Save it for a rainy day

Jeff Fox,68 from Middletown, N.Y., a Vietnam veteran, looks at a Vultee BT-13 Valiant plane at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum. ( AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer )
Jeff Fox,68 from Middletown, N.Y., a Vietnam veteran, looks at a Vultee BT-13 Valiant plane at Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum. ( AKIRA SUWA / Staff Photographer )
Posted: July 06, 2014

It's a bummer. You came for sun and sand, but now you are sitting mere feet from the water's edge - and it's raining.

Don't fret. There are so many activities at the Jersey Shore to keep you occupied on rainy days beyond the usual movies, arcades, casinos, or retail therapy. So many, in fact, that you might have to give up a sunny day or two at the beach just to enjoy them.

From A (as in Aquarium) to Z (as in Zoo) and in between, there are dozens of places to go and experiences to be had far from the beach - some of which are free or cost very little. There are kid-friendly finds and plenty of activities for grown-ups only.

So shake off the shades and grab an umbrella.

The Atlantic City Aquarium on North New Hampshire Avenue might be the perfect place to head in less-than-perfect weather. Located at historic Gardner's Basin, the aquarium is an ideal getaway to occupy children for hours.

"We get so packed with visitors on rainy days that we bring in extra help," said Ted Heim, the aquarium's education and exhibits manager. "When you work at the aquarium and you wake up on a rainy day, you know you've got to get to work as quickly as possible, even if it's supposed to be your day off."

The aquarium boasts a floor-to-ceiling, 25,000-gallon tank that contains everything from a giant loggerhead sea turtle to cow nose rays, gag grouper, and black drum fish.

The aquarium's Mid-Atlantic Coastal Zone allows visitors to see and touch marine life found on local beaches. The new Stingray Touch Tank allows children to sit beside a raised pool and interact with the friendly creatures.

If it isn't pouring rain, visitors may want to stroll around Gardner's Basin, a waterfront park that offers an interesting perspective on the East Coast gambling mecca as a thriving fishing center. In fairer weather, fishing and boating excursions are popular waterfront options.

For a historical view of the Shore, try the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum at the Cape May County Airport, in the Rio Grande section of Lower Township, near Cape May.

The museum features dozens of decommissioned aircraft dating to World War II and is located inside Hangar No. 1, a wooden-beamed structure that is listed on both the national and state Register of Historic Places. It was commissioned by the U.S. government in April 1943 to serve as an active dive-bomber squadron training facility.

The military used the wetland and inland areas around Cape May and Wildwood, which were relatively unpopulated back then, to train bomber pilots. The mission of the museum is to memorialize the 42 airmen killed in crashes while training there during the war, educate the public about the site's significance, and continue to restore Hangar No. 1.

Visitors are welcome in the cockpit of a number of the aircraft or to climb into an actual control tower - which came from Bader Field in Atlantic City. They can also try their hand at being a pilot using flight simulator games.

On a cloudy, not-so-rainy day, another great spot for kids is the Cape May County Zoo. The place offers 250 wild animal species within an 85-acre park setting. It's open daily, and admission is free.

For those who like to spend rainy days doing something creative, there are indoor arts and crafts options at the Shore.

At Just Bead It, with locations on Long Beach Island in Beach Haven and Surf City, and in Stone Harbor, you can select the beads and stones and create your own necklace, bracelet, or earrings. Creations can take as little as a half-hour to assemble, said owner Stacey Fuessinger, who has operated Just Bead It for 21 years.

Crafters pay only for the material to make their piece, which can range from $10 for a hoop and a couple of beads up to hundreds for an intricate design using semiprecious stones. Employees are on hand to help guide the process.

"A lot of people come here for the first time on a rainy day, but they end up coming back year after year," Fuessinger said.

That's what artist Brenda Dolhanczyk, who operates Island Studio in Stone Harbor, has found among her repeat customers.

At her studio, where visitors invariably cluster on rainy days to paint pottery - bowls, mugs, little figurines, and other ceramic green ware - they often return when it's sunny.

"It becomes an annual ritual for families during their vacation, sunny or rainy," Dolhanczyk said.

Visitors have to return a few days after painting their piece to pick it up after it has been fired. Prices range from $5 for a small figurine to $95 for an elaborate vase.

"We come every year with the entire family," said Bob Wertz, 49, of Pittsburgh, on a recent afternoon he spent with six members of his family - from grandmothers to young children - painting pieces to take home. "We love it so much we don't wait for a rainy day anymore."

But some vacationers who came to the Shore to do nothing but chill, rain or shine, want to do exactly that when they arrive.

"That's where the spa comes in," said Elaine Mattuse, 36, of Wayne, who was vacationing recently in Ocean City during a particularly cloudy week and took a side trip to Elizabeth Arden Red Door, a luxury day spa in Galloway Township. "If we can't lie on the beach, we lie around inside watching TV or reading.

"It's pricey, but worth it," said Mattuse of her spa routine, which ran $440, plus a tip. "Perfect for a rainy day."


Where to go when it's rainy

ATLANTIC CITY AQUARIUM

800 N. New Hampshire Ave., Atlantic City.

The most popular attraction at the aquarium is the 11 a.m. daily feeding in the main tank. An aquarium diver enters the tank and feeds perch and other fresh fish to the species while answering questions from the audience through an underwater microphone.

Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission fees range from $5 to $8. Children 3 and under are free. Call 609-348-2880 for more information.

NAVAL AIR STATION WILDWOOD

AVIATION MUSEUM

500 Forrestal Rd., Lower Township.

The museum is open daily throughout the year. April 1 through Columbus Day, the hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults and seniors, $8 for children ages 3 to 12. Children under 3 are admitted free. Active military admitted free with ID. For more information, visit usnasw.org or call 609-886-8787.

CAPE MAY COUNTY ZOO

707 Route 9 N., Cape May Court House.

The zoo is open daily year round - except Christmas - and during the summer operates from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. There are lions, tigers, bears - and about 550 individual critters. More information at capemaycountyzoo.org or 609-465-5271.

JUST BEAD IT

Shop locations in Beach Haven and Surf City on Long Beach Island and Stone Harbor. Go to www.justbeadit.net for more information on the three shops and the hours of operation.

ISLAND STUDIO

261 96th St., Suite 118, Stone Harbor.

Summer hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 609-368-6500 for more information.

ELIZABETH ARDEN RED DOOR SPA

400 E. Fairway Lane, Galloway.

Open year-round Sunday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Services range from $28 for a warm cream manicure to $230 for an 80-minute deep tissue massage.


Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or jurgo@phillynews.com

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