You requested time off from work. You secured your place to stay. You packed your bags, and you made the drive to the Jersey Shore. Now it’s raining. Don’t let the weather get in your way of having fun.
Here’s a list of things to do at the Jersey Shore while you’re waiting for sunny skies and beach days. After all, a rainy day on vacation still beats an ordinary day at home.
MUSEUMS AND ATTRACTIONS
Learn about the stories of Lighthouse Keepers, the importance of lighthouses historically and today, and climb the 199 steps up the cast-iron spiral stairway to the top of the 1859 lighthouse, listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
If you’ve ever seen a story about an injured whale, dolphin, or sea turtle and wondered who helps them, the answer is the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Founded in 1978, the center has responded to more than 5,600 strandings of seals, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and even the occasional manatee. The museum has an amazing collection of artifacts including a sperm whale’s jawbone, shark teeth, skulls, and a dolphin’s spinal column. Learn about the lives of marine animals and how you can help protect them. Take a guided tour or explore on your own. And you can watch a live camera feed of animals currently being treated, broadcast on a large-screen TV monitor.
Explore aviation and military history through exhibits and hands-on activities. Located inside a real World War II hangar, the museum lets you climb aboard many of the planes and helicopters on display, and it’s even leashed-pet-friendly.
Anyone with an interest in art should make a point to visit this free and open-to-the-public art and community space in Atlantic City that features curated art exhibitions, artist studio and retail spaces, and the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey. The space is actually a converted parking garage that has studio spaces that artists can rent. Watch artists at work in their studios and talk to them about their pieces.
There are so many cool museums dedicated to the history of the Jersey Shore, but Beach Haven’s New Jersey Maritime Museum’s claim to fame is that it’s considered the most extensive collection of maritime history and artifacts in the state. Located on the southern end of Long Beach Island, it’s home to over 10,000 rare and historic photos, logs, videos, and artifacts spanning more than 100 years. We’ve all heard of the Titanic, but are you familiar with the ill-fated liner Morro Castle? The NJ Maritime Museum has an entire room dedicated to the 1930s luxurious cruise ship that caught fire, killing 137 people. Come for a few hours, or visit for an entire day. There are so many things to discover here.
Learn about the Native Americans who lived on Ocean City’s shores, the founding of the city by four Methodist ministers, and how it became known as “America’s greatest family resort.” Did you know that there’s a ship buried under the sand near the 17th Street Beach? And do you know which princess spent her childhood summers vacationing in Ocean City? Find out here.
Where else can you see the world’s smallest production car, a roulette table made of more than 14,000 jelly beans, and a collection of authentic shrunken heads? The Odditorium is 12,000 square feet consisting of 14 themed galleries and 400 exhibits and artifacts.
ZOOS AND AQUARIUMS
You might not think of the zoo as a rainy-day activity, but it can be. Cape May County Zoo closes only during dangerous conditions like local lightning strikes or high winds. Otherwise, it’s open every day of the year except Christmas. In fact, some of the animals there (like the otters, capybaras, and alligators) love a light rain. The Cape May County Zoo is one of the few zoos in the country that is free, even parking. (Donations are, of course, appreciated.) This is a great place to visit for a relaxing morning when most of the animals are out and about. It’s a completely manageable size, and it’s easy to navigate.
Get up close to animals such as Atlantic sharks, Pacific sharks, penguins, and seals. There’s even a touch tank, which allows you to touch live animals ranging from a sea star to a stingray.
ESCAPE ROOMS AND MAZES
Choose from three themed escape rooms: Escape from Smuggler Island, The Legend of the Jersey Devil, and Those Wildwood Days. You have 30 minutes to solve the riddles and find your way out. Open to all ages.
You’re locked in a room with your teammates, and you have 60 minutes to solve clues to successfully escape. Choose from four Atlantic City-themed rooms: Poker Room, Casino Cage, The Boardwalk, and Backstage, all recommended for adults and children 13 and up.
You have 60 minutes to find your way out of one of five themed rooms: Poltergeist, X-File, Wild West Bank Heist, Weird Science, and The Hellevator. Children ages 8 to 17 can participate alone as long as an adult signs a waiver; kids 7 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
This family entertainment center has three different attractions for both thrill seekers and puzzle enthusiasts. The candy-themed Adventure Mirror Maze was designed by Adrian Fisher, the world’s leading maze designer: Think Willy Wonka but with mirrors. The Vault Laser Maze Challenge puts your spy skills to the test while you attempt to break into a simulated bank vault without setting off the alarms. And Time Freak is a black-light arena race against the clock.
An alien spacecraft has landed on the Ocean City Boardwalk. That’s the premise of the three indoor attractions at Encounters: Mirror Maze, Space Vault Laser Maze, and Time Freak, which have the same names as the mazes in Wildwood.
Go Play just underwent a remodel and rebranding from a retro arcade with no prizes to include a new electronic card and ticket system, 35 modern games, and the addition of tickets/prize redemption. Visit on Family Wednesdays when you’ll get four game cards (worth $25 each) and a large pizza for $75.
iPlay America is New Jersey’s largest indoor amusement park. Picture the boardwalk’s food, shops, rides and attractions — but inside and a bit inland. There’s a two-level laser tag field, an arcade with more than 250 games, go-karts, classic boardwalk-style games, a TopGolf Swing Suite, and more. Coming soon: Ballocity, a four-level structure that will have climbing tubes, slides, and obstacles for kids ages 4 to 12 to explore — all while vacuums and blasters shoot foam balls.
Lucky Snake is a huge arcade (it’s the largest amusement arcade on the East Coast) and sports bar on the ground floor of the Showboat hotel in A.C. It’s kid-friendly but does also have a bar area for guests over 21. No reservations are needed — just grab a game card at one of the many kiosks and load it with whatever dollar amount you want. With more than 300 games ranging from classic pinball to glow-in-the-dark mini golf, there’s something for everyone.
Silverball is a tribute to the classic pinball arcade with hundreds of games in rotation — some of which date back to the 1950s. You’ll also find Skee-Ball, air hockey, and both classic and modern arcade games. All games are set to unlimited play with an entry pass, so you don’t need to keep track of how many games you’re playing. Passes range from $10 for 30 minutes to $20 to play from open to close. (There’s also a $2.50 nonplayer pass if you’re just watching your kids play.) Silverball is located on the Asbury Park boardwalk, a little north of the other spots on the list (but worth the drive on a rainy beach day).
Smile Factory offers a mix of games including Skee-Ball, basketball, air hockey, and racing games, plus boardwalk-style games such as basketball, crane games, and Down the Clown (throw balls to knock rows of clowns down), and newer games such as Monster Drop and Jurassic Park. This is a traditional arcade with tokens starting at three for $1. Trade in your tickets for prizes.
Choose from more than 50 arcade games such as Skee-Ball, pinball and Dance Dance Revolution. Play for the fun of it, or earn tickets to redeem for prizes.
Island Bowl offers traditional bowling plus Cosmic Rock-n-Bowl on Fridays and Classic Moonlight Redpin on Saturdays. Keep their $2 Tuesday night deals in mind: $2 bowling, shoe rental, hot dogs, pizza slices, sodas, and domestic drafts.
King Pin is a family-friendly center offering 40 lanes with bumpers available for little ones, an arcade, and a 10-table billiard hall. There’s also a TV-lined restaurant and bar.
Dragon-themed black-light glow golf located (indoors) on the Wildwood Boardwalk.
Indoor, air-conditioned mini-golf course on Ocean City Boardwalk, across from the Ocean City Music Pier, with Disney-inspired attractions that are spooky with a comedic twist. (Think PG rating.)
You’ll spot Medieval Fantasy’s castle complete with dragons towering over the Ocean City boardwalk. The theme continues inside one of the biggest mini-golf courses on the boardwalk with dragons and dungeons, wizards and warlocks, knights in shining armor, and more. The rooms are air-conditioned and the whole castle is covered, keeping you comfortable regardless of the weather.
Grab a bite or a drink at Harbor Burger Bar located at the entrance to the theater (you can even tell your server or bartender that you want to bring it with you), and enjoy a movie showing on one of Harbor Square’s four screens.
This is the place to go to see those summer blockbusters. The IMAX Theatre at Tropicana offers IMAX DMR, the most advanced film technology in use. It’s the only giant-screen-certified IMAX theater in South Jersey, and the only movie theater in Atlantic City.
This is your standard movie theater with current movies, concessions, and a small arcade, all within walking distance of a few restaurants and stores.
Premiere movie theater that includes a state-of-the-art IMAX theater and reclining seats. For your snacking pleasure, there’s a self-serve drink station and a popcorn dressing station where you can pick from a variety of powder toppings.
The perfect spot for dinner and a movie, the Ventnor Square Theatre was recently renovated with reclining seats and Nucky’s Kitchen & Speakeasy located inside. Tip: Nucky’s also hosts events such as murder mystery dinners, which are another great way to spend a rainy Shore evening.
A visit to Bass Pro Shops is more than just going to a store. There are boats that you can climb aboard, replicas of wildlife, hand-painted nature murals, a two-story waterfall, and a 13,000-gallon freshwater fish tank full of fish found in and around New Jersey.
This open-air outlet center spans three city blocks and offers more than 60 brand-name stores, boutiques and restaurants. Shop Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, Carter’s, Crocs, Coach, Express, Gap, J. Crew Factory, Nike, and more. You’ll need an umbrella while you go from store to store.
Peruse more than 75 establishments including restaurants and specialty shops filled with clothes, gourmet treats, decor, crafts, and art all located along a three-block, pedestrian-only stretch in Cape May.
Atlantic City is home to 10 casinos: Bally’s, Borgata, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Hard Rock, Harrah’s, Ocean, Resorts, Tropicana, and Wild Wild West. Each offers plenty of indoor space that is home to stores, restaurants, show venues, dance spaces, and of course, places to gamble. While you have to be 21 to enter the game floor, there’s plenty that all ages can enjoy.
About the writer:
Michelle Reese is a freelance writer who also runs the kids activities blog Sweet Mini Moments. She has been going down the Shore for her whole life. She lives in Bucks County.