Asbury Park, New Jersey, is only 55 miles from New York City, and with its charming boardwalk and lgbtq+QIA-friendly shops and bars, it feels like queer heaven on the Jersey Shore. It was, in fact, the queer community that kickstarted the revitalization of the deteriorating beach town in the early 2000s. During the ’80s and ’90s, Asbury Park had declined from a popular seaside destination to a rundown, gritty beach town—a shadow of its former glorious self. Asbury Park was a sleepy little Jersey Shore community until the gay community discovered it and turned it into the bustling resort town that it is today. Asbury Park is experiencing a resurgence as visitors from New York and other big cities rediscover it as a fabulous weekend getaway. Like any resort town, Asbury Park is most vibrant during the spring and summer seasons, but you'll find a significant amount of active gay locals all year round. It won't be hard to find gay-friendly venues in this vacation town.
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Popular Gay Events in Asbury Park, NJ
- Jersey Pride: An annual celebration that brings together the lgbtq+Q+ community and its allies in Asbury Park. This event features a parade, live entertainment, vendors, and more, celebrating the diversity and inclusivity of the community.
- QSpot Pride BBQ: Hosted by QSpot, this event is a festive gathering that celebrates Pride with a BBQ. Attendees can enjoy food, music, and the company of fellow community members in a relaxed setting.
- Out in Jersey Events: A platform that lists various lgbtq+Q+ events happening in New Jersey, including those in Asbury Park. From social gatherings to educational sessions, there's something for everyone.
Asbury Park, NJ is a vibrant and inclusive city that offers a diverse range of lgbtq+Q+ hotspots. Gay bars and hotspots in Asbury Park, each with their own unique charm and character:
Gay-friendly hotels in Asbury Park, NJ:
- Paradise: Located on Ocean Avenue, Paradise is a popular lgbtq+Q+ nightclub known for its lively atmosphere and energetic dance floor. It hosts regular drag shows, themed parties, and live performances, making it a must-visit destination for a fun night out. (101 Asbury Avenue): Paradise, located inside the Empress Hotel, is the largest queer nightclub in Asbury Park and it even has a pool! The pool can be enjoyed from noon to 8 pm and, once the sun sets, put your dancing shoes on for Jazz Night or Latin Night. The most popular events of the week are Saturday night’s dance parties and Sunday’s Tea Dance (5 pm to 9 pm).
- Georgie's Bar: Situated on Main Street, Georgie's Bar is a friendly neighborhood gay bar that has been a staple in Asbury Park for decades. It features a cozy interior, a well-stocked bar, and a welcoming atmosphere where you can relax, socialize, and enjoy a few drinks with friends. (810 Fifth Avenue): Open since 1999, Georgie’s is one of the longest-standing bars and self-described “The Gay Cheers of Asbury Park.” Georgie’s is where you’ll have the most fun night out in Asbury Park—from karaoke, live music, and drag brunches to happy hours, drink specials, and a great patio.
- Asbury Park Beach: Asbury Park's beachfront is not only a picturesque destination but also an lgbtq+Q+ hotspot. The beach is known for its inclusive and accepting atmosphere, attracting a diverse crowd of sunbathers, swimmers, and beachgoers. The vibrant lgbtq+Q+ community is well-represented here, creating a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone.
- The Wonder Bar: Another iconic destination on Ocean Avenue, The Wonder Bar is a legendary lgbtq+Q+-friendly venue that combines live music, drinks, and a dog-friendly environment. It hosts a variety of events, including drag shows, live bands, and karaoke nights, ensuring a lively and entertaining experience. (1213 Ocean Avenue North): This historic Asbury Park institution is located right on the boardwalk and is famous for its “Yappy Hour” when canine visitors are allowed to make new friends off-leash in a fenced-off outdoor space. Human visitors will also love the sand-covered outdoor patio, making you feel as if you’re right on the beach. Wonder Bar also offers live music, a large dance floor, and traditional pub grub. It’s open Friday through Sunday.
- Bond Street Bar: Located in the heart of downtown Asbury Park, Bond Street Bar is a trendy gay bar known for its chic interior and welcoming ambiance. It offers a wide selection of craft beers, cocktails, and a friendly atmosphere where you can socialize and meet new people.
- Taka: For a sophisticated dining experience, Taka is a popular Japanese restaurant located on Cookman Avenue. Known for its fresh sushi, sashimi, and creative Asian fusion cuisine, Taka attracts a diverse crowd, including the lgbtq+Q+ community, seeking delicious food in a trendy setting.
- Johnny Mac House of Spirits: Situated on Main Street, Johnny Mac House of Spirits is a lively lgbtq+Q+-friendly bar offering a casual and relaxed environment. It's known for its game room, featuring pool tables, dartboards, and arcade games, providing a fun and laid-back atmosphere for socializing with friends.
- The Asbury Hotel The Asbury Hotel is a gay-friendly hotel located in the heart of Asbury Park. It offers modern rooms, a rooftop lounge, and a vibrant atmosphere. Check Availability and Prices: Booking.com Link.
- The Carriage House B&B The Carriage House Bed and Breakfast is a gay-friendly establishment located in a charming Victorian building. It offers cozy rooms, homemade breakfast, and a warm atmosphere. Check Availability and Prices: Booking.com Link.
But things are looking up. Over the past decade, the boardwalk has been extensively restored, historic landmarks, like the Paramount Theatre and Convention Hall, have gotten facelifts, and new queer-friendly restaurants and cafes have opened in the seaside town, contributing to Asbury Park’s rise in popularity over the last few years. The mile-long boardwalk makes a great spot for people watching and leisurely strolls during the day, and, come evening, gay nightlife ranges from karaoke to drag shows—there’s something here for everyone!What makes Asbury Park so special
The gayest beach on the Jersey Shore: Asbury Park has become a popular lgbtq+QIA+ beach destination in the last 20 years thanks to the growing number of queer-friendly shops and bars in town, and the growing lgbtq+QIA+ nightlife scene. Even though there is no official queer beach in Asbury Park, the stretch of beach between 4th and 5th Avenues is the place to be for queer beach goers.
Jersey Pride: New Jersey’s annual Pride celebration at the Jersey Shore marked its 30th edition this year and usually takes place the first weekend of June. The parade ends right on the ocean, at the Rally/Festival Grounds, which means you can go for a quick dip during the festivities to cool off. While this year’s celebrations have already wrapped up, mark your calendar for 2023!When to go in Asbury Park
The best time to visit Asbury Park is during summer when the beaches are open. The beach season officially opens on Memorial Day weekend, and remains busy until Labor Day weekend, marking the end of the season. If you want to hit Asbury Park for Pride, plan your visit for the first weekend in June.
The best gay events in Asbury Park:June
: Pride Weekend happens the first weekend in June.July
: Independence Day weekend is a busy weekend on the Jersey Shore for queer and straight people alike.Augus
t: Asbury Park Beach Bear Invasion is a three-day celebration for bears and their admirers, which usually takes place the third weekend of August.What to see and do in Asbury Park
Asbury Park is a laid-back vacation destination, so don’t feel bad if you don’t do much beyond enjoying the beach. But if you are feeling a little more adventurous, here are the best things to do in Asbury Park:
Relax on the beach: The stretch between 4th and 5th Avenue Beach (south of Convention Hall) is known as the queer section of Asbury Park. Be aware that there is a charge to enter the beach: Day passes cost $6 from Monday to Friday and $9 on weekends and holidays. If you’re staying for a longer period or plan to visit several times, a season pass ($70) may be more economical.
Take a stroll on the boardwalk: No trip to Asbury Park is complete without a stroll down the boardwalk! The mile-long promenade is the perfect place to soak up the Jersey Shore vibe and for people watching.
Take a day trip to Gunnison Beach: If you want to get to know a different beach on the Jersey Shore, head to Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook, which is about 35 minutes north of Asbury Park. The southernmost section of Area G is known as the gay nude area of the beach.
Enjoy the art: Thanks to the Wooden Walls Art Project, over 30 murals have been painted on the Sunset Pavilion Building. There are also murals on the walls of the casino, under the beachfront Casino walkway, and in downtown Asbury Park on Bond Street.
Not sure where to start? Visit the smaller galleries first: Parlor Gallery (contemporary art), art629 (which often features exhibits by lgbtq+QIA+ artists), Whitepoint Gallery (showcasing emerging artists and contemporary art), and Hot Sand (a glassblowing studio).
Silverball Pinball Museum: Part museum, part arcade, the Silverball Museum Arcade has over 600 games in its rotation and over 200 vintage pinball machines ranging from the 1930s to the 1980s. Admission rates depend on how long you want to stay: If you’re into pinball, go for the full-day ticket at $20; if you only want to have a quick look around, the half-hour pass at $10 is sufficient. No-play passes are $2.50. The museum is open from 11 am to 9 pm Monday through Thursday, till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and till 9 pm on Sundays.
Explore the Jersey Shore by bike: Cycling is a great way to see more of the Jersey Shore—you can go south to Manasquan Beach or Point Pleasant Beach (less than an hour away) or north to Long Branch Beach (about 30 minutes by bike). You can rent bikes at the Asbury Park Cyclery.5th Avenue Beach -
The “gay” section of the beach is just steps away from the 5th Avenue boardwalk entrance, just south of Convention Hall. The sand between 4th and 5th Avenues at Convention Hall has become an unofficial gay gathering place.
- The gay beach is close to the the mile-long boardwalk attractions with great boutique stores and restaurants.
- There is a charge of $5 Monday-Friday, and weekends and holidays are $7 per day for a beach tag, seasonal tags are $70.
Area G Beach -
Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook is 20 minutes way and has a nudist section. Known as “Area G”. It the only legal clothing optional beach in the state. on a clear day you can enjoy stunning views of New York City.
- Head to the southernmost point of Sandy Hook to have fun in the sun. But a few things to keep in mind, for starters, is that it’s a bit of a hike to actually get here (the ocean is about a mile from the parking lot).
- Pack snacks and plenty of water. There are no boardwalks near Sandy Hook. There are just two small refreshment stands far from the water.
- It costs USD 15 at the National Park entrance to gain access to parking. The parking lots fill up early, especially on weekends, and close their gates once the park is full.
Area G’s clothing optional
Sandy Hook’s Gunnison Beach
(also known as “Area G”) is perhaps the gayest beach in all of New Jersey. Not only is it the only legal clothing optional beach in the state, but on a clear day beach bums can enjoy stunning views of New York City.
The federal land, managed by the National Park Service, was once part of Fort Hancock (pun intended) and now offers relative seclusion compared to many of the other much more populated (read: commercial) beaches at the Jersey Shore. Starting in the 1970s, nudists were first attracted to the area thanks to its beautiful views (you can see vistas of Brooklyn and the Verrazano Bridge) and sprawling natural habitat. Gunnison is home to the endangered piper plover bird.
Most lgbtq+ folks like to head to the southernmost point of Sandy Hook to have fun in the sun. But a few things to keep in mind, for starters, is that it’s a bit of a hike to actually get here (the ocean is about a mile from the parking lot). And because it’s a federal land, alcohol and marijuana (despite state laws) are prohibited.
This also tends to be an adult beach – you won’t see kids running around or the usual antics that come with boardwalk culture. In fact, there is no boardwalk, so it’s best to pack a lunch and bring a cooler.