12 Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ: Cultural Center and River Town

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Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Downtown Red Bank’s energetic dining and nightlife scene on Broad St.
Downtown Red Bank’s energetic dining and nightlife scene on Broad St. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

After a day at a Jersey Shore beach, Red Bank, New Jersey is the place to come for dining, live music, entertainment, movies, theater, concerts, boutiques and art galleries.

Being an hour away from New York City, acts often make Red Bank the first stop on tour, at ticket prices more affordable than New York. Especially from Fall through Spring, the town’s entertainment calendar is filled with must-see comedy showcases and major recording artists who prefer more intimate venues rather than giant indoor arenas.  Before the show, enjoy a sparkling fall evening with a variety of dining options on Broad Street.  

There’s plenty of metered parking, plus free parking every Sunday.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Singer and actress Jill Hennesey performing at the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre
Singer and actress Jill Hennesey performing at the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre, also known as the Count Basie Theater. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

See National Acts at the Basie

Celebrated bandleader Count Basie, known for the song “The Kid from Red Bank,” spent his formative years hanging around in theaters and playing clubs along the Jersey Shore. Later, after achieving fame and fortune, he often returned to play in and around his boyhood hometown. He would be proud to see his musical legacy continue with the multi-faceted Count Basie Center for the Arts.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Bruce Springsteen still lives in nearby Colts Neck and has been known to make unscheduled appearances at the theater when his musical friends perform.

The Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre (formerly known as the Count Basie Theatre), is a 1,568-seat historic theater originally opened in 1926 as Reade’s Carlton Theater at 99 Monmouth St.  After many different iterations, a monumental interior restoration was completed in 2008, funded in part through a performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band.

In addition to national pop, classical and jazz musicians, the center hosts a robust calendar of events that includes ballet and dance, comedy stars, a speaker series, touring Broadway and kid-friendly shows and holiday musicals and events for all ages. 

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - JBJ Soul Kitchen
JBJ Soul Kitchen. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Eat at Jon Bon Jovi’s JBJ Soul Kitchen

Operated by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation (yes, that Jon Bon Jovi), this unique restaurant in downtown Red Bank is worth the visit to support efforts to feed the needy. JBJ Soul Kitchen is a community restaurant that serves paying and in-need customers at variable prices. Everyone in the community is invited to enjoy a delicious farm-to-table meal in a warm, welcoming setting.

A set menu includes a salad, choice of meat, seafood or vegetarian entrée, plus dessert. Pay what you want. For those who can afford it, the restaurant recommends $20 for dinner. One can purchase a Pay-it-Forward donation card for $20 to cover the cost of in-need meals for others.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Get there 20-30 minutes before the restaurant opens in the hopes of getting seated early. In-need diners are given first priority.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash
Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash. Photo by R.C. Staab

Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash

New Jersey’s most prolific filmmaker/actor/comedian/podcaster and comic book writer is Kevin Smith.  Not sure who he is?  You may seen one of his comic movies such as Clerks, Mallrats or Chasing Amy or his reality cable TV show, Comic Book Men.  In addition to his film career, 20 years ago, Smith brought to life his childhood dream of owning a comic book store in the same neighborhood where he used to shop.  

At Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, 65 Broad Street, geek out and buy merch and apparel related to Smith’s films and characters such as Jay and Silent Bob (pictured in the logo above).  If you’re into comic books and collectibles, dive into a collection that one fan calls the “Disneyland for nerds.”

SheBuysTravel Tip: Make sure to stop in the rear of the store to take a selfie with props from Kevin Smith’s movies including Buddy Christ from Dogma.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Navesink River
Navesink River. Photo by R.C. Staab

Rent a Boat to Ply the Navesink River

Red Bank sits at the widest part of the Navesink River, a tidal estuary flowing into the Shrewsbury River and ultimately the Atlantic Ocean. Especially in the fall, the Navesink provides excellent fishing opportunities for bluefish (aka snappers), striped bass, blackfish, pufferfish and kingfish. Crabbing is particularly popular in the upstream Swimming River section.

At the Red Bank Marina, row boats, skiffs, motor boats and pontoon boats are available for rent. Or take out a Stand Up Paddle board or kayak and enjoy an afternoon on the river.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Ask locals to point out the mansions along the Navesink owned by Jon Bon Jovi, Jon Stewart and New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Two River Theater
Two River Theater. Photo by R.C. Staab

Experience Classics and New Works at Two River Theater

Only an hour’s drive from NYC and Broadway, Two River Theater brings a fresh eye to American classic plays and musicals. With two theaters under one roof, Two River has the freedom to experiment with original projects such as Be More Chill by Tony Award nominee Joe Iconis and Joe Tracz (the theater’s first Broadway production) and Hurricane Diane which won an Obie Award for its Off-Broadway run.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Thomas Fortune Cultural Center
Thomas Fortune Cultural Center. Photo by R.C. Staab

Explore African-American Heritage at the Thomas Fortune Cultural Center

The T. Thomas Fortune House, 94 Drs. James Parker Blvd pays homage to a leading African-American journalist and civil rights advocate at the turn of the 20th century. Also known as Maple Hall, this historic landmark is now owned by a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Fortune’s legacy of activism and community involvement.

Throughout the year, tours are available as well as movie screenings, lectures and author readings.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - The Vogel on Monmouth Street
The Vogel on Monmouth Street. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Plan for an Intimate Evening at The Vogel

Unlike the Hackensack Meridian Health Theatre a few doors away, The Vogel performance space is designed for a more intimate connection with artists with a capacity ranging from 150 to about 500 seats. The space can be configured with seats around tables or more traditional general admission seating.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Swimming River Park
Swimming River Park. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Fish, crab or hang out at new Swimming River Park

Across the river from the Red Bank Marina is a new park on the Swimming River, one of the principal tributaries of the Navesink River. Located at the border of Middletown and Red Bank, this 18-acre park features a paved walking path, boat ramp, kayak launch beach, riverfront plaza, water access and a floating dock for fishing and crabbing. The park is open daily from dawn to dusk.

Instead of floating or boating west under the bridge, head in the opposite direction. The Swimming River narrows significantly with lush trees, bushes and grasses on both sides.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Yestercades on Broad Street
Yestercades on Broad Street. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Get Your Game on at YESTERcades

Are you ever too old or too young to play arcade games?  YESTERcades is an arcade bar featuring classic arcade games from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Galaga and Street Fighter II.

For only $9.25 an hour, there’s unlimited play on all machines. For $25, purchase a daily pass that allows re-entry until the arcade closes. Make it an evening of fun things for the family.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Latest Movies and Indie Films at Basie Center Cinemas
Latest Movies and Indie Films at Basie Center Cinemas. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

See the Latest Movies and Indie Films at Basie Center Cinemas

Part of The Basie Center, the Basie Center Cinemas are Monmouth County’s destination for independent movies, foreign films, film festivals and special events on four screens. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is often presented late night on the weekends.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Riverside Gardens Park
Riverside Gardens Park. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Stroll along Riverside Gardens Park

The best place to enjoy the sunset is Riverside Gardens Park located on the Navesink River. It features a gazebo, a playground, a picnic area and a walking path. The park is also home to a variety of events throughout the year, including concerts, free outdoor movies and festivals.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - The Dublin House
The Dublin House. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Dine & Shop on Broad Street

With dozens of restaurants and shops, the charming, walkable downtown is a destination that doesn’t require detailed planning for an evening meal. Before dinner, have fun at the Trap Door Escape Room or browse for fine art at the Chetkin Gallery,

Here are several diverse recommended eateries within walking distance of each other:

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Molly Pitcher Hotel
Molly Pitcher Hotel. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

Stay at these Red Bank Hotels

Red Bank is fairly compact.  There are two main hotels in town within walking distance of everything:

  • The long-standing Molly Pitcher Inn, 88 Riverside Ave, Red Bank, NJ 07701, takes its name from the nickname given to a woman who fought in the American Revolutionary War. She is most often identified as Mary Ludwig Hays, who fought in the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778, not far from Red Bank.
  • Situated in a beautiful setting along the Navesink River, The Oyster Point Hotel offers a modern look.

A short 10-minute drive away are two hotels close to the Garden State Parkway:

Farther afield, there’s the Wave Resort in Long Branch at the ocean or the American Hotel in Freehold.

Things to Do in Red Bank, NJ - Mario Lopez with his favorite Jersey book
Mario Lopez with his favorite Jersey book. Photo credit: R.C. Staab

What are the best attractions, boardwalks, cultural sights, nightlife and food to sample? Do what TV, film, and stage celeb Mario Lopez does when he visits the Shore and pick up a copy of the book, 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore Before You Die. Visit www.100ThingsJerseyShore.com to order your autographed copy.


R.C. Staab is a New York-based author, playwright, musical theater writer and lyricist. His latest book, New York City Scavenger: The Ultimate Search for New York City’s Hidden Treasures, was published in Spring 2023. His first book 100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore Before You Die was published in 2020 and is now in its second printing. In 2021, he walked the entire 139-mile coastline of the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook to Cape May the book, generating more than 200,000 views on social media. He frequently contributes to New Jersey Monthly magazine and online travel publications. He is long-time member of the Society of American Travel Writers having traveled to 49 of the 50 US States and more than 60 countries. He specializes in cultural tourism, adventure travel and historical sites. His off-Broadway musicals and plays have been produced in New York, San Francisco, England and the Midwest. He is a two-time nominee for England’s Best New Song competition. He lives in New York City with his wife, Valari, and his dog, Skye.
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