Asbury is by far my most favorite beach town on the Jersey Shore. It could be because it was my first shore town or the fact that my boyfriend and I strolled along these very sands when he told me he loved me for the first time. Even without these memories, Asbury Park has inexplicably drawn me in with its perfect blend of history, spunk and individuality.
Take for example its prominent landmarks, Convention Hall and the Casino, which bookend the boardwalk and tell the tale of another time. A time when Asbury was a regal seaside town and the place to be. Truth be told, it kicks my imagination into overdrive and I find myself thinking of swimming costumes and women with parasols strolling alongside the beautiful, briny sea.
However, these same structures also tell the tale of a town that has weathered some serious storms, and not just the saltwater and weather variety. From a generational shift in summer retreats to the riots of the 70s, as I understand it, the tumultuous history of Asbury Park could fill multiple blog posts. It’s a history that I have yet to really dive into, let alone fully understand. Suffice it to say, Asbury Park has a healthy dose of remembering its past and an eclectic group of inhabitants that breathe new life into it, giving it its “rough around the edges” image and a solid place in my heart.
As for the third B, no post about Asbury could be complete without mentioning the illustrious Bruce Springsteen who put The Stone Pony on the map and made this town famous with his first album, “Greetings from Asbury Park.” Truth be told, I’m not the biggest fan, but now that Asbury and I are kindred spirits, I feel I may have unfairly overlooked Bruce. Note to self: rectify this immediately.
And while this post barely scratches the surface, I hope I’ve done it justice and given you an insight into this seaside jewel. So, if you find yourself pondering where to go on the Jersey Shore, may I recommend Asbury Park. To sweeten the deal, here are some favorite pearls.
Know & Go: Asbury Park
- You can surf in Asbury. North of the boardwalk, there is a small dirt parking lot (note: you have to pay to park here now* – bummer) where you can find a decent break off the jetty. It’s not always consistent, but if there’s a swell there will likely be a crowd. Worth checking out
- Say you had your morning surf session and want to keep that stoked feeling all day, where do you grub up? Why, Sunset Landing of course! Set on Deal Lake, this small, unassuming luncheonette whips up the best breakfast grub with a distinctly Polynesian flair along with NJ breakfast staples (read: pork roll). Try the Hawaiian bread french toast — it’s like a little taste of the islands at the Shore
- Convention Hall is the flagship of Asbury Park. Easily recognizable, it’s a shame that it has fallen into a bit of disrepair, but has a lot of character and history to make up for it. I love looking at the blown up old tickets that are poster-sized and lined the walls inside. It makes me curious as to what this place was like in its heyday. Notable acts over the years have included: The Beach Boys, The Who and Bruce (natch). In fact, Bob Dylan is playing next weekend
- Roller Derby is alive and well here, thanks to the Jersey Shore Roller Girls. I’ve been to two matches this season and I’m hooked. It could also be the $6 Yuengling in a can and watching the girls take the corners with that skate crossover move and a body check. Oh, and I love the creativity in each girl’s handle: M8T, Black Eye Betty and Tamel Toe Stomper to name a few. I have writer’s block just trying to come up with something even one iota as clever. Simply put, these girls rock
- And say you want to take a break from the boardwalk and experience another slice of Americana. How about Asbury Lanes? Or “The Lanes” for those in the know. Here you can bowl 10 frames, listen to live music, grab a bbq tofu sammie w/ tots at “Snack World” (the most aptly named snack bar I’ve come across in my 34 years) and a frosty brew at the retro, 60s-style bar
- Asbury also has some stellar cuisine and establishments that rival my former city’s offerings. From Langosta Lounge (vacation-inspired), Brickwall Tavern (good pub grub and beer on tap) and Trinity and the Pope (Cajun Creole – can you say collard greens mac ‘n cheese?), you can eat your way to happiness
Hope to see you there!
*Note: Coastal access is a hot button issue along the Jersey Shore right now. I’m attending a Jersey Shore Surfrider meeting next weekend to get involved. So you can bet there will be a post in the future.