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 just sitting on the beach, active options in Wildwood include biking, kayaking, and standup 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.
Each municipality has a slightly different vibe—Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood have a quieter, more residential feel than lively Wildwood, 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 the Wildwoods regardless of where you stay.
Hit 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 widest beaches in the state. Here it’s easy to find your own personal stretch of sand for sunbathing, reading, sandcastle building, or playing cornhole.
You can hire a beach taxi to cart you and your boogie board across the sand if you’re not up for a long walk to the water. Wildwood Beach has also recently started permitting beachgoers to park on the beach for a fee. Or head for 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
The Wildwood boardwalk stretches about two miles from Cresse Avenue in the south to 15th Avenue in the north. In 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 from 11:00 a.m. until the amusement parks close. You can pay per ride, purchase a hop-on/hop-off daily wristband, or buy a book of 25 single-ride tickets. The tram cars have been shuttling beachgoers and up and down the boardwalk since the summer of 1949.
Ride the Rides and Slide the Slides
Three massive piers stretch from the boardwalk across the beach, featuring roller coasters, waterslides, and rides of all sizes—including a giant Ferris wheel offering panoramic views over the Atlantic Ocean and Wildwood Beach. Families will never run out of things to do at Morey’s Piers, which encompasses 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 the Adventure Pier for a heart-pounding ride on the Skycoaster, which will hurtle you more than 100 feet into the air above the 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 sea wall 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.)
Enjoy a Blast from the Past
What sets the Wildwoods apart from just about any other Jersey Shore community is their 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 architectural style, dubbed “Doo Wop” after the music of the era.
You can learn more at the Doo Wop Experience, housed in a former 1960s diner. This small museum features a collection of signs, furniture, and memorabilia from the Doo Wop era. The museum runs “Back to the 50s Neon Night” trolley tours on select summer nights to show visitors the best Doo Wop architecture around town. Call 609-523-1958 for information and reservations.
Can’t get enough Doo Wop? Stay in one of dozens of retro-style motels located around the Wildwoods. Examples include the Starlux Boutique Hotel in Wildwood, the Caribbean Motel in Wildwood Crest, and the Lollipop Motel in North Wildwood.
Have a Great Meal
Think “Jersey Shore,” and you probably imagine eating lots of pizza and ice cream. Of course, you can find plenty of both: 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 there are plenty of other options for hungry foodies.
One favorite fine-dining option is Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grille, where you can savor seafood and steak on a deck overlooking the bay. (Come at sunset for the best views.) Pacific Grill offers a reasonably priced three-course prix-fixe menu every night, along with a la carte dishes such as crab cakes and braised short ribs.
For more casual fare, head to Maui’s Dog House, where you can choose from 29 hot dog toppings such as sauerkraut, cheese, bacon, and spinach. The final product is served in a plastic dog bowl. Also in North Wildwood is The Surfing Pig, which serves up burgers, BBQ, and seafood with a side of bay views.
Get on the Water
In the Wildwoods, the ocean and the bay offer more than just pretty views. Fun things to do in Wildwood on the water include fishing, kayaking, surfing, and wildlife watching. You can even take a pirate cruise.
The Starlight Fleet offers fishing trips and whale- and dolphin-watching excursions. At Lakeview Docks, you can rent WaveRunners, kayaks, fishing boats, swan pedal boats, and standup paddleboards. Ocean Outfitters offers surfing lessons and board rentals.
Play a Round of Golf
There are several golf courses within an easy drive of the Wildwoods. Laguna Oaks offers 10 holes spread across 200 acres in Cape May Court House, about a 15-minute drive from downtown Wildwood. The beautiful 18-hole course at Cape May National Golf Club is built around a private bird sanctuary.
If mini-golf is more your thing, you don’t have to look far. Popular courses in Wildwood include Island Miniature Golf (which also has a rock-climbing wall), Dragon’s Lair (an indoor black-light course with a medieval theme), and Harbor Light Golf (which also sells ice cream).
Check Out Special Events
Some of the best things to do in Wildwood only happen once a year. The International Kite Festival kicks off the summer season on Memorial Day Weekend, and is 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 festivals such as the Seafood & Music Festival and Fabulous 50s and Beyond weekend, both held in October.
For more information about what’s on during your trip, see this events calendar.
Take a Day Trip
The Victorian charms of Cape May are a 20-minute drive from the Wildwoods; here you can bike through the historic district, take a carriage ride, or visit the Cape May Lighthouse. If casinos and big-name entertainment are more your thing, Atlantic City is less than an hour away. The Cape May County Park & Zoo makes a fun—and free—day trip with children.
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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.