I am mentioning the PNC Bank Arts Center first, since I attended two shows there this summer. This is an outdoor location which seats 7,000 under the roof of the amphitheater, and has capacity for about 10,500 more on the lawn. In June we saw the Doobie Brothers and Peter Frampton. The Doobies will still rock you right out of your seat and Peter Frampton seemed absolutely amazed at our response to his persistent and incredible talent. It’s no wonder the two traded headlining throughout their tour together… they’re both so worthy of the spotlight! The second show we caught at the Arts Center this year was Warren Haynes and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. He performed the “Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration” and whoa. It was spectacular. I was never a follower of Jerry or of the Grateful Dead, but I’ve seen the Dead performed by members of the original band and by many of the other bands I like, but this was a completely new experience. Warren and his band, combined with the orchestra, pulled off the best performance of Grateful Dead music that I’ve ever seen live. It was magical. So, if you’re coming to New Jersey in the warmer months, check the PNC Bank Arts Center calendar and try to catch a show. There is nothing sweeter than a cool evening breeze blowing across that lawn while you’re listening to some of the best music in the world. Next up, Asbury Park. One Sunday early in August we drove up to Asbury to take a walk along the boardwalk and to eventually pop up our lawn chairs in a grassy spot toward the south end to listen to a few bands perform at the Stone Pony Summer Stage. That’s right… if you want to listen, but don’t care if you miss out on the crowds inside the giant Summer Stage yard, grab a lawn chair! Don’t forget to pick up some munchies before you settle in. One of our favorites is Hoagitos right on the boardwalk, where you can have a miniature sub (hoagie, grinder) for five dollars… delicious! There is so much to do along the boardwalk in Asbury Park, but you can also take the short walk into town for great shopping, stimulating art, and a good meal. A little plug for an Atlantic City favorite: One afternoon in late August I had a hankering for a cheese steak. In my humble estimation, the Philly cheese steaks at the Steel Pier are at least as good, likely better than any I’ve tasted, ever. I know, big words, but try them! We first ran into this gem in the spring, and have wanted to return ever since. The stand is just to the right of the entrance to the Steel Pier and that’s right across from the recently bankrupt Taj Mahal. If you live in or are visiting New Jersey, don’t forget about Historic Smithville! What a treat for a lazy afternoon. You can take a stroll around Lake Meone, wander through the cool little shops, or pop the kids on the merry-go-round. At lunch or dinner time the Smithville Inn is a fine old restaurant, but we opted for casual and had a late lunch at AJ’s. Smithville is an hour or less from any point in South Jersey, and is well worth the ride, but if you’re coming from a distance, you’ll find accommodations right on the property. Finally, on Labor Day, instead of fighting the crowds at the beaches, we took a ride all the way out to “the middle of nowhere” and visited the last drive-in theater in New Jersey. The Delsea Drive-In is located in the southwestern part of the state in Vineland. They have two screens and show up to three current movies on each screen on Friday and Saturday nights. Their concession stand is more of a restaurant, and their menu can be found on their web site, here. The night we went it poured, but we made it through the first movie and part of the second. What fun, enjoyably reminiscent of a time gone by, even though the foggy windows did us in! In addition to our New Jersey jaunts, a few out-of-state getaways deserve mention. On a visit to my daughter in the DC area, I met with some friends at their local spot, the Westover Market in Arlington. Seated at picnic benches we listened to lively music in their outdoor beer garden (rock-a-billy that particular evening) and drank a few of their many microbrews. Inside you’ll find the Market’s famous “wall of beer.” We saw one of our favorite up-and-coming bands, Trigger Hippy, at the Watermark in New York. It’s at Pier 15 on the East River at South Street Seaport, just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. What a great music venue! You can lounge in their oversized chairs and have a bite to eat from their bar between sets, while enjoying the nautical atmosphere of the Seaport area which is currently undergoing a major facelift. The atmosphere was peaceful and the views were magnificent. What a way to spend a summer night. Penn’s Landing made for another great day trip. If you find yourself here at the Delaware River Waterfront, don’t miss having a meal aboard the century-old four-masted barque, the Moshulu. Restored in 1994 and moved to its current residence at Pier 34 in 2002, the exquisite service and beautiful views of the Delaware River will accompany a contemporary American meal aboard this beauty that would satisfy anyone’s inner gourmand. In the summertime, hang out in the hammocks or the adirondack chairs at the Spruce Street Harbor Park. As it has been for the last three years, the Peach Music Festival was one of the highlights of the summer. The music was outstanding, but sadly the venue just wasn’t up to par this year. In a bid for more bucks, the ever-annoying organizers of the event, Live Nation, decided that it would be more profitable to fill their usual ADA parking spaces with high-paying VIP parking, a VIP lounge, and delivery trucks. Many of the parking spaces went unused, and arguing our way to the few spaces available that were close enough to access from the site became a real drag. They relocated ADA parking to an offsite lot, forcing most patrons with disabilities to use shuttles to get to and from their cars. Have you ever needed to bring medication into a concert? Not allowed. Want to leave it in your car? Wait for a shuttle, take a ride offsite to your car and take your meds, wait for another shuttle to return to the venue. It was wrong, but we were not about to let it ruin our getaway. Amazing entertainers like Cabinet, The London Souls, Trigger Hippy, Rich Robinson, The Allman Brothers Band, and Warren Haynes could certainly not be overshadowed by bad business practices!
It’s been a very busy stay-at-home summer, and the activity will continue into September and October. This month I’ll be traveling to Long Island for a wine-tasting weekend with “the girls.” The end of October brings me to New York on at least three occasions as we say farewell to The Allman Brothers Band. Stay tuned!