Last weekend, John was inducted into his high school alumni hall of fame, so we went up for the big shindig, which was at Crystal Point, a highfalutin banquet facility overlooking the Manasquan River. We stayed at the Crystal Point Inn, and will definitely stay there again. It's quiet, nicely appointed, comfortable, and right around the corner from my in-laws. They have a couple of efficiencies, too. Since my parents were coming from Arizona for the festivities, we booked an efficiency (basically a suite with a full kitchen, for just over $100/night) and a double room next door so they could hang out in our living room but have their own place to chill out as well. I would DEFINITELY recommend this place, in or out of season. If you visit during the high season it is more expensive, obviously, but really not bad. Compared with the Amethyst Motel, it is a palace for the same price, just because it's not walking distance from the beach. Big whoop! And as the in-laws get older, it makes visits so much more pleasant when we have our own home base. We've heard that the owners have a variance to build condos, but that they won't be doing it until 2010, so for now we have our home away from home when visiting the Jersey relatives.
A quick rundown of things to do in Point Pleasant...
- visit the boardwalk along the Atlantic seashore, duh! Play Skee-Ball, put the kiddies on the little rides (in season only), eat some great pizza or seafood, visit the Aquarium, find seashells in the sand (off season, the beach is free...in season you have to pay admission to get onto the privately owned beach access, which I have NEVER agreed should even be legal...). You should know that there's a loyalty issue in terms of whether you go to Jenkinsons or Martells. If you're not a local (which means you are a "Benny") then just go wherever you feel like it, but because of family connections, we have to either go to Jenkinsons or lie and say we did. Oh - and the lemonade is to die for, especially in summer!
- take a walk in the formerly rundown but quickly quaintifying downtown of Point Pleasant Beach. Just west of the NJ Transit station, the downtown is home to some great little boutiques, beachy gift shops, antique stores, and Rudy's Restaurant Supply, where you don't have to be a restaurant owner to get great prices on some awesome cooking stuff!
- Go to Muellers Bakery in Bay Head, where John's Oma used to work with Mrs. Mueller (pronounced "Muller"). John swears by the crumb cake. I like the apple fritters and the girls like the frosted sugar cookies. We always stop into Muellers on the way out of town for great coffee and baked goodies for the trip home. I first went there when I babysat for two kids in the summer of '86...I remember the family rented a 10-bedroom house across the street from the beach, and I was so impressed that I got my own room! I turned 16 that summer, during the 2 weeks I was a "summer girl." Nice memories--so weird to think that E & B probably have their own kids by now--they were 2 and 5 then!
- Restaurants: Far and away the best is Red's Lobster Pot, but you need a reservation and it's a small place. My parents tried the Marina Grille, which used to be Peterson's, and said it was the best salmon they'd ever had. It's right across Route 70 from the Crystal Point Inn. We also ate at Harpoon Willy's on Saturday night, which sounds like an all-you-can-eat-fryathon, but it's actually got a FANTASTIC menu including several different choices of raw oysters, and some tantalizing specials. I had a lobster and fennel salad that arrived with an entire claw's worth of lobster meat on top. Yum--love seafood. The girls tried raw oysters too--JieJie not so much, but MeiMei gobbled down two of them.
- BREAKFAST--you must go to Breakfast At The Cove in Brielle!!! We call it "the Brielle Omelet place" because the menu is enormous and there are over 100 different omelets you can try! They also do all kinds of things with french toast, waffles, pancakes, potato pancakes, you name it. We love to go there with John's dad when we visit. My mother-in-law sleeps in, so for the girls, it's special time with gramps. I like the Bird of Paradise, which is a croissant done french-toast style with loads of fresh fruit on top. The girls get the Mickey Mouse pancakes, with pumpkin batter if they have it (which they usually do).
That's all for now, but if you are ever interested in doing the Jersey Shore with kids, one of the best family boardwalks by far is the one in Point Pleasant. Wildwood (near Atlantic City) is also very nice, especially the wide, wide beaches, but that's way far south. You can take the train from Point Pleasant into New York City if the beach is too quiet for ya :)