Jersey Shore chic in Long Branch

Head to the Garden State for private pools, pinball machines, lobster rolls and ocean views.

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  • Photograph: courtesy of Avenue/Le Club

    Avenue

    Avenue

  • Photograph: courtesy of Avenue/Le Club

    Avenue

    Avenue

  • Photograph: Joshua McHugh

    Bungalow

    Bungalow

  • Photograph: Joshua McHugh

    Bungalow

    Bungalow

  • Photograph: Lisa Ritchie

    Humor and Grace

    Humor and Grace

  • Photograph: Marc Steiner

    Langosta Lounge

    Langosta Lounge

Photograph: courtesy of Avenue/Le Club

Avenue

Avenue

Travel time: One and a half hours from NYC by train

Why Go: Although it's not the high-society retreat it was in 1869, when President Ulysses S. Grant made it his summer base, Long Branch is in the midst of a revival that has nothing to do with girls with poufed hair or guys with overdeveloped abs. Years after a 1987 fire reduced its amusement pier to a charred skeleton, Jersey boys David and Michael Barry took over the decrepit boardwalk to create Pier Village, comprising apartments, restaurants, shops and a boutique hotel. Nearby, Asbury Park is also poised for a comeback.

Stay here: The design of Bungalow may have been chronicled in a reality-TV show—Bravo's 9 by Design—but that doesn't dilute its cool factor. A handcrafted wood bar by upstate New York artist John Houshmand, a vintage pool table, old board games and a 1960s foosball table encourage hanging out in the lobby. In the 24 guest rooms, whitewashed wood floors and mixed-media works by British artist Ann Carrington evoke the feel of a private beach house. (bungalowhotel.net). Rates start at $189; mention TONY for a 10% discount Mon--Thu and Sun through May 26.

Do this: A day badge to access the pristine Long Branch beach is just $5--$7 for adults and $3 for ages 14--17 (free for kids under 14 and seniors), but for $25 per day, guests at the Bungalow hotel can luxuriate at Le Club—an exclusive stretch that opens Memorial Day weekend. Lounge under imported palm trees and sip cocktails from upscale eatery Avenue. Atop the restaurant is a private pool deck and bar, which morphs into a slick nightclub where fist-pumping is highly discouraged. For a grittier seaside vibe, catch the 837 bus from New Jersey Transit's Long Branch Station to Asbury Park. Here, continuing redevelopment is bringing indie businesses to the boardwalk opposite the Boss's old stomping ground, The Stone Pony (stoneponyonline.com); Kid Cudi hits the Pony's outdoor Summer Stage on July 3. You can join die-hard pinheads at Silverball Museum Arcade (silverballmuseum.com), where collector Rob Ilvento lets the public play on 200 of his prize pinball machines, dating from 1932 to 2005, for a small admission fee (starts at $7.50 for a half hour). Stroll along the hip strip of Cookman Avenue and make a detour off the main drag for FIT graduate Casey Pyle's loftlike shop, Humor and Grace (humorandgrace.com), for up-cycled vintage rompers ($25) and handmade wallets embellished with pop-culture images ($15).

Eat here: Order the spicy, orange-spiked lobster roll in a brioche bun ($16) at the David Collins--designed beachfront brasserie, Avenue (leclubavenue.com), which offers lovely ocean vistas and a 120-seat outdoor deck. In Asbury Park, get a taste of exotic destinations at Langosta Lounge (langostalounge.com), where surfer-chef Marilyn Schlossbach's menu is inspired by "vacation cuisine."

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