Anyone approaching Ocean City can’t miss the 140-foot giant wheel that beckons families to play at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, a park with an 85-year history of classic amusements. Many flock to Gillian’s just for the funnel cake. Co-owner Michele Gillian credits her family’s secret recipe. “You can’t find better funnel cake,” she declares. Don’t miss the latest frights added to their haunted house. (609-399-7082)
If you’re looking for killer waves, hit 14th Street. If you crave just-off-the-boardwalk privacy, plant the umbrella in the sand at North Street. Want a great spot in the shade? Set up camp under the Music Pier on 8th Street. Wherever your beach is in Ocean City, the sand is soft, the boardwalk is close, teens selling water ice are plentiful and the parking situation (usually) isn’t terrible.
Bed & Breakfast
A half block from the ocean in Cape May, Angel of the Sea occupies in an 1850 Victorian that features 27 rooms with period furnishings and private baths. Some rooms have claw-foot tubs, fireplaces and ocean views. Owner Lorie Whissel proudly offers the same full slate of amenities as when she opened this year-round retreat 26 years ago, including a sumptuous full breakfast, afternoon tea, evening wine and cheese, loaner bicycles and beach equipment. (5 Trenton Avenue; 609-884-3369)
REGIONAL WINNERS: Cedars and Beeches, Long Branch
Where else in New Jersey can you find Miss Crustacean, Mr. Mature America and 400 waddling basset hounds? In addition to its shops, amusements, mini golf and historic Music Pier, the Ocean City boardwalk has been known to celebrate everything from the Quiet Festival to the annual absurdity of the Doo Dah Parade. “The boardwalk has a true family atmosphere to it,” says town PR director Mark Soifer. “That’s because there’s no alcohol involved. That’s unique today.”
REGIONAL WINNERS: Wildwood; Asbury Park
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is a winner—and it has been since opening in 1983 as Atlantic City’s first Las Vegas-style destination. What’s the secret? “Borgata provides guests with the opportunity to create a new and unique experience with each visit,” says Joe Lupo, senior vice president of operations. Among the attractions he cites: two AAA Four Diamond hotels, two destination spas, five celebrity-chef restaurants, four nightlife venues, top-shelf entertainment and plenty of gaming options. Be sure to check out Borgata Buffet’s $2 million redesign, opening on Christmas Day. (1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City; 609-317-1000)
Situated at the heart of Cape May’s resort district, steps from the beach and the Washington Street shopping area, historic Congress Hall hotel has much to offer. Built in the late 19th century, the gracefully sprawling hotel has been updated with modern sensibilities in mind. Each of the 108 guest rooms features bright colors and comfy furnishings—and AC, of course. On-site amenities include a casual all-day restaurant (the Blue Pig Tavern), a cocktail lounge, pool, spa, shops and a dance club. (200 Congress Place, Cape May; 888-944-1816)
The caves, the waterfalls, the suspension bridges, and of course, that huge pirate ship—all of it makes putting your way through Pirate Island Adventure Golf feel like a true buccaneer’s adventure. The talking animatronic pirates add to the show. “It’s great family entertainment, and that’s what we cater to—the families,” says Pirate Island COO Scott Rosen. Open since 1994 with locations in Ocean City, Sea Isle City and Avalon.
REGIONAL WINNERS: Jenkinson’s Boardwalk Mini Golf, Point PleasantClick here to leave a comment