We chatted with Jak Burke, founder of the website Baby Does… NYC, on her favorite baby-friendly restaurants, hidden NYC gems, and how to survive long winters with baby:
1. Tell us about Baby Does…NYC and why you decided to start the site.
I’m a London born and bred girl but when I visited New York in 2001 I was instantly hooked. Within 12 months I had sold everything in the U.K and shipped out to NYC. I quickly began to work with families and small children in the city… I soon realized that there was an info gap for the 0-24 months age group. I also wanted to host a site that offered healthy, locally made goods and services for busy parents. In 2007 I registered my company and trademark Baby Does NYC. In 2012 we fully launched with a team.
2. In your opinion, what are the best parts of raising a baby in the city?
Oh where to begin! NYC is literally the best place on earth to raise a family. The city has everything: nature, enrichment, culture and some of the most progressive companies in the juvenile market. The city also feels like a collection of communities. Each neighborhood has its own unique scene and cultural vibe. Events for kids in NYC are also superior simply because of the concentration of talent and ingenuity here.
3. Can you let us in on any hidden NYC gems (parks, museums, play groups, etc.)?
To be honest everything in NYC is pretty spectacular and it’s difficult to pick a few things in particular but I am always pleasantly surprised by classes aimed at babies. For example, the Guggenheim has a stroller tour that is interactive (tots get to do stuff) as well as deeply enriching visually. It’s also a great social mixer for parents. The Mahayana Temple in Chinatown is an oasis of tranquility in a noisy neighborhood. See how your baby responds to the giant golden Buddha. On a similar theme, The New York Chinese Scholar’s Garden in Snug Harbor, Staten Island, is sublime in terms of peace and beauty. For more boisterous fun I love to go to Coney Island and enjoy the historic boardwalk amusements and beach.
4. Winters in the city can be tough for anyone, but especially when you have a newborn. Any tips on surviving the season without just hibernating at home?
Yes, in fact I recently wrote a post all about winter and how to survive it. Feeling isolated and trapped while undergoing sleep deprivation can be brutal for new mothers. I recommend that moms prepare for inclement weather by weather-proofing their strollers and baby carriers, then get outside! If your building has a community garden or rooftop grab some sunlight and fresh air at least once a day. Book regular drop-in classes for baby in your neighborhood - Kidz Central Station lists hundreds of classes for infants by zip code. We partner with them every week to promote different events. Also check out what’s going on at your local library. The NYPL has a variety of weekly free events for children and babies in most neighborhoods. Join a local parent forum and attend meet-ups at places like Barnes & Noble. Reach out to other parents in your neighborhood and building – host coffee mornings or breast-feeding dates. Last but not least accept help. Allow a relative or a friend to babysit for an hour or two while you nap or take a walk. Remember a happy baby needs a happy mama too.
5. And when the weather’s nicer…What are some can’t-miss outdoor spots?
Once the weather is temperate it’s fun to go further afield and explore other boroughs and even islands! Take a ferry ride to Staten Island and visit Snug Harbor with its wonderful children’s museum and exquisitely themed gardens. Visit Roosevelt Island and take a tram ride and see the lighthouse. Take a free ferry and grab some art on Governor’s Island. You can also enjoy a bike ride and picnic alongside some amazing outdoor art installations. I also recommend that parents attend some of the glorious parks in Queens and the Bronx. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to enjoy springtime’s Cherry Blossoms.
6. Favorite baby-friendly restaurants?
NYC is pretty baby-friendly at least during the day and early evening. Navigating a tightly packed restaurant with a stroller is trickier though so bring a baby seat or booster seat and park your stroller outside. I personally love Bubbys on the weekends when the neighborhood’s families are feasting on pancakes. For an early supper try Cowgirl Hall of Fame in the West Village. Uptown The Indian Road Café in Inwood serves locally farmed foods and they also host live music. Brooklyn would require a food page of its own – neighborhoods like Fort Greene and Park Slope boast amazing eateries for families. I recommend you just wander. Queens has some fun ethnic beer gardens with outdoor music events. It also has some of the best Indian family-friendly venues in NYC. The Bronx hosts quite a few tasty Italian restaurants like Villaggio Ristorante and Patricia’s. For fun-dining on Staten Island why not go for some steak and sushi at Arirang Hibachi Steakhouse and Sushi Bar or Bavarian cuisine at Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn? It’s good to remember that because your child is under two you can still opt for a menu that does not involve fries and pancakes – so make the most of it and be adventurous!
7. What baby gear or accessories do you think all NYC mom’s should invest in?
A good light-weight but robust stroller with a compact diaper bag (one that straps easily to the stroller) and a stroller organizer are must-have items as well as a supportive baby carrier. You can buy just about anything for a baby within a block or two’s radius so new parents can afford to travel light.
Thanks, Jackalyn! Head on over to Baby Does…NYC for more on all things baby.
(Image 2 via Bel & Beau, 4 via Annie Dean.)