New York City: What to see with your tween girl
A reader writes::
What hip things can I do in NYC with my teenage daughter when she accompanies me on her first big-girl trip in less than two weeks?
Our main advice? Go to shops you can't find everywhere.
• The Market NYC: Up-and-coming clothing and jewelry designers sell their wares in booths (FYI, it's also known as Young Designer's Market). 268 Mulberry St., 212/580-8995, weekends only
• Dylan's Candy Bar: Flagship of the burgeoning sweets empire of Ralph Lauren's daughter features hard-to-find candy, cute candy-related clothes and gifts, and a retro soda fountain (love the peppermint-striped stools!). 1011 Third Ave., 646/735-0078
• Kate's Paperie: The company's five Manhattan locations are filled to the brim with unique note cards, calendars, journals, handmade wrapping paper, and racks of fine stationery; the SoHo store is the best.
And don't forget to catch an up-and-coming hip star in a show on or off Broadway. Of all the shows currently on Broadway, "Wicked," "Billy Elliot," and "West Side Story" are among those that will appeal most. Read Budget Travel's coverage of Broadway Tickets on the Cheap. Quick hint: Avoid the mile-long lines at the Times Square TKTS booth by buying discounted Broadway tickets in advance at playbill.com and theatermania.com.
New York City has plenty to offer a teen girl looking for both the hip to traditional.
Check out On Location Tours, which offers a "Gossip Girl" tour of New York City. For the real thing, see the On Location Vacation blog for movie and TV shoots as they happen. If they're shooting a scene outdoors, it's OK to watch. But this is New York, so please try to look bored and pretend you see this stuff every day.
And while there are also "Sex and the City" treks, maybe check out one of the crazes it helped spawn, the cupcakes. Besides Magnolia Bakery (the girls' go-to spot for cupcakes, at three locations), see the Cupcakes Takes the Cake blog for a rundown of the "it" cupcakes of the moment.
As for shopping, out-of-towners who I assume don't have the Internet are still enthralled by the big branches of Macy's, H&M;'s, TopShop, American Apparel and the like. But your time shopping in NYC is better spent looking for goods you can't get elsewhere. Sample sales may be a bit too hit-or-miss and time-consuming, so maybe best to pick a neighborhood with plenty of boutiques, such as Nolita. The shopping blog Racked usually does a Friday map with the weekend's best sales.
It's also worth noting the top floor of the Tiffany's mothership offers plenty of trinkets under $100 that she'll probably keep forever. About a block away from Tiffany's is the 24-hour Apple store and FAO Schwarz.
Elsewhere, picture-perfect ice skating options include Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and Bryant Park (where it's free to skate and rentals are about $12 a person).
With kids, make sure the museums don't sound like a chore. If you venture into any of the biggies such as the Met, MoMA, Whitney, or Guggenheim, keep in mind it's OK to just dip in briefly. (Also note that many museums, including all those mentioned above, have free, pay-as-you-wish or suggested donation hours.)
But most importantly, don't overestimate your teen's need for cool. Institutions that sound stuffy—such as Carnegie Hall or the NY Philharmonic—do a number of excellent programs geared for kids. New York has the great ability to stretch kids' minds, plant seeds and show them a gazillion things are possible and within reach.
Learn more at Newyorkology.
MORE TIPS, FROM BUDGET TRAVEL
Need hotel recommendations? Read our reviews of New York City hotels at a price that's right.
Instead of the Empire State Building—with its three-hour long lines, why not try Top of the Rock—the three-floor art deco observation deck atop the GE Building in Rockefeller Center—is superior in every conceivable way. First, there are the views: Instead of the Empire State Building's jailhouse bars, you get glass panels that look like they were washed that morning; the first floor (of three total) also has large indoor areas for those who'd rather not venture outside. Second, the top floor, because it's set back from the edge of the building, has totally unimpeded views. Third, the art deco details will take your breath away; wandering around, you feel a bit like Lex Luthor in his evil (but sumptuous) aerie. Fourth, the visitor experience is infinitely better: The workers treat you like a human being, rather than use the fact that you're waiting in line as an opportunity to give you the hard sell. Finally, there's the elevator ride. Stand in the back of the car, to the right as you enter. Then look up. 877/692-7625, topoftherocknyc.com, adults for $21, ages 6-12 for $14.
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NYC: Free ice-skating at Bryant Park
The holiday season really is the city's most wonderful time of year, and it's already getting in motion. At lunchtime today, the Pond at Bryant Park and 125 surrounding holiday shops opened. Passersby crowded around the rink, even climbing onto the park's café chairs to glimpse the synchronized Haydenettes and other professional skaters. Workers were putting the finishing touches on Celsius, a two-story rinkside restaurant and lounge. Open through January 24, 2010, the Pond has a prime midtown location between 40th and 42nd Streets and Fifth and Sixth Avenues—in view of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. It's the only free ice-skating rink in New York City, although skate rentals will set you back $12. RELATED Affinia Manhattan's Real Deal includes accommodations, two skate rentals, hot chocolate, a Macy's discount, an in-suite movie, spa products, and other goodies, from $239 a night—a savings of $125.
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Paris: Top 5 free things to do in November
The only thing better than visiting Paris is being able to enjoy free events in Paris. Here's a round-up of activities for the cozy month of November. Fall foliage in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont The city's wildest, hilliest park is exploding with autumn colors right now. Take an exhilarating urban hike around the the park's lake and cross the newly reopened suspension bridge to reach the waterfall. If that works up an appetite, you can stop inside the park at Rosa Bonheur, which has recently transformed from a simple drinks place to a full-on (affordable) restaurant. Parc des Buttes Chaumont, 19th arrondissement. Dysfashional exhibition at the Passage du Désir, (through November 29)This free art show has lured some of fashion's most cutting-edge designers into a pop-up exhibition space near the Canal Saint-Martin. Works from Pierre Hardy, Maison Martin Margiela, and Gaspard Yurkievich are displayed until the end of the month, when this show packs up and heads to Berlin. Passage du Désir, 85-87 rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, 10th arrondissement, 011-33/1-56-41-36-04 Clotilde Dusoulier at WH Smith (November 17) The author of the popular Chocolate & Zucchini site (who has written for Budget Travel Paris Tasting Tour and the aptly titled "My Paris Is Better Than Yours") will be celebrating her 6th "blogiversary" and discussing the editorial work she did for I Know How to Cook, the bible of French home cooking by Ginette Mathiot that was just released in the U.S. The food-love fest will begin at 7 p.m. WH Smith, 248 rue de Rivoli, 1st arrondissement, 011-33/1-44-77-88-99. Azar Nafisi at the Village Voice Bookshop (November 20) The author of the international bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran will discuss her new book, Things I've Been Silent About. The memoir presents Nafisi's personal story about growing up in Iran against the background of her country's political revolution. The reading will begin at 7 p.m. Village Voice Bookshop, 6 rue Princesse, 6th arrondissement, 011-33/1-46-33-36-47 Paris Movie Walk at Shakespeare & Company (November 25) Michael Schuermann, the author of Paris Movie Walks, will lead a free tour of his favorite cinematic haunts. The walk will explore Notre Dame Cathedral and the Rive Gauche, with Schuermann describing classic films such as An American in Paris, A Bout de Souffle, and Before Sunset (which was partly shot at Shakespeare & Company) The walk will begin at 4 p.m. at the bookstore and will last for 60 to 90 minutes. Shakespeare & Company, 37 rue de la Bûcherie, 5th arrondissement, 011-33/1-43-25-40-93. BONUS "NEARLY FREE" EVENT Return of la Flèche d'Or (November 23) The Flèche d'Or, before it closed in early summer, was every broke music lover's best friend. After months of sound-proofing, the city's best free venue will reopen, only not exactly for free. Entry for the first show—Evan Dando from the Lemonheads, Chris Brokaw, and others—will cost 8€ ($12), but that includes one free drink. Subtracting the 6€ cost of the drink, that makes the entry almost free… at least close enough to qualify for our list. La Flèche d'Or, 102 rue de Bagnolet, 20th arrondissement. Check out Budget Travel's new Paris guide