Budget Travel

Get to Know: Asbury Park, NJ, the Coolest Small Town in America 2017

There's a lot to love about this vibrant burgh on the Jersey Shore, offering amazing cultural events, community spirit, and the beauty of the Atlantic coastline.

Asbury Park, New Jersey, is Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Town in America 2017. Nicknamed “Brooklyn on the Beach,” this vibrant, culturally diverse, artsy small town is a quick (not to mention cool) road trip from NYC or Philly. We especially love the recent redevelopment of the 1.5-mile-long, 70-foot wide Asbury Park Boardwalk, including funky design-forward shops and restaurants.

Wonder Bar is one of Asbury Park's iconic music venues and a must-stop for visitors who love the local music scene. “A great day in Asbury Park for me would include a walk through Convention Hall and down the boardwalk, to a ride on the Swan Boats on Lake Avenue,” says local filmmaker and DJ Atom Worth. “Maybe browsing the vintage and custom clothes at Sweet Joey's on Bangs Avenue followed by a beer at Asbury Park Brewery before dinner at Medusa Stone Fired Kitchen on Main Street.” 

Cafe Volan, on Bangs Avenue, is one of Asbury Park's chicest spots to grab a great cup of coffee, some fresh-baked goodies, and rub elbows with the town's creative population.

Asbury Park's annual 4th of July fireworks display is jaw-dropping, and watching the display beside the Atlantic on a warm summer night is an Asbury experience so iconic, it was commemorated in Bruce Springsteen's ballad "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)."

Jenn Hampton, curator of Asbury Park’s Parlor Gallery, curates a mural project on the Asbury Park Boardwalk called the Wooden Walls Project. “I love to be on the Boardwalk and see how people pose in front of the murals,” she says. “It is so entertaining. I love seeing the transformative effects art has on visitors.”

"The community of Asbury is brimming with so much creative talent: musicians, DJs, artists, filmmakers, designers, and innovators. In my opinion, every member of the local creative community has contributed to the town's comeback," says local Atom Worth.

Interwoven is a design-forward curated clothing store with two locations in Asbury Park, one on the boardwalk and one on Cookman Avenue. “Everyone that works in the shop lives in AP,” says shop owner Bianca Freda, “and we use local peeps as our models.”

Talula’s Pizza serves up gourmet toppings and sourdough fresh from a wood-fired oven. It’s imaginative owners settled in Asbury Park after stints in hipster haunts including Tarrytown and Beacon (both in New York's Hudson Valley, north of NYC), and an epic food-research road trip across America.

Storehouse is an eye-popping collective of local retailers, including Interwoven and other vendors who curate beautiful, imaginative design collections.

Asbury Park has been welcoming and embracing diverse communities and imaginative innovators for years. AP's Wonder Bar even hosts a popular pet-friendly Yappy Hour in addition to musical acts. “The cultural diversity, the LGBTQ-friendly vibe, the passion for the arts - I wish every town in America celebrated these things as much as Asbury Park does,” says Atom Worth.

The Anchor's Bend serves up cold beer and popular chili on Ocean Avenue at the Convention Hall.

Parlor Gallery is a place that showcases emerging to established artists in a unique and comfortable setting,” says Jenn Hampton, the gallery’s curator. “We like to focus on art and artists who are working in disciplines and themes that are not generally seen outside a major art market. We host 10 to 12 exhibitions a year and host artist talks and dinners and pop-up galleries in alternative spaces.”

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