Best known, perhaps, as the town where Bruce Springsteen got his start, Asbury Park is an easy escape into New Jersey’s colorful past, and an equally exciting modern beach destination. Expect plenty of impressive Victorian and early 20th-century architecture standing proudly alongside dramatic new construction, unique shopping and a vibrant nightlife.

Getting There

From New York, the 90-minute drive to Asbury Park takes you along I-278 west through Brooklyn to the Garden State Parkway. Hop off at Exit 102 on NJ-35 south and you’re there. You can also grab the train (NJ Transit), departing several times each day. It’s roughly two hours from Penn Station to the Asbury Park Station, and an easy stroll to the boardwalk. Much of the town’s activities are focused along Cookman and Ocean Avenues.


Asbury Park Boardwalk/Facebook

The Boardwalk
Ocean Drive
Asbury Park, NJ 07712

Price: $5 per day beach badge/$6 on weekends and holidays

The beach is the primary reason to hit the Jersey Shore in the first place, and the 130-year-old boardwalk is shared by Asbury Park and Ocean Grove. Here you’ll find bars, restaurants, quirky shops and the historic (and recently renovated) Convention Hall. It’s also the site of AP’s many festivals throughout the year. Stroll or bike the length of the recently rebuilt boardwalk until you find your perfect beach spot. Beach Badges are required if you wish to hang out on the sand.

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Silverball Pinball Museum
1000 Ocean Drive
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 774-4994

Price: $10 one-hour pass/$15 two-hour pass/$20 all-day pass

While Springsteen and Bon Jovi are big musical names here, it seems “The Who’s Tommy” must have spent some time in Jersey as well. There’s no better way to explain the Silverball Pinball Museum and Arcade besides pinball wizardry. Actually, Asbury Park was also the brand name of a major pinball company. Here visitors may hit the flippers on more than 200 vintage and contemporary pinball games in a space that’s equal parts museum and arcade. Pay by the hour, and play as many games as you like at this museum, which moved to the boardwalk in 2010. The museum is sometimes closed for private parties, so check the website or call ahead.

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Flying Saucers
in the Shoppes at the Arcade
658 Cookman Ave (upper level)
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 202-8848

Cookman Avenue, on the south end of town, has become the go-to place for eclectic boutique and antique shopping, and much of it is centered in the shoppes. Flying Saucers, which has been around since 2008, offers up the retro, the unusual and the downright quirky for your kitchen. Think Lucille Ball meets Tom and Jerry. Though the Howard Johnson’s might have closed up at the beach — it’s now McLoone’s Asbury Grille — you can pick up HoJo’s-branded coffee mugs for about $10 each.

Photo Credit: Asbury Lanes/Facebook

Asbury Lanes
209 4th Ave.
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 776-6160

Click here for prices and events

For a bowling experience more authentic than Bowlmor, but with enough retro-cool to sate your inner hipster, Asbury Lanes is the place. This no-nonsense bowling alley opened in 1961, and attracts locals, trendsters and a handful of vacationers alike. On top of classic bowling, you’ll also find a trend-forward music stage, hosting cutting-edge bands and burlesque acts including The Amboys, New York Rivals and Plastic Cross.

The Music

Austin may receive all the press these days as a music destination, but famous musicians have been cutting their teeth on Asbury Park’s stages since the 1930s. And today it’s no different. Jersey bands from Bon Jovi to My Chemical Romance performed at last year’s Bamboozle Festival, and local up-and-comers draw crowds at the Stone Pony, the Convention Hall, Asbury Lanes and the dog-friendly Wonder Bar, among others.

The Festivals

For a town that arguably witnessed its heyday before 1930, AP has developed a reputation as ground zero for some of the region’s best music and culture fests. In May 2012, the Bamboozle Music Festival normally hosted at the Meadowlands celebrated its 10th anniversary in the town where it originated, featuring Foo Fighters, Bon Jovi, Incubus, and 77 other new and established bands. Each spring, the Garden State Film Festival attracts roughly 30,000 cineastes, while summer brings the Wave Gathering Music Festival. The area’s hotels book up early for the All Tomorrow’s Parties Music Festival at the end of September. For more information on events and shopping opportunities in Asbury Park, visit

Dining and Drinking

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Watermark Bar
800 Ocean Ave.
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 455-3447

Boasting Edison bulbs, modern-minimal stone and wood design, and an indoor/outdoor experience, Watermark is a sophisticated addition to the boardwalk. Seasonal small bites, and a curated wine and cocktail menu including low-calorie options from internationally renowned NYC bartender Philip Ward, it provides patrons with a classic cocktail vibe and magnificent ocean views. Whether escaping the heat or stormy weather, head upstairs to fall back into white leather sofas and savor the vista through floor-to-ceiling windows. In off-seasons, cuddle up in loveseats next to one of two roaring fires while sipping a Jersey Sidecar or hot cider.

The Stone Pony
913 Ocean Ave.
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 502-0600

When The Upstage closed in the early 1970s, Springsteen and his fellow musicians migrated to this beach-side dive. Opened in 1974 in the spot formerly featuring Mrs. Jay’s Bar. The Boss made regular stops here throughout the ’70s as well as at Asbury Lanes and The Saint/Clover Club. These days you’ll find contemporary acts including Counting Crows, Dierks Bently and Collective Soul, along with (perhaps) the Next Great Sound.


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Empress Hotel and Paradise Club 
101 Asbury Ave.
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 774-0100

Click here for prices

Combining Mid-Century kitsch with contemporary conveniences, the hotel dates back to the 1960s, but fell into disrepair until renovated and re-opened in 1998 by club DJ Shep Pettibone as a gay-friendly resort, paving the way for Asbury Park’s 21st-century Renaissance. Stylish amenities include flat-screen TVs, private balconies and ocean views to make stays comfortable and fabulous. On warm nights, the party from the Paradise Club spills out to the oversized swimming pool.

Hotel Tides
408 Seventh Ave.
Asbury Park, NJ 07712
(732) 897-7744

Price: from $160

A boutique hotel tucked in a quiet neighborhood away from the crowd, Hotel Tides offers fashionably comfortable rooms, a spa, pool, bar and restaurant. The attentive staff is well-versed on activities and events around town, and can help out with maps and shopping recommendations. Another renovated historic gem, Tides features a floating fireplace in the lobby, bounded by two water walls, yet simultaneously exudes all of the homey charm of a bed and breakfast.

Robert Haynes-Peterson is an editor and freelance writer living in New York. He is certified by the American Sommelier Association through its 24-week Vinification and Viticulture program, and the government of Mexico through its Master Mezcalier program (continuing). His work can be found at