Nothing says Jersey Shore like a boardwalk.
The appeal of these long promenades lies in their timelessness. Generation after generation comes to the boardwalk to enjoy rides, games, food and people-watching. That never seems to change.
But the attractions on and around the boardwalk do sometimes change from summer to summer. In the best scenario, we get to keep things like the antique carousel in Seaside Heights, which has enchanted visitors for more than 100 years, while enjoying innovations in thrill rides, new movies on the beach, and new bands on the boardwalk.
One of the biggest changes you'll find on the Seaside Heights and Point Pleasant Beach boardwalks involves how you can access the rides and attractions. No more paper tickets will be sold at Casino Pier and Jenkinson's. Instead, you'll purchase are-chargable, plastic card. If you register the card online, it functions much like a loyalty card at a supermarket or drug store, generating discounts and rewards based on your purchases.
Leftover paper tickets from previous years still will be honored at both boardwalks. The plastic cards, like the tickets before them, will never expire.
The Bayshore's version of boardwalk excitement is centered in Keansburg. The venerable Keansburg Amusement Park celebrates its 111th anniversary this year, and is celebrating the occasion on Sept. 1, with $1.11 specials and other promotions.
This summer, Keansburg Amusement Park introduces its new rollercoaster, Looping Star, which replaces the Wild Cat coaster that was destroyed by Sandy in October 2012. The Italian-made Pinfari ZL42 rollercoaster has one loop, offering turns, drops and over-the-edge twists.
Other thrill rides at Keansburg include the Cliff Hanger, which will make you feel like you can fly.
Summer of '15 brings improvements to Breakwater Beach, the water park in Seaside Heights, with the addition of a wave pool. Designed for all ages, the artificially generated waves mimic the pull and rush of the ocean. Think of it as an option when the real ocean is flagged for rip tides or jellyfish. Other additions to Breakwater Beach will be a speed slide and a serpentine slide, as well as a new concession area.
Casino Pier is in the midst of expansion on the north end of the pier, planning for a Ferris wheel and a new rollercoaster for 2016. This summer Casino Pier will introduce Shore Shot, a double-launch drop tower at the north entrance to Casino Pier. Shore Shot propels riders 125 feet up in the air at speeds up to 45 mph and then plunges back down.
Also new at Seaside this summer is Sky Coaster, which mimics skydiving. Riders are dropped from 109 feet at 60 to 80 mph.
Among the many other thrill rides at Seaside Heights are
•Air Race: Fly upside down and right-side-up, with the thrills of banks, loops, dives, and the feeling of weightlessness.
•Disk'O: Facing outward on a giant disc, riders spin around and swing back and forth on a half-pipe track.
•Super Storm: A post-Sandy addition to Casino Pier. Riders are seated in a circle extended from a pendulum arm hanging down from the center of the ride. The ride spins around, while swinging back and forth, and then goes upside down.
One of the most peaceful ways to experience the boardwalks is from above.
In Seaside Heights, you can ride the tranquil Sky Ride, which gently takes you high above the beach and boardwalk. Necks crane as the ride takes you past the house from MTV's "Jersey Shore" series.
A more grounded thrill can be had at Speedway Go-Kart track Casino Pier in Seaside. This summer, the Go-Kart track will be expanding, with a new pit location and a larger track with more twists and turns.
Keansburg Amusement Park also has its popular Fast Trax Go-Kart track designed for families, with a separate, kid-sized track with smaller cars.
Classic boardwalk fun often entails a fiercely competitive game of mini-golf.
Casino Pier will create a brand new 36-hole, multilevel mountain miniature golf course where guests will enjoy challenging holes, waterfalls, great views and a fun layout on its location on the corner of Ocean Terrace and Sherman Avenue.
Jenkinson's in Point Pleasant Beach offers several options for mini-golf fans. Roof Top Golf allows players to take in the view of the beach while they play. Castaway Cove Mini Golf has a shipwreck theme, with caves, waterfalls and a crow's nest. Lighthouse Point Mini Golf features two state-of-the-art 18-hole courses.
Local bands and other live musicians perform on the Seaside Heights boardwalk at 4 p.m. Tuesdays. There's also a "#throwbackThursdays" tribute band series on the Seaside boardwalk beginning in July.
At Jenkinson's, weekly events include the "Big Joe Talent Show" at 7 p.m. Sundays, "Kiddie Beach Show" at 7 p.m. Mondays, hermit crab races at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, and fireworks every Thursday after dusk. There are also theme days, including "Shark Week," July 6 to 10; "Christmas In July," Juy 21 to 23; "Carnivale," Aug. 4 to 6; and "Hot Halloween," Aug. 25 to 27.
Festivals abound, including "Hot Rods & Food Trucks" at Seaside Heights on June 20 and at Keansburg on Aug. 8. Seaside will stage a much-anticipated music festival on June 5 and 6, headlined by Mumford & Sons. Other festivals include "Arts And Crafts By The Sea" in Seaside Heights on June 13,
Among the activities on the Seaside Heights beach are a sand soccer tournament on June 20 and 21, a volleyball tournament on June 21, and "Vertical Adventures' Jersey Jumps Beach Vault" on Aug. 1 and 2.
No need to leave the beach at the end of the day because Seaside Heights makes great use of the sands in the evening, too.
On Monday nights, Seaside Heights stages "Bonfire On The Beach," a safe way to enjoy a sandy campfire.
Movies are shown on Jenkinson's beach every Friday after dusk.
Movies are screened on the Seaside Heights beach at 8:30 p.m. Sundays and Tuesdays. The schedule includes "Maleficent" on July 5, "Jaws," on July 7 and Aug. 2, "Despicable Me" on July 12, "Dolphin Tale 2" on July 14, "Big Hero 6" on July 19,"Wreck-It Ralph" on July 21, "Planes Fire & Rescue" on July 26, "101 Dalmatians"on July 28, "The Lego Movie" on Aug. 4, "Paddington" on Aug. 9, "Finding Nemo"on Aug. 11, "Frozen" on Aug. 16, "The Box Trolls" on Aug. 18, "Earth To Echo" on Aug. 23, "Monsters University" on Aug. 25 and "Happy Feet" on Aug. 30.