Who can forget this weekend, one year ago, down the shore? Beaches had restricted access. Fireworks were cancelled. Museums were closed.
Great news: It's an entirely different shore for Summer 2021.
Today, the Jersey Shore is back and revved up to welcome visitors to all 51 beaches. Most attractions, museums and historic sites will be open, though with the ability to maintain social distancing.
And we're here for all of it. Save and share this list -- our look at some of the best events and fun happening at the shore all summer.
Summer-Long Concerts, Baseball and Cruises
Jersey Shore Blue Claws, Lakewood -- Minor-league baseball is back at the Jersey Shore in Lakewood at FirstEnergy Park, the home of the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, a Class A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies. Through early September, you can see special visits by major league stars including Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, who both spent time at this ballpark as they began their professional baseball careers. The modern stadium with more than 6,500 reserved seats features a mini-golf course, a game area, and new picnic areas for families. It also has plenty of space for social distancing. www.milb.com/jersey-shore
River Lady Cruises, Toms River -- Returning to Toms River after not cruising last year is the River Lady, which takes its passengers on a 2.5 to 3-hour cruise aboard a reproduction of a Mississippi paddle wheel riverboat. Many historic towns, yacht clubs and boardwalks line the river as you cruise toward Barnegat Bay. Most people buy a ticket that includes a full lunch or dinner during the cruise, but sightseers can opt for a non-meal cruise on the top deck. Cruises will continue through early October. www.riverlady.com
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Concerts on the Green, Suneagles Golf Club, Eatontown -- Presented by Red Banks’ Count Basie Center for the Arts, Concerts on the Green is a socially-distanced pop-up venue that accommodates 500 people seated under a tent. Through the end of the summer, headliners include Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet with Wynton Marsalis, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Judy Collins, Indigo Girls and Dar Williams. Act quickly; many concerts are sold out. www.thebasie.org/venue/concerts-on-the-green
The PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel Park – Featuring nationally known recording stars and bands, this large outdoor venue off the Garden State Parkway opens with Steely Dan and Steve Winwood on Thursday, June 30. Other artists scheduled to follow are Chicago, The Black Crowes, Luke Bryan, Rod Stewart, Zac Brown Band, Jason Aldean and more. (Note: Because concerts have been cancelled and reschedule, read the website carefully.) www.banksartscentre.com
The Stone Pony Summer Stage, Asbury Park – Although the legendary Stone Pony has not announced any concerts indoors, the club’s terrific outdoor Summer Stage has concerts starting with the punk rock band Rise Against on Saturday, July 31. A full schedule of events follows including Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Sad Summer Festival and Shadow of the City: Bleachers & more. All events are general admission. (Note: Because concerts have been cancelled and reschedule, read the website carefully.) www.stoneponyonline.com/summer-stage
Whale Watching, Walking Tours, Attractions and Music
Whale Watching, Belmar, Highlands & NYC – For dozens of years, whale watching at the Jersey Shore was only available in Cape May. And you can still see them there. But now, on the northern part of the Jersey Shore, Jersey Shore Whale Watching in Belmar has expanded, offering daily trips starting in mid-June. After starting whale watching tours midway through the summer in 2020, Seastreak Ferry is offering three-time-a-week whale watching from its dock in Highlands. www.jerseyshorewhalewatchingtour.com and www.seastreak.com
“Thomas Eakins in New Jersey," John F. Peto Studio Museum, Island Heights – For the first time, explore one of America’s painters and his pursuits in New Jersey at this special exhibition that started May 1. While mostly known as a Philadelphia painter, Thomas Eakins spent important time in New Jersey using his brush and camera to present activities he enjoyed in the marshlands, as well as the work of the shad fishermen in Gloucester County in southern New Jersey. www.petomuseum.org
Cape May Walking Tours, Cape May – Walking tours in Cape May made a big comeback last year because they are outdoors and people can easily social distance. Returning this summer is the Painted Ladies Porches & More Walking Tour. A new addition is Dr. Physick's Neighborhood Walking Tour & Brunch.All tours are offered by Cape May MAC, which offers trolley tours throughout the year plus offerings tours of the Cape May Lighthouse and the World War II Lookout Tower which were closed for the part of the summer last year. www.capemaymac.org
The ShowPlace Performing Ice Cream Parlour, Beach Haven, Long Beach Island – The beloved singing “Waitri” will be opening the theatrically-based ice cream parlour with fun interactive service starting June 18. Reservations are available at Showplacereservations@gmail.com. Also, ShowPlace is offering the "Sing A Gram" -- singing telegrams that can be booked with up to four singers to serenade at the recipient’s home, yard, porch, roof, pool or restaurant. www.surflight.org
Steel Pier, Atlantic City – The world-famous pier offers new music and food options aimed toward adult visitors. There’s Music Row Mondays, Live Music on Wednesdays and Island Time in North Beach AC on Thursdays. www.steelpier.com
Vintage Restaurant, Emlen Physick House, Cape May – After debuting mid-summer in 2020, Cape May’s newest outdoor restaurant has re-opened for the season serving brunch and dinner. With a diverse and eclectic menu and creative dishes from the KARA Restaurant Group, Vintage is one of Cape May’s best destination restaurants at one of its most historic sites. www.capemaymac.org/eatdrink/vintage
Asbury Ocean Club Hotel Opens -- With amazing views of Asbury Park and the Asbury Park Boardwalk, this new luxury hotel opens with a rejuvenating spa and wellness services and high-end culinary experiences. It’s right across Ocean Avenue from the Boardwalk. www.hotel.asburyoceanclub.com
Congress Hall and Beach Plum Farm Activities, Cape May – Guest staying at historic Congress Hall or Beach Plum Farm have a host of tours throughout the week including birding, gardening, hikes, croquet and scavenger. Non-resort guests are welcome to sign up for archery and history tours through the hotel concierge. www.caperesorts.com/hotels
Festivals and Special Events
International Kite Festival, Wildwood, May 28-31 – Beginning with a 9 p.m. illuminated night kite fly on Friday, May 28, a "kite festival on steroids" will fly over Wildwood. Saturday and Sunday, large inflatable kites fly over the beach. Experienced and novice kite flyers perform single line, dual line and quad line aerial acrobatics on the Beach. www.skyfestivals.com
The Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival, June 4-5 – On the former airport field not far from the beach, one of AC’s biggest event returns this year with 150 brewers, live music, food, plus the Hops Trot 5K on Saturday. www.acbeerfest.com
Independence Day Celebration, Historic Cold Springs Village, July 3-4 -- Celebrate all things American with a variety of patriotic family activities, programs and music. The Village’s restored historic buildings will be open featuring demonstrations of Early American trades and crafts. www.hscv.org
Storybook Land, Classic Car Show, Egg Harbor Township, July 11 – '50s classic car show with live music from Real Rock Drive band. www.storybookland.com
Barefoot Country Music Festival, Wildwood, August 20-22 – More than 30 of country music’s biggest stars are coming to Wildwood for a three-day event on multiple stages on 33 acres of the beaches of Wildwood. The current lineup for the fest includes Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown Band, Dan + Shay, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Lee Brice, Billy Currington, Jimmie Allen, Jon Pardi, Chris Lane, Lindsay Ell, Ingrid Andress and Carolyn Miller. www.barefootcountrymusicfest.com
Seafarers’ Weekend, Historic Cold Springs Village, August 28-29 -- Pirates, music and family fun are on offer as the Village buildings feature historically clothed interpreters demonstrating the trades, crafts, and lifestyles of Early America. www.hscv.org
Sea.Hear.Now. Festival, Asbury Park, September 18-19 – Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins and The Avett Brothers headline this two-day surf, music and arts festival on the Asbury Park beach. www.seahearnowfestival.com
Horsepower by the Bay, Somers Point, October 16 – Street rods, antique cars, muscle cars, boats and military vehicles will be featured at this outdoor event. www.somerspointhistory.org
About the author: This spring and summer, Jersey Shore expert and author ("100 Things to Do at the Jersey Shore") R.C. Staab is walking the entire 139 miles of the Jersey Shore from Sandy Hook to Cape May. Read his profiles of beaches and Shore towns as he walks along their beachfronts, boardwalks and promenades here.