How to Keep Your Parents Occupied When They Come to Campus for Your Graduation

Editor's note:

This feature from 2022 had so many timeless ideas that we decided to reshare it for the Class of 2023. Congratulations!

Caroline Harting
April 08, 2023

The great news: after a two-year hiatus, graduation is back on campus! The more complicated news: you will now need to entertain your family. There will be plenty of graduation-related events, but you might want to take a short New York City excursion with them, or if you’d like to have some time with your friends, perhaps you can encourage your family to explore the city on their own.

Consider some of these activities around New York City, some close to Columbia’s campus and some more far afield. Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list, but hopefully it will give you some helpful tips.

Walks Around New York City 

Immigrant Life in Lower Manhattan 

Experience what life was like for millions of immigrants on the Lower East Side with a tour of the Tenement Museum on Orchard Street. You can reserve tickets a month in advance. If you want to delve deeper into Jewish immigrant life in the neighborhood, take a self-guided tour out to the Museum at Eldridge Street (the museum is closed on Saturday). 

A view of a street in New York City's Chinatown at dusk

Hungry yet? Walk west to Mott Street or Pell Street below Canal Street to Manhattan’s Chinatown for some dim sum or Peking duck at the one of the myriad of the neighborhood’s incredible restaurants. If you have room for dessert, stroll over to Little Italy’s Ferrara’s for gelato, canollis, or other Southern Italian treats. It’s touristy, but delicious.

Art, Nature, and Food

New York City has some of the best museums in the world, but if you’ve already visited the major ones, head downtown to Chelsea. Meander through the many art galleries along the far west side in the upper-20s to mid-20s. After your art-gazing, head outside to walk south on the beautiful High Line.

A floating park in the Hudson River, Little Island

Hop off the High Line around 15th Street and 10th Avenue, and grab a meal from one of the many excellent food booths at Chelsea Market. After dinner, watch the sunset at New York City’s latest park on the Hudson River, Little Island (reservations will be necessary after May 12).

Unique City Parks

Columbia borders some of New York City’s most beautiful parks, but if you have a full day free, take a subway down to Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn Heights. Start at Pier 6 located at the western edge of Atlantic Avenue. Wander north in the park to check out its distinctive piers. Rent some roller skates and go skating on Pier 2!

Roller skaters in a covered outdoor roller skating in Brooklyn Bridge Parl

After your roller skating workout, enjoy an ice cream cone by the light house under the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO. Not done for the day? Jump on a ferry from the DUMBO/Fulton Ferry Station to Governor’s Island. Rent a bike to explore the 172-acre park that boasts the “Slide Hill” playground for your younger relatives and the “Hammock Grove” for your older ones who might need a nap by now. Food vendors are located on the island. Keep an eye out for new options as more should open up in May. When you’re done, take a ferry that drops you off in Lower Manhattan near Battery Park.

Stay Local

Looking for restaurants and things to do in Morningside Heights? Look no further than Columbia News’ 35 Places Columbians Should Visit in Morningside Heights (and Beyond).

Want to learn more about Harlem? Take this walking tour curated by Schomburg Center Chief of Staff, Kevin Matthews 

Go deeper into Upper Manhattan and explore some notable Upper Manhattan landmarks that are important parts of Black history.

If you want to see some theater without the high prices of the venues downtown, check out a show at the Morningside Players Theater Co. on LaSalle St., which is dedicated to affordable productions of new work and classic plays.

Happenings Around Campus

Take in some great new productions from the School of the Arts’ New Plays Festival. 

Note: Check back in as graduation approaches. As we get more information about campus-related events, we will update this article.