Best known as the home of The Boss, the nostalgic beach town of Asbury Park is enjoying a renaissance of art, food, luxury hotels, and a riveting music scene.
Asbury Ocean Club Hotel
This high-end hotel looms large beside Asbury Park’s retro boardwalk. With unparalleled views of the sea and fully modern design, the hotel attracts travelers who want to check in and experience stunning views and an extreme level of lavish. The pool terrace is a private sanctuary for guests, offering cocktail service and nutritious bites. Appointed with sustainable furnishings and with an emphasis on wellness, the resort leads the industry for its eco-friendly design. For those seeking restorative amenities, book a spa treatment and work out in the state-of-the-art fitness center offering yoga, tai chi, and personal training. The lobby bar, called the Drawing Room, resembles a floating glass house. Some suites have a kitchenette, dining area, and wraparound terraces, while the lofts boast 11-foot ceilings and a private terrace. Rates from $295 per night, 1101 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park, New Jersey, 732-825-6000, hotel.asburyoceanclub.com
Morning: At first, you’ll notice that urban blight has affected many of the aging structures in Asbury Park’s downtown and along the boardwalk. But this Jersey Shore town is experiencing a rebirth thanks to visionaries like Jenn Hampton, who runs the Wooden Walls Project, a street-art movement to transform vacant facades into colorful art installations. Walk through the Casino Building, a Beaux-Arts structure whose soaring ceiling flutters with streamers. While not a real casino, it’s connected to a former carousel, also no longer but decorated with murals reflecting the town’s embrace of inclusiveness. Asbury Park Convention Hall is home to the Grand Arcade with artsy shops and a theater. The magnificent landmark has welcomed scores of musical icons over the years, from the Rolling Stones to 50 Cent. Asbury Park still attracts marquee performers such as the Jonas Brothers, who serenaded crowds at the MTV Video Music Awards from the boardwalk.
Afternoon: Dine like a Jersey native at Frank’s Deli on Main Street, proudly celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Frank’s is renowned for over-stacked sandwiches, especially the pork-roll-egg-and-cheese. After lunch, walk along Cookman Avenue to peruse the boutiques. Most notable are Hot Sand, where you can try glassblowing, and the Antique Emporium, showcasing pop art and collectibles from the mid-20th century. Check out Confections of a Rock Star, where baker Kimmee Masi creates irresistible treats with fun names, like Macaroon 5 and Brownie Eyed Girl.
Evening: Order a puffy-crusted pizza at Talula’s Pizza before settling in at the iconic Stone Pony, where guitars signed by major musicians are strung across the walls. Bruce Springsteen put this beach town and bar on the global map with his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. His 1970s performances are legendary, and he still stops by the Stone Pony and other venues to jam or catch local bands. Check the calendar to see who’s playing on the indoor and outdoor stages.
Morning: Start your day at Toast, the bustling breakfast spot known for decadent pancakes and crab hash sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning. If it’s Saturday, head to Kennedy Park for the Asbury Park Maker’s Market, sure to be packed with local crafters and brewers peddling their wares. If the weather cooperates, bring a blanket and stretch out on the wide-open beach. In season, you can rent umbrellas and beach chairs at beach access points—$6 wristbands ($9 on weekends) are required between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Dogs are welcome at the Eighth Avenue Dog Beach but must be on a leash, and you’ll find restrooms at Convention Hall.
Afternoon: Sample some beach treats at MOGO Korean Fusion Tacos or Tony’s for a cheesesteak and cheese fries, and then spend the afternoon bowling a few rounds at Asbury Lanes. There’s also the Silverball Retro Arcade, where $15 gets you an hour of unlimited pinball play (an all-day pass is $20).
Evening: There’s no lack of cool places to eat and drink here, but Wonder Bar pretty much claims the title of “best burgers,” and beer is a bargain. You may have noticed that Wonder Bar’s mascot, Tillie the Clown, is pictured on many of the T-shirts around these parts. Check out the place’s weekly events, like rock and roll bingo and Yappy Hour. For a sophisticated evening of curated cocktails and sunset views, find a table at Salvation at the Asbury Hotel.
Morning: Spend your last day in Ocean Grove, the beach community just south of Asbury Park. The town was founded as a Methodist summer camp in 1869 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. For breakfast, grab a seat at Odyssey Coffee, where the baristas reproduce authentic European lattes, and the croissants are delivered daily from Balthazar Bakery in Manhattan. Walk the streets of Ocean Grove to see the immaculately preserved Victorian homes, painted gingerbread-style in a palette of cheerful colors. Do not miss The Great Auditorium, a wooden structure with a soaring wooden ceiling. Completed in 1894, it once accommodated 10,000 people for musical performances and is still used today.
Afternoon: Head back to Asbury Park via the pedestrian bridge for lunch at TAKA. This Asian fusion restaurant has a cult following thanks to its charismatic chef, Takahiro Hirai, who was raised in a samurai family.