Asbury Park was founded as a Christian retreat in the 1800s by a man named James A. Bradley. It remained one of the most popular family resorts in the United States until 1970, when race riots burned down much of the downtown area.
Soon radicals, beatniks, hippies, and musicians moved in. Rock clubs, gay bars and motorcycle bars coexisted and flourished making Asbury Park a very diverse place. The famous Bruce Springsteen song "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)", often known just as "Sandy" was released in 1973. It has been described as "the perfect musical study of the Jersey Shore boardwalk culture" and captures the mood and vibe of this time period.
However the city continued to decline as businesses closed, buildings were abandoned and the amusement areas were shut down. The only thriving business during this time were The Stone Pony and a few other clubs along the waterfront, and a number of gay bars and clubs in the downtown area. In 1988, the city finally decided it was time to do something. A plan to redevelop the entire waterfront went into effect. High rise hotels and condo construction began, but was then abandoned before they could be finished, leaving the waterfront an odd mix of abandoned buildings and rotting construction.
The city continued to decline in the 1990s, and nearly all businesses failed. Crime rose, and Asbury Park had higher crime than any other town in Monmouth County.
However, in 1998, Shep Pettibone, a dj who mixed music for Madonna in the 90's, converted an abandoned Hotel into New Jersey's largest gay nightclub, drawing thousands of gay travelers to Asbury Park. Every Friday night the city became the only place on the East Coast that could rival Fire Island! Gay couples and artists began buying bargain homes, abandoned bars and nightclubs, closed storefronts downtown, and abandoned pavilions on the boardwalk. And so the gentrification began. It has suceeded as more of a ground up process rather than a top down plan as the city proposed. The city's popularity once again began to rise, not coincidently, at the same time as Springsteen's album "The Rising" in 2002 which kicked off it's world concert tour with free shows at Convential Hall.
Today, Asbury Park is popular again, even amongst mainstream tourists as well as locals from the area for its shopping, beaches, restaurants, bars and clubs. Major summertime events hosted in Asbury Park include; the Wave Gathering, the Gay Pride Parade, Garden State Film Festival, Asbury Park Jazz Festival, "Road Trip", and the Tri-City Arts Tour.
Asbury Park was recently rated #5 in the top ten beaches of NJ. 
By car: Parkway to exit 102. Take Rt 66 / Asbury Avenue into Asbury Park. Follow Asbury Avenue Directly to the beach. Travel time from Philadelphia or New York is approximately one hour, fifteen minutes. Traffic during the summer months, particularly between Asbury Park and North Jersey/NYC, can make this trip much longer. For example, heading southbound from NYC on a Friday night or heading northbound towards NYC on a Sunday afternoon can take several hours so try to plan your travel around these peak periods.
By Train: From New York City, take the North Jersey Coast Line  directly to Asbury Park Train Station. North Jersey Coast Line trains also connect with other New Jersey Transit rail lines at Rahway, Newark and Secaucus Junction. Asbury Park Station is .75 miles west of the beach at 1st Ave. There is a taxi stand just outside of the station.
By Bus: NJ Transit  offers bus service to Asbury Park from Philadelphia (bus 317), Freehold(836), Long Branch(837), Red Bank(832), and Point Pleasant(830). See schedules for more information. Academy Bus offers express service to Asbury Park from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan.
Getting around in Asbury Park is easy by foot or by bike. Bikes can be rented at the boardwalk at hourly or daily rates. A car is not necessary for visiting Asbury Park.
During the summer months there are three lots near the beach that have an attendant - pay them the rate $5 or $10 to avoid feeding the meter. Off season these lots are usual free, so avoid the spaces.
If you are visiting Asbury Park for First Saturday or a special event, trolley service is often provided at no cost. The trolley schedule and stops may vary depending on the event.
Taxi service is also available at the train station and by calling ahead.
Visiting art galleries, going to the beach, shopping, dining and more can all be done on foot and are within close proximity to each other. The downtown shopping district  offers antiques, beach accessories, cafes, art galleries and more. The first Saturday of the month is celebrated with local discounts, events, and other promotions.
There are a smattering of shopping and restaurants on the boardwalk as well. As of June 2009, most shops are open. There are two clubs, the Stone Pony and the club at the Empress Hotel. The renovation of the Paramount Hotel and Convention Center is complete.
Along the south end runs Wesley Lake which seperates Asbury from it's picturesque sister town, Ocean Grove (http://www.oceangrovenj.com) which boasts having the highest concentration of authentic Victorian architecture in the country. The two towns are connected by the boardwalk or by the two foot bridges which connect from Lake Avenue in the downtown section. On Lake Ave you will find new condo developments, restaurants, a jazz club, a fitness center, shops and a paddle boat rental concession. Parallel with Lake Ave runs Cookman Avenue which runs through the heart of the downtown district mentioned above.
The city's website lists current events, has a feed from the radio station WKTU, and accepts contributions from visitors.
At The Boardwalk