When you ask what’s new and happening at the Jersey Shore, the answer will most likely involve Long Branch. Always a popular spot for surf, sun, and shore fun, the city is constantly reinventing itself. Now with its brand new cutting-edge residential beachside condos going up quickly, premier shops and restaurants at Pier Village, numerous parks and recreational activities such as Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park and Skateboard Park, groovy West End area with smaller restaurants, shops, and a weekly farmers market and it’s thriving Hispanic and most notably Brazilian communities, Long Branch is always part of the buzz along the northern shore.
Long Branch is conveniently located about one hour from New York City and northern New Jersey with its own train station near the center of the 6 square miles it encompasses. This beautiful resort town has something for everyone, wide sandy beaches and a long oceanfront promenade for jogging, strolling, and enjoying a summer full of events. If you don’t mind the crowds, summer is in full swing from May through September with this city of 30,000 plus residents almost doubling in size as a melting pot of people flock to the beaches.
Two beachfront hotels; Ocean Place Resort and Spa and the new ultra-posh The Wave Resort anchor the two ends of Pier Village and in between the shopping and dining opportunities are incredible; Rooney’s for “Angry Lobster” or clam bake, Le Club Avenue for French-inspired cuisine, Sirena Ristorante for the best pork chop Diablo you will ever eat, and Simply Greek for amazing authentic Mediterranean specialties to name just a few of the mainstays. You can shop till you drop at Wish Boutique and Molly and Zoey, grab an old fashion root beer float at Stewarts or nostalgic sweets from Sundaze and then walk over to the PV Carousel and ride on a seahorse or dolphin! If your kids have gotten too much sand and sun, let them blow off a little steam at the Boardwalk Fun and Games Arcade.
While most locals return to Pier Village after the summer season is over when they can enjoy the now free beaches and parking and quieter atmosphere, there are many activities further inland to keep their summers busy. Monmouth Park Racetrack is in bordering Oceanport, Asbury Park has great nightlife and fabulous restaurants and is just a scenic ride through Deal away and in Long Branch itself, many great new hot spots are popping up like Whitechapel Projects, a venue for food, drink, art and performance. The flex-use gallery hosts art installations, educational events, fermenting classes, pop-up restaurants, and other creative endeavors. Just down the street (bikes are a must in this town) is the Beach Bee Cider and Mead Distillery where it’s BYO-food and further inland there are a variety of Brazilian cafés and bakeries, fast-food and snack spots or “Saladino’s”, buffets, and of course rodizios. If you really want the island vibe head to Norah’s Irie Jamaican Restaurant on Springdale Avenue for jerk chicken and ackee and if steak is your thing then the Butcher’s Block on West Ave has garnered quite the reputation as New Jersey’s answer to Peter Lugers.
With Monmouth Medical Center and Monmouth University, both located in West Long Branch, that end of town has a distinctly hip and collegiate tone with Jack’s Sports Bar being a definite favorite and not just one but two highly popular sushi joints, Izu and Aji, and several Irish Pubs. Yoga studios abound and Court Liquors, an upscale shop has an international wine cellar and trendy libations for any event.
The best part about Long Branch is the people watching, if you are a hopeless romantic there are weddings and proposals happening every weekend and often more real fireworks at night! Pet friendly is an understatement as dogs of all shapes and sizes nose about everywhere with their owners in tow and they are allowed on the beaches (leashed) during the off months. Families, couples, loners, groups, and seniors are everywhere, exercising, chatting, laughing, and enjoying the views and weather even when it is cold. There is plenty to see and do in Long Branch year-round-from parades, antique shows, holiday events, and great live theatre. And, of course, the annual Oceanfest, the biggest Independence Day celebration anywhere in New Jersey right on the Promenade. Life here in Long Branch is never dull.
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