So as promised I made it down to Wildwood this weekend but thanks to the weather it turned out to be a bit of a partial bust, but yall know me, I still managed to have a good time and it felt great to be back at my home away from home. The missus had some personal things to attend to at home so I headed down alone late Friday on the local NJ Transit nightbus that take 8 years and stops in every backwoods sh*t South Jersey town imaginable. I slept most of the way so it was like time travel, don't you love that?
If you're just joining us, I grew up in Philly, but my folks sold the house almost 15 years ago and retired to the Jersey Shore. It's always great to have a place to crash there, and I do often make off season and mid winter visits, but since we had holidays up in my neck of the woods, I hadn't been anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean since last fall.
Walking from the bus to the house I knew the island was a ghost town, the forecast no doubt keeping the weekend shoobies
away. The forecast for the weekend was rain rain rain but as both my mom and dad were out of town for Mothers Day, this was a trip partly to make up for not seeing her. I got in around midnight, and my mom and the dog were up waiting so we got caught up for a bit before both turning in. I was secretly hoping the weatherdudes had it all wrong and I'd be able to ride some stuff on Saturday.
I woke up at 8:30, much later than usual for me, to a steady, miserable rain, but was welcomed by fresh coffee, a freshly baked coffee cake and my mom totally sucked into the royal wedding proceedings, naturally.
Once my dad and the dog got up, thanks to my nagging to get out of the house, we all showered and headed over to check out Wildwoods just opened brewery/pub/restaurant, Mudhen Brewing Co
They've only been open for a week but the owners already operate a few of my favorite existing spots on the island (like the Dog Tooth
), not to mention I've been hearing nothing but great things, including from my folks who visited on opening weekend and loved it, though they cautioned it was mobbed.
With the rain keeping anyone from enjoying the beach or amusement piers, we worried we might hit a crowd so we aimed for the 11am opening, and easily got a seat at the bar.
We started with a round of drinks - my dad enjoying a Honey Beach Wheat, and my mom and I testing out some of their funky bloodys.
Our bartender (Shawn?) was attentive, helpful, and non-intrusive, aka the best kind of bartender. Shout out to Shawn.
The Bloody Hot was delicious, with some sweet and spicy and fairly stiff with ample tequila.
Before long we were ready for some grub and everything sounded so good. I was craving seafood but also BBQ (because I always am). After much deliberation I decided to try the BBQ Meat Lovers Mac & Cheese. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Not exactly a balanced breakfast but it sounded so good.
When the food first came out, I thought - should've have gotten seafood, I don't want this. But then I started to dig into it. It was bascially a layer of mac & cheese topped with a layer of pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken topped with another layer of mac & cheese and a spritz of tangy BBQ sauce on top. Good god. I do want this.
While I ate my mountain of food nice and slow, I ran out of mary and decided to try the Ironbound cider. I thought it was absolutely fantastic, and perfectly balanced - on the dry side but a nice hint of sweet. While we ate the sun peaked out a few times before the rain would start up again so we were in no rush to leave. So I kept drinking.
I tried a flight so I could sample a bunch of what they had to offer on tap. I'm not a big IPA drinker but I thought the Rising Tides was very good, and the 1883 was just OK. I loved the Holly Beach Wheat (I'm a wheat fan) and found the Cackling Coot to be phenomenal.
Overall I loved the place. That its within 5 blocks stumbling distance to my folks house is even better. I'm sure it'll get mobbed during the summer but they'll be open all year round so it's certainly going to be my off-season hang out.
Back to the house and the sun was peaking out by now. I couldn't pass up a chance so I asked if either of them cared enough to stroll the boards so I could at least process my season pass and maybe hit a ride or two.
Neither showed any interest so I quickly walked up and found a mostly deserted boardwalk, then noticed some rides moving in the distance down on Mariners Pier.
If you're not familiar with Moreys, they have three piers but they have staggered opening and closing dates every season - Mariners (the central pier) opens first and closes last - the northern pier (Surfside) and the southern pier (Adventure) close earlier and open later.
They had originally (according to their calendar) scheduled to have Surfside up and running by May 5th, and Adventure operating starting today (May 19th), but with the low crowds and spotty weather, they had already announced only Mariners would open, and only from 12-5. Boooo.
Many of the stores along the boardwalk were also closed, with a fair amount of getting-ready-for-the-season work still being done, not unusual, and something I expect to see in mid-May. I noted both of Macks locations were open and the Boardwalk Mall was also open, but didn't really look it? I passed it and headed down onto Mariners, and immediately came upon the new spinner currently being installed, Wild Whizzer.
I hate spinning coasters, and while I haven't ridden one of these, I'll give it at least one shot on an empty stomach and hope for the best. Unfortunately, it was still not open, but it fits in perfectly and who among us is disappointed by any new (albeit small) coaster?
The crowds on the pier were light so I couldn't fault Moreys for not opening more. I headed right to guest services to redeem my voucher and get my card for the season, and grabbed a wristband, even though at that point I still wasn't sure I felt like riding anything. Upon stepping back out I looked up at the elevated Waveswinger and noticed it was loading. I quickly stashed my hat and glasses in my zippered pockets and darted up the steps.
Its not a particularly intense wave swinger, but being elevated over the beach you feel pretty high up and it gives great views of the beach, pier, and ocean, and they run a very long cycle, especially on a dead day like today. If you visit, don't skip this ride. Even if you're not particularly a fan of these rides. I'm not really, but this is a very good ride.
I wandered around the back of the pier taking a few shots of the new Wilhelm Biergarten they've installed under Sea Serpents lift supports. There had been food stands and tables here, but now its blocked off by planters, and had a bar w/ taps, and ledges for beers built around the planters in the center.
They didn't do much to modify what was there, but it feels more secluded and we all know how I feel about having more places to enjoy an adult beverage. All my life we never had booze on the boardwalk but Moreys is really doing it right. If I was with friends I would have stopped to grab a beer but I felt like walking.
Walking right onto the Sea Serpent that is. The only large coaster running, and yes its a boomerang but at least its a good one. It was so dead I wasn't even sure it was running because I hadn't seen a train cycle in a while. Turns out they were just waiting for more riders to show up. I sat in the front of the second to last car, since the back car was taken by a group of teens, we waited 2 minutes for a few more riders to file in the rows in front of me before they started checking restraints.
The view of the pier, and the island, going up the lift is always spectacular and before I knew I heard the all familiar hiss from the station below and we were barreling toward the boardwalk. Honest-to-god - and I've ridden this coaster hundreds of times - I had one of the best rides ever.
Just floating around that course - butter smooth, and soaring through the elements with zero headbanging. Even the jolt as we attached to the second lift was painless. Maybe it was all the alcohol earlier or what but it was so, so good. I almost walked around for a second ride but had a feeling I'd sit waiting for a while before they sent a train.
I wandered a bit more around the front of the pier, checking out the overpriced arcade at the front of the pier, when I decided it had been entirely too long since I've satisfied my unending lust for the best pizza on the boardwalk.
To be honest I wasn't even particularly hungry after the crazy heavy brunch we had, but I had done enough walking by now I could squeeze in a slice.
It wasn't the best slice of Macks Ive had but it hit the spot. By the time I ordered and had my slice, it had started to drizzle so I found a covered bench nearby and slowly enjoyed my slice and people watched for a while, occasionally glancing down at Surfside Pier in disappointment. I get why they had limited operations but it still stings.
Once the rain stopped I decided to head back home, but made a few stops on the way, looking for cheap sunglasses (no such luck) and popped into the Boardwalk Mall, which was just weird.
Yes, Randy the weirdo vintage game hoarder and his retro arcade is gone. The old carpet throughout is gone. There's new carpet! (Why would they install carpet in a building next to an ocean I don't know but OK) A half dozen of the old tenants (the sports shop on the front right, the poster/t-shirt shop next to it, the sunglasses store across from it, etc) are all still there, and the rest of the booths are empty. But they all have new carpet, so errrr... that's a start?
Apparently a new "two floor arcade" is going on the top floor but it does not sound like Randy will have anything to do with it, so don't expect it to be anything but more of what you get at all of the other boardwalk arcades. They're also doing major structural work to the exterior walls on the street side and replacing the ramp leading up to the boardwalk on that side.
I walked back to my folks and just beat a band of heavy, soaking rain that lasted for a few hours. Wound up napping and then we had dinner, watched some TV (including making them watch Michelle Wolf set from the WH Correspondents dinner that had the three of us in stitches), tossed around the idea of going over to their corner hole-in-the-wall Ship N Shore, but ultimately all passed out early.
Sunday I woke up early to a gorgeous, sunny morning and went right out for a bike ride along the boardwalk and to run some errands - Dad needed the Sunday morning paper, some half-n-half. So a stop at Wawa, and then a nice slow roll along the boards.
I decided to see if Fractured Prune was open so I could snag a half dozen of their insane donut creations. Lucky me! Not only were they open, but there was no line.
The sunny morning had me in good spirits, and I texted the missus I might stay if Moreys opened up either of the other two piers. Dad made a huge breakfast while I hawked Moreys page until 11am when they announced they'd only be opening Mariners for the afternoon. Super bummer.
After a really nice little getaway, I decided to catch the next bus back to Philly since I didn't want to ride anything else on Mariners, I got my Macks fix, and my season pass sorted. Planning on heading back in a couple weekends when the weather is better and things are running. Since my visit, Moreys has installed the signage on Whizzer and started testing, I'm certain they are aiming to open it for what should be a nice(r) Memorial Day weekend.
Thanks for reading. Should I even bother with a ride count?