Urban decay, cold brew, and a thrilling live music scene make the Asbury Park boardwalk one of the most interesting weekend trips from New York City.
Stepping off the train in Asbury Park, you may think you’ve stumbled on a little slice of Brooklyn in New Jersey, with chic boutiques, hip cocktail bars, locavore restaurants, and a thriving LGBTQ community. Asbury Park was cool way before Williamsburg was cool, from the 1920s, when the boardwalk was home to a glamorous casino, to the 1970s, when Bruce Springsteen played legendary shows at the Stone Pony. However, post-Springsteen Asbury Park was a little bit depressing. Urban development that repaired damage from 2012’s Hurricane Sandy has changed everything, and now the buzzing beach town is home to hip hotels, vintage finds, and some of the best pizza on the East Coast. The crown jewel of Asbury Park is the boardwalk, where abandoned buildings have become a canvas for street artists, and independent boutiques and restaurants have set up shop. This hipster boardwalk is a far cry from the family-friendly cheesy beachside attractions you might find elsewhere in New Jersey.
Hipsters Love: Urban Decay
While Asbury Park’s abandoned waterfront buildings felt a little creepy in the days before its second renaissance, now the empty carousel building, steam heating plant, and decrepit casino smack dab in the middle of all the action feel like an artsy reminder of the city’s past. The empty carousel building, a beautiful Beaux-Arts building, is sometimes home to skateboard competitions and local theater. While there are plans to renovate the buildings (actor Danny DeVito is supposedly involved), for now, there’s a feeling of urban exploration about the place.
Hipsters Love: Nitro Brew
No decent hipster hangout is complete without an artsy independent coffee shop, and High Voltage has you covered. With a location right on the boardwalk, it’s the perfect place for a mid-morning nitro brew and avocado toast, an afternoon cold brew, or a hangover-curing banana coffee shake. The inside is decorated like a magazine spread, with furniture that appears scavenged from a very chic garage sale and plants covering every available surface.
Hipsters Love: Street Art
Like any good hipster haven, Asbury Park has an impressive array of street art painted across abandoned buildings, construction scaffolding, and local businesses. More fine art than graffiti, the colorful creations make a perfect backdrop for Instagram photos and lend a fun vibe throughout the boardwalk.
Hipsters Love: Music and Festivals
Asbury Park is most famous for its music scene, and that’s one thing that hasn’t changed over the years. Yes, the Stone Pony is still there, hosting tribute bands like Start Making Sense (a Talking Heads cover band) and throwback bands like Ben Folds Five in the bar and on the outdoor summer stage, right on the boardwalk. The Paramount Theater and the Convention Hall, also located on the boardwalk, host a variety of shows from Elvis Costello to the Hip Hop Nutcracker Christmas special. Asbury Park is also host to a slew of festivals, ranging from beachy summer tunes to film festivals to tattoo conventions.
Hipsters Love: Kimchi Tacos
What happens when you combine the two trendiest foods of the moment? Delicious, nutritious kimchi tacos. With locations in town and on the boardwalk, MOGO serves wonderful fusion creations that far outshine your standard boardwalk hotdog. At the standup counter on the boardwalk, you choose your protein (fish, chicken, beef, pork, tofu, or shrimp) and then choose your sides and presentation (in a bowl, burrito, or taco). Don’t forget your kimchi topping.
Hipsters Love: Bringing Their Dogs to Bars
There’s only one way drinking outdoors could be made better, and that’s drinking outdoors while playing with dogs. At the iconic Wonder Bar’s famous Yappy Hour, dogs are the stars of the show. Bring your dog, bring your friend’s dog, or just show up to pet some dogs. (Be sure to ask first).
INSIDER TIPSure, you might feel creepy showing up dogless to a dog bar, but it’s chill.
Hipsters Love: Oysters
In the Convention Center on the Boardwalk, Asbury Oyster Bar serves everybody’s favorite raw shellfish in a surprisingly sophisticated setting. The wood-paneled bar and soft lighting give off some old-school Jersey vibes, while those who like a little natural light with their seafood can dine semi-alfresco right on the boardwalk, underneath the grand arched hallway of the Convention Center. Along with oysters, you’ll find the usual suspects like clams, shrimp, crab, and mussels (and a killer Bloody Mary made with clamato).
Hipsters Love: Boutique Hotels
The people who created The Asbury certainly did their research on how to make people have a good time: Rooftop bar? Check. Outdoor movie theater? Check. Pool with cabanas and a frozen cocktail menu? Check. Blackout curtains for those who might have partied too hard the night before? Check. The minimalist-chic decor is bright, airy, and Scandinavian without feeling too sparse. Steps from the boardwalk, it’s the best place to stay for easy access to the hippest place in the Jersey Shore.
Hipsters Love: Crystals and Smudge Sticks
There’s no doubt that crystals are having a ~moment~ right now, and Asbury Park is, of course, on top of the trend. Inside the Convention Hall on the boardwalk, a few vendors and small stores have set up, one of which is Big Spoon Little Spoon, a shop dedicated to all things “woo-woo”. This is where you’ll find your tie-dye bucket hats, your sage bundles, your handmade soaps and essential oils, and of course, your crystals, gems, minerals, and polished rocks.
Hipsters Love: Ironic Nostalgia
Sure, all this jazzy new stuff is luring in the cool kids, but you know what can’t be replicated? Asbury Park’s authentic, gritty past, which will never go out of style. While much of the carnival-esque qualities of the boardwalk’s past have been toned down for a more sophisticated audience, there’s still one place that feels like it hasn’t changed at all. At the Silverball Museum and Pinball Hall of Fame, you can feel like a kid again while spending your hard-earned quarters playing on machines that are older than you.
Hipsters Love: A Small Town With Soul
Of course the boardwalk here is hip, but that’s thanks in large part to a small town that is making waves. You can’t visit the boardwalk without walking the 15 minutes into the town of Asbury Park to check out what all the hype is about: vintage shopping at Backward Glances, possibly America’s best pizza at Talula’s, chic boutiques like Red Moon, craft cocktails at Middle Eastern-inspired Reyla, and a truly authentic funky vibe.