Everyone loves the summer. Whether you’re a fan of scorching temperatures or not, you can find something about the season to fall in love with: vacations, rooftops, Summer Fridays, or our personal favorite, ice cream errrday. Summer pop-ups are an enduring tradition, from the lemonade stands of our innocent youth, to the trendy outdoor food markets of our fiscally irresponsible adulthood. We want to celebrate, and we want to do it all season long. Last year we commemorated the summer with a series of posts celebrating street art. This year we thought it would be fun to highlight fun day trips from New York City.
When you think of popular summer destinations, there’s generally a beach involved. But the combination of Justin’s lily-white skin and my inability to stay in one place for too long usually limits our time on the shore. We need more than just sand and surf, and that’s where Asbury Park comes in.
Asbury Park is probably most recognizable as a destination for music lovers, with classic venues like the Stone Pony and the Paramount Theatre drawing incredible talent over the years. And while making your way out there to watch a concert is bound to be an unforgettable experience, we think the town Bruce Springsteen named his debut album after actually has a lot more to offer.
Beach and Boardwalk
The Asbury Park Beach is a slice of summer life, with views of the ocean as far as the eye can see and colorful beach umbrellas dotting the sand. There are sand volleyball courts and playgrounds, and certain areas even accommodate surfing and fishing with restrictions. The Boardwalk is lined with restaurants and bars, as well as refreshment stands to tempt you with anything from loaded fries to specialty lemonade. There are family-friendly water parks and mini golf courses for additional wholesome fun.
A jewel not to be missed on the Boardwalk is the Silverball Museum, an all-in-one pinball and video game arcade and museum. There are machines from as far back as the 1950s, and most of them are in excellent condition. Functioning as an interactive museum, you get to play games while learning about the history of each machine. It’s a fun and fascinating glimpse into pop culture through the years.
Pro Tip: To access the beach, beach passes are required. Daily passes as well as seasonal passes can be purchased at booths located at all the entry points. Avoid the lines and purchase your beach pass in advance using the Viply smartphone app.
Art and Architecture
Asbury Park has experienced dramatic growth and revitalization in recent years, and in 2015 the Wooden Walls Project brought together a number of well-known street artists for a beautification mission. The Boardwalk is the perfect showcase for large, dramatic pieces, and the artists rose to the occasion. Colorful murals by Chilean-born Pau Quintanajornet and NYC-based Dee Dee give the area a contemporary facelift.
But thankfully, there is plenty of classic architecture to enjoy as well. Only the skeletal remains of the Casino and Carousel House remain, but the structures are still magnificent examples of Beaux-Arts architecture. The Convention Hall and Paramount Theatre are connected by the Grand Arcade, and both structures are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. And if you saunter down into neighboring Ocean Grove you’ll come across the largest assemblage of authentic Victorian architecture in the country. While you’re wandering around Ocean Grove, another structure you certainly won’t want to miss is the Great Auditorium. This architectural wonder was built in 1894 and remains nearly intact, featuring lighting and acoustic designs way ahead of its time.
And speaking of unique architecture, keep your eye out for “tent homes”. The tents were originally erected around the Great Auditorium so that people could worship and attend services. Today, just 114 tents remain and they’ve become coveted summer homes. The waiting list to rent one for the summer season could be as long as 19 years! Each tent is built on a wooden platform with a canvas section that serves as the living room, dining room and bedroom. It is connected to a permanent wooden structure that usually houses a kitchen and bathroom. In the front there is a narrow porch, often covered by an awning.
Pro Tip: The Historical Society of Ocean Grove runs Architectural Tours that offer a more in-depth experience for architecture lovers. Tent homes, Victorian cottages and twentieth century houses are part of the tour.
Food, Food and More Food
It would not be an exaggeration to state that we would visit Asbury Park for the food alone. We’ll even go so far as to admit we were actually planning a return visit even before the seaside town had fully receded from our rearview mirror. See, Asbury Park is a fairly forward-thinking community, particularly when it comes to cuisine. The sheer diversity is awe-inspiring. And those on a plant-based diet should take note: Asbury Park is a vegetarian and vegan paradise. Nearly every establishment offers numerous options for those with meat-free diets, and not just the perfunctory, scattershot items tossed on menus in a cynical attempt to appease those troublesome clients with dietary requirements. The following are three establishments that are must-visits:
Purple Glaze Donuts
It’s no secret that Justin loves him a good donut. And years of donut-devouring have led him to the discovery that he has a particular affinity for the cake variety. For the unenlightened, this is pretty much cake…that has been fried.
In our opinion, the plain cake donut, the most humble of donut varieties, is the true benchmark of artisanal aptitude. Well, as it turns out, the mother-and-son tag team behind Purple Glaze Donuts specializes in (you guessed it) cake donuts. And you know what? Purple Glaze has THE BEST cake donuts we’ve had. Ever. As in anywhere. Full stop. (Many people agree: they have been named one of the best donut shops in the country by several outlets.) Now, they offer some really inventive and tasty toppings and fillings here, and you should definitely try those, but make room for one with zilch-nada-nothing (plain), and ask them if you can get it straight out of the fryer.
There is also a separate–and equally robust–vegan menu offering powdered, iced, filled, and specialty donuts. For those with an intolerance to dairy, these must not be overlooked.
516 Summerfield Ave
Wed-Mon 7:30 am – 2:00 pm
When we read about Talula’s, we were a bit skeptical. There were just too many superlatives floating about. Sure, it was undeniably popular, but would that translate into good meal? Short answer: Yes. What you’ll fall in love with at Talula’s are the details: a list on the wall reflecting the sourcing of ingredients from local purveyors, an eclectic menu fearturing pizza, sandwiches, bowls and salads, in-house baked sourdough bread, cakes, pies and pastries, homemade vegan cheeses, and an addictive fermented chili sauce. Breakfast pizza is a thing here, and you’ll never question it again.
550 Cookman Ave #108
Mon-Thu 11:00 am-10:00 pm
Fri 11:00 am-12:00 am (bar & pizza only after 11:00 pm)
Sat 10:00 am-12:00 am (bar & pizza only after 11:00 pm)
Sun 10:00 am-9:00 pm
Kitchen is closed daily from 4:00 pm-5:00 pm
As we said above, summer is our excuse for ice cream errrday. And Cookman Creamery has you covered with imaginative flavors in traditional dairy, gluten free, dairy-free, and even sugar-free options. All the standard flavors apply, and there are lots of Ben and Jerry’s-esque candy-cookie amalgamations, but some of the more inventive flavors include a Devil’s Food with chocolate cake batter, activated coconut charcoal, and chocolate crunch, and the vegan soy sauce seaweed caramel (everyone just had to try it, but we don’t recall if anyone actually ordered it).
711 Cookman Ave
Mon-Thu 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Fri-Sat 12:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sun 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Asbury Park is just a 75-minute drive from New York City, and there are ample municipal and private parking lots around the area, so if you have access to a car, driving is a no-brainer.
Pro Tip: Download the Asbury PARK app, which allows you to pay for your parking using your smartphone, and also extend time on your meter remotely.
Now, if you don’t have access to a car, Asbury Park is accessible by the New Jersey Transit North Jersey Coast rail line, which leaves from Penn Station. The trip is a little under 2 hours long, still leaving plenty of time to enjoy everything this fun destination has to offer.
Pro Tip: New Jersey Transit offers a Beach Package that provides a small discount on the cost of a beach pass when purchased with a round-trip fare.
So get working on that summer playlist and stay tuned for more fun day trips from New York City!
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