Your teen is likely home currently, homeschooling or doing virtual learning during the COVID-19 crisis. During some of their downtime, why not start researching where your next trip may take them?
Here are some of the best vacations for teens, each offering a handful of unique sites that’ll get you a subtle nod of approval from your teen (instead of the dreaded eye roll).
1. Brooklyn, New York
Manhattan gets all the glory, with Broadway, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and the Empire State Building. But Brooklyn is where it’s at for cool teens who crave something new and different on their city vacation. Go back in time for an egg cream at the Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, an amazing soda shop housed in a 1920s apothecary, then go round-and-round on Jane’s Carousel, a hand-carved wooden beauty built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. This legendary merry-go-round is located in a stunning setting, along the East River at Brooklyn Bridge Park, with stellar Manhattan views (and no one is ever too old for a vintage carousel). At night, see someone famous in concert at the Brooklyn Bowl or discover a cool new indie band together at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Other daytime options from Brooklyn include a quick ferry trip over to explore Governors Island, flea market shopping for vintage threads, and vinyl record shopping at Rough Trade. Of course, Coney Island is just a (long) subway ride away, with the smell of Nathan’s Famous hot dogs wafting through, and the century-old Wonder Wheel rising up, into the air.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Indigo Williamsburg – Brooklyn
2. London, England
Sure, the National Football Museum is in Manchester, along with the most famous United and City in England, and nearby in Liverpool are two more legendary clubs. But with over a dozen professional clubs in London, the capital is the true home of English football. If your older kids are crazy for the footy, a long weekend in London is one of the best vacations for teens. Take them to matches at the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Craven Cottage, the century-old, brick-lined West London home of Fulham Football Club. Or maybe your teen wants to see Arsenal in the Premier League, as well as experience lower league, ‘old school’ English football at Millwall. There will be plenty of football options on just about any weekend (save for those reserved for international breaks and assorted cup competitions) from mid-August through the end of April. The fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, and sticky toffee pudding will be the icing on the soccer ball-shaped vacation cake!
Recommended Hotel: The Z Hotel Soho
3. Marvel Day at Sea on Disney Cruise Line
Taking a cruise with your teen is the ultimate vacation, with a roller coaster and the SkyRide on Carnival ships, go karts on Norwegian, and ziplining on Royal Caribbean. But for superhero geeks, a Marvel Day at Sea on Disney Cruise Line is the way to go. Departing from Miami, the Disney Magic offers stops in Key West, the Bahamas, and Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay. Onboard, teens enjoy character encounters, unique entertainment such as a mystic arts performance by Doctor Strange, and a deck show with Black Widow, Iron Man, Thor, Loki, Groot, and the rest of your kid’s favorite Marvel stars. You and your teenagers can also attend the Animation academy to learn how to draw your fave Marvel heroes and villages, battle against each other during Marvel trivia (they’ll win, but hey, you can try!), rock your best cosplay, and of course, watch tons of Marvel movies!
Bonus: teen geeks aren’t the only ones treated to special activities onboard the Disney cruise ship—adults can dance the night away with speciality cocktails and appearances by Star Lord and Gamora!
4. Washington, D.C.
With all 17 free Smithsonian museums, plus so many breathtaking memorials and monuments, our nation’s capital is a cornucopia of daytime entertainment for teens and adults alike. At night, grab some delicious (and affordable) food at Falafel Inc (where, for every meal purchased, one is given to a refugee), then hit legendary live music venues like the 9:30 Club and The Black Cat, or The Anthem, a brand-new spot on the reinvigorated District Wharf. If sports are more your thing, attend a D.C. United soccer match at stunning Audi Field or a Washington Nationals baseball game from spring through fall.
Recommended Hotel: Georgetown Suites
5. Las Vegas, Nevada
Sin City isn’t just for blackjack tables and adult entertainment. Nope, Las Vegas offers a lot for families, especially those with teens. The Raiders will start playing NFL football in the city in fall 2020 and the Vegas Golden Knights have been rocking the T-Mobile Center for a few years now, giving hockey fans a pre-game and in-game experience like no other arena in America—it’s truly something to behold!
In addition to sports, Las Vegas is home to a plethora of Cirque du Soleil shows, including R.U.N., the latest and greatest in the acrobatic franchise that delivers a Grand Theft Auto-style live stage show. Additionally, the Haus of Gaga is a must visit, and if the chanteuse is in residency during your visit, do whatever you must to see Lady Gaga on stage! Virtual Reality Powered by Zero Latency at MGM Grand will immerse you and your teen in a completely interactive digital universe where you’ll physically navigate a 2,000-square-foot arena competing in heart-racing challenges.
Speaking of physical activity, get out into the fresh, dry air for a hike around the sublime and oh-so-close-to-Vegas Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Make the short drive to visit the impressive Hoover Dam, too!
Recommended Hotel: The Mirage Hotel & Casino
6. Denver, Colorado
Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Golden, Colorado (about 20 minutes outside of Denver), is the finest venue for live music in the country, if not the world. It truly doesn’t matter who you see perform—just go to soak up the unbelievable acoustics and views. If visiting Denver during baseball season, get tickets to a Rockies game, and on another night in town, get creeped out at Lakeside, a rickety old amusement park stuck in time. The Mile High City is also home to the Denver Selfie Museum—need we say more?
Recommended Hotel: The Jacquard, Autograph Collection
7. Cheyenne, Wyoming
After Denver, drive north for about 90 minutes to Cheyenne, the capital of Wyoming. This pioneer town is proud of its cowboy and cowgirl past. Frontier Days is the big summertime draw, attracting thousands to the city for its rodeo, country music, free pancake breakfasts, and more. But the small, easily walkable city is pleasant any time of the year. Taste the inventive, pioneering future of the wild West at The Metropolitan Downtown and Danielmarks Brewering Company, where a tasty homemade root beer is on tap for teens.
If you can, plan to be in Cheyenne on the first Thursday of a month so you and your teenagers can join the Knights of the Turnable. This monthly event at Phoenix Books & Music involves a gathering of music nerds spinning vinyl and telling stories of the songs that have meaning in their life. So grab your favorite Dylan album, let your teen pick something more modern from the racks, and together become a part of this unique community of music lovers.
Recommended Hotel: Comfort Inn & Suites Cheyenne
8. Bergen, Norway
A gorgeous, walkable city in its own right, with fantastic museums (KODE), historic sites (the Bryggen Hanseatic heritage commercial buildings), delicious food (Olivia Restaurant, one of the best restaurants we’ve ever visited), and legendary vantage points (sunsets atop Mount Description Fløyen are legendary), Bergen is known as the gateway to the famous fjords of western Norway. Within an easy drive, you and your teens will be driving around, or cruising on, some of the most magnificent natural sites in the world. Fun Fact: Bergen is said to have inspired the fictional town of Arendelle in Disney’s Frozen.
Recommended Hotel: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel Bergen
9. Santa Fe, New Mexico
Take your teenagers to Santa Fe to experience Meow Wolf! You’ll spend hours exploring the House of Eternal Return, a mind-bending, 20,000-square-foot immersive art experience with a non-linear story that unfolds through dozens of rooms and several secret passages. There’s modern interactivity, light and musical objects to play with, and a wild narrative to (attempt to) piece together. There’s nothing else quite like it.
While in this sun-kissed New Mexico city, rent an authentic adobe home, bike around town, and fall in love with Georgia O’Keefe, one of the most significant artists of the 20th century. The O’Keefe Museum houses over 3,000 works, including 140 original Georgia O’Keefe oil paintings. The artist’s home and studio along the Chama River in Abiquiu, New Mexico, about an hour north of Santa Fe, is a National Historic Landmark, and for hardcore fans and aspiring teen painters alike, it’s available to tour with an appointment made in advance.
Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Place Santa Fe
10. The Hague, Netherlands
Amsterdam gets all the press, and sure, its canals are beautiful. But The Netherlands is teensy enough to visit both Amsterdam and The Hague (plus quirky Rotterdam, too). In The Hague, M.C.Escher’s entire oeuvre—over 150 prints—is on display inside a stunning setting, the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands. It’s the only public building in The Hague where the original royal ambience of a palace has been maintained. For teens looking to go further into the art world while in The Hague, take a deep dive into the world of Piet Mondrian at the Kunstmuseum. This museum has a complete wing devoted to Mondrian & De Stijl abstraction, and it’s glorious to stand in front of Victory Boogie Woogie, Mondrian’s beautiful, yet unfinished last work. Of course, you and your teen’s vacation in The Hague must also involve bike riding and tulips—you are in Holland, after all.
Recommended Hotel: The Hague Marriott Hotel
11. Krakow, Poland
You’ll taste authentic pirogies and, if you aren’t too big of a scaredy cat, you and your kids should tour Lost Souls Alley, an interactive museum devoted to the basic instinct of fear. There’s an entire floor inspired by horror movies—eeeek! For more jovial fun, head to the Pinball Museum, a cool space in central Krakow with over 60 classic pinball machines, all of which are free to play! The real reason to visit though, isn’t just for the 14th century church and old town; it’s to access Auschwitz, one of the most well-known former Nazi Concentration Camps. The complex system of concentration and extermination camps is located about an hour’s drive west of Krakow. Everyone, teens and adults alike, should visit this powerful site where over one million people, mostly Jews, perished during the Holocaust. If we can stand in a place of such tragedy and understand what occurred there, maybe together we can prevent it from happening again.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Novotel Krakow Centrum
12. Memphis, Tennessee
You want to bring your teenagers to Memphis for three reasons, mainly: the world’s greatest BBQ (Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous dry rub ribs—YUM!), a study in the genesis of rock-and-roll as blues pours out onto Beale Street, and a solemn day touring the positively stunning National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. To further the musical education, pay homage to some of the most legendary songs ever put down on wax, at Sun Studio and Stax Museum of American Soul Music, make a pilgrimage to Elvis’ Graceland, and stay at The Central Station Memphis, set inside an old train station. There, see over 3,500 vinyl records in the lobby and listen to a DJ spin Memphis tunes seven nights a week, piped into your guestroom through speakers made especially for the property. To burn off the barbecue calories, cut your teen loose at the Midtown Skate Park, a free, public paradise for skateboarders with two bowls, ramps, rails, stairs and a snake run.
Recommended Hotel: The Central Station Memphis, Curio Collection
13. Galveston, Texas
In Galveston, there’s the rides of the historic Pleasure Pier, miles of sandy Gulf coast beaches (some of the best beaches in Texas), Schlitterbahn Waterpark, the unique Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, iconic pyramids of Moody’s Gardens, and the chance for you and your teens to borrow a bike from your hotel (if you stay at The Hotel Galvez) to cruise up and down the seawall at your leisure. Bonus: Within an hour’s drive, you can be in Houston to explore the other-worldly Space Center, as well as the city’s unique museum scene, which includes The National Museum of Funeral History.
Recommended Hotel: Hotel Galvez & Spa, A Wyndham Grand Hotel
Jeff Bogle lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with his two teen daughters, two cats, one dog and six (yes, six) guinea pigs. He is an award-winning photographer and respected travel journalist with bylines on Reader’s Digest, Good Housekeeping, PBS, Esquire and more. Jeff (probably) spends too much time in England watching football and far too many hours plotting his family’s future travel adventures. Find Jeff on his own site, Out With the Kids.