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Things to Do

Jersey City: What to do in the neighboring big town

Just two to three stops from Manhattan on the PATH, Jersey City offers big city experiences in what feels like a small town setting that locals say offers a completely different vibe from New York City.

It's the second-most populated city in New Jersey after Newark, but JC's brownstones, small shops, converted factories and picturesque government buildings make it feel more like a New England town.

With history stretching past the Revolutionary War and the Dutch colonies, the city bordered by Newark to the west, Hackensack to the north and Elizabeth to the south, has seen battle, the arrival and decline of industry, and a renaissance of small shops and businesses.

Don't let the fact that it's in Jersey scare you -- it's got such character that it may charm you. Bonus: It really is a short trip from NYC. Get on the PATH at the World Trade Center, or Christopher, 9th, 14th, 23rd or 33rd streets, and ride until you get to Exchange Place or Grove Street.

Once you do, don't miss the following places.

Biscuits and gravy at Sam a.m.

Once you step off the PATH Train at
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Once you step off the PATH Train at Grove Street, head down to Sam a.m., at 112 Morris St., for a breakfast or brunch that will make you feel as warm inside as the maple cream latte you should order. Sit in the sunny front window or near the back flower garden and order the biscuits and gravy (pictured), French toast, or cheddar grits and steak with a glass of freshly squeezed OJ and you'll be set for hours.

It's a warm and cozy place that will
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

It's a warm and cozy place that will lull you into a satisfied state.

Stroll Paulus Hook

After you've eaten, walk off the calories with
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

After you've eaten, walk off the calories with a stroll around the Paulus Hook neighborhood, where Sam a.m. is located. The area dates back to the Dutch colonization and saw battle during the Revolutionary War. Today, it maintains charming old brownstones, little restaurants, churches, converted factories and independent shops.

Bike, walk or drive to Liberty State Park

Take NJ Transit's Light Rail to Liberty State
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Take NJ Transit's Light Rail to Liberty State Park (200 Morris Pesin Dr.) and be prepared to walk awhile if you don't want to rent one of the Citi Bikes near the station. However you arrive, it's worth it. Once you hit the water, you'll see a sweeping view of southern tip of Manhattan to your left and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the right.

Trace your ancestry at Ellis Island

Ellis Island and the National Museum of Immigration
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Ellis Island and the National Museum of Immigration are actually closer to New Jersey than Manhattan, and are accessible by the park. Take the bridge and explore the history of American immigration, and potentially of your own family's journey to the U.S., between 1892 to 1954. More than 20 million people passed through the processing station in that time. The museum is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there's no entrance fee.

Expand your mind at Liberty Science Center

Still within the park, Liberty Science Center is
Photo Credit: Michael Benavides

Still within the park, Liberty Science Center is a 300,000-square-foot museum that has a live animal collection, big aquariums, a 3-D theater, wind simulators and the western hemisphere's biggest planetarium. Every third Thursday, LSC has an adult after-hours adventure with drinks and music. It also continually adds holiday activities to its schedule, like this spider maze for Halloween, which includes facts about arachnids.

Grab a quick grilled cheese

If you want a light or quick bite
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

If you want a light or quick bite to eat, stop by Van Hook Cheese & Grocery (528 Jersey Ave.) for a grilled cheese sandwich sans the fake cheese product. The gooey goodness is unmatched in flavor, and for $7 to $9, you can order the grilled cheese of your dreams, including: aged white cheddar with optional fig jam, soppressata with Taleggio, blue cheese with apple butter, truffle gouda, and raclette and smoked duck. From collections to platters, your cheese needs can be fulfilled.

Head back into the city for some shopping

Jersey City is a colorful place with tons
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Jersey City is a colorful place with tons of street art to admire as you shop. Head toward Grove Street and Newark Avenue to start your retail journey.

Dig through everything at Another Man's Treasure

This two-story shrine to all-things vintage is especially
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

This two-story shrine to all-things vintage is especially fun because the store's items are carefully selected and in good condition. From 1980s dresses to '90s jean jackets to funky, chunky boots circa whenever, there's a lot to see at Another Man's Treasure (195 Montgomery St.). Vintage junkies should also check out Tah Vintage (9 Erie St.) and Mint Market (339 Grove St.).

... and at Kanibal & Co.

If quirky home goods, locally made bath and
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

If quirky home goods, locally made bath and body products, and unique clothing are up your alley, head right next door to Kanibal & Co. (197 Montgomery St.). The staff will tell you they get new items in every day to keep things as fresh and as whimsical as you did on your first visit. Dresses with cats on them, cool buckled leather jackets and cozy sweaters are just a sampling of the apparel that lines the shop's racks. It's a unique store with endless gift ideas -- and possibly the perfect something for yourself.

Get Love Locked

Love Locked (353 Grove St.) is primarily a
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Love Locked (353 Grove St.) is primarily a jewelry store, but you can find other artistic treats. From bangles to wedding bands, you can find a bling as well as locally made art and bath products. Its jewels are conflict free and its goods are repurposed and fair trade, which is very important to owner Kerry Lynn. In her 20s, she told us, she worked with a community in Peru to create fair-trade artisan co-ops and give small business loans to owners.

Lynn shows off her rings, which can be
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Lynn shows off her rings, which can be customized.

Treat yourself to homemade ice cream

The neighborhood's ice cream staple since 1968, Torico
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

The neighborhood's ice cream staple since 1968, Torico (20 Erie St.) sells more than 65 flavors; among the most popular of its homemade offerings are banana peanut butter chunks (pictured), pumpkin, and java mocha donut. Seasonal ice cream flavors include chocolate cinnamon brownie, spicy eggnog and red velvet cake for fall and winter, and pineapple coconut, avocado, strawberry cheesecake and lychee for spring and summer. Puerto Rico-born wife and husband Pura and Peter Berrios found a following when, per their website, Peter bought an ice cream machine to make flavors that Pura wanted but couldn't find. Their ice cream really does taste homemade; we had to make sure, of course.

Take it easy, car-free

There's a public pedestrian plaza on Newark Avenue
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

There's a public pedestrian plaza on Newark Avenue that is closed to cars for much of the week, so you're free to walk in the street and go to and from shops as you please. Explore some incredible art down this way.

Go to the cemetery -- really

Within Historic Jersey City lies Harsimus Cemetery (435
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Within Historic Jersey City lies Harsimus Cemetery (435 Newark Ave.). Before it became a burial ground in 1829, the land was the site of multiple Revolutionary War battles, and, during the War of 1812, it housed an ammunition bunker and lookout point, which still stands. The cemetery was even used as a military training ground during World War I and II. Over time, however, the graves became neglected and abandoned. Only more recently, in 2008, did a band of locals start the preservation process. As you walk through, you'll see that many graves are broken, crooked or covered by grass.

Pet the goats and sheep at the cemetery

Yes, there are goats (not ghosts) and sheep,
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

Yes, there are goats (not ghosts) and sheep, pictured, at Harsimus, and you can visit them if you're willing to trot through some tall grass and past crooked tombstones. The goats, which are in the far right corner of the cemetery, are curious and will greet you at the fence.

Get your heart racing at RPM

If you're ready to have some fast-paced fun,
Photo Credit: RPM Raceway

If you're ready to have some fast-paced fun, head to RPM Raceway at 99 Caven Point Rd., not too far from Liberty State Park. Open daily, the all-electric, indoor go-kart facility lets you race around a track at 45 mph or less. You can race head-to-head during "Arrive and Drive" ($30 per race) or gather more people for a competitive race. There's also a new virtual reality experience where you can compete in more games, from first-person space shooters to puzzles.

Make a reservation at Cellar 335

This tiki-themed Cellar 335 (335 Newark Ave.) serves
Photo Credit: Cellar 335

This tiki-themed Cellar 335 (335 Newark Ave.) serves a progressive Asian-American menu with tropical drinks (made with rum, bourbon, mezcal) that'll have you feeling like it's summer all year long. Dishes -- crab pizza, local bass ceviche, chicken wontons, spicy beef noodles, Korean-style wings -- range from $9 to $26 and are meant to be shared. Cocktails start at $10.

Go right upstairs for a show

White Eagle Hall is located right upstairs from
Photo Credit: White Eagle Hall

White Eagle Hall is located right upstairs from Cellar 335, so when you're done eating, head up to catch a show. The venue is a newly restored theater from 1910, with three bars and food counters, too. Bands don't play every night, but tend toward rock.

Catch a view of NYC on your way back

If you take the Light Rail to Exchange
Photo Credit: Shaye Weaver

If you take the Light Rail to Exchange Place before getting back on the PATH, you'll get an amazing view of New York City from the pier there. Don't miss it.

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