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Reclaiming the Jersey Shore
Until late last year, it was hard to imagine how New Jersey's image could get much worse. Bon Jovi, 148 miles of turnpike, The Sopranos, Real Housewives—it all added up to a big-haired, acid-washed caricature of the state. Those of us from Jersey could do little more than shrug and laugh. I mean, Whaddayagonnado? But then, in December, MTV unleashed Jersey Shore. The wildly popular reality show, whose second season debuts this month, follows the summer-rental adventures of eight overtanned, overmuscled, undereducated young people in the shore town of Seaside Heights. No matter that "Snooki," "The Situation," and the rest of the cast mostly hail from places like Staten Island and The Bronx: It seemed that the trashiest place on earth had found the mascots it deserved. For someone who actually grew up on the shore, MTV's live-action cartoon was one insult too many. My fondest memories are dusted with sand and clotted with saltwater taffy. And while Bruce Springsteen's "carnival life on the water" might have been an overly romantic depiction even in the best of times, it was still my romance. I'll admit that the Jersey burbs can verge on the generic, but the 130 miles of beaches and towns along the coast are all color, from the wilderness of Sandy Hook to bed-and-breakfast-studded Cape May. And as I've been hearing, two of the shore's best-known towns—the once-glittering resorts of Asbury Park and Long Branch, both in my native Monmouth County—are in the midst of unexpected revivals. So as any spurned local might, I grabbed my fiancée, Jen, hopped a ferry from Manhattan to Atlantic Highlands, near Sandy Hook, and set out on a journey to redeem my home state's battered reputation. Of all the towns on the Jersey shore, Asbury Park is the most famous—and not necessarily for good reasons. Over the span of a few decades, the city transformed from flashy resort to gritty rock-music mecca to poster child for urban decay. Yet when Jen and I pull into town, it's as if history has somehow reversed itself. Our first stop is Convention Hall, just off the boardwalk. The hulking beaux arts structure was built with Jazz Age exuberance in 1929 to house acts like Benny Goodman and the Marx Brothers. Terra-cotta sea horses and serpents swim over its brick-and-limestone façade, and a copper model boat sits at its peak, a memorial to a cruise ship that ran aground here in 1934. Just three years ago, the venue, which once hosted the Doors, Janis Joplin, and the Who, was visibly falling apart, rotting in the salt air after years of neglect. But today, thanks to extensive restoration, it gleams like new and draws a fresh crop of big names—from Jeff Beck to Tony Bennett—to its adjacent Paramount Theatre. Over on the boardwalk, things are spiffed up and the same all at once. In a storefront, I spot the visage of Tillie, a leering, Alfred E. Neuman–like clown who is the closest thing Asbury has to a mascot; the character even inspired protests when a building with his image on it was torn down a few years ago. At the site of a once tragicomically decrepit Howard Johnson (TV host and chef Anthony Bourdain visited in 2005 and was afraid to order anything more elaborate than a grilled cheese), we duck into the bustling McLoone's Asbury Grille for a Bloody Mary before heading down the boardwalk to the Silver Ball Museum—home to 100 or so vintage pinball machines. Inside, it's a riot of bells and clanking metal, and we hand over $7.50 apiece for 30 minutes of unlimited play. In some senses, the story of Asbury Park's revival can be told through the Hotel Tides, where we're staying the night. Tucked away on a residential street, the hotel is an unlikely labor of love, as I learn when I meet co-owner Martin Santomenno. A real estate investor who was once maître d' at the World Trade Center's Windows on the World, Santomenno, along with a few partners, converted a dowdy guesthouse into a modern 20-room boutique hotel. "It started as a minor renovation, then it turned into a minor rehab, and then a major rehab," he recalls with a laugh. An airy lobby now doubles as a gallery that showcases work by Asbury-based artists. The rooms are smartly designed, with iPod docks, ultra-high-thread-count Anichini sheets, and rain-forest showers with river-rock floors. Santomenno began weekending in Asbury in 2001, a couple of years after a residential resurgence led largely by the gay and lesbian community. Attracted to Asbury by its cheap real estate, broad beach, and the 90-minute drive to New York City, these new residents bought big, run-down houses and restored them piece by piece. As the community grew, home owners lobbied for civic improvements and eventually opened businesses. Their vision of Asbury isn't just about tradition: Santomenno is far more excited about the time composer Philip Glass stopped by the hotel than when Springsteen's people scouted his house for a music video. "We consider ourselves a cultural center," he says. "People come to Asbury for the music, the art, and the food, not just for the beach. Right before last summer, 21 new businesses opened—we're keeping mom-and-pop stores alive." If Hotel Tides is a look at Asbury's future, then Vini "Maddog" Lopez is a part of its past. The original drummer in Springsteen's E Street Band (E Street is an actual road in Belmar, just to the south), Lopez joins us for breakfast the next morning at Frank's, a 50-year-old diner on Asbury's Main Street that, in his words, "has good mud." Lopez, grizzled and friendly, holds tight to his history: He currently plays in Steel Mill Retro, a band that re-creates the long-lost songs of the late '60s, pre–E Street days. He happily shares stories of nights at long-vanished clubs like the Student Prince and the Upstage, but he's quick to dismiss Springsteen's more fanciful visions of the city, heard in songs about wooing girls under the boardwalk. "There were rats underneath there," Lopez says. After saying our good-byes, Jen and I swing past Cookman Avenue, an up-and-coming stretch with an indie theater (think obscure and Swedish films) and some posh boutiques like Shelter Home, a home furnishings store co-owned by a textile designer who works on Broadway productions. From there, we turn our sights south. For 20 miles we bump through coastal towns like Belmar, Manasquan, and Point Pleasant, and then cut onto the Barnegat Peninsula, a spit of sand separating the Atlantic from Barnegat Bay, as we approach Seaside Heights, the now infamous home of Jersey Shore. For months, I've been hearing people talk about Seaside Heights as if it's some anthropology experiment, a case study in bumping clubs and boardwalk fights. But when we pull into town, it's clear that stereotypes don't hold. Instead of alcohol-fueled chaos, we find an unpretentious, kid-friendly resort town full of little cottages crowded up to the coast. It's not yet prime season, so things are pretty quiet. We pass the police station, where at least one Jersey Shore cast member was locked up, and cruise by Club Karma, now famous for cheap shots and dance music. Yet by the beach, it's as if the show never existed. A mini amusement park sits at either end of the mile-long boardwalk, and a Ferris wheel stands on a pier. Inside the 57-year-old Lucky Leo's Amusements, everything's familiar: the wooden skee ball lanes, the barker at the wheel of fortune, the paper tickets waiting to be traded for an endless selection of trinkets. The scene is timeless—a snapshot from the classic American summer—and it stands in contrast to our final destination, Long Branch. In many ways, Long Branch is the original shore town. The city began as a fashionable destination in the 1860s—well before Asbury or Seaside—starting with a visit from Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Honest Abe. Then, like many other towns, it settled into prolonged decay. The final blow came in 1987, when the amusement complex on its pier (including a haunted mansion I never mustered the courage to enter) burned to the ground. All that remained were a few sad little arcades, seedy strip clubs, and the occasional music venue. That could've been it for Long Branch, but five years ago a local developer rebuilt the boardwalk and pier. Unlike the grassroots refurbishment of Asbury, the result here is a slick retail and residential complex called Pier Village, complete with upscale restaurants and bars, a bookstore, and a Gold's Gym (where we work out the next morning on treadmills facing the ocean). The Bungalow Hotel is one of the latest additions to Pier Village. The white-on-white rooms are hardly a bargain at $199, but given the fact that they could pass for ones at a $500-a-night Miami resort, they seem a worthy splurge, with South Beach–inspired faux fireplaces, faux-cowhide chairs, and Apple TV. With all the driving that afternoon, Jen and I had skipped lunch, so we immediately walk to Avenue, a glass-and-steel oceanfront restaurant that attracts young, hip-for-Jersey patrons—and at the moment, too many of them. The place is packed for happy hour. Instead of waiting, we decide to retreat inland. A few blocks from the beach, the flash of Pier Village mellows, and old-school Italian restaurants and simple hot dog stands remain as bulwarks against the city's new image. We opt for Tuzzio's, a squat brick-and-stucco establishment across from a dry cleaner. The crowd here (families of six and elderly couples) is anything but hip, and the same goes for the decor, highlighted by a stained-glass version of the restaurant's logo and gold-mirrored beer-company signs. But the leather booths are inviting, the vibe couldn't be warmer, and the food is a throwback: rich sausage and peppers in marinara sauce, and salad with special house dressing, a distinctly tangy blue-cheese vinaigrette. "If you don't like it," the grandmotherly waitress says with a smile, "I'll bring you something else." Back at the boardwalk, we eventually return to Avenue, which has quieted down. We sit at the polished-steel bar, where I get a dirty martini and a few oversize shrimp from the raw bar—we did skip lunch, after all. Jazz remixes play from overhead speakers. I bite into a shrimp, sip my martini, and feel a pleasant sense of disorientation. This is definitely not Snooki's Jersey Shore. It's not Bruce's, or at least not the one he sings about. It's not really mine, either. But for the moment, I'll take it. LODGING Hotel Tides, Restaurant & Spa 408 7th Ave., Asbury Park, hoteltides.com, from $95 Bungalow Hotel 50 Laird St., Long Branch, bungalowhotel.net, from $199 FOOD McLoone's Asbury Grille 1200 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park, mcloonesasburygrille.com, entrées from $8 Frank's Deli & Restaurant 1406 Main St., Asbury Park, 732/775-6682, sandwiches from $3 Avenue 23 Ocean Ave., Long Branch, leclubavenue.com, entrées from $16 Tuzzio's Italian Cuisine 224 Westwood Ave., Long Branch, tuzzios.com, entrées from $11 Max's Famous Hot Dogs 25 Matilda Terrace, Long Branch, maxsfamoushotdogs.com, from $3 ACTIVITIES Convention Hall Ocean Ave. between Asbury and Sunset Aves., Asbury Park, apboardwalk.com Silver Ball Museum 1000 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park, silverballmuseum.com, 30 minutes' unlimited play $7.50 Lucky Leo's Amusements 315 Boardwalk, Seaside Heights, luckyleosamusements.com Pier Village 1 Chelsea Ave., Long Branch, piervillage.com SHOPPING Shelter Home 704 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park, shelterhome.com
To Go or Not to Go: 2013
Intrepid travelers like to push their limits—they'll test their stamina, language skills, and culinary daring in far-flung destinations around the globe. But we don't like to see anyone risk their personal safety on an ill-researched sojourn. So, each year Budget Travel gives you the lowdown on some spots that should, at least for the near term, stay on your "don't bother" list, some that are a definite "maybe," and a few that you may be surprised to hear get a definite "yes." SEE THE DESTINATIONS! Jersey Shore Sure, you know that Superstorm Sandy hit the New Jersey coastline last fall, tearing up boardwalks, hotels, vacation homes, and beaches. What you may not know, however, is that "the shore" will be open for business this summer. In fact, Lori Pepenella, Long Beach Island's destination marketing coordinator, recently told the Newark Star-Ledger, "As businesses are investing and rebuilding, we're getting the message out that we're open right now." While rebuilding post-Sandy is a challenge, especially for areas such as Seaside Heights, whose boardwalk sustained serious damage, New Jersey's $38 billion hospitality industry depends on a thriving shore and everyone is sprinting toward a successful Memorial Day weekend. For those of you who thought this might be the summer to skip New Jersey's miles of family-friendly beaches, legendary boardwalks and amusement parks, and notorious party scene, local boosters are working hard to change your mind: Atlantic City is telling anyone who will listen that contrary to rumor, its boardwalk was not destroyed by the hurricane, and Long Beach Island has produced a video to promote its open-for-business status at visitlbiregion.com. There's no quick fix, and the reopening of seaside businesses is only part of the to-do list (for the shore to truly roar back, neighboring vacation homes and hotels will have to be in good repair as well), but if optimism and hard work can carry the day, you should probably start making your Memorial Day weekend reservations... now! To Go or Not to Go: Go. Cuba For those of us who grew up during the Cold War, the question may still seem fanciful: Want to visit Cuba? But whereas the Caribbean island was once off-limits except to the most adventurous of American travelers (who would typically enter Mexico or Canada before flying to Cuba), it is now possible for U.S. citizens to see this amazing country by booking with a licensed tour operator that performs "people-to-people" trips. A package will include interaction with Cubans and classes in Cuban culture and history and should also include a visa, airfare, hotel, meals, and an experienced tour guide. They don't come cheap—week-long trips are often more than $2,000 per person—but are the best way to ensure that you comply with U.S. law and that you see the island in the safest way. While accurate crime statistics are not available from Cuba yet, the U.S. Department of State cautions visitors to be alert for pickpocketing, purse-snatching, and burglaries, but traveling with a licensed people-to-people tour guide will help minimize any danger. To Go or Not to Go: Go, if you can afford a U.S.-approved people-to-people tour. Spain It's a sign of the economic times that a nation of Spain's stature could even make our list of questionable destinations. The final quarter of 2012 saw Spain's economic output drop 1.8 percent compared with last year, its worst performance since the global economic meltdown of 2009. As the country embraced an austerity program to bring down its budget deficit, demonstrators took to the streets, often meeting an aggressive response from the police. In Barcelona, some demonstrators even demanded independence. It's important to keep all this in perspective, though: The U.S. Department of State has not issued a warning against visiting Spain, and the country still poses only the crime threats one might expect in any developed region: You need to be as aware of the potential for pickpocketing, mugging, and break-ins as you would when visiting, say, Italy or France. In addition, some of the advice the State Department has issued for visiting places like Greece and Israel, where the potential for spontaneous public demonstrations is high, should be heeded when visiting Spain: Stay away from demonstrations (they are not spectactor sports, and passersby have been swept up in police actions in Barcelona), and check with your hotel's concierge for updates on the potential for unrest in your destination. To Go or Not to Go: Go. Israel With some of the world's holiest sites, sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, Israel is a one-of-a-kind destination. From the ancient streets of Jerusalem to the nightlife of Tel Aviv, this is a place where the past rubs elbows with the present like no other. Unfortunately, all that elbow-rubbing comes with a downside, and Israel has been the scene of religious tension, terrorist attacks, and flat-out war over the course of its 60+ years. The U.S. Department of State strongly warns Americans not to visit the Gaza Strip and most areas of the West Bank (other than Jericho and Bethlehem), due to ongoing tensions and risks that can range from rock-throwing to rocket fire. On the other hand, major cities such as Haifa and Tel Aviv are as safe as any in the world, and Jerusalem, as long as you observe some common-sense rules, is an unforgettable experience that shouldn't be missed. While in Jerusalem, avoid street protests and approach religious sites with caution on holy days, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays because of potential congestion and security restrictions. As with any troubled region, you will feel most supported and informed if you travel with an experienced tour operator and stay in touch with the staff at your hotel about the potential for political and religious demonstrations. To Go or Not to Go: Go, but avoid the West Bank and Gaza. Mexico Yes, millions of U.S. citizens visit Mexico safely each year, but as the U.S. Department of State points out, it's best to stick to major cities such as Mexico City and popular resort areas such as Los Cabos and destinations in Quintana Roo such as Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, and Tulum, where the crime rate can actually be lower than in some U.S. cities. But more adventurous travelers should spend some time at state.gov reviewing the warnings about visiting border regions and some Mexican states (including Tamaulipas, Michoacan, Sonora, Chihuahua, and others) that have seen heavy drug-trafficking activity, including daytime gun battles, carjackings, and kidnappings. Regardless of where you travel in Mexico, be prepared for the same risks you might encountering when visiting any American city. To Go or Not to Go: Go, but only to major cities and resort towns. Japan 2012 saw an increase of 30 percent in tourism to Japan over the preceding year, according to the Japan National Tourist Organization. It's no wonder people stayed away in 2011: In March of that year the nation was rocked by the largest earthquake in its history, a magnitude 9 quake that destroyed buildings and triggered a tsunami on the island's northeast coast, causing the deaths of thousands and a meltdown at a major nuclear-power plant, including a release of dangerous radiation. But millions have returned to Japan in the past year, buoyed by the nation's swift recovery efforts. Today, major destinations such as Tokyo are completely safe and 2013 may even set a record for visitors. To Go or Not to Go: Go, as long as you avoid the area around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant. Egypt The political unrest that rocked Egypt two years ago, including public uprisings against then-president Hosni Mubarak, certainly put Egypt front-and-center on the world stage, and inspired some to delay travel plans to the north African nation. But sites such as the pyramids and Great Sphinx at Luxor, museums and historical sites in Cairo, and the beauty of the Lower Nile (now enjoying a resurgence in river cruises) still inspire waves of visitors, and the U.S. Department of State does not explicitly warn Americans away from Egypt. It does suggest that you stay away from public demonstrations, which can be unpredictable and sometimes turn violent. Visiting Egypt with an experienced tour guide, or staying in a major hotel whose concierge regularly monitors the potential for unrest, is your best bet. To Go or Not to Go: Go, but, for now, stick with well-trod tourist sites such as Cairo and Luxor. Greece There's no sugar-coating it: The economic downturn and austerity measures have inspired strikes and public demonstrations in Greece, especially in major squares in the capital city of Athens. While they are usually peaceful and pose no threat to the democratic government, some demonstrations have turned violent, including fire-bombings and vandalism. It's best to avoid ogling demonstrations because of their potential to turn ugly. Americans visiting Athens should be aware that anti-migrant sentiment can make some visitors targets of aggressive behavior—and even police sweeps. The U.S. Department of State especially cautions Americans of African, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern descent to be on guard because they may be mistaken for migrants. All Americans should carry a copy of a passport or photo ID at all times. That said, tourism to Greece is still a booming business—major hotels in Athens, resorts on the islands, and other destinations with knowledgeable staff and on-site security are not only safe but among the most rewarding vacation spots you could choose. To Go or Not to Go: Go to the islands, stick to the beaten path in Athens. Haiti When we say a travel destination "has it all," we usually don't mean crime, cholera, damaged infrastructure, and limited police and medical resources. Unfortunately, that is the situation in Haiti three years after a magnitude-7 earthquake demolished much of the already-impoverished nation (which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic), killing more than 300,000 people. While Haiti has spent billions just to maintain basic services, risks are high and resources for visitors are slim—traveling there as anything but a volunteer will only add to the strain. The U.S. Department of State warns that Americans have been victims of murder and kidnapping, including attacks on arriving visitors that have occurred right outside the Port-au-Prince airport. To Go or Not to Go: Don't go. Syria Sure, Syria boasts some of the most dramatic ruins and landmarks in the Middle East, but this one's a no-brainer: "No part of Syria should be considered immune from violence," reports the U.S. Department of State, warning Americans not to visit the troubled nation (and those Americans who remain in Syria are urged to leave immediately). Anti-government activity and the Syrian government's use of deadly force—including aerial bombing of civilian areas, armed clashes between government and opposition groups, and the arrest, detention, and torture of individuals—have made Syria one of the most dangerous places on earth. And once inside, it can be difficult to get a flight out or to cross the border into neighboring countries, which include Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel. To Go or Not to Go: Don't go.
5 Things To Do In Seaside Park, NJ
Summer in New York City often means endless chatter about trips to the East End of Long Island and tooth-grinding preparation for an appearance in the Hamptons. But if your style is a bit more mid-century chill—when all a harried city-dweller needed was a tattered paperback, a low-slung beach chair and absolutely no one to impress—consider Seaside Park, NJ. Settled in 1874, this sleepy beach town along the Atlantic Ocean doesn't even fill one square mile on the map. And while it’s geographically close to Seaside Heights—made infamous by MTV’s “Jersey Shore” series—Seaside Park is worlds away from its fist-pumping frenzy. Stay in a roomy vacation rental—for less Since Seaside Park has yet to become a tourist trap, you won’t find any hotels on this slim barrier island town, only a few motels of debatable quality. Instead, opt for a private home rental by the weekend, week, or month. Find an oceanfront house or a quaint little bungalo with a view of Barnegat Bay. Check out area listings on HomeAway.com or Airbnb, or call local, in-the-know realtors like Arthur Rue or Appleby Realty. With a bit of fortitude and search savvy, you can find roomy two-bedroom rentals for four for as low as $50 per person per night. Feast on local favorites & indulge on homemade ice cream There are no major chain grocery stores in town, but you can still stock up for your vacation without leaving the beach—FreshDirect delivers to Seaside Park through Labor Day while Stop & Shop’s Peapod service delivers groceries year-round. Browse through fresh vegetables, fruits, and seafood at the Seaside Park Farmer’s Market along J Street & Central Ave. next to the sparkling marina on Barnegat Bay, open twice a week through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays and Fridays. The small White Oak Market has been open for 102 years and still stocks basic goods while operating a modest deli counter, good for stocking up for the perfect beach picnic. For a night out, the Bum Rogers Crabhouse on Central Ave. slings fresh piles of buttered garlic crabs, blue point oysters, and whole steamed lobsters among other seafood delights. Wednesday nights are “Beat the Clock,” with 50-cent drafts from 8pm-1:30am. (If your rental isn’t in walking distance, Uber is available.) One block from the beach is Surf Taco, where the grilled shrimp tacos outshine the eponymous surf tacos with plump, seasoned shrimp, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, white cilantro sauce, and a squeeze of fresh lime. Don’t miss the variety of flavorful salsas at their Almost Famous Salsa Bar. What’s a beach vacation without an ice cream shop? Seaside has two. Charlie's Homemade Ice Cream scoops up the classics—the cherry on top is a barbershop quartet that croons for customers on Thursdays, weather permitting. Up the street is The Sundae Times, where you’ll find malts and shakes along with homemade ice cream. It’s a perfect place to read the Sunday paper over an indulgent treat. But the sweetest pièce de résistance in Seaside is the Park Bakery, which has been churning out buttery morning treats since 1947. The line curls around the block before their doors open at 6:30 a.m. each day as locals and visitors in-the-know patiently wait for the famous crumb buns to emerge from the oven. Insider tip: Go for the powdered sugar topped buns vs. glazed. Trust me. Learn to surf, try yoga classes on the beach, or bike the boardwalk Once you’ve had your fill of crumb buns, it might be time to move around a bit. Basic but beautiful $10 yoga classes are held on the beach near the 7th Ave. entrance on Tuesdays at 6 p.m, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Sundays 7 p.m. Bring your own yoga mat or towel and hold that warrior pose while contemplating the blue horizon or the soft white clouds above. For higher-intensity activity, a new weekly $5 Zumba class is also offered on the beach Saturdays at 9 a.m. between M St. & N St. The Hammer Surf School, located near the 4th Ave. beach entrance, offers three-hour group surfing lessons for $100 on the Atlantic for ages seven and up. A surfboard is provided and a beach pass is not required. Lesson times depend on the tide, so call first or check the online calendar before you go. The Shore and More General Store on 5th Ave. sells volleyballs, frisbees, boogie boards, and most importantly, reasonably-priced bike rentals (from $17 per day, from $40 per week). Their stock got a recent upgrade and the new bikes are perfect for a sunrise ride on the boardwalk. Feeling quirky? You and three friends can rent a turn-of-the-century style surrey, fringe and all for $30 per hour. Experience total beachside bliss Seaside Park’s beaches are clean and beautiful, and still a blissful secret. Since relatively few visitors flock along the two miles of shoreline, you’ll have plenty of room to spread out in the sun. Beach access badges cost $10 per day, $35 per week ($20 per week for seniors), and are free for children ages 11 and under. On select summer Tuesday evenings, a makeshift drive-in movie theater sets up on the Berkeley Harbor Marina lawn—the same spot as the farmer’s market. Literally drive in or walk, bike, or skip over for some Hollywood sparkly under the stars. Shop for the best bargains in Seaside Park B&B Department Store opened in 1932 and is beloved for its bargain-filled weekend sidewalk sales. Inside the surprisingly large store are racks of Billabong, O’Neill, Havaianas, Hurley, and other beach-appropriate brands. You won’t want for thematic objects with slogans like, “A Day at the Beach is Better than 100 in Town” or “It’s a Flip-Flop Kind of Day.” Way in the back is a tiny candy counter, where you can purchase saltwater taffy or fresh fudge along with those new flip-flops. Sometimes it’s just that kind of day. A few doors down from B&B, the Right Coast Surf Shop has, ironically, a decidedly left coast feel. They’ll fully outfit you for surf lessons and other water sports with wet suits, surfboards, wax, and anything else you need to ride the right coast waves in style. This article was written by Kerri Allen, an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Condé Nast Traveler, The Huffington Post Travel, Time Out New York, Gayot, and many more.
More Places to go
Ocean County is a county located along the Jersey Shore in the south-central portion of the U.S. state of New Jersey. Its county seat is Toms River. Since 1990, Ocean County has been one of New Jersey's fastest-growing counties. As of the 2019 Census estimate, the county's population was 607,186, a 5.3% increase from the 576,567 enumerated in the 2010 United States Census, making Ocean the state's sixth-most populous county. The 2010 population figure represented an increase of 65,651 (+12.8%) from the 2000 Census population of 510,916, as Ocean surpassed Union County to become the sixth-most populous county in the state. Ocean County was also the fastest growing county in New Jersey between 2000 and 2010 in terms of increase in the number of residents and second-highest in percentage growth. Ocean County was established on February 15, 1850, from portions of Monmouth County, with the addition of Little Egg Harbor Township which was annexed from Burlington County on March 30, 1891. The most populous place is Lakewood Township, with an estimated 102,682 residents as of 2017, up 10.6% from 92,843 at the 2010 Census (in turn an increase of 32,491 since 2000, the highest of any New Jersey municipality); while Jackson Township covers 100.62 square miles (260.6 km2), the largest total area of any municipality in the county.Ocean County is located 50 miles (80 km) east of Philadelphia, 70 miles (110 km) south of New York City, and 25 miles (40 km) north of Atlantic City, making it a prime destination for residents of these cities during the summer. As with the entire Jersey Shore, summer traffic routinely clogs local roadways throughout the season. Ocean County is part of the New York metropolitan area but is also home to many tourist attractions frequently visited by Delaware Valley residents, especially the beachfront communities of Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, Point Pleasant Beach, as well as Six Flags Great Adventure, which is the home of the world's tallest and second-fastest roller coaster, Kingda Ka. Ocean County is also a gateway to New Jersey's Pine Barrens, one of the largest protected pieces of land on the East Coast. Ocean County is part of both New York City's and Philadelphia's media markets.
Belmar is a borough in Monmouth County, New Jersey, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the borough's population was 5,794, reflecting a decline of 251 (-4.2%) from the 6,045 counted in the 2000 Census, which had in turn increased by 168 (+2.9%) from the 5,877 counted in the 1990 Census.What is now Belmar was originally incorporated as Ocean Beach borough by an act of the New Jersey Legislature on April 9, 1885, from portions of Wall Township, based on the results of a referendum held two days earlier. On April 16, 1889, it became the City of Elcho borough, which lasted for a few weeks until the name was changed to the City of Belmar Borough as of May 14, 1889. The city acquired its current name, Borough of Belmar, on November 20, 1890. The borough's name means "beautiful sea" in Italian.
The Jersey Shore (known by locals as The Shore) is the coastal region of the U.S. state of New Jersey. Geographically, the term encompasses about 141 miles (227 km) of oceanfront bordering the Atlantic Ocean, from Perth Amboy in the north to Cape May Point in the south. The region includes Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May counties, which are in the central and southern parts of the state. The Jersey Shore hosts the highest concentration of oceanside boardwalks in the United States. Famous for its many boardwalks with arcades, amusement parks, and water parks boasting hundreds of rides and attractions, the Jersey Shore is a popular vacation spot with residents of North Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Certain shore communities are also popular with visitors from the nearby states of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, as well as the Canadian province of Quebec. Due to New Jersey's peninsular geography, both sunrise and sunset are visible over water from different points on the Jersey Shore. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 devastated much of the northern part of the region, and spawned the demolition and rebuilding of entire neighborhoods, with reinvention on a physically and financially elevated and economically upscale level; this process of gentrification is rapidly escalating property values and transforming many communities on the Jersey Shore into a second home for the New York financial community, akin to the more established Hamptons.
State of New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York; on the east, southeast, and south by the Atlantic Ocean; on the west by the Delaware River and Pennsylvania; on the southwest by Delaware Bay and the state of Delaware.