New York from Across the River
Groups find there are advantages to staying on the New Jersey side of metro NYC.
Sometimes the best place to base yourself for a visit to New York City is…New Jersey? The towns along the Hudson River opposite Manhattan’s West Side are home to thousands of commuters, so you know staying there is convenient. You’ll get skyline views you can’t appreciate from the city streets, and the towns have their own attractions, too. Of course, it’s also a plus that New Jersey accommodations are somewhat cheaper than equivalent hotels in Manhattan.
Fort Lee is near the George Washington Bridge, across from the northern tip of New York. The natural beauty of the area can be appreciated from Palisades Interstate Park, set on cliffs above the river. A section of the park, Fort Lee Historic Park, is a Revolutionary War site that was part of the defense system for New York City. There’s a reconstructed blockhouse, gun batteries, and soldiers’ quarters. If you’re more interested in natural history than American history, you can start two Palisades Interstate Park hikes from the Visitor Center. The Long Path is an easy to moderate hike at the top of the cliffs. The Shore Trail heads down towards the river, where there’s an easy to moderate hike along the water past picnic areas and a historic house.
Near the southern end of Manhattan, Hoboken is known as the “Mile Square City,” and it packs a lot of charm into its compact area. A riverfront park offers terrific views of lower Manhattan. Lively Washington Street is part of a historic district of 19th-century buildings and lampposts. The street is lined with shops and restaurants, including Carlo’s Bake Shop, home of TV’s “Cake Boss,” across from City Hall. The Hoboken Historical Museum offers two self-guided walking tours. One leads you past many of the town’s historic buildings; a second celebrates Frank Sinatra, a hometown boy who made good, and passes places where Frank lived and sang before he became a star.
The views are even better from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, where they take in the Statue of Liberty as well as the lower Manhattan skyline. You’re only a few thousand feet from the statue here, and it looks close enough to walk to. You can’t, of course; but you can take the National Park Service’s ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The lines here are much shorter than taking the ferry from New York City. Guests who don’t want to visit the statue can stroll along the park’s miles of waterfront promenade or wander through the salt marsh natural area. For those with kids, the park has a playground, and the Liberty Science Center is a fun and educational experience.
Getting to Manhattan
Of course, you’ll want to actually get into New York City, not just stare at it across the river. Transportation is easy from all three of these New Jersey towns. From Fort Lee, you can drive or even walk across the George Washington Bridge to Washington Heights.
From Hoboken and Jersey City, the drive to Manhattan takes either the Lincoln or Holland tunnels. There are commuter ferries as well, and the PATH train is a gentle introduction to subway-like mass transit.
You may want to choose your travel route based on where you intend to sightsee in Manhattan. Some transportation options stop in lower Manhattan, easy for exploring the Financial District and the 9/11 Memorial; some stop on 14th Street, easy for exploring the Village; and some stop at 34th Street, with easy access to the Empire State Building and midtown.