It’s been a while since you’ve been to the Jersey Shore. A long while, if you’re being honest. You used to board a New Jersey Transit train, head down the North Jersey Coast Line, and hang out with college friends for the weekend. There were a lot of late nights and alcohol involved. Those weekends teetered out as people got married and started having children. They’re distant memories now. But that doesn’t mean your trips to the beach had to end.
As you’ve been maturing, so has Asbury Park. The beach town, famous for its 19th-century boardwalk, has been undergoing a major revival. The Victorian houses, the music scene that produced Bruce Springsteen, and the cheeky LGBTQ community that made you fall in love with the one-mile stretch of sand on the central coast remain. Now antique shops, hip restaurants, mellower bars, and chic hotels keep popping up. The sketchy Dark City has transformed into Brooklyn on the Beach.
Asbury Park has been a resort town since the beginning. The city, easily accessible from both New York and Philadelphia, was developed as a Christian retreat—yes, Asbury Park was a dry town—in 1871. The boardwalk, colorfully painted houses, and tourists quickly followed. Asbury Park was the place to be until the late 1940s. That’s when the Garden State Parkway opened, and everyone started heading even farther south. As the suburban sprawl creeped in, the city declined. Its renaissance didn’t begin until 20 years ago. Hurricanes, particularly Sandy, kept trying to hinder the process. But Asbury Park is officially back.
The true test of a comeback is hotels. Make that boutique hotels. Big chain hotels will go anywhere—and quickly cut their losses if it doesn’t work out. It’s a larger risk for small, independent hoteliers, though. So the opening of the Asbury was a big deal. The Scandi-style hotel overlooks Atlantic Square Park. It’s five minutes from the train station and just a block-and-a-half from the ocean. The redbrick building from the 1950s used to belong to the Salvation Army. It was abandoned and in desperate need of upgrades when the hotel plan was created. The space is now so comfortable that it feels like it’s been part of the community a lot longer than four years.
The heart of the Asbury is its communal lobby. The Counter acts as a check-in desk and a coffee bar. That flows into a solarium with huge windows, sunken couches, and hanging basket lamps. Books and records fill shelves along the wall. A pool table and Soundbooth, a casual bar that hosts musicians, sit at the other end of the room. While an outdoor space opens to a heated pool, a fire pit, and a beer garden—complete with its own VB Bus (a beer and wine bar) and food truck—in the spring.
Though there’s plenty to keep you occupied on the first floor, the rooftop is probably more your speed. The Baronet, a garden space, hosts sunrise yoga and movie nights (projected on a 20-foot wall). Salvation, a lantern-lit cantina, serves tequila-based cocktails. Both have sunset and ocean views, of course. Both also allow you to forget—for just a little while—the adult life waiting for you back home. Asbury Park may have matured, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring.