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It’s sometimes dubbed the “sixth borough,” but with top-notch restaurants, walkable streets and plenty to explore both old and new, Jersey City is way more than just a city sidekick. Mere minutes from Manhattan via ferry or the PATH train, the city on the other side of the Hudson is growing fast—and could even teach NYC a thing or two when it comes to diversity. What this all adds up to is a city with a population of around 264,000 (about the size of St. Petersburg, Florida, or Toledo, Ohio) that very much has its own unique identity, while being part of NYC’s greater cultural landscape. Here’s everything you need to know when planning a trip to Jersey City, whether you’re coming from five miles away or 5,000.

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jersey city colorful building
lucentius/Getty Images

Get to know the neighborhood

Jersey City is the second-largest city in the Garden State, but this isn’t some suburb where everyone drives. In fact, the local government has done a lot to make it as pedestrian-friendly as possible, so wear your walking shoes. Stroll along the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway for amazing views of Manhattan or head to the recently expanded Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza for some great people watching. It’s here—east of Brunswick Street and below Sixth Street—that you’ll really feel the pulse of Jersey City, where neighborhoods the Grove, Paulus Hook and Exchange Place converge into J.C.’s downtown. And thanks to the Jersey City Mural Arts Program, a city program connecting mural artists with property owners, the entire area is virtually a sprawling outdoor art gallery.

jersey city food ramen
@girleatsnyc

If you plan to combine your afternoon walk with a little noshing, drinking and learning, the Jersey Girls Food Tours Taste of Downtown restaurant crawl might be the perfect culinary adventure for you. It’s three hours of eating, drinking, meeting with chefs and learning about the food, art and culture of Jersey City—and it even sometimes stops at Ani Ramen, the cult-favorite noodle house that always has a line around the block.

Once you’ve had your fill, you can relax from the liveliness of “Chilltown,” as Jersey City is nicknamed, by, uh, chilling out. Check into the spa at Gaia’s Cavern (it’s right downtown) for a CBD oil or salt stone massage or soothe your soles with an essential-oil-infused foot bath.

Looking to sample some made-in-J.C. libations? Head to Corgi Spirits distillery, where you can sip gin or vodka and see how it’s made in the process. Take a tour, then tuck into the lounge or tasting room for some cocktails. Tip: Thursday is all-day happy hour.

la cote jersey city
La Cote/Facebook

Explore the (amazing) restaurant scene

The city’s diversity really shines through in its vibrant dining and nightlife. Whether you go forAsian fusion (Talde), Australian (Frankie), Mexican (Taqueria Downtown), pizza (Razza) or Portuguese (Broa Cafe), it’s hard to have a bad meal in J.C. Start your day with an ethereally flaky croissant and a latte from the award-winning Choc-O-Pain bakery on Jersey Avenue. You’ll find frozen drinks, lobster rolls, fire pits and a beachy, Margaritaville-esque vibe at Surf City, which sits right on the marina. Another hot spot boasting waterfront views is Piggyback Bar, run by the owners of the Lower East Side’s Pig and Khao. The move here is Asian-inflected bar fare, like a mapo chili dog with crispy shallots and scallions, and braised short rib waffle fries with chilies. Locals rave about Cellar335’s tiki cocktails, Korean-style wings and bao platters. And newcomer La Côte is already a date-night favorite in the quaint Paulus Hook neighborhood for its French and Italian Riviera–inspired menu and its BYOB policy (yes, they do that in Jersey).

After dinner, head to Dullboy for a nightcap. The intimate cocktail bar is literary themed (we’re writers, so indulge us) with typewriters and loosely hung books decorating the walls and drink names that nod to female literary figures, like the Zadie, the Cora and the Scout. For LGBT nightlife, the local watering hole is The Royal, but there’s also the forthcoming Six26 Lounge and Rooftop, which will have more of a cocktail lounge vibe. If a post-dinner scoop is more your speed, head to Torico. The old-school ice-cream parlor has been churning out homemade flavors like Coffee Cookies and Banana Peanut Butter Chunk for 50 years.

jersey city hyatt house rooftop
Courtesy of Hyatt House

Stay a little longer

Originally the First National Bank of Jersey City (rumor has it wealthy families who came through Ellis Island stored their valuables in private basement vaults), Hyatt House is now a 258-room apartment-style hotel located right on the Hudson. Pro tip: Even if you’re just day-tripping, check out the hotel’s new restaurant and bar, RoofTop at Exchange Place. Stunning views are par for the course, as is a celebratory, lively scene that centers around a gorgeous outdoor fire pit.

If you’re looking for slightly cheaper digs, there’s the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Jersey City (from $137 a night). The all-suite hotel is close to both the Newport Light Rail and the Newport PATH.

With additional reporting by Kristen Boatright

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