By B Ang
While much of New Jersey and its surrounding areas were inundated with floods caused by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the communities of Wildwoods and Atlantic City have escaped relatively unscathed. Attractions reopened days after authorities lifted the mandatory closing order. Most importantly, no damage was sustained to the iconic boardwalks in either destination.
The Action Beckons In Atlantic City
There's more to Atlantic City than its world famous casinos. Did you know that it served as the inspiration for the original version of board game Monopoly, with Boardwalk as one the most expensive properties?
The seven-kilometre Boardwalk is the oldest boardwalk in the U.S. Constantly abuzz with action, recommended activities include riding on a rolling chair and heading to Shriver's, the oldest candy shop (1898) there to see taffy being made and to buy some. Free events for the family include the popular Atlantic City Airshow “Thunder Over the Boardwalk” on June 26.
Several piers branch off from the Boardwalk, the most notable being Steel Pier with its thrilling amusement rides and games of chance. Garden Pier is the Boardwalk's arts and cultural centre, and venue of the Atlantic City historical museum and Art Center.
Then there's the Absecon Lighthouse (1857). At 52 metres high, it is the third tallest lighthouse in the U.S. Listed under the National Register of Historic Places, it still uses the same Fresnel lens as when it first opened.
The city certainly has its share of quirky but interesting attractions, the most famous being Lucy the Elephant. Built in 1881 as a gimmick to attract real estate buyers, this Zoomorphic Architecture was nearly demolished but is now protected as a National Historic Landmark. Visitors can climb the six storeys to her howdah.
The city is continuously adding new things to its offerings:
• Steel Pier: Undergoing a makeover to make it a year-round venue with plans for two-thirds of the rides to be covered. Will roll out 11 new rides, museum, ballroom and a nightclub. Debuting this year is the 117-metre Funtime Star Flyer, dubbed as the tallest swing tower in the world.
• Resorts Casino Hotel: Opening Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville featuring the LandShark Grill and One O'Clock Somewhere bar.
• Revel: Unveiling a José Garces' noodle bar and the HQ Beach Club, an adults-only ultra-luxury pool lounge complete with HD TV screens, dance floor, DJ booth with live DJ and lots of places to lounge.
Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority
Wildwood is filled with eight kilometres of award-winning beaches and a 3.2-kilometre Boardwalk, one of the last surviving great boardwalks of America. The Boardwalk features amusement rides and attractions, restaurants, shops and arcades. Promising fun for everyone, its rides range from the mild double-decker classic carousel to “The Great Nor'Easter”, a suspended looping roller coaster, one of four in the world. It's amazing how history has shaped the Boardwalk – you can find a wooden roller coaster standing next to its steel cousin and then there's the virtual one, too. One of the oldest mass transit operating systems in the U.S., the “Watch The Tram Car...Please” (built in 1939) still ferries passengers along the Boardwalk.
The inland waterways offer various water-based activities including deep sea fishing, boating and whale watching while North Wildwood's white sandy beach is touted as “New Jersey’s best sport beach”. For an insight into the history of the area, check out the Marine Police Station and Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, part of the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail. An event-filled calendar for the destination includes free Friday Night Fireworks all summer long.
Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority
Wildwoods has the largest collection of mid-20th Century “Doo Wop” architecture in America comprising 1950 to 1960s motels, diners and neon signs. Guided tours showcase the architecture, design, music and pop culture of this era. The annual Fabulous ‘50s and Beyond Weekend held in October, celebrates the city’s unique role in music history.
In its heyday, Wildwood was once the place for the rock and roll scene. From the 1950s to 1960s, its clubs were legendary. This was where Bill Haley and the Comets first played Rock Around the Clock and Chubby Checker debuted The Twist. Although most of the original rock clubs are gone, the music still lives on. As Bob Seger succinctly put it:
Today's music ain't got the same soul
I like that old time rock and roll.
Indeed, Wildwood is “A very good land to fall in love with - and a pleasant land to see,” so saith explorer Robert Juet, over 350 years ago in the first recorded description of the destination.