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- Wildwood is a beach town on a barrier island in southern New Jersey, part of an area known as “The Wildwoods.”
- Known for a lively boardwalk, white-sand beach, and affordable midcentury modern hotels and motels, the Wildwood area attracts families year-round.
- Others are catching on too: three hotels were named to Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards for the top 25 family hotels in the US, and according to Booking.com, it’s rising in popularity year over year.
- I’m a regular visitor and curated the following list of hotels based on my experience, and those with desirable locations, amenities, affordable prices, and reassuring COVID-19 policies.
- Read more: Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19.
Near the southern tip of the Jersey Shore, Wildwood has been attracting East Coasters looking for a relaxing beach escape since the late 1800s. Loyalists return each year for the wide white-sand beach, lively boardwalk loaded with amusement rides and restaurants, and affordable midcentury modern hotels and motels. I would know, I’m one of them. My family loves to spend time here, and once you arrive, you’ll easily see why.
The main town is Wildwood, but the whole barrier island is sometimes referred to as “The Wildwoods,” since it’s made up of a group of beach communities with the word “Wildwood” in the name.
The 1950’s was Wildwood’s heyday and you can still see the architectural evidence of that era in Wildwood’s well-preserved “Doo Wop” design (the town is so committed to maintaining its funky vibe that it has an official Doo Wop Preservation League).
These days, Wildwood seems to be having another moment. Three properties in the area made it onto Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards of the top 25 family hotels in the US for 2020. And according to Booking.com, Wildwood Crest is one of the lesser-known US destinations that has risen in popularity year over year.
It’s also very affordable. You can easily find lodgings for under $150 per night, even in the high season. And while summer is the peak, fall is just as appealing. The crowds clear out and prices drop even lower.
While a fall visit to Wildwood offers plenty of opportunities to socially distance and take in the fresh ocean air, it’s important to always consider the risks of traveling during a pandemic and staying in hotels. Without a vaccine, there is no guarantee of safety. Additionally, you should check the official New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub for state-specific information about safety procedures and COVID-19 restrictions — especially if you are from out of state, as New Jersey currently requires a quarantine from many parts of the country. We also recommend following guidelines from the CDC and WHO and wearing a mask, washing your hands, and practicing safe social distancing.
If you feel comfortable after evaluating the risks, I’ve curated a list of the top hotels based on my personal knowledge of Wildwood, as well as a somewhat-scientific mix of factors, including ratings and reviews of guest satisfaction, design sensibility, location, amenities, and overall reputation on trusted travel sites such as Trip Advisor and Booking.com.
I also looked critically at amenities. Every hotel needed to have a pool (because what’s a beach vacation without a pool, even if you’re going in the off-season), either a well-regarded on-site restaurant or in-room kitchenette facilities, as well as a central location near the action or in a setting that would make the distance from the boardwalk and restaurants worth the drive or bike ride.
Next, I made sure each hotel was evocative of the local feel (note that this translates to no-frills design in many cases) and that recent guests approved of their sanitization procedures and COVID-19 protocols (meaning, they needed to be clean!). Lastly, I considered affordability and only selected properties with off-season rates starting under $145 per night.
Just remember: it’s the beach, and most hotels here don’t scream modern luxury. To certain travelers, they’ll seem downright dated. But what they lack in sleek threads, they make up for with ample character and charm. However, if five-star lodgings or ritzy resorts are what you seek, you’re better off looking elsewhere entirely. Wildwood is a ticket to another era, one that’s laid back, relaxed, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.