On the Jersey Shore, fun in the sun reaches a peak at raucous Wildwood, a trio of interconnected towns housing dozens of nightclubs and New Jersey’s biggest beachfront amusement parks. The largest of all, Mariner’s Pier on the pier at Schellenger Avenue, has 35 rides including the largest Ferris wheel on the East Coast. At 25th Street is Surfside Pier, which has a miniature golf course that takes you through the history of the New Jersey shore. A little farther south is Adventure Pier, which is home to the Great White, the only wooden roller coaster in the U.S. to be built on a pier. All three of these are owned by the Morey family, prime movers behind Wildwood’s retro-rediscovery, and an all-ride, all-pier pass (609/522-3900, around $55) is available for a full day’s fun. Batting cages, go-karts, and some of the wilder rides are not included in the pass price.
Away from the sands in the low-key downtown district, Wildwood’s local history museum (3907 Pacific Ave., 609/523-0277, free) is worth a look for its one unique feature: the National Marbles Hall of Fame, featuring thousands of glass balls and more marble-shooting paraphernalia than you’ve ever seen. The museum, which hosts the National Marbles Championship every June, also has a fascinating and informative display of postcards documenting the region’s recent past.
For many visitors, the best reason to spend time in Wildwood is that the area boasts an extensive collection of 1950s roadside architecture—mainly motel after motel, all sporting exuberant Las Vegas-style neon signs. Many of these motels are closed in the November-May off-season, but in the warmer months you can step back in the past by staying the night in one of these classic “Doo Wop” motels—like the Mango Motel (209 E. Spicer Ave., 609/522-2067) or the renovated Lollipop Motel (2301 Atlantic Ave., 609/729-2800).
Chili dog and cole slaw lovers will want to chow down at Maui’s Dog House (806 New Jersey Ave., 609/846-0444), at the north end of town, while other retro-minded visitors will want to stop for a meal at the chrome-and-glass Pink Cadillac Diner (3801 Atlantic Ave., 609/522-8288), a block south of the main pier. On the boardwalk, look out for the very popular Route 66 burgers-and-pizza stand (2700 Boardwalk, 609/523-6466).
For more details on places to stay and things to do—like late summer’s massive and rowdy Thunder on the Beach monster truck rally—contact the Wildwood visitors center (4501 Boardwalk, 800/992-9732).