I spent the weekend in Jersey Shore towns not often visited by Philadelphians: Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.
Both towns are closer to the city than Cape May, but I can understand why we’re reluctant to go. The tradition here is to go DOWN the shore, which started when rail lines connected Philadelphia to Atlantic City, and we kept going south from there.
Still, these neighboring towns are worth visiting. I’ve been going to Ocean Grove since my aunt flipped houses there in the 1980s. Here are a few highlights if you’re thinking of a more northern trip:
In Asbury Park:
Cafe Volan. A superb coffee spot in downtown Asbury Park. Yes, they serve Colombe coffee, and if you need a big caffeine fix — or are buying for many — you can buy a growler of it.
Sweet Joey’s. This store is part vintage, part custom jean and accessory shop. I bought the bright 1970s blousey dress in the window, but I’ll be coming back for custom made jeans (they repair jeans, too). They also do jewelry made out of vintage medals and pins. They’re hard to describe, but beautiful.
Blue Hawaii Vintage. Wonderfully affordable vintage in a cheery spot. They have an Etsy.com shop, too, if you want to check out some of their stock online.
Brick Wall Tavern. We stopped into this tavern to watch EuroCup games. Apparently we weren’t the only ones: we sat at a bar packed with soccer fans. Dinner was four different appetizers — the buffalo chicken sliders is the standout here. They have plenty of craft beers, too, if that’s your thing.
Watermark. This can get very night clubby late on Fridays and Saturdays, but it’s also an unofficial pre-Stone Pony concert drink spot in Asbury Park. Head to the outdoor deck. Not only does it have great second story views of the beach and boardwalk, but you can also hear when your band’s about to begin playing if they’re hitting the outdoor stage.
Stone Pony. The place is a legendary rock venue, but it doesn’t rely on its past to keep going. We came up for the weekend because the Counting Crows were opening the outdoor summer stage for the season. It’s a great concert space. Plus, after the show, you can go right into the Stone Pony to hear another show. Saturday’s was by their house band, Outside the Box. Great group (though I’m not so keen on the name).
In Ocean Grove:
Nagle’s. This former pharmacy is now part diner, part ice cream shop. Ice cream is from the takeout window — I liked the extra thick vanilla malt. It’s worth stopping inside, too. A 2000 restoration has helped maintain its retro charm while also showcasing items from Ocean Grove’s past.
The Majestic. This is the fourth time I’ve stayed at this inn. It’s in the middle of town, close to the beach and has well appointed rooms. The continental breakfast is a nice add on, too. It’s convenient and comfortable. What else could you ask for?
The Beach: It’s a nice one, though not exactly cheap. Day passes are $7, and year round beach badges are $70 (if you’re staying in town, ask if your hotel or B&B has discounted tags). The beach is also closed on Sundays until 12:30 p.m. Yes, really. So if your plan is to do a Friday and Saturday stayover with some beach time before driving home, Ocean Grove might not be your best choice.