Docks on the Navesink River Credit: Nicole Perrino

I love exploring new towns, especially ones less than a two-hour drive from my home in New York City. So, one recent weekend, I went to explore the town of Red Bank, New Jersey. Situated along the Navesink River, it has one of the best performing and visual arts scenes.

It’s also the perfect escape for people who live in cities but crave natural beauty, history, amazing food and cute locally-owned shops.

SHOPPING: Fashion lovers can enjoy exploring Broad Street for some fun shopping. First, stop by trendy boutique Dor L’Dor, then head to Poor Cat for unique handcrafted jewelry.

Also on Broad Street and a must-see is the Washington General Store. This modern home decor and gift shop is full of little treasures.

If you’re looking for some goodies to bring home, stop in Semolina Pasta Shoppe, a small shop next to Semolina Restaurant that offers fresh pasta, giant sourdough bread, and unique gifts like a DIY focaccia bread kit.

Window of Semolina Pasta Shoppe Credit: Nicole Perrino

THE ARTS: Art lovers visiting Red Bank should carve out time for some gallery hopping. On Monmouth Street, stop by the Beacon Fine Arts Gallery, an eclectic gallery featuring nationally and internationally renowned and collected artists. 

Red Bank is also home to Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, a comic book store owned by filmmaker Kevin Smith, and named after the fictional comedic duo.

Count Basie Center for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that hosts open-mic comedy nights, a plays throwback movies like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and live storytelling. 

Additionally, the Two River Theater located along Bridge Avenue hosts plays and other events throughout the year. 

Music enthusiasts should pay a visit to Jack’s Music Shop, a decades old shop with used LPs, CDs and instruments.

Checking out Jack’s Music Shop Credit: Nicole Perrino

If you want to be a part of the art scene, stop in A Time to Kiln, where you can paint your own pottery. 

DINING: For breakfast, stop in Bagel Station, where they’ve been making hand-rolled and kettle-boiled bagels since 1979. If you’re visiting during the warmer months, grabbing a meal outside on Broad Street is a must. Dubbed Broadwalk, Broad Street between White Street and Front Street becomes a pedestrian-only plaza, where you can enjoy dinner or a cocktail under string lights with live music. 

Indulge in Kobe meatballs, a juicy ribeye, or a filet mignon philly cheesesteak at Char Steakhouse. Wash it all down with a Blackberry Smash from the Robinson Ale House– made with Sagamore rye whiskey, Triple Sec, fresh lime, and blackberry puree. 

Robinson Ale House Credit: Nicole Perrino

Vegans can hit up Good Karma cafe on East Front Street.

To satisfy a sweet tooth, stop in Antoinette Boulangerie, a French bakery where you can find baguettes, pastries, quiches, macarons, and more.

During my visit I opted to dine at Via Sposito, a family-owned Italian restaurant with three locations. While they are a BYOB restaurant, I personally paired my meal with a nice bottle of wine from the menu.

Lunch at Via Sposito Credit: Nicole Perrino

STAY: For bed-and-breakfast vibes, consider a room at the riverfront Molly Pitcher Inn, which has river views, a poolside bar, and hosts live piano sets on Thursdays through Saturdays. There’s also a weekday day pass option for those just passing through the area for the day. 

HISTORY: If you’re looking to fit in some local history, be sure to stop by the T. Thomas Fortune House, also known as Maple Hall. Now a landmark, the home once belonged to Timothy Thomas Fortune, a leading African-American journalist and civil rights advocate. The house is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on weekends and also hosts special events throughout the year. It is also now an official site along the New Jersey Black Heritage Trail. 

View of the Navesink River Credit: Nicole Perrino

NATURE: For views of the Navesink River, head to the Bellhaven Nature Area at the end of Locust Avenue. Or visit Riverside Gardens Park, which has the best views of the river and is a great spot for a picnic. They also host concerts, movies, and other events throughout the year.

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