Baltimore Sun, March 11, 2007
With spring just around the corner, the temperatures will be rising, making for perfect weather to head to the beach. Marylanders are fortunate to have several resort towns to choose from in the mid-Atlantic, and there’s no need to wait until summer to head to the shore. Spring is an excellent time of year to go, and with the array of events, great dining and fun activities, New Jersey’s Cape May and The Wildwoods – rated by the readers of FamilyFun magazine, published by the Walt Disney Publications, as the top tourist area in the Northeast – are the perfect destination for families. Whether your family’s interests are fishing, camping, amusement rides, music or simply strolling along the famed boardwalks, these two resort areas are the places to be.
The Wildwoods: Family Fun … and Free
Nationally, the five-mile-long resort town The Wildwoods is probably best known for the unique mid-century architectural style called “Doo Wop,” a 1950s wild and bold style featuring bright colors and outlandish styles that is still prevalent here today (there is even a popular Doo Wop Trolley Tour that packs in the visitors each summer). However, there is more to The Wildwoods that just “Doo Wop,” especially for families.
The Wildwoods has myriad activities for families young and old, and, the best part is, many of the things to do are free! First of all, unlike other resort towns, families who visit The Wildwoods do not have to purchase beach tags in the summer, allowing guests to roam free along the expansive and beautiful beaches, which also host several popular events each year, including volleyball tournaments, the International Kite Festival, the Hobie Cat Regatta and several free beach concerts.
Anglers will appreciate the free fishing on the Intracoastal Waterway pier or on the beaches along Hereford Inlet in North Wildwood for surf fishing. Want to introduce the young ones to the proud mid-Atlantic tradition of crabbing? Well, then head to the tidal marsh areas on the west side of Five Mile Beach where crabbers look to catch dinner. Otherwise, a family outing to see the sights on a bike is a great way to go, as some routes beginning at Rambler Road in Wildwood Crest run nearly the entire length of the island, while some beachside routes include special bike lanes.
During the summer months – from July 4th weekend until Labor Day – kids and parents alike can enjoy the free ecological program conducted by “Captain Ocean,” who holds court each Monday on the beach in Wildwood Crest at Rambler Road. The program starts at 8 a.m., and is structured in a way that is fun for kids and adults alike.
The Wildwoods is also home to many free special events throughout the tourist season, including “Family Fun Night” on Thursdays on the Wildwood Boardwalk and fireworks shows on Fridays from the beach at Pine Avenue in Wildwood. Speaking of the Boardwalk, The Wildwoods boasts the largest boardwalk in America – two miles of shops, restaurants, water parks and amusement rides, including seven roller coasters and the ever-popular bumper cars – a great way for family fun. There’s good reason that 9 million visitors enjoy the Boardwalk each summer.
Of course, while playing on the Boardwalk, your family is bound to get hungry. There are lots of fun snacks to choose from – French fries, pizza, sandwiches, funnel cakes, cotton candy, fudge and saltwater taffy. For sit-down dining, you can choose from Mexican, Chinese, Italian or sample mouth-watering seafood with a water view; many restaurant are also child-friendly, offering kids’ menus.
Cape May County: Choices Galore!
Of course, The Wildwoods is only one part of Cape May County. Whether it’s soaking up the Victorian flavor of the quaint City of Cape May or hitting the back roads to lesser-populated areas, Cape May County has it all for families.
Biking is a very popular activity in Cape May, no matter where you are vacationing. In the City of Cape May, pedaling around allows your family the opportunity to see the historic sites here, while a trip along Sunset Boulevard takes you to Cape May Point and Sunset Beach. Couples with older kids may wish to tackle portions of the “Route of the Gull,” a 40-mile stretch (not that you would traverse the entire route) that links the barrier islands of Cape May County.
Not into biking? Cape May County is also home to thousands of acres of wooded areas and more than 50 camping resorts where those with RVs can visit, as well as those not looking to rough it and would rather rent cabins. Campsites provide hiking trails and are popular stopovers for migratory birds. Other fun activities while camping in Cape May County include fishing, canoeing and kayaking.
With all this biking, canoeing, kayaking and hiking, your family is bound to get hungry. The various area boardwalks offer great food-on-the-run, but Cape May also boasts nationally recognized restaurants. Cape May was dubbed the “the Restaurant Capital of New Jersey” by The New York Times, and some of the mainstays that pack the tourists – and locals – in each year include The Mad Batter, a 30-year-veteran restaurant to Cape May with its signature bright colors, welcoming porch and striped yellow awning; and Louisa’s, a small café where the menu can be found on a charming blackboard. If your family is craving great seafood, check out The Lobster House, located at Fisherman's Wharf in Cape May Harbor, where you can watch today’s specials be transported right from the water and onto your plate.
For more information about the countless activities and special events in Cape May County, visit www.thejerseycape.com; visit www.WildwoodsNJ.com for information on The Wildwoods.