Photo Of The Day: New Jersey Shore

photo of the day - New Jersey shore post-Sandy
David Elwood, Flickr

Last year’s Superstorm Sandy devastated much of the East Coast, especially around the mid-Atlantic coastline. New York and New Jersey beaches were hit hard, with scores of houses and even towns wiped out. Many places are rebounding, such as Coney Island, which opened officially for the season in April. Today’s Photo of the Day was taken this weekend in New Jersey by Flickr user David Elwood, who also took a shot of Coney Island’s Cyclone that we featured last summer. The roller coaster remains are a sad reminder that not everything is back to normal six months later. Many other beach towns have rebuilt and will be open for business this summer, so don’t count New Jersey out of your travel plans, they need visitors now more than ever.

Add your travel photos (Creative Commons, please!) to the Gadling Flickr pool to be featured as a Photo of the Day.

UPDATE: Several commenters have noted that the roller coaster was removed this week as part of the ongoing clean-up of the Jersey shore. A photograph captures a moment in time, and while this scene may not exist anymore, it’s still a powerful document of history.

Memorial Day Travel Ideas: Consider The Source, No Cheating

Memorial DayMemorial Day weekend begins Friday, May 24, and marks the start of the summer travel season. One of the most popular times of the year to travel, finding a destination that fulfills our three-day weekend dreams can take some work. Considering a visit to the Upper East Coast? Maybe not such a good idea to visit beaches ravaged by last October’s hurricane. Or is it?

If you are looking for a quiet break from your normal routine, avoid busy places like big cities, theme parks and major tourist attractions. Reverse that decision if daily life rides a cubicle and getting lost in a crowd is required. We could do a lot of research, compile lists of possible destinations and make up budgets to get the plans – or we could cheat.

Earlier this month, Kayak released the results of 100 million monthly searches made so far this year. These are numbers that represent places Kayak users are actually thinking about going as opposed to destinations promoted by airlines, hotels, tour operators or cruise lines.In the results, Kayak saw searches cut in half for Atlantic City, New Jersey, a top Memorial Day destination last year. That makes sense: thank you hurricane Sandy. Digging a bit deeper though we find a different scene.

“Despite the vast destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy, all of our State parks and beaches on Long Island are expected to be open for New Yorkers and visitors by Memorial Day weekend,” assured Governor Andrew Cuomo in a LongIslandPress article.

Your mother was right, cheating is wrong.

Instead, consider a variety of sources and read between the lines. Look down deep inside and ask, “Where do I really want to go?” The answer might take you no further than your own back yard.


The Jersey Shore Is Back, Sort Of

If you’ve written off the Jersey Shore as a summer getaway, please think again. Though Sandy did grievous harm to Jersey’s 127-mile coastline, most of the damage was done to the northern coast; the southern Shore was relatively unscathed.

To the north, the beaches are significantly narrower than they were before Sandy; one survey puts the number at 30 to 40 feet. But in spite of the fact an estimated 10 million cubic yards of sand were lost, most of the northern towns plan to open their beaches by May, even if repairs and reconstructions have not been completed.

Unfortunately, in good-as-new Atlantic City, where all 12 casinos reopened about a week after the storm, post-Sandy surveys showed that much of the public believed that the boardwalk had been destroyed (thank you, Al Roker). Competition from Pennsylvania’s casinos had already triggered a six-year decline in gambling revenues; consumer perception that A.C. was seriously damaged cost even more precious business.

To attract visitors, the city’s top properties are offering bargain basement prices. The drop-dead-gorgeous $2.4 billion Revel is showing rooms at $129 a night, with a $50 food and beverage credit (with restrictions); the Vegas-sleek Borgata is close behind at $119 (or less on daily deal sites), while other properties are offering nightly rates between $60 and $100. As before, the casinos are booking headliners like Beyonce, Rihanna, Jackson Browne and Sting.

Shops and restaurants are open, so is the iconic Steel Pier, with new attractions including The Mix, a thrill ride that spins like a propeller and swings riders out over the ocean.

The barrier island communities known as the Wildwoods, with their sprawling (free) beaches, 8,000 hotel rooms and 3,000 condos are open for business, along with the two-mile boardwalk and the roller coaster. A major campaign – “The Wildwoods – Think Summer & Join Us!” – targets the New York Metro area with billboards and television spots.

Sea Isle City is also advertising its beaches and other attractions on billboards in the New York area. While the undamaged towns of the southern Shore need to get their message out, they are doing it discreetly, so as not to seem crass or insensitive to their hard-hit neighbors to the north.

It will be summer-as-usual in Victorian Cape May, which was ready for visitors almost immediately after the storm. Unlike other Shore towns, which hibernate during the winter, Cape May has a year-round calendar of events, including a Dickens Christmas Extravaganza and a Valentine’s Weekend. So for that little town, the problem this year was not Sandy damage, but the cold winter weather.

In Ocean City, which did suffer significant damage, the boardwalk is intact and city officials say the beaches are ready for summer visitors.

Seaside Heights, which had been famous/notorious for the fist-pumping crowd from Jersey Shore, became the symbol of Sandy’s power when its JetStar roller coaster slid into the ocean. Removal of the coaster and work to rebuild the boardwalk are underway. Though only about half the borough’s rides will be open by Memorial Day, Snooki’s favorite Club Karma had a grand reopening on March 9, just in time for the city’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

In Point Pleasant Beach, Jenkinson’s boardwalk, including the aquarium and some arcades, is open. Most of the kiddie rides, which had been stored when Sandy hit, will be back. However the popular train ride, one of the arcades and a miniature golf course were lost; work continues on those.

Belmar bravely held its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and party on March 3. Beaches will open by Memorial Day; officials expect boardwalk repairs to be completed by that date, though rebuilding of restrooms, pavilions and other structures will not. Neighboring Avon is making no predictions.

In affluent Spring Lake, aka The Irish Riviera, reconstruction of the two-mile boardwalk will be complete before Memorial Day weekend.

According to the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Associate, the beach and some sections of the boardwalk will be ready by Memorial Day weekend. The fishing pier will not be rebuilt this year, but a temporary roof on the Great Auditorium means the annual summer concerts, featuring such acts as the Beach Boys and Tommy James and the Shondells, will go on.

In Asbury Park, the Shore town beloved by Bruce Springsteen, Mayor Ed Johnson has declared that, while full recovery has yet to happen, the beaches and boardwalk would be open this summer, with an elaborate ribbon cutting ceremony on May 18.

Long Branch’s beachfront will be open by Memorial Day; however, a one-mile section of lost boardwalk, from Melrose Terrance south to Brighton Avenue will not be repaired by this summer. All the restaurants and shops at Pier Village are open.

Little Sea Bright, which saw all its beachfront facilities and most private beach clubs destroyed, will open its beaches Memorial Day; since restrooms were also destroyed the borough will bring in temporary facilities.

Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook sustained severe damage to roads, concessions, utilities, the wastewater treatment plant and the potable water system. The goal – not written in stone – is to open the park for summer, with temporary restroom facilities.

The Keansburg Amusement Park, which the storm left under up to 6 feet of water, is open, though the Wildcat roller coaster is gone and not all rides are operational. A new looping steel roller coaster may be in place by Memorial Day weekend, and the damaged carousel should be ready to ride.

Tourism is a $38 billion industry in New Jersey, and the four coastal counties – Monmouth, Ocean, Atlantic and Cape May – account for half of the state’s annual tourism earnings, so a successful summer 2013 is critical, not only to the communities still struggling to rebuild, but to the entire state.

So if you have fond memories of walks on Jersey Shore beaches, boardwalk food and drunken evenings at oceanfront dive bars (just kidding), don’t assume you can’t enjoy the same unique-to-Jersey fun this year. As Governor Christie has said: “No one is conceding the summer of 2013 to Sandy. My commitment is to try to restore the Jersey Shore stronger than it was before but with the same character that it had before.”

Solo Spring Break Options Not As Depressing As You Might Imagine

spring breakTraveling solo for spring break sounds kind of depressing. All alone during a time when others you know are kicking it up in the fun and sun someplace does not sound like a spring break memory in the making at all – or does it? If the idea is to actually get a “break” from school, work and/or the people you might be with 24/7 otherwise, maybe going it on your own is not such a bad idea after all.

Do Something Amazing
I know, it sounds like a stab at an awesome advice photo from Pinterest or Tumblr but there is something relaxing and refreshing about what we feel in the aftermath of stepping outside of our comfort zone. The better news is that if you try and fail miserably (and that bothers you), your friends will not be around to laugh.

Find Other Solo Travelers
Cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts are obvious choices but some are better than others. A short three-day cruise will have more singles, party people and spring break fun. Adding on days also adds maturity; four or five days will still have singles but more young families. That holds true for up to seven-day voyages. Sailings of eight or more days are the cattle call for cougars and seniors, many of which may be solo travelers themselves, if you’re into that sort of thing.Do Something Good Or Watch Others Doing Something Good On TV
As part of an alternative Spring Break, MTV and the United Way along with mtvU are bringing 50 college students from around the country to the New York/New Jersey area to help rebuild communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Spring break icon Perez Hilton reports the cast of Jersey Shore (Snooki, JWOWW, Vinny, Sammi, Ronnie and Deena) will be on hand to help.

Check The Internet
Odds are, other solo travelers are too, and not just Online Booty Call either. Wall Street Oasis has some ideas as does Cheap Flights. If your singularity is more of a permanent state, travel agencies that specialize in just that include Singles Travel International, Best Singles Travel and for the adventure traveler, aptly-named Adventures For Singles.

No, there is absolutely nothing we can’t find on the Internet, including spring break ideas for solo travelers and tips on getting in shape for it all as we see in this video:


United Passenger Flies A Million Miles In One Year

A United Airlines passenger who takes the term “frequent flyer” very seriously has racked up a million miles in the sky during 2012.

Tom Stuker, an automotive sales consultant who lives in both suburban Chicago and New Jersey, reached the record-breaking number earlier this month on a flight between London and Chicago, United announced in a press release.

This is just the latest milestone for Stuker, who is one of commercial aviation’s highest-mileage travelers. In July 2011, he became the first person to fly 10 million miles on United and United Express. He began clocking his miles after joining United’s loyalty program in 1983. Since then, he has logged most of his miles flying to Asia and Australia and has flown to all 50 U.S. states.

Stuker estimates he has been on board 6,000 United flights, including about 400 flights this calendar year alone.

“It has been a phenomenal year flying with United,” said Stuker in the statement. “Everyone at the airline, from the customer service agents to the flight attendants to the ramp workers, has made my travels feel effortless.”

For those of us unable to comprehend just how far Stuker traveled this year, United has offered some insight, pointing out that “a traveler would need to trek around the world about 40 times” and “[c]ruising at 570 miles per hour, a single nonstop flight of [one] million miles would land 73 days after takeoff.”

Our kudos to Stuker, who must have also spent a great deal of time going through airport security and sitting on the tarmac this year.

[Photo credit: United Airlines]