Autumn brings a different vibe down the shore. Gone are the lazy days of sun worship and swimming. New Jersey’s shore points count on eclectic amusements – from a town’s unique history to natural resources exclusive to the region – to continue to bring in tourists.
History and old haunts
As the days grow shorter and colder, thoughts naturally turn to winter fashion. Did you know that America’s first brand name designer clothing may have been made by women in Cape May? Warm, wooly mittens known as Cape May Mitts were one of the top three most profitable exports in the county’s colonial days. Like so many historical contributions by women, the story of Cape May’s mitten trade was forgotten until rediscovered by a historian.
There’s a Philly connection too. The industry began when Benjamin Franklin’s wife, Deborah, sent a fashionable cap from Philadelphia to a skipper’s daughter as a thank you gift. Local ladies and girls admired its style so much they set to work knitting mittens to earn money for their own.
It’s in honor of these ladies’ enterprising spirit that the Cape May County Historical and Genealogical Society will hold the first ever Cape May Mitten Festival. The event will feature artisans and craft vendors, handicraft demonstrations, museum tours and a silent auction of handmade mittens, plus a visit from Ben Franklin (re-enactor, J. Ward Larkin). Admission is free. Saturday, Oct. 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – 504 Route 9 North, Cape May, N.J.
From hokey to eerie, the city has plenty of Halloween thrills. Haunted house tours, after-dark trolley rides filled with tales of Cape May’s reputed ghosts, a walk through town with a ghost writer and psychic medium, electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) recordings from paranormal investigations, plus tamer fare like scarecrows, fortune tellers, as well as craft and antique vendors. Friday, Oct. 10 through Saturday, Nov. 1, various times and locations, Cape May, N.J.
All month, Ocean City showcases its own past with a ghost tour through its historic town center. During a 75-minute candlelight walking tour, visitors learn about town’s folklore, plus phantoms and ghosts that haunt places like the Flanders Hotel, Ocean City Mansion, City Hall and Restless Spirit Music Shop. Tickets cost $15 for adults, $10 for children ages four to 12 years and are sold on a first-come-first-served basis. Every Saturday at 8 p.m. in October, including Halloween night – 861 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, N.J.
Wildwood turns back the clock early this month with The Race of Gentlemen. Pre-World War II era autos and motorcycles compete in a race on the ocean’s edge, harking to a bygone time when vehicles were tested on beaches. Each day’s race is followed by a bonfire and beach party with live rock music. A pre-race bike and car show will be held at the Starlux Hotel on Friday at 8 p.m.. Tickets are $30 for one-day only or $50 for a weekend pass ($20 and $25, respectively, for kids six years and under). Saturday, Oct. 4 10 a.m. to midnight and Sunday, Oct. 5, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. – Spicer Ave. Wildwood, N.J
The city also pays homage to its Doo Wop legacy and role in shaping music history with a Fabulous 50s and Beyond Weekend. Once known as “Little Las Vegas”, Wildwood has been credited with launching many an early rock star’s career. It’s where Chubby Checker debuted his “Twist” and where, legend has it, Bill Haley became inspired to quit country western for rock music and changed the name of his band, The Saddlemen, to The Comets.
The capstone of the weekend is a concert at the Convention Center. Former Sha Na Na vocalist, Bowzer hosts (and performs in) “Bowzer’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Party”. The music acts include Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon, Gene “The Duke of Earl” Chandler, Fred Parris & the Five Satins, Bowzer & The Stingrays and special guest Bill Haley’s Original Comets.
The nostalgia starts Friday evening with a 50s themed dance party at the Convention Center. On Saturday, visitors can enjoy a free street fair with a classic car show, live entertainment and a Doo Wop bus tour that drives past Wildwood’s mid-century landmarks. Admission to Friday’s dance party is $15. Tickets for Saturday’s concert cost between $49.50 (stadium seating) and $65.50 (floor seating). Friday, Oct. 17, 7-11 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 18, – 4500 Boardwalk, Wildwood, N.J.
Wanna hear something really scary? It’s been 30 years since Mötley Crüe’s album, Shout At The Devil climbed up the Billboard charts and young heavy metal fans plastered their walls with images of the band carefully clipped from the pages of Circus Magazine. The season of wither is the perfect time to see Vince Neil and his buddies, Sixx, Mick and Tom as they take the stage in Atlantic City as part of their farewell tour. Crüe will play two nights at The Borgata with special guest, Alice Cooper. Tickets art at at $99. Friday, Oct. 24 and Saturday, Oct. 25, 7:30 p.m. – 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City, N.J.
New Jersey’s 350th anniversary gets a orchestrated tribute in Atlantic City with a chamber concert from the Bay-Atlantic Symphony. Held at Richard Stockton College’s Dante Hall Theater, the concert presents music from New Jersey composers. Selections include “Birding in the Palisades”, “New Jersey Shore Line”, “Vanishing Lands”, “On Avalon Beach” and “The Battle of Trenton”. The audience will be incited to sing along to an arrangement of six 19th-century hymns by William Batchelder Bradberry, “New Jersey Campmeeting – A Bloomfield Sabbath”. Other featured composers are Amanda Harberg, Tim Broege, Raymond Wojcik, Paul Mack Somers and Stefan Young. Tickets cost $10 (seniors and Stockton students pay only $8). Saturday, Oct. 4, 8 p.m. – 14 N. Mississippi Ave., Atlantic City, N.J.
October means shellfish like scallops, mussels, oysters and surf clams are in peak season. As a result, it’s a month filled with seafood festivals. As the temperatures drop, summer fish barbecues are giving way to warming seafood soups and stews. Many shore towns hold their seafood fêtes in conjunction with outdoor market fairs where local merchants try to sell off remaining merchandise at greatly reduced prices.
Long Beach Island’s popular Chowderfest kicks off the first weekend of the month. The two-day festival starts Saturday with the annual free Merchant Mart – a flea market event where island businesses sell deeply discounted wares. On Sunday, the 26 annual chowder cook-off takes place on the Taylor Avenue Ball Field. Unlimited tastings of 16 regional restaurants’ entries await ticket holders, who also get to vote for their favorite red and white chowders. This year’s Chowderfest theme is Clamicon – a costume contest where attendees are encouraged to come dressed up as their favorite super hero or villain. The most creative costume will win a family 4-pack ticket package to Six Flags’ Fright Fest. General admission tickets cost $20 for adults, $10 for kids ages four to 12 years. Saturday, Oct. 4 and Sunday, Oct. 5, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. – Ninth St. and Taylor Ave., Beach Haven, N.J.
Wildwood will hold its Seafood & Music Festival on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. along Atlantic Ave., between Wildwood and Schellenger Aves. The free street fair will feature two stages with live music. Sea Isle City celebrates the ocean’s fall bounty with its free Harborfest on Saturday, Oct. 4 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 42nd Place and the Bay. Highlights include a chowder contest and clam-eating competition.
Seafood is on the menu during Ocean City’s Indian Summer Weekend, where local vendors will offer up their freshest catch-of-the-day at the boardwalk’s Music Pier. Tied in with the event is the city’s annual Fall Block Party and Fireworks Spectacular that Saturday along Asbury Ave., between 5th and 14th Sts. More than 400 merchants will peddle their goods from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., while fireworks cap off the party at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11 through Monday, Oct. 13 – 801 Boardwalk, Ocean City, N.J.
Avalon’s Seafood Festival returns Saturday, Oct. 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 30th St. and the Beach, featuring a chowder championship and clam-shucking contest, plus live music.
Point Pleasant Beach hosts its second Rhythm & Chowder Festival at Inlet Dr. on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For a $5 entry fee, attendees can sample 10 of the region’s best chowders while listening to live music all day from The Finns, Matt Wade, The Hallowed Roots, Eryn Shewell & the Whiskey Devils. (Rain date Oct. 25)
October also means the peak of fall migration and the Cape May peninsula is a critical stopover for thousands of bird species as they journey south for the winter. Nature lovers and bird watchers will want to get in on the 68th annual Cape May Autumn Birding Festival. Sponsored by the New Jersey’s Audubon Society, the three-day happening boasts a full schedule of indoor and outdoor workshops, field trips to birding hot spots, migratory watches, guest lectures and exhibitions. Pre-registration is required. Register by calling Cape May Bird Observatory at (609) 884-2736 or (609) 861-0700. Friday, Oct. 24 through Sunday, Oct. 26, various times and locations, Cape May, N.J.
On the third weekend this month, the state’s lighthouses are hoping to attract visitors with the New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge. The rain or shine challenge is to visit all 11 lighthouses, two life-saving stations and the Barnegat Light Museum, collecting a total of 14 souvenirs along the way. Participants pay just $1 at the first stop on their quest and receive souvenirs at each location visited. Those who complete the challenge will also be entered in a $100 cash prize drawing.
Shore explorers can check out the eight lighthouses across New Jersey’s Atlantic coast (map), including Barnegat Light, Tucker’s Island Light, Absecon Light, Hereford Inlet Light and Cape May Light. In addition to daytime hours, Absecon, Cape May and Tuckerton are offering night climbs from 6-8 p.m. on Saturday. Saturday, Oct. 18 and Sunday, Oct. 19, see schedule for hours of operation – various locations, N.J.