The Best Jersey Shore Boardwalks for 2014

The Great White coaster in Wildwood. Photography by Trevor Dixon

The Great White coaster in Wildwood. Photography by Trevor Dixon

Wildwood

Keep in mind it’s a carnival town. Its Boardwalk is sprawling, loud, tacky, a little bawdy and a little seedy. And, if you go with the right mind-set, a hell of a good time.

The Morey family runs three mammoth amusement piers, a collective riot of rides, arcades, water parks and coasters. In this latter category, Great White is one of the best wooden coasters in the nation. The Moreys continue to invest in blue-ribbon rides; new this season is a higher, glitzier Wave Swinger (a.k.a. the flying swings).

In recent years the Boardwalk has seen new restaurants with outdoor seating, complete with netting above your head to keep the seagulls at bay. (Our pick: Jumbo’s, which makes a decent chicken sandwich and stocks Dogfish Head.) On Mariner’s Landing, look for a new taco shack with on-trend fillings like Korean barbecue beef, or stick with the tried-and-true — an order of Curley’s Fries.

While the Mack’s Pizza “stop” sign is a Boardwalk fixture, for nostalgic boomers, Douglass Fudge, with its pine paneling and elegant tartan boxes, is one of the few old Wildwood landmarks left, and worthy of a visit.

Cape May

No one goes to Cape May for stimulation. So it’s no surprise its beachfront promenade is a quiet repository of a few stores, two arcades and not much else. Surf Side Delights is a small grill serving perhaps the best pork roll sandwich at the Shore (732 Beach Avenue); for a diner-style breakfast, try Oceanview Restaurant — it faces the water, a rarity for a Shore eatery.

Of the two aforementioned arcades, the northern one (at 732 Beach Avenue) is your standard-issue Tween Central, but the southernmost (at 406 Beach Avenue) boasts a beach volleyball court and shady seating for watching the games.

The real lure here? Bikes, bikes, bikes. Get up early (you can’t ride after 10 a.m.), rent wheels from the friendly folks at Cape Island Bike Rentals, take a spin, then squeeze in a round of mini golf across the street at Stockton Golf, which has hydrangeas throughout. There are worse ways to spend a day at the Shore.

Stone Harbor

Just briefly — yes, we know Stone Harbor doesn’t have a Boardwalk, or a promenade. But its 96th Street shopping district serves the same purpose. Our picks for best retail: the Bread and Cheese Cupboard (baked goods extraordinaire); Seashore ACE (the nicest hardware store you’ll ever visit); Island Art Stone Harbor (a bit tacky in spots, but some of the old photos and signage are awesome); Skirt (the down-the-Shore version of the stalwart Main Line boutique); and Shades (sunglasses galore, including Chanel; 261 96th Street).

Sea Isle

You need to know that the Sea Isle stretch is not — absolutely, positively not — a Boardwalk. The locals are sort of fanatical about this. It is a beachside promenade, a name they hope will conjure strolls rather than 20-somethings stumbling home from too many beers at the Springfield.

Because said promenade is made of concrete, bicycling and running are wonderful here. There’s also ample seating, including a shady octagonal pavilion at the mouth of John F. Kennedy Boulevard perfect for imbibing frozen treats. (Our pick: the “Skinny Minnie” from Goldie’s Dips Ahoy, a nonfat frozen yogurt topped with a scoop of sorbet.)

Shopping is mainly concentrated at the Spinnaker Seaside Shops, located on the ground floor of a massive condo building, where Sessoms’ Nautical Gifts sells authentic coconut heads worthy of Gilligan’s Island. The Book Nook is one of the last remaining independent bookstores at the Shore. Get there, because Kindle screens do not mix with sun and sand (3500 Boardwalk).

Ocean City

The draw of the Ocean City Boardwalk can be summed up in one word: constancy. And so the hit parade remains, year after year: Manco & Manco (now under a bit of duress with its owners indicted for tax evasion) for pizza, Ove’s for doughnuts, the Old Salt for tchotchkes, the Pirates of the Golden Galleon for mini golf, Shriver’s for candy, Johnson’s for popcorn, Henry’s for sweatshirts (and the best throw blankets at the Shore).

The venerable Music Pier serves as the walkway’s anchor, each year hosting events like the Miss New Jersey Pageant and doo-wop concerts by acts you thought were dead. The fact that the town is booze-free is reinforced by its amusement attractions: Gillian’s Wonderland Pier (owned by the mayor, the son of the former mayor) almost exclusively caters to the under-10 set; Adventure Island Waterpark (formerly Gillian’s Island Water Park), a few blocks north, has new owners who made a half-million-dollar investment in upgrades.

Shopping in Ocean City is more miss than hit, but one exception is Ocean Treasures, which sells some terrific retro signage perfect for gazing at during the long, hard winter as a reminder that the sun will eventually come out tomorrow (966 Boardwalk).

Atlantic City

While the A.C. Boardwalk may be the most famous along the entire Shore, it isn’t the reason people show up here. (That would be gambling.) That said, if you can embrace Atlantic City’s general gritty schizophrenia, there are a few worthwhile stops along the boards.

The Pier Shops at Caesars offer some of the Shore’s best high-end shopping (Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany), and some nice city restaurant branches to boot (Buddakan, Continental). The legendary Steel Pier is going through yet another overhaul trying to reclaim the old magic, but its centerpiece, the new, luxe observation Ferris wheel with climate-controlled cabins, won’t open till early 2015.

Down the boards a bit, the best show in town isn’t on a casino stage, but outside Boardwalk Hall, where Duality, the free nightly light show that celebrates the city’s architectural history, will leave you downright mesmerized.

As for the rest, a rolling chair ride ($5 for a short trip) is still a worthwhile throwback spin, but the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum, while a fitting monument to absurdity, isn’t really worth the $17 price of admission. Parades are a constant, including the recently revived Miss America Parade, at which, each September, competing divas try to outdo one another in ridiculous footwear as the crowd roars “Show us your shoes!” (They do.)

Read more from our Summer 2014 Jersey Shore Guide.

Jersey Shore 2014: The Shore, Your Way

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Photography by Trevor Dixon

Going to the Shore is a ritual that almost all Philadelphians share. Together, we feel that rush each summer to get on the road, to wear the same shorts for a week, to start cocktail hour an hour earlier. Once we’re there, we all get a little happier, a little nicer, a little more relaxed.

Of course, there are also those experiences that make the Shore completely our own. Who you are determines how you vacation: Maybe you look forward most to the break-of-dawn bike ride to get doughnuts; maybe you take pride in knowing where to secure the best square of sand; maybe it’s showing your kids the fine art of pulling an extra ticket out of the Skeeball machine.

With that in mind, we’ve created a Shore guide that will give you more of what you want — whether you spent all winter dreaming about the seafood, the surf or walking the boards. Click on to make this your most special summer yet.

The Best Jersey Shore Boardwalks

The Best Food and Drink at the Jersey Shore

The Best Family Fun at the Jersey Shore

The Best Beaches at the Jersey Shore

The Best Gambling at the Jersey Shore

To see our picks for the best the Shore has to offer this year for food and drink, family fun, beach and water activities, and gambling, buy the June 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine, on newsstands now, or subscribe today.

The Pillsbury Bake-Off:
Ladies (and One Male Flight Attendant)… Start Your Ovens



KRISTEN ABBOTT IS KEEPING HER EYE ON THE PRIZE—

in her case, a plastic cafeteria tray laden with Boston Cream French Toast, a table d’hôte consisting of French loaf (Pillsbury, of course), condensed milk, egg yolks, vanilla and Jif hazelnut spread. It is very, very difficult to maneuver this through a crowd. Because really—when was the last time you tried to carry a gooey dessert through a maze of people with some loon in front of you yelling “Recipe coming!” like Paul Revere?

Like her fellow contestants, Kristen hopes hers will be the dish, out of 100 whipped up in this airplane-hangar-like ballroom at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, that will win the million-dollar grand prize at the 46th Pillsbury Bake-Off. Kristen is one of six Philly-area finalists competing this year. Lean and taut, with shiny chestnut hair, at 33 years old she looks like an aerobics instructor on early-morning basic cable. But her disposition, up until now sunny and weather-girly, has sprung a leak.
Read more »

Where We’re Eating: Austrian Village

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German food ain’t exactly sexy (when’s the last time someone said to you, “I’m craving German”?), but Austrian Village on the outskirts of Northeast Philly is something better than sexy: It’s awesome. The German-social-club atmosphere (complete with oom-pah-pah band on most Saturdays) is old-school cool, but the authentic, hearty fare is the real star: succulent schnitzels; tangy sauerbraten; goulash smothered in paprika gravy; and founder Lotte Burits’s legendary German potato salad—the most addictive thing I’ve ever eaten. Then there are the prices: Entrées average $12, and a beer costs half of what you’d pay downtown. Oom-pah-pah indeed.

Austrian Village
321 Huntingdon Pike
Rockledge, PA
215-663-9902

First appeared in the November issue of Philadelphia magazine.

I Dined With Royalty: My Dinner With Grace Kelly’s Family at the Michener Museum

GraceKelly

That’s me, with Grace Kelly’s grand-niece, Ginna Le Vine.

If you are a magazine editor, as I am, you tend to get invited to lots of stuff. It’s a cool perk of the job. Much of what you are invited to, despite the pretty packaging of various invitations, is not that interesting. But sometimes you luck out, and end up at something where you feel very fancy and very special and very glad you got to go.

Such was the case this past Saturday, when I attended the black-tie gala dinner opening the new exhibit Grace Kelly: Beyond the Icon, at the James A. Michener Museum in Doylestown. The exhibit features more than 40 dresses and costumes from the Philadelphia movie star, princess and style icon, along with various other personal and starry ephemera, including her Oscar for 1954’s The Country Girl. (Tickets are selling briskly, so if you want to go, take my advice and buy now—we don’t get this kind of repository of glamour here often.)

Speaking of glamour…

Can USA250 Make Philly the Star of America’s 250th Birthday?

250th-940

I was 13 years old in 1976—not exactly a budding patriot, but a good enough student of American history by that point to understand that the bicentennial of the country was a big deal. And so it was that on the bright and beautiful morning of July 4th, I bounded in from church (it was Sunday) and tore up the stairs to my bedroom in Northeast Philly, changing into my own version of the Stars and Stripes (red shirt, blue shorts, white sneakers) for not just any day, but the day: the nation’s 200th birthday. Read more »

ALBUM REVIEW: The Honest Truth About Cher’s ‘Closer to the Truth’

Before I say anything else about Cher’s first album in more than a decade, a word about my bona fides: The very first album I bought (on vinyl, thank you) was Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves in (gulp) 1971. I was eight years old. How my parents did not have the faculty to pull me aside and say, “We have something to tell you,” I will never understand.  Read more »

ALBUM REVIEW: The Honest Truth About Cher’s ‘Closer to the Truth’

Before I say anything else about Cher’s first album in more than a decade, a word about my bona fides: The very first album I bought (on vinyl, thank you) was Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves in (gulp) 1971. I was eight years old. How my parents did not have the faculty to pull me aside and say, “We have something to tell you,” I will never understand.  Read more »

Brewster: The Quintessential Cape Cod Weekend Getaway

Ocea Edge Resort and Golf Club in Cape Cod, Massachutsetts appearing in the July 2013 issue of Philadelphia Magazine

How to Get to Brewster from Phiadelphia: You can drive (seven hours) to Brewster, or Amtrak (six hours) or fly (an hour and change) to Boston, then rent a car for the 90-minute drive to Brewster.

Where to Stay in Brewster: The fittingly titled Ocean Edge, which offers some of the most spectacular water views on the Cape, is a sprawling 429-acre (!) resort with every amenity imaginable—along with a sp ectacular Jack Nicklaus-designed, PGA-worthy golf course. Choose between sumptuous Pottery Barn-y guest rooms or one of the recently opened multi-bedroom, two-story villas. But luxury isn’t cheap: A three-bedroom villa with water views will set you back $2,600 a night in high summer season. (Regular rooms cost around $310.)

What to Eat and Drink in Brewster: On the property, the Ocean Terrace serves up fab alfresco dining overlooking the bay, while Bayzo’s Pub (you’ve got to love a place named for alcoholics) is a clubby enclave with great beers and better burgers. The Brewster Fish House, a hop-skip from the resort, is a must for those who appreciate just-caught fare, expertly prepared in a quaint cottage. (Eat at the bar.) And there’s a reason folks line up for the lobster rolls at clam shacks Cobie’s and JT’s Seafood.

What to Do When You’re in Brewster: The scenic 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail is a biker’s paradise that winds through 1,900-acre Nickerson State Park, which boasts more than 400 campsites and some of the Cape’s best fishing. Ocean Edge rents bikes in two spots on the property, and the staff will point you in the right direction, ensuring a memorable ride. Cosmopolitan Provincetown, with its restaurants, shopping and iconic lighthouses, is an hour’s drive away. If you’d rather stay closer to home, Ocean Edge is a seaside playground. Besides hitting up the links, there are four pools (one indoors), a buzzing fitness center, spa treatments and tennis courts galore. For kids there are sports camps, ocean adventures, movie nights, and more.

Where to Shop in Brewster: There’s no traditional cutesy “down-town” in Brewster, so its several galleries and shops are spread about. Don’t miss the Brewster Scoop.

Where to Relax in Brewster: Cape Cod beaches are small and often rocky, but are some of the most beautiful in the country. Ocean Edge can provide an all-access beach pass, so you can check out the varied options, including the beloved Brewster Flats, which is fun during both low and high tides. Inhale deeply. Repeat.


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