The city that never sleeps is the perfect place for teens to visit. In August 2001, my sister and I and our friends, Angela and Regan, took the opportunity to check out some of the different places that would be fun to go. What we saw then, remains fun for teens now.
Day One: Wax and Glam
We started with Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum (800/246-8872). Outside the museum we were greeted by a wax figure of Samuel L Jackson that made my sister and I do a double take. Inside, we boarded an elevator that opened onto a replicated scene of a premiere party hosted by RuPaul, complete with dim lights, water fountains, crystal chandeliers, and soft playing music. The first figure we saw was Brad Pitt. Immediately my sister and I went into groupie mode, snapping pictures. Two girls behind us were hysterical as if it was really him. Other wax figures, all dressed to the nines, included Nicholas Cage, Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey, Lenny Kravitz and RuPaul, the host himself, standing high on the fountain like a statue. After using up a roll of film, we headed on to a bit of a history lesson.
We barely navigated a confusing hall of mirrors and found ourselves witnessing the slaying of Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI. It was complete with bloody heads on sticks and creepy sound effects. Next, we were in a creepy dungeon where Napoleon’s wife was locked up and a decapitated rotten body sat in a ditch. But the rest of the museum wasn’t as frightening.
In the last exhibit, my sister and I went crazy. How could we not? All the greats were down here: Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. I took a picture next to James Dean in his tough-guy pose. All I needed was a cigarette behind my ear and I’d have been set. Time stood still when I saw Steven Spielberg. Being a budding filmmaker myself, I had to have my picture taken with him.
The souvenir shop was full of pure glam. It had feathered hats, wacky scarves, and big rhinestone-studded glasses to top off the look. My sister and I couldn’t help but dress up in this “fancy” attire. While we did this, Regan got his hand sculpted in wax; a great memento to take home.
The Top of the Bus
Our next stop was the ‘uptown loop’ of the Gray Line (212/445-0848) double-decker sightseeing bus. We all decided to sit in the open-air seats on top of the bus. The view was great, but we did have to duck a few times to avoid low-hanging tree branches. We were lucky to have a very smart, funny tour guide. He was chock full of interesting facts about New York City, adding his own little twist to them. It was the perfect way to go about seeing the city without getting lost, especially if you are a teen like myself who is very bad at directions.
The Gray Line starts at Times Square and goes to different museums and popular places people come to the city to see, where riders can be dropped off and picked up again after spending time at a particular location. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the downtown loop to be enjoyable at all. I could not understand this tour guide because he had a very heavy accent and worse, he was not enthusiastic at all. I had to fight myself to stay awake, so I don’t really remember much to tell you the truth. But the great thing about the Gray Line bus is that you can use it like a taxicab. If you’re tired of sitting on the bus you can get off and shop at familiar stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.
Day Two: Meeting the Stars
The next day Angela and Regan went to Yankee Stadium, so we chose On Location Tours (212/209-3370), the perfect tour for a person like me to take. I love television and it was exciting to see where some of the shows I watch, like “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Felicity,” and “The Cosby Show,” are shot. My sister and I were lucky to get a sweet, enthusiastic guide named Erica who made it the most pleasant, memorable trip ever.
If you’re lucky, you can bump into some celebrities or watch a film or TV drama being shot while on the tour. We got to witness a new show called “The Job” being shot on the steps of “The Cosby Show” brownstone, so we got a two-for-one deal. Next up was the building they used for exterior shots for “Friends.” When walking to this building, we got to see many lovely 18th-century buildings. We also got a chance to walk into the 9th precinct where “NYPD Blue” is shot. There were a lot of cops around doing their job while our tour guide chatted away, mentioning something about a staircase they used for the show. She was afraid to show us, but my sister bravely marched over, opened a door, and let everyone snap pictures. Erica cried, “You’re brave!” Outside the precinct, two young girls from our bus were so excited when they saw cop cars, they asked a NYC cop to pose with them. That’s how psyched they were!
The funniest stop of the tour is Al’s Soup Kitchen to see the Soup Nazi character from “Seinfeld.” This guy is for real. On the outside of the shop is a picture of him, along with his rules taped on the window. People are really curious to see if he’ll kick you out so, because of this and the fact that his soup is said to be addictive, there is a waiting line around the block. They told us he makes $20,000 a day.
This tour is definitely a must for teens when visiting the Big City. You would not be a true couch potato if you did not check out where your favorite shows are shot.
Day Three: Seeing the Island By Boat
On our last day, our friends Angela and Regan joined us again to try out the Circle Line’s ( 212/563-3200) two-hour Semi-Circle cruise. First, we had to wait for a while and be forced to take a group picture we did not want to buy. All this was for nothing. The cruise was soooooo boring. Don’t get me wrong, this would be perfect for your grandparents and parents, but I don’t think this cruise is for teens at all. It’s not really exciting, you’re just moving around Manhattan Island slowly, with a tour guide telling you history facts, like when buildings were built and why. Basically, it’s like history class on a boat.
The Beast, on the other hand, is awesome! The Beast is a speed boat that takes you on an amazing trip to the Statue of Liberty and then back to the Circle Line pier. It’s only a half-hour but it will leave you wanting more. The captains are really funny. They “race” the other Beast boats, complete with the Rocky theme music, “Eye Of The Tiger.” Warning: You will get wet. My sister sat on the outer seat and got completely soaked. I must warn females that when you come off the boat you will have a whole new different hairdo, but it is totally worth it. The louder you scream, the faster they go.
After the mind-blowing speed boat ride, we mellowed out at Galactic Circus (212/869-9397). It’s this carnival-style arcade with cool games located at Times Square, inside a building called Barcode. I have never been much of a video game person myself, but I liked the simulated rides. I tried out the car race ride with my sister and a group of other people I did not know. We all shared the same response: cries of joy and excitement, especially when the car would crash or fly into the air. It felt like we were really racing. The multi-colored neon lights are just like in a circus; it’s definitely a hangout spot for teens and I will go back with a group of friends to enjoy the lounge and order some yummy smoothies, the banana one in particular. Downstairs is Barcode for a more mature age group like your parents, with alcoholic beverages and games such as pool, a simulated space ship ride, and other arcade games.
Times Square Has It All
While in the Times Square area, check out the Virgin Megastore. This store’s name is not a lie, it’s humongous. You can do everything, go see a movie downstairs, buy books in the huge book area, pig out in the food court, and look at a huge music and movie collection. The cool thing is, you can jam to music while you shop ’cause they have the greatest sound system. When you’re out on the street, keep your eyes out for the Naked Cowboy. He is not actually naked, but he walks around in boxers with a cowboy hat and a guitar, singing. There is also the Robot Guy who is covered in silver paint and sounds and moves just like a robot, it’s amazing! If you put money in his hat or whatever he has out, he just may give you a wink. (He does that sometimes, so make sure to look for it.) Of course, there’s the famous MTV Studios where shows like “TRL” are taped.
For more information on New York City, its attractions, discounted lodging and dining packages, go to www.nycvisit.com.
Jennifer Poe, who is active in many film and photography programs, wrote this when she was a 16-year-old summer intern at Family Travel Forum. Her family lives on Roosevelt Island in New York’s East River.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.