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Monday, September 22, 2014

Beach Bucket List

 It started as a conversation with my friend, Lorraine.  She has never been to White House Subs!  How could Lorraine, who has lived at “the Shore” longer than I have, miss out on such a gastronomic icon? She got me thinking…

            I guess we all have our faves, our secret haunts.  Sure, AAA, AARP, GWCOC, and all the other tourist-driven organizations promote “must see” standards from Atlantic City to Cape May.  But there are so many out-of-the way treasures to delight locals and visitors alike.  Here is an even dozen of my favorites.  Feel free to add these to your beach bucket list.  And share your favorites!
          1.     White House Subs, 2301 Arctic Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ
If you love subs (aka hoagies) or if you just love nostalgia, you gotta stop at White House Subs.  The freshest rolls, the most decadent meats, the throw-back (opened1946) ambiance:  you can't beat it.  Don't just take my word for it, though.  Celebrities from Frank Sinatra to Mr. T, along with myriad Miss Americas, have eaten here.  Their photos adorn the walls, to prove it!
          2.    Oyster Creek Inn, 41 N. Oyster Creek Road, Leeds Point, NJ
This restaurant’s location may keep it a local secret: in the pine barrens, down a dark, wooded two-lane road.  But this is great seafood.  Think cracking crabs on sheets of brown paper. Live music. “Down Jersey” atmosphere.  Don’t let the remote locale and the stories of the Jersey Devil intimidate you. 
3.    Crabby’s Suds and Seafood, 1413 Route 50, Belcoville, NJ
Another seafood sensation off the beaten path.  Unless your beaten path is Route 50 en route to the Shore.  More great crabs.  More "Down Jersey" atmosphere.  Different all-you-can-eat specials every week night.  Go. Now.
4.    “Show Us Your Shoes” Parade, Atlantic City, NJ
So you know this post isn’t just about food, I’ve included this “can’t miss.”  This time, it’s a parade!  You may not have the time or inclination to attend the Miss America Pageant (though you really should, since it’s back in AC, which needs all the help it can get right now).  But you really do need to take in the “Show Us Your Shoes” Parade, along the Atlantic City Boardwalk the night before the pageant. Lovely young women ride in luxury cars and, when encouraged by the crowd, lift high their shoes, which are decorated to show off their state or their pageant platforms (ha!).  If you want a seat, you must by a ticket.  But part of the fun is standing along the Boardwalk as the sun goes down…and that’s free.
5.    First Night, Ocean City, NJ
I am delighted to say that I attended the first “First Night” in Ocean City and
have returned numerous times.  Ocean City offers a family-oriented, alcohol-free extravaganza on New Year’s Eve that just gets better every year. From big band soundsto the Ocean City Pops, from face-painting to fireworks, the party starts at dusk and goes past midnight.  Buttons are required, at a manageable fee.  Happy New Year!
6.    Airport Diner, 2602 Bay Avenue, Ocean City, NJ
Did you know Ocean City has an airport?  It’s right next to the golf course.  And the airport has a great little diner.  If you want a classic diner breakfast or a hearty diner lunch (comfort food recommended), the Airport Diner is the place. And you might even see a plane or two land while you dine.
7.    Mildred’s Restaurant,  Ocean Drive and Prescott Road, Strathmere, NJ
Okay, so a lot of this is about food.  Well, that’s what you do on vacation – go out to eat, right?  When you’re going, be sure you get to Mildred’s in Strathmere.  Of course, you have to know where Strathmere is:  just go to Sea Isle and head north on Ocean Drive, or go to Ocean City and head south and over the Ocean Drive bridge.  Mildred’s is on the beach, across from the trailer park, and offers great homemade pasta and real South Jersey Shore atmosphere. 
           8.    Leaming's Run Gardens, 1845 N. Route 9, Cape May Court House, NJ
On Route 9, north of the zoo, before you get to Dennis Township:  Leaming's Run Gardens is an oasis of serenity in the hectic summer season. Themed gardens, rainbows of color, a small colonial farm, alcoves and benches for sitting and thinking…or just sitting.  Locals lunch here.
(But you can also visit the gardens' evil twin, “Screaming Run,” for a haunted walk, October 25 or 26 at 7PM.  Tickets required).
9.    Doo Wop Back to the Fifties Tour, Wildwood, NJ
Yeah, I’m partial to this one.  As a former tour guide, I insist you take this tour.  The Wildwoods have the highest concentration of Mid-Century Architecture in the USA.  If tourists from France, Germany, England and Australia can write home about it, you ought to, too.  You'll see the Wildwoods in a whole new light:  neon.
10.  NJ State Firefighters’ Convention Parade
As the locals know, every September the New Jersey Firefighters hold their convention in Wildwood.  And every Saturday of that convention, they hold a REALLY BIG parade. With a WHOLE LOT of fire engines.  And LOTS OF SIRENS.  And FLASHING LIGHTS.  Go.  Once. Just to say you did it.  And bring the kids.  Or anyone who loves fire engines.
11.  West Cape May Community Christmas Parade
Speaking of fire engines…another parade to see at least once is the West Cape May Community Christmas Parade.  Your best bet is to know someone who lives along the parade route (think warmth, beverages, potty breaks), because this can often be a long parade.  Lots of local talent, marching bands, and fire engines. Did I mention, LOTS of fire engines?
          12.  Counter Dining at The Lobster House
I think we all know The Lobster House.  Have waited in line.  Have dined on the deck or sipped drinks on the ship.  But the counter!  Elbow-to-elbow dining with the locals, chatty waitresses, busy busboys, and the same great food.  Year-round, too.
Okay, that’s my short list.  I could have added the West Cape May Lima Bean Festival (lima bean ice cream, anyone?), Sunset Beach Grille, Lucy the Elephant in Margate.  So many faves, so little space.
What’s on your beach bucket list?


  1. Mary, you hit so many of my favorites, and taught me a few new ones, too. don't know Crabby's and Oyster Creek and will have to check them out. One difference, the Lima Bean Festival would make the top 3 on my list. I think it's the biggest hoot and so small town Cape May that we celebrate the humble lima bean

  2. Since we only have our place from April - November, I haven't been able to do the holiday events. I will find those out of the way restaurants to try. My favorite off-island place to eat is Dino's in Seaville right where 50 meets 9. Been going there since it was a 10 seat place. Family run with the best diner food ever!

    Julie V