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Thursday, July 10, 2014

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Family fun on the Wildwood boardwalk

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Guests frolic and splash at one of two Morey’s Piers waterparks.

What could be a more ideal final destination for a family of four cruising down from Manhattan to Hoboken to Wildwood, N.J. than the endless beach and one of the most famous boardwalks in the world?

That was our endpoint after our GPS led us from the Big Apple to Carlo’s Bake Shop in Frank Sinatra’s birthplace – a bakery our two daughters and hundreds of others queued up outside were salivating to see – to Wildwood.

Wildwood, it should be said, has many dilapidating two-star “Doo-Wop” hotels that date back to the 1950s and do not exactly conjure up the image of your nearest Hyatt.

But they are, for the most part, clean and well run; and why hang around the hotel anyway when you have five kilometres of pristine beach and a boardwalk to end all boardwalks waiting for you?

It’s true: The almost 120-year-old boardwalk (1895) at Wildwood is three kilometres long; so long, in fact, that a famous tramcar that runs its length transporting the elderly and indolent automatedly spouts out, “Watch the tramcar, please!” any time a wayward boardwalker gets in its way.

It needs to be said that if you eat a healthy diet or are trying to shed a couple of pounds, stay away. The Wildwood boardwalk is no place for vegans and tofu tasters. Every several feet or so, for its entire length, are eateries of every stripe serving fast food of all kinds: burgers, hot dogs, ice cream, pizza, seafood, (excellent) fries, etc.

In fact, on the Wildwood boardwalk you can order just about deep-fried anything, including ice cream and butter! And that is why you can start off at one end of the boardwalk and get to the other a couple of kilograms meatier.

In between the vapours of bubbling oil and pizza in the air and the restaurant storefronts are myriads of t-shirt shops– mostly tourist traps to be sure; but if you’re careful you can haggle and get One Direction t-shirts (at least the kids did) for a very tolerable price.

But the real heart and soul of the boardwalk, which has recovered from damage suffered in last November’s Hurricane Sandy, is Morey’s Piers (www.moreyspiers.com), one of the few still family-owned amusement parks in the U.S. and something that truly needs to be beheld to be believed.

Part amusement and part waterpark, Morey’s Piers consists of three huge amusement piers and two beachfront waterparks spread out along and extending from the boardwalk, with a fantastic view of the beach waiting just below. There are more than 100 rides – from toddler-friendly to terrifying – at Surfside Pier, Mariner’s Landing, Adventure Pier, and the Ocean Oasis Waterpark and Beach Club, and Raging Waters waterparks. There is even an upscale and excellent fish and seafood restaurant on site.

It’s all about water, sun, slides, thrills, frolicking and fun.

In other words, a perfect way for a family to spend a summer holiday.

But wear the elastic sweat pants.

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