Ocean Grove, New Jersey travel notes

Having not visited the New Jersey shore since I was a kid (and then a very regular visitor), I realized you cannot actually swim there with any great facility.  Nor is there much to do, nor should one look forward to the food.

Nonetheless Ocean Grove is one of America’s finest collections of Victorian homes, and the town style is remarkably consistent and intact.  Most of all, it is an “only in America” kind of place:

Ocean Grove was founded in 1869 as an outgrowth of the camp meeting movement in the United States, when a group of Methodist clergymen, led by William B. Osborn and Ellwood H. Stokes, formed the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association to develop and operate a summer camp meeting site on the New Jersey seashore. By the early 20th century, the popular Christian meeting ground became known as the “Queen of Religious Resorts.” The community’s land is still owned by the camp meeting association and leased to individual homeowners and businesses. Ocean Grove remains the longest-active camp meeting site in the United States.

The pipe organ in the 19th century Auditorium is still one of the world’s twenty largest.

Ocean Grove, New Jersey - Wikipedia

The Auditorium is closed at the moment, but they still sing gospel music on the boardwalk several times a night.

The police department building is merged together with a Methodist church, separate entrances but both under the same roof.

Ocean Grove remains a fully dry city, for the purpose of “keeping the riff-raff out,” as one waitress explained to me.  To walk up the Ocean Grove boardwalk into nearby Asbury Park (Cuban and Puerto Rican and Haitian in addition to American black) remains a lesson in the economics of sudden segregation, deliberate and otherwise.

Based on my experience as a kid, I recall quite distinct “personae” for the adjacent beach towns of Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach, Seaside Heights, Lavalette, Belmar, Spring Lake, and Point Pleasant.  This time around I did not see much cultural convergence.  That said, Ocean Grove now seems less the province of the elderly and more of a quiet upscale haunt, including for gay couples.  As an eight-year-old, it was my least favorite beach town on the strip.  Fifty years later, it is now striking to me how much the United States is refusing to be all smoothed over and homogenized.

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“You cannot swim with facility...” if anyone can translate, I’d be curious what Tyler refers to. Many thanks.

Two main guesses -
a. Most of the beach is not open/atrtractive for swimming, for whatever reason, such as being private or mudflats
b. You should be I, since ocean swimming is a different skill than flat water swimming

I live in the next town and frequent OG regularly and I had no idea what he meant by that, it is no different from any other beach on the jersey shore.. and where would he be swimming from? Odd thing to write but the whole article doesn't seem to have a purpose

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I have a home in Ocean Grove. It is difficult to swim near the beach, depending on the tide, but you can swim further out if you are a strong swimmer and there isn’t a rip-tide warning. It’s not like a pool or a lake, and most kids just enjoy getting knocked down by the waves.

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I don’t think there is a Straussian reading of this I assume Tyler just meant what he said but left it unspecified.
I have never been there but I can imagine that there is some kind of a problem:
Maybe the shore is hard to access, or the beach too narrow or too rocky, or the riptides too treacherous, perhaps the water is choke full of stinking red bloom algae, or there are 5 shark attacks a week, or it’s contaminated by sewage or there are underwater mines or a sign saying “ swimming permitted only on Wednesdays from 5 am to 6 am, violators will pay $5000 fine or or it’s an EPA clean up site or the beach is so shallow you can walk into the water for a mile and you’re still only up to your ankles, or it’s overrun by jellyfish or …
use your imagination

It is full of UFOs.

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The beach is fairly wide and clean. Just a lot of waves, depending on the tides. One section is reserved for surfing.

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The beach is fairly wide and clean. One section is reserved for surfing.

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My wife's family has gone to the shore for 70+ years. I've gone for the last 25. The surf can be a little big sometimes, and sometimes there's a current, but I went swimming every year with my father-in-law well into his 90s, so I'm not really sure what Tyler means...

In New Jersey, one does not go "to the shore" one goes "down the shore".

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'remains a lesson in the economics of sudden segregation, deliberate and otherwise'

But since the encounters with random passersby are what counts, this is an old fashioned way at looking at segregation.

Not sure what he means by “sudden segregation.” It used to be segregated and blacks were not permitted to buy or rent in the “town.” But that is a long time ago. There are not many black residents now, but integration is perfectly legal. It is a section of Neptune Township and most of our black residents are still in other neighborhoods.

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The Wikipedia article is worth a read. Ocean Grove is a private religiously-oriented community -- it used to even have its own police force and municipal courts but, according to the article, the courts forced these to disband and the community is legally now under the jurisdiction of Neptune Township.

Ocean Grove also came up in the news when it was sued for not allowing gay weddings on its boardwalk. They claimed the boardwalk was private property and owned by a private religious organization and the plaintiffs said they were a quasi-public institution. The plaintiffs won, apparently.

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Is Ocean Grove the place that's closed to cars on Sundays? Or is that Ocean City?

Ocean Grove once had its Gates closed on Sundays it did not allow any driving of any sort and required all vehicles to be off the road whether parked outside of town or in a garage which was rare. I believe the official statutes stated no wheels were to be visible on Sundays. However, that statute went away around 35 years ago

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Ocean Grove was closed on Sundays to all traffic, including bicycles and roller skates, until 1979. The ocean is beautiful for swimming, still closed Sunday mornings.

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That place is so dry italian restaurants don't even serve espresso, since coffee is a drug. If that's not praising the lord's work then what is?

Not true, you can get all the coffee you want. Several independent coffee shops and bakeries as well.

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I have been served both wine and coffee
It is my favorite beach not all the crazy beach stuff

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Grew up in NJ during the 50s and 60s, and also an annual "shore" visitor ... my folks called it "Ocean Grave" ... home of the newlywed, and nearly dead.

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It’s the tail end of blueberry season ... there are a number of growers still open, and picking blueberries is a great way to spend a South Jersey morning before it gets too hot.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/02/dining/blueberries-new-jersey.html

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In most places in the US that are near the ocean, you go to the "beach". But in Oregon you go to the "coast" and in New Jersey you go to the "shore".

Those are the only two states that ban self-service gas stations; can't think of any causal connection though.

leftist nanny state horse buggy employment preservation program

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“...striking to me how much the United States is refusing to be all smoothed over and homogenized.”

The strongest and most persistent segregation in the US is the segregation by income class. NJ is a prime example. I am not implying that one cannot move up the ladder (or down), but whatever class you are in defines your neighborhood and your social life.

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I visited Cape May once. I thought it rather attractive.

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“...striking to me how much the United States is refusing to be all smoothed over and homogenized.”

It'll be a shame when it happens. Used to be fun going to all the festivals in summer. There were festivals for the Greeks, Italians, Puerto Ricans, Irish, German, and I think Hungarians. Probably a couple more. They mostly still exist but are much smaller. The neighborhoods that hosted them are much more mixed nowadays. Some good, and some bad out of that I guess.

Remote work, if it's here to stay, will end up resegregating neighborhoods. If you can live anywhere, why not live among your fellow [fill in the blank]. Any subculture you can think of: ethnic, linguistic, political, gender and sexuality, cosplayers, chess players, hobbyists and enthusiasts of all kinds. Miami might become almost entirely Spanish-speaking. The surest prediction is that political segregation into red or blue enclaves is going to intensify.

Much of this distinctiveness will simply be an emergent property of like-minded people ending up in the same neighborhoods. But some of it might be legally enforced. If Ocean Grove can be dry, can Vegantown ban the sale of meat? Can Thinspotown ban sugary drinks? Maybe Chinatown will mandate Chinese-only physical signage, and visitors can use augmented reality to see virtual signs in English or any other language.

That depends on how much latitude the state gives local government to define its own rules. New Jersey has many dry towns and I believe many other states have dry towns and counties as well. On the other hand, we see cases where state governments do not allow localities to pass ordinances requiring face masks or banning open carry of firearms. I wouldn't be surprised if both Vegantown and Chinese-only Chinatown would be shut down fairly quickly by some state governments.

Well, you need a liquor license to sell alcohol, not meat or sugary drinks. This is a section of a township that has decided not to sell liquor licenses. You can buy booze right across the highway (in the same town.)

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Ocean Grove is still dry because the land is owned by the Methodist Camp Meeting Association. Historically the denomination was supportive of Prohibition and still uses grape juice for communion. Welch was a Methodist who figured out how to bottle juice from grapes without letting it ferment.

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This is the solution for the Hong Kong diaspora, by the way. Gradually turning existing neighborhoods into ethnic enclaves one household at a time, the way it used to be done, rather than trying to wish a whole city into existence in some desolate Irish bog. Available unpopulated land tends to be unpopulated for good reason.

Ethnic enclaves might still disperse over time, for instance as children marry outside the group. But the pull of external job opportunities won't matter nearly as much in a world where most work is online.

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The author seems to know nothing about Ocean Grove. Beaches are terrific. Soft, clean sand. Clear water and like any beach, is very swimmable at high and low tide. Brand new boardwalk without all the crazy games, noise, vendors or games of chance. A small, quaint shopping district with great restaurants. Terrific inns and B&B’s. Yes it’s a dry town but that can be an advantage and certainly a money saver since you can BYOB anywhere without a problem. I liken the town to Mayberry in some ways: Pleasantville in others. 2 banks, barbershop and post office to boot! If I had to live in NJ, this is the best place to be. I don’t have to live here year round. I choose to ... and do.

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So this is how Tyler spent New Jersey Day 2020.

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An odd, limited and somewhat inaccurate review of Ocean Grove. I grew up there, still visit frequently and my parents still live there. The Auditorium is currently open (July '20) for Sunday services and regular organ concerts that have been held there for over a hundred years. I'm not sure what other events it is open for this summer. There is no police station attached to the Methodist Church. As noted in a comment, the town does not have its own police force anymore after having been incorporated into Neptune township. The population has certainly changed as he noted. It is a dry town in regards to the restaurants, just like Ocean City. I can understand how, as a child, it was his least favorite beach as there is just boardwalk, beach and ocean with no arcades, sundries stores found in many other Jersey Shore towns. I'm not sure what his issue with swimming is, you swim, ride the waves and chill out. But I feel as though his esoteric, vague attempt at a social commentary is just that. Vague and esoteric.

The Great Auditorium is open for services. But it seats six thousand and per the governor’s order on indoor gatherings, only 100 worshipers are allowed inside. Last summer there were 80 ushers at many services. The services are being streamed and the choir is virtual. The soloists are performing socially distanced. The annual choir festival, which usually draws 1000+ singers will be virtual.

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"There is no police station attached to the Methodist Church. ". Did tc make this up? Or could this be something up for interpretation.

I love these posts exactly because they are esoteric. Thats what makes the best travel writing. Otherwise you're just repeating the guidebook.

Perfect. Lowest status post trying to be high status I’ve ever seen. Cowen isn’t esoteric here he’s just a bad writer growing increasingly lazy and sloppy from old age and non-rigorous writing .

??? Have you read any naipaul? Very esoteric. Also one of best travel writers of all time. Donald Richie on Japan? Same thing. What travel writing would you hold up as exemplary? I just read name calling in your post. Are you saying esoteric in itself is bad or TC isn't doing it right?

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I, not numbered among the initiate, get only the exoteric reading.

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A few years ago they put a police substation next to Thornley Chapel, a small building with a sort of annex. Essentially it was a place for the patrol officers to take a break and cool off. It hasn’t been active in years but the signs are still there.

There you go! I was pretty sure TC wouldn't make up something out of the blue.

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Might the "economics of sudden segregation, deliberate and otherwise" have anything to do with Asbury Park's knock-down-drag-out rioting back in 1970? When we visited a friend in Ocean Grove the contrast with its more famous neighbor was stark.

That was just a week or two after 9/11, and Ocean Grove itself was a soothing sight for sore nerves. But if you want to drink and gamble, Monmouth Park is right nearby -- if the public is ever allowed to attend at some future time.

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"you cannot actually swim there with any great facility". Not sure what Tyler means by this. I grew up at the Jersey Shore and the beaches are great, and, at least in Southern NJ, superior to California for swimming because the water is significantly warmer. The surfing isn't bad either, though the waves aren't particularly big.

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I am an NJ native, though North Jersey, like Tyler. I am surprised that he found no goodness to eat, though I've never been to Ocean Grove (just towns to the south in that area like Bradley Beach, Avon, Belmar that he mentioned as well as Cape May).

My experience in Jersey Shore dining has been:
1) Breakfast - Find a small deli, cafe, or bagel shop on the main street of the town (not the beach street or boardwalk). Preferably, there will be a hardware store within the block. Look for an awesome breakfast burrito and figure out how to order it to your liking. Write down this information as it may literally save your life after a long night at the shore. Oh, and it is Taylor Ham, not Pork Roll.
2) If you want lunch at the beach, pack a light snack or sandwich that pairs well with the sand. Or, if you must indulge, grab a slice somewhere, but classic Jersey Shore style pizza is not my favorite and I doubt you will feel better for the experience.
3) For dinner find a place closer to the inlet side. We used to like a Ragin' Cajun on 35 in Belmar (though I haven't been back in years, so can't say now). I would try to find a place that seems like it doesn't fit just enough (a Cajun place in Jersey?) but still has a good connection to the ocean (mmm, jambalaya). Can't say I've tried many BBQ places, but they seem like they don't fit (BBQ in NJ?) but don't in my mind have a connection to the ocean, so would not be my first choice. Italian food in NJ is too expected. I have had some of the best Mexican food I've ever tasted in Bradley Beach/Avon area, again back on the main street, not beachside.

Also a NJ native, but directly from the region Tyler is talking about and grew up working on the beach in high school (though I live in Boston now).

Will try to check out the Rain' Cajun when I go back home, as Belmar is only a few miles from my parents.

That said, for my comfort food nostalgia. -- no mention of beach food should be without talking about a great Jersey Italian sub (usually the #4)

I honestly get one every time I go visit my parents, usually before reaching their home. Also some bar pizza gems like Vic's and Pete & Elda's.

I agree with Tyler that when I return, the food can seemingly leave things to be desired at times, but I'm also 16 years out of the loop to know what gems remain (and spoiled by living in a major city). Yelp hasn't been totally useless when I go back though (though I know what Tyler thinks about that site).

I was pleased to see the Bier Garten in Asbury Park last time I went back. A little yuppie, but a nice addition in my view. In hindsight, growing up in the area was decidedly safe and a little bland, but not unpleasant or something I lack fondness for even though I prefer denser regions at this stage in my life.

His comments about swimming don't seem accurate at all to me. Never issues with that growing up, or when I go back today. The beaches are still quite clean, if not south Florida clear water (though sometimes the water can have some fish egg blooms washing up)

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There are a couple of really good restaurants for lunch, I like The Starving Artist. And for dinner, Sea Grass or Bia. BYOB like a lot of NJ places.

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I hear that systematicness is the antithesis of charm. Maybe that's right.
Outside Italy, Euro cities are kind of boring in that the stores one sees on Regent Street or the Champs Elysee are generally the same ones that are in the Short Hills Mall.

DC Metro area types, when they go to NJ usually go to Cape May. Per what Tyler seems to find fun and interesting in a jaunt, Cape May would probably be his best bet for a good time at the Shore.

Not all, but most places at the Shore are for families with kids, Cape May being an exception. If that's you, or that's not you, but you like such places, most places on the Shore are fine.

In addition, doing things like riding your bike and going out in one's boat means that one needs to have or have access to a bike or a boat.

Down the coast, south of Point Pleasant, having a bay behind the barrier island changes what one can do quite a lot.

Lastly, where the people are from changes as one goes south. Up north it's all NYC metro area people, in the middle it's about half Philly half NYC, and south of AC it's about all Philly, if you like people from south Philly, go to Wildwood. As noted above, lots of DC types in Cape May.

Lastly, though NJ as a whole has plenty of Olive Gardens and the like, it's the diner capital of the planet, in that outside a few cities, downscale food is highly local and quirky. One has to like diner food though.

Is anyone here actually high status? I’m notoriously modest about the wealthiness of my upbringing but if your problem with Paris is all the stores are the same as nice malls in the US then you aren’t staying in the right places.

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I realized you cannot actually swim there with any great facility. Nor is there much to do, nor should one look forward to the food.

I love swimming and water sports in the NJ beaches. The food is fantastic and unique and interesting. There is a lot to do and lots of interesting towns with very unique local character to explore. I have the opposite opinion of Cowen.

Swimming-wise, NJ beaches have cool cloudy water. Most prefer warmer crystal clear beach water. But each type of beach has its unique natural charms. NJ beaches are filled with swimmers and water sports and many people love it. There's also lots of other water sports to enjoy.

Food-wise, there is tons of excellent local charming seafood markets and restaurants. A lot of the seafood is locally sourced and is spectacular. There is excellent charming and unique beach-style Italian American food everywhere that is distinct from what you see elsewhere.

To-do wise, there are tons of interesting, unique towns and areas to explore. As Cowen said, a lot of the NJ beaches have very distinct local characters and are not at all homogenized. A lot of it is very bicycle friendly and a joy to experience that way.

All of the above, is about other NJ beaches: I haven't specifically been to Ocean Grove.

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Thanks, another installment of TC's smug tour of the US in random suburbs. Are you going to Bayonne next? What about the Poconos and Niagara?

Why don't you do your foodie thing since you don't care about the outdoors: I heard there were many struggling ethnic restaurants in Downtown Minneapolis that have to display their ethnic and their (purported) political affiliations on their boarded up windows..or else.

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Pre-stagnation, the Auditorium was built in three months for $69,000 in 1894 dollars. The food is indeed mediocre and the architecture good; the town is also excellent for religious and classical music.

For those asking about police, Neptune has a substation adjacent to Thornley Chapel.

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Tyler, stop by at our house at 27 Bath to chat! The swimming is great, the restaurants are wonderful, and the auditorium is open for church on Sunday.

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I spent my first 24 years in New Jersey and frequently visited that part of the Jersey shore. I remember how shocking it was to find out that Ocean Grove was a dry town, because I didn't think those existed anywhere outside in the deep South in the mid-1970s.

Despite it being a dry town, the total number tickets or arrests for driving while intoxicated in Neptune Township, which includes Ocean Grove is quite high. Per square mile, it's in the top 1/3 of New Jersey shore towns. However, the total volume is a more interesting data point. That's one of the highest in the state, in the same ballpark as Atlantic City. It is my understanding that people in Ocean Grove who want to drink just go to other parts of Neptune Township and so very frequently drive while intoxicated when they would perhaps have walked to a local bar if one was available. Infringements on liberty almost always have unintended consequences.

Scroll to number 17 on this page: https://www.nj.com/news/2017/07/these_jersey_shore_towns_have_the_highest_rate_of.html

Lots of NJ towns do not issue the liquor licenses they could and are BYOB for restaurants. Others don’t have enough to issue to all the establishments because the number allotted was based on population at the end of Prohibition and never updated. As for getting a drink at that latitude, Asbury Park is a short walk on the boardwalk.

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Stayed in Ocean Grove a few summers ago. The dense, tree-lined Victorian streets make for a more shaded, less sun-blasted experience than a lot of Jersey Shore towns. The beach is fine, good waves. And at night you can just walk a few minutes north into the more worldly Asbury Park for good food and hip venues. As you enter the town through the Main Avenue gates you seem to go up a ramp, and the town seems to be raised above the surrounding flats, so there is kind of a fortress-like feeling to the place. For a different experience to the usual Shore town, it's well worth a visit.

As you walk the tree-lined streets, be careful around the uneven sidewalks. Those tree roots cause havoc!

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More posts like this please.

I too am optimistic about the future of individuality.

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Ocean Grove isn't where I'd go to eat. Much better food in Asbury Park, and Bradley Beach has one of my favorite breakfast places (The Buttered Biscuit.)

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Stay home the shore don't want you here. Your problem is you go to a shit hole. Take your Victorian and houses and stick them where the sun doesn't shine. You r an ass . Keep eating your crappy food and stay away from the shore.

I live in ocean grove nj for over 10 years the food is excellent and its peaceful and there's one restsunt I really enjoyed is frank deli in asbury and latopatia the Spanish restaunt and meat and more and the flea market that they have 3times a year and the strawberry festival and they also have car shows to as well there's a lot to do in ocean grove but they can't do that stuff right now because of covid-19 witch is not a virus its a bacteria not a virus

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