10 things to do this summer in Cape May County

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From Cape May Point to Ocean City, the county’s shores have plenty of free and low-cost activities and attractions to fill an hour, a few hours or a whole day.

1. Stroll through the zoo

Filled with hundreds of animals from all over the world, the zoo is surrounded by a park that has picnic areas, a playground, trails and biking paths. The zoo is open 10 a.m.-4:45 p.m. every day, and admission is free. For a nominal fee, the littlest ones can ride a train or a carousel. See www.capemaycountygov.net or www.capemaycountyzoo.com.

2. Go birdwatching

Cape May is prime location for observing birds in North America, favored by such celebrated naturalists as John Audubon and Tory Peterson. More than 400 different species have been seen on the peninsula during the fall migration, and the area is known for its populations of peregrine falcons, merlins, ospreys and sharp-shinned hawks. Cape May Point State Park has some one the premier observation spots, with marked, easy-to-follow trails to help novice birders spot ducks, swans, ospreys, shore birds and other wildlife. See www.birdcapemay.org.

3. Take in a free movie under the stars

Free movies under the stars are part of the summer event lineup in July and August. Bring a blanket or beach chair and relax with a pail of popcorn to watch hit movies under the stars Tuesday evenings at Excursion Park at JFK Boulevard and Pleasure Avenue in Sea Isle City, and Thursday evenings at the beach near Convention Hall at 714 Beach Ave. in Cape May. For listings and times in Sea Isle see www.visitSICNJ.com; for Cape May see www.capemaychamber.com

4. Collect Cape May diamonds

At the southern tip of the county is Sunset Beach, the area’s only stone-bearing beach. The stones at Sunset Beach have been polished during travels that took hundreds of years. The stones are of various sizes, colors and varieties, but the most famous are the quartz stones, better known as Cape May diamonds. Some say that after a good polishing, Cape May diamonds can look like real diamonds. See www.sunsetbeachnj.com

5. Explore the bayside beaches

Beautiful, less-traveled beaches abound on the bay side of the peninsula, and they are cooled by the waters of the Delaware Bay. Unlike ocean beaches, bayside beaches are primarily unprotected, so swimmers must be cautious. These bayside beaches, which stretch from Sunset Beach into Lower Township, are used primarily for fishing and walking rather than swimming and sunbathing. Untouched by beach-cleaning vehicles and much less traveled, they are less restrictive and provide great spots for wind surfing and jet skiing. See www.thejerseycape.com.

6. Hit the boardwalk

Strolling the boardwalks in Ocean City and the Wildwoods to absorb the sights and sounds of the seashore is free. The Wildwoods shoots off fireworks at 10 p.m. every Friday through Sept.12 at Pine Avenue and the beach. See www.wildwoodsnj.com. On Thursdays through Labor Day on the boardwalk in Ocean City, visitors can enjoy free entertainment 7:30-9:30 p.m. from Sixth Street to 14th Street, including live bands, magicians, karaoke and more. See www.ocnj.us or www.oceancityvacation.com.

7. Listen to music, dance – or both

Folks young and old can rock around the clock all summer long at free concerts and dance parties in Avalon, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor and the Wildwoods.

  • *Thursdays on Dune in Avalon concert series begins 7 p.m. at Veterans Plaza at 21st Street and Dune Drive through the summer. Check www.visitavalonnj.com for performers.
  • *Sea Isle City hosts two free events that get the family shaking their groove thing. On Monday and Thursday evenings from 7:30-9 p.m. at Excursion Park at JFK Boulevard and Pleasure Ave., all are invited to free family dance party. Saturdays, from 8-10 p.m., there are free concerts at Excursion Park. See www.visitsic.com.
  • *As part of a summer-long centennial celebration, Stone Harbor is sponsoring concerts under the stars featuring Linda Gentile and The Jersey Shore Pops playing music from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s at 95th Street and Second Avenue on July 15, July 29 and Aug. 12. See www.shnj.org.
  • *At 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, bring your lawn chair to Fern Road and Ocean Avenue and listen to the region’s top bands perform at Centennial Park as part of the Wildwood Crest Summer Series. See www.WildwoodCrest.com. Head north on Saturday evenings to the Lou Booth Amphitheatre at Second and Ocean avenues in North Wildwood for the Concerts Under the Stars, beginning at 8 p.m. See www.NorthWildwood.com.

8. Check out a special event

Whether it’s on the beach or boardwalk or in venues like the Ocean City Music Pier, the Wildwoods Convention Center or Veterans Plaza in Avalon, find fun things to do by checking the events calendars for each resort. See www.visitavalonnj.com, www.capemaychamber.com, www.VisitSIC.com, www.oceancityvacation.com, www.SHNJ.org, www.wildwoodsnj.com.

9. Delve into history

Nearly every seashore town in the county has a historical society or historical museum that is open to visitors who want to learn more about local history. For hands-on fun, there are Historic Cold Spring Village and the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum.

Historic Cold Spring Village in Lower Township, just north of Cape May at 720 Route 9 South, offers a glimpse of a 19th century village with working trades and craftspeople. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children 3-12 and free for children under 3. Explore a one-room schoolhouse, watch a blacksmith make shoes for one of the village’s horses, and pet the farm animals on the village grounds. See www.hcsv.org.

The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is at the Cape May Airport inside Hangar No. 1 at 500 Forrestal Road in Rio Grande. Commissioned in April 1943, NASW served as an active dive-bomber squadron training facility during World War II. Hangar No. 1 has been restored and transformed into an aviation museum that houses a number of aircraft, engines, special exhibits and educational interactive displays. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for children 3-12 and free for children under 3. See www.usnasw.org.

10. Ogle architecture

Known for its bed and breakfast inns and historic architecture, the city of Cape May is one of the few municipalities that is considered a national historic landmark. Visitors can roam the streets of Cape May or take one of the many walking or trolley tours offered by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, housed in the Emlen Physick Estate near the entrance to the city. Prices vary. See www.capemaymac.org

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