There’s nothing like summer at the Jersey Shore, where you can spend your days relaxing on the beach and your evenings playing mini golf, riding roller coasters, and eating ice cream on the boardwalk. But while the beach and the boardwalk are the main draws, there are many other fun things to do in Wildwood, New Jersey—one of the most popular family resorts on the state’s southern coast.
The Best Things to Do in Wildwood, NJ
If you get restless sitting on the beach, active options in Wildwood, New Jersey, include biking, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. History buffs will appreciate Wildwood’s collection of 1950s and ’60s architecture. And there are plenty of day trip possibilities if you want to add a change of scene to your Wildwood vacation.
A note on geography: What many people think of as Wildwood, NJ, is actually three municipalities that share an island: Wildwood Crest, Wildwood (also known as Wildwood by the Sea), and North Wildwood. Cresse Avenue divides Wildwood from Wildwood Crest, and 26th Avenue marks the boundary between Wildwood and North Wildwood.
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Each municipality has a slightly different vibe—Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood have a quieter, more residential feel than lively Wildwood itself, where you’ll find the big amusement parks and the bulk of the boardwalk. But each town runs seamlessly into the next, so you can take advantage of all the fun things to do in New Jersey’s Wildwoods, regardless of where you stay.
Enjoy the Beach
During peak season at some New Jersey beaches, it can feel like you’re elbow to elbow with the family under the next umbrella. That’s not a problem in the Wildwoods, home to the state’s widest beaches. Here, it’s easy to find your own personal stretch of sand for sunbathing, reading, building sandcastles, or playing cornhole.
Wildwood Beach has recently started allowing beachgoers to park right on the beach, for a fee that starts at $10 per day (it goes higher during special events). And if you’re not up for the long walk to the water across the hot sand, you can hire a beach taxi to cart you and your boogie board to the waves. Or you can head to North Wildwood, where the beaches are significantly narrower than those in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest.
Bonus: Access to Wildwood beaches is free all year long.
Hit the Boardwalk
Wildwood Boardwalk stretches about two miles from Cresse Avenue in the south to 15th Avenue in the north. During summer, it’s a kaleidoscope of activity: Kids scream from the tops of roller coasters, bright yellow Sightseer trams trundle by with their perpetual refrain (“Watch the tram car, please.”), seagulls wheel overhead, and the air is redolent with the sweet smells of funnel cake and cotton candy.
The boardwalk’s shops, arcades, amusement parks, golf courses, and eateries can easily keep you entertained all day long. If you get tired, hop aboard one of the eco-friendly electric tram cars, which run the length of the boardwalk, typically from 11:00 a.m. until whenever the amusement parks close that day. You can pay per ride ($3.50), purchase a hop-on-hop-off daily wristband ($7), or buy a book of single-ride tickets ($15 for 5; $29 for 10; $60 for 25). These iconic tram cars have been shuttling beachgoers and up and down Wildwood’s boardwalk since the summer of 1949.
Ride the Rides and Slide the Slides
Three massive piers stretch from Wildwood’s boardwalk across the beach, featuring roller coasters, water slides, and other rides of all sizes—including a giant Ferris wheel that provides panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean and Wildwood, NJ. Families will never run out of things to do at Morey’s Piers, encompassing three amusement park areas and two water parks.
Offerings for little ones include an old-timey carousel and kid-sized trains and boats. Thrill seekers should head to Adventure Pier for a heart-pounding ride on the Skycoaster, which hurtles you more than 100 feet into the air above Wildwood Beach.
Take a Morning Bike Ride
Biking is one of the most popular things to do in Wildwood, thanks to the island’s many miles of dedicated bike paths. You can pedal the entire length of the island from the Wildwood Crest Dunes Bike Path up onto the boardwalk and then along the Mulberry Bike Path and seawall in North Wildwood, for a 12-mile round trip. (Note that bikes are not permitted on the boardwalk after 11:00 a.m. on weekdays or 10:30 a.m. on weekends.)
Behold a Blast from the Past
What sets the Wildwoods apart from just about any other Jersey Shore community is its collection of motels, diners, and other historical buildings from the 1950s and early ’60s. Neon signs, plastic palm trees, bright colors, and angular roofs are hallmarks of this retro architectural style, dubbed “Googie architecture,” or “Doo Wop architecture,” after the music of the era.
You can learn more at the Doo Wop Preservation League Museum, housed in a former 1960s diner. This small, colorful museum features a collection of signs, furniture, and memorabilia from the Doo Wop era. The museum also runs “Back to the ’50s” trolley tours on select summer nights to show visitors the best Doo Wop architecture around town. Call (609) 729-4000 for information and reservations.
Can’t get enough Doo Wop? Stay in one of the Wildwoods’ dozens of midcentury-style motels, including the Starlux Boutique Hotel in Wildwood, Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, or Lollipop Motel in North Wildwood.
Savor a Great Meal
Think “Jersey Shore food,” and you’ll probably think pizza and ice cream. Of course, you can find plenty of both in Wildwood, NJ: Try Sam’s Pizza Palace, which has been serving up great slices since 1957, or Cool Scoops for sweet treats in a ’50s-style ice cream parlor. But Wildwood also has plenty of other options for hungry travelers.
One favorite fine-dining option in Wildwood, NJ, is Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grill, where you can enjoy seafood and steak on a deck overlooking the bay; come at sunset for great views. Pacific Grill Wildwood, for its part, offers a reasonably priced three-course prix-fixe menu nightly, along with à la carte dishes such as crabcakes and braised short ribs.
For more casual fare in Wildwood, NJ, head to Maui’s Doghouse, where you can choose from more than 30 hot dog toppings, like beer-cooked sauerkraut, homemade chili, spicy brown mustard, and spinach sauteed in garlic and white wine. The final product comes to you in a plastic dog bowl. Also in North Wildwood is The Surfing Pig, serving up burgers, barbecue, and seafood with a side of lovely bay views.
Get on the Water
In the Wildwoods, the ocean and bay offer more than just pretty views. Fun things to do in Wildwood, NJ, on the water include fishing, kayaking, surfing, and wildlife watching. You can even take a swashbuckling “pirate cruise.”
The Starlight Fleet offers fishing trips as well as whale- and dolphin-watching excursions. At Lakeview Docks, you can rent WaveRunners, kayaks, fishing boats, swan-shaped pedal boats, and standup paddleboards. And Ocean Outfitters offers surfing lessons and board rentals.
Play a Round of Golf
There are several golf courses within an easy drive of Wildwood, NJ. In Cape May Court House, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Wildwood, Laguna Oaks offers 10 holes spread across 200 acres. And the beautiful 18-hole course at Cape May National Golf Club was built around a private bird sanctuary.
If mini-golf is more your thing, you don’t have to look far. Popular courses in Wildwood, NJ, include Island Miniature Golf, which also has a rock-climbing wall; Dragon’s Lair Mini Golf, a medieval-themed indoor blacklight course; and Harbor Light Golf, which also sells ice cream.
Check Out Special Events in Wildwood, NJ
Some of the best things to do in Wildwood, NJ, only happen once a year. Wildwoods International Kite Festival kicks off summer on Memorial Day weekend, followed by other annual events like the National Marbles Tournament in June, the New Jersey State Barbecue Championship in July, and the Wildwoods Baby Parade in August. Autumn brings the Wildwoods Food & Music Festival and the Fabulous ’50s & Beyond Weekend, both held in October.
For more information about what’s on during your trip, refer to the Wildwoods’ events calendar.
Take a Day Trip from Wildwood, NJ
The Victorian charms of Cape May are just a 20-minute drive from Wildwood, NJ. Here, you can bike through the historic district, take a carriage ride, or visit the Cape May Lighthouse. The Cape May County Park & Zoo makes a fun—and free—day trip with children.
If casinos and big-name entertainment are more your things, Atlantic City is less than an hour’s drive from Wildwood, NJ.
Ready to hit the beach? See What to Pack for a Jersey Shore Vacation: 28 Essentials from SmarterTravel’s sister site, What to Pack.
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Sarah Schlichter traveled to the Wildwoods as a guest of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.