Into every Shore vacation, it seems, a little crappy weather must fall. Pre-kids, it’s no big deal: You just break out the wine and the puzzles and have yourself a delightful inside day. Post-kids, it’s pretty much the opposite of that — you get a couple good hours of screen time if you’re lucky, and then it’s basically Lord of the Flies. Unless, that is, you have some tricks up your sleeve. Here, a snapshot of our favorite (screen-free) go-tos for stormy days at the beach.
What: The Atlantic City Aquarium, in … yes .. Atlantic City, nestled in cute little Gardner’s Basin, which also boasts great boat-watching and a smattering of restaurants.
Why: This teeny aquarium (pictured above) is good for a couple hours of entertainment, even if you do have to trek to A.C. to get it. The place features a feeding show every couple of hours, wherein a staff diver jumps into the giant tank to feed the sea turtles and fish, while the kids gather around the window to watch. (More exciting than it sounds.) There’s also plenty of opportunities to pet baby sharks, horseshoe crabs and stingrays, plus a couple floors’ worth of fish, snakes, lizards, frogs and various sea creatures to take in. The place isn’t fancy, but it’s a nice change of pace, it’s climate-controlled, and it’s shockingly affordable. (Just $6 for kids; $10 for adults; free for kids under 3!)
What: The indoor pool at Montego Bay Resort in North Wildwood
Why: Montego Bay — a popular family resort — features an indoor pool with a bunch of slides and a little children’s play area, and it’s open to the public for $15 per person, per day, from noon to 8 p.m. (Call first: When they’re booked, you’ll likely need to park outside the lot, which is nice to know in advance.)
What: The arcades of Ocean City and Wildwood
Why: There’s no better spot for arcade-hopping than the boardwalks of Wildwood and Ocean City. In fact, there are too many options to name here (Jilly’s, Ed’s, Mariner’s, for starters) — some more expansive and well-kept than others. But wherever you end up, you’ll find enough to entertain big kids certainly, and even the very young ones (say, 3 and up?) get a kick out of the simpler games, mini-rides, driving simulations, and — of course — all those lights and buttons. (Plus, it’s never too early to teach them the art of Skee-Ball, eh?) Truth be told, you can find arcades in the other Shore towns as well (LBI, Cape May, Sea Isle City … even Avalon’s tiny boardwalk has a mini-arcade), but nowhere is better for bopping from one spot to another (and getting some good Shore junk food in between) than the biggie boardwalks of Wildwood and Ocean City.
What: Hoy’s 5 & 10 in Stone Harbor, Avalon, and Ocean City
Why: Hoy’s is good on two counts: First, the trip to the store is an adventure in itself, even if you do find yourself wishing you had a leash for your kid. There’s several wide aisles of beach toys, games, balls, hats, plush stuffed animals, and other things kids like to look at and mess with, which makes for a bit of fun exploration. But the real reason to go to Hoy’s is because letting a kid pick out a new toy or coloring book or Play-Doh or game or craft project from the expansive collection Hoy’s feels like such a treat for them, and guarantees that they’ll be busy with something fun and new all afternoon.
What: The town library
Why: Most of the Shore towns have pretty nice public libraries. And many of those libraries have wonderful indoor programming, much of which is offered on a drop-in basis: We’re talking story times, crafts, Lego clubs, video-game times, magic shows, reptile shows, scavenger hunts, and so forth. (There is also, of course, that old standby … books.) You can Google your own town to check about the library and its various offerings, but can also rely on the libraries of Avalon, Ocean City, Wildwood Crest, Cape May and LBI to have something going on much of the time.
What: Island Bowl, Wildwood
Why: A classic family activity for any rainy day — and Island Bowl is open all rainy days starting at 11 p.m. (Regular hours are here). And yes, of course, the place gets crowded, especially when it rains, but it’s still worth the trip, as there are 32 lanes, an arcade, snacks, and special $2 family nights every Tuesday ($2 games, $2 shoes, $2 snacks).
What: The Flyers’ Skate Zone, Atlantic City
Why: Most days, the Flyers’ training facility offers a couple hours of public skate time. And while ice-skating might feel like an odd activity for the beach, it’s a great way to burn some energy and change up the routine a little. And it’s cheap, to boot: Admission is only $8; skate rental is $3.