My husband and I are lifelong Seaside loyals, through the good & bad the Heights & the Park have weathered over the decades. However, we recently decided on a spontaneous road trip to Wildwood for the weekend – neither of us had been there since early childhood, so it was like visiting for the first time in most respects. What we discovered on our journey was more than enough to guarantee another visit this summer, and many more after. Here’s our takeaways from our “wild” weekend:
1. Plentiful & pleasant accommodations
The hotels & motels we saw were mostly well-kept, attractive, and seemingly friendly to both families, singles, & couples looking for a place to stay. You won’t find the sleek, modern amenities of an upscale-resort town, but the unique doo-wop signage, retro outfitted properties give Wildwood a signature appeal.
2. Massive boardwalk with impressive piers & plenty of food/attractions
Little & big kids alike will revel in the excitement of this shore town’s boardwalk – one of the biggest in the country. Morey’s Piers & the glow of the neons up & down the strand delight by night & there’s no shortage of activities & rides for the daytime. Bring comfortable shoes.
3. Did I mention food?
You know us Jersey folks are harsh food critics, especially at the shore, where the best junk food in the world can be found. We stayed at the Adventurer, which has a great restaurant that won’t break your bank. I’m originally from Bordentown, so where I live now in Bergen County, cream of chipped beef on toast can be hard to come by. I was thrilled to see it on the menu, our meals came out astonishingly fast & delicious. Our hotel had this great picture book, “Stay Wild,” featuring the dining options, attractions & more. Browsing their pictorials of the restaurants, it was difficult to make a decision because there were so many delicious choices! That alone solidified my decision to return a few times – there’s a lot to try. Ravioli House was my husband’s choice for dinner; they specialize in homemade pastas. I like my red sauce a little sweeter, but you appreciate a mild gravy, stop in. I loved the coffee with Bailey’s & Kahlua, topped with fresh in-house whipped cream so thick you could cut it with a knife. Another highlight was Maui Dog, a local favorite whose signature side, “Salty Balls,” earned them a feature on Food Network. The dog was well-received by my husband, who practically lives off “rippers.” While this dog is more South Jersey/Philly style, it was damn good & we ate out of dog bowls, which was a first for us. And speaking of Philly…
4. Make no mistake, you have entered Philly Country
Where I grew up, while Philly fans were more prominent & the culture influence was predominantly “Philadelphia Style,” you could still find the mixed-in Jets, Giants, Yankees, Mets, & Nets support on cars, in bars, on apparel…and so on. Wildwood makes no bones about it – it’s Philly teams, Philly style food, and Philly culture represented in the people & the places. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you haven’t spent enough time away from South Jersey to notice the difference. The regional dialects from my youth, long since replaced by the NY influenced accents of North Jersey, were music to my ears all weekend.
5. The night is right
We did some bar-hopping around North Wildwood & had a great time. I got my fire started with The #1 Tavern’s famed “Tully Nut,” which went down way too easy & instantly became a newly-found craving. I’d like to go back for their annual Hat Party sometime. The Angelsea Pub was inviting with great live music (which is saying a lot for someone who usually hates live music at bars). The singer that evening (sorry I can’t remember the name but kinda Elvis-y looking) was outstanding. Echo’s & Keenan’s were our next & last stops, where we found the big crowds, DJs, & lots of energy.
6. A diversion from the commercial
Along with the “Doo-Wop” district, Wildwood offers a look back in time all over the place: retro storefronts & signage, homes & structures that refuse to give way to development, and a resistance to the great homogenization of the country happening today. Please Wildwood, never give in.
7. Beautiful beaches & waterways
Did you know the further south in NJ you travel, the finer the grains of sand are on the beaches? I read that a long time ago, but I found this to be true surveying the landscapes surrounding me. While clean & abundant, be prepared: Wildwood’s shorelines are vast compared to most coastal NJ towns. You’ll be hiking it to reach the water.
8. Great events year-round
The Mummers, Monster Truck races on the beach, Doh-Dah parade, massive conventions, national tournaments, car shows, exhibits, marketplaces, concerts, family activities, food & drink festivals, sporting events…just to name a few. Wildwood has historically been a leader in entertainment not just in New Jersey, but nationally. Their lineup wipes the floor with most resort towns.
9. Bonus point: a bodybuilding haunt more than worthy of “legit” status
With all the fun to be had at the shore, a primo facility to keep our bodies regulated & motivated was a cherry on top for me & my husband; we take our gyms seriously. Atlis Gym did not disappoint; they had great equipment that was well-maintained, friendly staff, and an old-school vibe. Loved the outdoor section.
Nice job Wildwood; not too shabby for a “second” first impression. We will be back sooner than later & until then, “Stay Wild” my friends.