If your parents are anything like mine, they tend to feel a little lost when they touch down in NYC to visit their daughter, who’s flown very far from home. Hailing in from Texas, they are used plenty of elbow room, a slower pace, and not nearly as many car horns. Often, these visits from your tourist parents tend to be a bit stressful on everyone involved. But even though NYC can be a difficult city to navigate if you’re from out of town, there’s plenty to do with mom and dad that won’t put a strain on your time together. And if you remember to stay patient, opt for more cabs, and keep everyone well fed, things should run a little more smoothly. Here are 7 Things to do With Your Parents in NYC, curated by a Texas transplant, her friends, and the experiences they’ve had while taking the rents ‘round town.
1. A Broadway Show + Celeb Spotting @ Rum House
When your parents visit NYC, you want to give them an “only in New York experience”, a goal attained by seeing a Broadway show. NYC’s famed theater scene is offering some incredible shows this summer, including Book of Mormon, and this year’s newcomer, Fun Home. Since tickets for the whole family can get very pricey very fast, we suggest checking out how to rush broadway shows for discount tickets. But, there are obvious benefits to having tickets at the ready, so if you want to avoid the stress, try us for buying Book of Mormon and Fun Home tickets outright. No NYC experience is complete without your try at celeb spotting, so after the show, head over to Rum House, the bar featured in Oscar winning movie Birdman. The recently restored cocktail lounge has seen the likes of Bill Murray, Emma Stone, and Tony Danza, so we hope you get lucky. It’s not every day that you can see your parents be starstruck, or even better, at a loss for words.
2. Coffee/Rugelach @ Petite Shell + New York Botanical Gardens
When it comes to carting your parents around town, the key to a successful day will often boil down to making sure they are well fed, and well quenched. So, before your big day at the New York Botanical Gardens, fuel up at Petite Shell in the Upper East Side. We’d be surprised if the aromas surrounding this UES cafe don’t lure you in immediately, but trust us, their famed rugelachs await inside, and are begging to be eaten. Once the rents are well fed/caffeinated, head up to The Bronx for a day at New York’s Botanical Gardens, where the Frida Kahlo Exhibit is currently being held. The exhibit offers exclusive viewings of Kahlo works, a walk through a reproduction of the famous Casa Azul, and special Fiesta Nights with music and complimentary cervezas. Even if mom and dad aren’t particular admirers of Kahlo, the New York Botanical Gardens offers a beautiful escape into nature, a definite must for those who aren’t from the concrete jungle.
3. Rooftop @ The Met + Shakespeare in the Park
If your parents are visiting this summer, we suggest rolling out of bed early, grabbing a cup of joe, and trying your luck at winning Free Shakespeare in the Park tickets. For an extensive guide on how to get into the Delacorte’s premier summer event, check out this blog. Then, after grabbing a bite, head over to The Met, my family’s personal favorite, as it offers exhibits for just about every artistic taste. We suggest hanging around (instead of booking it out of there once the crowds hit) and heading up to the Rooftop Bar for a pre-show cocktail. The Met’s Rooftop Bar offers unbeatable views of the Central Park tree tops and the city skyline, especially at sunset. Sure, you may have a hard time flagging down a bartender, but the ambience is enough to not care at all. And never fear, the majority of the bar’s crowd will be DSLR bearing tourists, so mom and pop won’t feel lame while lining up for that must-have photo.
4. Ferry to Smorgasburg Street Fair + Nighthawk Cinema
My parents love the East River Ferry. The route goes beneath all three of NYC’s famous bridges, giving families a break from the stuffiness and claustrophobia of the city (though, if the rents visit during winter, sticking to a cab). After you’ve exhausted the river photo ops, hop off the ferry at the Dumbo/Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the famous Smorgasburg is held every Sunday. Described as “one of the World’s coolest bazaars”, Smorgasburg offers food, a flea market, and unbeatable views of Manhattan. Take your time, enjoy the weather (if it’s nice), and top the afternoon off with a cone at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Then, since the rents will likely be exhausted, take the ferry back to Williamsburg to see a film at Nitehawk Cinema, known for its comfy digs and food/drink specials to enjoy while watching the movie. The key to successful parent’s visit is a balance between high energy activities and down time, and a film following a day at Brooklyn Bridge Park accomplishes just that.
5. A Concert @ Town Hall + Shake Shack
If you’re what they call a planner and need to fill up a night on the itinerary, buying concert tickets for a rare show could really make your parent’s visit special. Out of any NYC venue, I am going to suggest taking them out for a night at Town Hall, located near Times Square. This venue typically shows exclusive events, performances that may not be sought out by a majority, but that are special for those who are in the know. AKA, the crowds (once you make it out of the Times Square madness), won’t be too bad. This summer, world-famous musician jazz pianist Chick Corea will be stopping in at Town Hall, an event that would make for a perfect evening of music appreciation. You can check the Town Hall Calendar for more one of a kind shows. And after the show, usher your parents over to Shake Shack, the only place around that can quickly accommodate that post-concert appetite.
6. Pier 54, Gansevoort Market + City Winery
Besides the High Line, Chelsea is a great neighborhood to take your parents. First, stop by Hudson River Park to walk the pier, especially since it’s going to be renovated into a large performance space soon. Then, we suggest heading over to Gansevoort Market for lunch, an open-air marketplace that is (typically) crowd-free. The artfully designed Gansevoort Market will not only provide delicious food, it will double as a respite from the city. The Market doesn’t have a secured liquor license, so if mom and dad are wanting to wet their whistles, we suggest heading to City Winery, a new bar/restaurant/performance space that offers Free Music on Tuesdays, and a full calendar of concerts + the perfect pairings to enjoy them with. For a low-key day in the Chelsea area, we think Gansevoort Market and City Winery will appease even the most high maintenance of parents.
7. Madison Sq. Park + Rooftop Beer Garden @ Eataly
Madison Square Park, the often overlooked oasis of NYC’s midtown, is a great place to take the parents. Not only can they marvel at the unique infrastructure of the Flatiron Building on the walk over, but now mom and dad can take a stroll beneath Fata Morgana, the newest art installation hanging above visitors in the park. The most ambitious commissioned art sculpture the park has seen doubles as a spectacle, and break of shade. Take your time to see every offering of the park before heading over to Eataly, the restaurant which won my heart over when I first moved to the city. Though it’s become sort of a tourist trap, we suggest high-tailing it through the crowds and up Birreria, Eataly’s rooftop beer garden. Make a reservation to ensure a table big enough for the whole family, and have fun bonding over a cold one with dad while mom marvels at the unbeatable views of NYC through the restaurant’s glass exterior.
I hope this blog helps stave off the stress of having mom and dad visit NYC. Let us know how these 7 Things to Do with Your Parents in NYC works out for you, or, what other activities in the big apple are fun for the whole family to enjoy together in the comments below!