Travel Thursday is back at Instinct Magazine and we couldn’t be happier. Yes, COVID-19 still exists so we want to remind you of the travel precautions that are necessary when you are going outside the zone that you’ve been in for months (wear a face mask while out and about, get tested for Coronavirus before you go, be socially distant, respect the quarantine guidelines each state is requiring, etc).
Moving on. As a native New Yorker I have always found that New Jersey doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Its wedged between two much bigger states (Pennsylvania being the other) where to be honest the only things I really knew about it before last week were its fabulous malls, Teresa Giudice flipping that damn table at Danielle Staub and it being the place where Whitney Houston and Bruce Springsteen hailed from.
My thoughts on NJ have done a complete 180 since arriving home from what was a stellar experience that many of its inhabitants provided me in recent days. I was whisked away from my apartment to two key parts of the Garden State that have a lot to offer the gay community: Newark and Jersey City.
Something worth noting is that neither of these areas are commonly known as gay hotspots. Yes, we are aware of how amazing Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles and all the other major cities are when it comes to what they can provide for us but its always a good idea to go a little deeper into the somewhat unknown.
Both Newark and Jersey City are shining examples of places that have everything you could ever want from food to lodging and more. Newark is first on the list as it was the starting point for what turned out to be a wonderful stay in the state right below me.
Newark is home to many iconic landmarks like their Grammy Museum Experience and The Prudential Center, both of which are temporarily closed due to COVID but will hopefully be open in the near future.
Something about this area that really got to me was how it was its own New York City of sorts. First of all, you need a great place to say. Tryp by Wyndham Newark Downtown has you covered for a wonderful night’s sleep, not to mention its proximity to so many other fabulous spots given where its situated at.
Now we have to head out and do stuff. As a card-carrying bear one of my biggest things I search for wherever I’m traveling is a great place to park my large behind at to eat. Newark has a fantastic selection of places to mangia at with them being very Portuegese-heavy given the demographic of the area. So if tapas are your thing, then places like Adega Grill is your jam. Here you will find an array of surf & turf options served on small plates that are delicious to eat from start to finish.
Something that I need to stress as well, especially during the COVID months that we are still in, is the effort we all must take to support local businesses. So many of our favorite spots have been closing up shop due to the madness that’s been going on recently so it is important that we spend some of our hard earned money on the places that put a lot more effort in compared to their conglomerate counterparts.
Want a good place to go for breakfast? Head towards the more industrial part of Newark and eat at Blueprint Café Lounge where they serve up some of the tastiest morning treats you’ll find throughout the state. Need a jolt to get you through the day? Try Black Swan Espresso for all your coffee needs. Going out for a night with your friends and need that last-minute ensemble to make you look your most absolute fabulous? Stop into Off The Hanger and Ane Clothier where you will feel dressed to impress and then some.
My time in Newark was short, sweet, yet fulfilling. It made me that much more excited to head to my next destination of Jersey City which wasn’t too far away. I’m more familiar with this area due to the array of men I’ve dated and, um, done other stuff with, but I was ecstatic to get back and see parts of it I never knew existed.
I first checked into a brand-new hotel in the JC area called Canopy by Hilton. It was supposed to open right before the pandemic started but good old COVID stopped that from happening. I was lucky enough to stay there one week after they officially made their debut where I was truly blown away by how beautiful everything inside was.
You take the elevator to the 2nd floor where your eyes are greeted with a wonderfully decorated space that is super colorful, whimsical, artsy and more. They also have an amazing bar space with a tasty menu including items like spicy nuts and custom made pizzas to enjoy on their outside dining space (inside at some point once COVID restrictions quiet down) or from the comfort of your own hotel room.
JC is a sight for sore eyes. There’s much to take in during your visit like their iconic Riverwalk that lines the Hudson River which includes a ton of amazing eateries to dine at. They also have everything from a self-guided mural tour to a place called Departed Soles, their first ever craft brewery, and more.
Oh, and there’s malls, duh! Newport Centre was walking distance from my hotel which I was thrilled to go to as they had all the hot department stores you can enjoy not to mention mall faves like Auntie Anne’s in case you are looking for something to snack on.
One more restaurant worth talking about is Hudson Hall, which is an Eastern European beer hall filled with amazing bar-type food and drink. This spot is the type of place you’d want to take your friends to after a hard day of work on a Friday.
I wasn’t done with my hotel experience yet as I stayed at Candlewood Suites Jersey City – Harborside during my last day there. This had more of an apartment vibe to it where the room I stayed in included a fully-functional kitchen, living room and bedroom for me to rest my head at night.
It was also steps away from the water where I spent my final evening gazing at the sights while eating at Lokal Eatery & Bar which provides its patrons with diverse dishes that are simply scrumptious to enjoy.
If you are feeling comfortable traveling this time of year then I would recommend heading to Newark and Jersey City this month or sometime in the fall. They are both hidden treasures worth discovering and then some.
For more information, please head over to visitnj.org.