Your teens love going into the city and so do you. The only trick is finding outings you can enjoy together. They scoff at anything that smacks of little kid, and you'd prefer to put off the R-rated experiences until they reach, oh, 35 or so. But age appropriate doesn't have to be bland. Here are a dozen teen-and parent-pleasing NYC destinations—including an interactive Marvel Comics installation, an immersive nightclub show and a ninja-filled restaurant—that are sure to make your fall that much cooler (or whatever teens say instead of “cool” these days).
Discovery Times Square
Marvel's AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N.
At this interactive installation, visitors “train” to become agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (yup, just like the TV show) who back up The Avengers (yup, just like the movie) when they need help saving the world. The four main rooms are inspired by The Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, and you can try a variety of hands-on challenges, like virtually flying Iron Man's suit or seeing if you can pass Cap's fitness tests. A high-tech badge tracks and scores your completed challenges, and you can even tie it into your Facebook feed.
On view through Sunday, January 4, at Discovery Times Square, 226 West 44th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. 866-987-9692, discoverytsx.com. $27 for adults, $19.50 for children ages 3–11.
Whitney Museum of American Art
Jeff Koons: A Retrospective
Groundbreaking contemporary artist or narcissist hack? Decide for yourself at the Whitney's massive Koons retrospective, the museum's final exhibit in its Upper East Side building before it moves downtown. From his early '70s found object art (vacuums in light boxes!) to his iconic balloon animals, his work is both whimsical and controversial. Take note: The third floor features a gallery dedicated to his Made in Heaven series, which contains graphic sexual photos and sculptures of the artist and his adult movie star ex-wife. But it's easily avoided—just make sure you ask a guard to point you away from it.
On view through Sunday, October 19 at the Whitney Museum of American Art, 945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street. 212-570-3600, whitney.org. $20 for adults, $16 for ages 19–25, free for 18 and under.
Wayra: Fuerza Bruta
This may be the closest you ever come to clubbing with your kid. For 80 music, smoke and confetti-filled minutes, you gawk and dance in a giant high-ceilinged room (the theater is a former bank) as screeching acrobats run, jump and fly all around you—and occasionally take willing audience members up in the air. It's loud, somewhat risqué (in one sequence, females frolic in wet T-shirts in a pool suspended above the audience) and totally incomprehensible. But this is sensory overload at its most exuberant.
Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 East 15th Street at Union Square East. 212-239-6200, fuerzabrutanyc.com. $99/person (check for discounts at theatermania.com and broadwaybox.com).
Brooklyn Flea Market
Trash and Vaudeville
A visit to this authentic punk emporium will instantly up your cool cred. Doc Martens, Goth gowns, stiletto heels, skull jewelry, purple hair dye—this East Village staple has been outfitting NYC's counterculture since 1975. The chatty manager and buyer, old-school rocker Jimmy Webb (with tattooed arms, impossibly tight pants and silver bangles up to his elbows, you can't miss him), doles out style advice to celebrities and civilians alike. Considering he's dressed stars like Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry, he can probably help your teen pick out a thing or two.
4 St. Marks Place between Second and Third Avenues. 212-982-3590, trashandvaudeville.com.
Design Lab at the New York Hall of Science
Design Lab at the New York Hall of Science
Though many of the exhibits at this science museum skew younger, the recently opened Design Lab allows visitors to work on engineering and photography projects at their own level, whatever that may be. The space has a real “maker” movement feel, with five distinct areas where teens can invent doodads out of recycled materials, tinker with circuits, motors and LED lights and even experiment with pulleys and zip lines. Plus it’s located in the attraction-filled Flushing Meadows Corona Park, so you can finally take that selfie at the World's Fair Unisphere.
New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street at 47th Avenue in Corona, Queens. 718-699-0005, nysci.org. $11 for adults, $8 for ages 2–17 (select educator-led workshops cost extra).
Jim McDonnell, Coney Island
Even though the beach is closed to swimmers, Coney Island's other big attractions remain open on weekends through the end of October (and are a lot less crowded than they were during the summer). See if you have the guts to climb aboard Luna Park's historic Cyclone or brand-new Thunderbolt roller coasters—or grab a swinging car on Deno's Wonder Wheel and try to keep your lunch down. For a tamer time, meet the residents (Sharks! Sea otters! Penguins!) of the New York Aquarium. And of course you can still walk the iconic boardwalk and grab some glorious junk food—Nathan's Famous is open year-round.
See coneyislandfunguide.com for more visitor info. Individual rides cost $3–10 but there are discounts for buying multiple credits and unlimited-ride wristbands.
DIY Gallery Tour of Chelsea
Sometimes the best adventures are the ones you don’t plan. And you really won't know what you're going to get when you go on a do-it-yourself tour of the cutting-edge art galleries in Chelsea. There are almost 100 of them in a 12-block radius, and since they're all listed at chelseagallerymap.com, all you need to do is download the free app: Chelsea Gallery Map. The site also has information about what's on view, but really, being surprised is half the fun—discover sculpture, collage, photographs, interactive or performance art, maybe all of the above. End your day by strolling the elevated High Line right on Tenth Avenue.
Most Chelsea galleries are located from 16th to 28th Streets between Ninth and Twelfth Avenues. Find a map at chelseagallerymap.com. Admission to most galleries is free and hours vary.
Brooklyn Flea Market
Ready to go hunting for treasure? Brooklyn Flea's three outdoor markets—in Fort Greene, Williamsburg and Park Slope—feature hundreds of vendors selling antique furniture, vintage clothes, collectibles and artisan-made jewelry, art and crafts. Shopping here isn't just about your purchase; it's an experience as you sift through eclectic wares and chat with the funky folks selling them. All three alfresco markets remain open through Thanksgiving, at which point Brooklyn Flea moves indoors (as of press time, this winter's location has yet to be determined, but you'll find it on the website).
Fort Greene, 176 Lafayette Avenue between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues on Saturdays; Williamsburg, 50 Kent Avenue between North 11 and 12th Streets on Sundays; Park Slope, PS 321, 180 Seventh Avenue between 1st and 2nd Streets on weekends. brooklynflea.com.
The Morbid Anatomy Museum
Morbid Anatomy Museum
Brooklyn's newest museum may also be its most unusual. Housed in a former nightclub, the Morbid Anatomy Museum is dedicated to the cultural rituals and artifacts surrounding death. Its inaugural exhibit, The Art of Mourning (on view through Thursday, December 4), includes memorial photographs, Victorian hair art, mourning china and death masks—kind of like stepping into a Nine Inch Nails video. There's also a café, gift shop and frequent special events, such as lectures and art workshops like anatomy drawing and taxidermy.
424 Third Avenue near 7th Street. 718-702-5937, morbidanatomymuseum.org. $10 for adults, free under age 13.
Ninja New York
Would you like a side of surprise with that? At this Japanese-themed restaurant, ninjas are everywhere—lurking in the shadows, waiting behind screens, even bringing you your food, always ready to “attack.” While most themed restaurants tend to be lame, Ninja New York is a uniquely immersive experience from the moment you enter, when you're forced to go down the “safe” or “scary” path, and throughout your meal in the Ninja Village, filled with Feudal Japan-era-styled rooms with period contraptions and hiding places. As for the Japanese cuisine, well, it's solid, but overpriced. Ninjas don't work cheap, you know.
25 Hudson Street between Duane and Reade Streets. 212-274-8500, ninjanewyork.com. Prices range from $10–75.
NYC Sugar Factory American Brasserie
For teens who've outgrown Serendipity 3, there's this super-sweet, 3,000-square-foot candy Mecca. In addition to a treat shop selling a wide range of kooky and custom candies, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus outrageous desserts and drinks throughout the day. Their sugar-infused specialty cocktails come in 60-ounce goblets and boast names like Lollipop Passion (melon, coconut and pineapple topped with lollipops) and White Gummi (a fruity mix filled with Gummi worms)—and yes, parents, there are alcoholic beverages, too. And we didn't even mention the milkshakes, yet.
46 Gansevoort Street at Greenwich Street. 212-414-8700, sugarfactory.com. Prices range from $10–50.