In keeping with this week's theme, today we're reviewing Asbury Park, NJ, as a Vacation Destination. This travelogue, though, is special. Everyone who comments on today's post gets 5 (count 'em!) additional entries in our Greetings from Asbury Park! contest. No Jersey Questions today, Kind Friends--the pressure's off! BTW, this Cool Contest ends today at midnite, so don't delay!
With Extreme Apologies to the Frommer's Guide Folks, we now present--Ta Da!--The Scholastic Scribe's Semi-Complete Guide to Asbury Park, NJ!
Introduction: OK, you've been reading about AP all week. It's one of those funky old beach resorts that has seen hard times in the past, but is coming back. Over the years, AP has attracted lots of Rock 'n' Roll Greats, most notably The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, who has played several of its past & present venues. Bruce, of course, is from nearby Freehold, but most everybody associates Springsteen with Asbury Park, so why not Go For It?
Depending on who you talk to, Asbury Park has been through several bad spells for just as many reasons. Fire gutted many of the Boardwalk Attractions early in the last century; hurricane and nor'easter damage eroded lots of the classic Art Deco buildings; and, of course, there was that ugly period in American History 40 years ago this summer, when Asbury Park, along with dozens of American cities, faced riots. We lived in DC for 12 years. We can tell you that huge sections of our Nation's Capital are just now experiencing a lovely renaissance; it only makes sense that a much smaller burg like Asbury Park would take even longer to rebuild.
Planning Your Trip: You can't go directly by plane, but AP is 35 miles south of NYC, and about an hour from Philly. Train & automobile seem to be much more convenient. You can take a train from Philly or NYC; and of course, if you take Exit 7a (as we discovered, that's after Exit 7 but before Exit 8) off the New Jersey Turnpike, it's an easy drive on I-195 east to the Jersey Shore.
Hotels: This is the one thing that the resurgent Asbury Park is lacking in. We stayed at the lovely and refurbished Berkeley Hotel, on Ocean Avenue across from the Convention Hall & the Boardwalk. The recently opened Empress Motel is at the other end of the Boardwalk, about a mile away & twice as expensive. If you Google Asbury Park Hotels, you'll find a handful listed, but we can't vouch for them! Fortunately, the Berkeley, where we stayed, has 250 expansive & less-expensive rooms, all re-done in an up-to-date Art Deco motif. It's a family-friendly and convenient place, & we recommend it highly.
Restaurants: We strongly believe that if you're going to a beach, you should stay at the beach. Or, Down the Shore, as they say in Jersey. We parked our car on Friday, and didn't move it again 'til it was time to go home 3 days later. Everything you need is on the AP Boardwalk, from the laid-back Beach Bar (drinks--natch--plus sandwiches & snackies) to The Saltwater Beach Cafe, which is a tad more upscale but still informal & "beachie." We ate twice at La Plaza Cubana, and cute little hole-in-the-wall on the Boardwalk that specializes in Cuban Sandwiches. Can you say "yummy"? And, of course, there's ice cream at Eddie Confetti and Itallian ices at Ralph's, so what else do you need? The only criticism we have is there's no real East Coast pizerria on the Boardwalk. But T.J.'s Pizza is a couple of blocks away on Main Street, & comes highly recommended!
Nightlife: We've said much of it here this week. The Stone Pony, The Wonder Bar, The Paramount Theatre, The Convention Hall. Bruce & Company have either played these venues dozens of times, or hang out there when they visit!
Shopping: You're not going to find the "typcial," "touristy" shopping on the Asbury Park Boardwalk and on nearby Cookman Avenue. Since The Boardwalk is still a "work in progress," with several vacant lots and even more structures under construction, you're going to find an eclectic shopping experience, especially for a beach resort. A pottery & blown glass galleries are two of the newer offerings, but there are also stores featuring beach gear & kiddie novelties; it looks as if the AP Chamber of Commerce is trying to bring in more "upscale" Boardwalk businesses. We're all for that, having seen the crippy-crappy that's offered to visitors at many American beach resorts!
Overall Impression: On a scale of 100, we give it an "89," Dick. Easy to dance to, beautiful, wide beach, clean and spacious accommodations, and a resident & visitor population that spans these United States & beyond. We've never been to a beach that's such a melting pot. We really enjoyed this Funky Beach Experience. Another visit is surely in store!
Oops--Almost forgot! The answers to yesterday's questions:
- Different Drum
- "Miami" Steve Van Zandt!