Is any childhood visit to a beach community with a boardwalk really complete without a trip to an amusement pier?
When I was a child, we used to take a week in the summer and head down to The Wildwoods, and at some point during that week, we’d end up at Mariner’s Landing to go ride the rides. Now that I’m grown up, and my kids are old enough for at least some of the things that are offered on the piers, it was time to let them get the same experience, albeit removed twenty-something years from my own.
(My usual notice: I was not compensated in any way for this review by Morey’s Piers. My mother generously treated her grandchildren to the afternoon on the pier.)
There are three amusement piers in Wildwood – Adventure Pier, Surfside Pier and Mariner’s Landing, offering a variety of amusements for all ages. The rides span from merry-go-rounds and simple go-in-a-circle seated rides, to ferris wheels, tilt-a-whirls and honest-to-God roller coasters. I’d argue that chances are, if there’s a kind of ride that you like, you can probably find it on one of the three piers. Two of the three – Mariner’s Landing and Surfside Pier – have water parks on the ocean-end of the pier (Raging Waters and Ocean Oasis, respectively) that we didn’t get to, since the kids weren’t really of a mindset or size to get full value out of the purchase of a ticket.
All three are operated by Morey’s Piers, and so they operate on a single ticketing system – you buy tickets at a booth and they’re placed onto a rechargeable card with a barcode on them, which are scanned at each ride and the appropriate tickets deducted. Alternatively, one can buy an all-you-want-to-ride wristband which entitles the rider to (Surprise!) ride anything they want to ride for the duration. If you have a child that, like mine, sometimes changes his mind after getting onto a ride, the operators do have keytags that will let them refund the tickets back onto the card, so you’re not wasting tickets when your child backs out of a ride after begging you to be on it. (And if you have to beat a retreat from the pier due to a meltdown or the like, and don’t make it back for one reason or another before you leave? Their ride tickets don’t expire, regardless of price changes, and you can use them on your next visit.)
(If your children do ride everything, they do have combination plans that include the waterparks. This does not require you to go hit everything in a single day – you can go to the waterpark on a separate day from the amusement piers. It’s another good way to schedule time away from the beach, if you’re not looking to spend every single minute of every single day on the sand. Buy them ahead of time online to get a discount, but be sure to read their rules and regs when you do it, and bring the ticket printout with you.)
Morey’s Piers also offers a program called the “Join The Fun Pass” (scroll down the page for a bit, or search for ‘Join the Fun” on the page to find it.) For certain rides, marked by an orange flag, parents can ride with their child for free. Don’t get your hopes up about it being the roller coasters or the Giant Wheel on the list of such rides, though – we’re talking some of the rides for younger children. Just remember to ask for the wrist-band when you’re buying your tickets.
At Mariner’s Landing, where we spent our afternoon, bathrooms were down a staircase near Guest Services, in the middle of the pier (beneath the roller coaster). They’re nice and clean, and there are paper towels available… but there are also those infernal blowers that set off my Monster, and I didn’t see any family-style restrooms. I’d recommend bringing along your headphones for the kids if they’re sensory adverse. There are handicap-accessible restrooms on the main level of that building, which require a key to access (obtained at Guest Services), and we did not think to ask if they would give us such, given that the Monster doesn’t have a physical disability.
Food is plentiful on the boardwalk, as one would imagine. I can’t say that I saw a lot of options that would specifically cater to the GFCF crowd, but with the variety of foods that are available between the vendors on the pier, and on the boardwalk more extensively, I think that most parents can find a way to cope with their kiddos. And for those who have a yen for something more adult, some of the restaurants do offer alcoholic beverages in the dining rooms. (The boardwalk and beach are not an open-carry zone, it should be noted.)
But where it most impacts our kids, as parents of children with Autism… Morey’s Piers does have an accessibility policy. This policy is actually reachable by your cellphone from every ride – they carry placards with a QR code that links to the nineteen (19) page PDF. However, you need to bear in mind that this document has nothing regarding patrons with developmental disabilities, and indeed, the only place where developmental disabilities are listed at all is on a warning sign at the Giant Wheel that guests with such need to be accompanied by a responsible adult (who will need to pay for their own ride as well).
I did reach out (after the fact) to Morey’s Piers to find out if they do have a policy for patrons with developmental disabilities. The answer I got back was a very reasonable one – if your child needs accommodations, they decide such on a case-by-case basis and try to tailor it to the individual. You just need to go to Guest Services to speak to a representative and they’ll try to help you. I think that’s fair – there aren’t the very long queues at the boardwalk amusements that we see at a lot of the amusement parks, and as for a quieter space… yeah, it’s the boardwalk, folks.
What I can recommend are the following things that made our visit easier:
- Go in the afternoon during the week. The boardwalk is quieter during the day – when most folks are on the beach. Surfside Pier and Mariner’s Landing are open from 1 PM to midnight during the week, noon to midnight on the weekends, and Adventure Pier opens at 4 PM during the week, 2 PM on weekends. Plus, they run specials most afternoons that make your dollar go further.
- If your children don’t ride a lot, consider going on Thursday afternoon. From 1-6 PM on Thursdays, rides are half-price, and you can get a decent ticket package for fairly cheap. If you have multiple children, they’ll split the tickets across multiple cards (or you can swipe a single card multiple times, depending on the age of your children and their want to go on different rides). We managed 5 children (ages 3-7) on the $55 (65 tickets) package nicely – they were tired by the time they’d gotten their allotted rides done, without breaking the bank.
- Get the parent wristband. While it’s not useful on a lot of the rides, it certainly helps, especially with the younger set in that borderline area where they can’t really ride a lot without an escort.
So what’s my overall impression? I have fond childhood memories, as I mentioned, of Mariner’s Landing. But more importantly, the Monster and R (and their cousins) had a great time too. There was not a single ride that they wanted to get on that they could not ride, and they did indeed get to go on several rides without parents accompanying them. There was enough for them to do without having to ride the same ride five times, and they did ask afterwards if they could go back again… which is going to be saved for another trip. And that, alone, is a good enough reason for me to put the Morey’s Piers on a list of things to see and do with your ASD kids while in Wildwood.