My favorite beach on the East Coast, Wildwood is a traditional family beach with lots of activities for single adults as well. My review is focused more on activities, food and entertainment than the beach itself.
I’ve been visiting this beach almost every summer since I was 5. I grew up in a fairly poor working class family so vacations such as this were cherished deeply. In that, Wildwood has always held a special place in my heart. I have so many fond childhood memories of walking the beach, eating on the boardwalk and riding the amusement rides. Just this summer I returned to Wildwood after four long years and invited a friend to join me who had never been to a beach before (can you imagine, we only live 5 hours away).
To start, Wildwood is a collection of 3 towns on an island in southern New Jersey. The first is North Wildwood, which you enter through the north bridge, then is Wildwood, which is the older part of town, it’s a little more run down, but I honestly didn’t see a problem with it, then the southern part is Wildwood Crest. This section is a little more family friendly; it’s a little cleaner and therefore a little more expensive to stay here.
I have friends of the family who live in nearby Cape May Courthouse, and usually stay with them on my trips; it is a ten-minute drive into Wildwood from their house. This trip since it was Jen’s first time, I decided to find a hotel. But being silly old me I didn’t make reservations ahead of time and found out when arriving that we were visiting the busiest weekend of the year, the last weekend of July. After combing the entire island for some sort of roach motel(we aren't picky) or something under $100 a night I ended up staying just over the bridge in the Meadowbrooke Motel for $65 a night. Let me tell you this wasn’t a nice hotel, but not a terrible place either. The shower was pretty gross and the decor was from 1984 but we weren't spending too much time here, plus it had a pool and maid services and they were very friendly.
My suggestion would be to plan ahead and book your hotel. There are hundreds of small hotels throughout the island.
The main attraction of the island is of course the boardwalk. This is a very traditional boardwalk with lots of history.
It includes an amusement park (Morey's Pier) that is split into three sections. The price for an all day hopper pass is $41 Monday through Friday and $50 on the weekend. There are also two water parks, I’m not sure the price alone, but it can be added onto your daily hopper for an additional $10. I think that the prices for the park is a little high for the amount of rides, you can easily hit all of them in about 3 hours on a slow day. I also think it is a fun experience and this year I went at night for the first time. There are several roller coasters, mazes, a Ferris wheel, a skyline ride, carousels, tilt-a-whirl and other amusement rides. There was a fair selection for both adults and children.
There are also several extras that you pay more for…a helicopter ride, go-cart racing, mini-golf, a bungi system and a slingshot. These may be fun but are quite expensive.
My person favorite on the boardwalk is the food. There is so much to choose from and if your not careful you will spend a lot more than is fair. I found the best sit down dinner is at the Hot Spot II. There are many Hot Spots on the boardwalk (six I think) they mainly feature pizza. At the Hot Spot II, which is near the middle of the boardwalk, have a dining room and a patio that is fenced in. Their meals are of a good proportion and run about $8 - $12 per person. I tried a deli the one day and paid $6.95 for a wrap that was half the size of the Hot Spot and I got chip instead of fries. The Hot Spot comes with fries and coleslaw, it is very good food. They also have a Burger King, McDonald’s, Boardwalk Fries, and numerous pizza, ice cream and snack shops. Don't forget your waffles and ice cream!
Another great on the boardwalk is the games. Don’t worry they’ll rip ya, but I found these to be a little more user friendly, the workers are funny and the prizes are larger than carnivals and parks. On a slow night they drop their prices from $3 a game to just $1 to get players. That is definitely the best time to play (like Monday through Wednesday). There are interactive games too such as The Zombie game and the Pirate game. I didn’t try any of these but they did look like a lot of fun.
The last great of the boardwalk is the shopping. We aren’t talking high quality designer labels, but cheap inexpensive items. There are swim suits, shorts, shirts, sweat shirts, ceramic items, souvenirs…you name it you’ll find it. It seems each time I go down there is a big item, the last time it was the swim suit wrap, this year it was the little cotton short with writing on the butt. Everyone had them! (not me of course, I’m a leader not a follower !) It is great for kids though because there are plenty of $1 everything stores and cheap crap to cart home.
The boardwalk also has a small museum, an aquarium, a visitor center and a movie theater. It will be were you spend most of your time off the beach. It is worth just walking, people watching and everything with out even spending money.
Now on to my favorite part of the beach... The Night Life!
Understand this is my first trip being 21, so I was excited. Most of the clubs are located on Pacific in N. Wildwood. The first we went to (and fell head over heels for) was Shakers. There were heavy advertisements for it on the radio. Friday was lady’s night and before midnight ladies got in free. There were drink specials before 12 am also. We are of course never ready by 12 so we got there at around 12:30. The club features four bars that each wrap around in a rectangle and are lined up next to each other; there is a large dance floor and a stage. The place is very dark but has an amazing décor, very comfortable and friendly. Don’t be shy here you can get on stage or on the bars and dance (believe me I did). The prices are high but you have to expect that, living in LA I was used to it, my friend lived in PA all her life and couldn’t believe the prices. We were prepared and drank in our room while getting ready but to pay a little more for your drinks (if you don’t hit the specials) is part of vacation.
There are of course tons of clubs, but the staff and the owner (we met him on the way in) were so nice and the music was what we like that we went to Shakers the three nights we went out and had an amazing time each night.
Parking is always an issue, you will pay. On the weekends in the summer it is about $10 a day, during the week $5 a day but be sure to check cause some times it is only until 2pm then they charge an additional $6 for night. I found a lot that I liked on Maple and Ocean, it was $5 till 2pm $7 till 6pm which was what time we left to get ready for going out. When we returned at night there was plenty of meter parking. Be ware you must remember to put change in your meter, even at night, I ended up with a $26 ticket cause I missed my meter by 20 minutes.
Traffic usually isn’t too bad, everything goes like grid work. It isn’t hard to find where you are going and the streets move quick well. I didn’t find any major traffic on the weekend I went. The main in and out would be Rio Grande...it will get you anywhere.
You are going here for the beach, and you can’t miss it. Be sure to take sun block no matter how tan you are you will burn. Drink lots of fluids and remember there is quite a hike from the boardwalk to the beach so don’t take more than you can manage to carry all that way. The sand is hot on your tootsies so where sandals. Remember don't be freaked out when you see the water. This isn't Puerto Rico! The water is a greenish brown color. Trust me Malibu looks the same way most of the year. Buy a boogie board for $6, float, boogie and just chill.
Last of all Have Fun!
If you have any special memories of Wildwood leave me a comment, I’d like to hear what other people have experienced.