While I grew up in New Jersey, I wouldn’t say I’m the best Jersey Girl, and I’m okay with that. But, in my quest to get away from the state, I think I may have missed out on its charm a bit, particularly the Jersey Shore. Aside from a few day trips in recent years, I haven’t spent much time there since high school. But, recently I spent a few days down the Shore and discovered a little secret, the hippest place on the Jersey Shore.
I don’t know if I’d categorize the Shore as being a cool place, instead it’s one that’s more family centered, or occasionally what’s depicted on MTV”s The Jersey Shore. But, there’s so much more to it than just that. Each town on the Shore has its unique flare and attracts different people from all over the states of New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. But, there’s one place that has a vibe unlike anywhere else, and that’s Asbury Park.
As a music lover, I knew Asbury Park for The Stone Pony, but that’s about all I knew. Until I discovered it accidentally, on a recent day trip, when I hit a detour. My friend, Diana, had just mentioned it to me, but on that drive, I was able to see it for myself. I could immediately tell that it wasn’t your average Jersey Shore town, and while I was disappointed that I didn’t have time to stop, I vowed to come back.
Luckily, that opportunity came the following week, when I headed to Long Beach Island, for a night. After a day of soaking up the sun, I figured Asbury Park would be the perfect spot to stop for dinner on the ride home. When I had driven past the week before, I noticed a great selection of spots to eat and I knew I wanted to check them out.
After parking, I decided that I wanted to take in as much of the town as I could, so I headed for the boardwalk. What I loved was that it was nothing like the boardwalks in Point Pleasant or Seaside, it was classier and in many ways, more for adults and less for kids. Sure, they had an arcade and your typical pizza place, but it wasn’t about games or rides.
The focus here was the restaurants and the shops, and there were some great ones. While I am trying to scale back on spending, my favorite shops were Storehouse, Wanderlust Land & Sea, Big Spoon Little Spoon Naturals, and United by Blue. These are shops that I would probably spend a lot of money in had I been focusing on being more frugal. The restaurants all looked great and there were food trucks, as well; just more reasons for me to revisit.
While the shopping and restaurants are great, my favorite part about the boardwalk are the older, abandoned buildings. My favorite in particular was the Asbury Park Casino and Carousel House, now just a skeleton covered in street art. The buildings were once designed by the same architects who designed New York City’s Grand Central Station.
While the outside drew me in, I loved the inside even more. Designed by street artist Harif Guzman, Haculla is a streetwear collection inspired by the artist. It seemed special to look inside the old carousel house and have this waiting inside, rather just a plain abandoned building.
There’s more street art covering the buildings, both inside and outside of the Casino and Carousel House. They are fun to walk around and take pictures in front of, as almost everyone is doing. It also seems like it’s the ideal spot for photographers to practice their skills, as well as the hot spot to take engagement photos.
After a bit of wandering, I headed to the center of town, which was full of restaurants and shops. After parking the car, I strolled down the main street, Cookman Avenue, in search of food. When I found Talula’s,which had pizza with vegan pepperoni, I got excited; it was the first and only thing I read, and I knew I wanted to eat there.
While I didn’t actually end up with the vegan pepperoni pizza because I was too tempted by the white arugula pizza, it was a great find. Parked on the curb, I enjoyed the pizza and watched life go by, all while wondering why this was the first time I had experienced Asbury Park. I realize that it’s been transforming over the last few years, but part of me still felt as though I was missing out on a secret others already knew about.
If you find yourself heading to the Jersey Shore this summer and are looking for something a bit different than the norm, I can’t recommend Asbury Park enough. It’s unique and has more character and charm than anywhere else around, plus, it’s about only an hour’s drive from NYC.
Pin this for later!