UPDATE: This post gets a lot of traffic via search, and I wanted to update this after nearly 2 years with our first child. IMO, the best stroller for a NYC walk-up apartment IS A CARRIER—until your baby is old enough to ride in a lightweight umbrella stroller. That is just my opinion. Seriously, if you don’t have an elevator, it is a pain carrying anything larger than an umbrella stroller up and down the stairs, especially if you’re doing it with a baby in tow. In which case, you should probably be putting the baby in a carrier or sling anyway, so you don’t drop him/her. —2014-05-26
Note: It looks like a lot of people are finding this post through Google searches for “strollers for walk-up apartments.” Here’s the TL;DR for you: I didn’t test all the strollers mentioned below. Just checked them out in-store and feature-comparisoned them via spreadsheet. We wanted a full-feature stroller that my wife could still lug up and down stairs. We narrowed it down to the Baby Jogger City Mini and the Bugaboo Bee. We would have gone with the City Mini (best value, universally stellar reviews) but some friends gave us their old Bugaboo Bee.
The one baby item I spent the most time researching was the stroller. I think it’s a guy thing (even though I’m usually loath to trot out mindless gender-normative stereotypes). If it involves gear—especially if that gear involves wheels—then guys are there, crunching numbers, analyzing minutiae, planning how they’re going to trick it out.
My wife and I (and now Margot) live on the third floor of a walk-up building in Queens. We don’t have a doorman. We don’t have space in the lobby to park a stroller. So we HAVE to carry it up and down when we want to use it. And that’s the real reason I tell myself I spent hours watching stroller demo videos on YouTube (where I learned that the fold is the money shot of stroller-review videos).
My main criteria were size and weight, followed by ease of fold and price. Despite the concentration and confluence of media and persnickety parents in NYC, there is precious little info on the web if you’re looking for “the best stroller for a walk-up apartment in NYC.”
Much of it is dated or focused on big, crazy-expensive strollers or both. But, duh, I should have known the place to get real advice would be on the baby boards. Long story short, a trip to Buy Buy Baby, a fair amount of street observation, and some time on baby forums helped me narrow it down to these options below. I’m posting my spreadsheet here in case it helps you.
Keep in mind that these prices and features reflect strollers as of May 2012. One thing I learned is that strollers are constantly evolving. (I mean, velcro peek-a-boo window? As if. Everyone knows magnetic closure is the shit.) Any feature that makes things easier for moms is a competitive advantage.
In the end, our choice narrowed to the Bugaboo Bee and the Baby Jogger City Mini. I wanted something that my wife could reasonably handle on her own when I was away. And the Bee and City Mini were some of the lightest full-feature strollers out there.
We loved the Bee for style and the fact that the seat was reversible. My wife got suckered in by studies showing that language acquisition is faster in babies who got significant face time with parents. So a rear-facing seat was important to her. My take on this was, How much time is the baby really going to spend in the stroller? Especially when that one feature on the Bee would have represented hundreds in extra cost.
Update (August 10, 2012): A buddy of mine, Loren Schlaes, who’s a pediatric occupational therapist specializing in sensory integration, points out in this article out that strollers and the BabyBjorn–style carriers can have a negative effect on coordination, visual skills, and the like. It was an eye-opener for me. And I’m happy that my wife has recently been putting Margot into a Moby Wrap.
We were set to buy the City Mini, whose one-hand fold I really liked, but then some friends offered us the Bee that their two kids had outgrown. (Thanks, Meg & Jason!) So that kind of made our minds up for us.
So far the Bee has been wonderful. But the City Mini is supposed to be amazing too. Seriously, I did not read a single negative review about the Mini. (While the Bee did come in for some criticism here and there.)
Or, skip the stroller for a while
Another approach that some other parents I’ve talked to have taken is to forgo the stroller altogether until the child is old enough to go into a so-called umbrella stroller—those lightweight, folding strollers that are more canvas than frame. (Newborns can’t ride in an umbrella stroller because the seat is upright; tiny ones need to lay as flat as possible—which is why back in the day they went out in prams.)