I’m almost reluctant to write this post because I love living in Jersey City so much that I don’t want people to know about it. I moved from Brooklyn to Jersey during the pandemic for cheaper rent and more space and now I can confidently say it was the best decision I could’ve made.
Jersey City has a much slower-paced vibe than Williamsburg with much more low-key nightlife, but from a living standpoint I like the fact that the streets are much cleaner, it’s quieter and you can get to know the locals that live here.
The city’s buildings are a mix of old and new. The waterfront area is dominated by glassy skyscrapers, hotels and luxury apartment buildings but if you stroll around the neighborhood you’ll find leafy streets lined with brownstones and Victorian-era buildings. If you have a dog then there are several great parks where you can take them for a walk, including Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park and Liberty State Park.
Manhattan Yacht Club is also based in Jersey City and on a summer’s day it’s nice to hang out down by the Liberty Landing Marina looking out at all the boats. There are plenty of great spots to eat and drink too, so whatever you’re in the mood for, you’ll find something here.
Many New Yorkers scoff at the thought of living in Jersey because it’s “not New York” but in reality it’s only one stop on the Path to World Trade Center and two stops from Grove Street to the West Village. Jersey City is definitely worth checking out and whenever my friends come to visit, they’re always pleasantly surprised and want to come back.
For inspiration, here’s my list of things to do in Jersey City:
Things to Do in Jersey City, New Jersey
Liberty State Park
While Manhattan has Central Park, Jersey City has Liberty State Park, which is located across from Liberty Island and Ellis Island. Covering an area of 1,212-acres, this enormous park has plenty of green space and offers incredible views of the Manhattan skyline.
What I love about Liberty State Park is that it’s never crowded, so you can easily have a picnic or tan in peace. My favorite thing to do here is walk along the Liberty State Park Walk-way, which is a 2 mile promenade that links the picnic area, the interpretive center and the Terminal building. It runs all the way along the waterfront and spans two coves.
Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal
Within the park you’ll find the historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal, which was once a waterfront passenger terminal that served between 30,000 and 50,000 commuters each day. It operated until 1967 and is now listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places.
Empty Sky Memorial
Close to the Central Railroad you’ll also find the “Empty Sky” 9/11 Memorial, which was built to honor the people who lost their lives at the World Trade Center in 2011. It consists of two brushed stainless steel walls that are 210 feet long, which is the width of each side of the World Trade Center Towers. The names of those who died are etched in the surface.
While you’re in Liberty State Park, visit Liberty House, which is a restaurant and events venue that is popular for wedding receptions. The restaurant has a patio and huge outdoor area with giant chess and plenty of seating. It’s nice to go here for sunset drinks and just sit by the fire pits while looking at the view.
Have Beers at a Brewery
If you like a good craft beer then there are two brewing companies in Jersey City.
902 Brewing Co. is a large industrial-style taproom in the Bergen-Lafayette neighborhood with a rooftop offering views of the Manhattan skyline. My favorite beer on tap is the Brady’s Nightmare, which is a 10% IPA. On weekends they often have live bands and you’re allowed to order your own food to the bar. Best of all, it’s dog friendly.
Departed Soles is a little more central, located a short walk from Grove St Path Station. This is a much smaller brewery but it offers a great selection of beers, including IPAs, sours and lagers. I usually order the Philosorapper, which is an 8% semi-sweet IPA with hints of banana and clove.
Van Vorst Park
One of my favorite things to do in Jersey City is to wander around Van Vorst Park, which is located between Montgomery Street, York Street, Jersey Avenue, and Barrow Street. It may be small but it’s cute with lots of benches where you can just sit and relax. The nearby streets are lined with brick and brownstone Victorian-era rowhouses and inside the park you’ll find a children’s playground, gazebo and fountain.
Visit a Rooftop
Having lived in both Williamsburg and Jersey City, the view of Manhattan (in my opinion) is better from the Jersey City side than it is from the Brooklyn side.
The best place to catch a view of the Manhattan skyline is from the Rooftop at Exchange Place, a waterfront rooftop at One Exchange Place inside Hyatt House. Here you can enjoy sunset cocktails and views of Manhattan, the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty and Staten Island.
For a more laid back rooftop that harbors no pretences, visit Iron Monkey, which serves a selection of craft beers on tap.
Go for Brunch
There are lots of places to get a good brunch in Jersey City. If you want a modern, slightly more upscale atmosphere, check out Latham House, which is situated on the corner of Marin and Christopher Columbus Drive. Their smoked salmon benedict is really, really good and filling.
Another great one for a special brunch is Lokal, which is situated on the waterfront and has beautiful views of Manhattan through its glass windows.
For a casual brunch my favorite spot is Dream Vista, which is a Turkish cafe with a relaxing walled backyard. Their poached egg avocado toast is delicious and they serve some interesting colored lattes including blue matcha and pistachio latte. Best of all, their food and drinks are served on really cute blue and white crockery.
If you’re an early riser, check out Sam a.m. in Paulus Hook, which opens at 6.30am on weekdays and 8am on weekends. Items on the menu include French toast, buttermilk waffles, biscuit and gravy and avocado toast.
Eat Good Food
Jersey City does food well and there are lots of great options to choose from.
I love sushi and you’ll find lots of it in Jersey City. Try Itto Sushi, Domodomo, Honshu and Komegashi Too. If you want a fancy omakase dinner, go to Sushi by Bou, which is a speakeasy inside Ani Ramen that has timed 60 minute seatings.
Taqueria Downtown – One of the most well-known spots in Jersey City, Taqueria Downtown serves delicious tacos and a mean steak quesadilla. Margaritas are strong and you can order them to go.
Ani Ramen – The best ramen in Jersey City. Order the Chef’s Special ramen, pork belly Bao buns and crispy miso sake wings.
Matthew’s Food and Drink – Located near the Grove Street Path, Matthew’s Food & Drink serves American fare, such as burgers, sandwiches, salads and steaks. Try their black garlic mac n cheese, short rib ragu or roast ½ chicken.
Kitchen Step – Consistently listed as one of the best restaurants in Jersey City, Kitchen Step serves a modern American menu and regular Daily Provisions specials.
Battello – If you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary or something special, head to Battello, which is a modern Italian restaurant located on the waterfront and boasts a terrace with beautiful views of Manhattan. Just make sure to book a reservation in advance as this restaurant gets up for months on weekends. My favorite dishes are the mafalde cacio e pepe and the yellowfin tuna rollatini.
Bistro La Source – For tasty French food, book a table at Bistro La Source, which serves classics such as French onion soup and mussels mariniere. Their beef short rib ravioli is also great.
Light Horse Tavern – Located on a pretty street in Paulus Hook, Light Horse Tavern is a gastropub serving oysters, seafood, salads and entrees such as New York strip steak, pork chops, salmon and duck.
Edward’s Steakhouse – If you’re in the mood for steak and don’t mind dropping a bit more cash, visit Edward’s Steakhouse, which serves chops, steaks and seafood in an intimate setting.
Gin Tasting at Corgi Spirits
If you’re partial to a gin and tonic then you might want to pay a visit to Corgi Spirits, where you can order seasonal cocktails, gin with Fever Tree mixers or tasting flights for $5. If you buy a bottle of Corgi gin to take home, they’ll even waive the tasting fee. The distillery has a comfy seating area with a living room feel, featuring leather couches, a fireplace and comfy armchairs that you can kick back and relax in. In keeping with the British theme, the walls display paintings of Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. The distillery often hosts events too, including live music nights and comedy shows.
Powerhouse Arts District
The Powerhouse Arts District is a small area of downtown Jersey City comprised of old manufacturing buildings from the 1800s that have been converted into lofts, retail spaces and coffee shops. The area gets its name from a Victorian-era power plant that was renovated into an arts center. The vision is for the Powerhouse Arts District to become “an iconic mixed-use centerpiece for arts, retail and entertainment”. While you’re there, pay a visit to Lackawanna Coffee and try their black sesame latte.
Watch Sports at a Beer Hall
Whether you’re into NFL, soccer, basketball or any other sport, Jersey City has a few great sports bars with plenty of TVs for watching. The most notable ones are Hudson Hall and Zeppelin Hall, which have distinctly different vibes.
Zeppelin Hall has a traditional German beer hall vibe, with large rooms, a fireplace and a huge yard out back. In summer it’s a great place to sit outside with a beer and listen to live music. In keeping with the theme, the menu features typical German foods such as Bratwurst and pretzels.
Hudson Hall attracts a slightly younger crowd and the vibe is more that of an American sports bar. The menu is a little more upscale with more variety, featuring burgers, sandwiches, mac n cheese, smoked meats and salads. There are TVs all around the room for sports lovers and a DJ plays most weekend nights.
Hit up a Happy Hour
While there aren’t a ton of Happy Hours in Jersey City, there are still a few good ones scattered around the city.
Wurstbar – Wurstbar does a great happy hour from 4 till 7 that includes $6 poutine and $6 wines.
Matthew’s Food & Drink – Happy hour goes from 4 till 6 and features $5 beers, $5 wines and half priced cocktails.
Greene Hook – Greene Hook’s happy hour runs from 4 till 6 with $1 oysters, $5 tacos, $3 beers and $6 wines.
Shop at Newport Centre
If you want to get some shopping done, Newport Mall is a 3-level indoor shopping center with clothing stores such as Zara, H&M and Forever 21, plus department stores such as Kohl’s and Macy’s. Inside you’ll also find a large food court and an AMC movie theater.
Eat Lobster Rolls at Surf City
In the summer months, head to Surf City, which is a seasonal bar located slap bang on the water opposite Liberty Landing marina. This huge venue has plenty of outdoor seating and is a great place to drink beers and eat lobster rolls while watching the yachts pass by. On a hot summer’s day it’s hard to believe you’re drinking in New Jersey.
Visit a Speakeasy
Not that many people know about it but there’s a speakeasy called Nucky’s located in the basement of Hudson Hound. Just tell them you want the speakeasy and they’ll take you down to this small, dimly lit bar where you can order craft cocktails prepared by knowledgeable bartenders.
Grab Drinks at One of These Bars
If you’re looking for things to do in Jersey City at night, there are are numerous bars in the area if you want to go bar hopping. Nightlife in Jersey City is pretty low key, so if you’re looking for nightclubs or a wild night out then you’re probably going to need to go to Manhattan or Brooklyn for that. However, Jersey City has some cool cocktail bars and sports bars, and most of them are open till 2am on weekends.
Dullboy – Best for cocktails, dullboy is a small bar with a covered backyard where you can sit outside. This place is also good for small bites, such as ceviche, arepas, fried oyster tacos and lobster dumplings. They also serve burgers, sandwiches and a good mac n cheese.
The Archer – My go-to spot in winter, The Archer has a dimly lit, cozy interior and serves a variety of interesting meats, including elk meatballs, venison cheesesteak, duck burger, pheasant and cherry creste di gallo and wild boarito. It also has a great cocktail list and offers a cocktail happy hour with $9 cocktails from 5 till 7pm.
Pet Shop – A local favorite, Pet Shop is a busy bar with food, drinks and good tunes. Sit at the bar, in their backyard or go down to the basement – the choice is yours.
Golden Cicada – A bit of an institution in Jersey City, the Golden Cicada is a super fun bar that’s popular with locals. It has a large outdoor area which is popular in the summer months and there are tons of events throughout the week, including karaoke and live music nights.
Located in the north end of Jersey City between 8th and 9th streets, Hamilton Park is a square shaped park with a gazebo in the middle. Within the park you’ll find a dog run, tennis courts and two children’s playgrounds. Throughout the year Hamilton Park plays host to a variety of events such as farmers markets and outdoor movie nights.
Smorgasburg is a weekly open air food market that can be found in several locations, including Williamsburg, Manhattan, Prospect Park and Jersey City. If you love food, you’ll find dozens of local vendors selling all kinds of cuisines. Smorgasburg takes place every Saturday at 200 Greene Street near the Harborside Light Rail stop.
J. Owen Grundy Park
On a sunny day I like to take my dog for a walk along the waterfront past the Colgate clock and to J Owen Grundy Park, which is a pier right by the Grove Street Path station. The pier is the best place to catch views of the Manhattan skyline, which looks super pretty when it’s lit up at night.
For something a bit different, get a group together and try go karting at RPM Raceway. Race in Italian go-karts on European style tracks, then grab food and cocktails in the RPM Bar & Grill afterwards. For non-members, 1 race costs $30.
Liberty Landing Marina
Jersey City has a beautiful marina filled with yachts and boats and the best way to see it is by hopping on the ferry from Warren Street to Liberty Landing Marina. Alternatively just grab a drink at Surf City and watch the boats passing by.
Sea the City and Other Watersports
If you like jet skiing and don’t mind the Hudson River water splashing in your face, try a jet skiing tour with Sea the City, which departs from Liberty State Park. Along the way you’ll see sights such as The Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Prices start at $169.
If jet skiing isn’t your thing, you can also book a kayak tour or stand up paddleboarding with Urban Paddle, which is located right by Surf City.
White Eagle Hall
If you want to catch a live performance head to White Eagle Hall, which is housed in a restored historic building on Newark Avenue. This 8,000 square foot space features a wrought iron wraparound balcony and a coffered tin ceiling with 2 large stained glass atriums. White Eagle Hall regularly hosts live music, theatre, comedy, dance, film and family shows while serving food and drinks.
The Honorable William Wall
The Honorable William Wall is Manhattan Yacht Club’s floating clubhouse on the water, anchored in New York Harbor just north of Ellis Island. A small boat takes you from Manhattan Yacht Club out to the floating barge, where you can buy drinks from the bar and enjoy the views of Manhattan. Tickets are $20 on weekdays and $30 on weekends.
Housed in a large 1920s former tobacco warehouse, Mana Contemporary is an arts and cultural center that offers world class exhibitions and career development for artists. Mana Contemporary’s galleries and exhibitions are open for touring Tuesday through Friday from 3pm-4pm.
How to Get to Jersey City from New York
The best way to get to Jersey City from New York is by taking the PATH train. If you have a Metrocard you can use your Metrocard to pay at the turnstile, just like you would with the subway. A full one-way fare is $2.75.
There are a couple of PATH options. You can take the Newark PATH train (red line) from World Trade Center and get off at Exchange Place or Grove Street. There’s also a Hoboken train (green line) that goes from World Trade Center and stops at Exchange Place and Newport before heading to Hoboken.
Or you can take the PATH train (orange line) that runs from 33rd Street to Journal Square. This train is the best one to take if you’re coming from Midtown or West Village as it has various stops in those areas of Manhattan. Depending on where you want to go, you can get off at Newport or Grove St in Jersey City.
You can also take the ferry to Jersey City (Paulus Hook) with NY Waterway but they don’t run as often as the trains so it’s best to check the schedules. This is a nice ride though and it gives you excellent views of Manhattan from the water. Ferries operate from Pier 11, Brookfield Place and Midtown W 39th St.
A Final Word…
So that completes this list of the best things to do in Jersey City! Most tourists visit New York and Brooklyn but never make it across the water to Jersey City. It’s a destination that’s overlooked and yet it’s definitely worth a visit if you have the time. The pace is slower than Manhattan but there’s still plenty to discover and it’s the best place to snap a photo of the Manhattan skyline! Like this article? Check out my local website, Jersey City Insider, for local happenings and things to do in around the neighborhood.