Thursday, July 31, 2014

Escape from New York, Jersey style

No matter how much you love where you live, there are times when you simply need a change of scene. With that in mind, the city of Jersey City has launched a campaign to encourage residents of New York City’s five boroughs, as well as visitors to The Big Apple, to take a short train ride and spend a day in the city that has claimed the nickname “The Sixth Borough.”

According to a May 2014 article on NJ.com, the city picked up the nickname for its proximity to New York City and its close relationship with its sister city, pointing to the fact that thousands of residents of Jersey City and Hudson County commute into New York daily for either business or pleasure.

Jersey City is a short ride on the area’s PATH train from New York City and offers a wide range of activities, including a burgeoning food scene. And according to a sample itinerary proffered by the city, a day in Jersey City won’t break the bank.

Reminiscent of Rachael Ray’s “$40 a Day” TV show on The Food Network, the city’s campaign recommends budget-friendly activities for the beginning, middle, and end of one’s day that are within easy walking distance of the Grove Street and Journal Square PATH stations in Jersey City. Those stations are served by three of the four PATH train lines; the only line that doesn’t connect to those two stations is the Hoboken to World Trade Center line.

Suggested activities include food, cultural, and artistic offerings, starting with coffee and breakfast at one of the many local coffee shops. Recommended establishments near the Grove Street station include Beechwood Café and Bakery, Sam A.M. Café (rated the Number Three Restaurant in Jersey City by readers of TripAdvisor), Choc O Pain, or Dames Coffee Espresso Bar. Estimated cost for a PATH train one-day pass and breakfast: about $17.50.

Mana Contemporary complex
Photo by Adam Cohen, courtesy Mana Contemporary
Once carbo-loaded and properly caffeinated, artistic activities are in the offing. A PATH train ride to Journal Square station followed by a 10-minute walk will bring you to Mana Contemporary, a complex of former tobacco and metal can factories transformed into a two-million-square-foot arts and culture enclave that include studios, galleries, and more. The facility offers guided tours at 11:00 a.m. weekdays so visitors can see artists at work firsthand.

Mana Contemporary also features exhibits by well-known artists. Current exhibits as of this writing include a display of works by Pablo Picasso as well as others including Steven Naifeh, Judy Chicago, and Milton Resnick. Admission is free, but Mana Contemporary is only open weekdays.

Also a short walk from the Journal Square station is Little India, home to a large Indian immigrant community, restaurants serving traditional Indian cuisine and interesting shops with Indian wares. Walk three blocks north from the station along John F. Kennedy Boulevard to Newark Avenue. More about Little India is available on Destination Jersey City.

Come lunchtime, if the smells of curry cooking in Little India didn’t get you salivating, the campaign recommends several outlets near the Grove Street Station, including Union Republic and its feature ramen burger, or Taqueria Downtown for potato flautas, Machaca burritos and fish tacos. Cost for lunch: around $20.

The area is also home to a variety of Farmer’s Markets, including the Historic Downtown Farmers’ Market on Grove Street near the PATH Plaza, Hamilton Park Farmers’ Market on 8th Street between West Hamilton and McWilliams Place, and the 6th Borough Market on Montgomery Street and Marin Boulevard behind City Hall. Opening days and hours vary.

Museum of Russian Art
Photo credit Grigory Gurevich
The area also includes another art attraction: The Museum of Russian Art at 80 Grand Street, which offers a vibrant and fascinating collection.

History buffs will appreciate the Harsimus Stem Embankment, which runs six blocks along Sixth Street from Marin Boulevard to Brunswick Street. This abandoned railroad embankment is a monument to the history of the Pennsylvania Railroad, once the mighty economic engine of the nation.

The city offers a variety of evening activities, too, including a live music concert series featuring local artists called Groove on Grove, a free weekly concert at the Grove Street PATH Plaza on Wednesdays from 6-9 p.m., and free outdoor films on Wednesday nights at Films in Van Vorst Park at 257 Montgomery Street.

Recommended dinner offerings range from pizza to pub grub to French cuisine at venues including Razza Pizza (rated the Number Two restaurant in Jersey City by TripAdvisor), Park and Sixth Gastropub, and Madame Claude Café (highly rated by readers of UrbanSpoon).

Jersey City, which is about 10 miles from the site of the Seattle Seahawks’ 2014 Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos, hosted both teams at two of its waterfront hotels. Die-hard fans may want to grab a nightcap at either The Westin Jersey City Newport, which hosted the Seahawks, or the Hyatt Regency Jersey City on the Hudson, which housed the Broncos. Both hotels offer dramatic views of the Manhattan skyline, as does Newport Green Park near the Newport PATH station. Cost for the evening's dinner or drinks: about $23.

For more information about things to see and do in Jersey City, visit www.destinationjerseycity.com.

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



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