I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Washington DC with each of my three girls when they were roughly 13 years old. These vacations were father-daughter getaways (see related post titled “Father – Son/Daughter Getaways“). Below is a collection of the notes I took during those three visits to share with other family members and friends. Double check any information that mentions when/how to get tickets or days/times the site is open. Things easily could have changed over the years.
Things That Don’t Cost Money:
- Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (5th ave between 50th and 51st streets) – you can walk inside (pretty amazing)
- Walk up 5th Ave – start in the Times Square or Midtown area and gander at all the high-end brands and even do a little window shopping. Fits nicely into the schedule after visiting St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
- Plaza Hotel (5th ave at 59th street) – walk through the lobby area. Fits nicely into the schedule after a walk up 5th Ave since it’s located where 5th Ave intersects Central Park.
- FAO Schwarz – It’s across the street from the Plaza Hotel and at the corner of Central Park (corner of 5th and 59th St). If you haven’t been there, it’s the most amazing toy store you’ll ever see in your life. The other cool thing is that from there you can walk through Central Park, if you want to.
- Central Park – it’s huge. If pressed for time, you can just walk to the Bethesda Fountain in the middle and then walk back or walk East to 5th Ave and catch a taxi to the next destination. If enough time, can walk deeper into Central Park and end up at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Metropolitan Museum of Art – it’s huge and may or may not be of interest to kids. Recommend getting online to jointly decide. Use to be free but then they started charging, if I remember correctly.
- Grand Central Station (Park Ave and 42nd) – walk around the various levels. You can also have lunch there. Kids might easily later see a scene from a TV show or movie filmed from the main area on the entry level floor.
- Times Square – best at night. Lots of street vendors and tons of people. Anything you buy on from the street vendors are fakes (purses, watches, etc), but there are some amazing deals if you just realize the quality isn’t very good. Walking along 42nd street is also amazing at night.
- Shopping in Soho – I put this in the “don’t cost money” but that only pertains to the walking and window shopping aspect. Teenage girls will love to tell their friends they went shopping in Soho and they will want to come back with one or more articles of clothing purchased there. The shops are mixed in price range but there are plenty in the mid-price range. Some cool local cafes and street vendors too.
- Take the N or R subway to Prince (corner of Prince & Broadway). Walk the area 3-4 blocks West and 1-2 blocks south.
- Saturday is a great day for this activity because there’s maximum street vendors out.
- Coney Island – It’s a half-day commitment but you can take the subway all the way there.
Things That Cost Money, But Not Too Much:
- NBC Studio Tour (50th Street in Rockefeller Center) – get tickets ahead of time at www.shopnbc.com
- Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Ctr) – The lines for the Empire State Building are crazy, especially since the original World Trade Center buildings are no longer in existence. Instead, try the Top of the Rock (Rockefeller Ctr). The views are just as good and it’s almost as high as the Empire State Bldg but the waits are much shorter and you can book specific tour times online.
- Empire State Building (around 32nd street) – if you decide to do this tour, get tickets ahead of time at www.esbnyc.com
- I think you still must stand in line, but not as long of a line as people without tickets. Both lines can be long any day of the week. Sunday at 9:00am is best. The ticket allows you to go to the observation deck at the very top and see the entire city. But prepare for lines both outside and inside the building.
- Radio City Music Hall – not a long time commitment but a pretty cool back-stage tour and at the end you get to spend 10 min with a current Rockette that says a few things and then takes photos with the guests. To get tickets, don’t wait in the line at the main entrance to Radio City Music Hall. Instead, you first get your tickets at the Souvenir shop next door. Double check this online to make sure it’s still the procedure.
- Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum – If staying in Times Square (highly recommended if it’s within your budget) and you find yourself with a 2 hour gap of time and not sure what to do, it’s a great gap filler. Tons of wax figures of famous movie stars, musicians, super heroes, etc. The kids will love getting their pictures taken beside them. It’s not super cheap for the amount of time you actually spend there but, again, a pretty good gap filler.
- Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Tours – The ferries take off from Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan. They go in cycles that include both the Statue island and Ellis island, which allows you to decide how much time you want to spend at each place (or even just visit one place). This activity consumes a full half-day, so plan accordingly.
- The process for getting tickets and the procedures for visiting the statue vary from time to time, so do some research online. At times you have options to visit just the island versus inside the statue base versus all the way up to the crown.
- The lines can get really hairy, not just at the ferry landing but also at the base of the statue (to get inside). The earliest 2-3 ferry rides are usually the best option and if they run on Sunday it might make for a good Sunday activity.
- Going all the way up to the Liberty crown is pretty cool but the walk up the internal stairs takes about 1 hour (after the line to get inside the statue) and when you get to the top you only get about 45 seconds to look through the handful of windows and take a couple of pics.
- If you’re going on during a holiday period, you might need to book the Crown tour online as much as 5-6 months in advance.
- Ticket holders with Crown tour tickets get to bypass the security line on Liberty island, which can save 30-60 minutes.
If You Want to Spend Money:
- Broadway shows – How could you go to NYC and not see at least one Broadway show?
- Get a drink in the Rainbow Room bar at night. It’s at the top of Rockefeller Plaza, overlooking Times Square and Lower Manhattan with a fabulous night time view. Drinks are very expensive there, and there is a dress code. If a teenager with you, this could make for a good activity immediately prior to going to dinner within walking distance of Rockefeller Plaza.
- Take one of the dinner cruises around Manhattan Island. I can’t remember which cruise line I used, but there are 3-4 of them. It’s an awesome way to see the island and the Statue of Liberty. It’s mostly couples and adult parties that take these dinner cruises, so I’m not sure how fun it would be for a teenager with a parent. Views are awesome.