Photo Credit: Courtesy
Wave Resort and Spa.

Summer is here and that means people are looking forward to vacation time. And while you might want to look to a tropical locale at the far reaches of the explored world, you’d be surprised that there are some appealing options closer to home.

Though visiting Long Branch, N.J., may not be quite as exciting as, say, a trip to Fiji, it has its own set of advantages.


Perhaps the biggest of those is kosher food. We’ve all been on that vacation where we are eating tuna sandwiches and a bag of potato chips from the local supermarket while we watch the masses chow down on fine cuisine. But vacations with kosher options are now at an all-time high, with kosher hotels in the Caribbean, kosher cruises to Alaska, and Chabad houses in (most) corners of the world.

But if you want a change of scenery and don’t have a ton of vacation days or don’t want to pack a passport, I would suggest Pier Village.

You may not be familiar with Pier Village, but a lot has gone into developing the stretch of boardwalk, beachfront, and attractions, most of which didn’t hit the big time until about five years ago. Now the area is one of the most popular destinations on the Jersey Shore for tourists – particularly Orthodox Jews.

Let’s start with location. Virtually every Jewish community in New Jersey is within a 90-minute drive. Assuming you aren’t trying to drive during rush hour, you can likely make it there in under two hours from places like Brooklyn, Queens, the Five Towns, Monsey and even Stamford. What if you live in Manhattan and don’t have a car? There’s NJ Transit – 95 minutes – that will drop you off within walking distance of Pier Village.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, a clear favorite is Wave Resort & Spa. The modern boutique hotel is located on the waterfront with all rooms featuring at least a partial ocean view and a terrace. The spa’s extensive menu features everything from classic massage to more exotic treatments involving sand and sea granules. There’s even an option specifically for expectant mothers.

The pool deck on the second floor overlooking both beach and ocean is a great place to hang out. There’s a playroom just inside the pool deck featuring books, toys, games, and even a miniature two-tier fort to entertain the kids.

But the main attraction is the beach; there’s nothing like walking straight from your room to a beautiful stretch of sand and surf. The hotel provides beach chairs, towels, and even a few toys if you wake up early enough to borrow them from the front desk.

In classic shore fashion, the boardwalk features a bevy of dessert options. Kosher supervision is provided by the Jersey Shore Orthodox Rabbinate (JSOR). Check their website or the posted certificate in each store for specific information.

Sweets from the Baked Bear.

The Baked Bear serves up ice cream sandwiches, but not the type you’re used to. These are custom-made from freshly baked cookies or brownies, their own flavors of ice cream, and your choice of toppings. As an alternative, they offer bowls with a cookie or brownie base, and they’ll also make you a sundae or sell you the sandwich components separately if that’s your thing.

My favorite cookie was their signature Cookie Monster. Blue like its namesake, this cookie has white chocolate chips and pieces of both Oreo and Chips Ahoy. For ice cream, I’d recommend the Caramel Pretzel Fudge, which went really well on my brownie sandwich. Everything was great, but the most impressive thing was the expertise on display as they created a finished product that was somehow structurally sound. (Still, I’ll understand if you go with a spoon.)

If you’d rather your ice cream be delivered via waffle instead of cookie, go over to Coney Waffle, where they’ve got ice cream soft and hard, milkshakes, freezes (soft ice cream with topping blended in), floats, cones (dipped is an option) and cups… and some of the most insane creations you’ve ever seen.

Check out The Big Show. It’s a giant milkshake with a structure built on top that includes: a waffle, an ice cream sandwich, an ice cream cone, a full-size chocolate bar, a full-size cotton candy, and some gummy candies for good measure. A family could share this thing. But if you’re slightly less hungry, I’d suggest the standard Waffle and Ice Cream. It’s three scoops of ice cream served on a waffle (use it like a taco). My favorite flavor was Jersey S’more (graham cracker ice cream, marshmallow swirl, brownie and chocolate chunks). They also have some pareve options.

If you’re not into cookies or waffles but still want to eat ice cream on some form of pastry, Sundae Donuts is here for that. This new kid on the block offers a chance to make a sundae with one of many interesting types of donut as a base. They also have ice cream and milkshakes infused with donut pieces. You could just get a donut – but what’s vacation really for?

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

It’s already pretty rare to have so many kosher options, but you might want to take advantage of being near the only kosher location (out of 150 nationwide) of Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. They have a wide variety of treats, including many that we don’t see in the kosher world.

It’s hard not to notice the caramel apples when you walk in. They look like a picture in a magazine with all the different coatings and toppings. I chose to try the Pecan Bear Caramel Apple, and it was just as delicious as it was difficult to eat. The key is to get a bite through that outer crust (it’s a Granny Smith dipped in caramel, rolled in roasted pecans and drizzled with milk chocolate and white confection) so that you get a piece of the apple. The sour taste of the apple balances well with the coating. My other recommendations would be their English Toffee and, of course, their Ole Fashioned Fudge.

One last sweet stop on the boardwalk is Sugar Pop Candy Bar. While not everything here is under supervision, the owners have made sure to very clearly mark what’s kosher because of the number of kosher-keeping visitors. They have frozen yogurt, Uncle Louie G’s Italian Ice, popcorn, slushies, and sections of kosher candy including gummies. Just make sure that you read the signs.

While boardwalks usually feature plenty of dessert options, they’re also home to something often referred to as “beach food,” and Pier Village may be home to the only kosher beach food restaurant anywhere. At LBK Grill, you’ll order at a long counter with windows, and your family can eat at one of the picnic tables in front or take your food right onto the beach with you. They have diverse appetizer offerings, sandwiches (burgers, wraps, and more), salads, desserts, and drinks.

The Combo Box will give you a little bit of a few appetizers on a large bed of fries and is perfect to split with a group. The Pulled BBQ Beef Brisket is their most popular sandwich for a reason, but there are plenty of options if that’s not your thing. If you want to be eligible to try some of the local dairy dessert options, don’t worry. They have separate fryers for certain things and you can order the Fish & Chips without limiting yourself later. That said, LBK’s Fried Oreos are awesome, so feel free to grab dessert here too.

Last, but certainly not least, the crown jewel of the kosher food scene at the Jersey Shore (and maybe all of New Jersey) is Salt Steakhouse. (For a full review of Salt, click here.)

As amazing as all of the food sounds, you’ll want to schedule some activities between all those calories. Luckily, the boardwalk features many things to do, with great stores and shops, some big national brands (7-Eleven, Starbucks, etc.), and a bunch of great spots to take a family picture with beachy statues, props or sculptures. But let’s take a look at some of the places you might want to seek out along the way.

Pier Village Carousel.

A big feature of the boardwalk is the Pier Village Carousel. It may have a few more sea creatures than your average carousel, but this classic ride will have you feeling nostalgic as you take the ride. The carousel is encased in glass so it can be open all year regardless of weather, and if you happen to be there on a rainy day, you can stay on for an extra ride free of charge.

Boardwalk Fun and Games.

Another attraction that might strike up that state fair vibe is Boardwalk Fun and Games, the resident arcade. Play all of your favorite arcade classics (skeeball, Pac-Man, claw machines, etc.), or go for some of the newer style games with fancy graphics and rigs. Many of the machines reward players with tickets that can be redeemed for prizes on the way out. It’s a great place to hang out if you’re trying to get out of the sun for an hour or two.

Some members of your party might enjoy Little Words Project, a fairly unique offering that allows customers to make their own custom jewelry. Sure, you could just walk in and buy something off the rack. But if you have the time, you can sit at a table and make something of your own. You can string together small beads to write a message, name, or anything you want. The possibilities are endless and it makes for a nice memento of your vacation.

At Baldy Art Gallery, you’ll find an eye-popping display of fine photographic art from distinguished artists. This might not be the place to buy a souvenir (unless your budget has four digits), but it’s a great place to take a look at some beautiful works of art. Many of the pieces are beach themed and some of these are displayed in the lobby of the Wave across the street.

If you’re up for a bit of a walk and have kids that need to blow off some steam, head past the end of the Pier Village boardwalk and through the residential neighborhood for a few minutes until you reach Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park. Named for the seven former United States presidents who took official vacations to Long Branch, this park features two things that make it worth the walk: For the action sports crowd, the Skateplex is a skate park with all the trimmings for those who want to bring their skateboards, rollerblades, or bikes. For the younger kids, Tony’s Place is a massive award-winning playground that has something for kids of all ages. You can also find picnic tables if you want to bring food and eat there while the kids play.

(To be continued)


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Nati Burnside lives in Fair Lawn, NJ, and is a man of many interests. The opinions in this piece are his own, but feel free to adopt them for yourself. In fact, he encourages you to do so.