Californians have a warped impression of New Jersey, probably from having watched all those "Sopranos" episodes. Mafiosos, gum-smacking, overly made-up housewives and smoke stacks spewing who-knows-what add to this skewed impression.
Okay, so some of that is right, but largely it's a myth. Most of New Jersey is, in fact, miles of verdant beauty. Head up to Princeton, for example, and you'll pass a plethora of barns, open fields, stunning and myriad trees. Take a trip out to New Jersey in autumn and you're in for a real treat.
Jersey City isn't such a pastoral oasis, but it is notable in other ways: proximity to the Big Apple, incredible ethnic food/restaurants, decent shopping, and some really hip cafes and bars. Think of it: all those Wall Street types need to live somewhere, right? Many have been priced out of tony Manhattan and realized a trip on the PATH train over the Hudson River (or rather, through it) made far more sense.
After 9-11, Jersey City gained prominence because Lower Manhattan lost some of its office space during the attacks. Highrises sprung up in JC to make up for the slack, spurring an economy and furthering the exodus across the river.
As a visitor to Jersey City, here's your top 5 list of must-sees while in town:
- The waterfront: Get off at Grove Street (see map below), then just stand and gaze out at the incredible view, especially on a clear day, of the Manhattan skyline across the river. You can even pop into a Starbucks and sit for hours for the price of a mocha lattè.
- Newport Centre Mall: Just one block from the Newport Center PATH station (more on that later), you'll find all the usual suspects: a Macy's, a Sear's, and a JC Penney's, where none other than Maks from "Dancing with the Stars" did a promo June 23 (see photo). The mall also touts an impressive 11-screen AMC movie theater. None of this may seem remarkable, except if you are a visitor to Manhattan, within 30 minutes you can be out of the bustle and sitting in your comfy theater seat gobbling Milk Duds in peace.
- Grove Street Farmers' Market: Every Monday and Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m., pick up some of the freshest produce and floral arrangements you'll find anywhere. New York City has far prettier flowers than anything you'll find in most other cities because, well, New York does everything bigger and better. From gerbera daisies to roses to peonies, pop by and pick up a bouquet. It's been called "the best farmers' market ever, with the most amazing fellow vendors & fantastic customers! The food is always FRESH". Try the asparagus fries, they started here.
- The Street Fair and/or Groove on Grove: If you are fortunate enough to be in town during one of these events, consider it a gift. The Street Fair sets up Sat. Sept. 20 at the Grove St. PATH and features local live entertainment, a plethora of food trucks and games. Groove on Grove occurs every Weds. night at the Grove St. Plaza, and features family entertainment, fresh food, bands and an overall feeling of community. Get a real taste for New York and New Jersey by hitting the street fairs while you are out here (more on New York's in a coming entry.)
- Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson: Because, if you ask for one of the uppermost floors, you'll get a stunning view of Manhattan. In case you don't know, the Empire State Building changes its LED lighting to fit a theme, for example red-white-and-blue for the Fourth of July. As you probably are aware, since the New York City Freedom Tower was opened this year, it's no longer the tallest building in Manhattan, but is still an American architectural icon.
Getting to Jersey City:
Fly into JFK, La Guardia or Newark. If staying in or visiting from Manhattan, take the PATH train into Jersey City. A map of the PATH system is here. It's cheap, (usually) runs on schedule, and is often less congested than the New York City subway is. Note: during commuter hours this is not the case. Plan accordingly and try to travel after 10 a.m. and before 3 p.m. or after 7:30 p.m. whenever possible. (PATH stands for Port Authority Trans-Hudson, but nobody asks you that or says it.)
Taking PATH to Christopher Street in Manhattan is a quick, fun trip. You can tour Greenwich Village (locals just call it "the Village"), pick up some quirky gifts for the kids, and enjoy a delicious meal. Hit Cornelia Street Cafe for phenomenal poetry on Friday nights. Sit upstairs and enjoy a glass of chardonnay or hit the restaurant, which serves a delicious burger or try the Black Crusted Sesame Salmon.
Enjoy your stay in Jersey City!
Click here to see a schedule of the colored lighting on the Empire State Building. (Just call it "Empire" while in town.)