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Best Summer Ever: The Suburban Family Shore Guide

by Erica Bauwens

We waited all winter; counted the days, actually. And after months of sweaters and scarves and big clunky snow boots, the summer is finally upon us. So what better way to celebrate than with a trip to the beach, and with our annual round-up of the places, sights and stops that make the Jersey Shore the ultimate family destination.

This year we took a look at four different categories to help maximize your potential for summer fun: what to check out on the boardwalk; where to eat with the family; how to keep the little ones busy on a rainy day; and the best way to stay fit throughout the summer for all ages.

With these trusty Shore shops open and ready for business, it looks like this might be the best summer yet.

Amusement Parks and Boardwalk Fun

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier
Ocean City
Ocean City’s boardwalk has become a family Shore staple for generations, and with good reason. Gillian’s is just one of a handful of family destinations located right on the boards, and might be best known for their famous Ferris wheel.

Morey’s Pier
Wildwood
There are few boardwalk spots more family friendly than Morey’s Pier. With its roller coasters and wild rides, carnival-style games and arcades, and fantastic fried foods and pizzas spread across three Wildwood piers, the options are limitless.

NJ Beach Yoga
Sea Isle City
Kick-start your day with a peaceful shavasana pose right on the beach. NJ Beach Yoga offers classes on the sand for all ages, and gives guests the chance to bring their yoga mat or beach towel out in the morning and wake up with the sounds of the ocean waves and a really impactful workout.

Playland’s Castaway Cove
Ocean City
From go karts and roller coasters to the famous Gravitron and Surf Shack, Castaway Cove is its own little getaway right on the boards. Castaway Cove comes complete with more than a dozen rides for all ages, a sprawling arcade and even a 19-hole pirate mini golf course, all within a quick walk of each other.

Thundering Surf Water Park
Beach Haven
Sometimes the beach just doesn’t cut it, especially when the waves are flat and the water is chilly. That’s what makes Thundering Surf such a fun alternative. With a lazy river, simulated surf and boogie boarding and more than enough water slides to choose from, this is a fully loaded day well spent.

Food Finds

The Chicken or the Egg
Beach Haven
Known to locals as The Chegg, this family-friendly eatery has become the stuff of legends. Open 24 hours a day, The Chegg has earned a reputation for their 16 different kinds of Buffalo wings, but there really is something for everyone, including a round-the-clock breakfast menu with lots of omelets, pancakes … even a breakfast quesadilla.

Family Fun Arcade
Cape May
Cape May’s boardwalk is tiny, but still packed with tons to do. Family Fun Arcade is the classic spot, with skee ball and claw machines alongside video games, pinball machines and of course a sprawling prize counter to look forward to.

Hank Sauce
Sea Isle City
You may have seen this locally made hot sauce on the shelves of your grocery store, but it only gets better at its Sea Isle storefront and restaurant. The menu is simple but tasty, and includes a juicy burger, pinchos—or meats on a stick with sauce and bread—and an Ahi tuna burrito roll for mom and dad.

Hot Dog Tommy’s
Cape May
Located right across the street from the beach, this hot dog stand is famous for its wild and crazy concoctions. This isn’t your ball park frank; hot dogs come with toppings like crispy Chow Mein noodles, chili, and even mashed potatoes.

Uncle Bill’s Pancake House
Avalon
This breakfast hotspot has become as much of a Jersey Shore institution as beach tags and overly ambitious seagulls. There are Uncle Bill’s locations up and down the Jersey coast, but this particular location gained notoriety as superstar Taylor Swift’s beach breakfast of choice back in 2011 while vacationing nearby with family.

Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream
Stone Harbor
Ice cream sundaes just seem to taste better after a long day at the beach with just a little red on your cheeks. Springer’s handcrafted flavors—like butterscotch brickle, coconut and peanut butter cup—have been around for years, and have become a permanent part of Shore memories everywhere.

Rainy Day Escapes

Island Studio Paint Your Own Pottery
Stone Harbor
Open every day in the summer season, Island Studio is the easiest way to escape the rainy day blues. Kids of all ages—even the kids at heart—can pick their own piece of pottery to decorate; from there the pros at Island Studio glaze and fire it in-house to create the perfect accent piece.

Lucy the Elephant
Margate
You just haven’t experienced the Jersey Shore until you visit Lucy, the massive, 134-year-old elephant on Margate’s shore. Families can climb the spiral staircase in her leg and get a great, covered view of the Atlantic from atop her back, and live a tradition that has become engrained in the Jersey Shore.

Palace of Sweets Adventure Maze
Wildwood
Escape the weather and get lost for a bit in The Palace of Sweets’ Mirror Maze, which sends guests on a twisty journey through mirrored candy-themed displays. There’s also a laser maze and “Time Freak” challenge, so you can keep the challenge going until long after the sun goes down.

Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum
Rio Grande
Just a short distance from the heart of Cape May, this museum gives visiting families the chance to learn about the history of flight through dozens of real military aircrafts, interactive displays, engine parts and models, and more.

Fantasy Island Casino Arcade
Beach Haven
You may already know about Fantasy Island’s amusement park, but when the rain is keeping you off the roller coasters it’s the park’s giant indoor arcade that comes to the rescue. Along with the standard arcade games offered, Fantasy Island has its own “Dodge City” shooting gallery to try your skills on. There’s also an ice cream shop and food stand on-site, to satisfy any craving.

Getting Out and Active

7th Street Surf Shop
Ocean City
The instructors at 7th Street Surf Shop cater their two-hour surf lessons to students of all ages and levels. Lessons run seven days a week, and include a rental of all the tools you’ll need to get started. At the Shore all summer? Then check out their kids surf camp, a five-day-a-week program for kids aged 9 to 15.

Avalon Golf Club
Cape May Court House
A day on the fairway is the perfect way to escape the sand. Avalon’s course appeals to all skill levels, and features a variety of fairways and water features to add a bit of a challenge to your game. Plus, there are different deals on greens fees that run all through the summer.

Pyour Core
Surf City
Grown-ups looking to keep their beach bodies in fighting form can do so with a variety of Pyour Core’s barre, Pilates and other fitness courses. Classes run every day and are regularly updated on the Pyour Core website, so you can always find a time that works for your schedule.

Atilis Gym
Wildwood, Sea Isle and Avalon
This all-in-one gym is made with Shore-goers in mind. It’s open 24 hours, and features everything from free weights to treadmills. Best of all? You can choose your membership based on the length of your stay at the Shore, with options ranging from one day to three months.

Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 3 (May, 2015).
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