After the MTV show “Jersey Shore,” the beach-side towns of New Jersey have become famous worldwide. While there are certainly some places that do attract fist-pumping guidos, not all Jersey Shore beach towns are what you might think. In any beach town in New Jersey, you can find great seafood restaurants, fun bars and nightclubs, and of course a beautiful stretch of beach to stroll down or sunbathe on. Most of the Jersey Shore adventures occur on the beach so when it rains, you might not know what to do. This is a guide of some fun things to do at the Jersey Shore, inside or outside, day or night.
Atlantic City is definitely one of the more fun things to do at the Jersey Shore. Most Jersey Shore towns are less than an hour from Atlantic City in either direction. Atlantic City is a destination in itself, and it even has its own airport. Atlantic City is like a miniature Las Vegas, with a beach. There are casinos, nightclubs, famous restaurant chains, a pier with rides and roller coasters, conventions, expos, helicopter tours, and anything else you can think of. You can enjoy an entire village inside the Tropicana’s Quarter, which always has a sunny sky. Sunbathe by day or party in your bathing suit by night at the Harrah’s Pool, always a comfortable 85 degrees Fahrenheit even on the coldest day of winter.
Check out the nightclubs with their weekend celebrity guests or industry specials during the week. In the summer, grab a cold one at the beach bars that overlook the Jersey Shore coast line or walk the boardwalk for some iconic and picture-perfect views. And for the shopaholics, visit the Pier at Caesars for some high-end indoor shopping and fancy restaurants, or stroll through The Walk, Atlantic City’s outdoor collection of Tanger outlet stores in the center of the city. Atlantic City is the city that never sleeps, with something for everyone at any time of day.
What’s something that comes to mind when you think “Jersey Shore”? Besides the TV show, you might think boardwalks and rides! Some fun things to do at the Jersey shore are to go to the family friendly boardwalks with lots of rides. In the South, Wildwood, Ocean City, and Atlantic City are the ride hotspots. Wildwood’s boardwalk covers 38 blocks of stores, shops, water parks, restaurants, and over 100 rides and attractions at Morey’s Pier. amusements. Ocean City’s boardwalk is known as America’s Greatest Family Resort, with 2.5 miles of games, restaurants, shops, and amusements at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier. Atlantic City’s boardwalk allows access to all casinos on the beach, piers, bars, restaurants, shops, games, and the famous Steel Pier amusement park.
In the North, Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant are never too far for a good boardwalk trip. Seaside Heights’ Casino Pier took some damage in Hurricane Sandy but it is back up and running and better than ever (minus the roller coaster that fell into the ocean during the storm). Not to worry, you can still find arcades, food stands, go-karts, mini golf, and plenty of other exciting amusements.
Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach is the only boardwalk to have an aquarium with a newly added penguin exhibition. Point Pleasant also offers exciting new 3-D alien and zombie rides. Jenkinson’s Boardwalk also is home to nightlife hotspots like Martell’s Tiki Bar and Jenkinson’s Club. The boardwalk has an area designated for small children and an area designated for big kids, as I am at 31 years old. Ride the roller coaster, the high swings, the slow train, or play bumper cars.
Bars and Nightlife
This is a tricky category depending on which town you’re in. I’ll give you my top picks across the entire Jersey Shore, and feel free to leave me your favorites in the comments.
Let’s start with Seaside Heights, the now-famous seaside town. Karma, Bamboo, Beachcomber, and Aztec all became famous after the TV show made its mark and the bars and nightclubs the guidos frequented are now popular and packed all the time. Another noteworthy (and better, in my opinion) bar in Seaside is Hemingways, which the crew wasn’t allowed to film in. Unfortunately the famous beachside party spot Surf Club washed away during Hurricane Sandy.
Going north, Point Pleasant has the famous Martell’s Tiki Bar, now the only place in New Jersey where you can actually drink on the beach. There’s a small roped off beach here for Tiki Bar patrons to bring their beach chairs and lay out, with a bar just behind them on the beach. The attached pier also offers night-time fun with a band, and you can order casual food day and night.
Still moving north, Belmar is one of the most famous beach towns for dance clubs and fist pumping. D’Jais Nightclub is just across the street from the beach and serves cold drinks and loud beats. It’s small and gets packed, but you’re in for a good time at D’Jais. Thursday nights at D’Jais are theme nights, so if you’re in Belmar on Thursday, be sure to do a drive-by to find out what the theme is and dress appropriately; the staff goes all out decorating and the bartenders get decked out in costumes.
Bar A (short for Bar Anticipation) is a bigger, inside-outside bar with a shot wheel and plenty of bars to get a drink easily. Since Bar A is so big, lots of people go: don’t be surprised to find a line about 100 people deep. Tuesdays at Bar A are “Beat the Clock” where beers start at 25 cents and go up in price every hour.
Asbury Park is as far north as I’ll go, but the once-run-down city has cleaned up its act and offers the perfect restaurants for date nights. Along the boardwalk are Stella Marina, with an excellent happy hour, and Watermark, an upscale cocktail lounge. Across the Street is Paradise, a popular and upbeat gay club (which I happened to attend on leather night). Down the block is Porta, a dance club and pizza haven. Food at Porta is superb and served on long picnic tables so everyone sits together and you make friends; when the lights go out, Porta transforms into a huge disco with techno music, napkins flying (it’s a Jersey thing), and some very entertaining dance moves.
The main street in Asbury is Cookman Ave, where you will find a variety of calmer bars including Asbury Ale House, a sports bar with games like basketball, shuffleboard, air hockey, and foosball; Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten, with high open ceilings, a rooftop deck, and over 60 beers to enjoy; and Johnny Mac’s, an eccentric, hipster hangout with a large outside patio and free pizza with every drink. Asbury is the hotspot for nightlife, but keep one thing in mind: everyone in Asbury is either gay or hipster.
Moving South, I mentioned Atlantic City is a nightlife hotspot so I’ll just briefly mention the best nightclubs in the city. The Borgata is the #1 casino but it’s also the most expensive. Posh hangout Premier is open Friday through Monday with bottle service, celebs, guest DJs, and great music. The Harrah’s Pool is a tanorexic’s haven by day, club-goers sanctuary by night. With famous DJs, optional swimming, bottle service, and a dance floor, the Harrah’s Pool is popular, but so big to fill that it usually looks empty. Even empty, it’s still a good time.
Haven is the newer nightclub in the Golden Nugget. It’s popular, especially with its college special on Thursday nights. Haven is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Dusk in Caesars opened in 2009 and was praised for being a club most similar to a Vegas club, but the hype quickly died down and it’s no longer a hotspot. The Quarter in the Tropicana is convenient because you don’t have to go outside to dance at a nightclub, sing at a karaoke bar, dance salsa, drink a 40, watch an IMAX movie, or have an incredible Italian dinner, all within about 40 feet of each other. However as far as nightlife goes, Providence is not one of the most popular or fun nightclubs in Atlantic City.
On to Ocean City! Ocean City is a dry town. If you want alcohol, you have to leave the barrier island and head offshore to Somers Point. However, a plethora of bars and restaurants await you with open arms and bottles of beer in Somers Point.
Sea Isle City is a hangout for newly 21-year-olds (and some who pretend to be 21). It’s a young city with crowded bars, loud music, tank tops, and bathing suits. Showers are option, reinforced by the “No Shower Happy Hour” made famous by the OD (short for Ocean Drive…or overdose). La Costa has an outside patio with a band and is calmer, but still smells like stale beer. Shenanigans is popular mostly on Tuesdays for their reggae night, and you will rarely find anyone over 21 in the bar.
Avalon and Stone Harbor are ritzy, classy beach towns that have beautiful Christmas lights on the trees lining the streets, well-kept lawns and buildings, plenty of bikers and runners, and beaches that are raked every morning. Then, happy hour beings at the Whitebrier and carries over to the Princeton Bar & Grill and by 2:00 a.m., Circle Pizza floods with hungry patrons who will eventually stumble their way home.
Cape May, the bottom of New Jersey and magical place that everyone in New Jersey vacations to. It’s so far away from the rest of the state that it feels like a different world, and it is. It’s cute, quaint, and the epitome of “adorable shore town.” Cape May is far, so I don’t venture there often, but I know people rave about the bars there. Specifically, Cabanas, the Rusty Nail, Boiler Room, and Delaney’s Irish Pub.
Just outside of Cape May, on the Delaware River side, is a great beach spot called Harpoon Henry’s. Jimmy Buffett music plays as the sun sets over the Bay. You can climb the Cape May Point lighthouse or search for clear rocks at Diamond Beach. It’s worth it, trust me. Cape May is a drinking and fishing town, but it’s not the main reason people go there.
Wineries and Breweries
Craft beer is becoming a phenomenon these days, and breweries are popping up all along the coast. What else can you do on a cloudy or rainy beach day than check out some of the best local breweries and wineries at the Jersey Shore? Here are some breweries and wineries within a quick drive or Uber of where you’re staying.
Cape May Brewing Company in Rio Grande is all the way at the south end of the state but is really popular in South Jersey’s bars. It’s open every day and has the largest and most accessible taproom in the state. Keep an eye out for Cape May Brewing Company beers at any local bar!
Tuckahoe Brewing Company in Egg Harbor Township, just outside of Atlantic City, has eight brews to try. Sip on a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, Double IPA, Brown Ale, Citra Cafe, or Pale Ale.
Pinelands Brewing in Little Egg Harbor is a unique nano-brewery, which means it only has one batch of beer brewed at a time. For the non-drinkers, they have homemade birch beer and vanilla cream soda.
A father and daughter who lost their jobs in the recession and decided to fulfill their dreams of opening a microbrewery now run Rinn Duin Brewery in Toms River. Each beer has a story from the pair’s Irish heritage.
Beach Haus Brewery in Belmar opened up in 2015 but the beer itself has been around since 2009. The brewery offers tours or you can jet straight to the top and grab a pint for $5 or $6 or a four-glass flight for $8.50 and sit inside the glass walls or grab a spot on the upper deck overlooking Main Street. From the right spot, you can catch a sunset over the bay a block away.
Kane Brewery in Ocean Township opened up in 2011 and is always packed, even on nice days. That’s probably due to the garage doors that open up in the nice weather and the remote location that doesn’t bother any neighbors. Flights include 4 four-ounce glasses for $6 and the employees can help you choose exactly what you want, from an orange creamsicle dark beer to a Belgian pale ale.
Belford Brewing in Belford, a community located with Middletown, has five core beers, three seasonal beers, and three holiday beers so even you visit at different times of the year, you can return to try some new beers.
Carton Brewing is in Atlantic Highlands, all the way at the north end of the Jersey Shore. Carton Brewing is a staple in the more northern part of the Jersey Shore and offers unique beers. The Digger is oyster-based! Side not: even though Atlantic Highlands aren’t in North Jersey, you can see New York City from across the inlet and even take a short ferry ride to the big city.
Willow Creek Winery in West Cape May is all the way down at the southern tip of New Jersey. It’s open year round for tastings, tours, and private events. Sip on a glass or enjoy a whole bottle in the inside tasting room or outside picnic areas, patios, and porches that overlook the grounds. A tapas menu is available all day on Fridays and Saturdays.
Turdo Vineyards & Winery in North Cape May is open in the spring and summer. It offers award-winning estate-grown wines that pair well with several different meals. It’s open for tastings, tours, and parties.
Natali Vineyards in Cape May Courthouse is just over the bridge from the elite shore town of Stone Harbor. They specialize in growing European wine grapes because the climate of the region is similar to the Bordeaux region of France. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc do very well in this type of climate. The tasting room is open daily with hours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery in Rio Grande dates back to 1940 when a German immigrant purchased the land to start the winery. The vineyard offers tours, tastings, and private events. It’s open Monday to Friday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Renault Winery in Egg Harbor City is just a short drive from Atlantic City. It dates back almost 150 years, making it New Jersey’s oldest winery. From smooth reds to tasty whites, there’s something for every palate. After a day of wine, try some delicious food in the on-site restaurant, Gourmet and Joseph’s. Book a room at the on-site hotel, or even schedule a special event. There’s also a golf course at The Vineyards.
4JG’s in Colts Neck won a gold medal for their Chambourcin Reserve. It’s open weekends from May to December and by appointment January to April.
What else can you do at the Jersey Shore if you don’t want to go to the beach? Don’t worry, there’s plenty!
The Cape May County Park & Zoo was voted the 13th best zoo in the world. It’s free with an optional donation. It’s open until dusk, although the reptile houses close a little earlier. They added a Serengeti area where you can walk through the Serengeti on a boardwalk and see giraffes, zebras, and other incredible animals. The lions and tigers are friendly and like to play, and the birds are beautiful and talkative. You can even feed the llamas! Wild peacocks roam free around the zoo. Outside the zoo entrance is a park with a playground for the little tykes, bbq grills, and trails to wander and explore.
Cape May offers haunted ghost tours, trolley tours, whale-watching, fishing tours, and a Wetlands Wildlife Safari.
Climb to the top of a lighthouse to get a bird’s-eye view of the area. There are lighthouses in Cape May, Atlantic City, Barnegat, and Sandy Hook.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not in Atlantic City is a great way to spend a day inside unlearning everything you know.
Point Pleasant has its own comedy club, Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club. It’s open Wednesday through Saturday and offers dinner.
The Borgata in Atlantic City also has a comedy club that gets superstars like Gabriel Iglesias and Andrew Dice Clay.
The Queen Mary in Point Pleasant also offers fishing tours on a party boat to guarantee a good time.
Seaside Heights and Sandy Hook both have national parks. Hike, run, walk, ride bikes, or photograph natural wildlife in their natural habitats. Additionally, the Manasquan Reservoir has a 5-mile loop where you can walk, run, horseback ride, swim, boat, or fish.
Go parasailing in Belmar.
Take a dining and sightseeing river cruise in Point Pleasant.
See a concert at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, a staple for the city since the days of Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, and Billy Joel.
Take the Seastreak Ferry from Atlantic Highlands to NYC for an Empire State of mind. Or take the ferry from Cape May to Lewes, Delaware, where the journey may be more fun than the destination.
As I mentioned above, Point Pleasant also has an aquarium on its boardwalk. See sharks, penguins, seals, coral reefs, and more.
Go miniature golfing in just about any shore town. Most places have rooftop miniature golf courses so you can overlook the town or the ocean. The perfect family or date day/night!
Check local town websites for festivals, parades, and other celebrations.
Don’t forget bowling, ice skating, and movies! Many shore towns even show movies on the beach followed by fireworks.
What are some fun things to do at the Jersey Shore that you like to do? Add on to my recommendations in the comments below! Who knows, maybe I’ll even learn something new and be able to be a tourist in my back yard.
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