For anyone that has a family, with younger kids, and teens, you know that a family vacation can be difficult to plan as no one is ever happy. We want vacation smiles and happiness right? Maybe Ocean City NJ would be a good family-friendly destination?
Ocean City NJ
Family-Friendly But Is It Where You Want to be?
Perhaps what you are seeking is a dry town where you won’t find alcohol on the beach or within city limits so you don’t have to explain drunkenness and disturbing behavior to your family?
No alcohol is available for purchase within the city limits, and no alcohol on the beach, and this means you won’t find a bar or a restaurant serving alcohol.
Um, I thought prohibition was long gone?
Nope, and it’s against the LAW to have open containers and alcohol in your car (open), in many Jersey shore locations! Yes, I know not everyone drinks, but not everyone that travels here is a non-drinker.
This is so very different from any vacation I’ve ever been on, that it definitely made me feel like an under-aged drinker sipping at cocktails in my beach home to escape trouble from adults.
New Jersey Is Different For Beaches Too
It’s been a truly eye-opening getaway on this particular trip. For me, I am still trying to understand the New Jersey beach passes, which felt more like I’d traveled back in time to public pool passes that needed to be on me at all times or on our kids when there.
I understand the reasoning behind it but surely there needs to be a different way to share a beach pass, like a beach pass passport or something. Pins and badges are so yesterday and ineffective for loss.
But then the concept of no alcohol in some towns and NO alcohol on beaches at all truly threw me back a bit, I was going on vacation, not to prison, so while I am not a wild alcoholic, or throwing any ragers, I just wanted to have a few drinks as we have in all our other vacations on the beach, but that was not happening.
Plus, traveling with others of age, they too want that experience as we’ve had before, so after one last stop to Ocean City NJ, I really had to share this. It’s not to rip the area to shreds, just trying to figure out how there are larger venues/destinations that are family-friendly and serve alcohol yet, this place is dry!
Consider Anywhere You Have Traveled To Date
Think about any destination you have visited, have you been limited from anything? I am going to say you will be hard-pressed to think of a vacation where you have been told NO to alcohol or much else.
Why do you travel? To have fun and experience other areas, let your hair down and get away from the everyday drag right?
Any of that all means you have been somewhere where alcohol has been allowed not withheld and that you might have chosen to have a drink or 2. Therefore you too may wonder how this all exists or even feel like you have traveled into the twilight zone of some form.
Ocean City NJ A Dry Town – What’s the Cost?
In my lifetime, I’ve not spent a single summer at the NJ shores and there might be a reason. Perhaps it was the families I vacationed with or whom my family vacationed with, or was it because we prefer to designate the time and places we can consume alcohol.
- Those staying in the area, do alcohol runs to one side of the bridge or the other with very smartly-located liquor stores, who make a small mint (I am sure) from those vacationing in Ocean City NJ. Come on, you’ve got a house full of under-agers and you are not gonna have a drink? Don’t lie to yourself! It’s unlikely.
- What about the economy? Does it not get a boost from alcohol sales? I mean, the area wouldn’t know because it does not sell alcohol or allow it other than in your own homes. Plus, if you have adults that visit Ocean City NJ and they do love alcohol, yet they have to stay at home to enjoy it, does this not impact your economy of those businesses that are open but not gaining customers because you’ve forced them to stay in for a happy hour and beyond due to this limiting rule?
- Driving? Do those that drink at the home to capture that buzz not end up in precarious situations for driving?
Since I have never been in an area like this, I have to ask a bunch of questions to understand it, and yet I still can’t conceptualize the whole ordinance.
Specifically Ocean City NJ?
Apparently, consumption of alcohol is prohibited on a limited level (meaning consume in home only but buy it outside of the area only), and it is has been this way since it was founded, but this area may not be the optimal choice for many families.
It is amazing to me that there are other area beaches that are dry towns in NJ too, but really it is the fact that vacation-spirited sips have to be consumed at home.
But within Cape May there seem to be some exceptions as to where it is dry and where it is not.
My overall takeaway, there is just a very specific age group that would appreciate the boardwalk and the area, and if you have young adults that are off drinking age or adults that want a few drinks with meals, you’ll be leaving the city limits to enjoy your party or find a party!
It’s not a good or a bad thing it’s just how you interpret the vacation you want! Alcohol publicly (NOT the beach areas in Jersey anywhere) or alcohol confinement (in-home only).
Then I read an article about ‘Holding a claim to fame‘ because I just needed to understand this whole concept.
Then the Pandemic ‘Temporarily’ Changed a Few Things For SOME of the DRY Towns.
So what happened due to the pandemic at this NJ Shore Location truly shares what probably needs to happen permanently for the economy and those tourists that want the true vacay experience they get when they visit places like Mexican and Caribbean resorts, alcohol is allowed. The visitors spend and help the economy and businesses all the while enjoying themselves.
Seeking a Non-Dry Jersey Shore Area?
There are plenty of beach towns close to this one, that border Ocean City NJ where parties abound, so you could find a place to stay there if a bit more of an upbeat party tempo is what you had imagined, but again, the party won’t be on the beach as most NJ beaches prohibit alcohol on the beach.
Family-Friendly Vacations with Big Brands And Alcohol Included
Again, do alcohol sales not increase your tourism dollars and help the economy function? What is the ultimate family-friendly destination? I believe that is Disney, not New Jersey, yet Disney, the most magical place of all, and so very family-friendly serves alcohol in its’ restaurants! What’s the gain here in the family-friendly Ocean City NJ area?
Epcot and beer is a great experience, yet it’s family-friendly. Visit Tony’s Town Square for lunch or dinner and find an exciting wine list or a few different beers, then go on your way throughout the park until it’s time to dine at a restaurant again!
While it is still mostly table service venues that serve alcohol, it is NOT a dry area, so if you have the reservations or they have any walk-up reservations available, you can get alcohol in a Family Friendly place.
Still A Different Concept For This Vacationer While In Ocean City NJ + NJ Beaches
I am still trying to wrap my head around this because traveling as a family on any vacation, may require a few drinks, and that is not alcoholism, it’s called sanity!
Plus, a beach trip without a ‘Margarita in my hand and toes in the sand’ would not be the same, so you might have guessed this would NOT be where I would stay!
However, more complicated yet, is the fact that you can’t drink at all on Jersey shores?
There are ways to work around the ‘Dry Town Moda’ but, you still won’t be taking alcohol anywhere public, just in your shore home!
What is Really Busy Right Before Entering Ocean City NJ and While You Are There?
Do you know what is busy right before you enter Ocean City NJ, in fact, this place thrives? The liquor store, because it’s part of many vacations!
You’ll want to stock your fridge with your beverages because you will not find a drop of alcohol within city limits.
So it’s a dry town, but you can DRINK in your residence (temporary or permanent)
It’s funny, that even on the NJ website for Ocean City, they list WHERE to find the alcohol because it’s that important!
Even the toughest, most loving parents out there, would be damned to hell to go through a week with kids in a beach area, and fun in the sun and NOT have an alcoholic beverage for the week.
Those that judge are the ones that really need a drink and YES I said that!
Define Your Want List + Then Consider Ocean City NJ
For those that have younger children and don’t mind having a vacation where you have to behave like a child sneaking alcohol from their parents, then this is for you.
Drink in your beach home that may or may not be located on the beach. Do not bring any alcohol with you and when you want a drink, head back inside.
Me, I personally work hard and when it’s time to play, I want to play harder and enjoy a few drinks.
Don’t judge me because I am not a fan of Ocean City NJ, dubbed ‘America’s family-friendly boardwalk,’ because I want to decide when I’ve had enough alcohol or if I WANT alcohol, not the state, city, or county that I am vacationing in.
I had to visit to see if this would be something amenable to my young adults who span in age from underage (for drinking) to above the age.
The area itself is absolutely stunning and the beach homes truly make it welcoming but for me, that is as cozy as this story will get.
On vacation, I want spoiled and I want to lounge and enjoy, not retreat to my room or rental for alcoholic beverages.
In fact, we were standing by a family with the same age span and they went to order food and asked their parents, “why didn’t we have a beer or drink before we came here, and how long do we have to be here?” kind of validated my thoughts. This was a group of about 10, some were underage, some were about 21, and the parents, so the questions were valid and exactly what my family was asking me!
As we walked and looked, I heard MORE of the same discussion, kind of the sentiment.
Food + Beverage Along The Boardwalk
For those that want to get out and enjoy the night, and a meal out, you might travel to the boardwalk. Lots of basic options that families love sins alcohol.
If you have alcohol in your beach home, then there’s alcohol available to you when you arrive back at your home and before you go!
I guess then the question is, “what good is an alcohol-free area when alcohol is available anyway?”
The only thing that you’ll avoid when eating on the boardwalk or ANY of the restaurants in the Ocean City NJ limits is a bar bill!
You will be elbow to elbow with scads of families with under-agers and strollers.
There won’t be open containers or alcohol on the boardwalk or potentially violent behavior.
However, there are still hormonal teenagers pushing the limits as far as they can in front of everyone with the person they are with, so it’s still potentially ugly behavior to shield your Under age 10 party from! Perhaps worse than drunk behavior!
A Visit To Ocean City NJ Boardwalk
Let me sum it fast, then elaborate.
There are a lot of families here but very specifically a lot of teens.
Additionally, there was a Large POLICE presence for an area that was touted as family-friendly and alcohol-free, kind of not what I would have expected.
Teens that were clinging to each other, and ‘ON’ each other as they were mostly unchaperoned and doing what they pleased, standing in LARGE groups, and creating their normal loud banter trying out their vocabularies without their parents around. So great for the teens, but maybe not for those parents with kids under age 10 that were still not in that age category.
A typical boardwalk experience IMO, but, it seemed there were a lot fewer stores for shopping and instead more for dining? I am comparing this to Southern Delaware’s Rehoboth Boardwalk which we found pretty fabulous.
Where Can You Drink in Ocean City NJ
You can have a drink in your rental home, and you can purchase alcohol just outside the city limits, but where you might want a drink the most (after walking in crowds of families, and teens) you won’t find it.
I gotta say that with young adults that are old enough to drink, they were not over-excited about the Ocean City NJ boardwalk outside of walking, shopping, and eating.
So for us, the Ocean City NJ area is not right.
In fact, I really observed parents, with their younger children and thousands of teens under the drinking age, which is what the area is all about right? Overall, Ocean City NJ is a great area for that age group, but beyond that, I struggle with saying I would want to stay in the area.
What I Prefer May Be What You Are Seeking As Well
I don’t want to be confined doing anything on my vacation or trip to a beach is my reasoning.
Plus, I don’t want my family to have to drink and then drive, so I prefer an area where there is a boardwalk that we’ve walked to and can walk home after having a few drinks.
And where we are close to our shore home and can enjoy a few drinks while hanging at the beach.
Or in a walkable beach neighborhood that allows the young adults to walk to bars and restaurants and walk back home or uber home.
Having to drive to keep stocked for alcohol and only have it in the confines of a shore home, is like drinking in hiding. Nonsense.
There are plenty of other areas in NJ that offer alcohol (not on the beach but in the area) and vacationing options such as Margate.
For those that prefer BYOB head to Ventnor Beach area and buy alcohol within the area, and bring it with you to the restaurants.
For Those in Ocean City NJ Area on vacation
Ocean City New Jersey area is definitely family-friendly for those under the legal drinking age, but don’t expect to find more than that.
Perhaps the area is just best for those that don’t leave their beach homes for long periods of time or those that really never consume alcohol?
Or is it for those with families under the legal drinking age that need the vacation to be ‘kid focused’ and the adults live in the background with at-home parties and send the kids out without worry?
I am not sure of the answers, but the one answer for our family is that it was not a good fit from the age span of mixing to the alcohol-free atmosphere.
It is a great area for those under 18 who want to have fun eating and with amusement park rides and arcades.
While other big brands have done wonders allowing a ‘non-dry environment that attracts every age, I really believe this area has restricted itself to a very specific demographic and that age group grows and moves one. Perhaps the laws and ordinances in the area will move along one day too?