A Fall Weekend in Asbury Park, NJ
“Where are they playing again?” I asked.
“Asbury Park, New Jersey.” my husband replied.
“Cool. What’s there to do there?”
“Don’t know, but it’s by the beach.”
It was mid-October and we were driving to Asbury Park to see one of our favorite punk bands from college, Lifetime, reunite and perform at The Stone Pony. The most I knew about this place was that it was the decrepit town that inspired Bruce Springsteen’s debut album and part of the infamous Jersey Shore. Since it was the off-season and we were both swamped at work, we waited until the last minute to book a hotel and did very little research on the area.
When we arrived at Asbury Park, we were surprised to find a quaint seaside town full of Victorian charm. The historic downtown area, nestled among Bond Street, Bangs Avenue, and Cookman Avenue, was full of locally-owned restaurants, indie boutiques, and antique stores.
Click on photos to view at full size. All photos by Lara Dalinsky.
The beach was located only a few blocks from downtown. We checked into our hotel and set out on the boardwalk to explore the handsome red brick pavilions and remains of the old Beaux Arts casino. Only the facade and skeleton of the casino remained, making it a hauntingly beautiful site. The structure served as a covered walkway that linked the beaches of Asbury Park with Ocean Grove. Its interior wascovered with an old checkered floor, ornate weathered walls, and a cool mermaid (more like squid-maid?) mural.
The late afternoon brought a golden autumn light that was perfect for shooting pictures. My husband and I began to prep our photo gear only to be interrupted by a raucous wedding party that invaded the site for professional shots of their special day. Every time one group left, another drunk wedding party replaced it. After five groups, we realized there was little hope of photographing the casino abandoned. No problem, we sat back and observed the hijinks—this was Jersey after all.
Mogo serves a Korean fusion menu of tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads that includes vegetarian options and tasty sides like kimchee fried rice. Open until 3:00 am on weekends, this is a casual and convenient spot to head after a late-night concert or bar run. Mogo also operates a food truck on the boardwalk during summer months. 632 Cookman Ave Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 36-3684; www.eatmogo.com
Porta specializes in fresh, handmade pizzas and pastas with ingredients sourced from local vendors–even the mozzarella and ricotta are made in-house daily. 911 Kingsley Street, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 776-7661; www.pizzaporta.com
Twisted Tree Café
This cozy counter-service restaurant offers mostly veg-friendly sandwiches, soups, salads, smoothies, and baked goods made from scratch. The wholesome menu includes many gluten-free, vegan, and raw options. 609 Cookman Avenue Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 775-2633; www.twistedtreecafe.com
This café is run by coffee connoisseurs who ensure quality and craft are evident in each cup. Every shot is pulled perfectly with a rich crema. Volan also offers delicious teas and fresh baked goods. The space is adorned with local art, a community bulletin board tacked with concert and event flyers, and stacks of art and surf magazines to peruse at reclaimed wooden tables. 510 Bangs Ave., Asbury Park, NJ 07712;(732) 455-3399; cafevolan.com
Bond Street Bar
This local watering hole serves solid bar grub and an extensive beer list that includes local brews. It is the place to find a laid-back, friendly vibe with a good tunes and a quaint outdoor patio open to customers during warmer months. 208 Bond St, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 774-1575; www.bondstreetbar.com
Glide Surf Co
This shop celebrates the pureness of surfing with roots in classic styles. Glide Surf Co brings an alternative, artistic view of surfing to New Jersey with a knowledgeable staff who can prepare you for some serious shredding with a quality selection of boards and apparel. 520 Bangs Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 250-6398; www.glidesurfco.com
In a digital age, it’s refreshing to find a record store where music lovers can spend hours sifting through used albums. The CD selection focuses primarily on punk, hardcore, and rock while the more expansive vinyl collection adds soul, funk, jazz, and disco to the mix. Holdfast also sponsors the Asbury Park Punk Rock Flea Market where visitors can find records, toys, oddities, and other fun items. 639 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 988-0066; www.holdfastasburypark.net
This boutique carries a variety of unique brands and lifestyle products that have been created in small batches by artisans across the U.S. The inventory is carefully curated with a modern and minimalist sensibility. Shoppers will uncover artsy gifts like hand-printed textiles, hammered metal jewelry, and natural skincare products. 531 Bangs Ave. Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 361-8919; www.redmoonshop.com
As the name implies, Asbury Lanes is a fully functioning vintage bowling alley, but is also a popular venue for live musical acts, burlesque shows, dance parties and art events. 209 Fourth Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 776-6160; www.asburylanes.com
The Stone Pony
The seaside club is one of New Jersey’s most famous spots to experience live music. Once the stomping and starting grounds for musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Patti Scialfa, and Jon Bon Jovi, The Stone Pony has earned a reputation as one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest and most historic venues. 913 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 502-0600; www.stoneponyonline.com
The Wonder Bar, easily recognized by the iconic mural of Tillie’s grinning face, is a favorite hangout just off the boardwalk. Like The Stone Pony, this venue has a musical history associated with many famous Jersey acts. A state-of-the-art sound system and large dance floor also make it a popular destination for live music and dancing. 1213 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 502-8886; www.wonderbarasburypark.com
Asbury Ocean Beach Inn
Asbury Ocean Beach Inn is an upscale bed and breakfast located within three blocks from the boardwalk and beach, across the street from Library Square Park, and down the road from bustling downtown. The 1890s house provides guests with tastefully decorated suites, home-cooked breakfasts, cruise bikes, beach towels and chairs, and afternoon tea. 404 Asbury Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 740-4650; www.asburyoceanbeachinn.com
Considered a luxury resort during the 1950s and 60s, the building became derelict in the 80s and 90s. It was bought and reopened in 2004 as a LGBT-friendly hotel with part of the ground floor dedicated to the lively Tabu bar and Paradise nightclub. The lobby and pool still retain some of the kitsch from the hotel’s heyday with tiki bars, pinball machines, and mod furniture. The staff is friendly and rooms are basic but comfortable, however expect to pay a price for its prime location at the end of the boardwalk near the old casino. The Empress is only one of a couple hotels that sits directly across the street from the beach. Because of the noisy clubs downstairs, this hotel is not recommended for guests who are light sleepers. 101 Asbury Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 774-0100; www.asburyempress.com
The Berkeley is one of few ocean front hotels by the boardwalk. The historic building is over 100 years old with nods to Beaux Arts and Victorian architecture. There is a grand, lobby bathed in natural light by giant arched, glass doors that line the walls. Room have been updated over the years with modern decor punctuated by playful polka-dot patterns. The pool is open during summer months and the hotel also has an onsite bar and grill. 1401 Ocean Ave, Asbury Park, NJ 07712; (732) 776-6700; www.berkeleyhotelnj.com
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of exploring the world. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as the Art Director for the branding firm, Belmont Inc., in Alexandria, VA. In her spare time, she instructs high-energy Zumba dance classes, contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.
Where’s your favorite spot on the Jersey Shore? Share your recommendations in the reply section below.