The little towns that dot the white sandy Jersey shoreline each have a distinct flavor, ranging from funky to luxurious to relaxing to fast-paced. You'll find boardwalks, beaches, and more roller coasters than you can ride during one vacation. The strong sense of history and legend -- including hair-raising tales of the infamous Jersey Devil -- will fascinate kids and even sneak a little education into the trip (that will be our little secret). To sound like one of the locals, remember to say that you'll be going "down the shore," rather than "down to the shore" or, worse, "to the beach."
High season at the Jersey Shore begins on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day. June can be a bit rainy and chilly at night, especially early in the month, but the weather is most often sunny and warm by July. Locals revel in September, when it's usually temperate but the crowds are gone. Fall foliage season is a great time to visit as well. Winter is cold and many seasonal businesses close once the big chill hits, but there are many festivals and beautiful decorations around the holidays.
The summer months in New Jersey usually have warm to hot days and temperate nights, where a light jacket is often a good idea, especially near or on the water. Although temperatures average between 61 and 75 degrees, no month is immune from the occasional rainy day or two. You'll need a jacket once fall comes and the winter months can get frosty. View more weather info.
If you're heading to the northern areas of the shore in Monmouth County or northern Ocean County, then Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) is probably your closest airport (about 60 minutes, on average, to Sandy Hook). However, if you're heading to southern Ocean County or as far as Cape May, then Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) is a better option (about 75 minutes to Atlantic City). The Amtrak trains and Greyhound bus lines also serve this area.
Make no mistake: You will need a car. There is ample parking in most places and some shore towns have shuttle or trolley services. If public transportation is your only option, the North Jersey Coast Line of New Jersey Transit will transport you from New York or Newark to as far south as Bay Head. Then you'll be relying on a spotty network of buses to get around. Check travel schedules with mass transit.
Virtually every town has a calendar jam-packed with festivals, concerts, movies on the beach, and other happenings. Contact each one's visitor's center or tourism office for full listings. However, some of the most well-known are included below.
The best way to cash in on deals is to contact the local tourism office or Chamber of Commerce of the municipalities you're planning on visiting. They will usually send discount offers or coupon books for various businesses and activities in their towns or cities.