As we emerge from the official summer kickoff known as Memorial Day, we wanted to give you some tips and ideas about how to get out of town, with a focus on budget travel, day trips and destinations accessible to those without a car. Here are just a few of our top picks.
THE SHORE THING
Jersey summer = Jersey Shore. It’s such a no-brainer it almost doesn’t belong on this list. But we’ve carved out a few special shore trips for you if you want to do something a little different.
Island Beach State Park
What makes the Jersey Shore unique is the diversity of its beaches, with an array of beauty, accessibility, and amenities. Serving tourists with an endless number of choices along its approximately 120 miles of coastline, there are beaches for all tastes, ranging from private, secluded patches of sand (think Deal) to sprawling family-oriented beaches (think Seaside Heights and Wildwood).
With the 1,896-acre Island Beach State Park (IBSP), the Jersey Shore also possesses the largest undeveloped public reserve of barrier island in New Jersey, as well as one of the biggest in the entire country. As a barrier island, it fronts on both the Barnegat Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, so the biodiversity is immense; you’ll see undisturbed maritime forests and tidal marshes, sprawling dunes, and variety of wildlife, such as fox and ospreys. Nature lovers and recreation-seekers alike will be pleased, with two well-sized guarded beaches with bathrooms and food vendors, secluded nature trails, kayak access, surf fishing, and guided interpretive tours.
Getting there: Don’t have a car? No problem! NJ Transit offers weekend bus service on the #137 bus (from the Port Authority Bus Terminal), starting June 27 and ending on Labor Day. At the Seaside Park stop, just let the driver know that you’d like to continue to IBSP. On weekends before June 22, NJ Transit offers a shuttle bus to the barrier island via a connecting bus at the Toms River Park Ride. Best of all, the price of park admission is covered in your bus ticket. If you’re driving, take the Garden State Parkway to Exit 82, Route 37 East onto the barrier island, and then exit onto Route 35 South. IBSP begins where Route 35 ends.
- Justin Auciello
You’ve missed your chance to snap up a gorgeous Jersey Shore Victorian for a song, so you’ll have to settle for looking at them from the sidewalk while bemoaning your lack of real estate acumen. Luckily, Asbury Park has a lot more going for it than beautiful old homes.
My favorite way to waste a day in Asbury Park: Start off with a walk on the boardwalk. Still kinda decrepit? Sure, but it has a certain gritty charm and you get the fresh smell of the ocean along with a perfect view of the beach’s long-abandoned, half-constructed luxury high-rise; take a minute to ruminate on the juxtaposition. There’s been redevelopment on the boardwalk around Convention Hall, and the area now has plenty of places where you can eat while enjoying the motley view.
Inland, Cookman Avenue is lined with great art galleries featuring Jersey artists (if you catch some Neil O’Brien, you’re in luck), cute and original shopping and enough antiques to choke a horse. You can waste some time people-watching at a coffee shop, taking a glassblowing class (make a nice vase for your mom), or grabbing some tapas. Main Street’s also got some great food.
At night, head over to Asbury Lanes for bowling, music and beer, to The Saint if you want the music and beer without the bowling or to the Stone Pony if you want to party like it’s 1983. Schlep back to JC on the Coast Line, or spend the night getting up close and personal with one of those Victorians you can’t afford any more with a night in a B&B.
Getting there: PATH to Newark-Penn Station. Take NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line to Asbury Park — that trip is about an hour from Newark.
- Michelle Weber
Bradley Beach, the Healy Way
Whether it was a case of police misconduct or just an intoxicated misunderstanding, we can be sure about one thing that happened in the early morning hours of June 17, 2006 in Bradley Beach: Jersey City’s mayor got into a scuffle with police from this shore town.
After an incident involving another couple that was in some sort of altercation, Jerramiah Healy was ultimately charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice that morning. What better way to explore a classic shore town than through the lens of our mayor’s “extracurricular” activities?
The night’s events began at Barry’s Tavern at 310 Main St., a bar that Healy’s sister Kathleen Barry owned. You’d be hard pressed to find Barry’s now, so don’t look too hard. Barry sold the bar to new owners in 2007 and they renamed it D’Arcy’s Tavern in February 2008.
From there, head on down to Bradley Beach Police Headquarters (701 Main St.), where our mayor got booked and eventually released. As you stroll down Main Street, you can check out the small shops and restaurants that line the thoroughfare.
From police HQ, you can walk south back down Main Street and take a left on Monmouth Avenue. Listen closely and you may just hear a certain crooner belting out a classic or a traditional Irish folk ditty.
Monmouth will dead-end into Bradley Boulevard at Sylvan Lake; keep heading left/east and you’ll eventually hit the ocean. You can buy your beach badge at a station on 3rd Avenue — it’ll cost you $7 during the week and $8 on the weekends.
Getting there: PATH to Newark-Penn Station. Take NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line to Bradley Beach — that trip is about an hour and half from Newark.
- Jon Whiten
TAKE A HIKE
You don’t have to travel far to get a little elevation. Some of the East Coast’s best hiking is so close, you might be surprised.
Palisades Interstate Park
One of New Jersey’s best hiking spots is just 10 miles from Jersey City. The Palisades Interstate Park offers a variety of hikes along its 12-mile strip of land that runs up alongside the Hudson River. There are 30 miles of trails altogether in the New Jersey section of the park, which runs up to the New York state line.
The park is also steeped in history, and it includes two dedicated historical sites: The Kearney House, a structure built in the late 18th century; and Fort Lee Historic Park, the site where General George Washington placed the army’s batteries overlooking the river during the Revolutionary War.
The Palisades is also a hot biking spot for street riders (mountain biking on the trails is a no-no). Bikes are allowed on Henry Hudson Drive, a seven-mile road inside the park.
Getting there: The park is easy to get to from Jersey City by bicycle. Follow River Road about 10 miles up to the park’s entrance at the Fort Lee/Edgewater border. (You may face some hostility from motorists speeding off to any number of strip malls along the way, especially in Edgewater, which has no real shoulder to ride on, but pay close attention and you’ll be fine.)
You can also get to the park via bus. NJ Transit’s #158 bus will get you close enough to walk to the park. It leaves from Port Imperial station in Weehawken, which you can get to via light rail or the NJ Transit #23 bus, which originates at Hoboken terminal. Alternately, you can take Rockland Coach’s #9 bus from NYC’s Port Authority. It drops you off right at the pedestrian bridge, a lovely place to begin your hike.
- Becky Hughes/JW
Harriman State Park (NY)
New York second-largest state park, Harriman State Park, is not far over New Jersey’s northern border. This park, part of the Appalachian Mountains, has an astounding 200 miles of hiking trails, along with 31 lakes and reservoirs, three beaches, and two public camping areas.
Getting there: The best thing about Harriman is that you can get there without a car. NJ Transit’s Main/Bergen County Line can get you there. Take the train to Tuxedo, where you can easily walk right to a trailhead. The trip from Hoboken takes about an hour.
Baseball games are a staple of the American summer, but ticket prices at the Mets’ and Yankees’ new digs are pricey, and once you get there, food and drink are no bargain either. A good alternative: New Jersey baseball.
Closest to Jersey City are the Newark Bears, an independent professional team not affiliated with Major League Baseball. This means you won’t get to emotionally tie them into your favorite MLB team, and more importantly, it means that they have an interesting mix of young players and former MLB players. This year’s squad features former All-Stars Keith Foulke, Carl Everett and Armando Benitez. The former Montreal Expos star outfielder Tim “Rock” Raines took over managing the team this year.
The Bears are one of the lowest-drawing teams in the Atlantic League, a fact that led their previous owner to declare bankruptcy last fall. Luckily, a new ownership group swooped in and hopes to turn things around financially. As of this writing, the team is leading its division.
The team has a number of promotional events, like knitting night and bring your dog to the game night. The Bears are also hosting this year’s Atlantic League All-Star Game on June 23. The last regular season home game is Sept. 20.
Bears tickets go for as little as $8, and kids under 4 get in free. With a coupon, you get two tickets for the price of one with your light rail receipt.
Getting there: PATH to Newark-Penn Station. Transfer to the Newark light rail towards Broad Street. Riverfront Stadium is the third stop.
The Bears aren’t the only baseball outfit in the Garden State. If you feel like going farther, or are a die-hard Yankees fan, Trenton is your best bet.
The Trenton Thunder are the AA affiliate of the Bronx Bombers, and they play in a nice small stadium right on the Delaware River. Plus, I’ve seen my elderly first cousin sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” there — can’t beat that.
Like any other minor league team, the Thunder has a wide array of special promotional nights. More than 20 games this season are followed by fireworks, and other special promotions including free tchotkes of all sorts and a dollar draft night (sorry, folks, we’ve already missed that — it was on May 9).
Adult tickets to Thunder games are just above $10, and children under five are free (but have to sit on a lap). The team has home games every week from now until Aug. 31.
Getting there: PATH to Newark-Penn Station. Take the Northeast Corridor line to Trenton (a little over an hour). Transfer to the NJ Transit River Line light rail; take that two stops to Cass Street. The park is about 5 blocks away. (Present your River Line receipt for a discount on tickets.)
EXPLORE JERSEY CITY’S OTHER RIVER
Alternately celebrated and derided as Jersey City’s “Second Waterfront,” the Hackensack River offers a less crowded and smaller alternative to the mighty Hudson for summer recreation. Although the river has been extremely polluted and intensively developed for many years, the efforts of groups like the Hackensack Riverkeeper are helping to restore it to its former glory.
The Riverkeeper has recently opened a new dock for canoes and kayaks in Secaucus’ Laurel Hill Park, making it easier and safer for boaters to explore the lower river and its estuary, which most of us call the Meadowlands. Riverkeeper rents out boats from this location on weekends through its Eco-Paddles Program (call 201-920-4746), and offers a selection of reasonably priced “Eco-Cruises” for those who prefer a guided experience.
The Hackensack RiverWalk is a proposed greenway that would provide continuous public access to the Hackensack riverfront from Bayonne to North Bergen. (You can see a pdf of a 2003 outline of the plan here.) Although the RiverWalk project is still far from a reality, you can currently access the waterfront at Bayonne County Park (map) and Laurel Hill Park. Riverkeeper lists additional boat docks, fishing points and lookouts along the river here.
Getting there: From Jersey City, you can easily bike, drive or take a bus to Laurel Hill Park for any of Riverkeeper’s tours. Check out full directions on the group’s website.
- Shane Smith
CROSS STATE LINES
If you’d like to get out of the state entirely, we’ve got good two good options for you: one to the west and one to the east.
Lambertville, N.J./New Hope, Pa.
If you’ve got a car or don’t mind spending some time on the bus this is a nice weekend getaway, especially for you nature-y, physical activity loving types who also enjoy a good pastry. About an hour and a half from Jersey City, Lambertville and New Hope are two villages just across the Delaware River from one another, linked by an easily walkable bridge.
The villages themselves are painfully cute, and you may just show up on a day when some kind of adorable town festival is going on. The towns are both a quirky mix of traditional Americana, independent craftspeople and easily overlooked touristy dreck. There’s something for everyone:
- Like books and coffee? The New Hope side has a great little used bookstore and a tiny French bakery and cafe right on the river that makes a killer apple turnover.
- Like beer? Lambertville is home to the River Horse Brewery.
- Like flea markets? Lambertville has the enormous Golden Nugget, held every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. (Which means you’re also in luck if you like to go flea marketing while smashed on a good pale ale.)
- Like nature? The Delaware and Raritan Canal trail runs along the river on the New Jersey side and is great for a scenic walk or bike ride.
- Like bikes? The D&R isn’t paved, but the tree-lined country roads around both towns are made for road bikers.
- Like to eat? There’s a shocking variety of options for such wee towns.
For an overnight stay, the York Street B&B in Lambertville is off the main street but in easy walking distance of everything, has comfy beds, nice hangout space, and a proprietor who makes excellent blueberry pancakes and provides homemade chocolate chip cookes 24 hours a day. THAT’S 24 HOURS A DAY, PEOPLE.
Getting there: By car: I-78 West to I-287 South, to Route 202 South, to PA Toll Bridge. First right onto Route 32 South. 1 mile. (This takes you into New Hope). By bus: Transbridge runs a bus from NYC’s Port Authority to New Hope. Check schedules and get more info here.
Itching to go to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, but don’t have the time or money? Your best bet might be to look east out to Long Island.
Greenport is at the end of the island on what’s called the North Fork. It’s a quieter, less flashy alternative to the south end of the island with the tony Hamptons. It’s much less popular and less crowded, but still steeped in old-world charm, with vintage colonials and water all around.
From Greenport be sure to take the $2 (each way) ferry to Shelter Island, which smacks of New England atmosphere.
The area is home to many vineyards and is only 101 miles (by car) from Jersey City. It’s so close, it seems like a miracle. The area is also very bike-friendly.
Special budget tip: There are a bunch of lower-cost hotels about 5 minutes west of the Greenport area on Route 25. It’s an easy drive if you have a car (or ride if you have a bike); or hop a cab — you’ll likely make up for it in savings.
Getting there: Take the Long Island Rail Road from NY Penn Station to Greenport. The trip takes about 3 hours and is a steal at under $20 if you purchase online. (Want to bring your bike? Get a permit — it will cost you $5 but will be good forever.)
- Steve Gold/JW