The Traveler's Guide to the Jersey Shore
How to Avoid Tourist Traps
In the opening credits of the MTV reality television show, Jersey Shore, one of the main characters, Snooki, drunkenly announces to her friends that she is about to set sail for the popular vacation spot by saying, “I’m going to Jersey Shore, *&%$#!”
With that display, everyone on the East Coast who wasn’t a 21-year-old with a spray tan responded, “You know, I was considering vacationing on the Jersey Shore this season, but now I think I’ll pass.”
Take comfort in knowing that the muscled, tanned, and perpetually-wasted “Guidos and Guidettes” of the show are a small percentage of Jersey Shore visitors. Also, there are infinitely more things to do than drink daiquiris all day at the beach, and fist-pump all night at the clubs. Here are 7 popular destinations that give you a glimpse of some of other things to do.
- Point Pleasant
Point Pleasant, while still a traditional Jersey Shore resort town with beaches and a boardwalk, hosts some non-traditional vacation ideas as well. Jenkinson’s Aquarium, just off the boardwalk, has an wide display of marine life. Sea otters, sea horses, sea turtles, and seals are all available for visitors.
Point Pleasant Beach is also an antiquer’s delight. Hit up Bay and Arnold Avenues for small antique shops that house hidden treasures. But for the true mother-load, check out the Antique Emporium, which houses over 100 dealers under one roof. Rumor has it there is a Zoltar machine somewhere in there.
- Salem County
Located in the Southernmost part of the state, near the shore of the Delaware Bay, Salem County might as well be in another state, because it resembles none of the seaside resorts that line the Atlantic side of the Jersey Shore.
Wine lovers will enjoy traipsing the Salem County and Southern New Jersey wine trails. This area is home to 19 boutique vineyards, which have been producing award-winning wines for decades.
The Cowtown Rodeo in Salem County will save you tons of cash, in that you won’t have to drive to the Panhandle of Texas to see a real live rodeo. Nothing is rigged—this is a genuine live rodeo. Cowboys and horses challenge each other as you cheer them on (don’t worry, the cowboys always win, just like in the movies).
They also do some bull riding just for fun; and I am not talking about a late afternoon Red Bull to get you through the day. The list of events include Bareback Bronco Riding, Saddle Bronco Riding, Team Roping, Bull Riding, Tie Down Roping, Steer Wrestling and Girls Barrel Racing (don’t worry, the barrels always win, just like in the movies).
- Long Beach Island
Located just north of Atlantic City, Long Beach Island has long been a popular vacation destination for residents of New Jersey looking for a summer house rental on the beach. This is a beach area that lacks a boardwalk with tourist-y shops and cafes. Instead, it’s a more genuine and laid-back experience, with local fisherman making up most of the cast of characters on the island.
For instance, Barnegat Light is located at the northern end of Long Beach Island. This quaint little borough of less than one square-mile has a winter population of about 700, and hasn't changed much over the last century. Barnegat Light's most famous inhabitant is "Old Barney," the red and white-banded Barnegat Lighthouse situated at the northern tip of Long Beach Island.
Fishing and “crabbing” are a popular summer activity for many of the visitors to the island. Blue-claw crabs are abundant in the Atlantic and catching them fresh makes for the one of the best seafood dinners imaginable.
Long Beach Island is also home to the famous 1916 shark attacks that inspired the movie Jaws. Thankfully, those killer sharks have been eradicated.
What makes the area known as Wildwoods so special is that it is so affordable. The gorgeous white-sand beaches do not require a fee, and there are plenty of free events throughout the summer like fireworks displays and Italian and Irish street festivals. You can also find great rates on condos or home rentals near the boardwalk so you can stay with your group of friends or family.
Also, rumor has it that rock n’ roll was born here when Bill Haley and the Comets started playing “Rock Around the Clock” on the boardwalk here in 1954. Perhaps to back up that boast, Wildwoods hosts two rock n’ roll festivals each year.
The Fabulous '50s Celebration is held in the fall. The Sensational '60s Weekend is a spring feature with dance parties, classic car shows, an all-day street fair, live music, and entertainment from the respective decade.
Ok, so when you think of Jersey Shore, probably the last place you think of is Newark, even though it is technically on the shore of New Jersey. The urban heart of New Jersey, Newark is the state’s biggest metropolis, and is home to an arts and culture renaissance that features major performing arts as well as restaurants, galleries and museums.
Some of the city’s highlights are within easy walking distance of each other in the bustling downtown section. The glittering NJ Performing Arts Center is a stunning performance venue that hosts national and international headline performers.
New Jersey’s largest museum complex, the 100-year-old Newark Museum, houses an intimate planetarium, the restored Ballantine Victorian mansion, natural history displays, and a prestigious collection of fine art painting and sculptures.
Also, even though Newark is thought of as a heavily industrialized city, don’t miss the thousands of cherry blossoms that fill Branch Brook Park in spring.
- Cape May
Celebrating its 154th birthday in 2011, some things just get better with age. This historic Victorian seaside gem is one the oldest and most beautiful resorts in the country. The entire city is a National Historic District, with nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings.
Trolley tours take visitors through the historic district, as does the popular evening ghost tour. Dozens of Victorian B&Bs and vacation rentals replete with rocking chairs line the streets of this sleepy cape town. A lovely beach promenade runs along the sand, perfect for biking or jogging. And in the sand of the beaches you can search for Cape May Diamonds (polished quartz that washes up on shore).
- Asbury Park
The oyster is king the beachside town of Asbury Park. That is, until you eat it at Oysterfest, which takes place every September, and where thousands of oysters slide down the throats of vacationing shellfish eaters.
However, if you are not in the mood for oysters, you can enjoy the city’s diverse and thriving restaurant scene. From Japanese to Mediterranean to Italian to Ethiopian, it’s all here and it’s delicious.
While vacationing in Asbury Park, you have only one boss to answer to. That’s right, "The Boss" himself, Bruce Springsteen, is from here. True fans should visit the Asbury Park Library, which houses the largest collection of written material on Bruce Springsteen ever assembled.
So there you have it. You don’t need a beach-body, greased-up hair, and a spray tan to get the most out vacationing at the Jersey Shore. In fact, considering the myriad of vacation destinations above, you are probably better off without them.