The Shore is even a great place to ring in the New Year: Atlantic City venues will be offering dozens of entertainment and dining opportunities. And the alcohol-free Ocean City First Night Celebration on Dec. 31 brings in more than 60 musical acts and activities and ends the year with fireworks over the beach at midnight.
Here are details on some popular fall and winter events at the Shore:
The Wildwoods Hydrofest
WILDWOOD CREST, SEPT. 13-14
Thanks to the changing tidal schedule, the dates of this international powerboat racing event vary every year. This year, it's the earliest it has ever been held, says coordinator Ann Fitzgerald. The event usually draws about 10,000 people to Sunset Lake at Rambler Road in Wildwood Crest, where inboard-powered hydroplanes and flat-bottoms compete on a one-mile oval course.
The boats range in size from 12 feet to 23 feet and reach speeds of 140 m.p.h. Race teams from all over the world compete for American Power Boat Association points and the prestigious New Jersey Governor's Cup.
There's also a six-block festival of crafts, boat merchandise, and food. Hydrofest will take place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 13 and 14, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Races will begin at 10 a.m. each day. The event is free, but to see it up close - and talk to drivers and crews - buy a $10 pit pass.
"People don't want to give up the summer, and this is the perfect event for them to extend the season," said Fitzgerald, who raced power boats for more than 30 years from the 1970s through 2005.
The event is handicapped/wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 609-889-9181 or 609-886-8156 or go to www.wildwoodshydrofest.org
Long Beach Island Chowderfest, Oct. 4 & 5
Find yourself in the crowd at this iconic Long Beach Island event that is always held the weekend before Columbus Day weekend and has been drawing thousands for 25 years.
Rain or shine, there will be live music, children's entertainment, and unlimited chowder tastings at the Taylor Avenue ball field, Ninth and Taylor Avenues in Beach Haven, across from Schooner's Wharf and Bay Village from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 5.
Tickets are $20 a person, $10 for children age 4 to 12. A $50 VIP ticket gets you a special T-shirt and early admission, at 10 a.m. All ticket holders get to vote for their favorite red or white chowder. A "Best Chowder" winner will be announced at the end of the day.
Organizers recommend that chowderheads pick up the shuttle on Sunday at designated stops at 42d, 60th, 68th, 85th, 95th, and 113th Streets, and ride it to the festival to avoid heavy traffic on the long, but narrow, barrier island.
The weekend starts off, though, with leftovers - leftover summer merchandise, that is. Savvy shoppers wait all year for the free-admission Merchandise Mart, which will be held Saturday, Oct. 4. Local stores will offer rock-bottom pricing before they close for the season. For more information, call the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce at 609-494-7211 or go to www.chowderfest.com.
Atlantic City Ballet
AUGUST THROUGH DECEMBER
Atlantic City has had its own professional ballet company since 1982. While that may surprise those who think the city offers only casinos, the venerable group has presented top-flight productions and educational programs for years. This year will be no exception, with fine seasonal Halloween and Christmas performances in the works.
The season will begin with Ballet Goes to Broadway at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23, and Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Celebrity Theater at the Claridge Hotel. Free performances of Ballet on the Boardwalk will be presented at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 26, and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 1, at Kennedy Plaza, on the Boardwalk.
Performances of Dracula will be held on four dates in October. And the company's season has always been anchored by the holiday favorite, The Nutcracker, which is scheduled for performances from Friday, Dec. 12 through Tuesday, Dec. 23.
Ticketed performances are $55 for adults and $20 for children 12 and under. Discounted tickets are offered for groups of 10 or more. Throughout the season, special children's matinees are offered and hour-long "up close and personal" events are scheduled with the company at the Atlantic City Ballet Studio at Boardwalk Hall. For more information about performance dates, times, and tickets, call 609-348-7201 or go to www.acballet.org.
Cape May Christmas Candlelight House Tours
SATURDAYS, DEC. 6, 13, 27
Experience a Victorian Christmas with the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities' Christmas Candlelight House Tours from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 6, 13, and 27. The self-guided tours will feature at least a dozen private homes, inns, and churches decked out for the holidays. Throughout, there will be strolling musicians and Christmas caroling and plenty of festooned trees and garlands decorating the quaint seaside town.
Ticket-holders may also enter various hospitality centers for warm beverages and home-baked treats. Tickets also include admission to MAC's Victorian house museum, the Emlen Physick Estate, and the exhibit "An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions through the Years" in the estate's Carriage House Gallery.
The tour also will include continuous shuttle service on heated trolleys. Leading up to the Christmas season, MAC also will host Victorian Weekend, Oct. 10 through 13, which is a celebration of Cape May's heritage, and includes house tours, wine tastings, a craft and antiques show, theater productions, and gourmet dinners.
A "Halloween Happenings" tour and event series between Oct. 10 and Nov. 1 - in the town that is said to be one of the most haunted places in America - includes psychic teas; murder mystery lunches and dinners; a walk with a ghost writer, and a Scarecrow Alley exhibit. Tickets to various events and more information are at 800-275-4278 or www.capemaymac.org.
Phone numbers and Web addresses for more information on other events listed in this article.
Stone Harbor Centennial Jubilee:
Call the Stone Harbor Chamber of Commerce at 609-368-6101 or go to www.stoneharborbeach.com.
Ocean City Indian Summer Weekend: Call 1-800-232-2465 or go to www.oceancityvacation.com.
Cape May Food & Wine Celebration:
Call 1-800-275-4278 or go to www.capemaymac.org.
Avalon Seafood Festival: Call the Avalon Chamber of Commerce at 609-967-3936 or go to www.visitavalonnj.com.
Ocean City First Night Celebration:
Go to www.firstnightoceancitynj.com.