How I Got All the Benefits of NYC Life Without Actually Having to Move There

published Dec 10, 2018
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I moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, after college because I’d heard it was a great place for young people to live when looking for a job in Manhattan, if you couldn’t yet afford Manhattan prices. Little did I know that apartment prices were high here, too, but for that I got more space, wider streets, and a quicker commute than had I moved to a less-expensive Manhattan neighborhood or another borough.

I figured I’d stay for only a few years, but the city kept evolving—with waterfront parks, more options for families, and more businesses and restaurants on the main drag of Washington Street. My life kept evolving, too: I started my journalism career at the local paper, published a novel about a confused single girl, began a writers’ group, and made good friends—I even ran into a famous musician (Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze) on the sidewalk!

Despite all the changes, I’ve stayed a resident of Hoboken for the past 20 years. Yes, it may still be expensive and there may never be enough on-street parking, but its charm and accessibility really make it all worth it.

Don’t believe me? Just watch Anne Ebeling, fellow Hoboken resident and Apartment Therapy’s executive producer of video, as she tours our neighborhood in the second episode of “Zip Code,” a new series that exploring the best of everything in our favorite neighborhoods— whether you live there, move there, or just want to visit.

Watch the second episode of Zip Code:

A local’s guide to Hoboken, New Jersey

Describe the neighborhood in three words: Walkable, safe, lively.

This neighborhood is known as: The mile-square city.

Median rent: $2,800 for a one bedroom, according to Curbed.

Median house price: $726,600, according to

Walkability score: 95. “Hoboken is a walker’s paradise,” says
Walk Score.

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Average commute/traffic report: 32 percent commute by car; 59 percent take public transportation, says Trulia. Commuters get to visit Hoboken Terminal, the 1907 transit hub designed in the French Beaux-Arts style.

Note: Hoboken is situated between both the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, so if you’re leaving town by car, it’s best to do so before or after rush hour.

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Best local bookstore: There are two: one with new books and one with used. Little City Books sells new books and has a children’s wing. In the middle of town, Symposia sells used books and hosts events.

Best place to get coffee:
Bwe Kafe serves up delicious coffee from Haiti and other countries (and some of the proceeds help Haitians get safe drinking water) and you can chat with locals in the front of the store or sit at tables in the back to get work done. If you’re a latte fan, Black Rail and City of Saints also know just how to foam it up. Anne is especially fond of Empire Coffee and Tea‘s iced Snooki, a Mexican spiced coffee with milk.

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Best bar: Anne loves Cork City! It’s a pet-friendly establishment that offers 48 beers on tap and cask and an extensive rotating bottle list.

Best free cultural thing to take part of: Hoboken runs an art and music festival each spring and fall, usually with a headlining concert.

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Best local food : The city is known for fresh, homemade mozzarella (“mutz” for those in the know) at Italian delis like Vito’s, Fiore’s, and M&P Biancamano. Pro tip: Order a specialty sandwich from one of these places! Fiore’s roast beef and mozzarella is popular, but I’m partial to the buffalo chicken sandwich at Vito’s (smothered in blue cheese).

Best street for finding a birthday gift: Washington Street, the main drag through town. Anne’s go-to spot for gifts is Hudson Paperie (it’s actually where she got her wedding invitations custom made). They also host workshops and classes on topics like brush calligraphy there, too.

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Something only locals know: Even though visitors flock to
Carlo’s Bakery because it’s the original location for TV’s “Cake Boss,” there’s a terrific old mom-and-pop Italian bakery on upper Washington Street called Giorgio’s, full of delicious cookies, cakes, and can’t-miss cannoli.

Hidden gem: The former Antique bakery on the west side of town has been turned into Antique Bakery and Bar, so it still serves fresh bread but also offers drinks and dining.

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Best spot for an Instagram:
Pier A Park, the huge, grassy spot that juts into the Hudson River, close to the train station.

Underrated spot: The entire west side of town, since it’s away from the main drag. It’s fun to walk off the beaten path and see a formerly industrial area transform into shops, developments, and parks. The light rail train serves the west side and can get a passenger to Jersey City and other towns.

Favorite outdoor lounge spot: The tables outside Bin 14 wine bar, or Pier 13 outdoor bar.

Best date spot: Bin 14 Wine bar is intimate. If your date is more creative and wants to see a classic Jersey diner with something for everyone, Malibu Diner has an extensive menu of dishes, cocktails, and cakes, and ample seating.

Best alone spot: Several of the coffee shops are great for ruminating alone or for people-watching (or for writing): Black Rail, Bwe, Hudson Coffee, Choc-O-Pain.

Best place for a workout:
PrimeCycle has a loyal following for spin. CKO Kickboxing and GoRow offer kickboxing and rowing, respectively.

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Best place take an out-of-towner: The waterfront parks—Pier A Park and Pier C Park. Better skyline views than if you live in Manhattan.

Best brunch: Brunch is popular here, and there are far too many great spots to name. Amanda’s, Anthony David’s, Brass Rail, and the Madison all serve unique brunch offerings. Sunnyside Café is good for a faster stop with counter ordering.

Tip: Street parking is tight, so check the rules before you come. If you live here, you can get a residential permit for $15. If you’re a visitor, you can park for up to four hours on some city streets, unless you have a visitor permit (which a friend can obtain for you) or use the garages, parking lots, or metered spots. Some businesses have their own parking. These rules are subject to change, so check the city website.

Best free activity: The “Movies Under the Stars” summer series shows films on a big screen near the waterfront.

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Best local celebrity: Frank Sinatra, of course. He was born on Monroe Street and was said to be a customer at Fiore’s. There’s a bronze star embedded in the ground for him.

Claims to fame: Hoboken was also home to the first recorded baseball game in 1846!