There was a common theme among many people I interviewed - they'd gone to the Shore when they were kids and they were anxious to give their children the same kind of experiences they'd had as children. Childhood memories of summer days at the Shore are something that many, many people in our area have in common.
I've been thinking about why these memories are so treasured by so many, including me. I think it's because being at the Shore forces us to slow down - perhaps a bit less now that in an era before cell phones and laptops - but for our family at least, our days at the Shore have a rhythm that's much easier and more relaxing than our days at home.
At the Shore, we walk or ride bikes on the Boardwalk in the mornings, We eat big leisurely breakfasts and then spend most of the day just "hanging out" on the beach. The big decisions are whether to suntan or boogie board, play catch or (our new discovery) lasso golf, or whether we should get Boardwalk pizza for lunch or each sandwiches from home. In the evenings, we all shower and then either grill a simple dinner, or eat at a favorite Shore restaurant - and for some reason, food always tastes better after a day in the sun and sand. Some nights, the kids go on the rides or play mini-golf, or we just walk on the Boardwalk again. We play cards on the deck. We read. And even though it's just over an hour from home, it feels that we've gone far away.
Aside from the pace, the other great thing about the shore is that it doesn't have to be expensive.
In Atlantic City and Wildwood, there are no beach fees. In most of the towns that do charge fees, kids under 10 or 12 are usually free, and a day pass for an adult costs a lot less than a movie ticket. Kids can amuse themselves for hours, jumping waves, building sand castles, playing ball, looking for shells and chasing seagulls - all free activities. You can always pack a picnic basket from home and I'll bet there are very few of us who grew up here who don't know how to change out of a sandy bathing suit hunched over in the back seat of the car. There are still Boardwalk arcades that offer Skeeball for a dime. And different towns offer free movie nights, or free entertainment on the Boardwalk in the evenings.
Best of all, everyone seems to be in a good mood when they're at the Shore. Drivers stop for pedestrians and bicyclists. Kids easily make new friends while playing on the beach. Everyone just seems friendlier. Even siblings get along! And yes, I hope some day, my sons will bring their children to the Jersey shore and it'll be very much as it is right now.
For some freebie deals at the Shore, check out these sites: