The Boardwalk Parks of Ocean City, NJ - Coaster101

The Boardwalk Parks of Ocean City, NJ

We recently spent a weekend in Ocean City, New Jersey, home to two small boardwalk parks, Playland’s Castaway Cove and Gillian’s Wonderland Pier.

Ocean City

Ocean City, New Jersey, not to be confused with the more popular Ocean City, Maryland, is self proclaimed “America’s Greatest Family Resort” and for good reason. With over eight miles of beaches and only a 12,000 person population, Ocean City is one of the more spacious vacation areas along the eastern shore. Families can choose to enjoy a more secluded beach setting while still being close to entertainment and restaurants or stay a bit closer for easy access to the city’s trademark attraction, the boardwalk.

The boardwalk spans over a mile and you can find endless entertainment and dining options, including the two seaside amusement parks. Our favorite time to visit Ocean City is early June and late September. This is considered their off-season, but all of the attractions and eateries are open on the weekends!

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier

Known as Wonderland for short, this park is the more kid-friendly of the two. Wonderland has two main sections, one indoor and one outdoor. The indoor section houses nine kiddie rides and provides a nice shade on a hot day. The outside section has 20 more rides, including a Wacky Worm coaster, a log flume, a Haunted House dark ride, a Giant Wheel, and the new-for-2019 drop tower, standing at 130 feet tall.

We always take a ride or two on the 1926 carousel when we are in town, it is one of my son’s favorites. I also got to take him on the Wacky Worm this trip, his 6th coaster credit.

Wonderland has a pay-per-ride ticket system, in which $1 equals 1 ticket (there are discounts for purchasing larger amounts). Most of the kiddie rides are two tickets, while the Giant Wheel and Drop Tower will cost you six. There is also an option for a four hour pass, which is $39.95.

What I love most about this park is that the front of it is open to the boardwalk and the ocean, you can come and go as you please and use your ride tickets all weekend!

Wonderland has seen several small coasters come and go, most recently Runaway Train, a compact coaster, hit the chopping block at the end of the 2018 season. My hope is that another coaster is coming that will compete with Playland’s GaleForce.

Playland’s Castaway Cove

Just a few blocks south of Wonderland you can find Playland’s Castaway Cove. While still on the boardwalk, the park sits just behind a row of shops and has more of the county fair feel and less the seaside park feel. This park seems to be geared more toward the teen crowd, with a lot of thrill rides to choose from, but still has a nice selection of kiddie rides.

Castaway Cove is home to 32 rides and attractions, 4 of them being roller coasters. There is Pirate’s Gold Rush, a small kiddie coaster, Whirlwind, an SBF Spinner, Wild Waves, a custom steel family coaster, and GaleForce, the S&S launched coaster. The park has the same pay-per-ride ticket system as Wonderland.

The ride attendant at Pirate’s Gold Rush saw that my son was enjoying the ride so much and gave us a few extra spins around the track.

Wild Waves is a very unique coaster. Positioned around the outside of GaleForce, they share the same main structure. I think the park was ingenious on doing this, it was the perfect way to capitalize on space, plus it looks really cool! It is a great family coaster because it has good drops without being too crazy on the speed – they like to use the trims in a couple spots.

Onto the main attraction at the park, GaleForce. This 125 foot coaster packs a punch! It is easily one of the most intense coasters I’ve been on, but I loved every second of it. The tight twists and sudden straight-up to straight-down moments are just crazy. Read our full detailed review of GaleForce here.

I always love coming to these small parks, everything is so close together and it is just great place to sit and watch too. It is a little like the micro park challenge in Roller Coaster Tycoon! You can’t go wrong with a stop here in Ocean City. Whether it be for a few hours to get the credits or a week long vacation, you will enjoy it.

Tips for your visit:

  • Visit in early June or late September to beat the summer heat and crowds.
  • Three Brother’s Pizza is the best on the boardwalk (conveniently located in front of Castaway Cove)
  • Grab a cinnamon sugar (with salt) pretzel from Philly Twist
  • Visit Jilly’s Arcade for 10 cent skee-ball
  • Get up early (or you will miss it) and visit Ward’s Pastries for delicious fresh donuts and sticky buns

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