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Have a Blast at the Ocean City New Jersey Boardwalk & Family Beach

Boardwalk & Family Beach

How often have you heard this: I need a vacation from my vacation!

Maybe you’ve said it yourself.

One thing’s for certain: You’ll never say that if you spend your vacation on the Jersey boardwalk at Ocean City.

People usually drive here, so you won’t have to deal with airports or other public transportation. And if you’re coming from Delaware and want a special treat, take the Cape May/Lewes Ferry, a 17-mile, 85-minute trip that connects Delaware to Cape May. It’ll be impressive for sure — and you might even be lucky enough to get your own dolphin escort!

Once you get here, the only noise you’ll hear will be the waves, bell-ringers and food vendor barkers and some great music. Ocean City is dry, so you won’t find alcohol, but there will be plenty of energy and enthusiasm. With the waves and relaxing sea air, there won’t be any stress, either!

A Fascinating History

The Jersey boardwalk at Ocean City is in Cape May County, and we’re a melting pot. The city itself has a population of approximately 11,000 people and includes many different religions, ethnicities and ages, including a once-thriving Italian population. In fact, author and Ocean City native Gay Talese in his book, Unto the Sons, gives a vivid account of growing up in Ocean City’s “Little Italy.”

Ocean City itself was founded in the late 1800s by four Christian ministers. At that time, it was called Peck’s Beach, but the ministers renamed it “Ocean City” and set it up as a retreat, promoting it as a “Moral Seaside Resort,” without alcohol. In fact, up until the late 1980s the “Blue Laws” — regulations that prevented shopping and recreation on Sundays — were still in effect.

Even though alcohol is prohibited, it did play a part in history when a big shipwreck in the early 1900s helped to create (possibly false) rumors that the accident was caused by a drunken ship crew.

Want a trip down Memory Lane? Then just stroll through town! There’s a brick Tabernacle at 500 Wesley Ave. on the site of Ocean City’s first house of worship, which was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1940s. The 300 block of Central Avenue is lined with homes that are in architectural-keeping with those of 100 years ago. Want to see the “marrying house?” The Victorian-style New Brighton Inn, at 518 Fifth St., was built in 1882 by one of Ocean City’s founders, the Rev. William Burrell who performed hundreds of weddings there.

What to Do in Ocean City, NJ

The boardwalk is the Ocean City, NJ focal point. It’s 2.5 miles long and 50 feet wide, lined with shopping, amusements, arcades, ice cream parlors, sweet shops and restaurants. Go to a water park, ride a Ferris wheel that gives you a spectacular view of the beach, play miniature golf, listen to music by the Ocean City Pops, just relax on the beach or wander and explore.

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Remember, we’re referred to as one of America’s best family vacation spots, so our activities are family-oriented, and one of the best ones is Family Night. It’s held every Thursday in July and August, so fire up your vocal chords and sing karaoke, get your face painted or attend one of our other great events for free!

Since we’re family-centered, a lot of our cuisine reflects that by moving towards budget-friendly comfort food. You can also enjoy authentic Greek, Chinese and Japanese restaurants. There’s lodging for every budget, too — hotels and motels, apartment rentals, family vacation resorts, bed & breakfasts and campgrounds.

And as you and your family start to plan your day, make sure you plan time to check out some of the best Ocean City, NJ offerings:

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier
Gillian's Wonderland Pier
This is probably the best known landmark in southern Jersey, and it’s right on our boardwalk! You’ll find rides for both the kids and the thrill-seekers, such as:

  • The Gillian’s Ferris Wheel: This ride will give you a spectacular view for miles around the beach.
  • Gillian Wonderland Pier’s Carousel: Built in 1926, this is that classic “horsy ride.”
  • Runaway Train: A roller coaster that’ll make you scream and shout with delight and excitement — and maybe even a little of that “fun fear.”
  • Mini-Scooters: Just because your kid is too young for bumper cars doesn’t mean he or she has to miss out on all the fun. This is just a mini version of a bumper car, with a little added fun of a cat ‘n mouse chase.
  • Jumbo: This features that favorite, and classic, elephant character, Dumbo. The kids hop on and then soar high.
  • Wacky Worm: This is a fun, slower roller coaster. It’s great for kids who have never been on big roller coaster, or adults who really don’t care to go on adventure rides.
  • Ocean City Water Park: This exciting feature offers slides, pool, rivers and more.
  • Adventure Golf: Part of the water park, the kids can get out of the water and have a ball shooting a hole-in-one!
  • Oves Restaurant: This restaurant offers family-dining or private parties and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus you can even rent a bike and other equipment.
  • Island Grill: At this seafood and steakhouse, you’ll find everything from fried and broiled fish to burgers.

Enjoy Your Family Getaway in NJ
Enjoy your family getaway in NJ
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do, but if you want more, here are some additional points. Note that this isn’t a complete list, because there are far too many to mention!

  • Music Pier: Is there anything better than listening to live music while you’re sitting under the stars with the waves gently lapping at the shore? The Music Pier is right on the boardwalk, and, like much of Ocean City, there’s a little history. The concert hall was constructed in 1928 when the community had lost part of the boardwalk to a fire. Nationally acclaimed musicians, such as the Ocean City Pops, call it home — not to mention pageants, like “Miss New Jersey.” Other musicians, such as The Beach Boys, Dave Mason and The David Bromberg Quintet have, or will, also perform there.
  • Surf shops: While some visitors boogie board or surf just for recreation, both can also be serious sports. If your boogie board is broken, no problem. Just visit a surf shop on our boardwalk.
  • Pizza: Ocean City is known for once having one of the most thriving Italian populations, so it’s only fitting that you’ll find some of the best pizza at Manco and Manco — which also happens to be right on the boardwalk. The pizza is thin and crispy, and Manco and Manco uses only the freshest ingredients.
  • Bakeries: In Ocean City alone, there are nine bakeries, from the right-on-the-boardwalk Clancy’s by the Sea to the Fractured Prune Donut Shop. Munch away on donuts and other baked goodies on your vacation.
  • Ice cream: Clancy’s by the Sea, right on the boardwalk, offers breakfast, lunch, dinner AND ice cream. Everything made at Shriver’s Gelato includes imported Italian ingredients and flavorings. It’s only natural that one of the best family vacation spots has a family-centered ice cream parlor! Johnny B. Goode offers not only ice cream, but also family karaoke, sock hops and magic show. Enjoy all the great ice cream places at the Jersey boardwalk at Ocean City.
  • Do Dah Parade: For 30 years, Ocean City has held a Do Dah Parade in April. There are competitions and flamboyant marchers that include both humans and animals — one year, there were a couple of basset hounds marching. Typically, the Do Dah Parade ends at the Music Pier.
  • Strand 5 Theater: There’s always an assortment of movies with ratings of PG, PG-13 and G.
  • The Bayside Center: This is a cultural and educational center housed in a vintage 1910 home with exhibits, displays and three floors of reconstructed bay front porches. It’s open to visitors in the summer months from the last Saturday in June until Labor Day from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.
  • A Night in Venice: This is an annual boat parade, typically held in July. Sometimes as many as 70 boats sail along the Bay, and your family can enjoy watching the boating competitions. A bay front porch on one of the upper floors of The Bayside Center can be a great place to watch.
  • Johnson’s Popcorn: Since 1940, that famous red and white awning has been an icon of the Jersey boardwalk in Ocean City, and Johnson’s is just as famous for their caramel popcorn. The smell has lured millions of visitors to taste it. All of the caramel popcorn is hand-mixed in copper kettles.
  • Ocean City Arts Center: The Ocean City Arts Center includes three large studios, a dance studio, pottery studio, music room and library. Each month is a new exhibit that features both local and national artists. The center’s most popular annual events include the Juried Photography Show, Juried Art Show and the Boardwalk Art Show.The most popular event is the Boardwalk Art Show, featuring fine arts from around the country and now even Canada, at the height of the summer tourism season. It’s truly an asset to Ocean City and Cape May County’s cultural tourism portfolio.

Activities for Pets
Activities for pets
Traveling with a pet can be fun for everyone. Dogs are welcome any time after September 30, but they should stay off the boardwalk from May 1 to September 30 during peak season. The boardwalk is crowded, and some kids and adults are fearful of dogs. But after September 30, Fido can enjoy all the fun he wants at one of the best family vacation spots. Just be sure he’s on a leash 6’ or shorter. If you do decide to bring your pet, make sure to:

  • Always take your dog to the vet for a checkup before any trip. Keep vaccinations and shots current and keep the health certificate on hand. Call ahead so you’ll always be able to find the nearest vet and animal hospital at your vacation destination.
  • Make sure dogs are allowed. If you plan to stay in a hotel, motel or some other lodging, be sure to call ahead to make sure dogs are welcome. That goes for campgrounds, too, because there can sometimes be restrictions.
  • Avoid upset stomachs by keeping the food routine as unchanged as possible. Bring your dog’s regular food with some water from your tap, or bottled water, plus any needed medications.
  • If using a crate, make sure it’s large enough for your dog to sit, stand, turn and lie down. You may want to put a comfortable mat, some of his familiar toys or an article of your clothing in the crate. Make sure handles and grips are strong, that the bottom doesn’t leak, that it’s well-ventilated and that nothing sticks out that can injure or cause discomfort to your dog.
  • Make identification a priority. The leash and collar should be sturdy, and there should be identification tags with your name, your dog’s name, your address and phone number, as well as proof of rabies shots. Keep a recent photo of your dog in case you need it.
  • If you’re traveling by car, never let your dog hang its head outside the window — that’s how eye injuries happen. Stop frequently so your dog can exercise and get his potty breaks. Car rides can be boring for anyone, but don’t let your kids poke, prod, pull, tease or otherwise annoy your dog.

Even if he can’t come to the boardwalk, you can still give your dog one of the best vacations of his life. The Ocean City Dog Park features a controlled fenced-in, off-leash recreation area in a clean, secure environment so he can exercise and play safely.

The water park at Ocean City has a gated entrance, an un-leash area that’s secure with electronic locking gates, pavilions, picnic tables and drinking fountains for both humans and animals. There are all kinds of activities, including a “Dog of the Year” contest, the “Do-Dah Parade” and even a canine swim fest.

The park is open seven days a week from 7 AM until dusk, all year round. You will need a Paw Pass to participate in the park’s activities.

Visit the Best New Jersey Beach and Enjoy the Boardwalk

Let’s face it. Most of us constantly juggle personal and professional responsibilities and often feel concerned that we’re not spending enough time with family. Here’s your chance to spend some time at one of America’s most popular family vacation spots!

Take a deep breath of air at the Jersey boardwalk at Ocean City. With eight miles of pristine and well-maintained beach, you can relax, explore, or just wander and watch the tide roll in. It’s the perfect place for escaping the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and it’s an ideal spot to spend quality, uninterrupted time with your family.

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