Jack Antonoff of The Bleachers, rocked the stage at The...

Jack Antonoff of The Bleachers, rocked the stage at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  Credit: Chris Spiegel

When Bruce Springsteen was ready to cut his first album, backers wanted to promote him as an up-and-comer from New York City. He wasn’t having it. “Are you nuts?” he supposedly asked, wanting to be clear about his roots. “I’m from Asbury Park, New Jersey.” And thus, that album, “Greetings from Asbury Park,” launched Springsteen into the stratosphere.

Mere mortals go to the seaside New Jersey town for the beach, especially the renowned boardwalk, which is “so trendy, it hurts,” declares NJ.com, though the website still ranks it third in the state (after Ocean City and Wildwood). Built in the late 1800s to highlight the milelong beach, the boardwalk had an orchestra pavilion, public restrooms and a pier.

Asbury Park, New Jersey. offers visitors everything from beach, surf...

Asbury Park, New Jersey. offers visitors everything from beach, surf and live entertainment.  Credit: Madison Marquette LLC

The Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall, built in the late 1920s, added to the allure, and visitors came from all over the Eastern Seaboard. Springsteen is known for surprise appearances at the theater, which has hosted everyone from the Marx Brothers to Frank Sinatra. These days all you can do is admire the impressive Warren and Wetmore architecture, as both sites are closed while owners consider renovations. 

The city went through some gritty periods during the Depression and the civil rights movement , but the good times are back now, with the boardwalk and surroundings revitalized and drawing a young, hip crowd that comes for the beach and stays for the music. Here are some highlights to consider on your visit to the Garden State:

STONE PONY

See performances at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New...

See performances at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  Credit: The Stone Pony

Speaking of music, this should be your first stop. The club has been drawing fans since it opened in 1974, thanks in part to the popularity of the Blackberry Booze Band with Steve Van Zandt (who later left to join Springsteen’s E Street Band), and of course the occasional appearances by the Boss himself.

The Pony closed in 1998, but reopened in 2000 with Gov. Christine Todd Whitman declaring that “a visit to The Stone Pony has been considered a pilgrimage to rock ’n’ roll fans around the world.” Now partnered with Live Nation, the club’s Summer Stage concert series features Incubus on Aug. 8 and Almost Queen on Sept. 1.

INFO 913 Ocean Ave.; stoneponyonline.com, 732-502-0600      

WONDER BAR

You can’t miss the place, with its funky portrait of the town mascot “Tillie” smiling from the façade. And why should the humans have all the fun? This beachside nightclub and grill is known for Yappy Hour, where your pup can join you on a fenced deck to make new friends in the popular wading pools while you do the same (noon-6 p.m. when the club is open, but check the Facebook page for weather-related closures). At night, local and national bands take to the stage, where a giant dance floor beckons. 

INFO 1213 Ocean Ave.; 732-455-3767, wonderbarasburypark.com

SILVERBALL RETRO ARCADE

Go back to the future at this gamer’s paradise, where visitors can play nostalgic favorites like Skee Ball and Air Hockey, along with 600 rotating pinball games (like the boxing-themed Knockout). All games are set to free play so you can play for an hour, half a day or all day with admission price, no coins required. ($17.50 for an hour, $20 up to six hours, $25 all day, $5 non-player admission).

INFO 1000 Ocean Ave.; silverballmuseum.com, 732-774-4994.

 ASBURY LANES

You can bowl at this spot a couple of blocks from the beach, but you’re just as likely to go for the music or the food. Live concerts are scheduled for most summer weekends (The Warped Tour Band on Sept. 1, tickets $15) and the restaurant, a glorified diner actually, is celebrated for its updated classics and boozy milkshakes. (Bowling: $30 per half-hour, $5 shoe rentals)

INFO 209 4th Ave.; asburylanes.com, 732-361-6659

PARANORMAL BOOKS & CURIOSITIES 

Visitors can take tours, browse the bookstore and see exhibits/displays...

Visitors can take tours, browse the bookstore and see exhibits/displays at The Paranormal Books and Curiosities/ The Paranormal Museum in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Credit: Paranormal Books & Curiosities

Take a break from the music scene at this quirky bookstore that features everything that’s not, well, normal. Books cover subjects ranging from parapsychology to cryptozoological research, and special events include things like ghost-hunting classes and seances. Upstairs a museum offers guided tours of some of the museum’s artifacts (one-hour tour for up to six people starts at $120) or sign up for a 90-minute downtown ghost tour ($150 for up to 10 people, $15 for each additional person).

INFO 621 Cookman Ave.; paranormalbooksnj.com, 732-455-3188

WHERE TO EAT 

 As you might expect, there’s no shortage of burgers and other fast food in Asbury Park, but there are alternatives. Pascal & Sabine is a charming brasserie where Dover sole and escargot are on the menu (pascalandsabine.com, 732-774-3395); also on the fancier side, Heirloom at The St. Laurent, which is helmed by chef David Viana, formerly of Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan (thestlaurent.com, 732-795-2582). Ada's Gojjo serves an interesting mix of Ethiopian and Dominican food (adagojjo.com; 732-222-5005). Or live a little at Purple Glaze Donuts, where flavors include Good KarmaL (chocolate icing, Dulce de Leche filling, Heath bar bits) and Ring of Fire (vanilla icing, local hot pepper jelly filling by Holly Jolly Jams). (purpleglazedonuts.com, 732-361-5308).

WHERE TO STAY

The Asbury Ocean Club is a five-star hotel that overlooks...

The Asbury Ocean Club is a five-star hotel that overlooks the Atlantic and is located steps from the beach. Credit: Nikolas Koenig

The Asbury Ocean Club sits right on the beach in a luxurious, if starkly modern, 17-story tower that also houses condos. The pool deck fronts the ocean, and many rooms have a private patio. (A weekend room in August starts at $959; asburyoceanclub.com, 732-481-0706.)

Plan an overnight stay at The Asbury hotel, which features...

Plan an overnight stay at The Asbury hotel, which features a rooftop bar and views of the Jersey Shore. Credit: The Asbury Collection

Take the luxe down a notch at the Ocean Club’s sister property, The Asbury Hotel, a redbrick building that started as a Salvation Army location. The lobby bar, Soundbooth, has a robust schedule of local bands and there’s a rooftop cinema showing favorites like “Mean Girls” and “Moana.” (A weekend room in August starts at $493; theasburyhotel.com, 732-774-7100.)

For a great rate right on the beach, the Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel, has spacious rooms, a pool and a pizza place. (A weekend room in August starts at $364; berkeleyhotelnj.com, 855-797-8844.) 

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