If you are the proud parent of a teenager, you’ll know that teens are notoriously difficult to please. No longer children but not yet adults, keeping your finger on the pulse of teen coolness and coming up with activities to enjoy with them can be tricky, particularly on vacation. The good news is that today’s teenagers are complex creatures with a variety of interests who like to have fun and avidly consume culture, which means the range of activities you can share with them is greater than ever before. If you’d like to plan a vacation you can all enjoy, look no further: we’ve got you covered, with plans for every type of teen.
THE CULTURE VULTURE: MADRID
Home to some of the best museums in the world, Madrid’s status as a major cultural player is undeniable. What you may not know is that it is also teeming with cultural options for children and teenagers and is a lively and welcoming place for young ones.
While mainly known for its artistic offerings, Madrid’s theatrical scene is not to be sniffed at. A stone’s through away from the beautiful Royal Palace, the Teatro Real offers large discounts for people under thirty and even has a series of productions and events geared towards young people, such as Dido & Aeneas: A Hipster Tale; a teenage adaptation of Henry Purcell’s operatic masterpiece.
A hundred-year-old hotel. The Iberostar Las Letras Gran Vía was built over a hundred years ago. As you wander through this age-old building, keep an eye out for details such as its grand antique staircase and the Sevillian tiles that decorate several of its walls. Imagine the stories they could tell!
Madrid’s old slaughterhouse turned cultural hub, Matadero, offers every cultural event under the sun. From film to visual art to music, theater, performing arts, design, books, food and everything in between, there is truly something for everyone. For the past four years they have also been organizing FESTeen, a youth culture festival curated by a group of 16- to 21-year-olds that runs the gamut from live music to skateboarding, dance battles, electronic music workshops, exhibitions of teen self-portraits and more.
La Casa Encendida is a social and cultural center with a constant stream of exhibitions, concerts, talks, performances, courses and screenings, with special events for kids, such as gif-making workshops. Hot on the heels of FESteen, this September they debuted Puwerty, a festival entirely devoted to teenagers with workshops on identity, “selfie poetry” and DJ sets during the day and concerts and panel discussions about “Fans vs. Haters” at night.
THE GEEK: NEW YORK
According to a recent study by Common Sense Media, teens spend an average of nine hours a day in front of their electronic devices. Gone are the days when kids were made fun of for having obscure interests and interacting with others through a screen. Video games, comic books and science fiction are massively popular with teenagers, with fandoms providing many opportunities for connecting with likeminded teens. In other words: nerds are cool now. For kids with geeky tendencies, the city that never sleeps can provide hours of entertainment.
If you have a comic-book enthusiast on your hands, head to Midtown Comics in Times Square to see New York’s largest and most iconic comic store firsthand. For those who favor graphic novels and zines over superheroes, you can’t go wrong with Quimby’s, a recent Brooklyn outpost of Chicago’s notorious indie comic store.
Is your teen a videogame expert? The Geekery HQ in Queens— “home of all games and geekeries”—not only offers a wide selection in its shop but also hosts a variety of events and activities for the gaming community. For a blast from the past, go to Pinball Wizard in Kips Bay, select one of their vintage games and show your kid how it’s done.
Known as “the largest pop culture event on the East Coast”, New York’s Comic Con is not to be missed if you happen to visit New York in October, with all kinds of events, panels and stands relating to comics, video games and beyond. Drop off your teen while you stroll through nearby Chelsea Park, taking in the beautiful colors of New York’s majestic fall season. Moreover, the area of Midtown Manhattan, where the 4-star hotel Iberostar 70 Park Avenue is located, allows visitors to reach Greenwich Village, one of the most charming neighbourhoods in New York and a classic meeting point for artists and intellectuals.
THE GREEN TEEN: MONTEGO BAY
The environment is one of the main concerns for teenagers these days, according to the nonprofit DoSomething.org. For the teen who prefers to leave books and games aside in search of nature and outdoor adventures, Montego Bay, Jamaica, offers stunning beaches and natural beauty but also a range of activities that are sure to provide an adrenaline rush.
Jamaica is renowned for its beaches, with consistently warm weather and calm rolling waves that provide the perfect conditions for watersports year-round. Doctor’s Cave Bathing Club is the most famous beach in Mo’Bay due to its mineral springs, white sands and clear waters. Another great option awaits a mere twenty-minute drive away, at the Rose Hall Beach Club, where you can enjoy a family lunch at its seaside picnic area. Iberostar Hotels & Resorts has three 5-star resorts in Montego Bay. In these luxurious accommodations guests find an exquisite gastronomy, a full range of entertainment and rooms equipped to the smallest, luxurious detail to make the most of their stay in Jamaica.
For a one-of-a-kind experience, head over to the nearby port town of Ocho Ríos (fun fact: the town appeared in the first James Bond film, Dr. No, in 1962). The best views of the town are found on Mystic Mountain, an attraction on a mountain 700-feet high that is accessed via SkyExplorer chairlift and provides breathtaking view of the Jamaican rainforest. Once you’ve arrived, you can choose between the Infinity Edge Pool and Mystic Waterslide, Canopy Zip Line or Bobsled Ride, all guaranteed to get your blood pumping. Animal lovers will delight in the Butterfly Attraction Garden, Hummingbird Garden and bird-watching tours.
Located in the town of Falmouth, a forty-minute drive from Montego Bay, Luminous Lagoon is a rare natural wonder whose waters, filled with phosphorous, allow it to literally glow when moved. It is best seen via boat and when it comes to visiting, the night time is the right time, so make sure your teens are well-rested. Watch the fish light up as they move around and, if you get the chance to swim in the lagoon, you’ll see that your body glows blue in the water as well—a truly magical experience you won’t soon forget.
THE SELFIE-ADDICT: LISBON
The selfie craze has taken the world by storm, and teens are at the forefront of the trend, sharing photos of themselves on Snapchat and Instagram to connect with their friends and show a slice of their life. While you wouldn’t choose a vacation destination simply because it is photogenic, it can certainly be a bonus, providing opportunities for beautiful photographs that will bring back memories of your family vacation for years to come. Check out our holiday offers in Lisbon and give yourself a truly unique Portuguese break.
In this regard, Lisbon is sure to deliver. There is something special about the light there, giving the intricately-painted tiles of its façades an allure that harks back to another time. Ride the famous Elevador da Bica to the top of Lisbon’s famous bohemian neighborhood of Barrio Alto for some local color and a charming view of the narrow winding alleys and seemingly precarious constructions. You won’t be able to resist taking a snap of the sunset from above the terracotta rooftops of this unique location.
Lisbon is also home to a rich street art scene, its spray-painted murals providing a striking contrast to the quaintly decadent architecture that abounds there. There are more than 160 pieces of urban artwork displayed across the city, by the likes of Pixel Pancho, local artist collective Os Gemeos or Vhils, who is equally comfortable displaying his art on the streets of Lisbon as in international galleries. It all began in one of the of the city’s main arteries, Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo, where large-scale murals by international artists cover the buildings, including a green-and-yellow alligator that stretches diagonally from ground level to the very top of the building: a fun and quirky photo opportunity. Then, carve out some time to explore the open-air gallery of Calçada da Gloria. Make sure to use hashtags to credit the talented artists and make your photos easy to find.