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Off-season fun in South Jersey never looked so good
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Putting the “win” in winter

Off-season fun in South Jersey never looked so good

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We’ve had it with the whimpering, huddled, hiding-in-the-covers and can’t-wait-till-summer attitudes regarding winters at the shore. We get it — it’s cold out. But this is no reason to give up on enjoying oneself. Instead of joining the throngs complaining about mittens and electric bills and relying only on Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day events to get us through, we’re putting the “win” back in winter with a round-up of some of the best off-season activities we could find.

Shows galoreSure, summer festivals are great, but to really feel the full thrum of the crowd, the palpable hum of excitement, nothing beats jamming your body into a crowd of like-minded fans at an arena show. And absolutely nothing beats some of the shows we have coming up. From hair metal gods Motley Crue and Def Leppard, who are performing together in their World Tour Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10 and 11, and The Killers performing Thursday, March 16 — both at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City —to Elvis Costello playing Ocean Casino Resort’s Ovation Hall Saturday, Feb. 25, there’s no shortage of superb shows to elevate the status of your winter activities.

And if the general drab weather of winter in South Jersey has you down, there’s nothing like laughter — and maybe a light box — to improve your mood. We’ve got some big names in comedy heading to A.C. this season including a trio of 90s-era “Saturday Night Live” alumni, including David Spade (Saturday, Feb. 4, at Hard Rock), Sarah Silverman (Saturday, Feb. 4 at Ocean) and Chris Rock (Friday, Feb. 3, at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa).

And these are just the biggies. Take this winter to dive into some more intimate shows as well — Anchor Rock Club in Atlantic City has its pulse on the indie rock scene and winter is no exception. Check out Jon Spencer & The HITMakers Friday, Feb. 3, Visions of Atlantis Friday, Feb. 24, and Cold Saturday, March 18, among others. Atlantic City Comedy Club hosts Yannis Pappas at The Claridge Friday, March 3, while over in Cape May County, there’s a whole Mid-Winter Comedy Show Saturday, Feb. 25 at Willow Creek Winery & Farm in West Cape May.

Eating all the foodIt’s the middle of winter — this is no time to be thinking about beach bodies. This is the time to take advantage of all of our easy access to those places that are packed come summer and indulge in wintry dinner specials and suddenly easy-to-get reservations at usually hard-to-book venues. Truly, it’s the most delicious time of the year.

There are lots of winter specials, but some of our favorites include First Monday of the Month Buck a Shuck at Dougherty’s Steakhouse & Raw Bar at Resorts Casino Hotel; daily happy hours at Knife & Fork Inn in A.C. with half priced appetizers; $2 Taco Tuesdays at McCormick & Schmick’s at Harrah’s Resort; and All-Day Super Happy Hour with food and drink specials at the bar from 1 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays at Fins Bar & Grille in Cape May.

For something a little more festive — but also a little out of the box — check out the 17th Annual Burns Supper at Ferry Park, an event in honor of famed Scottish poet Robert Burns, with a Scottish-themed dinner, whisky tastings, poetry readings and no less than four Celtic bands Saturday, Jan. 28, or the regularly occurring Four Course Tastings featuring domestic Wagyu for $95 at Grana Cape May.

Learn a littleSchool … it’s not just for kids. Take a dive into some local edu-tainment this winter with all kinds of Cape May trolley tours sponsored by Cape May MAC; the 34th Annual Pinelands Short Course, a day-long event hosted by Stockton University featuring educational presentations that explore the unique history, ecology and culture of the Pinelands, Saturday, March 11; or truly get your learning on with Winter Sowing and Seed Starting Workshop Sunday, Feb. 12, at Noyes Arts Garage.

Or transition your learning into a tasty event with a food-based class. We like Charcuterie 101 Game Day Edition, Sunday, Feb. 5, at Renault Winery & Resort; Bar 32 on Atlantic City’s Orange Loop will host a mixology class Saturday, Feb. 18 and March 18; Ladies Night featuring a mini-wine tasting with accompanying presentations on the third Thursday of each month at Passion Vines Wine & Spirit Company; and Cheesemaking Workshops Saturday, Feb. 25, at Kitchen 19 in Hammonton.

Do something differentWe’re not the only ones looking for things to do in the off-season. Plenty of venues look for new ways to pull people in, and offer some fun surprises. Try a PHRIENDS Murder Mystery Saturday, Feb. 11 at Resorts; Indoor Auto Racing Friday and Saturday, Jan. 27 and 28, at Boardwalk Hall; Axe Throwing at Lucky Snake Arcade at Showboat; and even candle making Wednesday, Feb. 8, at White Horse Winery.

Or hit an expo — there’s nothing like the Progressive Atlantic City Boat Show to occupy a whole winter weekend with swooning over, and if you’re the very lucky, actually purchasing, luxury yachts in the middle of the Atlantic City Convention Center. Not into boats? Head back the following month for the Atlantic City RV & Camping Show, where instead of drooling over sailboats, you can focus your attention on decked out RV’s and travel trailers.

Don’t forget the kidsLet’s face it: If you’re an adult with nothing to do, you could opt for a weekend binge-watching Netflix and eating takeout. But throw a few stir crazy kids into the mix and things get a bit more complicated. Fortunately, there are an increasing amount of venues keeping the kids in mind with activities that can keep you both busy, including a Kids Pizza Making Workshop every other Saturday through March at Poppi’s Brick Oven Pizza in Wildwood; the Lucky Snake Arcade at Showboat Hotel; and drop in playtime at Ferry Park in West Cape May, where the Gallery serves as a backdrop to Ferry Park Fun Zone 10 a.m. Thursdays through March.

Make it a staycationWhy should the tourists have all the fun? With plenty of winter hotel specials, there’s no reason not to pack an over-night bag and pretend you’re on vacation. Whether you choose a beachfront resort like La Mer in Cape May, which offers 15 percent off getaways through March 31, or Icona Avalon, which features a Wine, Dine and Unwind Package through March 31, or you prefer to spend your free time as close to the golf course as you can, like at Seaview, a Dolce Hotel in Galloway, tri-state residents can save up to 25 percent on deluxe accommodations for a limited time.

Still stumped for ideas? Here’s what some other locals are doing this winter.

“We like to have a movie night … make your own pizza and watch a movie with your family,” says Becky Holden, owner of Eastward at West End Garage in Cape May. “And you can’t beat shopping at West End Garage.”

“We rent a house in Dewey Beach. Since I’m pretty much locked in the area from March to January, I like a change of scenery in the winter,” says Dan Greenberg, co-owner of Water Dog Smokehouse in Ventnor.

“I like to surf happily in peace without many people around,” says Vanessa Burk, owner of El Capitan’s Taco Shack in Woodbine. “Plus you can spend the night at Congress Hall for a great price.”

“I don’t get winter doldrums. I need changing seasons and I use winter to recharge,” says Kate Chadwick, editor of Cape May Magazine. “Summers here are bonkers. Without downtime in the winter, I don’t know that I could handle living here.”

“We embrace the season by visiting our ‘winter spots.’ We love going to the Knife & Fork happy hour because it’s cozy and easy to get into,” says Jamie Ford, teacher. “We rarely go in the summer because it’s our designated winter spot.”

“I stay local usually. I enjoy the changing of the seasons, for better or worse,” says Jerry Ryan, founder of Elephant Talk Indie. “I live in Smithville, so the village can be a magical place during the holiday season.”

“I actually like to take advantage of the quiet and the downtime. The summer is so busy and hectic and often prevents me from checking out things in each town,” says Amy Mahon, artist and recipe writer. “It’s also an opportunity to get a reservation at a fave restaurant like Tomatoes or Steve & Cookie’s.”

“Local businesses have been working to extend the season and make Cape May a year-round destination, so there’s really plenty to do on any given weekend,” says Shayla Woolfort, owner of Bad Cat Farm. “That said, a lot of locals still work pretty seasonal jobs and winter can be a lean time. Free activities are a little harder to find. The libraries host a lot of great events and activities, and we go to the zoo once a week no matter the weather. It’s always warm in the aviary and the reptile house!”


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