Beautiful tree-lined blocks lined with historic nineteenth-century brownstones… A burgeoning food scene that is rivaling some of the trendiest spots in New York City… Sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline…

Those are just a few of the reasons why residents of Downtown Jersey City tend to be fiercely proud of their neighborhood and consider it the Tri-State Area’s best-kept secret. Throw in the fact that it’s just over a five-minute train ride from Downtown Manhattan and you’ll understand why that secret is gradually becoming not-so secret. Here’s our mini-guide to living in Downtown Jersey City.

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Find Your Micro-Hood: Downtown Jersey City is made up of several smaller mini-neighborhoods, each one with its own distinctive character. Along the waterfront there’s the shiny new towers of Exchange Place, a little further in you’ll find a bustling restaurant scene around the rapidly developing Grove Street area, and sprinkled throughout are the serene brownstone blocks of Harsimus Cove, Hamilton Park, Paulus Hook and Van Vorst Park. Best of all is that they’re walkable from each other, so you can get a full taste of Downtown JC in one day.

It’s All About the Architecture: Jersey City has an incredible mix of architecture that only hundreds of years of history and that combination of settlement, development and then redevelopment can provide. With some of the finest brownstones, brick row houses and historic pre-Civil war housing in the whole country combined with one of the fastest developing stock of new apartment and office buildings all nestled together, it is urban, dense and spectacular. But beyond just the property stories this is an amazing place to live.

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Eating Up: The team at Dixon are in love with the delicious gastro-pub fare at the buzzing Hamilton Inn which is a great spot for brunch, lunch or dinner as well as being the place for late-night Blue Point oysters with a “Jersey Cooler” cocktail. In the same neighborhood, GPs Restaurant is the Italian go-to-spot for many locals. Nearby the stunning Manhattan skyline views and high-end seafood can’t be beat at the waterfront Batello which was born in a space devastated by Hurricane Sandy at the Newport Marina. Chef Kevin Pemoulie has been one of the highest profile Chefs to choose Downtown JC as his new neighborhood. After working at David Chang’s now-legendary Momofuku Noodle Bar for five years, Pemoulie opened Thirty Acres on the corner of Jersey Avenue and Wayne Street, attracting wide acclaim for his inventive New American fare. The menu changes almost daily based on seasonal ingredients, with standards ranging from duck sausage and butternut squash gnocchi to Maine sea urchin with cauliflower cream. A few blocks away, locally-milled flour, wild yeast and Jersey-grown vegetables all go into the pies at Razza artisanal pizza, and a beautifully converted row house is home to the delectable steaks of Edward’s Steakhouse, a rebuilt survivor from Hurricane Sandy.

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For more old-world European fare, nearby Marco & Pepe is modeled after a traditional Southern Spanish tapas bar (the owner’s father is from Seville), and also offers a killer American-style brunch spiced up with Spanish meats and cheeses. Local ingredients are also showcased at The Kitchen at Grove Station, where seasonally-focused New American breakfast, lunch and dinner is accompanied by a super-serious coffee program from ModCup, Jersey City’s only artisanal micro batch coffee roaster. The area’s sizable Mexican heritage is alive at the very hip Orale Mexican Kitchen, where inventive options like Peking duck confit tacos are paired with specialty margaritas. Bar food gets a serious upgrade at Park & Sixth gastro-pub, where comfort food options like crispy braised pork belly and a bacon-topped short rib burger are so popular they recently expanded to a second, larger space just a few doors down Grove Street from the original.

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Playing Around: One of Jersey City’s best-kept secrets is that for such a dense Downtown area, the variety of urban-play-space is impressively wide-ranging. Hamilton Park, fully renovated in 2010, is one of the most picturesque, lined with nineteenth-century row houses while a series of expansive grassy areas lead towards a central Victorian-style gazebo. There are pristine tennis and basketball courts, a children’s water park and two dog runs. In the warmer months the park is home to a weekly farmers market, regular fairs and concerts, and a summer film series with family-friendly movies in the evenings. A ten minute walk away, Van Vorst Park offers a second dose of parkland, with tree-lined lawns adorned by blooming azaleas in the springtime, plus a fun range of warm-weather events, from movie screenings to disco night. This past year, Jersey City tested out an innovative plan to create a car-free pedestrian plaza along a stretch of Newark Avenue near Grove Street, opening up the street to everything from bike riders and picnics to free sidewalk martial arts classes and summertime strolls. Look for it to return again this spring.

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A footbridge from Liberty Harbor across the Morris Canal Basin connects Downtown Jersey City to Liberty State Park. This spectacular urban oasis spanning over 1,200 acres and bordered by water on three sides offers expansive views of the Manhattan skyline, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The historic Central Railroad of New Jersey Terminal (CRRNJ), a grand setting for much of New Jersey’s transportation history in the northeast, is prominently located at the north end of the park. A two-mile waterfront promenade, Liberty Walk, links the picnic areas, playgrounds and the CRRNJ Terminal while providing visitors with sweeping views across the Hudson River.  Nearby, the breathtaking views from Liberty National Golf Club will give the region’s golf fans some of its greatest golf viewing opportunities in coming years. Already a two time host of the Barclays tournament in 2009 and 2013, Liberty National will be hosting the 2017 President’s Cup tournament and many other PGA tour events over the coming decades. Fitness fanatics will find all their needs sprinkled across Downtown, from boot camp class with a side of massage at BaseGym and Pilates class using state-of-the-art equipment followed by a few laps in the indoor pool at Hamilton Health & Fitness, to hot vinyasa hour at SunMoon Yoga and very serious workouts at CrossFit Jersey City.

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After Dark: While nearby Hoboken is well-known for its incredible range of night time activities, Downtown Jersey City is fast catching up and is home to a diverse array of nightlife, with something for everyone from the high-end wine connoisseur to the craft cocktail lover, the self-avowed beer snob, and the classic dive bar fan. In the leafy neighborhood known as The Village, Third & Vine wine bar offers an eclectic, seasonally-changing lineup of vino, and perhaps even more enticing is the daily selection of 30+ cheeses to craft your own epic cheese board. On an historic block in Paulus Hook, Satis Bistro is a cozy brick-lined spot pouring more than 45 wines by the glass, along with a delectable lineup of salumi, prosciutto and other Italian meats. Also in Paulus Hook, a restored 1850s tavern that once housed an actual Prohibition-era speakeasy is now home to Light Horse Tavern, JC’s most historic place for a very cozy drink (as well as snacks from the raw bar and a heart-warming brunch menu).

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Suds-lovers, meanwhile, appreciate the 50-plus craft brews flowing at Taphaus, conveniently located near Exchange Place, while Barcade is a perennially popular outpost near Grove Street for a round of Asteroids with a side of IPA. The gigantic beer garden at Zeppelin Hall is the go-to summertime spot for outdoor pints with a side of live music and whole spit-roasted BBQ pig on the weekends. Open only in the summer, Surf City Megabar combines harbor-front views taking in the Statue of Liberty with flashy frozen drinks served at picnic tables over the sand. Porta’s widely acclaimed Neapolitan-style pizza that made its first home in Asbury Park has attracted crowds to its second location in Jersey, hidden behind the retro signage of a former pharmacy on Newark Avenue, fans stay on for the classic cocktails in the evening, and it’s sure to be even more of a hotspot when they open the second-story roof deck bar this summer. To please everyone at once, check out The Bistro at Grove Square, a lively neighborhood spot that functions as a coffee shop, wine bar, bistro and speakeasy-style retro cocktail bar.

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Getting There: The 24-hour PATH train has three stations in Downtown Jersey City—at Exchange Place and Newport, which are both near the waterfront—and Grove Street. From Exchange Place it’s just one stop (about 5 minutes) to the World Trade Center in Downtown Manhattan, and from Grove Street and Newport only a few minutes further to stops at Christopher, 9th, 14th, 23rd and 33rd streets on 6th Avenue. For a more scenic route, ferry service connects the JC waterfront with Midtown Manhattan, the World Financial Center Ferry Terminal and Pier 11 at Wall Street. The Hudson-Bergen light rail is a quick and easy way to get from JC to other nearby towns in Hudson County, including Hoboken and Weehawken. The Uber car service has also finally made late-night trips back from Manhattan affordable, with rates starting from around $35 including tolls connecting JC even more with Manhattan.

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Watch This Space: With consistently increasing demand to be anywhere near New York City, Jersey City has  5,600 new apartments currently being built and 18,000 more already approved for development.  There is booming development in parts of Downtown Jersey City including the Powerhouse Arts District – a historic warehouse district, Liberty Harbor and the Grove Street area.  With all of these exciting large-scale developments well underway, the already wonderfully diverse and re-gentrified Jersey City has a bright future. Impressed yet? Spend a day in Jersey City and check out these Dixon Leasing properties on the market now

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