THE BLOG
08/28/2014 02:29 pm ET Updated Oct 28, 2014

Discovering a "New" City Near Manhattan: The Rebirth of Jersey City

If you're planning on visiting the New York City area, or if you already live there, here's a wonderful city to visit (or move to!) You can feel its new pulse the moment you arrive.

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Last weekend my husband and I continued our summer theme of a "staycation" by exploring areas of fun and interest in our own backyard. Taking advantage of the beautiful summer weather, we wanted to do something outdoors that we've never done before.

We wanted to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Unfortunately we got a late start. Growing up in New Jersey we should've known better. If you leave late you're almost guaranteed getting stuck in traffic. Years ago most people went down the shore (a true Jersey term), drove out to the Hamptons or north to the Berkshires to escape the summer heat. That left the local highways desolate.

Not anymore.

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As we neared the turnoff for The Holland Tunnel we saw miles of cars tied up in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Suddenly my husband shouted, "What's Plan B?" I immediately answered, "Take the exit for Jersey City."

Let me go back a few years. I was born in Jersey City, and my parents moved us to the suburbs when I was 3. My father continued to work there for years, and after we left my grandparents moved into our old apartment.

My last impression was the city's unfortunate decline.

I still have a few memories of the old Jersey City, like The Landmark Loews Jersey Theatre in Journal Square, a grand movie palace my grandparents took me to during sleepovers with them. Built in 1929, it's now listed as a historical site. The theater eventually fell into disrepair, but today, under new ownership, I'm happy to report that volunteers have restored it to its original grandeur.

Jersey City is located along the Hudson River, lying directly across from Lower Manhattan and carrying 11 miles of waterfront property.

Today, young professionals are flocking to enjoy a rebirth of the area, with redevelopment along the waterfront and a new, exciting downtown that is enticing new residents. With cute cafes, good restaurants, and new businesses moving in such as Chase Manhattan Bank and Merrill Lynch, it is a desirable home to a diverse population.

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After we parked and headed toward the path along the waterfront, the first thing I saw took my breath away: the sight of the beautiful Freedom Tower standing tall and majestic against the bright blue sky. We took a solemn moment as we remembered what once stood there, and how it changed the heart of a nation.

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On September 11, 2001 Jersey City lost 37 of its residents. The city pays tribute to them with the dedication of two lovely memorials.

We will never forget those we lost.

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As we began our stroll down the path, I was struck by the colorful artwork on display. As I looked closer I learned that each painting was created by a student. They expressed their ideas about freedom, hope, tolerance and compassion, and their plan for a better world. In a world gone mad, I pray that their dreams come true.

They are our future, the peacemakers of tomorrow.

We ate a simple lunch on a lovely patio while enjoying the scenery and the joy of a beautiful day. When we were done we continued on our walk, passing tall glass buildings housing various businesses, some small manicured gardens, comfortable looking benches, the PATH train station and a beautiful new Hyatt with unobstructed views of Manhattan.

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We stopped into the Hyatt (of course I needed their bathroom!) and my husband waited for me on a comfortable couch surrounded by windows. He enjoyed a birds-eye view of Lower Manhattan as he waited.

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It's easy to travel to Jersey City from Manhattan with the NY Waterway delivering you right to the Jersey City waterfront. There is also the PATH train (run by The Port of Authority NY and NJ). Check their websites for accessibility and schedules.

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We had a wonderful day, and I was happy to discover the renovation of my birthplace. I plan on visiting again to explore more of the restaurants and culture of Jersey City.

NOTE: The Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre, NY Waterway, Hyatt Regency and the path along the waterfront are all accessible.

You can read more of Cathy's work on her blog, An Empowered Spirit.
Follow her on Twitter at @CathyChes

Photos provided by Cathy Chester