4-Day NYC Itinerary with a Tech-Loving 12-year-old

When my son turned 10, I planned to take him to New York for the first time on his spring break in March 2020. You can guess what happened… Flash-forward two years, and his 12-year-old trip to NYC was a long time coming. After two years of disappointment after disappointment, I wanted his first New York experience to be everything. I went down an entire subterranean society of clickholes to form what I hoped would be the perfect NYC itinerary for a 12-year-old boy who loves food and technology. Here’s how we spent our time. If you’re planning your own trip, please save yourself from hours of obsessive searching—follow in our 80,000+ footsteps, learn from our mistakes.

Logistics

  • Hotel: Pod 39
    • Why I chose it: I LOVE fancy hotels, but I knew right away that this wasn’t that kind of trip. Pod 39 is well-appointed with an HGTV boho vibe, located in the relatively quiet yet accessible Murray Hill neighborhood. Sharing a small NYC hotel room with a 12-year-old boy, I (we) actually preferred the separate beds here in our Bunk Pod to sharing a queen or king bed elsewhere. (They do offer Queen Pods.) Also, it’s super duper affordable!
    • My son loved: the separate TVs for each bunk and the ping pong tables in the common area.
    • I loved: The elevators. We never waited long for one, and they had transparent walls so you could see the elevator shafts on either side — a design detail I really appreciated. And I also loved the ping pong tables… we had fun:)
  • Items reserved ahead of time: Broadway tickets, New York C3 CityPASS (Statue of Liberty ferry), and restaurant reservations

Day 1: Sunday

  • Arrive in NYC
    • We flew into Newark early and took an Uber to our hotel
    • Checked in and left bags with front desk
  • Central Park
    • Took subway to southeast corner of Central Park
    • Notable on the walk to park from subway: Apple Fifth Avenue and The Plaza Hotel
    • Enter Central Park at Grand Army Plaza
    • Explore the park and exit on the west side at the American Museum of Natural History
  • Brunch at The Milling Room
    • I was lucky to have a close college friend who lives nearby. She and her son treated us to brunch at this gorgeous spot!
    • Menu favorites: house smoked salmon tartare, crispy Brussels sprouts, short rib hash.
  • American Museum of Natural History
    • TBH, I have a lot of respect for this museum but I don’t love it. We really enjoyed the space show in their planetarium, but overall not sure this will be on my itinerary when I take our daughter in a few years.
  • Rockefeller Plaza
  • Nintendo NY
    • This place was cute and allowed customers to play a featured game at a bunch of different consoles (including one with an enormous screen), but felt more like a glorified gift shop to a non-existent Nintendo amusement park. I would stop in again when visiting Rockefeller Plaza, but would not make this a destination in and of itself.
  • Dinner at Momosan Ramen & Sake
    • This made a great “first night in New York” meal as it was cozy, delicious, close to our hotel, and they don’t take reservations so there’s no pressure when you’re tired from travel.
    • They have community tables, which I adore, but it’s not for everyone (just ask the guys seated opposite us who quickly relocated to the bar).
    • Menu favorites: soft shell crab bao, tonkotsu ramen, spicy vegan miso ramen.

Day 2: Monday

  • Breakfast at Bagel Express
    • We chose this bagel place because it was right around the corner from our hotel and we really lucked out.
    • If you have time and it fits in your schedule, Russ & Daughters is the iconic destination for a lox bagel, but the one Jed got here was top notch and their coffee is cheaper than anywhere I’ve been outside of NYC, which was a lovely surprise!
  • Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
    • Took the subway to Battery Park. We had a 9am reservation with Statue City Cruises as part of our City Pass. OF NOTE: You definitely need a reservation for this. We made ours three weeks in advance and had plenty of availability.
    • This is what I call a quintessential NYC checklist item as in everyone “has” to do it (“You have to see the baby!”), but it’s not my fave. I appreciate it and what it represents but I’m just as satisfied seeing Lady Liberty from a distance. For me, Ellis Island is the more meaningful and memorable of the two. But Jed loved it, which was really the whole point.
  • Micro Center
    • Took an Uber over to Brooklyn to check out this tech mecca. Jed was in heaven! Worth the trip just so Jed could converse in fluent tech-speak with their amazing staff.
  • Industry City
    • Under-the-radar spot right next to Micro Center in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood.
    • Amazing public art — don’t miss the installations in the freight elevators. I first became obsessed with these on their Instagram and loved experiencing them in person.
    • Looks like it would be really fun on evenings/weekends. We were there midday on a Monday and it was very quiet but still cool.
  • World Trade Center
    • Spent time at the 9/11 Memorial and exploring One World Trade Center.
  • Chinatown
    • Ate a very late lunch at Anthony Bourdain’s long time favorite spot Hop Kee. (Conan O’Brien ate here, too!) OF NOTE: It’s cash only, which only adds to the hip factor in my book.
    • Menu favorites: egg rolls, mussels with black bean sauce and hot peppers, endless pot of black tea (saw a lot of tables getting the snails, but I just can’t).
  • Grand Central Station
    • This was our subway stop so we visited this iconic architectural treasure every day. Even if it’s not close by, it’s definitely worth walking through. For an extra special experience, check out the oyster bar (we did on Day 3, stay tuned!).
  • Dinner at Wokuni
    • Why I chose it: We both love sushi so I was determined to find a highly rated omakase that cost less than an iPhone per person. Plus it was right around the corner from our hotel and featured in several sushi listicles.
    • Wokuni offers a “reasonably” priced omakase at $110, which includes an amuse bouche, miso soup, three kinds of sashimi, a hot appetizer and 12 pieces of sushi.
    • The fish was insanely fresh and well-plated. We left very full, but unlike most sushi dinners, we stayed full the rest of the night.
    • This was Jed’s favorite meal of our trip.

Day 3: Tuesday

  • United Nations
    • Slept in after a busy Monday and took a stroll to see the UN building. Tours just opened back up inside the building, otherwise we would’ve booked one. If you take the tour, please let me know how you like it!
  • MoMA
    • I could spend an entire trip meandering through all of the art museums and galleries, but this wasn’t my trip. I asked Jed to think of a painting he’d really like to see in person. He chose Starry Night, so we went with MoMA for our one art museum visit.
    • I recommend starting on the highest floor and working your way down. Actually a museum gallery attendant recommended this, but I concur.
  • Lunch at Sarabeth’s Central Park South
    • My original plan was to grab lunch at Between the Bread as it seemed like a high quality, healthy option, but it was temporarily closed so we made the game-time decision to head to Sarabeth’s, which was also in walking distance. This place has been on my foodie crush list since I learned about it 20 years ago, and it didn’t disappoint.
    • Menu favorites: adult grilled cheese
  • Ice Skating in Central Park
    • It’s seasonal, but we had the good fortune of catching Wollman Rink in its last week before closing for spring. If I’d known it was Trump-owned, we would’ve skipped it, but ignorance was bliss as ice skating in Central Park was SO iconic!
  • Grand Central Oyster Bar
    • The service here is as delightful as the large selection of fresh oysters flown in from all over North America.
    • Sit at the bar for a colorful chat with the knowledgeable, friendly staff and order a dozen oysters with some bubbly.
  • Times Square
    • I get anxiety just thinking about the throngs of tourists here, but it’s a must. Jed loved the M&M store and wacky costumed characters, but he was ready to not be in Times Square after about 30 minutes.
  • Dinner at Los Tacos No. 1
    • Why we chose it: We had Broadway tix for a 7pm show. I didn’t want to worry about the time factor at a fancy restaurant, nor did we want to sit with heavy meals in our stomachs for the performance.
    • You will hear some people call this the best taco in NYC. Others call it the best taco they’ve ever had. Listen to them. All of them. If chomping on messy tacos while standing up in your Broadway best doesn’t appeal to you then grab a taco from their Chelsea Market location on the day you explore the High Line.
    • Menu favorites: Tacos!! But especially the nopal and pollo asado.
  • The Music Man on Broadway
    • This was our first Broadway show and it will be hard to top.
    • Insider tip: After the show, Hugh Jackman sometimes greets fans and takes pictures with them as he exits the theater (stage right) and walks to his car. I told Jed not to get his hopes up, but Mr. Jackmnan is every bit the incredibly kind person I heard he was. We actually got to meet him and Jed got a selfie! A highlight of our trip (and our lives).

Day 4: Wednesday

  • The Edge
    • There are a handful of city views that many will tell you are a must, but I just wanted to pick one, and WOW.
    • I can’t compare it to Top of the Rock because I’ve never been, but I found this thoroughly more satisfying than the Empire State Building.
    • The elevator ride and hallways leading to The Edge demonstrate all of the efforts and projects going on at Hudson Yards to prepare for a more sustainable way of living in the future. It felt like an Epcot experience minus the boredom (Disney, take notes!)
    • I wouldn’t waste money on this if you’re afraid of heights. We are only slightly afraid of heights, but after going out on the ledge, walking right up to the glass walls and walking over the glass part of the floor, where you can see ALL the way down, Jed needed a ginger ale and I needed a stiffer beverage from their bar, while we sat and gained back feeling in our shaky legs.
    • OF NOTE: If you also decide to partake in a stiff beverage among the clouds, their cocktails are gorgeous! Ask for their spin on an amaretto sour. It’s not on the menu (yet?), which will make you feel even cooler when you order it.
  • The High Line
    • From The Edge, we walked the entire length of this 1.45-mile elevated linear park, coming out at Gansevoort Street. This was the first day we had in the city where the temp hit above 40 degrees, so we enjoyed a nice break soaking in the sun on the walkway’s built-in loungers, sharing a bag of candy we bought from Dylan’s Candy Bar in The Edge building. It was glorious.
    • I especially appreciated all of the public art dotted along the High Line. We had planned to hop off at Chelsea Market to check it out, but we decided to skip it. Definitely want to visit it though on our next trip! Ya just can’t do it all…
    • If I had known: The High Line offers free seasonal tours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. I’m not a big tour person, but this one intrigues me.
  • West Village/East Village
    • I personally feel the best way to experience neighborhoods in downtown Manhattan is to walk. So we picked a few spots we wanted to visit and plotted our course from there.
    • With Jed’s love for tech, our first stop was Samsung 837, but it was unexpectedly closed that day, which was a bit of a bummer.
    • We both love Friends, so we added a stop outside the iconic Friends apartment building. Jed was underwhelmed, but I was tickled.
    • Lunch at Joe’s Pizza.
      • This is lauded as the best slice of pizza in New York and I stand by that statement.
    • Washington Square Park. We came, we saw, we tried our best to ignore the multitude of people selling weed from card tables.
    • “Nerding Out” Shopping Trip in East Village
      • Most people think of SoHo, Midtown and Madison Avenue when it comes to shopping in NYC, but this round-up is just for Jed, who loves anime, computers, and video games
        • We traversed across NoHo to the East Village to visit Toy Tokyo.
        • Next stop: Videogamesnewyork. We spend SO much time here checking out all of the retro gaming systems. It was a highlight for Jed, for sure.
        • From there, we continued toward Union Square with a final stop at Forbidden Planet. They had the best selection of comic books and anime books. This is where Jed ended up making most of his souvenir purchases.
  • Dinner at ABC Kitchen
    • Why I chose it: Jed wanted a place where he might see celebrities and I just wanted really good food with a focus on local and organic ingredients.
    • This was my favorite meal of the trip. The restaurant and its clientele (and the food!) are absolutely beautiful.
    • We didn’t see any celebs, but we were okay with that:)
    • Menu favorite: fluke tartare
  • Movie Night!
    • We caught a late showing of The Batman at the Regal Union Square theaters. This was a last-minute addition to our itinerary but a fun way to end the evening.
Peace out, New York!

Day 5: Thursday

  • Depart NYC
    • We had to leave the hotel around 8:30am to catch our flight home. OF NOTE: I didn’t reserve a car and took an Uber which was more than twice the cost of our ride into the city. In hindsight, I recommend researching rides to the airport ahead of time and scheduling in advance.

Helpful Links

https://www.theinfatuation.com/new-york

https://embracesomeplace.com/new-york-city-4-days/

https://www.citypass.com/new-york-c3

https://www.timeout.com/newyork/restaurants/100-best-new-york-restaurants

https://www.wanderherway.com/best-bookstores-nyc/

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