I’m Anna—mom to 2-year-old Lucy. We live in Jersey City, New Jersey, a 5-minute ferry or underground ride from Manhattan (for perspective, after my water broke when I was in labor with Lucy, I walked to the PATH—the NJ to NYC version of the subway—and took public transport to the lower Manhattan hospital where I delivered, stopping for a bagel and coffee along the way.
I’m a single mom—Lucy was conceived abroad 7 months into what was supposed to be a yearlong “grown up gap year”—and I settled in Jersey City when I was 14 weeks pregnant. I had no job, all my stuff was in storage, and I had never even visited Jersey City before I signed my lease, sight unseen. Before, I’d always lived in Manhattan or Brooklyn. But I’ve loved our life here, and raising a city kid has been magical. Jersey City is slightly more low key than NYC (and, bonus, Jersey City and Hoboken, right next door, are both cities that allow visitors to easily rent via airbnb, which is tricky across the river).
Here’s what my favorite day here looks like:
8:30 Wake Up!
Lucy and I are both late sleepers, which is brilliant! I’m a content strategist, journalist, and novelist, and I’ve been lucky enough to cobble together a satisfying and comfortable freelance career. Lucy goes to fulltime daycare, but in nice weather, I like to sneak a Friday off!
9AM Neighborhood Watch at the Local Coffee Shop
We go to the same coffee shop, Sam AM, every single morning. I mean every morning—Lucy will even prompt me with a “coffee?” if we seem to be dawdling too much. We get a cold brew (Lucy has a few sips), split a breakfast sandwich or a chocolate croissant and sit on the steps and watch the world go by. We always run into at least one person we know, and sometimes, I seriously feel like we live on Sesame Street.
10:45 Art Class
We’ll head on the PATH into Manhattan for art class! I’ll either use the Pockit stroller, which I can fold up, or put her in the toddler Tula—it’s really hard using a full-size stroller on the subway. We head to the Children’s Museum of the Arts in the West Village for a drop-in session. It’s brilliant. Designed for kids under 5 and running nearly every morning, there are different stations with facilitators helping the kids, followed by story time and singing.
About once a month, we go to a lunch organized by Nibble + Squeak. This is definitely an ‘occasional’ and not all the time event, but they organize parent and child lunches at cool restaurants around the city. We’ve made friends through the group, and as a foodie, I love introducing Lucy to one of my favorite things—eating at cool restaurants! This is a photo of a winter lunch we went to at Untitled at the Whitney, but all are brilliant and a must RSVP if you’re going to be in town during one of their events.
3pm Splash and Crash
Parks are everywhere in Manhattan, and in the summer, most parks have a splash pad. If you’re visiting in the summer, always pack an extra outfit: While some kids go in their bathing suits, most just change once they’re all wet. One of my favorites is the playground near Battery Park, which is close to where we catch the ferry to and from Jersey City. It’s also right by Brookfield Place, so you can grab lunch there and eat outside. We play it loose when it comes to naps, and on a day like today, Lucy will probably fall asleep in her stroller and I’ll play on my phone.
Did I mention I love eating? Thankfully, Lucy is always down for restaurant hopping. As a single parent, I’ve found my friends are everything, and always invite a few on our adventures—it’s always an open invitation, and the more, the merrier. One of my favorite friend dates (for mamas and babies!) is grabbing an early dinner at Eataly in the Financial District. The toddlers gorge on the bread basket and split a kid’s pizza, and we’ll both order pasta and catch up.
8pm Play in the Courtyard
One of the best things about my building is the sense of community. We have a large fenced-in courtyard where all the kids play together in the summer. Meanwhile, the adults share a few bottles of wine and talk. We always joke we would be a really lame reality show, but I just love the sense of community found in Jersey City. In the winter, we have an indoor playroom, but I always look forward to late nights in the courtyard—and I’m fine with Lucy and I staying out until it gets dark.
9:30 Books and Bed
We still cosleep, and in an ideal world, Lucy would fall asleep and I would get back up to finish work. This happens 50% of the time. Mostly, we cuddle in bed, read some picture books—and then both end up crashing!
For more adventures and tips, follow Anna and Lucy on Instagram @babybackpacker.