Step Back in Time with a Trip to the Wildwoods: The Ultimate Itinerary for a History Buff
For history buffs, the Wildwoods are the ideal vacation spot to step back in time. The Jersey Shore town has a long, rich history – from the world-famous boardwalk dating back to the 1890s, to museums, ‘Doo Wop’ architecture tours and more. Next time you’re down the shore, be sure to check out these top historical spots in the Wildwoods.
Where to Stay
You have options aplenty if you want to take in the Wildwoods’ Doo-Wop mid-century architecture. The Doo-Wop style of design began in the early 1950s and is visible in dozens of hotels/motels throughout the five-mile island, including the Wildwoods’ premier Doo-Wop properties, The Caribbean and the Starlux Hotel. These distinct hotels/motels feature kitschy plastic palm trees, kidney-shaped pools, angular roof lines and bold neon signs. Most of these Doo-Wop properties are named for exotic locations, popular products or memorable events of the ‘50s and ‘60s – like the Apollo, Astronaut, Bel Aire, Shalimar, Lollipop and Caribbean.
Start your day with a stroll on the historic Wildwoods’ boardwalk, taking in the exciting sights, sounds and smells. Since its birth as a mere 150-yard stretch of boards in the 1890s, the Wildwoods Boardwalk has always been the center of activity. Throughout the years, the Boardwalk has gone through many transformations, growing and evolving with the mood of the country and, in its 100-year history, was twice moved closer to the ocean due to the changing shoreline. Today, the Wildwoods Boardwalk is one of the country’s last great seaside promenades. Its rich history and world-famous ambiance has led to the very concept of the Wildwoods Boardwalk being replicated both in Disneyland and Hershey Park in Pennsylvania.
Get in an offbeat history lesson with a visit to the Doo-Wop Experience Museum and a tour of the Doo-Wop District. The Wildwoods are home to the country’s largest concentration of mid-century Doo-Wop architecture in the country. With bright neon signs, futuristic architecture and ‘far-out’ themes, these buildings offer a neon-lit slice of Americana to anyone visiting the island. Take a stroll through the Wildwoods’ Doo-Wop District, head to the Doo-Wop Experience Museum or hop onboard the award-winning ‘Back to the ‘50s’ Doo-Wop Bus Tour.
Once you’ve soaked up the Doo-Wop architecture, head to the George F. Boyer Museum for a guided tour about the history of the Wildwoods. Curated by the Wildwood Historical Society, the museum preserves and presents the shore towns’ history and is filled to the brim with interesting artifacts.
You’ll also want to stop by the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, a major tourism landmark visited by thousands of locals and tourists annually. The Lighthouse was built in 1874 and was designed by the same man who designed the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse offers tours to visitors, has a gift shop for souvenirs and boasts enchanting, award-winning English gardens that are FREE to stroll through. The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is listed on both the National and State Register of Historic Places and was ranked 2nd in Preservation New Jersey’s 2009 voting for “Top NJ Heritage Tourism Destination.”
Finish the afternoon by visiting the Wildwoods Walk of Fame, known as the Avenue of the Stars. Located on Pacific Avenue in Downtown Wildwood, it features star plaques embedded in the sidewalk that name all the major recording artists who have performed in the Wildwoods and have contributed to the Wildwoods’ rich musical history and its title as “The Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll Music.” Take a stroll down memory lane and relive the era of early Rock ‘n Roll.
After a full day, transport yourself to the ‘50s and ‘60s with a trip to one of the Wildwoods’ classic Doo-Wop eateries such as Star Diner, Marvis Diner, Vegas Diner, Doo Wop Diner or Pink Cadillac Diner. Enjoy classic diner food, including tasty burgers and milkshakes, along with their own unique mixes of retro jukeboxes, waitresses in poodle skirts, mid-century memorabilia, rock ‘n roll music being played on vintage jukeboxes and black & white checkered floors.
If you’re up for it, cap off the evening with a ride on the Sightseer Tram Car, which transports visitors to their desired destinations along the two-and-a-half-mile Wildwoods Boardwalk. The Tram Cars were originally built for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City but later reimagined for the Boardwalk. Now for 70+ continuous years, the Tram Cars have ferried tens of millions of visitors and locals alike along the famous wooden way.