Great things happen at the Shore, and delightful places exist, that locals treasure — and that many visitors don’t even know are there. Here’s a handful.
Act like a local — take a shoulder cooler packed with beer or your vodka drink in a water bottle — and cheer as the lifeguards show off their prowess, swimming and rowing in competitions throughout the summer. It all culminates in the South Jersey Championships, to be held this year on Aug. 11 in Longport because Longport won last year’s event, which was held in Avalon because Avalon won the year before. Don’t expect to know exactly what’s going on or even who won. But it’s beautiful to see the Van Duyne surf boats from towns up and down the Shore lined up on the beach. And it’s a party, with some close finishes (follow the crowd flow). Dates for all the summerlong preliminary events are here. And you can get into the act yourself Aug. 12 at the Pick Your Poison Five-Miler on the bay, sponsored by the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol. Red Bull also has gotten involved, sponsoring a surf and rescue championship featuring 50 beach patrol teams on July 18 at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. Atlantic City’s Lifeguard Classic, is Friday (July 21) at 6:30 p.m., Albany Avenue beach.
Miss America “Show Us Your Shoes Parade”
This is a real locals event, with regulars lining the parade route in rented rolling chairs as the contestants go by in convertibles and show off their shoes. The Miss America preliminaries at Boardwalk Hall used to be a regular event for year-rounders, though the pageant’s seven-year Las Vegas exile has dampened the routine somewhat. But they are still a hoot to see in person, especially with the comic ex-Miss New Jersey Dena Blizzard as host. They also make you a font of knowledge along the parade route. Prelims: Sept. 6, 7 and 8. Parade: 5 p.m. Sept. 9.
Truck Beach at the Brigantine Jetty
You can drive your truck right on the beach and tailgate looking at the end of Atlantic City. It’s a great place to view fireworks (except when the empty Revel blocks the view). Grab some raspberry-ginger barbecue-smoked whole chicken wings from the Cove (3700 Brigantine Blvd.) on your way in, or snag something from the jetty regular known as Rich the Butcher, who’s usually slinging steaks and custom burgers.
West Cape May Farmers Market
This rare evening market at 732 Broadway runs every Tuesday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. starting in June, with entertainment beginning at 5. You might say all of West Cape May is a hidden gem, with its quirky shops, farms — Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens St. offers a host of activities — wineries, cafes, artist cooperative gallery, and Higbee’s Beach. Cape May Food Tours (www.CapeMayFoodTours.com) offers a tour of West Cape May all by itself.
Whether for breakfast at Gilchrist’s, during the day for boat whale-watching tours, at sunset at Back Bay Ale House looking toward the Borgata, or at night for food trucks and an outdoor bar, this is Atlantic City’s casual beach-vibe version of Philly’s Spruce Street Harbor Park. Some years, there is music at night and on weekends — always an unexpected treat.
Ocean City Nor’easters
With home games at Carey Stadium (“the Beach House”) in the shadow of Gillian’s Wonderland, this Premier Development League soccer team — 50 former Nor’easters have gone pro — gets a boost from its mascot, Bobby the Storm Chaser (oceancityfc.com). Farther up the coast are the Lakewood Blue Claws, a Phillies minor league team. (Blueclaws.com)
Did you know you can get great seafood from a small counter inside Randall’s in Pleasantville, just outside Atlantic City, where the clammers drop off their haul? And amazing produce at the nearby Asian Supermarket? And superb chicken and waffles and weekly jazz at Sam’s Rialto Grill? (OK, that one was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, so maybe you did.)
The entire month of September
On the beach, anywhere at the Shore. Apologies to everyone who leaves on Labor Day and thinks the season’s over, but as any local can tell you, in September the water’s still warm, the beaches are free and unpoliced, the weather is less oppressive, the bike hours are relaxed, the crowds gone, the gorgeousness returned to us. And all the way to December, there are the miracles visible from the Hawk Watch Platform in Cape May Point State Park. Amazing. (Sorry!)
Want more of the Shore? Pick up a copy of our 2017 Shore Guide, packed with the sights, sounds, and tastes of summer.