I grew up spending summers in Atlantic City, so when I was invited to spend time at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, NJ, I thought I knew what to expect: a weekend full of rides, riding the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, eating cotton candy and funnel cake on the boardwalk, playing rounds of ski ball, and more. I expected the boardwalk to be slightly run down and possibly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, with a large element of tackiness. I wasn’t exactly expecting the Four Seasons.
But nor did I want it. I was really looking forward to our visit and I was ready to take tacky to new heights. As a lover of pop culture and nostalgia, I had a funny feeling Wildwood would be tacky but full of history.
And it is. Wildwood is full of retro nostalgia, starting in the 1950s when life changed quite a bit and families had more leisure time. This vitality changed Wildwood’s landscape, bringing new architecture, tropical themes, colors and spaceship imagery. This retro movement was coined “Doo Wop” and has been maintained. There is even a preservation league founded to perserve and highlight the movement. The town and boardwalk still maintain the same retro feel it did 40 years ago, and you feel it from the minute you set foot in town. After all, it’s the birthplace of Bill Haley and The Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.” Dick Clark performed the legendary American Bandstand at The Starlight Ballroom. Standing on the boardwalk, you can easily imagine what it was like as a visitor in the 1950s and there aren’t that many places in the U.S. where you can say this about. Old time music plays from every shop you pass by to rein-still the old time mood.
I also knew without hesitation that my kids would love the experience. Two full days of old-fashioned rides offering repeated thrills over and over again.
I was also eager to support the Jersey Shore. Ever since Hurricane Sandy, I have been following Governor Chris Christie’s efforts and I recognize the importance of visits this summer. This would be our first of many.
As soon as we pulled up to our hotel, the Starlux Boutique Hotel, I knew the weekend was going to meet my expectations. Doo Wop (mid-century) inspired, this boutique hotel is in walking distance to restaurants, the beach and the famous Boardwalk. It’s part of the official 2-mile Doo Wop strip of 50 retro motels in Wildwood (many owned by Morey’s Piers, including this one). You can book rooms/suites or Airstreams, mini trailers, all equipped with a mini-fridge, microwave, coffee maker, cable TV, free Wifi and a lava lamp. The hotel is not fancy, but it’s clean and quite suitable for families or vacationing couples. for short-term or long-term visits. Amenities include continental breakfast, an arcade, a swimming pool (under pseudo palm trees), a hot tub and it’s walking distance to a retro-themed diner called Marvis (where we had a hearty breakfast) and an ice-cream shop across the road. Best of all, it’s just one block away from the boardwalk and is quiet and relatively inexpensive. Starlux also offer bikes free of charge, and one morning we geared up in helmets and rode up and down the boardwalk. It gave us a unique perspective on Wildwood, whizzing by all the shops and piers. Apparently, rooms go way down in price after September 1st and the boardwalk gets decked out for Halloween and then the holidays. Located at 305 East Rio Grande Avenue, you can contact them at 609-522-7412 for rates and to book.
Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water parks has been around since 1969 and is currently run by second generation Morey Brothers, Will and Jack. It’s clearly a passion job for them, as each of the three piers embodies a bit of the past and present. It has over 100 rides and attractions and includes three amusement piers and two beachfront water parks. A tramcar runs the length of it all day long, at $3 a pop. In between the three piers are touristy shops, tattoo parlors, arcades, junk food joints (everything from pizza to french fries to ice-cream and more). There’s even a boardwalk chapel. The history of the piers is amazing and Will admitted to me that they are “taking tacky to new heights”! Watch this video to learn more about the Morey Brothers, about their dreams coming to reality:
The boardwalk overlooking the Atlantic Ocean remarkably wasn’t damaged during Sandy so they were ready to open for the summer in full gusto. As we wandered from pier to pier, from ride to ride, my kids glowed. There was nothing but pure excitement in their quest for the best rides. From Surfside Pier, Mariner’s Landing, Adventure Pier, and the Ocean Oasis Waterpark and Beach Club, and Raging Waters water parks, we rode roller coasters, hopped on their famous ferris wheel (the Shore’s biggest), went into a haunted house, spun around in tea cups, shot down water slides and more. It was a weekend created for my kids, who happen to be little thrill-seekers. Check out all the rides here and the smiles on my kid’s faces below. Pure joy.
Here’s why you should visit Morey’s Piers, in addition to the fun mentioned above:
- Safety: Before each ride, the park’s employees take extra pre-caution to make sure everyone is buckled in. They prep each ride over and over hours before the park opens. The lifeguards in the water parks were all eyes and ears, bobbing their heads in a robotic motion to check everything out (you must see this to believe it).
- Cleanliness: The boardwalk is actually very clean but the piers are also spotless. The Moreys employ enough staff members to not only look after its patrons but to clean up.
- Food: I won’t lie, the food at Morey’s can be pretty greasy BUT there are other options. Joe’s Fish Co. serves excellent fish and seafood, grilled or fried, and the just opened Soggy Dollar Beach Bar in the Ocean Oasis Waterpark features healthy food options and open-air ocean views. You can even eat breakfast 15 stories in the air as part of Morey’s Piers’ Breakfast in the Sky program or hit Cap’n Jack’s Island Grill, where you can enjoy beer and wine on the boardwalk.
- artBOX: Even this culture-loving mom found culture in Wildwood with Morey’s Piers’ new artistic venture, artBOX, the first-of-its kind, 10,000 square foot interactive artists village crafted from re-purposed shipping containers. Located on Adventure Pier, artBOX features handpicked local and regional artists showcasing paintings, handmade crafts, and live demonstrations that include surf art, glass blowing, artisanal jewelry and speed painting. The shipping container colony also features an Exit Zero Museum Shop, carrying a collection of merchandise and nostalgic Wildwood and Jersey Cape memorabilia and Café 4B serving fresh sushi. My kids were mesmerized by a glass blowing demonstration and we even caught a real artist showcasing his art (pictured above).
- Tech- I’ve never been to an amusement park that had such amazing Wifi everywhere I went. In addition, Morey’s is featuring new interactive benches with QR codes unveiling Morey’s Piers history when guests scan codes using their smartphone and the launch of a new ride APP.
- Cost effective tickets: Daily tickets are $52 for those over 54 inches tall, $50 for guests 48 to 54 inches tall and $42 for guests under 48 inches.Season passes are $450, which is $450.00 good for one ride wristband per day and one three-hour session per day at one of our two waterparks. An Easy Rider season pass (for children under 42 inches) is $325, offers the same privileges as the adult season pass.
- International feel: Morey’s brings in students from over 30 countries, and it’s typical to be served by someone from India, Singapore or Brazil. The guy who made our funnel cake was from India and I suspect was introduced to the land of greasy food only after arriving here.
Thinking about a trip to Morey’s now? I don’t blame you! My kids came back so happy and fulfilled, and I have to say that even my husband enjoyed it (and he was a quite a cynic at first). The tackiness becomes less tacky the longer you are there. And even if it doesn’t who cares?
The best time to enjoy Morey’s is at night, with the neon signs and happy screams of the current, past and future patrons. Morey’s is full of memories, and now we have our own.
Disclosure: We were guests of Morey’s Piers this past weekend in order to facilitate this review and others. However, no one could have asked me to write anything more positive about the experience. It was a weekend made for my kids and this lover of retro culture.