Turns out the best spot to enjoy the Manhattan skyline is across state lines in New Jersey. A top viewing point that’s free and open to the public is Liberty State Park, a 1212-acre waterfront recreation area in Jersey City, just across the Hudson River from New York’s Financial District.
It’s easy to spend an entire day at Liberty State park, between miles of trails, including a two-mile promenade with views of the New York skyline, the Liberty Science Center, ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, a Nature Center and a historic (and now defunct) rail terminal. The park also hosts many events, from concerts to sports games.
The History of Liberty State Park
Liberty State Park was founded in 1976 in honor of the United States bicentennial, but its history goes back beyond that date. The area was originally inhabited by the indigenous Lenape nation before being colonized by Europeans nearly 400 years ago; a 1643 massacre by the Dutch left more than 120 Lenape dead.
Over the course of the following centuries, the site became a transportation hub for both passengers and cargo, serving first as a 17th-century ferry terminal, then the terminal of the 19th-century Morris Canal and finally as the terminal of the 19th century Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ). Its elegant station building still stands in the park today.
Liberty State Park’s lands were also the site of the 1916 Black Tom Bombing when German spies exploded more than 2 million tons of war supplies in the railyard. Four people died, and the Statue of Liberty was damaged.
Best things to do in Liberty State Park
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Though the Statue of Liberty National Monument, which includes the historic immigration center and museum Ellis Island, is technically its own entity, ferries to the islands depart from Liberty State Park (as well as from New York City). It’s recommended that you buy ferry tickets online in advance; the only authorized ferry service is Statue Cruises.
Liberty Science Center
This 300,000-square-ft interactive science museum for guests of all ages is home to 12 exhibition halls, a small aquarium and the largest planetarium in the western hemisphere. The Liberty Science Center hosts regular events, including the popular LSC After Dark series for the 21+ crowd with live music and themed alcoholic drinks.
Monuments and memorials
Liberty State Park has three monuments and memorials: the Empty Sky 9/11 memorial which honors New Jerseans who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attacks, the “Liberation Monument” dedicated to victims of the Holocaust and “La Vela di Colombo,” a commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas, donated by the Italian government and the city of Genoa.
After a nine-year renovation to fix damage from Hurricane Sandy, Liberty State Park’s Nature Center reopened in 2021. The facility is an education center that focuses on the ecology and history of the Hudson River Estuary. The center is open from Wednesday to Sunday year-round.
Walking, hiking and biking trails
Miles of trails criss-cross the park, including a nature walk through a 36-acre salt marsh — one of the last remaining natural areas of the Hudson River Estuary. There’s also the two-mile promenade along the Hudson River, which has the best views of the New York City skyline.
Central Railroad of New Jersey (CRRNJ) Terminal
Originally chartered in 1830, the CRRNJ opened for business in the area now known as Liberty State Park in 1860, but the building that stands on the site today dates to 1889. It was frequently used by immigrants traveling across the country after being processed at Ellis Island.
The structure is no longer in use, but it has been added to the State and National Register of Historic Places. While the interiors are not accessible to the public, you can admire the building’s exterior — it’s the work of Boston-based architectural firm Peabody and Stearns.
Best places to eat at Liberty State Park
There are two on-site restaurants within the park: Liberty House Restaurant and the Restaurant at Maritime Park, both of which serve upscale American cuisine.
Liberty State Park is easily accessible by public transportation. From New York City, you can take the Liberty Landing Ferry from Brookfield Place Terminal in Battery Park City. Or you can hop on the Hudson–Bergen Light Rail and take it to the Liberty State Park station. Both the ferry and the light rail run seven days per week, though not during overnight hours.
If you plan on driving, take exit 14B off the New Jersey Turnpike and follow the signs for Liberty State Park. There are a number of parking lots throughout the park, but do note that some have a fee. The park’s address is 1 Audrey Zapp Drive, Jersey City, NJ 07305.