Asbury Park, New Jersey, US.
Before pulling its (knee) socks up and reshaping into the east coast's modern-day indie-music mecca, Asbury Park's reputation had sunk below the waters lapping Jersey Shore's Ocean Avenue. Things weren't going well in 1973, when its bleak streets were the inspiration behind Bruce Springsteen's Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, a debut album rife with steel-grey songs eulogising small-town America. Two decades later, and pinky-ringed, Prozac-and-prosciutto-ed-out mobster Tony Soprano experienced food poisoning-induced hallucinations of talking fishes and FBI informants on Asbury's boardwalk. By the time 2013 swung around, that same boardwalk had been wiped out by Hurricane Sandy.
Talula's, left, and Carousel House. | Photo credit: Joe Benning / Shutterstock
But just as Springsteen and his E Street Band set off on their 2023 tour (stopping in their native state in April), the tides are rolling back in Asbury's favour, with a new wave of indie appreciation setting the city in motion. Around an hour's train ride from Manhattan, Asbury Park is becoming a sanctuary from New York City for mulleted Bushwick hipsters, who happily rub shoulders with Asbury's other unexpected community: the Jersey Shore's LGBTQ+ crowd. With local haunts repainted and restored to honour the area's history, and the new kids tuning in to watch a parade of billed artists reviving the east coast indie scene, this Jersey Shore destination is proving there's much more to it than just Snooki and Springsteen.
Some music. Asbury Park's iconic The Stone Pony holds a summer-long beachside party each year. Acts lined up for the 2023 summer stage include The B-52s and the Pixies. You'll want to get down to Asbury Lanes, too. The bowling alley and concert hall is known for hosting up-and-coming musicians and underground artists. Wondering where the crowd found their kicks? Cookman Avenue is known for its vintage stores: try Rebel Supply Co, Backward Glances and Nostalgia Factory.
Asbury Park buildings. | Photo credit: Georgie Wirt / Shutterstock
Where to stay?
The renovated red-brick landmark The Asbury Hotel, where light-filled, minimalist rooms have black-and-white images of Asbury's rock'n'roll history on the walls. Book a shorefront one for Atlantic views.
Where to go for dinner?
Get a taste of Jersey Shore's rich Italian-American history at pizzerias such as Talula's, Porta and The Galley, or head to Stella Marina for an upscale Italian menu served up right atop the boardwalk.
And for a drink…
Get your indie fix at Wonder Bar, a 1950s-inspired live-music hangout with candy-striped red-and-white awnings. Note the town's unofficial mascot, Tillie, painted as a mural outside. In 2015, Springsteen played a secret show here, and stopped by last summer to celebrate the venue's 20th anniversary.
The Asbury Hotel
Who to take with you?
A friend who wears an unironic Tony Soprano T-shirt and listens to Elliott Smith. Bonus points if they own a pair of Dr Martens.
Essentials to pack
This plush cotton Cosmic Rainbow towel from Bathing Culture. Despite the negative stigma evoked by Snooki and Seaside Heights on MTV's Jersey Shore, the local beaches are clean, serene and perfect for extended stints on the sands.
How to get there
Fly with British Airways to Newark Airport. From there, it's a 50-minute drive down to the Shore. The NJ Transit train also runs hourly from "the City" (New York City in Shore local talk).
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