Asbury Park used to be known for nothing more than Bruce Springsteen and the fact that it was a largely abandoned Jersey town. In spite of its storied musical history (more on that later), Asbury Park was, for years, the one beach spot you didn’t go to for a relaxing Shore weekend. But that all changed in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, thanks to an influx of artists and people from the LGBT community who had been trickling in since the ‘50s.
In addition to lots of great LGBT events, Asbury Park is full of rooftop bars, cool hotels, great restaurants, and of course, plenty of music. This summer, step outside your regular beach town comfort zone and check out Asbury Park -- especially now that you have this definitive guide to everything you need to eat, see, and do there.
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Asbury Park is still best known for its historic music venues, and for good reason -- many of them were instrumental in giving the world the music we listen to still today. The Stone Pony in particular is famous for launching the careers of both Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, two guys you've maybe have heard of once or twice. It's had its ups and downs -- including almost closing in the ‘90s, but thanks to an outcry over its demise it was eventually saved, and still books great talent like the Dead Kennedys, Best Coast, and The Lumineers. The Saint is another small and intimate venue that routinely hosts bands like Kings of Leon, Tegan and Sara, and Deftones. The historical Asbury Park Convention Hall has seen everyone from Frank Sinatra (also from Jersey) to Janis Joplin to Led Zeppelin. In more recent years, The Gaslight Anthem (another Jersey band!), Bob Dylan, and Jimmy Eat World have all graced the stage.
Eat seafood, pizza, and French toast (not necessarily at all once)
From fresh seafood on the water to the perfect French toast, AP has you covered. Porta is one of the best fancy pizzerias in town, doing inventive Neapolitan pies like Spring Betty, with goat cheese and spinach béchamel, alongside more traditional pies. By the beach you can dine at Langosta Lounge, a Caribbean fusion restaurant with nightly live music on the boardwalk. If you (rightly) believe that going to the beach without eating seafood is sacrilegious, head to the boardwalk for oysters and cocktails at Asbury Oyster Bar, then make your way to The Bonney Read for more oysters, shrimp, crab, and fish in every possible incarnation you could think of, from rolls to fried to steamed to raw. For a hungover brunch, Toast's red velvet pancakes and Nutella French toast always do the trick.
Have a drink by the water (or with your pup)
If you've got a dog, don't miss the opportunity to drink alongside him or her at Wonder Bar's “Yappy Hour," compete with dog swimming pools and even a "time out" area. The bar also hosts lots of great live bands and other events (many of which are dog-themed). For beachside drinking, head over to Beach Bar located right on the boardwalk, which offers great views of the sand and surf, but most importantly, rum bucket punch (yes, that's a full bucket of rum punch). For something super-casual, Bond Street Bar & Grill has you covered with $2 PBRs and $5 burgers. If you’re feeling extra festive, head to Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, where you can listen to live music and down bratwurst while making friends at your communal table.
Spend a night at a hotel by the beach
While there’s probably nothing better than the unique Jersey Shore brand of Americana, sometimes you need to mix it up, and The Asbury Hotel brings a new level of trendiness to the shore (believe it!). The industrial hotel is hip, but not overbearingly so, with a beer garden, a pool, easy access to the beach, a rec room with ping-pong and pinball machines, and two different rooftop bars. If you’re feeling like something a little less trendy but still fun, The Tides is the place to go -- a happening pool scene and spa strikes the right balance of stimulating and relaxing.
Watch mermaids, play games, have a séance & blow glass
Since Asbury Park has a sizeable gay community, there are lots of great LGBT events around town throughout the summer. At the Asbury Park Promenade of Mermaids you can check out drag queens in all of their glory in sea-inspired outfits. If you're looking for some furry love, Asbury Park Bear Weekend is the way to go. For all things weird, stop into Paranormal Books and Curiosities to get your tarot cards read, for a séance, or to visit its paranormal museum. Looking for something you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere? Blow glass at Hot Sand. You won’t be making anything fancy like a vase, but you will be able to blow a glass bubble -- literally a spherical piece of glass. You can also indulge your inner child at the Silverball Museum Arcade, with pinball machines that date all the way back to the 1930s (and yes, still work). If you're hungry, the arcade’s got all the classic Jersey Shore food staples including pizza, hot dogs, and funnel cake. If you're looking to shop, visit the Asbury Park Bazaar for artwork, jewelry, gifts, and accessories.
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