I often get asked why we chose to live on the Upper West Side of all the possible NYC neighbourhoods. To be honest, there are so many reasons but lifestyle, familiarity and community were the driving factors.
Our Toronto neighbourhood was called the Beaches, a walkable part of town that felt like a village in the city. It was very family friendly and had a bit of a hippie/ granola vibe going on. We were a 5 min walk from Lake Ontario with its fabulous boardwalk and there were 4 playgrounds within a 10-15 min walk. We lived in a house with a small backyard where we had a garden and O went to a Montessori pre-school.
We had visited New York before and loved Greenwich Village, TriBeCa and Soho, but to be honest, those neighbourhoods seemed more like somewhere we’d love to live without kids. Walk-up apartments become an issue when lugging a stroller, scooter or someone with little legs, and an active nightlife becomes a nuisance when your child is supposed to be asleep by 8pm. We didn’t consider living in the outer boroughs or Connecticut mostly to minimize commuting time, but also because this was likely not a permanent move, and we were excited to actually have the opportunity to live in Manhattan.
We literally took a map of Manhattan and drew a circle around Central Park. Then we Googled “Montessori Schools NYC” to try to make the transition easier for O. Add this to the fact I’d watched two seasons of “Odd Mom Out”, and knew I’d never fit in on the Upper East Side. Voila! the perfect recipe for Upper West Side living.
Living here has been great so far. We found a nice apartment, have fun Canadian neighbours, and every 10 blocks is its own microcosm with its own vibe. There are tons of families in the neighbourhood and both Riverside Park and Central Park have fantastic playgrounds every few blocks. Cultural institutions like the Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Natural History Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Lincoln Centre are walking distance, with the Central Park Zoo a slightly longer hike. While it is not the trendiest or most glamorous part of town, the vibe is Down-to-Earth with a nice mix of moms in yoga clothes, the casual set, and elegantly dressed people on their way to work or out for a bite. The neighbourhood also has tons of grocery stores, flower shops, bakeries and (if you go early) kid-friendly restaurants. In fact, the neighbourhood has outposts of several known restaurants such as Carmine’s, Pio Pio, Candle West Cafe, Magnolia Bakery, Amorino Gelato and Motorino pizza. The sidewalks are wide, and walking O to school is actually fun! It’s pleasant to see classmates, say good morning and walk or scoot to school together. There is a sense of community.
Obviously there have been things we needed adjusting to: our outdoor space is limited to a shared rooftop with no BBQ, we’re not allowed to plant a garden, apartments are smaller than houses, going to the park is not as convenient as going to the back yard, making new friends and finding activities, etc. But hey, it’s New York! All in all, we’ve adjusted well and the Upper West Side feels like home.