If you’re not an avid Bruce Springsteen fan, you might not have heard of Asbury Park. The small beachside city is one of the Jersey Shore’s best-kept secrets: Heaps of new, hip spots are cropping up around town, a result of young business owners who grew up in the area and want to foster a new community.
Packed full of unique boutiques and trendy eateries, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in Asbury Park. And with surf beaches and an iconic boardwalk at the ready, it’s an ideal summer destination. Read on to discover some of our favorite local spots.
What to Do
1300 Ocean Avenue
A beach town is incomplete without a boardwalk, and Asbury Park’s leaves nothing to be desired. It includes Zagat-rated restaurants and nightlife spots so there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss the Silverball Museum Arcade: It houses some of the coolest pinball machines ever dating all the way back to the 1930s. Also of note is the historic Paramount Theatre, owned and operated by Madison Marquette.
“Thanks to superior acoustics and stage visibility, the Paramount Theatre is the area’s premier venue for live performances,” says George Ladyman, Madison Marquette’s business and experience director. “This distinguished venue has a unique atmosphere—one that is both grand and intimate—which brings culture, activity, and diversity to New Jersey’s fabled Shore.”
520 Bangs Avenue
You’re at the beach, after all. Whether you’re a pro surfer or want to try it out as a new summer activity (in which case, head to the nearby Summertime Surf School), locals recommend checking out the surf beaches in and around Asbury Park. Surfing aficionados should check out the Glide Surf Shop, a “surf lifestyle store” in downtown AP that also has a board shaping company—even bringing in renowned shapers to create boards.
8th Ave Jetty
For the perfect photo op, try the 8th Ave jetty. It literally is just a jetty, but the large beach it’s situated on is perfect for unwinding or taking a walk. Worth noting: For half the year (October-May), it turns into a dog beach. Go if you’re looking for an outdoor activity for you and your furry friend.
From the 3,600-seat Asbury Park Convention Hall, which has played host to Frank Sinatra, The Rolling Stones, and Stevie Wonder (to name a few), to The Stone Pony, made famous by Bon Jovi and, of course, Bruce Springsteen, there is no shortage of historic music venues in Asbury Park.
Where to Shop
300 Emory Street, Unit 1
This expertly curated home and lifestyle shop sells handcrafted small batch goods and is one you won’t want to miss if you’re hunting for chic home decor that won’t go out of style. Owner Christina Cali works with passionate craftsmen across the country to keep a steady rotation of unique products available in the store. “The inventory is carefully selected to display multiple aspects of home and lifestyle, supporting the artists who work hard at their craft,” says Cali.
The Market & Storehouse
1100-1300 Ocean Avenue
Owned by the same company (Madison Marquette), these two retail locations are much more than a storefront. Both cultivate a community of craftmakers, showcasing work from shop owners and artisans in the AP area. The Market is the main event, dedicated to pushing forward Asbury culture and sharing it with visitors and locals alike.
“We’re without a doubt the cultural glue that binds this Boardwalk together, and the amount of talent we are able to showcase of makers from this immediate area is astounding,” says Teeter Sperber, the manager of both The Market and Storehouse. “Shoppers and tourists are constantly surprised when they walk into our shop. It takes my breath away how talented people from AP are—and I’m stoked that The Market is able to be the stage for that.”
A sister shop of The Market, Storehouse presents a similarly eclectic collection of products from a range of local vendors. “We have what we consider pop up shops full of beautifully curated product,” says Sperber. “We represent different shop owners from all over the area —the vibe and energy is different for every vendor.”
Vintage Furniture Shops
If you’re looking for larger mementos to bring back from your trip to Asbury Park, check out any of the number of vintage furniture stores the town has to offer. The 20,000-square-foot Antique Emporium of Asbury Park has more antique art, furniture, and decor pieces than you’ll be able to comb through in just one visit, and Flying Saucers on Cookman Avenue is a one-stop shop for fun one-of-a-kind vintage finds like retro kitchenware or framed art pieces.
713 Bangs Avenue
Patriae sells antique homespun, handwoven hemp and linen textiles and goods. Sourced from owner Barbara Pisch’s home country of Slovakia, every piece is constructed by repurposing older items into beautiful home goods and accessories. Think: worn grainsacks and sheets turned into textured totes and minimally patterned pillows.
Where to Eat
550 Cookman Avenue
The chefs at Talula’s refined their skills in Brooklyn before heading to Jersey to create simple yet delicious sourdough pizzas. That said, while the pizza is definitely the main event at this restaurant, don’t miss out on the rest of the menu. Using local and seasonal ingredients, it includes an impressive offering of drinks as well as items like a pesto rice bowl and a curried chicken salad sandwich.
“We love Asbury Park and attribute a lot of our success to the locals, our regulars,” says Shanti Mignona, who co-owns Talula’s with her husband Steve. “It’s important that we support our community as much as it has supported us over the years: We’re passionate about supporting local farmers and sourcing the best quality local ingredients whenever possible.”
For takeout you can feel good about enjoying, try Broken Spoon. This Asian-inspired gourmet eatery creates sustainable, local, and organic when possible dishes influenced by the culinary diversity of Asia. Try a variety of noodle bowls from this grab-and-go food spot, like the ginger scallion soba noodles or curried cashew noodles. Keep up with Broken Spoon on Instagram to see where you can get your hands on a bowl of noodz (their words, not ours) yourself.
513 Bangs Avenue
“We’ve developed a reputation as the eclectic, center-of-town hot spot with food for everyone you’d like to dine with,” says Laura Brahn, who founded Cardinal along with Grace Crossman. “You may not get a seat in an instant, but you won’t mind waiting.” The chef duo come from diverse culinary backgrounds and put every ounce of their experience into this of-the-moment restaurant.
In addition to a full service breakfast and lunch menu—“You’ve absolutely got to try our xuixo (from-scratch croissant dough filled with lemon pastry cream and tossed in cinnamon sugar) before we sell out!” adds Brahn—Cardinal also hosts pop-up dinners and offers catering.
Available at 701 Cookman Avenue or at the Asbury Eats food truck at 1680 Ocean Avenue
At the beach and craving something lighter and refreshing? Playa bowls has the widest variety of smoothie bowls we’ve ever seen, from pitaya to acai to coconut. They also have smoothies and juices if you’re looking for something to-go. It helps that in addition to being high in nutrients, the bowls are brightly colored and beautifully presented… in other words, totally Instagrammable.
Where to Drink
510 Bangs Avenue
For a spot that truly captures that neighborhood coffee shop vibe, check out Cafe Volan. The baristas are super knowledgeable and ready to explain each different brew, and they just started roasting their own coffee. Stop by for a macchiato and a pastry in the morning before heading out to the Boardwalk.
High Voltage Cafe
800 Ocean Avenue
Besides a beautifully designed space that incorporates a lot of vintage and midcentury finds and custom-built furniture, High Voltage is a must-try for any visiting coffee buffs. The Polish-inspired menu serves house-made pierogies and zapie (“Polish pizza”) in addition to high-quality local coffee.
“Our space features more plants than the local nursery, art curated by our local Parlor Gallery, and ocean views that will make you never want to leave our comfy window sofa,” says Jason Thomson, one of the cafe’s owners. “It’s really just the quintessential Asbury Park experience. A little bit of punk rock, lots of art, good vibes and kick ass coffee and food.”
Where to Stay
The Asbury Hotel
210 5th Avenue
This trendy, industrial-looking hotel featuring brick walls and modern pendant lighting has everything you could ever want in a hotel stay. From easy beach access to a beer garden to two (two!) separate rooftop bars, you may not want to leave.
“Asbury Park’s eclectic energy and rock and roll history is what makes this shore town unique,” says Anda Andrei, the creative lead for the entire redevelopment project. “The hotel captures the authenticity and playful spirit of the town and serves as a place for both guests and locals alike to hang out and enjoy the activities of this year-round destination.”