Hoboken, the mile-square city in New Jersey, directly across the Hudson River from downtown Manhattan, is back on its feet. And as Allison Singer discovers, not only has the birthplace of baseball and “ol' blue eyes” himself, Frank Sinatra, become a popular choice of residence for young professionals who don't want to combat sky-high Manhattan prices, it’s also well worth a trip.

Why should I visit now?

When Hurricane Sandy battered the East Coast in 2012, Hoboken was one of the hardest-hit places. It essentially drowned; the entire city was flooded. People lost their homes and businesses, but they didn’t lose their spirit. Since then, the community has rebuilt their city better than ever.

In the last year, Hoboken has received a slew of accolades, including being named one of the most exciting small cities in the USA. Businesses and restaurants are taking notice; NYC’s Luke's Lobsters and Del Friscos, for example, just announced plans to open Hoboken locations later this year.

Hoboken, USAHoboken clock on 11th/Washington by r0sss via Flickr (CC license)

So what is there to see and do?

Most importantly, walk the city-long riverfront to explore each pier. Pier 13 offers a huge selection of food trucks, and a super-hip open-air bar and paddleboarding excursions. Pier C, a floating island connected to the riverfront walkway by winding wooden bridges, is home to Hoboken families’ favorite playground, and Pier A stretches out so far toward Manhattan, you'll feel like you could easily swim there – though we wouldn’t recommend trying that.

Set seven blocks back from the river, the Hoboken Public Library is a stately building at over 100 years old, and the city has more worthy coffee shops and pizzerias than you can count. There are plenty of live music events, and, for spring and summer visitors, plenty of outdoor markets to explore – the Garden Street Farmers Market even combines fresh produce with live music.

Walking along Pier, Hoboken, New Jersey

What do only the locals know about?

While the riverfront is lovely, for the most striking views of the Manhattan skyline locals go to Castle Point Lookout on the Stevens Institute campus. The view from the top of the cliff is unrivalled on either side of the river with the Empire State Building and Freedom Tower standing in clear view.

Don’t wait in the hour-long line for Carlo’s Bakery – made famous thanks to TV series Cake Boss. Instead, snag a quick picture out front, then try one of the other great bakeries in town, like Old German Bakery on 4th and Washington.

And locals know this all too well: don't drive to Hoboken if you can help it. Street parking is sparse, and traffic enforcement can be trigger-happy when it comes to ticketing. Instead, take public transportation, like the PATH train or regional rail. It really is a walkable city – you won't need a car to get around.

View of Manhattan from Hoboken, New Jersey, USA

Where are the best places to stay and eat?

There’s an embarrassment of riches when it comes to restaurants – many of which can be found on Washington Street. Make sure to get yourself to an Italian deli, like Lisa’s on 9th and Park, for some deliciously fresh mozzarella. For pizza, head to Benny Tudino’s, and for Mexican, try Charrito's – with locations in both uptown and downtown – and order your guacamole spicy.

For drinks, downtown bars will be filled with drunken college students, so if you’re after more of a relaxed vibe, venture uptown or west. There you'll find low-key bars with welcoming staff and friendly clientele. Try Hudson Tavern on 14th and Hudson, or Northern Soul on 1st and Madison.

The W Hotel in Hoboken, USACocktail at the W Hotel in Hoboken by Jazz Guy via Flickr (CC license)

Make a pit stop at one of Hoboken’s Irish pubs. We like Finnegan’s on 8th and Willow – but in the city that claims to hold the world record for most bars per square mile, you’ll be able to find the perfect watering hole to suit your taste.

As for sleeping, staying in Hoboken is tricky. The only hotel in town is the W, and it’s not exactly cheap. You could stay one town over, at the Lincoln Harbor Sheraton in Weehawken, or better still make Hoboken a day-trip on your next visit to New York City.

Explore more of the USA with the Rough Guide to the USACompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.