Wildwoods offer free fun this summer

June 12, 2009 8:37:32 PM PDT
Our theme this year is "Are you free this summer? The Wildwoods are," says John Siciliano, Executive Director of the Wildwoods Tourism Authority.

If you're looking for shore bargains, the Wildwoods are looking for you. For starters, unlike other Jersey shore communities, here, you don't have to pay for beach tags.

Siciliano says since some beaches charge $20 per person for tags, that can save a family of four $80.

The Wildwoods also have 8000 hotel rooms, which means even if you can't afford to get away for a whole week, you can still visit for just a night or two.

And if you call their tourism office or checkout their website, they'll send you a coupon book that includes $400 in savings up and down the Boardwalk.

They also have a free webcam, that you can stand in front of and have your friends log onto to see you on vacation.

Free special events include the annual classic car show, power boat races, a Blues festival, and an adorable baby parade.

More shore freebies this summer: (courtesy NorthJersey.com)

*The New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail (856-447-0103, or click here for the.Coastal Heritage web site). The trail links sites for nearly 300 miles along the Atlantic seaboard, including Raritan, Barnegat and Delaware Bays. It takes you to destinations in five themes: maritime history; historic settlements; wildlife migrations; relaxation and inspiration (scenery); and coastal habitats. Most destinations are free, although in the summer there may be parking fees.

*Learning about the quirky history (including Mr. Peanut!) of Atlantic City at the Atlantic City Historical Museum (609-347-5839) on the Garden Pier.

*At the Sheraton Hotel near the Convention Center in Atlantic City, you'll find exhibits of Miss America memorabilia, including her crown.

*Cheesequake State Park - array of habitats and easy hiking and nature trails.

Atlantic City
*Atlantic City Art Center, Garden Pier, 609-347-5837. Three exhibition galleries, featuring work by local and national contemporary artists and craftspeople.

*Marine Mammal Stranding Center and Sea Life Museum, 3625 Brigantine Blvd., 609-266-0538, marinemammalstrandingcenter.org. The center responds to the strandings of whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles that have washed ashore in our area. The animals are rehabilitated and released, whenever possible. Visitors can learn about the center and explore the Sea Life Museum, a small education facility with hands-on exhibits and educational programs.

Cape May
*Cape May County Park and Zoo, Route 9 and Crest Haven Road; 609-465-5271, or click here for the web site. There's also a lovely park for a picnic or walk. Open year-round.

*Warren E. Fox Nature Center, Estell Manor Park,109 Boulevard Route 50, Mays Landing; 609-645-5960. See displays of the area's history and of plant and animal life. Free public programs including night excursions, bird watching, reptile and amphibian walks, herb garden talks, lectures and more.

*Diamond-hunting at Sunset Beach, tip of Cape May County. Time a visit to watch the sun as it sets over the Delaware Bay. The "diamonds," unique to this area, are actually pure quartz stones that have been polished over thousands of years.

*Nature Center of Cape May, 600 Delaware Ave. 609-898-8848, or click for the web site. One of nine staffed nature centers throughout the state. On Cape May Harbor, the educational campus includes the Trucksess Welcome Center, a three-story observation tower, indoor observation lounge, classrooms, exhibit aquaria, a small gift shop and several display gardens.

Fort Monmouth
*United States Army Communications Electronics Museum, Fort Monmouth, 732-532-1682. Photographs and artifacts show how Fort Monmouth was instrumental in developing the first radio-equipped meteorological balloon in 1928 and aircraft detection radar in 1938.

*Twin Lights of the Navesink, Lighthouse Road, 732-872-1814, or click for the website. Perched on cliffs 200 feet above sea level, the Twin Lights overlook the Shrewsbury River, Sandy Hook, Raritan Bay, the New York skyline and the Atlantic Ocean. The current lighthouse was built in 1862.

*Holmdel Park, 44 Longstreet Road; 732-946-9562, or the web site. The 565-acre park features Historic Longstreet Farm, the David C. Shaw Arboretum, fishing, picnic areas, tennis courts, playgrounds and nearly 10 miles of trails.

Ocean City
*Discovery Seashell Museum, 2721 Asbury Ave.; 609-398-2316, or the web site. See some of the rarest and finest seashell specimens in the world. In the Shell Yard more than 10,000 varieties of seashells can be seen.

Sandy Hook
*Fort Hancock Historic District, 732-872-0115. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse, which was constructed in 1764 and is still in use, is the nation's oldest. During summer weekends, the New Jersey Lighthouse Society offers free tours from noon to 4:30 p.m. on the half hour. The park is open daily, sunrise to sunset. Though park entry and the lighthouse visit are free, you'll have to pay the Sandy Hook beach parking fees during the summer.

Sea Girt
*Sea Girt Lighthouse; Ocean Avenue and Beacon Boulevard, 732-974-0514. Dating to December 1896. Tours offered 2 to 4 p.m. most Sundays, through Nov. 23. Donations accepted.

Somers Point
*Somers Mansion, 1000 Shore Road, Somers Point, 609-927-2212. Somers Mansion, built in 1725, is the oldest house in Atlantic County and contains 18th-century furnishings.

Toms River
*Cattus Island County Park, 1170 Cattus Island Blvd., 732-270-6960, or the web site. The unspoiled beauty of nature is the main attraction. Nearly 500 acres, with miles of hiking trails; good birding on boardwalks (handicap-accessible) that run through wetlands habitats. Cooper Environmental Center is great for kids.

The Wildwoods
* Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, First and Central avenues, North Wildwood; 609-522-4520, or the web site. Still a working lighthouse; the Victorian gardens surrounding the lighthouse and cottage have won many awards.

*Captain Ocean, on the beach in Wildwood Crest at Rambler Road. At 8 a.m. Mondays, from the July 4th weekend through the Labor Day holiday, the captain conducts his weekly ecological programs at the water's edge, offering information about the local marine environment for children and adults.

Free entertainment:
*Concerts. Crest Pier Recreation Center in Wildwood Crest, most Monday evenings.

*Summer sunset concert series, 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the Sunset Lake Gazebo at Miami and New Jersey Avenues in Wildwood Crest.

*Family Fun Night and children's entertainment, 7 p.m. Thursdays, with parades, clowns and music ? including a string band performance ? strolling through the crowds from 7:30 to 9:30 on the Wildwood Boardwalk at Cedar Avenue.

*North Wildwood Concert Series at the Lou Booth Amphitheater at Second and Ocean avenues in North Wildwood and Gazebo Concerts at the Wildwood Crest Gazebo, Rambler and Ocean avenues in Wildwood Crest, both at 7 p.m. Thursdays.

*Fireworks, from the beach at Pine Avenue in Wildwood at 11 p.m. Fridays.

*Top-name talent at the Lou Booth Amphitheater in North Wildwood 7 p.m. Saturdays.

*Boardwalk Outdoor Market, on the Cedar Avenue Boardwalk; 609-522-2542, ext. 10. Featuring fresh produce, flowers and hand-crafted items, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday Memorial Day to Labor Day.

*Boardwalk Craft Show, on the Boardwalk at Rio Grande Avenue; 609-522-0378 or 609-522-0198. All handmade products

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