Fantasy Island (320 W. Seventh St., Beach Haven, 609-492-4000, http://www.fantasyislandpark.com) has "slot" machines (prizes are toys, not cash) for those too young for Atlantic City as well as amusement park rides for all. Practice your mini-swing at Surf City Island Golf (603 Long Beach Island Blvd., Surf City, 609-494-1709; $4-$5). Take a surf lesson from Brighton Beach Surf Shop (8511 Long Beach Blvd., Beach Haven, 609-492-0342, http://brightonbeachsurfshop.com; $45-$65). Walk through the Long Beach Island Museum (Engleside and Beach avenues, Beach Haven, 609-492-0700, http://www.lbimuseum.org), or take it outside on one of the historical association's tours ($8) of century-old homes.
OCEANVILLE: Watch for turtles, frogs, sandpipers and plovers at the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Great Creek Road, 609-652-1665, http://www.fws.gov/northeast/forsythe; $4).
BRIGANTINE: Get a peek at the lifesaving operations of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (3625 Brigantine Blvd., 609-266-0538, http://www.marinemammalstrandingcenter.org; $1 donation). Bowl over your friends playing boccie on the 42nd Street Recreation Complex's four public courts (between Bay Shore and West Brigantine avenues, 609-266-3323), which are free and open to all.
ATLANTIC CITY: Find the next generation of gamblers at the Borgata (One Borgata Way, 609-317-1000, http://www.theborgata.com), or hang with the old-timers at Resorts Atlantic City (1133 Boardwalk, 800-336-6378, http://www.resortsac.com). Along the Boardwalk, hop among the casinos, amusement park rides at Steel Pier and the long, wide beach. The 171-foot Absecon Lighthouse (31 S. Rhode Island Ave., 609-449-1360; $5) is the state's tallest lighthouse. Learn how Atlantic City got game at the Atlantic City Historical Museum (Garden Pier on the Boardwalk by New Jersey Avenue, 609-347-5839, http://www.acmuseum.org); for its more creative side, cross the plaza to the Atlantic City Art Center (609-347-5837, http://www.acartcenter.org). Both free. Atlantic City mellows out at Gardner's Basin, with artisan sheds, an aquarium, cruises and more; see story on Page P7.
MARGATE: Climb into the 65-foot-tall wooden Lucy the Margate Elephant (9200 Atlantic Ave., 609-823-6473, http://www.lucytheelephant.org; $5), the quintessential Jersey Shore icon.
OCEAN CITY: It's a trifecta of fun at the Aquatic and Fitness Center, Arts Center and Historical Museum (1735 Simpson Ave., 609-399-7628, http://www.oceancityartscenter.org for arts center; 609-399-1801, http://www.ocnjmuseum.org for museum; 609-398-6900 for the fitness center, weekly pass is $28), which offers yoga, period pieces and local art exhibits. Master the Shuffle Push on any of the city's 24 shuffleboard courts (Fifth Street and Boardwalk, 609-729-1843 or 609-601-2162); the public courts and lessons are free. Chase down spooks on a Ghost Tour of Ocean City (609-814-0199, http://www.ghosttour.com; $13). Aim for the 140-foot-tall Ferris wheel and you'll find yourself on the Boardwalk, a jamboree of roller coasters, a water park, food stands, a surf shop, beach and more.
At the 341-acre Corson's Inlet State Park (Route 619 in Cape May County, 609-861-2404, http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/corsons.html; free), look for piping plovers, opossums, dolphins and surfers. Hike the coastline or head into the dunes, where trekking attire is more sandal than boot. The Discovery Shell Museum (2721 Asbury Ave., 609-398-2316, http://www.shellmuseum.com; free) crams an ocean's worth of shells into a tight space. Ocean City is dry, so for a cocktail, cross over the Ninth Street Bridge to Somers Point: Grab a stool at the Anchorage Inn (823 Bay Ave., 609-926-1776); the Inlet (998 Bay Ave., 609-926-9611), which also has live music daily; or Smitty's Clam Bar (910 Bay Ave., 609-927-8783), which is BYOB, but they supply the cups and clams.
LONG BEACH ISLAND: The White Whale Revisited B&B (20 W. Seventh St., Barnegat Light, 888-942-5325, http://www.whitewhalerevisited.com; from $150), near the bay, ocean and lighthouse, has rooms with homey -- not kitschy -- seashore touches. The Surf City Hotel (Eighth Street and Long Beach Island Boulevard, Surf City, 800-353-3342, http://www.surfcityhotel.com; from $160) has it all: rooms in the 19th-century hotel; a restaurant, clam bar and pub; a liquor store; and a lounge with live entertainment. Listen to the waves slapping the beach 200 steps from the Windward Manor Inn (Atlantic and Amber avenues, Beach Haven, 609-492-4468, http://www.windwardmanorinn.com; from $161), a historic property near Bicentennial Park, restaurants and the Surflight Theatre. The 22-room Daddy O (4401 Long Beach Blvd., Brant Beach, 609-361-5100, http://www.daddyohotel.com; rates from $195 double) brings hipster Manhattan style to the Jersey Shore .
ATLANTIC CITY: The Irish Pub and Inn (164 St. James Pl., 609-344-9063, http://www.theirishpub.com) has an English boardinghouse quality (the $40 rooms come with "running water" and shared bath) and a 24-hour bar in the basement. The killer ocean and boardwalk views will distract you from the office-quality furniture at FantaSea Resorts at Atlantic Palace (1507 Boardwalk, 800-647-7890, http://www.fantasearesorts.com; from $129 online or $149 by phone). Stay at any number of casino resorts, such as the Borgata (One Borgata Way, 609-317-1000, http://www.theborgata.com; from $199) or the Trump Taj Mahal (1000 Boardwalk and Virginia Avenue, 609-449-1000, http://www.trumpplaza.com; from $157 online or $169 by phone). Also consider the chain hotels on the roads leading into town; rates are considerably cheaper.
OCEAN CITY: Koo-Koo's Nest B&B (615 Wesley Ave., 609-814-9032, http://www.kookoosnest.com; from $105), run by a quirky surfer from California, has catchy theme rooms (Asian, Lilac, Rainforest, etc.). A consortium of five hotels offers rooms on or barely off the Boardwalk: Impala Island Inn (1001 Ocean Ave., 609-399-7500, http://www.impalaislandinn.com), Beach Club Suites (1217 Ocean Ave., 609-399-4500, http://www.beachclubsuites.com), Beach Club Hotel (1280 Boardwalk, 609-399-8555, http://www.beachclubhotel.com), Ebb Tide Suites (1001 Little Atlantic Ave., 609-391-9614, http://www.ebbtidesuites.com) and Wild Dunes Inn (801 10th St., 609-399-2910, http://www.wilddunesinn.com). Rooms range from a standard with two double beds (Beach Club Hotel) to two-bedroom apartments (Ebb Tide), and rates run from $147 (Impala) to $404 (Beach Club Suites). At the elegant Flanders Hotel (719 E. 11th St., 609-399-1000, http://www.theflandershotel.com; from $340), wearing a shirt and shoes isn't enough -- bathing suit coverups are required, too.
PLACES TO EAT
LONG BEACH ISLAND: At Kelly's Old Barney Restaurant (Third Avenue and Broadway, Barnegat Light, 609-494-5115), near the lighthouse, dine on local seafood such as broiled flounder and scallops (entrees from $16). At Plantation Restaurant (7908 Long Beach Blvd., Harvey Cedars, 609-494-8191), the decor is Old Key West and the food is nouveau LBI, including black bass with fennel pollen ($24) and cavatappi pasta with beech mushrooms ($14). At the Show Place Ice Cream Parlour (Engleside and Beach avenues, Beach Haven, 609-492-0018), diners sing for their Broadway-themed desserts -- a little "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" if they want their Wizard of Oz sundae. Sundaes from $6.
ATLANTIC CITY: The casinos have big-name chefs prepping high-priced grub, but consider other options. At Trinity Pub (the Pier Shops at Caesars on the Boardwalk, 609-345-6900), you'll need a whiskey chaser to wash down the beer-battered, deep-fried burger ($10). Go south of the border at Los Amigos (1926 Atlantic Ave., 609-344-2293), which prepares kickin' Mexican and Southwestern dishes for $9 to $25.
The sandwiches at the White House Sub Shop (Mississippi and Arctic avenues, 609-345-8599) are legend, as are its former diners -- Frank Sinatra, Jerry Seinfeld, Oprah. Half-subs start at $5. Angelo's Fairmont Tavern (2300 Fairmont Ave., 609-344-2439) is a family operation that prepares Italian classics such as baked lasagna with meatballs ($12).
OCEAN CITY: Go local with omelets (from $3.75), corn fritters ($3.75) and other breakfast fare at Ready's Coffee Shop and Restaurant (415 Eighth Street, 609-399-4418). No luau pig roast, but the Hula Grill (on the Boardwalk between Ninth and Tenth streets, 609-399-2400) has plenty of other Hawaiian flavors, such as a grilled fish salad with papaya seed dressing ($10). Take a health break with bubble teas from Boba Brothers and Mom's Nuts (1138 Boardwalk, 267-767-9940; $4 to $5); flavors include brownie, taro, blueberry and Thai tea.