Summer Bucket List for NYC Teens: Best Things To Do in NYC for Teenagers 2022

What could be cooler than a trip to the eye-popping Summit One Vanderbilt? Photo by the author
What could be cooler than a trip to the eye-popping Summit One Vanderbilt? Photo by the author

Summer in New York City is the perfect time for teens to explore, get active, make friends, learn new skills and tackle one of these bucket list-worthy summer activities for teens. Whether they're enrolled in a teen-friendly summer camp, honing skills at a summer internship, or have landed a teen-friendly part-time job, NYC teens have plenty of options to keep busy.

When they do have some downtime, though, there are plenty of fun things to do. To help navigate the myriad options, we've rounded up 12 summer activities for teens that are guaranteed to deliver a good time, whether they're into fun in the great outdoors or want to check out a cool new NYC destination. If that's not enough to keep boredom at bay, bookmark this list of 15 all-seasons teen activities for NYC's ultra-cool big kids.

We've got even more teen activities in our Tweens & Teens Guide to NYC, and you can also search our Family Activity Calendar for teen-specific events.

Subscribe to our newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.

1. Go Kayaking or Sailing

Teens can explore the waters surrounding NYC by going on one of these FREE boat rides. Whether they choose to kayak, sail, or canoe, options abound.

2. Ride the Roller Coasters at Coney Island

There are few summer activities for teens that are more thrilling than a day spent at Coney Island. Big kids can ride the legendary Cyclone, the brand new Phoenix Roller Coaster, and other rides at Luna Park. Afterward, teens can hang out at the beach, dip their toes in the ocean, walk along the boardwalk, and eat hot dogs at Nathan's Famous. There's no better way to spend a summer's day.

RELATED: 16 Fun Things To Do With NYC Tweens (With No Adolescent Eye-Rolling)

Summer activities for teens rock climbing
The Cliffs at Gowanus offers supersized walls that entertain big kids for hours. Photo by the author

3. Try Rock Climbing

When it comes to summer activities for teens, rock climbing is a crowd-pleaser. The Cliffs at Dumbo features an outdoor climbing arena right on Brooklyn's waterfront underneath the Manhattan Bridge. If the weather calls for rain, try the Cliffs' brand new oversized location in Gowanus. There's no experience necessary and most gyms offer classes and instruction.

4. Explore Central Park

Central Park is a world unto itself with so many cool summer activities for teens to do and see. Our favorite spots for teens include Belvedere Castle, the Conservatory Garden on the lovely northern edge, the Loeb Boathouse, and Strawberry Fields. Teens can go roller skating at Skater's Circle or the brand new DiscOasis at Wollman Rink, hike in the North Woods past streams and waterfalls, experience some awesome performances at SummerStage, and see the New York Philharmonic's FREE Concerts in the Park.

RELATED: Where to See Free Summer Movies in NYC for an Outdoor Movie Night

Summer activities for teens Jones Beach Adventure Course
Conquer the adventure course at WildPlay at Jones Beach. Photo by Jaime Sumersille

5. Brave An Adventure Course

For adventurous summer activities for teens, consider a visit to one of the local ropes courses near New York City where teens can try thrilling activities like zip-lining, bungee jumping, and more high-flying challenges. The Bronx Zoo's Tree Top Adventure features side-by-side zip lines 50 feet in the air spanning 400 feet across the Bronx River. There are also seven suspended rope courses where you swing from tree to tree while encountering obstacles. A little further out at WildPlay at Jones Beach, teens can ride the zip line that stretches 700 feet along the beach. There's also the Fear Jump, where you plunge 40-feet, while tethered to a rope.

6. Visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

Yes, it's definitely a tourist spot but no NYC summer bucket list would be complete without a visit to the Statue of Liberty. After taking a short ferry ride, teens can climb the pedestal of the iconic statute and take some Insta-worthy pictures. Round out the trip with a visit to the on-site museum and Ellis Island.

RELATED: Paintball and Laser Tag Arenas in NYC for an Action-Packed Outing

Summer activities for teens RiseNY
Enjoy an immersive, soaring ride above NYC at the brand new Times Square attraction RiseNY. Photo courtesy of RiseNY

7. Revel in the Energy at Times Square

Teens love the energy, lights, and excitement of Times Square. There are a ton of summer activities for teens in this action-packed neighborhood, including Dave & Busters, Madame Tussauds' Wax Museum, bowling alleys, shopping, and eating. But, newcomer RiseNY offers riders a virtual, immersive experience that gives teens the sensation of soaring over New York City in 4D. There's also a lot of free, outdoor seating in Times Square where teens can gather and hang out with friends.

8. Experience Summit One Vanderbilt

For a one-of-a-kind viewing experience, Summit One Vanderbilt is an ultra-fun destination for teens. Not just an observation deck, Summit One Vanderbilt is an immersive art experience where visitors interact with light, reflections, and the cityscape. There are four floors of mirror-tiled floors and floor-to-ceiling glass walls that make you feel like you're floating. Teens will love taking photos and walking through the room filled with sliver, reflective spheres. When they're done, teens can grab a bite to eat at the Dining Concourse in Grand Central Terminal.

RELATED: How to Get to Beaches in NYC by Ferry or Train

Summer activities for teens Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a hit with the Muggles. Photo by Manuel Harlan

9. Catch a Broadway Show

Attending a Broadway show is a quintessential New York experience all NYC teens should have. From Harry Potter to Wicked, there's a show for every teen's interest. Even better, students can nab discounted rush tickets, wait in line at the TKTS booth in Times Square on the day of the show, or use the mobile app.

10. Hang Out at The High Line

The High Line is also another great area for a teen meet-up. The former elevated train track is now a beautiful urban green space with curated plantings, public art, food carts, and programs like star gazing. Teens can hang out on the High Line, then explore the surrounding attractions like The Whitney, Hudson Yards, Little Island, and the Chelsea Market.

RELATED: 18 Family-Friendly Food Halls in NYC for an Easy, Delicious Meal

Summer activities for teens at Little Island
Relax in The Glade at Little Island and watch a teen-friendly performance.

11. Attend a Summer Music Festival

New York City teens are so lucky to be surrounded by talented musicians, artists, and performers. Have teens take advantage of all the amazing talent by attending outdoor music festivals and performances that are often FREE. Check out this list of the best outdoor concerts and performances for NYC kids. There's everything from classical and jazz to rock and country music. Another cool option: Shakespeare in the Park.

12. Chill Out on Governors Island

For teens feeling who need a daycation, Governors Island is a stone's throw away. There are a ton of summer activities for teens in the green space, including biking, kayaking, and exploring the art exhibits. Teens can grab a hammock or lay out a blanket and just relax. There are several summer events like free outdoor films that teens will love.

Magical Musical Journey
Brooklyn Children's Museum - 3:45 PM Pick
LuminoCity Festival at Eisenhower Park
Eisenhower Park - 4:30 PM Pick
Festival of Lights: Oh Christmas Tree
Marine Park - 4:00 PM Pick
Hanukkah Fun House
Emanu-El Downtown - 4:00 PM Pick
Neighborhood Guides
Activity Guides