This year was my first time attending the Jersey Pride Fest… I’ve been to NYC Pride, but as a New Jersey resident, I knew it was time to attend my state’s longest-running Pride event. After 2 years of no events due to covid, we finally got to celebrate the 30th annual event in Asbury Park!
If you aren’t aware, Asbury Park was very popular in the early 1900s during the prohibition era. It took a hard fall for quite a while after that, and recently has had a major upswing in popularity and has been revived, in large part due to the queer community of the area. For that reason, Asbury Park is the best location in New Jersey for this yearly celebration!
Traveling to get there is mostly done by car, which is how I arrived that day, but you do have the option of taking the train into town using NJ Transit. There’s a ton of street parking available, though there are time limits for some, so my group and I chose a lot across the street from the Empress Hotel (this hotel is where you should stay if you plan to spend the night and want to party). It was $40 to park for the day, which I thought was a steal, as we were a group of four. $10 per person for the entire day of parking was perfect!
The festival itself was at the opposite end of the boardwalk from that lot, but truly only about a ten minute walk on the street or 15 mins if you want to take the boardwalk and check out some of the shops, restaurants, or the view of the beach.
There is a parade in the morning, that begins at City Hall and heads south down Main Street, then cuts across town to the festival grounds. We didn’t end up making it in time and had to wait until the parade had passed before we could drive across the road to get to the parking lot. The parade begins at noon.
While there are food and drinks available inside of the festival, you are allowed to bring in your own food and non-alcoholic beverages. My suggestions for what to pack for the day: multiple bottles of water, beach towels or chairs, snacks, SUNBLOCK (lots of sunblock, there’s not much shade so you will need to reapply), cash is an absolute MUST, and a hat & sunglasses (pro tip: if you forget a hat, make sure you put sunblock on your scalp, I learned that the hard way).
When you first get in line to get into the event, don’t be discouraged, the line was long but it moved fast because the event staff were on top of everything and kept the line moving in a very organized manner. To make it even easier, there were signs with QR codes you could scan to pay for your wristband. Once you pay online, a member of the event staff would come around, they check your receipt, hand you a wristband and then you are set to move to the front of the line to go through security & bag check. The entrance fee is $15, and it is essentially a donation to Jersey Pride.
When we first got inside, we decided to sit on the lawn and have a little picnic while we enjoyed some performances. On one end of the lot, there was a large stage set up for the day’s performances, and on the other end, merch and vendor booths.
Speaking of the performances, this year’s headliners were Janice Robinson (Singer/songwriter and fellow New Jerseyan) & Gia Woods (Pop artist). My faves of the day were Rich Hennessey (a pop artist with a fantastic voice & presence @richhennesseyofficial on Instagram) and the Friday Night Specials Cast (@fnsrockyhorror on Instagram) who gave us multiple amazing performances from Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’s been so long since I’ve done the Time Warp in a large crowd, and man, was that so much fun!
After hanging out for a while in our picnic spot, we decided to check out some of the vendors. There were so many vendors to see that I didn’t get to take them all in, but here were some of my faves: ACLU of New Jersey, Aries Moon Crystals, Double D’s Doggie Delights, Hectic Moon, i SUPPORT THE GIRLS (non-profit that provides bras and feminine products), Jersey Shore Roller Derby, Lovely Lionness Pole Dance & Aerial Fitness, Save Coastal Wildlife Nonprofit, and Zilis (CBD products).
By the time we were done checking out the vendors, we were hungry again, so we meandered over to the food booths! There were so many great options to choose from, our first stop was to Big Dogg Festival Foods. I ordered a cheeseburger & fresh lemonade, the rest of my group ordered mozzarella sticks and lemonade. I’m a pretty big burger lover, and for a festival burger, it wasn’t anything fancy but it was delicious and hit the spot! The lemonade was a perfect refresher on such a hot day.
We then strolled over to the Spoonable Spirits booth. Someone had mentioned them to us earlier so we made a point to seek them out. They sell boozy pudding shots in these small, adorable containers. By the time we got there, they only had two flavors left, Choco Caramel Whiskey & Vanilla Vodka. When I tell you that’s the most delicious “shot” I’ve ever had, wow!!! It was incredible! You can’t taste the liquor, which I didn’t mind, over the flavors of the pudding itself. It was smooth like a mousse and it was so hard to not have more than the two that I bought. 10/10 highly recommend, and they do ship nationwide.
After spending some more time enjoying the performances, we decided to head to the club for some dancing! We planned to head back over to the Empress Hotel, where they have a fabulous indoor/outdoor club & bar, Paradise (also a sponsor of the Pride Festival).
Unfortunately, when we arrived the line to get in was wrapped around the block. Since our car was across the street, we decided to have some snacks and hang out in the parking lot and wait to see if the line moved at all. After half an hour it was clear that the line was not moving, which was a bit sad because that club is quite the experience, but we decided to head to the beach to end our day in a relaxing way.
After 6 pm, you do not have to pay to get onto the beach, so this was perfect timing for us! We enjoyed the fresh ocean air, searched for seashells, dug up some sand crabs, and enjoyed the kites flying overhead until the sun started to set.
All in all, Jersey Pride Fest in Asbury Park was one of the best pride events I have ever attended. We felt safe & we had fun, what more could you ask for out of a Pride event. If you can, take some time to check out the downtown area and the boardwalk while in Asbury. The architecture of the older buildings is stunning to see, especially the old casino. There’s artwork everywhere you look and the people are so friendly.
See you all next year!