20 must-dos at the Jersey Shore this summer

With this weekend marking the unofficial kickoff to summer,
here are some ideas on how to make it more than a beach day

The beach and Atlantic Ocean are the gems of the Jersey Shore, but there are plenty of other exciting things happening between Atlantic City and Cape May this summer. Photo provided by Cape Resorts

By Bill Gelman

It’s never too early to start planning a summer excursion to the Jersey Shore. With so many options, the toughest decision may be deciding where and when to go. For those struggling with the planning process, we offer up a roundup of entertainment, dining options and special events scheduled throughout the prime season. Call this an appetizer to the summer menu. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

Everybody fly a kite

Photo provided by The Wildwoods

Kite lovers from around the world are uniting in Wildwood this weekend for the largest kite festival in North America. The kite-flying fun gets underway tomorrow (May 26) at noon with the Unlocking of the Ocean Ceremony on the beach next to the Wildwoods Convention Center. The East Coast Stunt Kite Championships are included in the weekend fun. May 26–29. Event is free to spectators. wildwoodsnj.com/calendar.

Honoring the greats

The Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame will be front and center Memorial Day weekend for the inaugural induction ceremony and celebration. The class includes former South Philadelphians Matthew Saad Muhammad (deceased) and Mike Rossman. Mike Tyson, “The Easton Assassin” Larry Holmes and others will be joining them. This is one weekend fight fans can’t miss. May 26–28. The Claridge Hotel. acbhof.com.

Food trucks galore

The second annual Atlantic City Food Truck Festival — complete with a beer garden, craft vendors and a kids zone — will create a lively weekend atmosphere in Brighton Park at the Claridge Hotel. Nick’s Roast Beef, Empanada Guy, Mad Dog Morgan, Wahlburgers, along with several others are confirmed. Brian Duffy from Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue” and Meghan Gill, the season 14 winner of “Hell’s Kitchen,” will also be making appearances. Hang around to see who is crowned Food Truck Festival champion. Noon-8 p.m. June 3, Noon-6 p.m. June 4. acfoodtruckfest.com.

Garces is back

Iron Chef Jose Garces could have easily folded on his AC plans after Revel, where he had four successful concepts, closed its doors, but if you have visited the Trop recently, it’s safe to say this is far from the case. He has returned with three impeccably designed spaces that will transport guests to a Japanese streetscape (Okatshe), a seafront coastal town (Olon) or a beachside beer bar (Bar Olon). Will it be oysters, paella, ceviche, sushi, yakitori or sashimi? tropicana.net/dining.

Symon says eat

Fans of ABC’s “The Chew,” the weekday chatfest, are very familiar with Michael Symon, but it’s a little hard to taste his culinary offerings through the TV screen. Well, if you have been dying to try some of his dishes, a trip to Angeline — the newest celebrity chef addition to the big B’s A-list culinary lineup — is in order. The James Beard Award-winning chef pays homage to classic Italian food, which includes Mom’s lasagne as the signature dish. Many of the menu items are inspired by his Sicilian roots. theborgata.com/dining.

A true farm-to-table experience

Regular visitors to the Cape May have heard of Beach Plum Farm — the 62-acre site that provides farm-fresh produce for the Cape Resorts family of restaurants. Those into the farm-to-table dining experience may want to pencil this one in on the summer bucket list. Chef Todd Phillips uses ingredients harvested that day for his menu. The date, location (outside, under a tent, in a greenhouse or in the hand-hewn post and beam Amish barn) and menu are TBD. caperesorts.com.

IMAX-imize the movie experience

Face it, not every day is going to be a beach day, so you may be seeking family-friendly entertainment. The IMAX Theatre at The Tropicana has a full slate of the anticipated summer blockbusters lined up for the season. The list includes “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Wonder Women,” “The Mummy,” “Transformers: The Last Knight” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” Hey, why not make it a dinner-at-The Quarter-and-movie night? Visit tropicana.net/entertainment/imax-theatre for the complete movie schedule.

A-list entertainment

Hey, summer is prime season at the Shore, which means headliners galore are coming to town. It’s a list that is way too long to print, so here are the highlights: Dancing with the Stars Live! (June 16–17); Patti LaBelle (June 24); Mary J. Blige (July 3); Pink (July 12); Brantly Gilbert (July 13); Jill Scott (July 16); Theresa Caputo (July 21); The Who (July 22); Jeff Dunham (July 22–23); Vince Neil (June 23); Jim Norton (Aug. 5); Smokey Robinson (Aug. 25); and Sting (Sept. 3). ticketmaster.com.


Photo provided by The Wildwoods

Want to see fireworks, you say? Well there will be plenty of opportunities throughout the summer, not just on the 4th. The Trop in AC, for instance, will be firing them off every Saturday night at 10 p.m. May 26-Sept. 9. The Wildwoods will literally be kicking off weekends with a bang starting June 23 at 10 p.m. They will be visible from almost anywhere on the Willdwoods Boardwalk.

Celebrating Independence

Photo provided by Cape Resorts

Like the City of Brotherly Love, Congress Hall in Cape May — America’s oldest seaside resort — has a tradition of making the 4th of July an extended celebration. It’s capped off with an all-day picnic and patriotic celebration on Independence Day. Carnival games, barbecue, lobster bake, and of course, fireworks are all part of this family-friendly fun. 3–9:30 p.m. July 4. caperesorts.com.

Pure thrills

Here is a guarantee: the Atlantic City Air Show will draw a crowd of thousands on Wednesday, Aug. 23. Unlike the spectacle in the sky known as the 4th of July fireworks, this eye-opening experience, now in its 15th year, will soar high above the beach creating a “Wow!” factor like no other, including an appearance by the Thunderbirds — the United States Air Force Demonstration Squadron. Free to attend. airshow.acchamber.com.

Starr power

Yes, there will be plenty of stars at the shore, but in this case we are talking about Stephen Starr who is king of the Philly dining scene. While The Playground — located across the wooden way from Caesars Atlantic City — may be filled with vacancy signs, the third floor continues to draw a crowd, with local favorites The Continental or Buddakan, being a big reason why. Hey, it’s not just about a day at the beach. playgroundpierac.com.

Did somebody say seafood?

The Atlantic City Seafood Festival returns Sept. 9 and 10 with one big change: It’s relocating to the open space between the Showboat and former Revel, steps away from the famous Atlantic City Boardwalk. Now in its sixth year, this massive bash is the largest outdoor event of its kind in the Greater AC area. We’re talking food vendors, beer tastings, live entertainment, cooking demos and more. The family-friendly fun begins at 11 a.m. both days. acseafoodfest.com.

Right on ’que

Instead of lighting up the grill on July 7–9, here is a better idea: head on down to Wildwood for the NJ State BBQ Championship and Anglesea Blues Festival. Enjoy delicious offerings from some of the top grillmasters around paired with entertainment from top regional and national blues acts. Visit njbbq.com for all of the tasty details or angleseablues.com for a schedule of events.

Marble Madness

Photo provided by the Wildwoods

Who are the king and queen of marbles? Well, we will have to wait until next month to find out when the National Marbles Tournament returns to the Wildwoods. This year marks the 93rd anniversary for this national competition for boys and girls ages 8–14. More than 1,200 games will be played during this four-day event taking place June 19–22. Ringer Stadium, Wildwood Stadium and the beach. Free for spectators. nationalmarblestournament.org.

Summer nights with the Mummers

Photo provided by The Wildwoods

Philly may get the Mummers all to itself on New Year’s Day, but kings of strut can be seen throughout the year, including summers in Wildwood. The string bands will perform on the Wildwoods Boardwalk from 16th Avenue to the Wildwoods Convention Center 7:30–9 p.m. on various nights starting on June 29. Free. wildwoodsnj.com/calendar.

More Mummers

Ocean City is holding a Mummers Night of its own on Tuesday, July 11 7–9 p.m. The strutting takes place on the boardwalk between Sixth and 14th streets. oceancityvacation.com.

Next stop, Exit 0

There may be a point this summer when you suddenly blurt out the words: “I could really use an island retreat.” Well a visit to the reimagined Beach Shack — part of the Cape Resorts family — with its laid back surfer vibe and new tiki bar at the pool may be in order. Pups are welcome at this beachfront, pet-friendly property. The Rusty Nail restaurant, complete with picnic benches and a fire pit, serves up hot diggity dogs for the pups. caperesorts.com/hotels/capemay/beachshack.

Enjoy the rides

Photo provided by The Wildwoods

The amusements are a huge part of the summer shore experience, it’s just a matter of what your preference is. There is Steel Pier — home of the famous Diving Horse — in AC, Morey’s Piers in the Wildwoods, Playlands Castaway Cove and Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City. Bottom line: Go have fun.

Laugh the night away

Plenty of big-name comedians are coming through AC this summer, but the new Atlantic City Comedy Club at The Playground (located at the back of the first floor) will be the place to enjoy pure laughs regularly. Comedian/producer Matt Bridgestone is teaming with the world famous New York City Comedy Club on the project. Some of the hottest rising comedy stars in the country, as well as special events (Gilbert Gottfried is rumored to be among them) are on the summer slate. Tickets will be affordable ($15-$25 range). There will be a full bar, with food items available, too. Shows take place Sunday-Thursday, with plans to expand seven days a week. bridgestoneentertainment.com/calendar.