Greetings from Asbury Park.

Mention the word “summertime” to any resident of New Jersey and one of the first things that will almost certainly come to mind are the state’s 130 miles of beaches on its eastern shore. If we were to create a word art of the Jersey Shore, we would include words such as cotton candy, arcades, salt water taffy, t-shirt shops, swimming, fudge, pizza, surf, pretzels, fishing, tanning, sand, lighthouses, souvenir stands, concerts, and most importantly… the boardwalk. New Jersey has the most boardwalks of any state in the nation. One of the oldest boardwalks in the state is located in Asbury Park, a seaside community established in 1871.

Built from the beginning as a resort town, Asbury Park was connected via railroad in the late 19th century to both New York and Philadelphia. At a time when cars were not commonly owned and mass transit was limited to major cities, by 1912 Asbury Park was hosting up to 200,000 visitors a year! As tastes changed and car ownership spread, other seaside resort towns became more popular, causing Asbury Park to languish through much of the middle of the twentieth century. However, the past several decades have seen a renaissance of the town, as it now has a vibrant restaurant, art, and music scene (via Wikipedia). On a beautiful summer day in July with temperatures in the mid 80’s, I set off for Asbury Park to explore this historic beach town.

Map of New Jersey with a pin in the location of Asbury Park.
Located 56 miles from New York City and 75 miles from Philadelphia, Asbury Park is still one of the most recognized seaside towns in New Jersey.
View of Route 18 from behind front windshield of car. A sign says Exit 10 B 66 West Freehold, Exit 10 A 66 East Asbury Park 1/4 Mile.
A full tank of gas, beautiful summer weather, and very little traffic… a perfect day to be a beach bum
2012 Honda Accord in front of condominiums in Asbury Park.
When I arrived at 10:15 am, I had my choice of parking spaces. When I returned to my car three hours later, every single space was in this lot was taken.
Exterior of The Stone Pony music hall. The awning over the front door reads THE STONE PONY ASBURY PARK NEW JERSEY USA.
My first stop was The Stone Pony. A music hall that first opened in 1973, it has seen many famous performances on its stage, but none more so than June 8, 1984, when New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen debuted his album Born in the USA with a rehearsal show before he began his world tour. You can read more about Springsteen’s connections to The Stone Pony in this article.
Exterior view of Wonder Bar, a bar and grill. The letters for Wonder Bar are alternating in red and blue on the marquis. A smiling face painting is on the chimney.
Not far away is Wonder Bar, a popular bar and restaurant. Besides concerts and good food, it’s known for “Yappy Hour” – a dog friendly Happy Hour in the outdoor tiki bar behind the building. The mural of the smiling face on the building’s chimney (left) is Tillie, a mural that adorned the Palace Amusements building in Asbury Park from 1955-2004. This painting is a replica, painted after Palace Amusements was torn down.
View of the Asbury Park Boardwalk, looking south.
The Asbury Park Boardwalk! Arriving early meant no crowds…
View of a Crepe shop, painted half pink and half white.
…but it also meant that many of the shops and restaurants were closed. I enjoyed the colorful decor of many of the shops on the boardwalk, however.
Exterior view of the ruins of the Asbury Park Casino.
At the southern end of the boardwalk is the Asbury Park Casino. Built in 1929, it was originally one of the premiere destinations in the city. Once was home to a casino, an arcade, stores, restaurants, and a carousel, declining usage saw it left abandoned by the early 1990s.
Mural of Amy Winehouse, with several other drawings around it.
Many public spaces in Asbury Park are covered in murals. This one of Amy Winehouse is on the outside of the Casino…
Mural of a Yellow Submarine. Words on the wall read YELLO SUB CIRCA 1969.
…as well as the mural which I’m pretty sure is a tribute to The Beatles. I’ll have more to say about the mural installations a little later in this post.
Carousel House in front of the Casino.
In the front of the casino is this carousel house. Built in 1932, this once held a carousel from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. The carousel was sold and moved to North Carolina. The space is now used by local theater companies for performances.
Interior of the casino, with scaffolding supporting the walls. Photos in the foreground show coming redevelopment to the casino district.
The interior of the casino is open to the public. Scaffolding has been erected to support the walls, and large photographs show ads for coming redevelopment.
Exterior of Cubacan Restaurant and Bar.
It was time for lunch! My wife, who had been to Asbury Park several times before, recommended that I try Cubacan, located on the boardwalk.
Empty table in front of window at restaurant that looks out to boardwalk and beach.
Arriving early, I was the very first customer of the day. I had the entire restaurant to myself for most of my meal. I enjoyed a great view of the boardwalk and the Atlantic Ocean.
IMG_9334
I went with the salad and a Cubano. My cuban sandwich was prepared traditionally: roast pork, glazed ham, swiss cheese, dill pickles, and yellow mustard are placed on egg bread, and then the sandwich is grilled on a plancha (similar to a panini press, but without the grooves).
Asbury Park Boardwalk, facing north. The Convention Hall is in the distance.
After a satisfying lunch, I headed north on the boardwalk.
View of Convention Hall from the boardwalk.
My next step was Convention Hall. Built in the late 1920s, the Convention Hall was intended to compete with Atlantic City’s Convention Hall and the newly opened Madison Square Garden in New York. Convention Hall is to the right, the Paramount Theater is to the left, and the Grand Arcade is between the two structures. Side note: Fans of the HBO series The Sopranos will recognize this view from Season 2 of the show, when Tony Soprano has a dream that is set here.
View of the Grand Arcade.
The Grand Arcade, which sits between Convention Hall and the Paramount Theater.
Convention Hall Billboard showing coming acts.
Convention Hall is still in use to this day. Acts that have performed here over the years include: The Beach Boys, The Doors, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, The Rolling Stones, The Temptations, The Dave Clark Five, Led Zeppelin (who chose to play here rather than attend Woodstock), Van Halen, Peter Gabriel, Ray Charles, Judas Priest, The Clash, No Doubt, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Eat World, Tiesto, and of course, Bruce Springsteen.
Granite plaque in front of the Paramount Theater commemorating the SS Morro Castle Disaster.
In 1934, the ocean liner Morro Castle, bound for Cuba, caught fire off the coast of Asbury Park. Over 130 passengers and crew members died in the blaze. The burning wreck of the ship drifted and beached itself beside the convention center (as is pictured on the sign). Many of the regulations regarding shipboard safety, such as automatic fire doors and ship-wide fire alarms, were created after this disaster (via Wikipedia).
View of the boardwalk, facing north. A building covered in murals is on the left.
As I proceeded further north, an abandoned building caught my eye.
Abandoned Building covered in murals. A large mural of a bird with its wings spread dominates the building.
The Wooden Walls Project is an art installation of 28 murals across the Asbury Park boardwalk. It has been featured in major news outlets such as The New York Times, the Guardian, and Conde Nast Traveler.
View of murals and boardwalk.
The project started in 2015 to place art on abandoned buildings in Asbury Park. These murals are on the Sunset Pavilion.
Four circles, arranged in a box formation, with shapes within them on the walls of the building.
1800 Degrees Fahrenheit by Tony Sjöman.
Close-up view of 1800 Degrees Fahrenheit mural.
As I moved closer to it, I was fascinated by the lines and shapes within each circle of the mural.
Mural filled with numbers, black type on white background.
This mural, by artist James Vance, is filled with numbers that have personal meaning to him.
Portrait of a bird on a white background that stretches across two sections of wall.
Untitled by the Brazilian artist L7Matrix (his signature is to the right of the mural).
Murals on white wall including an eye in a blue face, three women wearing hats of flowers, and a woman, holding a raven and a boombox.
The Wooden Walls Project was the most unexpected, and coolest, part of my trip.

While I have spent my life visiting the southern beach towns of New Jersey, I was very pleased with my time in Asbury Park. After decades of decline, it is certainly a city on the rebound. The Wooden Walls Project is free and open to the public year round. I was not able to find a map of all the murals, so you will need to simply spend time wandering through the boardwalk until you find all 28! The beaches of Asbury are clean and not over-crowded, and the shops and restaurants provide you with friendly service and affordable fare. If you are driving along the Garden State Parkway, Asbury Park is definitely worth a stop.

Thanks for coming along on another journey down the open road ahead!

‘Til next time.

 

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Greetings from Asbury Park.

  1. So much color and art in that town! I never knew coastal New Jersey had so much culture. Early bird gets the worm, too. You had primo parking and top notch service for being such an early arriver. The only trip I’ve taken to coastal NJ was to Atlantic City years ago for a music festival. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post! Yeah, I was very surprised by the murals and art installations… very different, and unique to Asbury Park. During the summertime, the rule at the Jersey Shore is arrive early and leave early. Otherwise, you’re fighting crowds.

      I hope NALM is going well!

      Like

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