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Silly Things to Do in New Jersey
14 Fun Locations & Events in New Jersey
By Bob Difley
For those of us who appreciate the act or even the art of silliness, and hope we never grow out of it, what could be sillier than Ocean City’s celebration of humor, the Doo Dah Parade? Featuring costumed impersonators of famed comedians like Abbott and Costello, the Marx brothers, Lucy, and Jack Benny, the parade also includes brigades of performers, such as the beach-chair drill team and the popular Basset Hound Waddle.
More than 400 droopy-eared, sad-eyed Bassets – most in costume – march along to cheering crowds to raise money for the Tri-State Basset Hound Rescue League’s help for distressed Bassets, to which I’m sure you already contribute.
Following the parade, the “Pie-asco” begins. Upon a signal by comedian Soupy Sales, participants smoosh each other in the face with shaving cream pies. Entry in the Doo Dah Parade is free, and all contestants for the many awards receive a commemorative T-shirt and free hotdog lunch. Contact: Public Relations Office, City Hall Annex, 901 Asbury Ave., Ocean City or call (609) 525-9300.
Try Crying “Elephant”
There is the story of a young seaman on his first voyage who had the early evening watch as his ship made it up the coast on its way to New York harbor.
After reporting, “All’s well” he suddenly yelled “Elephant!!” The captain, thinking the seaman had gone berserk, rushed to the deck. Lifting his long glass to the shoreline, he also exclaimed,“Elephant!” He wiped off his glass and, after a second look, confirmed the fact that there actually was a giant beast standing among the dunes and eelgrass of lower Absecon Island.
Today, you too can cry, “elephant” upon spotting Lucy, the 65-foot-high wooden elephant staring out to sea, which, according to historians, has caused many a seaman on a tramp steamer from the West Indies to swear off his daily rum ration.
Lucy, a National Historic Landmark, was built in 1881 by James Lafferty to promote some almost worthless lots he owned in what was then called South Atlantic City, now the Jersey Shore community of Margate. At the time, the lots were cut off from Atlantic City by a deep tidal creek and accessible only at low tide. They were covered with scrub pine, dune grass and bayberry bushes.
He even received a patent on Lucy, which stated that it … “consists of a building in the form of an animal, the body of which is floored and divided into rooms … the legs contain the stairs which lead to the body … .” Lucy’s interior was completely restored in 2000, and she would love to have you visit.
A Real Doll
Where else can you view the innards of a seven-foot-tall blue-haired doll, but at the Garden State Discovery Museum, named as one of the top 20 children’s museums in the nation. The doll, named Stuffee, shows how our remarkable bodies work and how we’re all the same on the inside, while we learn about our major organs in a fun-filled anatomy lesson. Your children or grandchildren (and maybe you, too) will enjoy this hands-on museum that is all about learning and fun. The museum site is located at 2040 Springdale Road in Cherry Hill. Contact:
or phone them at (856) 424-1233 for classes and special programs.
Experience the Food Chain
At first glance, the Liberty Science Center’s Eat And Be Eaten exhibit using live critters may appear gory. However, they don’t let the eaters and the to-be-eaten in the same room at the same time. The exhibit illustrates the importance of both sides of the eating divide, featuring such characteristics as Camouflage and Disguise, how many animals and plants use camouflage both offensively and defensively, with live stick insects, leaf-tail geckos, and firefly-mimic cockroaches. And that’s not all. How about creatures that use chemical warfare, like Gila monsters, black widow spiders and poison dart frogs. Located in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, contact:
or call (201) 200-1000.
In the spirit of the 1969 satire movie, If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium, the New Jersey Lighthouse Society each year sponsors the Lighthouse Challenge. This year’s eighth annual event is slated for October 20th through 21st. Participants will dash up and down the New Jersey coast to each of the state’s 11 lighthouses, where they will collect a souvenir from each one. Every person who, within the two days, gathers a memento from all 11 will receive a special completion keepsake. The Lighthouse Society added excitement and incentive to the 2006 Challenge with “Night Climbs.” Four of the lighthouses – Absecon, Cape May, Tinicum and Sandy Hook – stayed open after dark, on Saturday night only, from 6-8 p.m., for guests to enjoy spectacular nighttime views from the top of each lighthouse. More than 1,100 people completed last year’s challenge. For further information, contact The Lighthouse Society at (856) 546-0514 or visit their Web site at
Take a Dive
What could possibly induce you to leave the comfort of your comfy rig in 23-degree temperatures (and 11-degree wind chill) to plunge into the 38-degree ocean in February? If you think, “Nothing could tempt me,” you could be missing the fun of the Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights. In 2006, more than 2,000 wannabe polar bears did just that to raise money for the New Jersey Special Olympics. What better raison d’être than to have fun and test your mettle, while supporting an organization that “provides athletic training and competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities?”
The Plunge taking place this year marks the 14th annual event, which is sponsored by the local law enforcement community.
Join a Team Plane Pull
But if cold is your Achilles heel, try the Continental Plane Pull instead, also raising money for the 15,000 Special Olympics participants: Teams of 20 people compete to pull a giant passenger plane 12 feet along a runway. Teams are awarded prizes for Fastest Pull, Lowest Combined Team Weight, and Highest Fundraiser. For information, check Special Olympics New Jersey,
or (609) 896-8000.
How About Sand Sculpting?
If you have ever felt like your innate artistic talent has never been fully developed or appreciated, here is your chance to bask in the sunlight of recognition. The New Jersey Sandcastle Contest held in Belmar is the state’s largest sandcastle and sand-sculpting competition. You can strive for your 15 minutes of fame and join the 10,000 or so viewers who typically turn out to watch the nearly 350 sand artists sculpting frantically to complete their masterpieces before the tide sweeps their creations out to sea. Leading up to the big event, you can even sign up for lessons at the free workshops in Belmar. To obtain schedules and information, go to
You Can Craft a Cheese Wheel
Valley Shepherd Creamery in Long Valley (Morris County) is offering classes in sheep’s milk and mixed-milk cheese making. You will learn how cheeses are made, receive a private tour of the plant by the owners, have free cheese tasting and lunch on the farm porch, and you will craft your own cheese wheel. The creamery will then store your wheel in their aging cave for between 60 and 75 days, after which you can pick it up and enjoy. Classes cost $129 and always sell
out, so make reservations early. To reserve a class (or give a class gift certificate) visit the Web site at
Attend the sheep-shearing festival in April when the creamery’s 500 ewes shed their winter coats. Music, food (would you believe a pig roast) and artisan spinners in period clothing characterize this all-day event.
Do the Ghost Walk
If you are faint of heart, you might want to skip the ghost tour of Ocean City, where you will stroll the night streets by candlelight while listening to tales of the unknown, folklore stories of weird sightings in the darkened buildings and the dark shadows haunting the beaches in the dead of night. Tours begin at the corner of Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue, outside City Hall at 8:00 on selected nights. Call (609) 814-0199 for the schedule or visit the Web site at
Take in a Drive-In Movie
If you often find yourself reminiscing about your classic ’57 Chevy, poodle skirts or ducktail haircuts, you probably miss drive-in theaters as well. If you hurry, you can still watch a movie under the stars at New Jersey’s last remaining drive-in theater, the Delsea in Vineland. See a schedule of pictures at
. But it is not a good idea to attend in your motorhome or trailer. Drive your tow or toad instead.
Dig out your spurs and chaps, iron your best pearl-buttoned shirt, and polish those mud-covered cowboy boots and head out to Wild West City where you can relive the shoot-em-up days of Dodge City in the 1880s. The Wild West City Western heritage theme park features live Western characters, a re-created frontier town, authentic 1880s schoolhouse and re-enactments of legendary events – including 22 different live-action shows daily. You can walk the streets – or swagger like John Wayne if you like – chatting with “in-character” historic figures, grizzled gold panners, and gunslingers or take a pony ride or miniature train ride if the testosterone level gets too high.
Enjoy tapping your toes to Western music in the Golden Nugget Saloon or take time out for a quiet lunch in the large picnic grove. Wild West City theme park is located at Route 206 and Lackawanna Drive, in Netcong. Call (973) 347-8900, for more information or visit their Web site at