This Rocking Jersey Shore Hotel Boasts a Rooftop Movie Theater

The Asbury Hotel features a “carless drive-in experience” overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Nikolas Koenig

Asbury Park has seen its signature live music scene halted due to the pandemic, with temporary closures of venues like The Stone Pony, Asbury Lanes and The Saint. But this chic Jersey shore town still harbors a few luxury hotels ideal for low-key stays right by the boardwalk and beach. The seven story, restored red brick The Asbury Hotel–which once housed a Salvation Army–was Asbury’s first new hotel in 50 years when it opened in 2016, helping kickstart a revival of this once-slumping seaside hamlet. Then, as now, the pioneering property aims to bridge Asbury Park’s rich Victorian-era past and historic rock ‘n roll legacy with an updated aesthetic buttressed by pandemic-era safeguards.

Nikolas Koenig

The Soundbooth lobby bar greets guests with a nod to Asbury Park’s storied musical history, featuring a striking wall of vintage cassette tapes and vinyl albums that vie for attention with “Springsteen for President” t-shirts for sale behind the front desk and a poster for a Golden Girls drag trivia night. 

Nikolas Koenig

Transparent Gallery, an immersive art and music venue showcasing the work of rock photographer Danny Clinch, is attached to the hotel, as is Asbury Lanes, a retro-style bowling alley, diner and concert hall that remains shuttered. The Counter, a ground-floor coffee and juice bar, serves fresh pastries, salads, and sandwiches, including a requisite spin on pork roll, that gloriously greasy Jersey breakfast meat staple.

Nikolas Koenig

Perhaps the hotel’s most unique feature is The Baronet, a 4,300-square foot rooftop space blanketed in artificial lawn that transforms into a “carless drive-in movie theater” after dark. Playfully designed as a miniature version of Central Park’s Great Lawn, the Baronet is adorned with social distancing decal squares inspired by the circles in New York City’s Domino Park. Guests can take yoga classes during the day and lounge in beanbag chairs watching classic movies like Jaws, Psycho and E.T. on the 20-foot screen during sunset screenings overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

The seasonal outdoor pool is surrounded by bright yellow sunloungers, private cabanas and a decorative VW bus. The rooftop lounge, Salvation, serves up craft cocktails, live deejay sets (this is the Jersey shore, after all), and sweeping city views to a limited capacity crowd. The Asbury reopened in mid-June after being briefly closed in the wake of COVID-19, and like most hotels these days, masks are required whenever you’re outside the the bright, airy and pleasingly pared-down rooms. 

Amenities include mini-fridges, pillow-topped mattresses, walk-in showers with rainfall shower heads, flat screen TVs, free WiFi, and Malin + Goetz bath and skincare products. Geometric-patterned floors and framed black and white photos capturing scenes of vintage Asbury Park add some welcome visual pop. 

Nikolas Koenig

The roomy Panoramic Suites offer 180-degree views of the ocean and town along with extra dining and lounge space, while Deluxe Kings come with a seating nook and desk. The 110-room hotel also has family rooms, pet-friendly rooms, and bunk bed set-ups that sleep eight, though pandemic rules now limit occupancy to two guests per room. Unfortunately, even the best suites lack the outdoor patios of swankier sister property the Asbury Ocean Club, a sleek hotel and private residence complex nearby that’s likewise operated by Salt Hotels.

There is currently no daily housekeeping service, though guests are encouraged to call the front desk if they need extra towels or other items. The hotel has also instituted a heightened, three-step decontamination process for every room, and has made hand sanitizer available in public areas.

Nikolas Koenig

The Asbury is located just a few blocks to the beach and boardwalk, and it’s a 10-minute walk to the lively Cookman Avenue dining district, which boasts a wealth of eclectic culinary options open for outdoor dining and limited capacity indoor meals.

There’s standout sourdough-crust gourmet pizzas at Talula’s and popular Neopolitan pies at Porta (the same place where Springsteen first met saxophonist Clarence Clemons), raw bar and chowder at glass-enclosed seafood house The Bonney Read, upgraded pub grub at Brickwall Tavern, French brasserie fare at Pascal & Sabine, tacos and tequila at Barrio Costero, beer steins and sausages at the Austro-Hungarian Asbury Festhalle & Beirgarten, and a truly unique experience at Ada’s Gojjo, perhaps the only restaurant that serves both Ethiopian and Dominican cuisine under one roof, mingling empanadas and mofongo with authentic Ethiopian dishes like doro wat. 

The Asbury Hotel’s room rates start at $265 per night. If you’re looking for a mid-week Jersey shore getaway, they’re offering 20 percent off all rooms, Sundays to Thursdays, though the end of October.