The Lenape Indians named the marshy island along the Hudson River Hopoghan Hacking, or “Land of the Tobacco Pipe” for the green-veined soapstone bluffs they carved into smoking pipes. The land, purchased by the Dutch from the Lenape, called it Hoebuck, or “high bluff.” Years later, in 1784, Colonel John Stevens bought the entire parcel at public auction for about $90,000. He named the city Hoboken and developed it as a resort, where wealthy New Yorkers could escape the stress of city life just across the Hudson River.
Economically, Hoboken has had its ups and downs. Yet, the recent development of the stunning waterfront with views of the Hudson River and the iconic Manhattan skyline earned it the number two ranking in Niche’s “2019 Best Places to Live in Hudson County.” Known as the home of Stevens Institute of Technology, baseball, and Frank Sinatra, the town between the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels is a historic city. It is also a transportation hub with a subway, ferry, light rail, bus, and a railroad terminal. And, with over 120 bars and a selection of eclectic restaurants in one square mile, it is a perfect place to visit.
Things To Do In Hoboken
The Hudson River is an attraction. Walking or biking along the revitalized Hudson River Waterfront Walkway is reason enough to visit. The pathway provides incredible views of the Big Apple, various watersports, dining venues, and plenty of green space to enjoy a relaxing afternoon or evening. The Historical Museum (more details on this attraction below), just steps away from the walkway, is a must-see for special exhibits, revolving art, lecture series, and “the shrine” to Frank Sinatra. Along Washington Street, you can shop, eat, drink, or visit the famous Carlo’s Bake Shop. A steep walk up to Stevens Institute of Technology campus to the city’s highest point is worth the climb. You can see breathtaking views. There is a lot to do in one of the most walkable cities in the country.
Make A Stop At Hoboken Historical Museum
If you love Frank Sinatra and history, the Hoboken Historical Museum is a must-visit. The museum has an incredible collection of videos and albums. On the “shrine” wall hangs two paintings that Frank painted and various photos with the Rat Pack and his family. The museum even provides a map for a walking tour dedicated to his legacy. If you are interested in Hoboken history, they also have a map detailing significant sites. The museum’s mission is to educate the public about Hoboken’s culture, diversity, architecture, and landmarks. You can find the museum located in one of the oldest buildings on the waterfront in the former machine shop of Bethlehem Steel.
Pro Tip: Allow at least two hours for either walking tour and wear comfortable shoes.
Try Kayaking Or Paddleboarding
Resilience Paddle Sports, located on Pier 13 along the waterfront, is a great outfitter for either of these activities. Their mission is to help you get fit and have fun outdoors, whether you are a native or a visitor. Resilience offers paddleboard and kayak rentals for classes, tours, and outings. They even provide paddleboard yoga classes. If you are concerned about the water quality, Resilience, along with New York City Water Trail Association, The River Project, and Riverkeeper, always monitor the water quality to make sure it is clean enough for recreation. They also want to keep the public educated about the Hudson River estuary.
Pro Tip: After your paddle and while you are on Pier 13, you can stroll over to the outdoor bar where there is often live music and food trucks on the weekends.
Tour The River By Jet Ski
New York Harbor Jet Ski offers a unique way to see the city. If you like water sports, spend time on the river sightseeing by jet ski. They offer 1- to 3-hour tours of the Hudson River, including Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, Freedom Tower (and many other landmarks), or buzz around the river by Pier 13 in Hoboken. The tours are designed to offer a different view of the iconic landmarks and can be single or tandem rides.
Pro Tip: Tours run through early November with wetsuit rentals for die-hard thrill-seekers.
Walk To Castle Point Lookout
This is the highest point in Hoboken. The climb takes you to the lookout that reaches an elevation of 100 feet and offers panoramic views of the skyline and the Hoboken waterfront. The green-veined bluffs were mentioned in Henry Hudson’s logbook in 1609 as he explored the river. It is the home of the Stevens cannon, brought over from France during the American Revolution. The historic site showcases the cannon and regards it as a symbol of protection.
Pro Tip: Bring a camera; you won’t want to stop taking pictures.
Rent A Bike At Hudson Bike Share
It’ll be easy to use and is a fantastic way to travel all around Hoboken. The beauty of renting a Hudson Bike Share bike is that you can pick it up at one station and return it at another. You download a free mobile app, locate a bike, and use the onboard computer to punch in an amount of time for your rental. The bikes are easy to use and equipped with locks right on the frame. Biking along the waterfront is a fun way to go from each end of town along the water. It is also an easy way to use the walking tour maps to visit each site in less time than it would take to stroll around.
Pro Tip: Biking is a terrific way to stop and enjoy some of the best eats in town, guilt-free.
Visit Barsky Gallery
Barsky is Hoboken’s gallery of contemporary art. The gallery showcases emerging as well as established artists in shows year-round. You can make an appointment or stop in during open hours to see a great selection of contemporary art on display.
Decorate Your Dream Cake
Don’t miss a stop at Carlo’s Bakery, where you can decorate a cake or purchase some delicious cookies, Italian pastries, or a slice made by the famous “Cake Boss” Buddy Valastro. This family-owned bakery has been an iconic business Hoboken business since 1963. Buddy Valastro Sr. taught Buddy everything he knew, and when he passed away, the fourth-generation baker and his family took the bakery to superstardom on the hit TV show Cake Boss. Carlo’s Bakery is known for its quality, elaborate cakes, and cake decorating classes; if you want to learn the master’s tricks, reserve a spot, and make your cake masterpiece.
Editor’s Note: Carlo’s is not currently scheduling classes as of October 2020, but check back as you plan your Hoboken visit.
Affordable Restaurants To Try In Hoboken
Hoboken is a foodie city. In one square mile, you can savor a variety of cuisines from all over the world. If you want to check out some iconic eats in the city, you must stop by these authentic and delicious counters.
Fiore’s is the place to order fresh mozzarella on any sandwich or get some to take away. While Hoboken has its fair share of Italian delis, Fiore’s is known for traditional Italian specialties and their famous fresh mozzarella sliced and added on any sandwich you choose. I ate the “hot” special, which was a sweet sausage sandwich on authentic Italian bread with the “muzz.” It was incredible. Hands down, do not miss this place if you want some great food. It is a storefront, and there are no seats, but you can take your purchase to one of the beautiful parks or the waterfront and have a picnic.
Pro Tip: The hot roast beef sandwich is the thing served on Thursday or Saturday. Don’t forget to add fresh muzz.
A famous foodie destination since 1955, Piccolos is known for having the best cheesesteaks and meatball and sausage sandwiches in Hoboken. They have fantastic soup and sandwich specials for each day of the week. The humble location has the original (now vintage) orange Formica counter and some dine-in seating. Frank Sinatra is said to have been a frequent customer, and there are photos and memorabilia dedicated to the singer along the walls. This place is old-school Hoboken at its finest.
Pro Tip: While there are many tasty options here, you have to order a cheesesteak.
Benny’s has a full menu of Italian specialties, including salads, pasta dishes, and dinner entrees like chicken and veal parmigiana in a no-frills setting. The real draw here is the enormous pizza slices that they serve in the pizzeria. “The Largest Slice in the State” is written on the awning, and they are not joking. The pies are famous for their size and taste. While there are many pizzerias in Hoboken, this place has been operating for 50 years on Washington Street. You have to see the slices, and come hungry because they are huge.
Pro Tip: The pizzeria gets busy around 8 p.m., so try to stop in for lunch.
Best Bars In Hoboken
The bar scene in Hoboken is legendary. There are 120 watering holes in the city, from pubs to swanky cocktail establishments. It is a personal choice where you decide to imbibe, but there are a few must-stops when you visit.
This is is the oldest continually operated bar and restaurant in Hoboken. The original owners initially called the spot Dillenger and Jefferson’s back in 1895. Sadly, they had to pivot during prohibition, and the establishment became an ice cream parlor and hair salon. Since then, the bar changed hands many times but never lost its status as one of the best places to sip a drink in a historic space. Cafe Elysian offers a French Bistro menu in a smoke-free environment. The current owners restored the beautiful interior, so stop in to have a cocktail, enjoy lunch, brunch, or dinner, and look around.
Pro Tip: The cocktail menu is inventive, and while they can make whatever you want, try the Whiskey Smash. It is a winner.
Pilsener Haus And Biergarten
This is a cool place housed in a 10,000-square-foot brick factory from the 1920s. It looks like it was plucked from Munich and placed in Hoboken. The decor includes indoor and outdoor communal drinking tables, German flags, and signs. It is an authentic beer hall and food destination. Pilsener Haus and Biergarten’s drink menu includes 19 German, American, and European beers on tap, plus over 50 bottled and canned beers and ciders as well. The food menu includes Bavarian pretzels, mussels, salads, and grilled wursts. Wiener Schnitzel is also available along with American favorites like pulled pork.
Pro Tip: Try to visit during Oktoberfest (hosted in October) for authentic food specials and live music.
This is a newer bar in Hoboken, located just blocks away from the PATH station. Belo has both outdoor and indoor seating, a great cocktail list, and a wine selection. The bar also serves small plates that are reasonably priced and delicious. The vibe is relaxed, and the service is friendly and attentive. This place is a great neighborhood bar with a lot of delectable choices for a snack or dinner. Happy Hour is every day from 4 to 8 p.m. The menu includes terrific drink and food specials and should not be missed.
Hoboken is an exciting place with much to see and do. The warmer months during spring, summer, and fall are the best times to enjoy all the outdoor activities that include walking tours, the waterfront, and pub or food crawls.