Given its close proximity to Manhattan, there are lots of cool things to do in Jersey City. Of course, the beautiful views of the New York City skyline stand out, as there are several popular Jersey City landmarks offering lovely vantage points.
However, there are other hidden gems to discover here, such as scenic downtown parks, performance venues, cultural institutions, and historic buildings. Plus, there are fun tours in Jersey City and others that depart from here and go into Manhattan.
Many tourists come here for the unique viewpoints of the Statue of Liberty but end up staying thanks to the variety of Jersey City activities and entertainment options. In fact, this is a more relaxing place to stay for your NYC visit, especially since you can easily get into Manhattan via car or public transit. If you have more time, it’s also worth visiting the top attractions in New Jersey.
To help you plan your trip, I’m sharing the 10 best attractions in Jersey City so you can get off the beaten path and discover something new across the Hudson River.
1. Liberty State Park, one of the most popular attractions in Jersey City
Liberty State Park is one of the most famous places to visit in Jersey City since it’s a central point for several popular attractions. This peninsular park is surrounded by Upper New York Bay and sits across from Liberty and Ellis Islands. Its prime location makes it an incredible spot to see the Statue of Liberty in NYC.
In addition to the stellar views, this Jersey City park has some curious areas like Communipaw Cove, a small nature preserve, and one of the few remaining tidal salt marshes in the state. You can also see the historic Communipaw Terminal (also known as the Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal), which was constructed in 1889 and operated until 1967. It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places, and you can still see its platforms and ferry slips, which transported millions of immigrants throughout the 20th century. There are several interpretive plaques and displays, as well as a memorial to the terminal’s employees.
While you’re here, be sure to take a stroll along the Liberty Walkway, a waterfront promenade leading to the Statue of Liberty overlook. Along the way, you’ll find a playground, picnic tables, and historic monuments like the Liberation sculpture, which commemorates the Holocaust. There is also the Empty Sky Memorial, which was built in honor of the victims of 9/11, and the Liberty Science Center, which I’ll talk about next.
2. Liberty Science Center, a cool place to visit in Jersey City as a family
As I mentioned, the Liberty Science Center is located in Liberty State Park. It’s a family-friendly science museum with interactive exhibits, learning labs, and one of the largest planetariums in the world. The center also has a theater that shows laser light shows, 3D productions, and educational documentaries.
Spending a few hours here is a great thing to do in Jersey City as a family since guests of all ages can find something to pique their interest. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions so you can learn more about different fields of study.
As a curiosity, the Liberty Science Museum is also home to the original Hoberman sphere, a geodesic dome structure that has been replicated into a plastic children’s toy. The sphere contracts and expands to grow up to three times its size, and you may have even had one of these toys growing up.
If you want to visit this Jersey City museum, be aware that it’s closed on Mondays. Also, you can save money on admission by getting your ticket in advance here.
3. Mana Contemporary, one of the most artistic places in Jersey City, NJ
Another indoor activity in Jersey City that you can consider is visiting Mana Contemporary. This cultural institute and art center always has something interesting going on, from community programming to special exhibits.
Located in a brick manufacturing building from the 1920s, Mana Contemporary contains workspaces, dance studios, and galleries for residential artists. The center is also a performance space and facility for the Middle East Center for the Arts, the International Center of Photography, and the Karole Armitage dance company.
You can also visit the architectural exhibit here, which is organized in partnership with the Richard Meier Model Museum and features installations and sculptures by the abstract artist and architect. The shows, programs, and artwork on display at Mana Contemporary change with the seasons, so it’s one place in Jersey City where there is always something new to see.
4. See the Empty Sky Memorial, one of the best things to do in Jersey City
I mentioned earlier that you can visit the Empty Sky memorial in Liberty State Park, and I highly recommend doing so, as it’s one of the most poignant attractions in Jersey City.
Built as a dedication to the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Empty Sky is New Jersey’s official 9/11 memorial. It has a meaningful location in the park, at the mouth of the Hudson River, so it’s directly across from the original site of the Twin Towers.
The design for the memorial was voted on by the Families and Survivors Memorial Committee, which had to choose a winner out of over 300 submissions. The final product features two engraved walls listing the names of the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center collapse, as well as those who died at the Pentagon that same day. There are also the names of the 746 New Jersey residents who lost their lives in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
Standing between the two granite walls, you can gaze at Ground Zero in Manhattan. It’s a highly reflective place where you can pay your respects while contemplating the NYC view from Jersey City.
5. Catch a performance at White Eagle Hall, a fun thing to do in Jersey City for couples
If you’re looking for things to do in Jersey City at night, check out one of the hottest performance venues in the area. For example, White Eagle Hall in the downtown district is a popular place to hear live music and socialize with others.
White Eagle Hall also holds a lot of history, having been built in 1910 by Polish immigrants and craftsmen, who used the white eagle from Poland’s coat of arms as the venue’s icon. The building’s original purpose was as a community center, although over the decades, it began hosting live performances, such as the Battle of Bands in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The building underwent a renovation in 2013 and now holds up to 800 people and features three bars, an elevated stage, backstage areas, and restaurants. Some historic pieces of the building remain, such as the wrought iron balcony, the coffered tin ceiling, and the hardwood flooring, which is now used for the bar. The colorful stained glass windows are especially impressive, and a staple of the music hall.
This venue hosts DJs, independent artists, dance performances, comedians, and family-friendly shows, so be sure to check the events calendar here.
You can also check out Loew’s Jersey Theater, a nearby performance theater dating back to 1929. Built in the Baroque/Rococo style, it’s a Registered Historic Place of New Jersey and a popular site for filming and photography shoots. While the old movie palace hosts shows, one of the coolest things to see here is its Wonder Organ, which is adorned in white and gold leaf and ornate detailing.
6. Liberty Landing Marina, an interesting place in Jersey City to visit
Another Liberty State Park attraction that you can’t miss is the Liberty Landing Marina. This is the perfect place to enjoy some outdoor activities in Jersey City, such as boating, jet skiing, or simply sightseeing from the pier.
The marina is known for its high-end boat service, which includes slip rentals and a marine store. During your visit, you’re sure to see small boats and yachts docked here, as well as sightseeing ferries en route to the Statue of Liberty or New York City.
The Adventure Sightseeing Tour is a fun thing to do in Jersey City with family, and it takes you around New York Harbor in a speedboat to see some iconic attractions from the water. For even more thrills, check out the Sea the City jet ski tour, which I’ll talk about in a bit.
People also come to the marina to chill, and the best way to do that is by enjoying a gourmet meal at one of the two restaurants here. The Liberty House and Maritime Parc are two of the best waterfront restaurants in Jersey City, and the ideal date spots, so keep them in mind if you’re looking for something special to do with your partner.
7. J. Owen Grundy Park, another place in Jersey City with nice views
Traveling north along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, you’ll come across J. Owen Grundy Park, another Jersey City park that’s worth visiting.
This riverfront pier is more of a viewing platform than a park, but it offers pretty views and fresh air. During the warmer months, you can find picnic tables and lawn games here, as well as community events and shows at the pavilion. The nighttime views are also quite beautiful since you can see downtown Manhattan and One World Observatory across the river.
The Jersey City landmark was named after J. Owen Grundy, a native New Jerseyan, official historian, and chairman of Jersey City’s Municipal Historic Districts Commission. It’s a serene place to go during your visit, and while you’re here, I recommend checking out nearby Exchange Place next door, a downtown Jersey City district that’s often referred to as Wall Street West since it’s home to many financial company headquarters and banks. There is also the 1920s Colgate Clock, which measures 50 feet across and once sat atop the Colgate-Palmolive headquarters in Jersey City.
8. Explore Van Vorst Park and Historic Downtown Jersey City
Moving away from the waterfront, you’ll find another scenic place in Jersey City. Located in the neighborhood of the same name, Van Vorst Park is a small yet beautiful area where you can take a stroll, sit in the quiet, and admire the lush foliage.
The formal park is reminiscent of a Victorian-style park, and its original landscaping was done by local horticulturalist Peter Henderson in 1851. Today, the park has a lovely gazebo, a viewing fountain, a playground, and an area for dogs. There are also walking paths among the trees and flowers, with 19th-century brownstone rowhomes peeking through the greenery.
While you’re here, you may as well explore some other cool things to do in downtown Jersey City. For example, the nearby Historic Downtown district is a pretty residential area that’s home to City Hall, a public library, the Jersey City Museum, and several great places to eat like Wurstbar and Ani Ramen House. If you like to shop, the Newport Mall is close by and has over 130 stores, a movie theater, and a food court.
9. Sea the City tour, an exciting thing to do in Jersey City, NJ
Earlier I mentioned the different tours that depart from the Liberty Landing Marina, and these Jersey City tours are a wonderful way to get outside and explore the surroundings in a unique way.
One of the coolest tours is the Sea the City jet ski excursion through New York Harbor in which you can see the skyline up close. During the one-hour ride, you’ll navigate around Liberty Island and up to the Manhattan Bridge before returning to the pier. You must be at least 18 to drive the jet ski, and kids 12-18 must ride with an adult.
Sea the City also offers a 90-minute Hot Tub Boat tour, which is a fun thing to do in Jersey City for adults. You’ll cruise down the Hudson River while admiring the views of Lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and other top attractions. Each boat has two 10-person hot tubs, a bathroom, and a changing room, and you can learn more about the tour and the jet ski excursion here.
Another alternative is a Statue of Liberty cruise from Liberty State Park. A variety of tour options is available, although the general tour is included in the New York Pass. All of the tours include admission to the Statue of Liberty Museum, but you’ll have to upgrade your ticket if you want to access the statue’s pedestal or crown.
10. Jersey City food tour, another cool thing to do in Jersey City
Finally, one of the best ways to explore a new place is by trying the local food, so consider taking a food tour of Jersey City like this one. During the three-hour tour, you’ll visit four different restaurants, although the specific locations depend on the day you visit.
A knowledgeable guide will lead you through the downtown district and point out hidden gems and holes in the wall that you might’ve otherwise missed. At each stop, you’ll sample delicious treats and appetizers, as well as tasty drinks. You can even talk to the chefs and restaurant managers to learn more about their culinary inspirations and techniques.
In addition to discovering some of the best restaurants in Jersey City, you’ll get to know the local culture and art scene, too. So, bring your appetite and get ready to dive into some amazing cuisines like Asian, Italian, Mediterranean, Mexican, New American, and more.
Where to stay in Jersey City
If your list of places to visit in Jersey City is getting long, consider staying overnight. There are different accommodation options here, and since the city is so close to Manhattan, it’s a convenient alternative to the busyness of NYC.
The waterfront has the most top-rated resorts, but if you’re not sure where to stay in Jersey City, here are my recommendations:
- Hyatt Regency Jersey City: this clean and tidy hotel is located on the waterfront, by J. Owen Grundy Park. In addition to the great views, you’ll enjoy modern facilities including a gym and an indoor pool.
- Canopy by Hilton Jersey City Arts District: this is a trendy accommodation with lots of shopping and dining venues nearby. Plus, the rooms are clean and spacious, and the property has an intimate, boutique atmosphere to make you feel at home.
- Courtyard by Marriott Jersey City Newport: this is the perfect hotel if you want to stay close to public transportation for easy access to NYC. You’ll also be close to the Newport Mall, and the property has family-friendly amenities like a pool and restaurant.
How to get to NYC from Jersey City
If you want to hop over to Manhattan after visiting the attractions in Jersey City, you have a few ways to get there. You can drive, but the route takes about 45 minutes to an hour.
Traveling by public transportation to NYC is the easiest way to go. The quickest option is via subway, either from the PATH station at Journal Square or Exchange Place. Both stations connect to the World Trade Center transportation hub and take 13 minutes and 5 minutes, respectively. Plus, the one-way fare is $2.75. You can get more info here.
There is also the option to travel via the NY Waterway ferry. It departs from the Paulus Hook Ferry Terminal at Exchange Place and goes to Pier 11 at Wall Street in Lower Manhattan or West 39th Street in Midtown. It costs $8 one-way and takes around 20-25 minutes, but only runs on weekdays. You can see the ferry schedules here.
Finally, the Line 119 bus runs from Journal Square in Jersey City to Manhattan’s Port Authority Transportation Center. It costs $6 one-way and takes about 35 minutes.
Map of Jersey City, NJ
I hope this guide helps you plan your visit! Here is a map with all the Jersey City tourist attractions and hotels I mentioned:
Don’t forget about these activities during your visit to New York City, especially since they’re so close by. Also, if you have some free time, you can check out the other attractions in New Jersey to round out your trip.
If you have any questions or you’d like to share your favorite thing to do in Jersey City, leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you! Have a safe trip!