The writer John Updike once said that when you’re driving on Route 80, all the signs seem to direct you away from Paterson rather than to it. But that trajectory may be starting to change as more people learn about this historic city and all that it has to offer.
On a day trip to Silk City, start at the place where all tours of Paterson should begin—the Great Falls. The second largest waterfall by volume on the East Coast, it’s magnificent and awe inspiring. Updike memorialized the falls in his 1996 novel, In the Beauty of the Lilies.
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Now a National Historical Park, the Great Falls are the reason Paterson exists in the first place. It’s said that Alexander Hamilton and George Washington were having a picnic in 1778 near the falls when Hamilton had the idea to start the nation’s first planned industrial city there.
A $7.09 million project will eventually expand the park by 2.5 acres, with a short river walk among the ruins of an old silk mill, and near the remains of the gun mill where Colt .45 revolvers were once made.
On a recent visit to the park, rangers had an information table set up off the parking lot, and an open-air painting class was in progress, with artists memorializing the beauty of the falls on canvas. Rangers said that visitors come from as far away as France to gaze at the site. To get the best view, walk around the falls to a small footbridge that takes you closer to the torrent.
Afterwards, head over to South Paterson, the area known as Little Ramallah, for some fabulous Middle Eastern food.
Start at Al-Basha (387 Crooks Avenue), the beautiful new restaurant that’s an offshoot of the popular downtown eatery.
Once you’ve sated your hunger, try one of the delicious Middle Eastern bakeries, such as Taskin Bakery & Café (103 Hazel Street), open 24 hours.
If you still haven’t satisfied your craving for something sweet, The Nut House (1010 Main Street) offers beautifully presented candy, nuts, dried fruit, Turkish delights and more.
Across the street is Nouri Shopping Center (999 Main Street), where you can buy all your favorite Middle Eastern groceries and prepared foods. The welcoming shop has delicious homemade hummus, an olive bar, pita bread and much more.
I left with the feeling that I still had so much more to explore in this fascinating city.