A message has just popped up on Facebook reminding me that a year ago I was on holiday in New York with my children. Looking back, I reckon it’s the perfect place for a city break with teenagers – so if you’re looking for ideas, here are some of mine.
After weeks of debating where to go it was clear that finding a holiday to suit both my fashionista daughter and bike-mad son was going to be tricky. She craved sunshine, art galleries and shops while he wanted high-octane action and wall-to-wall excitement.
In the end there was only one place that fitted the bill. New York – the city that never sleeps. Even so, the pair of them had to agree to compromise. My son promised to be calm while his big sister gazed at clothes in Forever 21 and she said she’d put up with him spending hours at the Empire State Building, viewing Manhattan (above) by telescope from every possible angle.
It was a flying visit but we were so determined to make the most of every second that our feet barely touched the ground. Even though the weather was blistering, with thirty-degree temperatures and stifling humidity, we packed a week’s worth of sight-seeing into four days. We walked miles and never resorted to the subway once. The Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art) was breathtaking, Central Park surprisingly hilly and I still haven’t got over the dazzling array of Proenza Schouler bags on sale at Barney’s, the up-market Madison Avenue department store. I longed to buy a lime-green PS1 satchel. The only problem was the eye-watering price tag.
We stumbled across some of our best discoveries quite by chance. Bryant Park, a tree-lined sea of green just off 6th Avenue, was one. The park, surrounded by towering skyscrapers on all sides, hosts a mass of free events throughout the summer months. One night we sat and listened to a fantastic jazz concert while the next day we watched a stunning lunchtime performance by the casts of five Broadway musicals. West Side Story, Mamma Mia, La Cage Aux Folles, they all featured, but one of the best performances came from Laura Michelle Kelly, the Isle of Wight-born star of Mary Poppins. Her cut-glass English tones and storming performance of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious stopped the whole audience in its tracks.
Another day, much to my teenagers’ horror, I booked a sightseeing tour. They were desperate not to be regarded as tourists but in the end our tour guide won them over with his wit and street-by-street knowledge. A film extra by trade, Brooklyn resident Dane took up his new role after his daughter got fed up with him boring her to death with the facts and figures he knew about New York and told him to tell other people instead. From the history of the Statue of Liberty to the day he bumped into Sarah Jessica Parker (“she’s a very nice lady,” he confided), he kept us entertained all day.
Most days we couldn’t resist stopping off at the legendary Dean & DeLuca on 56th Street for a cup of their delicious coffee. As we watched New Yorkers whizz in and out, we could pretend, just for a second, that we were one of them.
On the last afternoon we visited MoMA, where my daughter was entranced by the Cézanne masterpieces and my son was gripped by Vietnam war footage. Finally we sat for a while in the lovely courtyard, admiring the Wish Tree donated by Yoko Ono. As we duly lined up to write our wishes on luggage labels and tied them to the tree, I took a quick, surreptitious glance at my daughter’s tag. “I wish I could live in New York,” she’d written.