20 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to Jersey City

You may only know it as the skyline of office buildings on the banks of the quote unquote “wrong” side of the Hudson River. Or maybe you think of it as New York City’s unassuming “sixth borough,” especially since it’s closer to downtown Manhattan than 99% of the city itself. But if you’re considering a move to Jersey City, you’ll soon discover than it has a spirit entirely independent from its infamous neighbor—it’s the epicenter of New Jersey’s liveliest region, and it’s finally starting to make a name for itself as one of America’s hidden gems. Here is everything you need to know before settling in to our nation’s gateway:

1. It couldn’t be closer to Manhattan.

The PATH can bring you to the World Trade Center in less than ten minutes. You can get to Midtown in about twenty. That blows the commute from boroughs like Brooklyn or Queens (and or Upper Manhattan) out of the water, which tend to be about twice the length.

2. You aren’t just moving to Jersey City.

Jersey City is no island; it’s the unofficial capital of a vast network of smaller cities and towns that stretch out for miles. Notable neighbors include classy Hoboken and Weehawken, and New Jersey’s biggest city, Newark.

3. This is “America’s Golden Door.”

Tourists flock to NYC to see two of the most enduring symbols of the American Dream there are—The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Unfortunately for them, they traveled a state too far. Both of these famous landmarks are located on the Jersey side of the Hudson, and are easy to access from Jersey City’s Liberty State Park. They even call it “The Gateway Region” because of how many US citizens have historically emigrated through these shores.

4. This is NOT New York City.

Spend five minutes here and you’ll realize that Jersey City marches to the beat of its own drum. The vibe is completely unique: the buildings, the sounds, the way people talk to one another. When you’re in Jersey City, you’re in the heart of North Jersey, one of the most unique and densely populated regions in the country.

5. The PATH isn’t your only option.

While the PATH is a great way to get around, it’s by no means your only choice.  Ferry service takes off to Manhattan every few minutes; the Bergen-Hudson Light Rail is a stress-free way to zoom up and down the Jersey coast; NJ Transit busses will take you through the Holland tunnel to pretty much anywhere you want to go; and, of course, there are bike paths galore.

5. One more thing about the PATH…

The PATH couldn’t be more convenient. Five minutes to the World Trade Center? You can’t beat that. But in recent years, JC residents have found it to be more crowded than it’s ever been, with no sign of letting up.

6. Every neighborhood is different.

Want to live in a swanky downtown loft near Grove Street? How about a historic brownstone in Paulus Hook or Harismus Cove? Maybe you just want an affordable house with a backyard and a view in The Heights—you’ll find it all in Jersey City.

7. Think twice before bringing your car.

You would think that choosing Jersey City over NYC would keep you from parting with your car. Think again.  Jersey City is frequently cited as having some of the worst traffic in the country.  Geography is partially to blame (the city sits on a narrow chunk of land between two bodies of water), and so is the Holland Tunnel, which deposits thousands of drivers onto 14th Street. And don’t even try to park anywhere downtown without buying a monthly pass.

8. You’ll get double the living space for what you would pay in New York.

It wouldn’t be honest to say that Jersey City rents are cheap, necessarily. But compared to what you would pay in any of the five boroughs and you’ll think you’re getting the bargain of a lifetime.

9. Your friends from the city will never, ever visit you.

Fear not: you’ll make new friends. And they’ll be way nicer.

10. You’re not the only newcomer.

After a big uptick in development, Jersey City’s population is on a steep upward curve. While this is partially because the area is historically welcoming to immigrants, it has more to do with the droves of Brooklynites fleeing the looming L-train shutdown.

11. Journal Square is blowing up.

While it was once Jersey City’s grittiest neighborhood, an explosion of new development and easy PATH access has transformed the formerly industrial area into a depository for luxe apartments. New and longtime residents are coming here in search of loft-style apartments touting amenities like gyms, doggie daycare, cooking classes, and free shuttles to the train.

12. It’s a haven for the arts.

Wander the streets and you’ll notice murals everywhere, part of a city initiative to bring color to the city. Duck into one of the hundreds of small, homegrown museums, galleries, and studios to get a taste of the artistic community Jersey City has to offer— Mana Contemporary is not to be missed.

13. There’s a bar here for everyone.

You’ll find lots of craft beer-centric nightspots like The Iron Monkey and Barcade, but check out The Golden Cicada for a truly eccentric drinking experience.

14. The world’s best food is in North Jersey.

In Jersey City, you’re only minutes away from authentic Portuguese food in Newark’s Ironbound District, amazing Chinese food in Fort Lee, mouth-watering Korean cuisine in Palisades Park, out-of-this-world Indian food in Journal Square’s Little India, Italian food in every direction, and lots more.

15. New York City’s best pizza is right here in Jersey City.

Razza was awarded the title by veteran NY Times food critic Pete Wells, and it’s hard to dispute. Just get there early, as waits for the brick-oven specialty can reach three hours.

16. Newport Centre Mall has everything you need.

If you’re tired of having an “authentic” Jersey City experience, slip away to Newport Centre for all of the luxuries of an upscale suburb that could exist literally anywhere else in the. Highlight: one of only two Cheesecake Factories in the New York City Metropolitan Area. (Yes, it gets really crowded).

17. The view can’t be beat.

Jersey City has more than three miles of lushly landscaped waterfront, offering striking views of Manhattan and the New York Bay. Walk along Patterson Plank Road in The Heights neighborhood for a more elevated look at the scenery.

18. Jersey City knows how to party.

While your first instinct for a crazy weekend is to head to the city, there’s plenty of excitement to be had right here. Whether you catch a big-name concert at White Eagle Hall or Rockwood or burn the midnight oil on Grove Street, you’ll find plenty of ways to keep yourself up at night.

19. It’s perfect for young families.

Jersey City is great for new parents who aren’t willing to part with the city life.  Check out the Liberty Science Center (and planetarium!) for all-ages excitement, or explore the ample adventuring space in the surrounding Liberty State Park.

20. History is everywhere.

Traces of Jersey City’s industrial past are everywhere—take the Colgate Clock, for example (the fourth-largest clock in the world), or the Beaux-Arts Hudson County Courthouse. Head down from The Heights to visit Hoboken’s Elysian Fields, baseball’s birthplace. And travel slightly north to Weehawken for Hamilton Park, the site of founding father Alexander Hamilton’s deadly duel with Aaron Burr.

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Benjamin Korman