August 18, 2017

Watch the Tram Car: Boardwalk Fun in Wildwood, NJ

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It’s hard to believe, but I had not been to the Jersey Shore in 30 years, at least not to the southern section of Wildwood and Cape May. Until last month, that is.

Wait. I just realized I spent time in Avalon and Stone Harbor, maybe 20 years ago, but now that sounds like a long time too. Those were post-college beach weekends though, so I don’t think that counts.

We live four hours from the Jersey beaches, and just a few weeks ago I finally took my kids to Wildwood and Cape May. I remember my mom taking my brother and I there for a week so many years ago. The boardwalk rides, the tram cars, the funnel cakes. It was so much fun.

So there I was, piling three of my kids into the minivan for a mid-week getaway at the beach. We had actually just spent the previous week at the beach on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, so I was eager to see what my kids thought about the beaches of the Jersey Shore.

As you can imagine, they had a blast, but how can you not when mini golf, ice cream sundaes and alpacas (yes, alpacas) are involved? More on the alpacas later. 🙂

Where to Stay

We stayed at the Port Royal Hotel, which despite being more than 40 years old, felt like a very new hotel. The hotel was located in Wildwood Crest, the quietest of the three Wildwoods, which includes from north to south, North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. It was a great place to stay as a family.

The Port Royal Hotel is located across a small service road from the beach, so it was a super-easy walk when we were ready to splash in the waves. No need to bring beach chairs or umbrellas. You can rent them right there on the beach between 10 am and 4 pm.

Look for an ice cream cart that comes by every so often. Plus, there are lifeguards on duty until 5:30 pm, which was nice. The beach was also free (and the sand was so soft). I didn’t realize there were beaches that were not free, but just down the road in Cape May, it’s $8 per day for a beach tag (after 10 am) for each person aged 12 and over. Who knew?

To one side of the hotel is a huge grassy area with an outdoor pavilion, which hosted concerts two of the three nights during our stay. On the other side of the hotel is another huge grassy area, this one with a children’s playground and a bike rental shop at the far end. The hotel really could not have been more perfect for us.

Inside the hotel, there’s a restaurant called the Royal Grille. The food was tasty and the service was speedy (which is nice with hungry kids in tow). Here I learned that Wildwood Crest is dry, so the restaurant doesn’t serve any beer or wine, though you can bring your own if you like.

We stayed in a Deluxe Ocean Suite, which was a good fit for the four of us (though really it could have slept up to six people). It had a king size bed, a pull-out sofa and a set of bunk beds tucked away in a kids cove area. As a bonus, this particular room had two balconies. One had a view of the ocean, while the other looked up the way to the boardwalk. Nice.

What to Do 

There are so many fun things to do with kids on the Jersey Shore, and in the Wildwoods, in particular. Here are 10 of our favorite things to do on the Jersey Shore.

1. Play Mini Golf. There are a lot of fun places to play mini golf in the Wildwoods area. We picked Duffer’s, which has kind of a Finding Nemo theme with sharks, talking pelicans, even a volcano like the one in the fish tank in the movie. There’s also an arcade.

2. Eat Ice Cream. When you go on a beach vacation, particularly at the Jersey Shore, you eat ice cream. It’s just what you do. I picked Duffer’s for mini golf because there’s also an ice cream parlor on-site with all kinds of specialty sundaes. Between the four of us, we split an “Unmistakably Twix” and “Chocolate Storm.” Both were ah-mazing.

3. Snap a Selfie with the Wildwoods Sign. As you drive the last few miles along NJ-47 into the area, you’ll see the Wildwoods sign at Ocean Avenue right before you hit the beach. I snapped this photo at 6:30 am during my run. It’s probably the only time of day you can take a photo of the sign without people climbing all over the letters.

4. Enjoy a Concert at the Outdoor Pavilion. All summer long, Centennial Park in Wildwood Crest hosts free outdoor concerts several days a week at 7:30 pm. Just bring a chair or a blanket and enjoy the show. The pavilion even hosts Zumba classes a few days a week through Labor Day. The grassy area is quite large, so you won’t need to fight for a place on the lawn.

5. Walk the Length of the Boardwalk. The boardwalk is 1.5 miles long from end-to-end (it’s 2.5 miles one-way from the Port Royal Hotel to the end of the boardwalk). It’s fun to check out all of the t-shirt shops, pizza joints and carnival games. There are also three piers (Morey’s Piers) with loads of rides and two water parks. You can rent bikes too, but can only ride on the boardwalk before 11 am.

6. Spend Time at the Beach. As I noted above, the sand is so soft on this part of the Jersey Shore. And the beach is huge, so be prepared to walk a ways to get from your hotel to the water. Speaking of the water, the water was the perfect temperature. I even got in the water and rode the waves (which I never do).

7. Meet Friendly Alpacas. After two days in the sun, I hunted around on TripAdvisor for something new to do and stumbled across Jersey Shore Alpacas. It’s a free family-owned alpaca farm with 20 or so alpacas. The owners couldn’t have been nicer and they give everyone free carrots to feed the alpacas. There’s a gift shop on-site, so stop in to help support the business.

8. Visit the Free Cape May County Zoo. Not far from Jersey Shore Alpacas (and about 20 minutes from the Wildwoods) is the Cape May County Zoo. It’s a free zoo, though they take donations at the entrance. It’s not a huge zoo, but it was big enough and there were loads of animals, including giraffes, zebras, camels and lions. It was a great time spent off the beach.

9. Explore Cape May. Cape May is one town to the south of the Wildwoods, and it was a nice area to check out. We ate pancakes at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, went to see the Cape May Lighthouse and explored Sunset Beach in search of Cape May Diamonds (we didn’t find any). Make sure to snap photos of the Victorian-style inns and houses along the beach.

10. Ride All the Rides on Morey’s Piers. Saving the best for last, you’ll want to go to Morey’s Piers every day you’re in the Wildwoods. There are three amusement piers at Morey’s Piers with more rides than I can count (Surfside Pier, Adventure Pier and Mariner’s Pier). There are also two water parks (Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis).

We had Same-Day Combo tickets, which were perfect for us because it meant we could ride all the rides on the amusement piers and then slide down all the slides at the water parks in one day. All the piers are super-fun, but I think our favorite was Mariner’s Pier, which was home to the giant Ferris Wheel, the Wave Swinger, bumper cars, the carousel and more.

Mariner’s Pier is also home to the Raging Waters Water Park, which has lots of cool water slides, a lazy river and plenty of kids water play areas. There are also lots of great eats on the piers, like Jumbo’s, which has both casual sit-down and counter service (we ate in both areas). Yumm-o.

Summer’s not quite over, and there’s still plenty of time to make a break for the Wildwoods. If you go, let me know, and tell me about some of your favorite things to do in the Wildwoods.

Disclaimer: My kids and I were hosted by Morey’s Piers. However, I was not compensated for this article and all opinions expressed here are my own (we love the Jersey Shore!).

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