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Cheap Thrills
 Guide
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Cheap Thrills
 Guide

Deals, bargains, freebies and cheap 
things to do before summer ends.
 Plus dozens of Web-extra ideas and sure bets!

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ATLANTIC CITY — Parents and children are getting ready for the fall school season and, in this economy, we thought it might be helpful to advise our readers on some of the good bargains to be had in the southern New Jersey area. Cheap and fun things that won’t break your bank — so that you have money for school clothes, supplies, gasoline ... you get the idea.


(We don’t want to alarm you, but in the time you’ve been reading this, the stock market dropped 500 points ... Ok, it’s back up 350 points. Whoops, down again.) 


We wish that was more of an exaggeration, but the fact is these are uncertain times and we could all use a financial break. Fortunately, along with a plethora of thrift shops and consignment stores that have sprouted up in our region over the past few years — including two Goodwill stores, a nicely stocked Salvation Army on Albany Avenue in Atlantic City and several newcomers such as the ARC Thrift Store and the The Alcove Thrift Shop (both located in the Tilton Shopping Plaza in Northfield and both to help raise money for good causes) as well as others in Galloway, Margate, Pleasantville, and Somers Point, where slightly worn clothes and other items can be found for dirt cheap (hopefully minus the dirt) — there are many deals to be had, both online (see this story at acweekly.com for more free and cheap ideas) and while you’re out and about.

Here’s a look at just some of the area’s “cheap thrills.” 


What? You knew that’s what we meant by cheap thrills all along, right?


 

CASINO & HOTEL DEALS (click here for more)

We (Love) Locals at ACH

Use your ACH (formerly the Hilton) comps at local restaurants and shops (Ventura’s, Sofia, Frank Theatres etc.) New members get $50 free slot play. Also, 20-percent discounts on rooms, ACH dining and spa. 888-224-4586. achcasinoresort.com.


Back to Fall Pop-Up Shop at The Chelsea

Beach-goers can kick off Labor Day weekend at The Chelsea in Atlantic City on Thursday, Sept. 1, as they host a unique “Back to Fall” Pop-Up shopping event featuring a variety of boutiques and a spa, Each will be setting up “Pop-Up” shops poolside in the Cabanas at The Chelsea and previewing their fall collections. Guests will enjoy exclusive discounts, great Swag Bags, and more. There will be a “Pop Up” bar with specialty priced cocktails and a special small plate menu from Chelsea Prime. The event is free and open to the public. thechelsea-ac.com. 


Free Friday Slot Tournaments – at Bally’s

Every Friday, you can win your share of $5,000 in a Free Slot Tournament. The action takes place 11am to 5pm in the Wild Wild West Tournament Area. ballysac.com

Trop Poker Midnight Poker Tournaments

The Trop Poker Room offers the best poker tournament rates in town with its Midnight “Trop Till You Drop” Poker Tournament. Take in the action Sunday–Thursday, for just $42 total entry fee; Friday and Saturdays entry fee is just $62 total. tropicana.net

 

PARKS & RECREATION

Free beaches

Locals know that the best time to take in the shore is in the September sun after Labor Day. Atlantic City, Strathmere and Wildwood beaches are free all the time. Most area beaches are free after Labor Day. Check for guarded beaches. 


Gardner’s Basin

This maritime park at 800 N. New Hampshire Ave. in Atlantic City offers up the Atlantic City Aquarium ($8 adults, $5 children) a crafters village, a marina, boat rides, and restaurants. A great afternoon. acaquarium.com.



The Towne of Smithville/Village Greene

The village off Route 9 in Smithville, offers restaurants, specialty stores and kid-friendly activities that include a mini-train ride. It also offers free special events. The schedule includes a Car Cruise Aug. 26, Sept. 9 and Sept. 23; Antique Auto Day and Smithville Fife & Drum Sept. 18; Art Walk, Sept. 24 and Oct. 1-2, the popular 
Oktoberfest. Admission is free. 



The Cape May County Park & Zoo

Crest Haven Rd. and Route 9, Cape May Court House, with 80 acres and 250 different species, including beautiful snow leopards, is free (but please leave a donation to help keep this local treasure running). Hours 10am-4:45pm. capemaycountyzoo.org



Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge

Headquarters, Great Creek Road, Oceanville. 43,000-acre coastal habitat reserve. Trails, bird-watching. Headquarters 10am-3pm weekdays. Trails open daily, sunrise to sunset. Entrance fee. The refuge receives more than 250,000 visitors a year, so follow all guideline to protect wildlife. 652-1665. fws,gov.



Marine Mammal Stranding Center Sealife Museum

The center at 3625 Brigantine Blvd. Brigantine, rescues and rehabilitates stranded marine mammals , Brigantine. Visiting hours: Sat. 10am-2pm, Sunday 11am-2pm. through Labor Day; Sat. 10am-2pm after Labor Day. 266-0538. marinemammalstrandingcenter.org

FAMILY ATTRACTIONS

Lucy the Elephant

Still one of the most iconic landmarks on Absecon Island, no trip to the Jersey shore is complete without spending sometime in Lucy’s howdah. 9200 Atlantic Ave., Margate. $6, Children $3. 823-6473. 11am-4pm weekdays, 10am-5pm weekends. lucytheelephant.org.



The Atlantic City Arts Center & the Atlantic City Historical Museum

Atlantic City’s Garden Pier, at New Jersey Avenue and the Boardwalk, holds two of the city’s hidden gems. The Historical Museum traces the city’s history through photographs and exhibits while the Arts Center highlights works by local artists. And both are free! Hours 10am-4pm daily. Call 347-5837 or acartcenter.org or acmuseum.org.



Somers Mansion

This reminder of South Jersey’s history sits at 745 Shore Rd. in Somers Point and sports a museum displaying artifacts circa 1886. Free admission. Saturdays 10am-1pm. 927-2212 or somerspointhistory.org.



Absecon Lighthouse

One of the best views of the city with a good dose of maritime nostalgia at one of the country’s only “urban” lighthouses. 31 S.Rhode Island Ave., A.C. Adults $7, children $4. Hours: 10am-5pm daily. 449-1360. abseconlighthouse.org.



Noyes Museum of Art at Stockton College

This treasured gem sports the permanent Fred and Ethel Noyes Collection art collection and numerous changing exhibits for only a $5 admission, $4 students and seniors. 733 Lily Lake Road, Oceanville. Tues-Sat. 10am-4:30pm. Sun. noon-5pm. 652-8848. noyesmuseum.org.


NJ Korean War Memorial

This stirring memorial at Park Place and the Boardwalk is often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of Atlantic City’s main pedestrian walkway, but is one of the most inspiring memorials in the country. 



Movies:


Matinees at the Frank Towne 16 (6733 Black Horse Pike, 646-2694) before 6pm are $6.50 ($10 reg. price). The Delsea Drive-In (2203 South Delsea Drive, Vineland) — the only drive-in theater in the state — offers a choice of two double features for $8 per person. (See p. 66)

 

LIVE MUSIC & EVENTS

Free Concerts

The area’s free summer concert series still have a few performances left. The Somers Point Beach concert series continues Fridays through Sept. 9. Atlantic City’s Mardi Gras on the Boardwalk concert series runs Mondays to Sept. 5 and the Chicken Bone Beach Concert Series runs Thursdays to Sept. 1. Wildwoods’ numerous free concert series run through Labor Day and then the city will feature live strolling Boardwalk musical entertainers 7-9pm Tuesdays on the boards through September. Update: This show has been cancelled due to threat of rain on Sunday: Plus on Aug. 28, country singer Craig Campbell plays for free at the Caesars Boardwalk Beer Garden (see p. 8). acweekly.com/events

Bay-Atlantic Symphony

The symphony will perform a free concert Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Avalon Elementary School (235 32nd St, Avalon). Featuring violinist Felix Mendelssohn as the symphony closes the 2011 “Symphony by the Sea” summer series sponsored by the Avalon Free Public Library. 7pm. 967-7155. bayatlanticsymphony,org. 



Update: This concert has been cancelled due to forecasts of Huricane Irene.

Grape Stomping Festival

Renault Winery’s annual free Grape-Stomping Festival (72 N Bremen Ave., Egg Harbor City) takes place Sat. & Sun., Aug. 27 & 28 from noon-4pm both days. The rain-or-shine event will feature eight New Jersey wineries, children’s activities, gourmet food and the delightful grounds of the winery, which also includes a golf course. renaultwinery.com

The Ocean City Pops

The venerable orchestra, which calls Ocean City’s Music Pier (Moorlyn Terrace and Boardwalk) home, has a full slate of shows through September on Sundays and Wednesdays including Cats on Sept. 4 and 7. Tickets range from $10-$20. ocnj.us. 


Sports Card, Toys, Comics and Collectibles Show

Friday Aug. 26 to Sun. Aug. 28, Wildwood Convention Center, 4501 Boardwalk, Wildwood. Collectibles, memorabilia and guest star appearances. Featuring 100+ tables of the hottest collectibles on the planet. Expo hours: Fri: 3pm-9pm, Sat: 10am-9pm, Sun: 10am-5pm. Free admission. 732.422.9365 or RKSportsPromotions.com.



Wildwood Block Party and Music Festival

The annual free festival takes place Saturday, Aug. 27, at Fox Park, Ocean Avenue Wildwood. Features family fun, food, crafts, games, vendors and more. Live entertainment starting at 2pm. At 8pm salute disco with national recording artists Carol Douglas, Evelyn Champaigne King and the Trammps. Noon-midnight. 522-2444, wildwoodsnj.com. 



(Click here for more events)

 

CHEAP EATS

Following the success of Atlantic City Restaurant Week (the 2012 dates are March 4-10), Mays Landing; Somers Point and now Wildwood have followed suit with their own versions. Wildwoods Restaurant Week takes place Aug. 28-Sept. 2. wildwoodbythesearestaurantweek.com



Along with weekly and daily lunch, dinner and drink specials in just about every restaurant/bar in our area, here are a few choices for great food for a lower price than you’d expect. (Find other dining deals in our “Area Dining,” “Casino Dining” and “After Dark” sections.)


The Gilchrist’s Restaurant (804 North Rhode Island Ave.; Gardner’s Basin). 345-8278. Famed family diner formerly located on Maryland Avenue in A.C., and offshore in Galloway.


Irish Pub

St. James Pl. at the Boardwalk. 344-9063. theirishpub.com. Open 24 hours with full menu served anytime. Dinner specials $7.50, lunch specials $3.


Local Indian Buffets: All-you-can eat and reasonably priced lunch buffets are available at Bombay Indian Restaurant (English Creek Shopping Ctr., Rt. 40 & English Creek Rd., EHT. 646-4445); Feather Cafe & Grill (6041 Black Horse Pike, EHT. 377-5555) and at The Nizam’s (6666 Black Horse Pike, EHT. 677-8829). 


Browse our Food & Drink Guide here and our Happy Hour Guide here.

WEB EXTRAS: MORE CHEAP THRILLS GALORE

33rd Somers Point Good Old Days Festival 
Enjoy a variety of music on three stages, antique cars, children’s activities (carnival games, a dunk tank, inflatables, pony rides), more than 50 vendors and community groups and the famous 75-cent hot dogs and hamburgers, among other food and treats on Saturday, Sept. 10, at Kennedy Memorial Park, (Broadway, Somers Point). 11am-6pm. spgoodolddays.com.



Annual Fall Festival Mays Landing

Welcome in Fall at this family fun day. Crafters, food vendors, entertainment, scarecrow contest, pumpkin painting, chili contest, mummy wrapping, train ride, bouncy ball jumper, and new this year — ‘Minute to Win It’ activities at this free festival, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 24, 10am-4pm in War Memorial Park, (Main Street at Route 50). 


Sports Card, Toys, Comics and Collectibles Show

Friday Aug. 26 to Sun. Aug. 28, Wildwood Convention Center, 4501 Boardwalk, Wildwood. Collectibles, memorabilia and guest star appearances. Featuring 100+ tables of the hottest collectibles on the planet. Expo hours: Fri: 3pm-9pm, Sat: 10am-9pm, Sun: 10am-5pm. Free admission. 732.422.9365 or RKSportsPromotions.com.

Wildwood Block Party and Music Festival

The annual free festival takes place Saturday, Aug. 27, at Fox Park, Ocean Avenue Wildwood. Features family fun, food, crafts, games, vendors and more. Live entertainment starting at 2pm. At 8pm salute disco with national recording artists Carol Douglas, Evelyn Champaigne King and the Trammps. Noon-midnight. 522-2444, wildwoodsnj.com.

33rd Somers Point Good Old Days Festival

Enjoy a variety of music on three stages, antique cars, children’s activities (carnival games, a dunk tank, inflatables, pony rides), more than 50 vendors and community groups and the famous 75-cent hot dogs and hamburgers, among other food and treats on Saturday, Sept. 10, at Kennedy Memorial Park, (Broadway, Somers Point). 11am-6pm. spgoodolddays.com.

Annual Fall Festival Mays Landing

Welcome in Fall at this family fun day. Crafters, food vendors, entertainment, scarecrow contest, pumpkin painting, chili contest, mummy wrapping, train ride, bouncy ball jumper, and new this year — ‘Minute to Win It’ activities at this free festival, which takes place Saturday, Sept. 24, 10am-4pm in War Memorial Park, (Main Street at Route 50).

Irish Fall Festival

The Wildwoods do it again with this four-day free festival Sept. 22-25. It’s the 20th annual event and the largest Irish festival on the East Coast. Held on Olde New Jersey Avenue, North Wildwood, the four-day event celebrates Irish heritage with dancing, music, food, vendors and crafts. 8am-11pm daily. Wildwoodsnj.com.

Live Tribute and Cover Bands

Three outstanding tribute bands are performing in the area, including the Bruce Springstreen group B Street Band on Thursday night at 7pm at The Deck at Golden Nugget (where they’ve been summertime mainstays). Making a special appearance at Harrah’s Eden Lounge on Thursday, Sept. 15, is the U2 tribute band 2U, and another U2 tribute band, UF2, is performing at the Tropicana’s Grand Exhibition Center on Sept. 10. Several other cover bands regularly perform all three beach bars and The Deck in the marina district through Labor Day, and in many cases weekends through September after Labor Day. Other great places to catch top-shelf cover bands without paying a cover charge are Backstage Lounge and the Foundation Room at Showboat’s House of Blues, the Boardwalk Beer Garden at Caesars, the Gypsy Bar at Borgata, Tango’s Lounge and RiRa Irish Pub at the Trop, Formica’s Café on Arctic Avenue, and the Tun Tavern by the A.C. Convention Center. For more free live-music options, go here.

Atlantic City Ballet — World-Class Talent that Won’t Break the Bank

On Sunday, Aug. 28, at 5pm at the Jewish Community Center in Margate, the Atlantic City Ballet’s “An Evening with the Atlantic City Ballet,” will feature four short ballets that range from the exotic and sexy ballet Eclipse, to the sensual Tango, to the very contemporary Ethnic Drums and to a light and comedic Love Royale.”  The program has something for everyone’s tastes, and is $27 per person. (609) 804-1995.

Fishing Piers Aplenty

If you enjoy fishing but don’t have a boat, fishing from the surf or a pier is either free or affordably priced, and can be just as rewarding as boat fishing if you know what you’re doing. All beach towns have an abundance of marinas and bait-and-tackle shops with staff willing to offer advice (always free, especially if you buy your bait and tackle there), or you can check out the state’s Web site and click the “Division of Fish and Wildlife” link for some pointers. Fishing piers in the area include (north to south), the old Brigantine Bridge (jughandle to the right as you enter the island); the Ventnor City Fishing Pier (Cambridge Avenue and the Boardwalk); the Anglers Club (321 S. Exeter Ave.) in Margate; the Ocean City-Longport Fishing Pier (Rt. 152) or the Edward Klingener Pier between Somers Point and Longport. Go here for more good low-cost fishing advice.

See the Sights Via Guided Tours

Southern New Jersey has a lot of sights to see, but if you’re not from the area and opt to “wing it,” you can spend a fortune and still miss much of what the area has to offer. A good, affordable alternative is a guided tour, like the Shipwrecks & Shorelines Tour that picks you up at a specified location, shows you key landmarks and offers information about the area’s indigenous species and maritime history, and gives you a few pointers as to where you might go on your own afterwards. Many packages also include lunch.  Click here for all the options.

Visit a Local Winery and/or Tour a Vineyard

It may not be the Napa Valley, but southern New Jersey has an abundance of excellent wineries (it is, after all, the Garden State), many of which are within about an hour’s drive of Atlantic City. Taking a tour of a winery can be a fun and inexpensive thing to do, and you might just wind up finding your future favorite red or white social beverage or dining complement. Wineries nearby include DiMatteo Vineyards (609-567-3909), Plagido’s Winery (609-567-4633) and  Tomasello (800-666-WINE,) in Hammonton, Balic Winery  (609-625-2166) in Mays Landing, Renault Winery  (609-965-2111) in Egg Harbor City, and  Cape May Winery and Vineyard (609-884-1169) Natali Vineyards (609-465-0075) and Turdo Vineyards  (609-898-3424) in Cape May County.

Atlantic City Free Public Library a Valued Resource

This Saturday, Aug. 27, may mark the last in an exceptional free, five-show series at A.C.’s Historic Gardner’s Basin, — Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes with Sharon Paige, and Alyson Williams will headline the show, starting 1pm — but the library has so much more to offer all year long. Click here and be sure to check out the library’s International Night Series season finale on Monday, Aug. 30, when “Everybody Loves Italian” presents a show that honors and remembers the unsung heroes who contributed so richly to current-day culture through traditional values in a way that all cultures and nationalities can relate to.

Free Beach Yoga Class in Sea Isle City on Monday, Sept. 5

Yoga Instructor Teri O’Connor will offer a free yoga class on Sea Isle’s JFK Boulevard beach at 7:30am Monday, Sept. 5, in a gesture of thanks all those who supported her program. The free session will be open to the public and all are invited to attend. O’Connor will use a wireless sound system so all participants will be able to clearly hear her instructions. The free class is also part of National Yoga Month, where instructors are encouraged to share the many positive health benefits of yoga with the general population. njBeachYOGA.com. (609) 602-3398.

Want more free stuff? Check out our contestsand giveaways page.

What did we miss? Got any other good, cheap stuff for this guide? Leave your ideas below.

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