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The Wildwoods of the Jersey Shore

The Wildwoods sign is a popular spot for photos in the beachside resort town of the same name.
The Wildwoods sign is a popular spot for photos in the beachside resort town of the same name.
C. Hensley

Nine, ten, eleven o’clock, twelve o’clock rock … you’ll have plenty of time to rock around the clock while spending time at the Wildwoods along the southern Jersey Shore. Sixty years ago, Bill Haley and the Comets debuted “Rock around the clock” here during a Memorial Day weekend performance at the HofBrau Hotel. Today, the Wildwoods (Wildwood, Wildwood Crest, and North Wildwood) has one of the largest free beaches in the world, a boardwalk stretching nearly two miles and a collection of buildings that will have you thinking you’ve stepped back into the 1950’s. (Even the local Walgreens and Subway get into the act with their retro signs.)

Lying just a few miles off the Garden State Parkway, the Wildwoods have long been a summer playground for families. One thing that stands out as you walk along the boardwalk is the absence of familiar, modern chain restaurants or stores (with the possible exception of a Dairy Queen). The dozens of t-shirt shops, pizza stands, and game booths all have a true local flavor.

The boardwalk planks are well worn and stretch as far as the eye can see and at times you have to really focus in order to see the ocean as it is as far away as a quarter of a mile at some points. White sands make up much of the beach, enough to support not one, not two, but three amusement parks jutting out from the boardwalk toward the water. In all there are more than 100 rides including wooden and steel roller coasters, Ferris wheels and even waterpark slides. Mack’s pizza is not only a favorite of tourists, but ask locals what they think and most agree that Mack’s is the best in town. Nothing fancy at Mack’s. The pizza dough is tossed at the front of the store, covered in a deep red sauce fed through a large tube and onto the crust. Then, the pie is covered in cheese and your favorite toppings and put into the oven. What comes out is a slice of heaven on the Jersey Shore. The thin, foldable crust is sure to drench your napkin in grease before you even take your first bite. Sorry, no credit cards here , cash only and no refills on drinks as the hand written signs point out to guests. Be sure and try the Birch Beer (it’s non-alcoholic).

There’s also places like the Doo Wop Diner, the Snow White Restaurant and Grab-a-weiner a hot dog stand that boasts big wieners, small buns. You can even take home a t-shirt to let everyone know you’ve had one of their famous boardwalk bites.

Hollywood and Las Vegas both have their signature signs and the same is true for this beach resort. Rising high above a plaza dotted with giant “beach balls”, “Wildwoods” is spelled out in such a way you can see it several blocks down the street. On any given day you’ll find hundreds of people working to find different ways to pose in front of this landmark on the Jersey shore.

The Wildwoods bring out the feeling of what it must have been like fifty years ago when a family vacationed at the beach. There are sure to be millions of memories of time spent here soaking in the splendor of summer. And if you walk along the boardwalk be sure and “watch out for the tram.”