The best things to do on a rainy day at the Shore


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.

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.

📍215 Lighthouse Ave., Cape May, 🌐, 📷 @capemaymac

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 jaw bone, shark teeth, skulls, and a dolphin 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.

📍 3625 Atlantic Brigantine Blvd., Brigantine, 🌐

Explore aviation and military history through exhibits and hands-on activities. Located inside a real World War II hangar, you can climb aboard many of the planes and helicopters on display, and it’s even leashed-pet friendly.

📍500 Forrestal Rd., Cape May, 🌐, 📷 @nas_wildwood

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 unique 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.

📍2200 Fairmount Ave., Atlantic City, 🌐, 📷 @artsgarageac

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 ten thousand 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 on fire, killing 137 people. Come for a few hours, or visit for an entire day. There are so many things to discover here.

📍 528 Dock Rd., Beach Haven, 🌐, 📷 @artsgarageac

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.

📍 1735 Simpson Ave., Ocean City, 🌐, 📷 @ochistoricalmuseum

Where else can you see the world’s smallest production car, a roulette table made of more than 14,000 jellybeans, and a collection of authentic shrunken heads? The Odditorium is 12,000-square-feet consisting of 14 themed galleries and 400 exhibits and artifacts.

📍1441 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 🌐, 📷 @ripleysbelieveitornot

You might not think of the zoo as a rainy day activity, but it can be. Cape May Zoo only closes 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 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.

📍 707 U.S. 9 N., Cape May, NJ, 🌐, 📷 @capemaycountyzoo

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.

📍300 Ocean Ave., Point Pleasant, 🌐, 📷 @jenkinsonsaquarium

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.

📍4008 Boardwalk, Wildwood, 🌐

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.

📍2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 🌐, 📷 @escapeactropicana

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 eight to 17 can participate alone as long as an adult signs a waiver; kids 7 and under must be accompanied by an adult.

📍513 Tilton Rd., Northfield, 🌐, 📷 @escapeattheshore

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.

📍2701 Boardwalk and Poplar Ave., Wildwood, 🌐

An alien spacecraft has landed on the Ocean City Boardwalk: That’s the theme 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.

📍832-834 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 🌐

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 new 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.

📍1102 Main St., Belmar, 🌐

iPlay America is New Jersey’s largest indoor amusement park. Picture the boardwalk’s food, shops, rides and attractions — but inside. 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 four to 12 to explore — all while vacuums and blasters shoot foam balls.

📍110 Schanck Rd., Freehold, 🌐, 📷 @iplayamerica

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 AC. 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.

📍801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 🌐, 📷 @theluckysnake

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 non-player 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).

📍1000 Ocean Ave., Asbury Park, 🌐

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.

📍1307 W. Brigantine Ave., Brigantine, 🌐, 📷 @brigantinesmilefactory

Choose from more than 50 arcade games such as skeeball, pinball and Dance Dance Revolution. Play for the fun of it, or earn tickets to redeem for prizes.

📍2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City, 🌐, 📷 @tropicanaac

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.

📍3401 New Jersey Ave., Wildwood, 🌐

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.

📍 6622 E. Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township, 🌐

Dragon-themed black light glow golf located (indoors) on the Wildwood Boardwalk.

📍3616 Boardwalk, Wildwood, 🌐

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.)

📍824 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 🌐

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.

📍1336 Boardwalk, Ocean City, 🌐

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.

📍271 96th St., Stone Harbor, 🌐, 📷 @harborsquaretheatre

This is the place to go to see those big 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 Theatre in Southern New Jersey and the only movie theater in Atlantic City.

📍2831 Boardwalk, 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.

📍4215 Black Horse Pike, Mays Landing, 🌐

Premiere movie theatre which includes a state-of-the-art IMAX theatre 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.

📍331 Tilton Rd., Northfield, 🌐, 📷 @tiltonsquaretheatre

The perfect spot for dinner and a movie, the Ventnor Square Theatre was recently renovated with new reclining seats and the new 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.

📍5211 Ventnor Ave., Ventnor, 🌐, 📷 @ventnorsquaretheatre

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, handpainted nature murals, a two-story waterfall, and a 13,000-gallon freshwater fish tank full of fish found in and around New Jersey.

📍30 N. Christopher Columbus Blvd., Atlantic City, 🌐, 📷 @bassproshops

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.

📍2014 Baltic Ave., Atlantic City, 🌐, 📷 @tangeroutlets

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.

📍Washington St., Cape May, 🌐, 📷 @washingtonstreetmal

Atlantic City is home to nine casinos including 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 lots that all ages can also enjoy.

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.

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