NYC for a Not-Cool-Anymore Dad and His Daughter
March 14, 2013 9:52 PM   Subscribe

Really excited to bring my daughter to NYC for her first time next weekend. I haven't been for a few years and never with one of my kids (she's 15) so this trip poses some new challenges. I want her to have a blast, as I have every time I've been there, so I thought I'd see if anyone had any suggestions. Oh, and we get along great and she's awesome and I love her!

I'd be happy just walking around; going to book stores and record stores and catching a few bands, but this is her trip and I want her to love it. I'm not sure how much I should plan ahead. Also we are on a bit of a budget.
We're going to walk all over the place, and for sure do the MOMA and Guggenheim, but aside from that we're open. We'll probably do a touristy Empire State Building kind of thing at some point.
I'm not really a theatre person, but I thought it might be cool for her to see something...I'd heard Book of Mormon was good so I looked into that and of course it's the most popular thing ever with huge waiting lists so I guess that's out. I know they do a daily lottery so maybe we'll try that. Is that TCKTS booth in Times Square still a thing that people do?
She'd love to see a TV show taping, I'm sure, but SNL and everything else I've looked into have a minimum age of 16.
Aside from concerts, is there any smallish place where a 15 year old can see bands? In Toronto it's pretty much if a place has food, you can get in if you're under 19 and sometimes bars have all-ages things in the day.
I don't even know where to go anymore for cool stuff, clothes-wise. I'm so old. I was just going to walk around St. Marks Place, that kind of thing. Is that even a thing anymore? She's very particular and hates shopping for clothes (as do I) but I know she'd be happy to come home with a unique find.
Any tips on cool, smallish, local, not extremely expensive or touristy places to eat would be awesome. We can splurge a bit on dinner a few times, if there's somewhere awesome. We're staying at the Gild Hall, downtown, Wall St.-ish.
That's all I can think of. Thanks!
posted by chococat to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (34 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Take the 7 train to Flushing for cheap food and a unique experience, like a Chinatown on steroids.

Definitely get rush tickets to a show - Book of Mormon will be impossible but I walked down to Bengal Tiger after trying and found they had less people than tickets, so keep trying.

Go see the Cloisters, Brooklyn, and pizza. Walk Central Park. Let things happen from there!
posted by kcm at 9:59 PM on March 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Does she watch Project Runway at all? Is she crafty? (Is someone she loves crafty? Does she need new curtains or whatever?) Take her to Mood! It's three full stories of all sorts of amazing stuff, and there's a wee little pooch named Swatch running around. Definitely puts you in the frame of mind of people who shop there every day, instead of just as part of a reality show setup.
posted by Madamina at 10:13 PM on March 14, 2013 [6 favorites]

And if she's cool with a low-key restaurant, try La Boite en Bois. My brother recommended it to me, and it was tasty and pretty charming. It's below street level and gives you the sense of a neighborhood spot that's been there forever.
posted by Madamina at 10:16 PM on March 14, 2013

Don't underestimate the amazingness of Times Square, the Empire State Building, and anything else she may have seen on tv. It can be super exciting to see that stuff for the first time, and thank god she's not old enough to be jaded by stuff like that, most likely. (Ie. my 16 year old cousin from Vancouver was thrilled to see the muchmusic building in Toronto after watching it on tv for ages.)

And yes, the tkts booth is totally still a thing. But also, Internet resellers and promo codes are now a thing too, and may be worth not standing in the tkts lineup.

Go to Balthazar to eat, lots of celebrity sightings seem to happen there, and even tho there probably won't be anyone there at the time, just knowing she's at the same place as famous people go to is exciting. Also they have good food.

Overall, I'd say: this is not the time to be cool and go off the beaten path. This should be the 'Top ten things in NYC' trip, that will satisfy her desire to see things she's heard about, seen in the media, and will get asked about by friends when she gets home.
posted by Kololo at 11:15 PM on March 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you are in the Flatiron district there's Eisenbergs for an eggcream and lunch. She may like the Neo-Futurists' "30 plays in 60 minutes"
posted by Sophont at 11:39 PM on March 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Seconding the Cloisters (part of the Met now). But don't forget the Museum of Natural History. I could spend all day there. For several days.

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge is pretty awesome, especially if you've read up on its history even a little. People watching on the subway. Then doing the same thing walking around the financial district. Getting lost in Penn Station. Taking the boat tour around Manhattan if you've got time. Gawking at Rockefeller Center. Buying weird fruit from a street vendor in Chinatown. Trying to get a taxi at 4 p.m.

Ethnic food of every description.
posted by wjm at 3:10 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I asked my kids (21, 19 and 15) what they recommend and in no particular order:

Definitely get tickets to a show. If either one of you is an Edie Falco fan...
Walk around Washington Square Park, maybe you'll catch Billy on the Street.
Once in that area, you can check into the Soho/Balthazar area (yes, a fair amount of celebrities but really expensive and even though Bobby Flay says Balthazar has the best French fries in the world, they're not). Instead, eat at BAREBURGER!!!!
Again, in that NYU-ish area, you'd be crazy to not stop at Forbidden Planet, an excellent comic book store.
If you're in midtown (TImes Square area) and yes, you should definitely let her see TImes Square, then go to Midtown Comics.
(My son is yelling here, "They have to go to Times Square!)
I'll leave other food recommendations to others except, obviously get some pizza. We like Grimaldi's.
For delicious, fresh and inexpensive falafel and gigantic servings of salads and delicious freshness, find a Maoz.

My son is saying if you don't go to a comic book store, Bareburger, Maoz, hang around in Central Park and check out MOMA, you'll be sorry.

My daughters say if you have the time, definitely do the Cloisters, but not if you're only there for a few days. Also, she says you're near the South Street Seaport. Touristy, yes, but pretty.
posted by kinetic at 3:51 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Temple of Dendur

Which goes along with a visit to the Met (entrannce is donation only, very inexpensive!) and a tour or Central Park (because you are there, anyway.)
posted by jbenben at 4:00 AM on March 15, 2013

What does your daughter like to do in general?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 AM on March 15, 2013

I am similarly "not 15 anymore" (I won't say old), and to make it worse I have no daughter, only a son. If you tell us what sort of thing your daughter likes to wear, we can make better recommendations for that kind of shopping.

I was in NY last Saturday, just for the day - I really wanted to see the Matisse exhibit at the Met before they pull it down this weekend. If I could have spent another day or so, I would have gone to Pearl River Mart, taken the Roosevelt Island Tram (I've done that a few times and it just doesn't get old), had dinner at Mandoo Bar (ok, we had lunch there, but I've been known to go twice in a weekend), hit up Kinokuniya Bookstore, and visited Satya Jewelry and The Center for Book Arts.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:50 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think UCB theater is all ages, for some world-class improv (might be some rated-R material though, if you're cool with watching that stuff with your daughter).
posted by windbox at 5:09 AM on March 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Depending on whether she'd be in to it and whether or not you trust her, the most fun thing for her to do might just be wandering around alone for a day.
posted by saladin at 5:12 AM on March 15, 2013

If she's into art, I would spend some time wandering around the art galleries in Chelsea. They're free, and you can always find something new and interesting. Take her to Williamsburg for shopping-plenty of vintage stores, boutiques, and decent thrifts. While you're there, see if you can find a showpaper. Lots of all-ages rock, indie, punk shows, if she's into that.
posted by dysh at 5:34 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't know if it's her style, but if you're looking to clothes-shop around St. Marks, are you planning to go to Trash and Vaudeville?
posted by troywestfield at 6:07 AM on March 15, 2013

Brooklyn has a slightly younger vibe than Manhattan, if you think your daughter would value seeing less touristy sites? If it's nice out, walking across the Manhattan Bridge is really fun (so is the Brooklyn Bridge but it's way, way, way more crowded and there are always cyclists whizzing by) which deposits you in DUMBO, where you can eat pizza at the aforementioned Grimaldi's, or Julianna's, or Igzatio's (my personal pizza favorite). DUMBO always has the best food trucks, too, plus a lot of little indie stores that sell jewelry and clothes. Williamsburg also has great shopping - Beacon's closet, Pop!, Otto, Buffalo Exchange are all great places for affordable clothes. It also has a slew of amazing restaurants, including a brand new Thai joint from the famous Sripraphai chef.

Have a great time!
posted by zoomorphic at 6:13 AM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll pipe in here and say that doing the lottery for the Book of Mormon is well worth it, because the show is fantastic!

TKTS is indeed still a thing and they have plenty of great shows there. So pop on down and see what you can get. Annie is playing and TKTS will have tickets, I loved Avenue Q, but it's fairly adult, so use your judgement (I took my friends 15-year old to the South Park movie when it came out, I have bad judgement.)

You can go bag shopping on Canal street (if your daughter is in to that sort of thing.) When you emerge from the subway, you'll look disoriented and confused. You'll head over to a shop and look at a display of cheap handbags, someone will come up to you an quietly ask if you're interested in handbags and if so, to follow him/her.

You'll haul ass trying to keep up as this person goes up a couple of streets, down an alley, then through a hidden door into a basement. You'll begin to wonder if this is such a good idea. Then you'll go down a hall, and behind a plywood door, you'll be admitted into a small cage where a wizened old Asian lady has some very pretty handbags, watches and suchlike. Your daughter will ohh and ahh, she'll touch, feel and smell the bags, eventually latching onto one or two. Now you will hondle (bargain) with the little old lady. Then you will leave with your haul.

I got a great handbag this way, and although it's stamped with a Gucci imprint, no such bag has ever been produced by Gucci. I get a bazillion compliments on it though and it cost $35.

While in Chinatown, head over to Joe's Shanghai for soup dumplings. I love them! After lunch go up a couple of blocks to Little Italy and have a canolli.

If you want a completely Felliniesque experience, have a meal at Tad's Steaks in Times Square. You don't really go for the food, although it's completely cromulent. It's more of an experience.

You get to Tad's and line up, like in a cafeteria, and you get a steak with all the fixin's, the article I linked to describes the food part accurately. It's food. That's about it, but the floor show of Times Square weird-os is what you're there for. Take it all in. The drunk, couple, stealing people's leftovers off the tables, tourists just off the turnip truck. It's wonderful.

I recommend lunch, dinner is too dodgy for a kid.

As for the touristy stuff, I cannot recommend enough, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island tours. It's been closed due to Hurricane Sandy, but it's scheduled to re-open soon, don't plan on it, but keep an eye peeled to see if it reopens in the next week or so.

Also, The Metropolitain Museum of Art is phenominal and full of really interesting stuff. The art is great, but there's also an entire room of a Frank Lloyd Wright house, and furniture and household goods from a couple hundred years ago.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:22 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Theatre: I really liked Cinderella, which just opened, and Newsies, which is fantastic and very teen friendly.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:28 AM on March 15, 2013

I was in New York last weekend, and decided my mission was to see all the fashion-related museum exhibits in the city. So I went to the Fortuny exhibit at the Spanish Institute at 68th and Park, I went to the FIT museum, and I went to the Met for the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit. I also went to a bunch of vintage shops in Chelsea and that flea market on 25th that's in a parking garage.

I had a blast. If your daughter likes fashion at all, she might enjoy any of those exhibits.
posted by nonasuch at 7:25 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

My fiancee and I took her 16-year-old sister to NYC for her birthday a few years ago. We bought her a guide book a few months in advance and tried to get her to plan the trip, which in retrospect was overwhelming for her!

We went and saw a few shows, standing in the TKTS line to get tickets, did Top of the Rock after dark (because it's cheaper than empire state and you can see the empire state building from it, which we thought was cool), and the one thing she requested was frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity. (Well, we found out the last morning that she would've liked to see Phantom, but that was a lesson for her in voicing her interests before we get there!)

I don't know when you're going, but if it's nice out the Circle Line boat tour is a pretty relaxing way to spend a morning, and it helped me map out Manhattan in my mind.
posted by worstname at 7:35 AM on March 15, 2013

Isn't there still a TKTS booth at South Street Seaport? You'll be in that area anyway, and we found the line to be much shorter than Times Square. Bring cash.
posted by CathyG at 8:56 AM on March 15, 2013

Isn't there still a TKTS booth at South Street Seaport? You'll be in that area anyway, and we found the line to be much shorter than Times Square. Bring cash.

No, it was closed after Sandy.

And you don't need cash for TKTS anymore.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:00 AM on March 15, 2013

If you go to the top of the Empire State Building, go at night. The lights of the city are just amazing.
posted by tomboko at 9:02 AM on March 15, 2013

A couple years ago, I went to the Empire State Building on a whim as I was walking past on a Thursday night [7PM or so]. It was a ghost town with no lines at all. Don't know if March will be different from December on that front, but it's a data point.
posted by chazlarson at 9:07 AM on March 15, 2013

I know its a touristy place but I love the pizza at johns nyc.

Its on 44th street by times square . ITs in an old church and I love the inside . they kept all the stained glass. The pizza rocks .

You have to take her to serendipity . Times square is probably a must also. If she is clothing oriented maybe take her for a walk down 5th avenue?

Also a walk through central park.

If you guys are foodies you have to go to russ and daughters. awesome bagels and lox from all over (my favorite is the irish lox).
posted by majortom1981 at 9:56 AM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

These are all completely awesome ideas and exactly what I was looking for. Thanks so much.

As far as clothes-shopping goes, I wouldn't even know how to begin to try and describe her style, and I think she'd be mortified if I did. Shopping wouldn't be a priority for her, and most likely if we are looking at clothes it will be a "hey this looks like a cool store, wanna go in and look around?" kind of situation as we're walking around doing other stuff.

But these are amazing suggestions and my head is already spinning at how to fit everything in.
posted by chococat at 9:59 AM on March 15, 2013

Can you tell a little more about what your kid is into? I mean I would be all about seeing teh space shuttle and the earth room with someone even who was fifteen, but your kid might be different. Ruthless Bunny: I have eaten at Tads, unironically, if somewhat accidentally (hungry and jet-lagged 'bout midnight). My eyes were out on stalks, but it wasn't the worst food I had that trip!
posted by Iteki at 10:37 AM on March 15, 2013

I have taken my 15 year old daughter twice in the last few months. She liked a walk through Times Square for the novelty of it (see it in so many movies / shows), but we only needed a short time there. She loved walking Chinatown and Canal Street, in and out of the shops. We hit the Garment District because she has recently taken up sewing and we bought some cool fabrics. We saw "Mamma Mia" which was a lot of fun and since it is older may be easy to get last minute tickets. We went by Rockefeller Plaza and to the American Girl doll store (even though she is way past the age, she wanted to see it). We hit Macy's just for her to see the shear size of it. Checked out Bryant Park and watched the skaters (no interest in actually skating for some reason). She thought the subway was very cool too.

We never got to any museums or half the places we had picked out. She just loved the walking around and looking and watching. I think there is just the excitement of seeing so many places that are in the movies and being a part of the city.

Even though we had restaurant recommendations, we ended up just going to places that looked interesting when we happened to be hungry.

Have fun - I think having a few ideas and being flexible made it a lot of fun for us.
posted by maxg94 at 12:20 PM on March 15, 2013

Pretty much anyone can find something to wear (from basics to trendy little things) at Uniqlo, for cheap.
posted by nelljie at 1:33 PM on March 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think a 15-year-old girl would like Wicked a lot more than Book of Mormon. And it's an easier ticket to get. Or Newsies. (Also, you might want to check out the BOM lyrics before even thinking about that for your daughter.)
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:58 PM on March 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seriously, if you're looking to shop, skip Uniqlo and all the chains you can find elsewhere, and just hit Century 21. Great place to wait out a rainstorm when you're stuck in that part of the city.
posted by kcm at 7:25 PM on March 15, 2013

Have a good time, Chococat! I would say the absolute-musts for me would be (1) Times Square (2) Ground Zero/WTC (3) Empire State (4) STATEN ISLAND FERRY, which has just the best views. Just turn around and take it back, it's a blast. Seconding those who say, don't try to be cool, just hit the big tourist things and let the rest of it happen. (1) and (4) if you had to pick 2.
posted by unSane at 7:56 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

So we had an awesome time. Thanks so much for all the tips.
Here's a really long account that doesn't even include everything we did.

Despite the absolutely freezing weather, we dressed 4 or 5 layers-deep and walked countless miles around the city, cramming everything we possibly could into 3 days (sadly leaving out several things that we just couldn't fit in.)
I had a very loose plan with only a few things that were musts for me; and as several people suggested, we decided not to worry about going off the beaten path.

My daughter was cool about going with me to the B&H Superstore by Penn Station right after we got off the train from the airport, because there were a few microphones I wanted that were SO MUCH cheaper than here in Toronto. That store is massive!

Some other things we did, including suggestions from this post:
-Walking through as many areas we could, starting at Washington Square, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy, St. Marks, etc. etc.
-Times Square
-I'd given up any hope of seeing Book of Mormon, so we sort of spontaneously wandered over the the TKTS booth to see what was available; on the recommendation of this thread and also one of the nice red-jacketed theatre-advice dudes that they have standing there, I asked the ticket-guy about Newsies and Cinderella availability. We ended up getting 40% off for really good seats to Cinderella, (which you would find hilarious if you knew me, as I tend to loathe Disney-type stuff and musical theater in equal amounts.) It was already 7:35 so we sprinted up Broadway and made the 8pm show. For my taste, Act Two dragged a bit and there was a little too much gazing-longingly-into-each-other's-eyes with that particular kind of SHOW PEOPLE! singing, but the performers were all outstanding and the production was excellent, with great sets and on-stage costume changes that I still can't figure out. If I was an 11 year-old girl I would lost my mind from excitement. Even with the discount it was a bit expensive for our budget but I'm glad we went and it was a very cool experience for both of us.
-30 Rock (the tour was sold out for days in advance, much to my daughter's disappointment) then some late night pizza (we were desperately hungry by this point and it was late, so we just went to Ray's, which was kind of underwhelming...but we needed to eat right then, and there it was) and dessert at Magnolia Bakery.
-Guggenheim (which has a great exhibit on the modern Japanese Gutai movement). We thought we could fit the MoMa in too but we just couldn't...and this was the same day that Tilda Swinton did that sleeping-in-a-box piece! Damn!
-Eisenberg's! Which was awesome and exactly the kind of cholesterol-fest we needed after hours of cold walking. My first egg cream, which was kinda strange. I liked the malted better.
-Brooklyn Bridge
-Several stores. God help me. My daughter wasn't into anything in the chain stores (including Uniqlo; a bit too pastel and preppy) and was getting kind of down, thinking she wouldn't find anything cool from NYC.
-Our first attempt to have dinner at Balthazar by phoning for a reservation didn't work out, they were totally full. So we heeded a suggestion here and went to Bareburger in the village, which was really great. Small, good (and cheap) craft beer, really good food. I had a bison burger and my daughter had a salad with wild boar (!) on it. The menu was funny, but we decided against elk or ostrich. We ended up getting into Balthazar the next night by just showing up and waiting for half an hour, which wasn't bad. Pricey and crowded but really fun.
-Empire State at night! Totally amazing, even though we could only take short bursts outside because of the arctic gusts of wind.
-9/11 Memorial
-Battery Park
-Shopping in St. Mark's Place/East Village. A bit disappointed with the vintagey stores on St. Mark's Place, proper. The same sort of fake punk stuff and phoney-vintage rock shirts that you can find in a lot of places; great if you want to pay $300 for an old leather jacket. Maybe we didn't find the right place but it seemed like there were far fewer places than I remember and the ones that were there weren't as cool as I remember. I did buy a pair of $5 socks that look like a box of french fries, for my other daughter, from Trash and Vaudeville. But we headed north and there was a Sunday Peruvian market and festival at the St. Mark's Church which we went into and watched some totally cute kids dancing, which was amazing. But then we hit the jackpot, with the fancier vintage places like Enz's on 2nd Ave and then Dusty Buttons on 9th, where my daughter (finally) found a great stripy top which the really nice store lady oohed and ahhed over when she tried it on, and she was thrilled. She also got a silver pendant with a cassette tape on it and a measuring spoons one for her friend, and then she was happy and I was relieved.
-Walking through Central Park, and to the Lennon memorial (where a completely whacked-out homeless guy, who called himself "Idiot the Rapper" kept singing "What would you do if I shot Ringo too" to the tune of A Little Help from My Friends. The force of aggressive-ignoring from everyone gathered there was palpable.) Then the obligatory Dakota visit.
-Our final stop, carting luggage and then running to the subway to catch the train at Penn Station, was South Street Seaport.

One thing I noticed on this trip was that every New Yorker we encountered was super nice. If there was ever a grouchy or rude person, it was a pushy shopping tourist on the street. But when we were in stores or restaurants and particularly on the Subway (which we were on, constantly, when we weren't walking), people were just outgoingly friendly to us. Not that people were mean to me on my previous trips, but it seemed to stand out a lot this time. Maybe it was my frame of mind, because we were having lots of fun.
posted by chococat at 11:04 AM on March 28, 2013 [7 favorites]

Chococat - as a fellow torontonian, and as a frequent NYC visitor, i just wanted to chime in on your 'friendliness' observations. Every time i visit i'm amazed at how pro-actively friendly everyone is, and its made me realize... Toronto's pretty unfriendly. Weird how our cities' stereotypical narratives are flipped.

Sounds like a fantastic trip - i'm glad you gave an update!
posted by Kololo at 10:46 AM on March 30, 2013

Kololo, I find the same about SF these days, too. Go figure.
posted by kcm at 8:18 AM on March 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

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