Exploring Seaside Heights: The Boardwalk Town with Something for Everyone

In years following the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy—and damaging publicity from MTV's Jersey Shore—much of the Ocean County borough has been revitalized.

Midway Steak House All photos by James J. Connolly

Seaside Heights is proud to have it both ways. Its amusement rides and boardwalk games make for family fun. Its nightlife and many nicely priced motels attract young couples and singles.

Mayor Anthony Vaz sees a common denominator. The town, he says, “is a unique enjoyment for Shore lovers.”

And it keeps getting better. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy crashed into Seaside Heights, damaging many boardwalk businesses and devastating the Casino Pier. The storm tumbled the Jet Star roller coaster into the surf, where it became a much-photographed symbol of Sandy’s wrath.

Today, the businesses are back and the Casino Pier has been rebuilt. Last year, the Hydrus roller coaster replaced the ill-fated Jet Star. “[We’re] continually improving and innovating in every aspect of the experience, particularly value, fun and comfort,” says Vaz.

The Ocean County town has also had to recover from the poor image MTV’s Jersey Shore reality show left behind. It has done that by building up its family-friendly attractions. What’s more, in 2013, one year after Sandy, a boardwalk fire destroyed Funtown Pier in neighboring Seaside Park. The pier has not been rebuilt, but boardwalk storefronts from Stockton Avenue in Seaside Park to Lincoln Avenue in Seaside Heights have been restored.

Even the Seaside beaches have a new look. A federal beach-replenishment effort widened the beaches and added taller, wider sand dunes, providing better storm protection and more space to spread out. New ramps over the dunes provide improved beach access.

On the boards during peak season, couples hop on the Sky Ride for an aerial cruise above the boardwalk and the beach. Families fastened into the Hydrus roller coaster scream as they plummet 72 feet at 45 miles per hour. Twenty-somethings fill their stomachs with Mexican food and margaritas at Spicy Cantina (500 Ocean Terrace).

New this year on Casino Pier, thrill seekers will find the Centrifuge, an indoor, spinning scrambler with strobe lights similar to the one Sandy destroyed. There are also three new kiddie rides. Beyond Casino Pier’s more than two dozen attractions, vacationers can try their skills at Smuggler’s Quay Adventure Golf Course or cool off at Breakwater Beach’s 10 water amusements. Arcades abound on the Seaside boardwalk. Among the favorites: Lucky Leo’s, Coin Castle, Sonny’s & Rickey’s and Casino Arcade.

Several retailers go beyond the normal beach provisions. Island Soul (1309 Ocean Terrace) carries swimwear, jewelry and even ukuleles. Le Petit Garage (1020 Ocean Terrace) offers everything from home décor to cocktail napkins. At Vintage Anchor (617 Boardwalk), you’ll find beach-chic clothing and accessories.

Craving saltwater taffy or homemade fudge? Stop by Berkeley Candy (1205 Boardwalk), a fixture on the boardwalk for more than 60 years. Van Holten’s Sweet Shop (802 Ocean Terrace) sells popcorn, brittles, gummies and—believe it or not—chocolate-covered pork roll. Lucky Leo’s Sweet Shop (217 Boardwalk), which opened in 2017, allows customers to peek through a window to watch the kitchen crew create concoctions like CBD-infused chocolates.

Left photo: Sharon Beam, left, takes a surrey ride with daughter Jennifer Gardner, right, and grandkids Mason, Ella and Ava Tietze—all vacationers from Middletown, New York. Right photo: Daniel Sikorski, a 6-year-old from Toms River, knows there’s nothing finer than a slice on the Seaside Heights boardwalk.

On summer nights, the barhopping is easy. Drink up at the 1950s-themed Jimbo’s Bar & Grill (715 Boardwalk). Play billiards and darts or dance at Hemingway’s Café (612 Boulevard). Or jam out with live cover bands every weekend at Beachcomber Bar & Grill (100 Ocean Terrace).

For lovers of more sophisticated fare, Broadway Meets the Beach is a free summer performance series with cast members from the Great White Way at the Franklin Avenue Stage.

Live music emanates from the Franklin Avenue Stage on Monday nights, and tribute-band concerts fill the air at Blaine Avenue Beach on Thursday nights. Monday nights also mean movies at Carteret Avenue Beach. Miss the days of drive-in movies? Head to the Sumner Avenue Parking Lot on Friday nights.

Ever wish you could sleep on the beach? On one June night and one in August, oudoorsy types pitch tents on the sand and sleep under the stars. You’ll wake up refreshed for another fun day in Seaside Heights.


WHERE TO STAY

Lazy River Rental: Beach homes and suites on Sherman Avenue, Bay Boulevard and Dupont Avenue, sleeping up to 16 guests. Some have pools. Five additional rental locations in Seaside Park.
732-565-7800

Hershey Motel: Blockwide motel with more than 100 rooms, an outdoor pool with lounge chairs, kiddie pool, sundeck and Chop Shop restaurant. High-season rates: $145-$199. 1415 Boulevard. 732-793-5000.

Sea Palace Inn & Motel: Two adjacent properties with 44 rooms total. High-season rates: $150-$249. 126-136 Sumner Avenue. 732-830-6300.

WHERE TO EAT

Maruca’s Tomato Pies: Serving Trenton-style pizza—topped with a swirl of sauce—on the boardwalk since 1950. 601 Boardwalk. 732-793-0707.

Free Range: Locally sourced breakfast, lunch and dinner served in a bright space. 701 Boulevard. 732-250-8788

Klee’s: An Irish pub offering wraps, reubens and burgers. Klee’s Next Door Café serves breakfast. 101 Boulevard. 732-830-1996.

Genevieve’s: Italian and American food, including pasta, seafood and steak. 113 Boulevard. 732-930-3520.

The Chop Shop: This casual barbecue joint connected to the Hershey Motel serves wings, pulled pork, brisket, ribs and draft beer. 1415 Boulevard. 732-375-3066.

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