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Beth Beckman: Mom in the Know

 

Photo by Ana Gambuto

You have seen writer, explorer and photographer Beth Beckman’s gorgeous New York pictures. If not through her Instagram and website Little Kid, Big City! Certainly through FOMOfeed and FOMOfeed Kids, which she co-founded.

This perpetual non-sleeper lives in Manhattan with her husband, 7-year-old son, and their Mini Dachshund, Hotdog. Beth obsessively researches NYC and shares it all with us. As an editor, what I appreciate about Beth is in one post, she gives the reader a wealth of information. You want to drop everything and run to that spot kids’ in tow — pronto!

We know we are going into a school year and most likely a year where how we live comes with some significant changes; however, we live in the best city in the world, and Beth an admitted culture addict, shares how we can enjoy New York City and appreciate the beauty of a city we adore.

You love to explore, have you always had wanderlust? What inspires you to explore a city?

I love exploring and discovering a new destination, and have a major addiction to wanderlust. I grew up in Wisconsin and for many years my family didn’t have the means to travel or explore often, but I was always curious about the world out there. Then at a young age there were a few unfortunate events where I lost a few close family members. Tragic events change perspective, and for me this completely cemented my lifelong wanderlust and need for exploration. Every day is a gift, and I believe every day should be lived to its fullest. My goal is to see and explore as much as possible, and to make incredible memories while doing it.

Start spreading the news….! While in college I had a unique opportunity to move to New York through school. I signed the contract’s dotted line without ever even stepping foot in NYC. There was no question. I knew it was where I wanted to be, and I never looked back.

For me, I have always been inspired by discovery, and believe that researching a destination can be just as exciting as the trip itself. We love traveling, and when we book a trip I find myself enthralled with excitement, and immediately deep-dive into research on the destination to see what we can discover in person. From travel books to blogs, Instagram to TikTok, I scour the internet and grab as much information as I can get my hands on. I consider myself an “experience seeker,” always on the lookout for cultural and unique experiences at each destination. It could be an exotic locale or nearby neighborhood. To me all exploring is amazing, and equally stimulating. Discovering them in person is thrilling, and endlessly inspiring.

There are amazing things to discover out there, and in New York, these discoveries change and refresh on a daily basis. From museums, parks, activities, and incredible art…We are so lucky — this is our backyard! The culture here is incredible, and all of this makes it a magical place to raise kids. When I started my blog my life mission was (and continues to be) to inspire others to get out there and explore with their children. It’s why we live here, right? The culture and experiences here are worth every penny.

Over the years our account has grown into a love letter to the city. Showcasing New York and inspiring others to get out and explore is amazing…but honestly, I just consider myself lucky that each day I get to wake up in the world’s greatest city.

Photo by Beth Beckman

You explore everywhere with your son, how can a parent guide their child to have a fun yet educated experience when visiting anything from a museum to a nature spot?

Many museums and galleries offer engaging, interactive children’s programming — which can be a great way to get your little one excited about the visit. Our first stop is usually the information desk. There’s almost always a map or family pamphlet, or an online resource that will help engage children further. One favorite is the MetKids program. They have a (free) map of the museum made just for kids that my son loves.

For non-museum led activities, I always bring along a notebook and color pencils. (Note: no markers, it must be pencil —  most museums/galleries only allow pencils as they are less likely to damage the artwork, etc). Sometimes the simple act of looking at the technique of the art and mimicking it on paper, or drawing the art that they see in their own interpretation is a fun way to engage children. Another tip — make a game of it! We sometimes create a scavenger hunt during our visit. Try having kids locate a color, shape, object, or even an animal or food. You can be more detailed for older kids — artists, specific details, etc. You can do this before you head out, you can make it up as you go, room by room.

From seek-and-find at a local nature spot, or looking to the treetops for birds at a local park — there are so many ways to engage children further while exploring outdoors. Our little guy asks *tons* of questions — many to which I don’t know the answer. I often take photos on my phone and “Google” the bird/tree/animal when we get home to learn more. Another tip — I usually keep a large Ziploc in my bag for fun nature discoveries. We often bring a bag of leaves, rocks, and other natural goodies home and then make an art project or build something together to keep the conversation (and intrigue) going.

When COVID is over I highly recommend the (free!) Urban Park Ranger programs through NYC Parks. They hold many incredible events, such as camping under the stars. We have camped in Prospect Park and Central Park, both of which were incredible learning experiences, and a memory we will never forget.

Social distancing rules are now a way of life, what advice do you have for parents when out and about in the time of coronavirus?

To say it’s been a turbulent and crazy year with coronavirus would be a colossal understatement. One thing I can say for certain — New York is resilient. I’ve lived in the city through September 11th, the great Blackout, and in lower Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy. New York is strong and ALWAYS perseveres. There’s no doubt that we will get through this.

There are glimmers of hope on the horizon. Stores, museums and experiences are all starting to reopen, and the city is starting to, ever so slowly, feel a tiny bit like New York again. When out and about — Mask Up! They are required at most places and make it safe for you and others to visit. Social distancing is the new normal, and safety procedures are underway at almost all establishments and are clearly marked/easy to follow. Most importantly, keep little hands clean. Wash hands as often as possible, and don’t leave home without the new must-have accessory: hand sanitizer. Aside from that — get out there and see the city, it’s a great time to explore! (Yes, seriously!) As NYC is mostly void of tourists at the moment, many places that once had lines and long waits are virtually empty, squeaky clean, and eagerly awaiting your visit. To see the city like this is a rare opportunity…and businesses need us more than ever. Just be prepared, be careful, and enjoy!

One notation: Be sure you have a bathroom plan — many establishments have closed their bathrooms to the public. As a general rule, department stores and (usually — not always!) grocery stores are available to guests. Restaurants with outdoor dining will allow customers to use the facilities as well. If it is in question, be sure to call ahead and check before venturing out on a day trip with the fam, just to be sure.

Photo by Beth Beckman

What many parents may not know is you co-founded FOMOfeed and FOMOfeed Kids? How did this come about?

After seeing my partner at many of the same NYC events, we decided to join together and also launch a family version of FOMOfeed, called FOMOfeed Kids. This platform showcases a curated mix of the best of NYC cultural events for kids (but honestly, aren’t we all just big kids at heart?). The platform has a heavy art focus, and we regularly showcase museums, art galleries, installations and cultural happenings throughout the city. As our beloved city is nothing without the incredible and inspiring New Yorkers who call it home, we often try to feature our community in the photos — always crediting their amazing explorations and helping to showcase them discovering the city.

Our platform has been getting incredible traction, and we have had many ask us for more locations. We will soon be spinning this off into its own entity and to other big cities across the country. It’s an exciting time…Stay tuned!

There are still restrictions on where we can visit, what are some of your favorite social distancing spots for parents to take kids?

I’ve been *really* impressed to see how New York City has pivoted so quickly to social distancing measures. There’s been some really creative measures and adaptations — here are a few of our current favorites:

Domino Park and Madison Square Park: O Marks the Spot! Both locations have recently debuted social distancing lawns, where the park has painted large circular spots six feet (or more) apart on the grass. The spots are meant for families or friends to gather within, to help keep their social distance from others while relaxing on the grass. Great for adults and it actually works quite brilliantly for kids, as these painted lines do help to keep little ones within the area too.

Pier 17: The Pier 17 Rooftop has just launched The Greens — an open-air seating arrangement that gives visitors their own personal mini lawns. Perfect for New Yorkers who don’t have a backyard — each lawn has (contactless) food service, an umbrella and chairs, and an amazing view of Lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge. They also rent separate Gaming Lawns where your family can play unlimited yard games (think giant Jenga and toss games) for a specified time period. These lawns are insanely popular — reservations are essential, be sure to book in advance!

Drive-In Movie Theaters: It’s been the summer of the Drive-In Theater, and this trend is going to roll right through fall and early winter. Skyline Drive-In NYC is located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and offers great movie classics as well as a selection of family-friendly favorites, and a jaw-dropping view of Manhattan. No car? No problem! They just opened walk-in seating for those without a vehicle.

Rockefeller Center: Rockefeller Center has many “family favorite” stores, that in these times of COVID have no lines nor tourists, making it a great time to explore these iconic destinations. Mask up and head over to The LEGO Store, Nintendo and FAO Schwarz — all of which are all within a couple blocks radius. Don’t miss the famous BIG Piano during your visit!

Photo by Ana Gambuto 

As we enter into a COVID school year, kids will need to be out more than ever. What are a few of your top New York spots for kids?

We have learned that outside is best when dealing with these crazy times of COVID. The good news? There are endless green spaces and outdoor destinations in NYC to explore. Here are a few favorites:

Governors Island: It’s only 8 minutes away by ferry but it feels like it’s hundreds of miles away from the city. Wide open spaces, historical elements, and the view from the waterfront is epic! Be sure to try the twisting and turning slides, and then climb The Hills for a tip-top view of the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan. There’s also an Urban Farm you can tour on weekends.

The Highline: The park that is high in the sky is a great place to go with kids when you want to get outside. Currently, visits are free but require a reservation to control capacity. The Highline has artistically added green polka dots across the paths and benches to help with social distancing measures. Kids can connect (and count) the dots and follow the path, right through the elevated train tracks.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park Queens: This gigantic park has great green spaces to social distance and plenty of bike paths to explore. Swing by the Unisphere to take in the out-of-this world-sculpture that was once the centerpiece for the World’s Fair. A Drive-In movie theater just recently set up shop at the New York Hall of Science parking lot, making it another reason to visit this world famous green space.

Brooklyn Bridge Park: We love exploring this massive 85-acre waterfront park. With incredible playgrounds (isn’t Pier 6 the best?), rotating art exhibits and many nature paths, it’s one of our go-to destinations. Enjoy one of the open air green spaces, and then head over to DUMBO where you’ll have your choice of many competing pizzarias.

Bryant Park: Our favorite lawn in the city! Bryant Park, and its famous lawn is surrounded by Midtown buildings creating the ultimate urban park setting. Pay a visit to the iconic fountain and lounge in the large grassy oasis, and stay for a snack at the many take-out counters that line the grass. We love how the park has adapted so quickly with multiple free-standing handwashing stations and great social distancing measures.

Prospect Park: Brooklyn’s backyard oasis has endless things to do with kids. Try fishing on the lake and going on a nature hike, and there’s a “secret” waterfall near the Ravine! LeFrak Center at Lakeside is currently open with many fun rental options — such as paddle boats so you can explore the waters of Prospect Park Lake.

Hudson River Greenway Bike Path:  We’ve become a bike family during COVID, and it’s such a great way to get around the city (especially when you may want to avoid public transportation). We love the Hudson River Bike Path. It stretches from Battery Riverside Park to the tip of Manhattan (and links up to other paths for further explorations) and is a much safer option for kids than dealing with the crazy street traffic.

Photo by Beth Beckman

Many parents are watching their money. What are some of the places or things in the city parents can do for free with their kids?

Agree, cost is very important now more so than ever. New York City offers some pretty incredible experiences with your family for free. A few favorites:

We love the Staten Island Ferry — grab a window seat, the 25 minute (free!) ferry ride passes right by the Statue of Liberty, with amazing views!

Walking the city is free and there’s no better way to soak in New York’s incredible melting pot of cultures. Chinatown is one of our all-time favorites. It really feels like you have stepped into a new country without a plane ticket.

You can also take advantage of the free city experiences out there. The Bronx Zoo offers free admission on Wednesdays for families. There are many free kayaking experiences in the city (check the Brooklyn Bridge Park and Hudson River locations!). There’s also great experiences that are free for children such as the Empire State Building! It’s the perfect time to visit the King of the New York City Skyline (and one of the city’s most iconic landmarks) especially as children under the age of 6 are always free.

You have launched a book series, Little Kid, Big City! Book Series. What inspired you to author these books as this is no small feat? Can you share what more on what ground you cover on in the books?

Our little guy has always been into books. Even when he was too young to read, we spent endless hours together pouring through books at home, at our local libraries, and book stores. Being an avid traveler,  I was always on the lookout for a travel guide for children. While there are a number of amazing illustrated books on big cities, I realized that there wasn’t a true travel guide within these on the market. I longed for an inspirational travel guide for our son that showcased more than the top 10 tourist destinations that we could be inspired by while relaxing at our home, or take along with us on a trip or vacation.

With this, Little Kid, Big City! book series was born —  travel guides to help curious little minds explore big cities across the world.

While I love art, sketching is not my thing and I knew I needed a proper partner for the series. After searching through hashtags and illustrator profiles, a brave Instagram Direct Message led me to the book’s insanely talented illustrator, Holley Maher.

We signed on with Quirk Publishing for the series! New York City will be launching in February 2021 and London launching in June, with more cities to come soon! (we can’t share these quite yet…!).

The books will introduce travelers to landmarks, must-see attractions, and family favorites, paving the way for surprising trips full of sightseeing and under the radar exploration. The books have an emphasis on cultural immersion, and are mixed with gentle history lessons, too. We are overjoyed, and can’t wait to have these adventures hit the shelves.

Beth’s children’s travel adventure book series, Little Kid, Big City! was acquired by Quirk Books and will be hitting shelves in Spring 2021. The literary adventure kicks off in her home of New York City, and then London, and continues on to other big city titles across the world.