The latest update for Shore Towns That Are Even Better When It’s Cold Out is written by Lindsay Podolak.
After summer in New Jersey passes by, colder weather brings an incredible peace and quiet to those shore towns that were so chaotic just weeks before. Which means it’s the perfect time to plan an off-season getaway. Imagine a world where there’s no wait at your favorite restaurants, and no sound other than the ocean just a few feet away.
It’s a true break from everyday life, and you deserve it. So leave the bathing suit at home and plan your cold-weather getaway to one of these unlikely shore towns.
Location: Atlantic County, Exit 38
During the Winter: It’s time to let it ride and dance all night, since the casinos and clubs run year-round. Make sure to drop into The Borgata, one of the city’s most popular destinations. This resort alone houses the requisite casino and nightclub (Premier) as well as Spa Toccare, more than ten restaurants, and luxury stores. Besides the casinos, Atlantic City is also home to New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse, Absecon Lighthouse (open Thursday thru Monday), which is the third-tallest in the US. If you’re traveling with kids, check out the oddities at Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, and load up on school clothes at the Tanger Outlets. From March 8-13 the city hosts its Restaurant Week, with hundreds of restaurants offering three-course meals for a steal.
Where to Stay: As mentioned above, The Borgata is one of the city’s most popular casinos. It always has a handful of packages available. Check out the “Play Your Heart Out Casino Hotel Package” if you’re a slots lover. For more info, visit the website or call 609-317-1000.
Why I like it: Animal lovers can visit the nearby Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine. This spot is open on weekends in the fall and winter months. At their Sea Life Museum and Gift Shop, you’ll find educational exhibits, as well as live camera feeds from the Intensive Care Unit tanks that house seals, sea turtles, and other creatures currently being rehabilitated.
Cape May County
Location: Cape May County, Exit 0
During the Winter: You can visit the Willow Creek Winery for a wine tasting and tour, or head to the Cape May Brewing Company if beer is more your style. For history buffs, there’s the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum (located inside of the Cape May Airport’s historic Hangar No.1) and The Museum of Cape May County. Cape May is also home to some of the best restaurants at the Jersey Shore; such as The Washington Inn and Peter Shields Inn and Restaurant. If you’re in the mood for a quick snack, stop by the new Beef Jerky Outlet to try free samples and discover your favorite flavor of jerky. Not a jerky fan? They also sell jellies, jams, candy, and popcorn.
Where to Stay: Congress Hall offers various deals throughout the winter months. Best of all, it transforms into a magical Winter Wonderland during the holiday season. (Think hundreds of lights and train rides on the Congress Hall Express.) Visit the website or call 888-944-1816 for more info.
Why I like it: From most parts of the state, Cape May is far enough south that it feels like you’re taking a real road trip, without having to cross state lines!
Location: Cape May County, Exit 30
During the Winter: Ocean City is a year-round fishing destination. October and November is striped bass season, and in December, you can fish for blackfish, ling and cod. (Chartering a boat may be your best bet in the cold months.) The fall migration also brings with it the opportunity for bird watching in the Back Bay. Rent a sailboat or kayak to get the best views. If you’re fishing for some one-of-a-kind gifts, the Asbury Avenue shopping district offers more than 100 shops and eateries. Be sure to make a stop at OC Surf Café for breakfast. This spot’s beachy theme will make you feel like you’re in paradise even on the chilliest of days. If your visit is in February, bring the kids along to the Ocean City Historical Museum’s Annual Children’s Tea for stories, crafts, and a proper afternoon tea.
Why I like it: Ring in the New Year at Ocean City’s First Night celebration, the yearly, family-friendly celebration with ice skating, inflatables, live music, magicians, and more!
Location: Cape May County, Exit 10A
During the Winter: This shore town is a perfect family-friendly trip. The Wetlands Institute is open year-round and offers the chance to learn about the local environment and wildlife. The Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary is another great way to observe local wildlife, and it has three paths available for exploring any time of the year. In between all of your Stone Harbor adventures, be sure to stop by the famous Uncle Bill’s Pancake House or grab dessert at Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream, offering standards like chocolate and strawberry, as well as unique flavors like blueberry, egg nog, and cotton candy. If you’re brave enough, participate in the 10th annual Stone Harbor Shiver on March 21. Participants do a Polar Bear Plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, with all proceeds going to charity.
Why I like it: With Stone Harbor and Avalon being next to each other on Seven Mile Island, you get two towns for the price of one vacation! Check out Avalon’s shopping district featuring high-end boutiques, quirky gift shops, and fine dining.
Location: Monmouth County, Exit 102
During the Winter: Asbury Park is a bar-hopper’s and music-lover’s paradise. The nightlife here is some of the best you’ll get from a shore town in the off-season (see their event calendar), so you don’t need to worry about looking for something to do. You can even bring your dog with you, as Wonder Bar hosts a “Yappy Hour” for four-footed pals. Make a stop at Moonstruck while you’re in town, but be advised it is closed for January and some of February. And don’t miss the Asbury Park Valentine’s Bazaar this February 8 in the Grand Arcade of Convention Hall. Stop by for local vendors selling goods and gifts handmade with love, plus DIY flower bouquets at Faye + Renee’s Flower Bar and vintage-inspired Valentine’s photo strips at the Little Detour photo booth.
Why I like it: If you haven’t been able to make it to The Stone Pony during the summer months, it’s just as rockin’ in the winter. Check the full calendar here to see when your favorite Springsteen tribute band is playing.
Location: Monmouth County, Exit 109
During the Winter: Red Bank is the perfect place for a shopping getaway. The shore town offers well-known names, but the local boutiques — like Hobbymaster’s, the world’s largest international hobby store — are the real draw. Don’t miss quirky comic book emporium Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash as well as Jack’s Music Shoppe for one-of-a-kind items. Make sure to drop into JBJ’s Soul Kitchen — run by the Jon Bon Jovi Foundation — for a bite. The restaurant doesn’t have prices; rather, guests can donate money, or time, to pay for their meal. And, if you want to infuse your trip with some culture, you’re in luck: The local Two River Theater is performing August Wilson’s King Hedley II through the end of the year, and A Little Shakespeare: Macbeth in December. Then there’s the Count Basie Theater, which hosts touring shows as well as holiday shows. If you’re on the hunt for delicious vegan food, Good Karma has opened a second location in Red Bank called Karma 2 Go. This satellite location has healthy sandwiches, salads, and baked goods ready for takeout.
Where to Stay: The Oyster Point Hotel and sister hotel The Molly Pitcher Inn are great options in Red Bank. For more info on Oyster Point, go to visit their website or call 732-530-8200. For The Molly Pitcher, click here or call 732-747-2500.
Why I like it: Even though it’s an indoor rink, you can still partake in the traditional winter sport of ice-skating at the Red Bank Armory. Check the website to see when public skating is available. Admission is just $9 for adults and $8 for children ages 12 and under. Skate rentals are an additional $4, if needed.
Location: Monmouth County, Exit 98
During the Winter: Its proximity to Allaire State Park makes Spring Lake a great destination for bikers and hikers. Not the outdoorsy type? History buffs can check out the living museum at Allaire Village, a nineteeth-century iron-working town. If you’re planning on making the Monmouth County town a holiday getaway, this shore town has got you covered: Each weekend in December, the Spring Lake Theatre Company puts on on its annual holiday performance of Scrooge. Then there’s the Spring Lake Christmas Celebration Kick-Off at the end of November, offering Santa’s workshop and hayrides through Spring Lake. And don’t miss the Candlelight Christmas Inn Tour each December for a chance to view the vintage holiday decorations that the local inns and some private homes have to offer. End your festive trip with dinner at Whispers, or try eclectic cuisine with local ingredients at Arugula.
Why I like it: The iconic Spring Lake Footbridges. They span the lake and are decked out with lights during the holiday season. You will also be able to enjoy the improvements that the town recently made to the shoreline.
Long Beach Island
Location: Ocean County, Exit 63
During the Winter: While Fantasy Island’s arcade is open on weekends during the winter, the rides are not. But don’t worry, there is still plenty of other fun to be found on this 18-mile long barrier island…plus during the winter, you don’t have to deal with the crowds! Fishing, exploring the beaches, and surfing are all still on tap during the chilly season. Visit the Barnegat Lighthouse on the weekends and climb to the top of Old Barney for a panoramic view of the island. You can also explore the New Jersey Maritime Museum’s collection of maritime history and artifacts, open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the off-season. And no visit to this shore town is complete without a stop at The Chicken or the Egg (a.k.a. “CHEGG” to those in the know). Previously a seasonal favorite, the restaurant announced this past October it will be open year-round so even winter visitors can enjoy their famous wings.
Where to Stay: Enjoy world-class amenities at Hotel LBI, which boasts a luxurious indoor pool and gorgeous guest rooms. Traveling in a larger group? Book one of the “bunk suites,” which features bunk beds to accommodate your party. To learn more, visit the website or call 609-467-8000.
Why I like it: Because Long Beach Island does house a fair amount of year-round residents, you won’t have trouble finding dining options; Scojo’s, Buckalew’s Tavern, and Daddy O, to name a few.
Location: Ocean County, Exit 98
During the Winter: Probably the biggest draw of shore town Point Pleasant is Jenkinson’s Arcade, a popular hotspot during the summer that remains so all winter long. Also open is Jenkinson’s Aquarium, which has half-price admission every weekday in January. Here you’ll find African penguins, local celebrity Lucy the harbor seal, sharks, turtles, a touch tank and a coral reef. Car buffs can make a trip to the Vintage Automobile Museum of New Jersey, open Wednesdays through Sundays. For a healthy meal in town, Local Urban Kitchen has a fresh, locally-sourced menu that accommodates vegan and gluten-free diets.
Why I like it: Point Pleasant is definitely a crowded, tourist-y destination during the summer, which is why it’s an excellent choice for a winter getaway that is quieter, but still fun.
Hero (Top) Feature Image: © mimadeo / Dollar Photo
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa / Facebook
Cape May, NJ / Facebook
Ocean City NJ / Facebook
Stone Harbor / Facebook
Asbury Park Boardwalk / Facebook
Count Baisie Center for the Arts / Facebook
The Historic Village at Allaire / Facebook
Long Beach Island – LBI / Facebook
Jenkinson’s Aquarium / Facebook