Discover a Family-Fun Vacation in Ocean City, New Jersey

Head down the Garden State Parkway to Ocean City, New Jersey to experience a bustling jewel along the sea, especially if you're searching for a family-centered getaway. Ocean City was founded way back in 1879. It is considered the largest city in Cape May County and is also located within an easy driving distance of other Jersey Shore hot spots, Atlantic City, Wildwood and Cape May.

The picturesque seaside vacation destination has a delightful two and a half mile commercial boardwalk as well as a busy downtown shopping district that features tasty restaurants and quaint shops. Of course, Ocean City offers miles of New Jersey's signature beaches. Choose from several lodging options including bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels and rental properties. Campers can pitch tents or park an RV at one of the nearby campgrounds.

Ocean City is also one of several dry communities in New Jersey. A dry community prohibits the sale of alcohol within the town limits. However, many restaurants do allow patrons to BYOB. Alcohol is not allowed on the beach either and you certainly won't find any on the boardwalk. However, that is part of the family-friendly appeal of this very popular summertime vacation spot.

Whether you come down to Ocean City for an extended stay, long weekend or a day-trip, here are the destinations to make sure you don't miss.

Gillian's Wonderland Pier

Gillian's offers a great selection of indoor and outdoor rides. This spot is a favorite of the younger set since many of the rides are just the perfect size for little ones to ride on their own. On summertime evenings, this place is hopping. Watch for wrist band deals to save on the cost of tickets. Make sure to hop on the froggies and enjoy the train. The tracks are actually above the indoor rides. You'll get a cool view of Gillian's and the ocean.

Mini Golf

If you love to play mini golf, than Ocean City will be a paradise for you. There are several themed courses along the boardwalk as well as in town. All are fun. Some are nine holes while others are 18. If you like a challenge, there are a few courses that provide really interesting holes. Make it a point to check out Congo Falls Adventure Golf. You can't miss the gorilla in the helicopter.

Brown's Donuts

If you love donuts, then you will fall head over heels in ecstasy with the donuts from Browns Family Restaurant. People actually start lining up before sunrise to start their day with a Brown's donut. They only have six choices; powdered, cinnamon, honey, plain, vanilla iced and chocolate iced, but these delectable donuts are worth the wait on line.

You can take out or sit down to a meal at the main restaurant and have a donut off the menu. The views are excellent. They are situated right on the boardwalk. However, leave time for a walk, run or a bike ride afterwards. These are some serious donuts. There's a reason why people get up super early and wait on line willingly, but they pack a calorie punch.

The Boardwalk

Ocean City provides two and a half miles of commercial boardwalk. Most of the shops, mini golf, food and amusement rides are located in the center. Surreys cannot go on the boardwalk where it begins to narrow at either end. Be sure to walk from end to end to enjoy the views as well as the lovely beach front homes.

Ocean City is one of the few towns that allow bicycles and surreys or family bikes on the boardwalk for extended hours. The weathered planks are divided into sections for bikes, joggers and walkers heading in both directions. Pay attention to the dividing lines because in the summer, the boardwalk is quite crowded with people doing all of the above at the same time. Crossing can be challenging when it's busy, but rent a surrey any way. It's great for couples and families.

The boardwalk sports the traditional food and refreshment stands and restaurants. Plan on at least one meal at a sit-down restaurant to savor the ocean and of course, people watch. It's part of the fun along the Jersey Shore.

OC Waterpark

Located right on the boardwalk next to Gillian's, the OC Waterpark is an ideal spot to spend a hot afternoon. Water slides are divided by ages and there's a special area for little ones so they won't feel left out. Go up and down the slides or float in the lazy river in a tube. You can do all-day admission or splash around for a couple of hours.

The Beach

Yes, they have one of those and it's a nice one. Of course, during the peak summer season badges are required. We know; those silly badges. Unfortunately, it's a fact of life along the Jersey Shore in the summer. However, Ocean City's fees are pretty reasonable and aren't required for kids 11 and under. Many of the hotels and B & B's include beach tags in the price of a room. So ask.

All kinds of fun along the beach, boardwalk and downtown merchants are organized throughout out the year, but are plentiful during the peak season along the shore, which typically runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day. However, many are discovering the joys of the shore during September and early October.

Be Active

If you love the outdoors and being active, then you will love Ocean City. From biking to fishing to water sports galore, you can take your pick. Enjoy an afternoon of kayaking, learn how to paddle board and then go and hit some tennis balls. Yes, you can go ahead and indulge on the Brown's Donuts because there are plenty of ways to work off the calories.

Dawn Miller is a freelance writer and mystery author. She lives in New Jersey.