| ROUNDUP | Jersey City Parks
If you just moved to Jersey City with kids (or are considering the move), know that there are some absolutely killer parks in Jersey City. Improved outdoor space is one of the top perks of leaving Manhattan for Jersey City. The first park you'll find is likely the one closest to your home, of course. From there, you'll learn by word-of-mama-mouth where else you can wheel that stroller to void your children of their spare energy. Or you could pull up Google maps and scoot around your house until you find all the parks nearby, like I did (which is both boring and tedious).
Or, you could read on.
Hamilton Park (Where? Here.)
Maybe it's because Hamilton Park is closest to our home, but I think it's the most badass park in Jersey City (except maybe Liberty Park and the Newport Green Park, which are described in more detail below). Renovated to the tune of $3.2 million a few years back, the investment shows in this outdoor space.
The playground is an amazing structure with a separate space for older and younger kids to run and play (though, of course, you'll find both in each other's section wreaking havoc). There is a large splash pad (which the World's Cutest Human refused to play in all summer until the season was over and it was closed - now she begs to use it). But the clencher in our animal-obsessed house is the dog park (there are actually two - one for small dogs, one for large) where we can watch the "dogggaaaaaayyyyy's" play. There are also tennis courts, a basketball court that is often host to a spirited game or tournament, and four big, open green spaces to picnic, kick a ball, run around or ... really, whatever you like.
Hamilton Park hosts a Farmers' Market every Wednesday in the summer, and the Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association hosts a myriad of other festivals and activities throughout the warm months (note: you don't need to belong to enjoy the festivities they host, but they, or JCFamilies, are usually behind the fun). The park is surrounded by an ice cream shop (read about Milk Sugar Love here), a children's toy store, pet store, pediatrician, photography studio, gym, wine shop and more.
Van Vorst Park (Where? Here.)
Van Vorst is probably the second-most frequented park in our household, especially throughout the summer. It's located right downtown, adjacent to one of the branches of the Jersey City Public Library, so you can combine some outdoor exhaustion with indoor quiet time in one outing. It's a very pretty park, with less open space than Hamilton Park or the other larger parks, but still tons of green space that includes a beautiful community garden, dog run, playground/swings and splashpad. Van Vorst's splashpad is slightly smaller than Hamilton Park and has dragons and other captivating animals spitting water, which made it the preferred splashpad for us over Hamilton this summer because it's less intimidating for very little ones. The playground is definitely more modest than Hamilton Park, but that makes it easier to sit down and keep your little ones in sight while they play more independently. I try not to be the hovering American mom, but at Hamilton Park, it's often necessary.
Like Hamilton, Van Vorst has a community called Friends of Van Vorst Park that helps maintain the space and hosts special musical events, Shakespeare in the Park, Films in Park with the VVPA, and much more. Van Vorst hosts their Farmers' Market on Saturday morning, which is great for a full family weekend morning outing.
Newport Green Park (Where? Here.)
Newport Green Park is easily the pimpest park in Jersey City, aside from Liberty State Park, especially in the summer. The self-contained city-within-a-city of Newport is very close to us, so the Newport Green Park rounds out the top three on our most-visited list. It's an even swankier park than Hamilton Park, as it borders the Hudson River, giving it a little waterside "beach" vibe. They have sand, chairs and umbrellas with no water access (thankfully!), a carousel (a non-negotiable part of a visit for us), a waterpark and a huge, beautiful play area with new and very cool structures.
Newport has one of the best play structures for older kids, as there's an abundance of creative climbing web structures that are just too advanced and dangerous for little ones. But fear not, there's plenty for the tiny's to explore, too. There's ample green space here as well and a fantastic walking path along the water, which is how we go to and from, to enjoy the view. Within view of the beach is the ferry, scooting passengers back and forth to Manhattan, and you can watch the rest of the boats blow by. It's Jersey City's South Beach. Ha!
Riverview-Fisk Park (Where? Here.)
We were a little late to the party on discovering Riverview Park because it is the farthest for us to visit on foot, and it has the least modern (though still very fun) playground. Once we discovered it, because of its market, we fell in love. Riverview Park's Sunday morning Farmers' Market is a perfect excuse to make the small trek up to the Heights to enjoy the view (Riverview Park boasts one of the best unobstructed views of Manhattan in all of Jersey City) and the festivities, especially on your first visit. We find that there are some market vendors who are unique to the Riverview Park Farmers' Market who are fantastic, both veggie vendors and baked goods dealers. There is usually some sort of awesome free activity during the Farmers' Market, whether it's an African dancing class, yoga in the park hosted by Yoga in the Heights or live music. In fact, the first Sunday of every month in the summer boasts free live local musical performances in Riverview Park. It's also across from modcup coffee (or modcup is across from it), so it's a parent pleaser: you can grab a cup of joe and sip it while the littles play.
Riverview Park has its own neighborhood association, who ensure that life at and around the park is fulfilling.
Liberty State Park (Where? Here.)
While we've been visiting Liberty State Park since we moved to Jersey City, it was a while before we discovered its playground. Once we found it, we mourned the days we had not played on it simply because we didn't know it was there! The play structure is huge, and it's packed on the weekends with families enjoying a barbeque and downtime together.
The rest of the park offers stunning views of both Manhattan and Lady Liberty (thus the name of the park), Ellis Island and the Hudson River. It's absolutely massive, so it's trails offer runners and bikers the opportunity to really get some distance in, without doing nineteen laps around the same vista. It hosts an incredible Fourth of July celebration, as well as a myriad of other events throughout the summer months. It also borders the marina, and the Liberty Science Center so there is a lot to see and do both in the park and in its vicinity.
Lincoln Park (Where? Here.)
Lincoln Park was originally known as West Side Park and if the interwebs serve me correctly, was the first park in Hudson County. It's underwent many-million dollar renovations last year on some of its more historical features. Basically Lincoln Park is the mother of Jersey City parks, so we saved the best discovery for last; because it is the farthest spot from our home, we didn't discover its wiles until the BikeJC Ward Tour this year. I'll forever remember sucking wind up its big hill. Lincoln is a humungous park, with multiple playgrounds, tennis courts, bike paths, basketball courts, gazebos, soccer fields, handball courts and a lake! It's Jersey City's Central Park (even though Liberty State Park is also a large and comprehensive outdoor space).
Lincoln Park hosts a Farmers' Market every Sunday at the Gazebo near the Fountain. The Farmers Market at Lincoln Park, sponsored by the West Side Community Alliance (WSCA), provides a venue where local farmers and artisans come together to provide a variety of fresh produce and related products directly to residents of the west side of Jersey City.
So, those are our top six JC Parks recommendations so far.
There are other parks we haven't explored yet, some of which you can learn about here (like a great sledding hill we'll be trying out this winter, and more). What's your favorite park in #JC and why? Leave a comment below, or send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll update this post with your picks.