coconut cumin and with the salsa verde. The owner, Michael, stopped by for a chat: he’s already famous in NYC for The Meatball Shop chain – we’d have gone there too if we’d had time. Great for older teens, try between 5 and 6pm when it’s easier to get a table. 390 Broome Street, corner of Mulberry.
For our Top 10 Sights in NYC with Teens Part 1: from the Statue of Liberty to the Yankee Stadium click here
For our favourite Top 5 Sights in NYC with Teens: The Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock and other sightseeing essentials click here for more
Update 2018: Sadly Brinkley’s is now closed. A gastropub which promises ‘proper food’ – and comes up with the goods. Choose from hand-cut, sweet potato or waffle fries with your order and add avocado as an extra.
We loved: grilled chicken and avocado sandwich, eggplant and chickpea burger. And the cheerful service: this aspect really struck the boys who, up until this trip, hadn’t come across waiters with such a level of commitment. The bottomless glass of Coke was some compensation for the fact that alcohol is not served to under 21s in NYC.
406 Broome Street, corner of Broome and Centre.
Old school NYC deli made globally famous by When Harry Met Sally (yes, you can sit at the table used in ‘that’ scene). But actually Katz would be a cult destination without Meg Ryan. It’s all about the pastrami and rye. And the bagels no doubt, and the salami (company slogan: Send a Salami to your Boy in the Army). NB you need teenage carnivores for this one, it is no place for vegetarians.
Take a ticket at the door, go up to the long counter and locate the pastrami man. He hands you a taster titbit with mustard on a dish, then slices a mountainous pile, just for you, layers it all up between two large slices of bread, adds a side garnish of giant pickles and there’s your sandwich. We shared one between two for breakfast but it could have fed all three of us. I need hardly add that it tasted sublime.
We also sampled a chili hot dog – a slightly more manageable size for one. I’d been warned there can be long queues – we went at around 9 in the morning and it was quite quiet.
We loved: it all – but bear in mind this is an old-school deli experience! 205 East Houston Street, corner of Hudson Street.
The Grey Dog
So colourful, cosy and photo-ready it felt like walking onto a film location. No surprises then when we got home to London, switched on the TV and spotted a Grey Dog starring in a scene from the BBC thriller series Odyssey.
We loved: Mexican hot chocolate, pancakes. 244 Mulberry Street and branches.
Balthazar’s has a grand Parisian feel with lots of brass and mirrored glass and wine bottles. There’s a French-style bistro menu – its not particularly cheap but we stopped by for a quick weekend breakfast.
We loved: the iced cappuccinos. To be honest, by European standards the breakfast pastries were average, but the setting made up for it. Fun to pop into. 80 Spring Street, between Broadway and Crosby
The Italian restaurant on our hotel doorstep. Organic ingredients, brick oven, thin-crust pizzas and cool on a hot evening as it opens up onto the street. What’s not to like? Just what was required after a long and busy day.
We loved: the excellent thin crust pizzas 351 Broome Street
The Butcher’s Daughter
Our first taste of the city, a few minutes from the hotel, serving locally sourced vegetarian produce including many esoteric juices.
We loved: boiled eggs and soldiers and a brilliantly seasoned smashed avocado on toast for breakfast. 19 Kenmare Street, corner of Elizabeth Street
Tacombi Café El Presidente
This branch is in the Flatiron district but there’s also Fonda Nolita on Elizabeth Street as well as a couple of other outposts.
We loved: the mandatory guacamole with homemade totopos (highly superior corn chips) and the tacos, allow a couple each to start with, you can always order more. 30 West 24th Street
Red Hook Lobster Pound food stall
A staple at the Brooklyn Flea and famous around the city.
We loved: the lobster rolls of course – this is a world away from the traditional British burger van. You can also track down the BigRed truck when you visit NYC, check their twitter feed @lobstertruckny for a daily location update.
Bubby’s High Line
Before tackling the High Line stop off at Bubby’s across the street: ‘All Ice Cream is Made In House…. Real Ingredients, No Funny Stuff’.
We loved: Fresh blueberry pie with ice cream on the side. Bubby’s serves diner-style food all day and has a take-out window too. It’s reviving the almost lost art of the soda fountain for classic shakes and sundaes – but we were too busy dreaming of gathering the 8 or 10 people required to order The Kitchen Sink: 16 scoops of ice cream, eight different toppings, whipped cream and a cherry on top. And an American flag. 73 Gansevoort Street on the corner of Washington
Given that our hotel is on the doorstep of Little Italy, a big cluster of traditional Italianate eateries around Mulberry Street, we thought we should take a look. There are plenty of souvenir shops there too if you want a bath duck dressed like the Statue of Liberty (I did) but the proximity of this kind of shopping might have told us something about the food. We picked a restaurant at random one night and it was the only meal of the trip with less than excellent service and no proper air-conditioning. The platefuls of food were as expected – red sauce – but it was also one of our most expensive meals. Perhaps we were just unlucky.
Friendly affordable boutique hotel, NYC
The Sohotel, New York
I searched online for a hotel room or family suite with three beds and free wi-fi. I wanted it to be in an interesting part of town but not too noisy. This proved a tall order – several hotels offered a two-bed room with an additional roll-out bed but when pressed couldn’t confirm availability. Then I heard that friends of a friend had stayed at the Sohotel with three teenagers. We booked it straightaway.
The Sohotel location, the Bowery in SoHo, was perfect for us. There are lots of things to see and places to eat in SoHo with wonderful shops just a stroll away.
The Sohotel is low built; there isn’t a lift but we were on the 2nd floor – reception level – so that wasn’t a problem. The street is fairly quiet by NY standards and any noise was effectively masked by the gentle whirr of the air-conditioning unit…. In fact we all slept very well.
Animal striped armchairs, bright colours and exposed brick walls give a SoHo vibe, whilst Latin sounds play softly in reception and the 24 hour staff are charming and helpful. There’s no mini-bar, room service or breakfast included but wi-fi is free and tea and coffee, also free, is available in reception along with some discreet vending machines for drinks and snacks. And anyway, half the fun of breakfast in NYC is going out to look for it. An iMac for guests’ use is poised in the corner for flight bookings, reservations etc.
Our spotlessly clean room had two US queen-sized beds and one twin bed: they were super-comfy and faced the wall-hung TV. There isn’t a lot of room for manoeuvre and industrial-chic coathanger rails stand in for a wardrobe but the bedside tables had good storage. The bathroom was a masterpiece in tiny-space design, the C.O. Bigelow potions smelt terrific.
We’d definitely stay here again. Sohotel, 341 Broome Street, click here for more info on Booking.com
For a selection of hotels and apartments in NYC from Booking.com, click here. You can set the filters you prefer then scroll through images, descriptions and reviews to find the accommodation that suits you best.
By foot – lots to see and easy to navigate thanks to Manhattan’s grid system. But – it is hot in July and we were on a fairly tight schedule with a lot of ground to cover. So a subway pass was essential.
Subway We bought weekly unlimited Metrocards to use on the subway, it was $30 for 7 days. A one-off ride is $2.75, less if purchased in multiples. The cards worked out to be a good buy for us as we hopped on and off the subway several times a day. Swipe each time you enter at the turnstiles and that’s it. Actually buying them posed a bit of a problem so the following is useful to know: at the time of our visit, to buy from the booking office we had to pay in cash. To use a foreign credit card in the automated ticket machine we needed to enter 99999 as the zip code to indicate we were using an international card.
New York Sightseeing pass
We quickly realised we should buy New York sightseeing passes to gain discounted entry to attractions. I hadn’t planned this ahead and we chose ours in a hurry – poring over a phone at lunch just before heading to the 9/11 Memorial. It wasn’t the most methodical of ways to go about it but luckily the pass we chose worked well for us. We picked the New York CityPASS but there are several to choose from.
Is the New York CityPASS worth it?
This is the selection of attractions offered by the New York CityPASS:
- The Empire State Building
- American Museum of Natural History
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Top of the Rock Observation Deck or Guggenheim museum
- Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island or Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises
- 9/11 Memorial and Museum or Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum
We were keen to visit both the Empire State Building and Top of the Rock, read more here. Given the choice we might have preferred the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Otherwise we were very happy with the selection.
Be aware that at least two of the attractions on offer in these passes are museums with a ‘suggested admission fee’ policy – the American Museum of Natural History and the Met. We visited both and I can’t say there was conspicuous encouragement to pay less than the recommended fee at the turnstiles – and anyway you may not wish to – I’m just mentioning it for clarity. Our pass didn’t iron out all the queueing at the attractions but it certainly helped.
If you don’t have time for six attractions CityPASS also offer the C3 Pass, with discounts on three out of ten of the above list plus Hornblower Sightseeing Cruises.
So was the New York CityPASS worth it? There isn’t a straightforward answer – the only way to be sure is to do the sums in advance and calculate how many attractions you and your family are likely to visit. Then you can compare the discounts offered by the passes with the individual entry prices at the attractions, factoring in the significant skip-the-line benefits too. Ultimately it’s an individual decision and every family is different. But I can advise that it’s a good idea to do this bit of research before you set off on your trip!
The New York City Explorer Pass is an alternative which offers more than 60 attractions and tours with Passes for 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 attractions. I haven’t tried this pass but you can read more about it here.
New York with teenagers
READ THIS NEXT:
Our Top 10 sights for parents and teens in NYC Part 1 From the Statue of Liberty to the Yankee Stadium, the sights we loved best – click here for more
Our Top 5 must-see sights for teens in New York City Part 2 For Empire State Building vs Top of the Rock and other sightseeing essentials – click here
Photos by Nancy and family, all rights reserved. Photos may not be reproduced without prior written consent.