“Sandy, the aurora’s rising behind us, the pier lights our carnival life on the water.” —-Bruce Springsteen, Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
For years, we’ve been hearing the news: Asbury Park is on its way back. And it was. Though it had yet to reach the summit of its glory days, Asbury Park was rising up in recent years, reborn as both an art scene and a family friendly destination.
And then, of course, Sandy hit. Hard. Just like many of the towns that make up the Jersey Shore, Asbury Park was set back – but more determined than ever to reestablish itself as a travel destination.
When I visited Asbury Park a few weeks ago, I was surrounded by evidence that the town was going to make good on that vow. Beyond the hazard tape, the boardwalk was being rebuilt. Restaurants were reopening, and the water park was being cleaned of debris, anticipating the laughter of children cooling off after a day of sunning on the fine sand shores.
Greetings from Asbury Park, indeed.
Family Friendly Activities
The one-mile long boardwalk in Asbury Park doesn’t boast the amusement thrills of Wildwood or the seaside quaintness of Ocean City, both to the south. Still, a variety of attractions and events are located on the boardwalk, by the boards and in the downtown area, making it an attractive and fun destination for any family seeking a taste of the true Jersey Shore.
Family friendly favorites to check out include the Silver Ball Museum, a collection of vintage pinball machines dating back to 1933. This is one museum that certainly isn’t “don’t touch,” as visitors can pay to play the classic games. Just be careful not to tilt!
What’s a boardwalk without mini golf? Asbury Eighteen Mini Golf lets you play 18 holes while soaking in the rays and listening to the roar of the ocean nearby…or the music permeating from the clubs across the street each evening.
Pop history buffs can check out historic Convention Hall, which has hosted concerts by such icons as Elton John, Frank Sinatra, KISS and, of course, native son Bruce Springsteen. Nearby is the Paramount Theatre which, like Convention Hall, is registered in the National Registrar of Historic Places. Connecting the two is the Asbury Galleria, a gallery of authentic Asbury Park and rock and roll memorabilia and the best place to get authentic Asbury Park souvenirs.
Off The Boards
Despite the history on the Asbury Park boardwalk, music lovers agree that the real history was made across Ocean Avenue. Lines form nightly outside the small white building on the corner of Second and Ocean. This is the location of the Stone Pony, the classic hole-in-the-wall famous for being a staple of the Jersey Shore music scene and a favorite stomping ground of Springsteen’s. This summer’s schedule looks like a mash-up of up and coming local favorites, classic blasts from the past such as The Marshall Tucker Band and Courtney Love, and Pony regulars, such as Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.
Although the Pony is the place usually credited for giving Springsteen his start, true followers know the Boss also had regular gigs opening for Doo Wop bands at The Wonder Bar at 1213 Ocean. The Wonder Bar will also host a roster of rock acts this summer, including The Lemon Heads, John Eddie and Boys of Summer, an Eagles tribute band. But the Bar is better known these days for its Yappy Hours, a happy hour for pet owners who are welcomed to bring their dogs along. (Those traveling with Rover or Lassie, take note!)
Hungry? The Stella Marina on the boardwalk is open, offering indoor and outdoor dining options and an expansive menu. A few blocks over in the old Howard Johnson’s building is McLoone’s Asbury Grill which offers a great menu including bruschetta, burgers and a variety of sandwiches for lunch. And, of course, there are a variety of pizza parlors to satisfy anyone longing for a real taste of Jersey.