So you know you are reading about the Jersey Shore. But if you’re expecting a write up on Snooki and the rest of the MTV gang, think again. No, we’re talking vacation: 127 miles of New Jersey coastline flirting with the choppy Atlantic. And while they might be the summer hangout for the cast of the wildly popular TV show, New Jersey’s beaches also make for a great family getaway.
Stop One: Asbury Park, Home of the Shore’s Art and Music Scene
Asbury Park is a great spot to begin your summer Jersey Shore vacation. Colorful and alive with the arts, this humble town is the ideal place for music and literature lovers. Just make sure you save some time to relax on the beach.
A must-visit in Asbury Park is the Stone Pony, a historic music venue located just across from the breezy water front. Opened in 1974, the Stone Pony is best known for being the place where Bruce Springsteen made his claim to fame. Today, the Stone Pony is a popular stop for many performers, making it a must for any music fan.
There’s also the Silverball Pinball Museum, perfect for the gamer in the group. With over 6,000 pinball machines manufactured between 1933 and 1979, the museum is a classic look at gaming. Kids under 5 are given free admission. For everyone else, passes from 30 minutes to a full day are available for a fee.
For a more literary experience, plan a trip to the Stephen Crane House. Author of “The Red Badge of Courage,” Crane spent much of his short life in Asbury Park. Today, the house is a popular venue for literary, film, musical, and other cultural programs.
Family Friendly Hotels in Asbury Park
Looking for a place to stay in Asbury Park? There are a number of local bed and breakfasts, as well as hotels, that your family might want to try, including Mikell’s Big House, Hotel Tides, and the Empress Hotel.
For a great stay, we recommend the Asbury Ocean Beach Inn. This lovely location is only three blocks away from the Asbury Boardwalk and the beach. Amenities include bicycle rentals for families looking to tour the town and a complementary beach pass complete with towels and beach chairs.
On your way from Asbury Park to Ocean City, be sure to check out Seaside Heights and Island Beach State Park (roughly 45 minutes and 25 miles south of Asbury Park). Located between Seaside Park and Barnegat Inlet, this 9-mile stretch of beach is one of the few areas of the Jersey Shore that is untouched by developers: A great stop for families looking for a quiet piece of nature by the sea.
For more information on Seaside Heights and Island Beach Park, please read “A Weekend At The Jersey Shore.”
Stop Two: Ocean City, New Jersey, “America’s Greatest Family Resort”
Ocean City, New Jersey (2 hours and about 100 miles south of Asbury Park) is working hard to live up to its claim as “America’s Greatest Family Resort”. With a 2.5-mile-long boardwalk and 8 miles of beach, this barrier island’s charm continues to draw families by the score throughout the summer.
The boardwalk is certainly a big attraction and reflects the feeling of Jersey Shore boardwalks from years past. In the early morning hours, the boardwalk is relatively calm and peaceful. But, as the day progresses, the boardwalk becomes engulfed by families traveling down the shoreline. Bikes, surreys and even strollers can be rented at various locations close to the boardwalk.
Tired of the beach, but still looking for some outdoor fun? Gillian’s Wonderland Pier amusement park is always a great stop. For almost 90 years, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier has entertained families with rides and games for all ages. Their nearby water park is a compact maze of slides in all sizes. There is also a large toddler water play area where parents can watch their children while resting on chaise lounges.
Ocean City also boasts a Music Pier right on the boardwalk where special events are held throughout the summer. For more information, please see the city’s website, OceanCityCamber.com.
When dining out in Ocean City, you’ll find plenty of options for great, affordable food. What you won’t find is alcohol: Ocean City is a “dry” town.
Other fun family specialty include a Night in Venice boat parade, antique car show, art shows, miniature golf tournament, and a farmers market featuring the best Jersey corn and tomatoes you will ever taste!
Fun Hotels for vacations with Kids in Ocean City
Ocean City also offers families plenty of options when picking a place to spend the night. Here, families can choose to rent a condo or a beach house, stay at a local campground, book a night at one of the many hotels and motels in the area, or stay at a charming B&B.
For families traveling with pets, the Ocean City Mansion is a definite must. With seven uniquely decorated guest suites and two apartments, this B&B is a pet-friendly bit of luxury.
If you’re looking to stay closer to the boardwalk, The Plymouth Inn is a great choice. Just one block away from the beach, this B&B gives families instant access to some of the best beaches in New Jersey.
Stop Three: Avalon, New Jersey — Great Amusement Parks
A New Jersey shoreline favorite of ours is the town of Avalon (30 minutes and 15 miles south of Ocean City), a more upscale destination featuring clean beaches, natural dunes and a small, well maintained boardwalk.
In Avalon, families are given plenty of opportunities to practice their swing at many full sized and mini golf courses. Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks is also a great getaway. Here, families can look forward to a full day of thrills and excitement at the amusement park that was rated the third best seaside amusement park in the world.
Stop Four: Wildwood, New Jersey — Dolphin Sightings off the Jersey Coast
A stone’s throw away from Avalon (20 minutes and 11 miles, to be exact), Wildwood has options for every generation in the family, whether it’s souvenir shopping along the two-mile boardwalk, spending a day at the boardwalk’s water park, or even taking a slow relaxing ride on a pontoon boat.
For some outdoor fun, we recommend booking a whale or dolphin watching excursion on one of Wildwood’s many sightseeing boats. For a more relaxing cruise, Starlight Fleet is a good choice. Here, each tour is led by an experienced biologist and educator. Touch tanks are also available on the ship, allowing passengers to have a first-hand look at some of the Atlantic’s best wildlife.
For a more thrill-seeking aquatic excursion, try a trip on the Thunder Cat, a high-speed boat that takes you racing after the dolphins and the waves.
For rainy-day activities, check out the Naval Air Station’s Wildwood Aviation Museum. Here, families get a close look at all things aviation. The museum also sports plenty of interactive displays for kids, making it a great activity for when they skies get a little dark.
Like many towns along the Jersey Shore, Wildwood and Avalon have plenty of hotels and motels right on the oceanfront. With prices that fit every budget, you’ll have no problem booking easy accommodations in either town.
Stop Five: Cape May, New Jersey — The Historic Jersey Shore
Picturesque, Victorian style homes, quiet lanes, and family recreation go hand in hand in Cape May, New Jersey (20 minutes and 10 miles south of Wildwood). This beautiful seaside getaway falls just below the Mason-Dixon Line at the southern tip of the state.
Between April and November (summer months are peak season), whale watches embark to view whales and dolphins feeding in the coastal waters. For a “seafaring safari,” be sure to book a trip with the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center. Kids ages 6 and under ride free when accompanied by a parent, and reduced rates are available for kids ages 7 to 12.
The Nature Center of Cape May is another great stop for outdoor excursions. During the summer, families can enjoy the local flower scene by taking one of the nine backyard garden butterfly tours offered by the center in July, August, and September.
The Emlen Physick Estate is a fun historic stop. With a fabulous carriage house gallery, tearoom, and mansion with guided tours that are definitely worth exploring, the estate is the perfect activity for any Victorian era enthusiast. Be sure to check out their website for specialty events going on throughout the year.
Combination tours are also available in conjunction with the Cape May historical district. These joint tours last roughly 2 hours and explore both the historic streets of Cape May and the Emlen Physic Estate.
Other historic sites include the WWII Lookout Tower (Fire Control Tower No. 23) Museum and Memorial and the 1859 Cape May Lighthouse. Public visits are allowed at each of these locations. For more information, see Victorian Cape May, New Jersey’s website.
Cape May Family Hotels
If you’re looking for somewhere equally historic to stay, be sure to book a room at the Carroll Villa Hotel, located right in the heart of Cape May’s historic district. Built in 1882, the Carroll Villa Hotel is now a national landmark hotel that has won many awards for both its hotel and its in-house restaurant, the Mad Batter. Even better than all the awards: Guests staying at the restaurant receive a 30% discount on their dinners at the restaurant.
The rooms are elegantly decorated and peppered with Victorian whimsy. Portable cribs are available in certain rooms for guests traveling with little ones. Guests should also note that, while parking is free at the Carroll Villa Hotel, the parking is not directly on the premises. With their stay, guests are given access to the Bank Street Parking Lot (3 blocks away, a roughly 5 to 7 minute walk through the scenic downtown).
As you can see, the Jersey shore is much more than a TV show. But, if you’ve made it all the way through the article and were still hoping for a hint of Snooki, be sure to read about the Jersey Shore cast in Italy.
Photos courtesy of The Stone Poney, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Water Parks, Starlight Fleet, The Naval Air Station’s Wildwood Aviation Museum, The Emlen Physick Estate, and http://www.davestravelcorner.com/.
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