Wildwood owes its beginnings to English Navigator Henry Hudson and his voyage in 1609 seeking a new route to China. Upon entering the Delaware Bay on August 28, 1609, he quickly turned around after realizing that the inlet he and his crew had sailed into was not the Northwest Passage. After exploring the inlet, Hudson and his voyagers upon the boat, “the Half Moon,” watched contently as the waves broke across the beautiful 1.8 mile stretch of beach, now called the “Five Mile Beach.”
Fast forward over three centuries and by the early 1950s Wildwood had grown into a major summer resort of the East Coast. When its signature “Doo-Wop” motels originally came to the island, they rose rapidly one after another throughout the post-World War II era. As the years progressed, Wildwood, New Jersey, became host to the most unique architectural hotel and store buildings, all very interesting in shape, colors, names, and even themes. Exotic, Polynesian, Hawaiian, automotive, decades, American, atmospheric – the hotels in Downtown Wildwood were themed uniquely and each featured its own signature neon sign. Each night, cars featuring license plates from what seemed to be every state in the country could be seen driving down the main strip of Downtown Wildwood.
Up until recent years, downtown Wildwood boasted the largest collection of mid-century architecture in the United States, commonly referred to as “Doo-Wop Architecture.” Throughout the 50’s and 60’s, Wildwood was considered the Vegas of the East Coast, getting nearly 400,000 visitors on the warm summer days. Wildwoods’ downtown can legitimately claim that it is the birthplace of Rock and Roll. For it was there that the very first rock and roll song to ever top the Billboard charts, “Rock around the Clock,” by Bill Haley and the Comets, was first performed. It was also where Chubby Checker first performed the Twist. While time has no doubt led to the evolution of downtown Wildwood’s sights and sounds, it maintains its unique charm even today.
Wildwoods Downtown is fast becoming the go to place for a great meal, a cold drink, and the area’s best entertainment. Since the resurgence of “Restaurant Row” and the ever popular area known as “South Pacific”, the Pacific Avenue strip is also fast regaining some of its past glory.
You can travel around the culinary world and never leave Downtown Wildwood. Gioia Italian Fusion Restaurant, The Dragon House Chinese Restaurant, Schellenger Restaurant, and La Piazza and are just a sampling of the many great restaurants that call downtown Wildwood home. If you haven’t been here in a while, prepare to be dazzled. A variety of pubs are sprinkled throughout downtown Wildwood, such as Tucker’s Irish Pub, The Boardwalk Bar and Grill, The Shamrock Cafe and many others. The new downtown Wildwood also hosts numerous new retail and clothing stores, upscale coffee houses and Internet cafes, and a great family restaurant and entertainment center called Duffer’s Challenge. Since its recent expansion and move down Pacific Avenue, Zippy’s Bikes has reinvigorated the downtown shopping scene. They have ‘zipped’ into a new, much larger store and focus on building custom beach cruisers, and selling both new and pre-owned bicycles at very affordable prices. This season, Zippy’s has began to offer daily and weekly rentals of their unique beach cruisers, while still offering their full-service repair shop.
Explore downtown Wildwood in a fun new way Thursday through Sunday all summer long with “Dolly the Trolley”. This free trolley service sponsored by the Wildwood Business Improvement District runs from 5 p.m.-11 p.m. on Atlantic and Pacific Aves. Stops are located at various spots along the route which extends from 26th to Cresse Aves. Clearly marked “Dolly”, she runs North on Pacific and South on Atlantic. Hop aboard this smiling trolley and get to know the island.
For the modern rock and roller, Wildwoods Downtown is a great stop after a hot day on the beach or an evening hitting “the boards”. With dozens of choices in restaurants and bars, downtown Wildwood puts the DOO in DOO Wildwood!
By Megan Kummer