Your Guide to Visiting Asbury Park in the Fall

Visit in autumn for the Boss, a bustling boardwalk and a foodie’s paradise.

asbury park

The lobby of the Asbury in Asbury Park. Photograph by Nikolas Koenig

With its retro-cool vibe and eclectic year-round music, art, retail and restaurant culture, this famous little Shore town has become, as one local told the New York Times, like “Brooklyn on the beach.”

Where to Stay

The buzziest spot around is the Asbury, a 2016 addition that helped push Asbury’s rather recent resurgence as The Coolest Jersey Shore Town into hyperdrive. The hotel, a former Salvation Army boardinghouse, has 110 rooms, a pool and firepit, and a handful of places to eat and drink, including a rooftop lounge, and the Baronet, a “carless drive-in” movie theater on a sixth-floor terrace. (Also worth noting, even as COVID has shuttered the place until next spring, is the super-luxe Asbury Ocean Club, a five-star boutique hotel that debuted in 2019 and is loaded with views and perks like a yoga room, guided beach runs, and a glass-walled drawing room with beautiful views and a cozy lounge.) Of course, lots of people go the rental route. Cottages along the town’s placid Deal Lake offer the best of all Asbury worlds — a peaceful place to kayak or just kick back that’s also within easy biking or walking distance of downtown’s hustle-bustle and the beach.

What to Do

The town Springsteen made famous is still all about the music — and regardless of what the concert lineup may (or may not, sigh) look like this fall, you’ll at least want to wander by the iconic Stone Pony (for the photo op) and almost-as-iconic Wonder Bar (for the dog-friendly Yappy Hour). While you’re wandering, you’ll find that the boardwalk is great for people-watching, noshing, drinking; you might even add a stop at the Silverball Museum, whose 1930s pinball machines are a cool little twist on the usual Shore arcade. Off the boards, spend some time on happening Cookman Avenue and burgeoning Bangs Avenue, great for gallery-hopping and memorable shopping. (For starters: chic boutique Interwoven, Hold Fast Records for vinyl of all stripes, and Patriae for handwoven textiles sourced from the owner’s native Slovakia.) Another highlight: Kur Wellness Studio, a wellness spa with an intriguing menu of ayurvedic massages.

asbury park

Pizza at Talula’s in Asbury Park. Photograph by Michael Persico

Where to Eat

Take your pick, foodies. For sushi, it’s all about lively, loungy Taka. Locals also swear by Talula’s for chewy Neopolitan-style pizzas and a solid wine collection; Reyla for modern Mediterranean and special cocktails; Mogo for lunchtime Korean-fusion tacos; and Nettie’s House of Spaghetti, a throwback Italian spot in Tinton Falls with an Art Deco vibe and sumptuous pasta dishes. Finally, for a special night out or in, consider Heirloom Kitchen in nearby Old Bridge: The James Beard-nominated chef, David Viana, offers a standout four-course prix-fixe seasonal menu; even his family-style takeout is gorgeously plated. Word to the wise: Asbury stays busy well into winter months … which means you’ll want to consider reservations at many spots.

Where to Drink

Feeling Oktoberfestive? Go for pretzels and spaetzle and seasonal draughts at the sprawling Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten. A few blocks away, on the boardwalk, the Watermark’s terrace is a popular spot for a cocktail, in part thanks to its perfect views of the ocean and the Stone Pony scene directly below it, though if you’re very serious about views with your drinks, Salvation at the top of the Asbury is pretty hard to beat. And Pascal & Sabine is a lovely brasserie for an alfresco drink and a cheese plate.

Point of Pride

The town’s vibrant LGBTQ+ community is evident in its slew of gay-owned, gay-friendly businesses (including local fave Paradise, a nightclub known for dancing, drag shows and “bitchy bingo”). The unofficial gay beach is at 5th Avenue, a stone’s throw from Convention Hall.

Don’t Miss

Cross Wesley Lake to Ocean Grove, a quaint, quirky town founded as a Methodist retreat in 1869. It’s still religious (and, gasp, dry), with a 6,000-seat wooden auditorium — complete with pipe organ — serving as its centerpiece. The place is also known for its stunning Victorian manses, adorable Main Avenue, fall craft markets, and the tent-bungalows that are a summer tradition among vacationers.

Published as “Asbury Park” in the “Off Season” guide to the Shore in the September 2020 issue of Philadelphia magazine.