Dean Clough

December 25, 2022

Portico Darwin: Metro NYC Travel Guide


Alright - this is another doozy but it provides new perspective, or at least I hope it does.  That's because I am now mostly convinced - barring a short trip and/or having big dollars and wanting to splurge - that the smart people stay in Hoboken, vs. Manhattan proper, on a trip here.  There are exceptions - it's not convenient for going to Long Island, Brooklyn or for using JFK or LGA - but otherwise?  It's Goldilocks.

Why?  Because if you choose your lodging carefully, Hoboken offers insanely fast and friction-free ferry AND subway access to midtown and downtown Manhattan, via NY Waterway and the PATH, respectively.  So all that is Manhattan (and yes, I cover quite a bit below) is at your fingertips.

But you can also leave all of that NYC energy and chaos behind and retreat to what I call an adult Disneyland.  In Hoboken, on or near any part of the Washington Street commercial corridor, is anything you want.  Period.  Quality grocery and wine stores?  Yes.  Bars and restaurants of every flavor?  Yes.  Bagels?  Yes.  You get the idea and it's all very walkable - indeed, Hoboken is called "The Mile Square City".  It's also the home of Frank Sinatra and the views of Manhattan aren't bad, either.

So, if you're picking up that I'm actually suggesting you stay in New Jersey on your next trip to New York, you're correct.  At least if your stay is a longer one, like ours - clearly, for a 2 or 3 night stay, you might prefer to be closer to the action, budget be damned.  But we were here for almost 3 weeks - which is to your benefit, as you'll see my lists are voluminous, even for me.

Some basics.  If you do stay in Hoboken, do NOT make the mistake we once made and fly into JFK - it took us 2 hours in traffic.  EWR is your only option, and beware:  even that approximately 12 mile ride can take 45 minutes at rush hour.

And for Hoboken and JFC certainly for NYC, do not get a car, unless you're going somewhere else, and even then, get the car when you need it.  Rely, instead, on these modes of transportation, in order of my preference:

As you see, my least favorite way to get around is anything that involves getting in an automobile.  The traffic here is as bad as LA, SF or Chicago, maybe worse.  You've been warned.  Also - if the service you'll be using has an app, get it in advance.

Pro Tip:  remember, Hoboken Terminal is one of the better transit hubs in America.  Here, you can take ferries, light rail, subways, commuter trains, and buses to a whole bunch of places. 

(With that said, if you arrange your affairs such that your transportation needs can be met via NY Waterway, and its 14th Street dock in Hoboken and 39th Street dock on Manhattan's West Side, you'll be very pleased.)

Best time to visit?  The weather can be anything, at anytime.  So I'd say there is no bad time - it's cold now, and it will be hot if you come in the summer.  It doesn't matter.  The holiday season here is magical, and we intentionally avoided the crowds - so you'll see nothing about Rockefeller Center (plus, we've been before).  Shoulder seasons are probably the best, but it could easily rain for days in May, and be nutty hot in September.  I'll repeat:  when you come doesn't matter - just look at a weather forecast whilst packing.

For the remainder of this Travel Guide, I will assume you're following my advice and choosing Hoboken.  But you'll see that I of course covered a lot of territory in Manhattan.  This is the PATH station at the Hoboken Terminal - from here, the next stop is Greenwich Village. 

A final note.  In no way am I presenting this as some kind of comprehensive guide to Manhattan - there are plenty of those already.  Instead, this is one man's experience during December of 2022, with an eye towards my fun being useful to others.



As I repeat in most every Travel Guide, your pick is Airbnb/VRBO/etc. or a hotel.  Let's start with the latter, and I can make it quick, because there's only one worth your consideration in Hoboken.  That's the beautiful W Hotel, directly on the waterfront, and in a perfect location for all things Hoboken and also NYC.  If you want a hotel, this is the choice.  I visited its bar (shocker) and toured the public areas.  It's very nice if also typical W Hotel generic swank.  There can be no official rating as I did not stay overnight, but it looked just fine, if a tad cookie-cutter fine. 

Minor esthetic quibbles aside, and especially if you've been to NYC before, I could easily see a Manhattan-focused trip of 3 - 5 nights but based from here.  The views alone are superior to anything even remotely affordable in NYC proper, yet you get those views and an NYC-level quasi-luxury hotel, but at more reasonable pricing.  All in glorious Hoboken.

The alternative is renting a private residence, which certainly makes sense for longer stays.  A quick glance at Airbnb shows a whole bunch of very nice places, right where you want to be.  Which is east of Willow Avenue, north of 9th (or so), and south of 15th, shown here, but note I never saw anything sketchy within or without this area.  So, for example, don't hesitate to book at Hudson and 5th Street if it looks nice to you, or if you'll be using transportation from Hoboken Terminal frequently.


While the vast majority of my hiking activity was urban in nature, I'll start with some parks, obvious and otherwise.  All rate at least a Textbook or Killer rating.

Here are a few notes that might help you plan (or motivate) an outing. 

  • Hit a museum on 5th Avenue on the Upper East Side and then walk around the northern tip of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir In Central Park for this, before cruising south through the park and then out to Columbus and down to Midtown.
  • We visit The High Line on every trip; start at either end, and plan on lunch or drinks before, during and/or after - we often do all 3.  It is one of my favorite outdoor experiences in the world - and it's easy to combine with a visit to the incredible Whitney Museum (see below).
  • Do not miss Liberty State Park in Jersey City - it was my first visit and I was very impressed - even in the absolute dead of winter.  It is an easy 20 minute ride on the excellent Hudson - Bergen light rail line from Hoboken, and once there, you'll be knocked out by the bucolic expanse, a very moving and impressive 9/11 memorial, a super-cool old train station and train shed, and Diamond Certified views of western NYC from Midtown to Downtown.  
  • More don't-miss shoreline can be had at Hoboken's lovely waterfront parks, Pier A and Pier C - both have amazing greenery and views, and are in very close proximity to all of Hoboken.  You won't visit many city parks like these.


Retired, a few dollars in my pocket, and almost 3 weeks here, often on my own?  Eating and drinking?  Well, yes, thank you very much. 

But believe me, I visited all of these simply as a service to you, my loyal reader.  In fact, it was a lot of work having this much fun.  But in the end, I just want everyone to be happy, so yes, I went to each and every one of these spots - hey, youz gotta problem wit dat?

If not, strap yourself in:  this could get rough.  

And a Pro Tip:  make reservations for all meals when possible, even in Hoboken and even if it seems silly.  We had a couple of disappointments when we didn't, and it wasn't just the holidays - a lot of people live here (!).

I provide links when I can for Textbook or better places.

Enjoy - wow, I know I sure did.

  • Great wings and overall scene
Hoboken Hot BagelsTextbook
  • Our go-to during the trip
Baja:  Serviceable
bwe' KafeKiller
  • Coffee, and there's a couple of them
  • Another go-to
  • The nice bar/restaurant at W Hoboken; great waterfront views
Urban Coalhouse:  Serviceable
Pilsener Haus & BiergartenTextbook
  • One of my favorite spots in town
Carpe DiemTextbook
  • Probably my local if I lived here 
Uptown PizzeriaTextbook
  • Real-deal cocktail bar
  • An Alaska Airlines flight attendant on our way out here raved about this, and she wasn't wrong
City Bistro:  Serviceable
  • A go-to for brunch, for many years (or so I'm told)
Bin 14Killer
  • Great wine bar, but also great food
Light Horse Tavern (Jersey City):  Diamond Certified
  • One of the most gorgeous, historic taverns I've ever seen
Elysian CaféDiamond Certified
  • As above
  • We tried this late in the trip; bready but excellent
  • Superb brick oven thin crust pizza, in a nice wine bar-like setting 
Dino & Harry's SteakhouseDiamond Certified
  • Our Christmas Eve dinner pick was also beyond Textbook

I do apologize for the chronologically-ordered presentation.  Hopefully the links will help, and they are grouped in logical ways, at least when you look on a map.

RH Guesthouse, The Champagne & Caviar & BarDiamond Certified
  • My, my, my - but isn't that the point?
The LavauxDiamond Certified
  • A highlight of the trip and not to be missed
Eataly Downtown:  Serviceable
  • It's OK, I had a great coffee with Sambuca there at 10am one day - but still?  Eataly Flatiron is where it's at
Gin MillKiller
  • One of the better sports bars I saw on the trip
Café LuxembourgTextbook
  • A muse and here's the result - but I still loved it
Spritz:  Bogus
  • A great Sunday brunch opportunity wasted at this Midtown dud
GCT Oyster BarTextbook
  • One of the best experiences of the trip, but I think it needs a refresh
Blue Ruin:  Bogus
  • A Manhattan pub that skimps on the Guinness pours?  Isn't that illegal?
Mercado Little SpainDiamond Certified
  • José Andres one-ups Eataly
  • Loved this modern, all-day Italian place; great for a late morning Campari and Orange
The Keg RoomKiller
  • A perfectly huge sports bar
Keens SteakhouseDiamond Certified
  • Best meal of the entire trip - an absolute must; and OMFG the beyond Textbook esthetic has to be seen to be believed
Pig n WhistleTextbook
  • For the rugby player in all of us
  • Amazing, even - but oh those screaming children rolling on the floor having tantrums
  • A lobster roll that would have been Killer on Cape Cod
Studio Bar at The WhitneyDiamond Certified
  • The art speaks for itself and then there's this
Monarch Bar:  Bogus
  • The only rooftop bar we visited; we did not like it but wow did we get some pix
P.J. Clarke's Textbook
  • Why I came up with the rating "Textbook" in the first place
The DutchDiamond Certified
  • A highlight of the trip; great cocktails, ambience, food and service
  • Charming little spot right near the Christopher Street PATH station
Blind TigerTextbook
  • Also near the Christopher Street PATH station and arguably the best beer bar in Manhattan

Pizza?  Real, New York slices?  I can't speak to his selections, but it seems authoritative.


As with every other part of this Travel Guide, there are endless resources online and elsewhere that can provide a list of museums and galleries in NYC (and maybe even Hoboken).  So this is just where I went this time, with some notes.

Grand Central Terminal
  • This has been, and always will be, a temple of sorts for me; I visit on every single trip to NYC
  • Almost too diverse a collection, if that's possible - but of course a must
  • One of my favorite museums in the world
  • Worth a visit; its courtyard is a great place for a picnic in good weather
  • Loved this place and it's certainly worth the 15 - 30 minutes of your time - and the $5 admission 

I did not go on this visit, but there's also this masterpiece, The Guggenheim.   I took the photo on the way to Cooper Hewitt.
Oh, and MoMA, and all of the other places.


Regular readers know Homey Don't Play That.  But in the spirit of the season, I did drag myself in to one or two stores.  OK, more, but my wife insisted.  But the fact is, these stood out, even to this non-shopper; they're all in Manhattan, the first two next door to each other at the foot of The High Line.

  • The only US store of this UK line amazed me with their quality and style; bring money
  • TASCHEN is rightly famous for their lavish coffee table books; we own a couple, but I hadn't seen anything until we visited this place, more a gallery than a store (but actually both)
  • I can not and will not rate a shopping mall.  But if you must, this is the one, so I'm providing a link.  It had all of the same stores as the gonzo place in Milan we strolled through in September.  But it's right there in good ol' NYC, and near the ferry, to boot.

In honor of Hoboken, I will conclude this monstrous Travel Guide at V's Barbershop.  I had - easily - the best razor shave I've had there.  They have no website, but they're at 1114 Washington Street.

Tell them Frank sent you.

About Dean Clough