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Wildwood, A Popular Family Jersey Shore Destination With A Doo-Wop Heritage

Aug 17, 2007
The Wildwoods are a popular New Jersey family beach resort with its free, wide, white, powdery sandy beaches, and a world class boardwalk with amusement piers, restaurants, food stands and salt water taffy shops, is now attracting visitors with an interest in Doo Wop.

Doo-Wop Heritage

The early days of this town's vacation lodging architecture were wooden three and four-story Victorian hotels. With the onset of the Doo-Wop era, taken from the music industrys definition of that period from 1948-61, working class people were experiencing an increase in leisure time, affluence, and new cars that are now known as classic Doo-Wop cars. These families from the Philadelphia and New York areas found this beach destination affordable, fun, and a great place to take the kids for a vacation.

This demand spurred the development of the town's motel lodging that has since become known as Doo Wop Architecture. The beach side Motels are both affordable and convenient, were attractive to working class family vacationers. You could drive and park your car right alongside your room and didn't have to cart your luggage through the hallways or worry about the kids making noise, or tracking their sandy feet indoors.

Doo Wop Architecture is a term coined by MAC (the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts) in the early 1990s to describe the unique, space-age architectural style that was common in the 1950s and 1960s. It is characterized by modern, sweeping angles, bright colors, starbursts, boomerang shapes, plastic palm trees, and angular wall and roof styles.

With its many nightclubs, this Jersey Shore destination was a natural to attract many of the eras biggest Doo-Wop music stars, and they became a reinforcement of Wildwood as a classic Doo-Wop destination.

While The Wildwoods can boast of having the biggest concentration of 1950s and 1960s motels anywhere in the world, they are now losing out to real estate market pressures to convert to condos. Rapidly rising land values and the prohibitive cost of renovating their old motels are compelling motel owners to sell out to condo developers that make lucrative purchase offers.

By the mid 90s, business leaders realized they needed a way to pump new life into their resort community. They called in consultants who saw uniqueness in the 50s motels. While most of the motels were open and in need of repair, they were barely surviving with summer family vacationers. Learning from Miami Beach who capitalized on the preservation of its 1930's art deco buildings, and from neighboring Cape May who profited from the revitalization their late 19th century Victorian architecture, they recognized that heritage tourism is growing in popularity and it is directly linked to the uniqueness of a tourist destination.

The Doo Wop Preservation League of Wildwood was formed and today is actively trying to preserve that classic Doo Wop "feel" from becoming a memory. Thy are determined to protect thier uniqueness by pushing for a national heritage listing and hoping for funds to help restore many of the buildings.

The determination to preserve its Doo Wop heritage is symbolized by the convention center that welcomes boardwalk visitors with an angular roof, curved entranceway and neon signature. Across the street, a new Doo Wop museum, featuring period furniture, neon and street signs from the 1950s, is set to open in time for the 2007 summer vacationers.

The museum will be housed in the historic, pinwheel-shaped Surfside Restaurant building that is being rebuilt at this site using the original steel framework and other artifacts that were put in storage when the Surfside was taken down from its original site in 2002. It will also include a "neon sign garden" featuring some of the best motel and restaurant signs that have been salvaged from other torn down motels.

The Ideal Affordable Family Vacation Destination

The beaches cannot be topped! This shore destination has the most beautiful beaches on the east coast. The sand is amazingly soft, powdery-white, and very wide with plenty of room to spread out and enjoy. It is also free, a rarity with New Jersey beaches. The warm water lasts longer than the northern stretch of the Jersey Shore and offers an extended summer season that thrives until the end of September and begins to wind down in October.

During the summer, The Wildwoods are host to a number of events including championship volleyball tournaments, monster truck races, concerts, movies on the beach, and ethnic festivals.

The boardwalk, two miles or 38 blocks long, along the North Wildwood and Wildwood stretch of shore line, claims to have more rides than Disneyland

The Wildwoods encompass North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest.

North Wildwood has, up to a quarter mile wide beach, motels, restaurants, beds & breakfasts, a landmark Hereford Lighthouse with its award winning gardens, and a wild life preserve. North Wildwood is also host to many ethnic festivals including the Italian and Irish festivals.

Wildwood is the center of family fun and entertainment and is known for its roller coaster rides, food and ice cream stands, and saltwater taffy. It has a tram which transports vacationers throughout the length of the boardwalk. The main amusement center is Morey's Piers with three other Piers and a water park providing rides and amusements for all ages. The town also hosts the New Jersey firemens convention in September.

Wildwood Crest is a bit more residential than either of it's two northern neighbors but still shares the Doo Wop motel architecture. In contrast, the setting of this town is a bit more natural especially with the towns beach conservation efforts to protect sand dunes and dune grass. While many Doo Wop Motels remain, many are being replaced with multi- story condos. The town also hosts Thunder on the Beach Monster Truck Race in September.

On the bayside, you can find a plentiful supply of private, charter, and party boats for daily bay and deep sea fishing excursions, and sight seeing and whale watching trips. There is also sailing, jet skiing, and motor boating.

A wide variety of accommodations are available throughout The Wildwoods, from motel units with efficiency kitchens, to modern condominiums and multi-room apartments with choices for every budget.
About the Author
Frank Dalotto is a freelance writer and travel consultant. His specialty is writing articles about New Jersey travel, including attractions, events, and restaurant reviews. He is the owner and editor of New Jersey Leisure Guide and a travel consultant for Leisure Travel Mart. He is a member of ASTA (American Association of Travel Agents) and CLIA (Cruise Line International Association).
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