Bonding ideas with a 12 year old in NYC

City & Culture, Going Solo, North America, Tête-à-tête, U.S.A.

Trips connect us to people and places. I find that taking a child on a one-on-one trip is a wonderful and most effective bonding experience. It provides intimacy and lasting memories for both parent and child. Marcelo and I went to NYC  when he was 5. It was around Halloween, a very festive time to be there.  This past August, it was Ceki’s turn to take our American boy back to his hometown (yes, Marcelo was born in NYC but left when he was just 1). I put together the following list of ideas by neighbourhood, as it was bit daunting for Ceki to put together a program – the choices are endless in NYC. Some places below are well known and perhaps obvious to the New Yorkers reading this but hey, if you have any recommendations to make, please do in the comment section! 

graffiti tour in Brooklyn for a 12 year old boy

– A feast at old-school steakhouse Peter Luger, an institution (cash only)
– Walk in the Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood
– Pre-book a graffiti tour with Brooklyn Unplugged
– Walk along the Brooklyn heights promenade to take in the view over Manhattan
– Cross the Brooklyn bridge – by foot of course

crossing the brooklyn bridge day time

– Eat a Pastrami sandwich at Katz Deli (and maybe talk about that scene?!)
– Bagel & Lox breakfast at the (relatively new) cafe of (the very old institution) Russ and Daughters
– Talk about being an immigrant at the small but excellent Tenement museum
– Eat again! Dim sum in Chinatown, on Mott street or nearby
– Get a massage in one of those weird, cheap and fun places around Chinatown

legendary Kat'z deli in lower east side manhattan

– Eat again! the best burger at JG Mellon followed by cheesecake
– A jog around the reservoir in Central Park
– At the minimum, check out the inside of the Guggenheim museum. At best, view one of the exhibitions.

upper west side nyc view

– Visit the incredible planetarium at the Natural History museum
– A pay-as-you-like tour of Central Park passing by The Dakota where John Lennon was killed.

inside the world trade center

– Go listen to a gig at The Village Vanguard, one of my favorite jazz club in town (13 yo min)
– Or at the more famous (more formal too) Blue Note jazz club. This is a complete list of clubs in the city.
– Jog along the High Line from the West village up until Chelsea
– Have a virgin cocktail at the bar of the top floor of The Standard Hotel
– Talk about pop art at the Whitney Museum

NYC financial district skyline

– Observe the rush of lunch time inside the World Financial Center, or on Wall Street
– Take a minute of silence at the World Trade Center memorial and museum 
– Take pictures of the Statue of Liberty either using the super cheap trick of taking a regular boat to Staten island back and forth, or the touristy way i.e. buying tickets for Ellis Island.
– Brunch at Bubby’s for mac’n cheese? a bit of a Tribeca institution back in the days

boy posing in front of Brooklyn graffiti

– Feel on top of the world, on the open level of the Empire State building (buy tickets in advance)
– Have a burger at Shake shack’s original spot on Madison Park
– Or be adventurous, have a Korean meal and get into a Korean spa in Korea town (near Macy’s)!

– The legendary Blue Man Group still on Lafayette Street (only) after all those years
– Or Stomp, in the same kind of spirit
– Hamilton if you can get hold of decent tickets?
– Avenue Q? Jersey Boys?
– Catch an Opera at Lincoln Center (that’s grand!)
– Or a boxing match somewhere in the Bronx or in Queens
– Plenty of listings here
– Or an outdoor movie if the season is right
– Catch a movie at my old-time favourite (used to be around the corner from our house), Angelika cinema in Soho

boy and graffiti tour in Brooklyn NYC


– A helicopter ride over the city. That’s a humongous treat!

– An afternoon spent in Coney Island Luna Park, travel back and forth by subway and see Brooklyn passing by

– The Bronx zoo maybe, by subway, for an excuse to go up north?

– Or check out the program at Madison Square Garden

– Of course, if there’s a good basketball or baseball game in town, go for it.

– And why not a Gospel mass in Harlem on Sunday morning?

– If you can’t crash the sofa bed of friends in NYC, then maybe stay at the Ace Hotel for the cool skate / graft / music vibe?

posing in front of Biggie graffiti tour Brooklyn

And when you’re back home, make a photo album that both of you will treasure for life (we use bobbooks but if we lived in the US, i’d also use artifact uprising)

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