Things to Do in Downtown Jersey City with Kids

Written by Meredith Stettner

It’s nice weather and you have more free time. Take a walk through Downtown, Jersey City, and you’re in the middle of it all.  Here are some of our favorite things to do in Downtown Jersey City with kids.

Park Time

On a hot day, cool off in the splash pads at Hamilton Park or Van Vorst Park. Swing on the swings while you’re there, play in the sandbox, ride scooters, explore the flowers or the free little library box, draw with chalk, play ball and get fresh air. There is plenty of grass for laying out a blanket. If you’re by Newport Green, there’s a carousel, spray pad and jungle gym there, too. 

Coffee, Pastry, Snacks

Chill out at a coffee shop/bakery. Downtown is home to some great bakeries and coffee shops—some to spread out in, some a little tighter if you have travel gear. Some of our favorites have backyard space, like Dames and Lackawanna. Or pick up a fresh croissant and coffee at Choc-o-pain. There’s a tiny table in front for kids. Prato is another wonderful shop for coffee, sandwiches and treats. Try their cantucci. Wonder Bagels makes delicious breakfast sandwiches, which you’ll often find people snacking on in the park. There’s a reason for the line on late weekend mornings. You’ll often bump into our Mayor there, too, on a weekday a.m. 

Books on Books 

It’s so much easier to read in summer–for adults and kids alike. Pick up a book at either library (Pavonia by Hamilton Park and JC Library by Van Vorst) and read there or at the park, or duck into the well-curated WORD bookstore by the PATH train. There’s a fun kid’s section, too and it’s a perfect place to snag a card or gift for a friend.

Art + Mural Hop

MANA Contemporary Art Gallery in Journal Square has occasional open houses with a kid’s room, and is open to the public Saturdays and for select tours during the week. While younger kids may just like to run around, older kids may enjoy some exhibits. There are a ton of other museums for all ages around the area as well. It’s a short ride away from the Grove area, but one of the popular things to do in Downtown Jersey City with kids.

For street art fans, the JC Mural scene is alive, thriving, and open at all times. Check out JCMAP for more details and exact locations. Many popular murals downtown have become Instagram hot spots, such as The Wave by the Grove PATH, El Gran Sueno on Jersey Ave behind Key Foods, and Intution and Nate Frizzell’s Untitled on Newark Ave near the Pedestrian Plaza.

Grab a Handful of Cherries, Freshly Picked

Hit up the farmer’s market, one of our favorite things to do in Downtown Jersey with kids. Downtown farmer’s markets are Monday (Grove), Wednesday (Hamilton), Thursday, and Saturday morning (Van Vorst) & Paulus Hook. Whichever one you go to, you’ll find hyper-seasonal produce, baked goods, nuts and dried fruits, olives and more. On Saturdays at Van Vorst, there’s a coffee kiosk and occasional donut stand. I’m a big fan of breakfast at the park. It’s truly a great resource available here, and more exciting than the supermarket (though they’re great too, and cool inside).

On Wednesday nights, it’s easy to make an early dinner picnic at Hamilton Park’s market. With pizza, some food trucks and prepared options and the olive guys, all you need is a blanket. 

Music & Movies

If you’re by Grove Street before dinner on a Wednesday, Groove on Grove hosts music and bands from 6-9 pm with a little area for kids to dance. And check out a film in the parks at night if it isn’t bedtime yet. Start times are usually 7 or 8 pm with some kid-friendly options. The movie theater at Newport Mall is a great option for the latest flick, too. Stroll the shops before or after or grab a bite at the food court.

Catch A Breeze on a Bike

Got bikes? Bike the waterfront boardwalk, or walk if it’s not too hot. If you’re on the waterfront on a weekday, Harborside’s Modcup makes excellent coffee for a pick-me-up, too, or weekdays and Saturdays before 2 pm, there’s Hybrid coffee truck by Exchange Place, serving delicious espresso out of a tiny, Instagram-worthy vehicle. 

If you can make it down to Liberty State Park, bike the waterfront there and play more. Plenty of room for the kids to scooter, go on the playground, play ball or camp out on a blanket with snacks, which makes it one of the go-to things to do in Downtown Jersey City with kids.

Cool Treats

Get a scoop of ice cream: Downtown Yogurt or Ample Hills if you’re heading towards the water (bonus points to Ample Hills for the walkability factor to the waterfront), Torico if you’re near the Pedestrian Plaza, and Milk Sugar Love if you’re up by Hamilton Park.

Indoor Learning + Play

On a day when it isn’t ideal to be outside, drive or take the light rail from downtown to the Liberty Science Center. It’s shockingly easy to do so from any waterfront light rail stop, and you’re saving on gas. The walk from the station to the Center is about 4 minutes. A Liberty Science Center family membership pays for itself within a few visits, and is a great investment. There are plenty of activities for little ones under two, which makes it one of the more popular things to do in Downtown Jersey City with kids.

Lunch, Dinner, Linner?

Sit down for Lunch or dinner at one of our favorite places. If you can get to Razza early enough, you’ll be in for some of the best pizza. But ever since The NY Times pondered if NYC’s best slice was across the river, there can be a wait. Arrive early to wait in line or simply avoid prime times. Family-friendly places include Roman Nose, Porta, Left Bank Burger Bar, or Ani Ramen if it’s early.

But we all know that sitting for long periods with kids can be tough, so I’m a fan of mixing it up with some of our favorite quicker places. Kids love Koro Koro Rice Ball Cafe—is there a more perfect portable food? There are a few tables inside or take them to go. If it’s a weekday, drop into Harborside’s District Kitchen for lunch or an early dinner from some of our favorite vendors like Pizza Vita, Left Bank, and Baonanas for dessert. Kids love running through the Atrium.

Or, shop for dinner and cook at home. Darke Pines, the wonderful new butcher on 2nd street with tasty offerings, even has a little coloring station in the front for kids.

There are many things to do in Downtown Jersey City with kids. Sometimes all it takes is a loose plan, a relaxed mind, and you’re on your way to an eventful day. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments! 

About the author

Meredith Stettner

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