While some travelers seek out pristine white beaches for quiet and relaxation, others go to the beach for the boardwalk, carnival-like rides and an action-packed adventure.
If you're of the later persuasion, then visiting the Wildwoods in New Jersey is a must do. The five-mile island is made up of three distinct municipalities: Wildwood, Wildwood Crest and North Wildwood – collectively known as The Wildwoods.
Its famous two-mile boardwalk, replicated in Disneyland and Hershey Park, dates to the 1890s and was recently named one of the nation's Top Ten American Boardwalks by Sherman's Travel.
And while the boardwalk is the gem of the oceanfront resort, the towns that make up the Wildwoods also boast the country's largest collection of mid-century commercial architecture known as Doo Wop. The futuristic architecture with bright neon signs, diners and flashy motels offers a fun slice of Americana.
All of this is set among expansive beaches that, unlike many U.S. beaches, actually grow in size each year. Best of all, entrance to the beach is free – a distinction from many other New Jersey beaches.
The Wildwoods, named one of Time.com's 50 Authentic American Experiences for 2009, has something for everyone. With so much to experience, it's no surprise the Wildwoods attract nearly nine million visitors each year.
The Wildwoods boast hotels that range from budget to upscale oceanfront accommodations. Many hotels are quite family-friendly and come equipped with kitchenettes.
The Adventurer Inn, Ocean Avenue and Morning Glory Road, Wildwood Crest, 609-729-1200; adventurerinn.com. This oceanfront hotel sits adjacent to the boardwalk, making treks around town quite easy. Accommodations include poolside motel rooms and two-, three- and four-room suites. There's a diner on-site and underground parking. Rates: $185-508.
Bal Harbour Oceanfront Hotel, 508 Stanton Road, Wildwood Crest, 609-522-3343; balharbourhotels.com. Taking up a full oceanfront block, this hotel includes four pools, sundeck and private balconies. There's plenty to choose from in rooms, including one-, two- and three-room efficiencies and suites. Rate: $100-$339.
The Port Royal Hotel, 6801 Ocean Avenue, Wildwood Crest, 609-729-2000; portroyalhotel.com. Located on the beach in Wildwood Crest, the hotel includes an oceanfront sun deck and pool. Many of the rooms are equipped with kitchenettes. Rates: $170 -$335.
The StarLux, 305 E. Rio Grande Ave., Wildwood, 609-522-7412; thestarlux.com. Located only one block from the boardwalk and beach, this Doo Wop-themed hotel has an all-glass lobby area and lounge that opens onto the pool promenade. Guests have access to complimentary beach cruiser bicycles to get you around town. Rooms range from two-bedroom suites with kitchens to deluxe guest rooms. For a really old-fashioned Doo Wop adventure rent one of the authentic Air Stream trailers with double bed and kitchenette. Rates: $215-$350.
Restaurants abound with menus and prices for everyone, making dining out in the Wildwoods a breeze. There's waterfront dining, Italian cuisine, boardwalk fare and Doo Wop-themed diners. The Wildwoods Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants offer a four-course meal for $25, runs Aug. 29-Sept. 3.
Carini's Ristorante & Pizzeria, 9854 Pacific Ave., Wildwood Crest, 609-522-7304; carinis.net. Carini's offers Italian food with plenty to choose from including specialty pizzas, subs, seafood and lots of pasta. There's no alcohol served here, but it's no problem to bring your own. Entrees start at $10.95.
Dogtooth Bar and Grill, 100 E. Taylor Ave., Wildwood, 609-522-8383; dogtoothbar.com. With an American-style menu, the Dogtooth offers plenty of burgers, sandwiches, steaks and pasta to quell any appetite along with a sizable drink menu that's sure to quench any thirst. Entrees start at $15.
Joe's Fish Co., Boardwalk at 25th St., Wildwood, moreyspiers.com. Local and regional finfish and shellfish will be featured at this new restaurant, an expansion of Morey's Piers. Entrees also include brick oven pizza, hearty salads and the restaurant's signature Margarita.
Urie's Waterfront Restaurant, 588 West Rio Grande Ave., Wildwood, 609-522-4189; uries.net. This setting can't be beat and the menu offers something for everyone, including seafood, pasta, sandwiches and sushi. Entrees start at $16.99.
Morey's Piers, 3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood, 609-522-3900; moreyspiers.com. Morey's unveils a new amusement coming to the site of the old miniature golf course. The new attraction is shrouded in mystery until sometime around Memorial Day weekend when it will be unveiled. Also new is Adventure Mirror Maze, a mirror and laser maze attraction.
Doo Wop Experience Museum, Ocean and Burk Avenues, Wildwood, doowopusa.org. Take a stroll through the Wildwoods' Doo Wop district and head to the Doo Wop Experience Museum or hop aboard the award-winning 'Back to the '50s' Doo Wop Bus Tour.
Boardwalk Outdoor Market, the Boardwalk at Cedar Avenue, wildwoodnj.com. Choose from fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and handcrafted items every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. beginning May 28.
Nightlife is hopping in the Wildwoods, from waterfront restaurants with deck dining and reggae music to Irish pubs with Celtic performers to live performances at area nightclubs.
Casba Comedy Club, Spicer and Atlantic avenues, Wildwood, 609-522-8444; casbacomedyclub.com. The club presents "A" list comedians throughout the summer. The 2010 schedule is listed, so check out who'll be performing when you visit the Wildwoods.
Flip Flopz Beach Bar and Grill, Spruce and Old New Jersey avenues, North Wildwood, 609-522-3350; flipflopzbarandgrill.com. This spot provides fantastic water views, outside patios, live entertainment and a huge beer menu.