What You Need to Enjoy a Multi-Generation Trip in this Quaint NJ Beach Town
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, three sleepy towns on the New Jersey Coast come alive as they welcome families and young adults to enjoy the summer on the beach. The Wildwoods (North Wildwood, Wildwood and Wildwood Crest) are known for their 1950s décor motels, long wide beaches, and a 2.5-mile-long boardwalk full of rides, restaurants, games, and stores. It was a place we went every summer when I was young and was excited to share with my sister and her family. We went as a big group, and the kids had a great weekend of pool, sun, beach, and boardwalk with their cousins. We ended up loving pretty much every minute of our trip.
My sister and I, wanting to introduce our kids to the fun we had in our youth, wanted a multi-generational trip. So, it was us, our spouses, our children, and my dad, his wife, and his stepdaughter. We stayed in a motel in Wildwood Crest, the more family-friendly portion of the area. We stayed 3 days and 2 nights. The children ranged from 11 years old to 18 months, so we had a lot of range and a whole lot of fun.
One of the best parts of Wildwood is the beach. The motels are usually no more than 2 blocks from the beach. You can walk from your motel or Airbnb to the beach, and pretty much every street has an entrance. We gathered our party of 11 with 4 children, all our beach chairs, snacks, cooler, umbrellas, and beach toys into two (not one but two) beach carts and walked down the block to the easy access ramp to the beach. All the beaches are free in Wildwood, and the entrances have a ramp and wood walkway for a distance before you hit the sand. Then we had the stronger men drag the two beach carts to a spot that was within site of the water, but also close to the lifeguards that were on duty and set up camp.
The kids loved spending time in the water and came out as prunes. My brother-in-law was a lifeguard, so they spent a lot of time out in the deep with him. My younger niece loved being in the water, but not out as far. We took turns taking her out into the shallowe waves (with a life vest on and an adult near-by). She was exhausting because she didn’t want to leave the water, but it was fun to play with a little one again.
We weren’t near the boardwalk so there wasn’t a place to quickly buy some food. We brought snacks to the beach with us to eat (we had a big breakfast and decided to have an earlier dinner instead). But there was a vendor with a beach cart selling ice cream and water, which was a nice treat for everyone.
Wildwood NJ has 2.5 miles of boardwalk and every inch of it is full of fun! The thing to do and enjoy when you are in Wildwood is the boardwalk especially at night. We went both evenings we were in town and the kids enjoyed every minute. That likely has a lot to do with the fact that we spent a lot of the time focused in on Morey’s Pier.
Morey’s Piers is 3 piers of both fun and thrill-seeking rides for kids as young as my niece and nephew, and as old as the teenagers who like having a heart attack when on a roller coaster. Loading up two cards with 150 tickets was enough for get all our kiddos enjoying rides for two nights in a row. My kids loved all the medium thrill rides such as the bumper cars, the teacups, the flyer, etc. My niece and nephew rode the carousel, boats, and small swings repeatedly. And we all enjoyed the family rides such as the Flying Galleon and the Ferris Wheel.
But a boardwalk is not just rides. There are fun games that you can play for prizes. The stores up and down that sell fun t-shirts, fidget toys, and of course stuffed alien from the Among Us game (if you have pre-teens, you know this game). And it’s not a trip to the boardwalk without fun treats. My niece was partial to giant ice cream cones, but we loved eating funnel cake.
But how do you get around such a long boardwalk? By using the Tram Car of course! Anyone who’s been to Wildwood knows the famous phrase “Watch the Tram Car Please!” which comes recorded out of the tram car as it rides up and down the boardwalk. For just $4 for anyone over 2 years old you can get a ride to the major stops along the boardwalk. There is now even a convenient app that allows you to pay using your phone instead of paying cash. Just note that in the evenings, it can be hard to get a larger party on the tram car. We ended up splitting up and walking part of the way.
I did not grow up with foodie parents. In fact, generally when we went to Wildwood, we stayed in motels with kitchenettes, and we almost always ate food we brought from home. So, exploring out and trying food in Wildwood was particularly fun this trip.
Breakfast: We discovered the Admiral’s Table and loved it so much, we went back a second time! They had an amazing menu of waffles, egg specials, pancakes, and even benedicts (my favorite). The coffee was good, the service was quick and attentive (even with a party of eleven!) The prices were very reasonable, and the quantities were great.
Dinner: My sister and her family had come to Wildwood the year before and my sister insisted we try Schellenger’s Restaurant, which they ate at the year before. Wow, it did not disappoint! Known for its drinks and its fish menu, I had the most amazing scallops. The kids and adults enjoyed fish and chips, and my brother-in-Law and I enjoyed frozen pina coladas after a long day with kids and the sun. It has the added benefit of being across the street from a large parking lot that leads to the area of the boardwalk with the most rides for our kids. The staff was amazing, and we all rolled out of the restaurant. (Note: It only has indoor dining and can get crowded, so that is something you have to be comfortable with. At the time we went, COVID cases were on the decline, and we felt comfortable with the risk.)
Boardwalk Food: The first night we made the mistake of doing the rides, and then getting a late dinner on the boardwalk. (The food, wasn’t the mistake, but pulling cranky hungry kids away from the rides was the mistake). We needed food and we needed it fast. Enter Chickie’s and Pete’s. It’s a fried chicken and shrimp shack on the boardwalk. We order some yummy chicken tenders and a regular of their famous Crab fries. The chicken tenders kept all the little ones who were starving happy, and one order of the fries was enough to feed a family of four. They were crinkle cut with some spicy seasoning that most in our family loved. The kids chowed down and forgot that we were the mean parents that pulled them away from rides. But it’s not boardwalk unless you get some fun food. We grabbed Funnel Cake with Nutella and ice cream as a treat from Morey’s Pier. But my niece really won out. The look on her face when she showed me her giant chocolate ice cream cone was pure delight. That’s the moments we live for as parents and aunts.
One of the reasons we changed our reservation from the Airbnb we initially had booked to a motel was the pool. Pretty much every motel in Wildwood has one, and it’s a must when you have young children with you. We arrived on a Friday afternoon, and it was a little late to load up the two carts for a day at the beach. So, we got everyone in their swimsuits, ordered Fast Food through Door Dash for lunch and we hit up the pool. The kids loved jumping in and playing in the shallow and deep end. My nephew only wanted to be with mama, but my niece was a dare devil, wanting to swim right up with her bigger cousins. The pool is always a fun way to ease into your Wildwood trip, and to tire out the ones with just a little too much energy.
Generally, the blog is my happy place, and a place I like to call out activities and businesses that I genuinely love and want to share with others. I, however, will not be sharing the name of the hotel in this case. It was unfortunately, very disappointing. It’s important to note that many of the motels in Wildwood are 1950s themed and have a fun kitsch element to it. This hotel had that , but it was clear in was not well maintained over time. There was a lot of visible wood rot damage to the wood outside, rust and corrosion at the pool area, and a deck was closed off with no signs for reason, but I noticed significant wood rot in the pillars. The rooms were clean, but not well maintained. We also booked through TripAdvisor which turned out to be a big mistake because we had several problems. My advice, always book through the hotel, it’s not worth going through a 3rd party, but be sure to read all the reviews on the place. We booked quickly without reading the reviews because we wanted a pool and places were filling up fast for the weekend, we were interested in. I will not make that mistake again.
That being said, last time we were in Wildwood, we stayed at the Shalimar, which was a great hotel, with the 50s vibe, but had been well maintained. We loved the pool area, it was very clean. The hotel was up to date, and had a little kitchenette. It’s two blocks from the beach, and in Wildwood Crest which was more family friendly. I would highly recommend the Shalimar and wish they hadn’t been sold out the weekend we went.
Honestly, the hotel was the only blemish on our perfect family weekend getaway. Wildwood is a great place to relax and enjoy either as your small family group, or in a larger group. It is as much fun as I remembered as a kid. But the best part, was at the end of the weekend my husband said “I really enjoyed that. I can see why you raved about Wildwood so much”. It was validating to know that my memories weren’t just viewing through rose colored glasses. But the best part was seeing the cousins interact and have a great weekend together. It’s memories that will last a lifetime, and I can’t wait to come back and make more memories.
* Photos taken by Atma Photography