Budget Travel Magazine this month named New Jersey’s Asbury Park, as the “coolest, small town in the United States.” So, I decided to revisit the coastal town, roughly 60 miles from New York City. I reserved at The Asbury, a hotel located at 210 5th Avenue, that opened about a year ago.
The 110-room beachside lodging, converted from an old Salvation Army Building, was the first hotel built in Asbury Park in 50 years.
At the hotel, a music theme prevails. In the lobby, an 18-foot wide wall of shelves houses LPs, cassettes and a turntable. Music-themed books dot shelves. Song titles decorate walls. And live bands play music.
While the music was entertaining, the check-in process hit a sour note. I had a 3pm reservation but didn’t get into my final room until nearly 5PM. Once I unlocked the door to the first room I was shown, I found other guests’ suitcases in the room. I was quickly escorted back downstairs to the lobby for another half-hour wait before being show to my final room. (There appeared to be only two hotel employees checking-in guests–including a blonde male and a woman with a cheap red wig. They are woefully understaffed.)
Upstairs, the light gray hallways match grey carpeting with a multicolored abstract design. Yellow-framed doorways open up to generously-sized light-filled rooms with industrial, blonde wood furniture.
Vintage black-and-white images from Asbury Park beach scenes decorate the walls. In room 427, my windows provided an oceanside view.
Once settled into the room, I tried to shower. Malin + Goetz shampoo, conditioner and shower gel dipsensers hang from the walls. There was just one problem: No shower gel came out of the dispenser. (Note to cleaning staff: Check all dispensers when cleaning to make sure they are full. The good news: There was plenty of toilet paper!)
Later, I went up to the Salvation rooftop bar where a local band was playing live music, mostly covers. Hotel guests lounged on outdoor furniture sipping a variety of cocktails including the hotel’s signature drink, The Asbury, made from Tequila, fresh watermelon, lime and club soda.
If you want to get a feel of the town, the boardwalk and beach are less than a three-block from the hotel. You make a right out of the entrance and walk about a half block to Kingsley Street, then another block to Ocean and another block to the boardwalk.
The boardwalk seems like the town’s emotional center where you see a variety of people: heterosexual and homosexual couples, millennials, Generation Xers, Baby Boomers, retirees, African-Americans, Caucasians, Latinos, Orthodox Jewish families and Asians strolling and enjoying ocean air. Along the boardwalk, you can get waffles and cream, ice cream, coffee, funnel cake, pretzels from local mom-and-pop shops.
At the end of the boardwalk, you will find Stella Marina, an upscale restaurant. try the Eggplant Parmesan ($16), the Scottish Salmon ($29) and the Margherita Pizzetta ($17).
Just off the boardwalk on my way back to the hotel, I checked out an iconic Asbury Park spot: The Stone Pony, a music venue where Bruce Springstein performed in the earlier days of his career. The venue still boasts a robust lineup of live music acts. On another visit, I plan to actually go in and check out the music!
The next morning, I wanted to kick back and unwind so I headed down to the pool. Yellow lounge chairs and a few cabanas surround the pool. Blue hydrangeas in mutlicolored barrels provide a touch of foliage. A sophisticated sound system streams an eclectic mix of tunes infusing the pool area with lounge-like feel.
The hotel is family-friendly. Children splashed away in the pool playing Tag. So, if you are kid-averse, the pool may not be the most relaxing place for you. But, if you don’t mind hearing kids take turns being “it” in games of tag, you will enjoy chillaxin’ by the pool.
Before I knew it, my visit to Asbury Park was wrapping up. Checking out was easier than checking in and the hotel staff made amends for the clumsy check-in.
So, if you want to check out a new town with a laid-back vibe, live music scene, great food and a beach and boardwalk, head to Asbury Park.
That’s the Lowdown!
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