Asbury Park: A Great Escape for All
Looking for a gay vacation mecca where you’re surrounded by only rainbow-loving people?
Honey, that’s so 20th Century.
The need for an exclusive gay oasis where LGBTQ vacationers could feel festive, free and
safe was understandable, and necessary, in the post-Stonewall/AIDS decades. But for gay
millennials, as well as for their older brothers and sisters, it’s now more about traveling to
interesting places that welcome a wider spectrum of diversity for the gay – as well as
(gasp!) straight – community, too.
For the Connecticut crowd, the go-to choices for exclusive escapes have been Fire IslandN.Y., Provincetown, Mass., or any number of gay cruise lines.
But now, a new wave of cities, resorts and vacation destinations are wooing gays with full-throttle campaigns to come party, chill and have “experiences” – and mix it up with thewelcoming locals, too. Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, Palm Springs, New Orleans, and Montreal are among the places that seek out gay travelers to their diverse cities.
But for something a little closer to home, and a bit beachier, think New Jersey.
Yes, New Jersey.
And then think Asbury Park, that raffish town with a checkered past that is perhaps best known for its epic beach boardwalk and the Stone Pony, the rock nightclub where Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band got their start.
There’s also something “outsider”-cool about A.P., which is less than two hours by train from New York’s Penn Station or simply a car ride down the Garden State Parkway.
“It’s not pretentious at all,” says Russell Lewis, owner of Watermark, a popular restaurant
and craft cocktail bar on the boardwalk. “Asbury doesn't have that look-at-me-I’m-a-model
kind of gay crowd. It’s a much friendlier, easy-going, flip-flop kind of place.”
It’s taken more than 30 years for the city to recover from the riots of 1970 and its follow-up
years associated with crime and drugs. Since the turn of the millennium, the city has seen
major changes, some coming incrementally and some – especially in the last few years –
coming at a galloping development pace. This always a gay-friendly city, one which hosts
the statewide Jersey Pride in early June, has a new wave of restaurants, shops, and offers
hotels that will tempt a diverse crowd to turn the beach day into a beach weekend, or