OK, if you've got a thing for airbrushed tees or tees proclaiming "I'm a Guido", flourescent anything, and disgusting boardwalk food, Seaside is the place to be. The amusement park area can be amusing for a little while, but it's the sights, sounds and smells along the boardwalk that keep folks coming back. Despite the tackiness of Seaside, I enjoy walking the boardwalk and people watching.
Unique Suggestions: Free beach access on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Fun Alternatives: Want a real boardwalk experience without the Seaside effect? Visit Wildwood and walk along the boardwalk there.
Driving south on the Garden State Parkway towards Cape May, we decided that it would be nice to come off the main road for a lunch break. I checked the map and spotted a likely-sounding spot, Smithville Historic Towne. That “e” on the end of Towne should have alerted us however. Smithville proved to be a very artificial sort of town, with a number of old buildings brought together from around the state and restored for the sole purpose of attracting shoppers. The effect is much more shopping mall than town, with the eighteenth century Smithville Inn at its heart the only building that genuinely belongs in this spot.
We’ve been to, and enjoyed, many restored historic towns and villages in the US in the past, such as Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Plimouth Plantation in Massachusetts etc. But this was a very different experience, with no attempt made to educate about the history of the buildings – their only purpose was to attract shoppers. Everything was very twee and although I’m sure there were some nice things to be had, the overall effect was to make us want to do anything but shop. We were further put off when Chris went to the gents’ and saw some of the most objectionably racist graffiti either of us has come across for years.
On the positive side, parking was free and we did find some lunch, in the somewhat cavernous Fred & Ethel's Lantern Light Tavern. My crabmeat quesadilla and Chris’s turkey Rueben were tasty enough and a reasonable price ($26 for both and two orange juices). But after we’d eaten we didn’t hang around but instead set off in search of a more genuine New Jersey shore experience.
Unique Suggestions: If you’re tempted to visit despite my comments, do look at their website and see if you still think it looks worth a trip. And stay out of the gents’ if you don’t want to be offended.
And if you must go, leave the Parkway at junction 44 (but note that this is exit only southbound, entrance only northbound)
Fun Alternatives: If you're looking for historic buildings check out the more genuine experiences in Cape May or the pretty restoration at Cold Spring Village just to its north (see my Cape May page for details)
Where to begin? Lets see: Admission $34.99 (a tourist trap even at the AAA $24.99 rate)
Picnic area: three lousy tables, already taken by others.
Bathrooms: dirty and disgusting.
Parking: $15.00 (attendant should just show gun and say stick em up!)
Locker, family size: $22.00, small $17.00 (tho you get $5 back when you return the key.
And the largest problem: half of the water rides are out of service (they will tell you they are closed for maintenance but it looks like the real reason is they don't have enough staff to run them). Any why would it be so hard to maintain half of the park's rides? As a result the ones that are open require about an hour's wait for a 10 second ride.
And the "lazy" river is only "lazy" for those lucky enough to get a tube, which are almost impossible to get, since there is no obligation to get off at any point.
Unique Suggestions: Go when they open and do what you want to do the most first. But I really would recommend that you go to one of the state's other water parks instead.
Fun Alternatives: I enjoyed Morey's Piers Waterpark in Wildwood NJ some time ago.
The primary tourist traps are at the Jeresey 'Shore' . The casinos are money traps that appeal to your visual senses with their bold, brash decors and architectural schemes, as well as the addictive thrill of taking financial risks with a chance to "win".
Atlantic City is the Jersey shore's "Little Girl with the little curl"...where she is good she is very, very good...and where she is bad she is horrid!".
Please note....Atlantic City is going through a "renaissance" and is trying really hard to clean up it's act. Many neighborhoods have gone through dramatic improvements.
The problem lies in the fact that where you have that much gaming and gambling...there are going to be certain criminal activities close by.
The Atlantic City beaches at one time were one of the reasons why people would go there in the summer months to frolic in the surf and sand. Due to the potential financial losses and property damages that would occur to the many beachfront casinos during hurricanes, tropical storms and high tided Nor'easter' storms, the beaches are now a lot of man made dunes that are there to protect the multi-million dollar edifices, and are no longer the wide open, giant oceanfront sandboxes they once were.
For adult travellers, perhaps this alluring city has it's attractiveness.
Family travellers would do much better in many of the coastal communities to the south of Atlantic city. Go to Ocean City for a much more enjoyable family experience. The beach goers at Ocean City are even nicer and friendlier, since not too many of them just lost a lot of money in a casino.
Unique Suggestions: Go see the Absecon lighthouse... head south along the coast for a few miles into Margate and walk through a giant elephant (Lucy).
The ice cream man will go up and down the Wildwood beaches non-stop all day. You send your kids up to buy a pop. BUT, do they have enough money?? The ice cream along the beach is the most expensive ice cream I've ever seen!! Don't go for it!!
Unique Suggestions: It's Simple-----> DON'T BUY ANY ICE CREAM!!
Seaside Heights, which is 'down the shore.' I have been there once, with my cousin who lives a few towns away and I thought it was pretty great. If you have grown up with places like Salisbury Beach, MA or Hampton Beach, NH, then Seaside will blow you away, but as my cousin told me it is nearly impossible to get anywhere near the beach in the summer. If you must go, go in May like I did, before the crowds hit.
I think Atlantic City is one big tourist trap. If you're interested in beaches, there are many other beaches that are better and SAFER. Same with boardwalks. If you like to gamble, then don't leave the casinos. It's not worth it.
It costs $15 just to park at Giants stadium. 'Nuff said.
Fun Alternatives: Go with a group in a bus. It cost $20 per busload, but that works out to 40 cents a person assuming a full bus.
Remember those old time photo places on the boards? Well, expensive as they might seem, years later after the embarrassment has faded, the things do bring back funny memories.
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