Starter Guide for Jersey City Newbies

Moving is never easy, especially with kids. It’s easy to see how newcomers to the downtown Jersey City or Hamilton Park neighborhoods could get a bit overwhelmed with the bustle of the area. Here’s a starter guide to get started, but be aware that Jersey City is a buzzing and growing city that continues to evolve before our eyes, so it’s by no means comprehensive. Feel free to add your own ideas to our Facebook page, or in the comments section!

And also, WELCOME! All of us at JCFamilies were new in town once too – we know and completely understand the mix of excitement, trepidation, and confusion that can come with a big move. We hope you’ll introduce yourself to us at our next event!

Shopping

While it might be less daunting to order everything online, there’s real value to getting outside and seeing what you see. Every time you step out, you will feel a little bit more confident and more comfortable in your new neighborhood.

There are several grocery and foodstuff stores within walking distance, but all of the following listed below also have parking lots (except Key Foods) so you don’t have to walk if you don’t want to. Key Foods, however, is the only one nestled right inside the neighborhood, meaning you won’t have to cross any multi-lane super-busy streets with your stroller.

  • Key Foods – 574 Jersey Avenue
  • Shop Rite – 400 Marin Boulevard
  • Acme – 125 18th Street
  • Target – 100 14th Street
  • BJ’s – 396 Marin Boulevard, right next to Shop Rite

Having a housewarming party? We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that there’s a giant booze warehouse open until 10 pm daily (except Sunday) which also has a parking lot, a create your own six pack craft beer section, a massive wine selection, and discounts on quantity.

  • Buy Rite – 575 Manila Avenue

In addition to the stores already mentioned, don’t forget that one of the biggest benefits of living in a major metropolitan area is that we don’t have to go to big box stores if we don’t want to. There are bodegas, corner stores, wine shops, and food trucks all around you. The Jersey City consumer is so selective, and has so many options, that you can be confident that any and all of those corner stores will be stocked up on the necessities and will operate in a clean and professional environment. We are proud of our ability to shop local – it’s great to have milk and eggs at the end of the block.

Entertainment – Family Friendly

Do yourself a huge favor and have a date night in the nearby bars and restaurants without your kids. There are hip and trendy options that are trying hard (and succeeding) to keep your dollars in Jersey City. That said, there are also lots of options for days and evenings with the kiddos.

  • The Liberty Science Center has four floors of entertainment. Get a membership. When the winter arrives, you’re going to need a place where the kids can run and feel the freedom that they feel outside without the wind whipping into their little faces. The science center is that place. There are always at least two exhibits/rooms for little ones, one which changes and one that stays the same. Right now the rotating exhibit is Curious George. There’s also a section with animals – the Eat and Be Eaten exhibit – and another area where there are giant fish tanks. Explore. You won’t regret it.
  • Hamilon Park & Newport Green. These are both parks with lots of outdoor space to run around, playground equipment to climb, slide, and swing on, and programming including farmer’s markets and movies in the park. Both are beautiful any time of year (ok, maybe not in the snow…), and are always full of friends. Friends are everywhere in Jersey City – chat someone up today!
  • Hudson Play is a new member to our downtown community. It’s a

    family playspace with activities that focus on interactive entertainment and fitness. Its design encourages dynamic play with its specialized areas for toddlers, state-of-the-art activities for preschoolers and a challenging Ninja Warrior Course for everyone else.

    Transportation

    There are many ways to get around downtown Jersey City, and so many of us are grateful for the walk-able design of the neighborhood. For those times we can’t walk to where we need to be, there are lots of options that are oftentimes easier than driving your own car.

  • PATH has stations at Grove Street, Newport, and Exchange Place. All of these will take you into lower Manhattan in minutes and operate around the clock.
  • There’s also a ferry into Manhattan.
  • The Light Rail takes you around New Jersey above ground. I’m know I’m not the only parent who gets on the Light Rail to go no where in particular, just rides the train wherever with my little ones. Kids LOVE the Light Rail. They don’t need tickets, but you do. Be sure to STAMP your ticket after purchasing it so you don’t get fined if they check tickets.
  • CitiBike doesn’t have child seats but it is a fun and easy way to get around if you’re on your own.
  • Ridesharing companies like uber and lyft have gotten really popular in the past few years. Jersey City has seen a huge increase in their use because many times it’s easier to get a car service than to figure out where you’re going to park.

Education and Daycares

There are so many options for day cares and schools in Jersey City that we couldn’t possibly list them all here. Some things to know and/or think about when starting your school search:

  • Jersey City provides a free public school option beginning at age 3. Since there is limited space in the local schools, JC outsources their pre-k program to contracted child-care centers. All of these contracted child care centers use the High/Scope curriculum.
  • In addition, many downtown and Hamilton Park families choose private, Montessori, religious, or cooperative education options for their young children because they allow parents more flexibility and can be closer to home than the public option.
  • Nannys and au pairs are also very common for parents who choose in-home care for their babies.

Did that help?

Like I mentioned at the beginning, this is not a comprehensive list. Jersey City is dynamic and transforming as you read this. But there’s some comfort in knowing the basics, and in making some friends in the know. We’re pleased you found us! Keep us in the loop – we’d love to hear about your experiences here!

Mel Kozakiewicz blogs at www.urdoingitright.com and has been living in Jersey City since 2003.