HOW TO SEE ASBURY PARK IN AN HOUR OR TWO [WITHOUT A CAR OR A TOUR GUIDE]
[Written primarily for my European friends heading to the U.S. next week for the shows at the Meadowlands.]
I know everyone loves traipsing around Asbury Park with organized tours. You might think that it is complicated or difficult or even a little scary to visit Asbury Park on your own, but nothing could be further than the truth. You do not need a car, you just need time, since the train (which leaves from Penn Station on 33rd Street in Manhattan) takes a little while. It’s not a bad train ride, but not particularly interesting or scenic. You’ll change at Long Branch. Once you get to Asbury Park, everything is walkable and it’s perfectly safe.
Note: it’s a little tricky to take public transportation down and see a show at the Stone Pony unless you’re willing to leave the show before it’s over, especially on a weeknight. Otherwise you’ll be stuck paying for a hotel room or trying to find somewhere to sit all night (and there isn’t anywhere I’d recommend that you do that). At least now there are hotels that you’d feel safe sleeping in.
Walk down Cookman towards the ocean. The beauty parlor that Bruce lived above was somewhere in that first block on the south side of the street. There’s a lot more commerce these days, although I am sad that Mr. Fashion ["If Mr. Fashion don't make it, Southside don't wear it!] commemorated by Bruce in his roll call of participating AP merchants during the 2003 Christmas Shows) is gone. If you need a bite to eat, get it on this stretch of Cookman.
Walk down to the corner of Kingsley, which no one needs me to explain. The Palace used to be on your right, now it’s condos.
The Carousel house is there and may be open.
Peek into the old Casino; you can walk through part of it on the boardwalk – but be sure to pause in the area between the Casino and the first row commercial space on the boardwalk, because that’s where the Hungry Heart shot was taken.
Walk north down the boardwalk to Convention Hall and the Paramount Theater – you can’t miss it. You’ll pass the Stone Pony and Madam Marie’s.
Unfortunately, you need to be there at night to get the shot of the lit-up WELCOME TO ASBURY PARK message against the part of the Paramount that faces west.
Grab a drink at the Wonder Bar, walk up one block to Kingsley and walk back in the direction that you originally came from. The Fast Lane (where Bruce saw the Ramones) is next to Asbury Lanes on 4th Ave. (Asbury Lanes is a fun place to see a band or even to do some bowling.)
The most important place in all of Asbury Park (at least to me) is the sidewalk in front of what was the Student Prince, on Kingsley between 1st and 2nd. (It’s been a gay bar for a very long time, but I don’t know what’s there right now.) This is where I drank a toast to the Big Man the night he passed, not in front of the Stone Pony. As far as I’m concerned, there should be a brass plaque in the sidewalk here. As the story goes, Clarence walked over to the Student Prince from the Wonderbar that night as commemorated in “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.”
Once you’re done, then just walk back to the train station along Cookman again. There you have it. Asbury Park in a nutshell.
[You could, theoretically, take a taxi to visit 10th Ave & E Street in Belmar, it's not that far, but if you need to see that corner you might as well rent a car in the city and do Freehold too. If you do go to Belmar, I recommend having lunch at a place called Tenth Avenue Burrito. The food is pretty good, and a souvenir shirt reading TENTH AVENUE BURRITO is pretty cool. (Sorry, I know it's in your head now.)]
[There's also an ice cream shop called Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out on the boardwalk in Belmar.]
[Really I could go on all day.]
My book, Raise Your Hand: Adventures of an American Springsteen Fan in Europe, will be out on September 25th! You can sign up at this link if you’d like to get a note when the book is published.