6 Awesome U.S. Cities to Visit With Teenagers

6 Awesome U.S. Cities to Visit With Teenagers

All parents of teenagers know that they can be a bit finicky.  What we want to do doesn’t always mesh with what they want to do.  But here’s a list 6 U.S. cities to visit with teenagers no matter where their interests lie.

New York

My teens love NYC so much it’s become an annual pilgrimage for us. NYC is the perfect city to visit with teenagers–you’d be hard-pressed to find a teenager who doesn’t want to go there. NYC has something for every interest. Our family loves musical theater, so Broadway is a big draw for us.

TIP: If your teens are into musical theater, you must check out Ellen’s Stardust Diner.  The food is decent, and the place is filled with singing waiters who are AMAZING.  We had so much fun there.

New York

If Broadway’s not your thing, you can try to catch a live-television taping (note: there are generally age minimums so many options are limited to older teens).  And you’ve got the Knicks, the Yankees, the Mets, the Rangers, the Jets or the Giants to get satisfy your sports fanatic, an abundance of live music options for the music lover,  and of course, world class galleries and museums for the art lover.  Also, don’t forget shopping!

One of our favorite adventures in New York City was a sailboat cruise around New York Harbor. It was more expensive than the packed-full Circle Line cruises, but it was definitely a worthwhile expense. There were only a few other people on board, so we had plenty of room.  The weather was gorgeous, and we were able to get stunning sunset pictures of the Statue of Liberty.

Of course, there are also all of the sightseeing hotspots. If you’re a first-timer to NYC and plan to hit several of the tourist hot-spots, you might want to consider the City Pass or the New York Pass. Both offer discount tickets to many top attractions. Note: this post contains affiliate links and we may receive a commission if you purchase products through these links.

Before deciding to purchase a pass, note that admission to the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art are both  “pay what you wish.” If you wish to pay less than the recommended admission price, a pass may not be as great a value.  However, when we visited the American Museum of Natural History, the “pay what you wish” line was very long.  The line to redeem passes was much more manageable.

Washington D.C.

National MallIf you are American, then your teenagers have taken or will be taking American History.  What better way to reinforce classroom lessons than by visiting the place where so much history happened?

A fantastic place to start is Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.  We visited on Christmas Day because it is one of the few places that is open. In addition to all of the grounds (with plenty of room for kids to roam), there’s a nice museum there.

You can really drive home the sacrifices that have been made for our country by visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the many war memorials.

And of course, there are the museums.  Our family’s favorites are:

Best of all, the Smithsonian museums are FREE! This is a great budget-saver, and it also means that you can pop into a museum for just an hour or two without feeling like you have to spend the day there because you dropped a boatload of cash just to get in.

We got a little museum-ed out after a few days, so we started looking for other things to do and stumbled upon my kids’ favorite place in Washington D.C.– the Mansion on O Street.  This quirky place is a series of connected townhomes that is in use as a hotel and secondhand shop.  If you reserve ahead, you can wander through and explore the dozens of secret passages throughout the Mansion.  And of course, everything in the Mansion is for sale.  This was a fun reprieve after days of museum hopping.

Another fun, non-museum option when the weather is warm is paddling around the Tidal Basin.

Orlando & Los Angeles

UniversalYes, these cities are in separate states on opposite coasts, but the big draws for families with teens are the same: Disney, Universal Studios, and beaches.  Need I say more?

While my kids LOVE all things Disney they actually found that they preferred the more teen-oriented Universal Studios on our most recent visit to Orlando.  Universal Studios has more intense rides and roller-coasters than Disney, and the super-hero theming was right up their alley. (Marvel, not DC if you are picky about your comic universes). Oh, and Harry Potter.  We’re all huge Harry Potter fans, and the visit to Universal Studios was worthwhile just for the Harry Potter experience.

Of course, Disney still appeals to all ages, and it’s hard not to stop by for a day or two (or more!) if you’re in the neighborhood.

When you need to down time after all of the amusement-park mania, you can head to the beach! For beaches near Orlando check out Cocoa Beach,  New Smyrna Beach or Daytona Beach. For beaches new Los Angeles check out the Santa Monica State Beach and renowned Santa Monica Pier, which is about an hour’s drive from either downtown Los Angelas or Anaheim, where the Disney parks are.

And, there are other draws if you want to add a little education to your vacation. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral is just about an hour away from Orlando. And in L.A. you’ve got the Griffith Observatory (perfect for any La La Land fans!).

Dallas, Texas

DallasOk, I may be a bit biased, but I think Dallas is a great city for families with teens. Dallas can certainly hold its own for the sports-lovers.  We’ve got our own Rangers, plus the Cowboys, the Mavs, and the Stars. Just down the road in Arlington, we’ve got great amusement parks.  Six Flags Over Texas is teeming with thrill rides, and the neighboring Hurricane Harbor water park is a  great option on Dallas’s hot summer days.

One place I frequently recommend to visitors is the Dallas World Aquarium. This is far from just an aquarium–it’s an indoor rain forest full of all kinds of creatures.

We’ve also got great shopping options here. Northpark Center has a nice blend of upscale and mid-range stores.  We call this the “ducks-and-turtles mall” because there is a fountain with, what else, ducks and turtles.  Another teen favorite is the Dallas Galleria, with a greater variety of teen-friendly mid-range shops.

For local shopping, great food, plenty of instagrammable street art (we did our daughter’s senior pictures here and they were gorgeous!), and the Dallas Robot sculptures check out the Deep Ellum neighborhood

And Dallas has its own share of world-class museums including the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and the Dallas Museum of Art (general admission is free at the DMA, but there are charges for special exhibits and events).

There’s also a City Pass available for Dallas if you want to check out several tourist hot spots.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Want beautiful beaches and a relaxing family-friendly vibe that won’t bust your budget?  Gulf Shores has you covered with white-sand beaches and much smaller crowds than Florida.

On our lGulf Shoresast visited we rented a condo for a week and spent a lot of time just lounging on the beach. You can comfortably let older teens explore the beach, hitting dive restaurants or searching for sno-cones. But we also found plenty of time for exploring. We visited The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which is

Aside from the beach, we visited The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which is a small, but very well done, zoo.  The zoo offers a number of modestly priced animal encounters, and my girls were thrilled to get to hold and feed baby lemurs!

We also took a day trip to Pensacola, which is just about an hour’s drive from Gulf Shores, and visited the National Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum.  The aviation museum is stuffed full of planes from all eras, and you can actually go inside and even sit in the cockpits of many of them.  We’ve been to more war museums that I would necessarily care to, and this was definitely one of the best of the bunch.  I would put it right up there with the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

After visiting the aviation museum, we stumbled upon Pensacola Lighthouse, and we were so glad we did!  You can climb all 177 steps to the top of this historic lighthouse, and visit the attached keeper’s cottage.  The whole place is supposedly haunted, which was a big plus for the kids!

We stopped by the Flora-Bama beach bar on the way home, which is, duh, right on the state line between Florida and Alabama.  It was pretty tame, early on a weekday, and had plenty of teen-friendly grub.

Back in Gulf Shores, we also checked out LuLu’s, a fun, but touristy, beachside restaurant owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister.

Have you visited any of these cities? What are your favorite cities to visit with teens? We’d love to hear your thoughts?

Visit With Teenagers

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I am a 40-something lawyer and mom of 3 teenage girls. I love exploring new places, and when I can't be on the road, I'm planning my next trip. Over the years, I've learned a lot about how to travel in a pack of five. Our trips range from budget-friendly road trips with the family, to more luxurious trips for work, either solo or with my husband, Kenny.

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