Don’t be fooled by its size: there is much to discover in the Mile Square City. What Hoboken, New Jersey lacks in size, it makes up for in charm, entertainment, and history. It’s also known for its staggering per-capita amount of dining and drinking establishments. Hoboken is a destination for food and drink lovers for sure—but that’s not nearly all there is to do. Situated on the waterfront across from New York City, Hoboken has something for everyone, and here are our top 10 things to do in the “sixth borough.”
Visit the Historical Museum
We’re not totally sure where the name “Hoboken” comes from. The native Lenni Lenape tribe used the area seasonally and are believed to have called it “Hophogan Hackingh,” or “Land of the Tobacco Pipe” (they used the abundant rock in the area to carve tobacco pipes). Later, Dutch settlers called the area “Hoebuck,” meaning “high bluff.” When in 1794 he bought the land, Colonel John Stevens gave the town its current name.
All of this history and more is on display at the Hoboken Historical Museum, located uptown on Hudson Street at 13th street. The museum, which is open six days a week, is the place to go to learn all about the vibrant history of Mile Square—from being home to the first organized baseball game (honored with a monument at the intersection of Washington Street and 11th Street), the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, prior home to Maxwell House Coffee and the setting for the 1954 Marlon Brando-led film "On the Waterfront." If you’re a history buff, there’s no shortage of it in Hoboken.
Sample the Local Coffee
Coffee lovers rejoice! Hoboken is home to numerous places to grab a delicious cup of java. Empire Coffee & Tea Co. is a humble and homey spot that offers daily rotating flavors and an extensive offering of hot and cold teas, and they also sell coffee beans and loose teas by the pound for home brewing. Located at 11th and Grand Street, Dolce & Salato is a classic Italian-style cafè with a wide range of lunch dishes (paninis, salads, etc.), as well as gelato, cookies, and pastries (the Nutella croissant includes, unscientifically, an entire jar of Nutella inside—who’s complaining?) in addition to their wonderful espressos. If you find yourself in the busier downtown area, French-influenced Choc O Pain on 1st Street has your high-quality caffeine needs covered.
Pay Homage to Sinatra
Singer, actor, producer, and overall man of cool—The Chairman of the Board, Francis Albert Sinatra, was born on Dec. 12, 1915, in a tiny town across the Hudson River from Manhattan called Hoboken. On the east side of Monroe Street, between 4th and 5th Streets, sits a plaque dedicated to Sinatra’s childhood home. He was baptized at the beautiful, quaint St. Francis Church, located on 3rd Street and Jefferson Street. Both Sinatra Drive and Frank Sinatra Memorial Park, named after the megastar, are located near the waterfront and offer incredible views of neighboring New York City. If you spend anything more than a fleeting moment in Hoboken, the specter of Frank Sinatra is basically inescapable.
Indulge in Fresh Mozzarella
Hoboken grew in the early 20th century as a place for many immigrants, and particularly, those of Italian descent have had a massive impact on Hoboken that resonates to this day. Hoboken is home to some of the area’s best Italian delis, many of which offer some of the best fresh mozzarella you can find. (In fact, there is an annual mozzarella festival in Hoboken called “Mutz Fest.”) Some of the highlights include Fiore’s, located on Adams Street in between 4th and 5th Streets, which is known specifically for its incredible fresh mozz and its daily special sandwiches—the line for which often creeps out onto the sidewalk. Lisa’s Italian Deli, Luca Brasi’s, and Losurdo Bros. are additional spots to hit on any self-guided Hoboken mutz tour.
Take in the Views
Hoboken is located directly across from Greenwich Village and Chelsea in Manhattan, which means it offers some of the best views of New York City’s skyline that you can find. Head to Pier A, located downtown, which sprawls out along the water and provides Instagram-worthy views of the Freedom Tower. To the left is midtown Manhattan, the Empire State Building, and the new Hudson Yards complex. On a clear day, you can look to your left along the water and see the George Washington Bridge too. New York Waterway also operates ferries to Midtown and Downtown Manhattan seven days a week. Aside from being a quick entry into the city, the ferry offers unparalleled sightlines of New York.
Explore Hoboken's Food Scene
Hoboken is home to some truly incredible restaurants. There are too many to name them all, but no matter what type of cuisine you prefer, Hoboken has an establishment (or two or three) that will tickle your taste buds. La Isla is a favorite for incredible authentic Cuban food. (There are two locations, but the original downtown on Washington Street is more intimate.) They’re open for brunch on Sundays—the stuffed french toast, dipped in cinnamon and coated with corn flakes and almonds, is truly out of this world—but get there early as tables fill up. For lunch and dinner, try the papa rellena and the camarones enchilados.
For steak and seafood, head uptown to Dino & Harry’s on 14th Street, where former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning was regularly spotted when he was a Mile Square resident. The Elysian Cafè offers a wide range of delicacies, and it’s a bonus if you can snag a spot in their gorgeous, leafy sidewalk seating area.
Get Your Drink On
Though Hoboken is only one square mile, it has more drinking establishments per capita than its big-city neighbor across the river. The sheer amount of places to grab a beverage means that you really can’t go long in Hoboken without finding a place to grab a cold one, delicious cocktail, or excellent glass of wine. It really depends on what type of atmosphere or vibe you’re looking for—downtown and along Washington Street is where you’ll find a lot of the younger crowds into late-night partying. But head uptown to Sorrellina with its extensive wine list or Stingray Lounge for creative and tasty cocktails. Beer lovers will fall in love at Pilsener Haus, which in addition to its rotating roster of international and craft beers, serves delicious German-inspired dishes.
Take a Park Break
Boasting beautiful parks, Hoboken has over 15 to choose from if you want to reconnect with nature (or if your tired feet need a break from all the walking). Marvel at the breathtaking views of Manhattan’s skyline while relaxing at Pier C Park on Sinatra Drive and 4th Street, or head to Columbus Park on Clinton Street where you can sip a cup of coffee, play checkers, catch a pickup game of basketball, or if you’re lucky—see a musical performance in the central gazebo. Elysian Park on Hudson Street is beautifully shaded by tall trees and offers fun, engaging play spaces for little ones, too.
Learn Something New
Just because you’re in tourist mode doesn’t mean you can’t take the opportunity to learn a thing or two. If you’re in the mood to create, cook, or pick up a new skill—you’re in luck. Throughout the city, there are ample opportunities to get to work, from themed cooking classes taught by professional chefs at Hudson Table, painting classes at Field Colony`or pastry and baking classes at cafe’ Choc O Pain. Just be sure to book ahead because spots fill up quickly!