Tuesday, December 4, 2007

South Jersey Shore Holiday Shopping Guide

Ho ho ho...it's time to take in your holidays down the shore. Why now? Because you'll skip all the crowds that pack the beaches and meat market bars. Of course you can't lie in the sun on the sand, unless you REALLY like the cold, but you can still enjoy the food, the fun, the tranquility and the shopping that the South Jersey Shore offers.

Granted, not every store is open, but enough that I want to share a few tips on where to go. So rev up your engines, pop in your Ray Conniff Singers Christmas CD and zip down the Atlantic City Expressway. Here's what you can expect.

Atlantic City
Get the most bang for your buck -- or most stores per square mile -- in America's playground by the sea. To start, The Atlantic City Outlets - The Walk (1931 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City, 609-872-7002) offer tons of top quality shops (I've already written about how my prep meter went berserk when the new JCrew outlet opened) at discount prices. I've also found great deals at The Pier at Caesars (1 Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic City, 609-345-3100), even though the stores aren't outlets. I've been trained by a pro bargain hunter and have found gems on the clearance racks of Banana Republic and Charles David at the Pier. If you're looking to spend big, the Pier is for you, too, with its luxe shops like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Burberry.

If you're shopping on Thursday, December 6, bring new unwrapped toys, clothes and house ware items to the Walk -- they're collecting those items for the "Adopt a Family" program. If you're in town on Saturday, December 8, the Starbucks at the Walk will be hosting the 4th annual Holiday Cheer event where Santa will arrive to host a reading of "The Night Before Christmas. Starbucks will also accept new, unwrapped toys for the "Just for Kids" program.

If you're Hanukkah shopping, check out Zephyr Gallery, which is in the Quarter at the Tropicana (2801 Pacific Ave., Atlantic City, 609-340-0170). They stock gorgeous Judica items, including menorahs, Star of David necklaces and anything else you can imagine. They have lots of Christmas gifts, too.

Ocean City
Asbury Avenue has dolled itself up for the holidays and is offering specials all weekend long. I highly recommend stopping at Sun Rose Words & Music (756 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, 609-399-9190) -- and not just because they host local authors (hint hint). Sun Rose is the kind of independent bookstore you don't find in any Barnes and Noble-ized towns anymore. They know books, and they're champions of local titles. It's a great place to get something NJ-ish for a shore lover. I'm also a big fan of Colette Boutique (900 Asbury Ave., Ocean City, 609-525-0911). The clothes are gorgeous and the perfect spot to shop for that glamazon on your list.

And, of course, don't forget that you can order Upcakes for the holiday season. Check that out here.

Avalon/Stone Harbor
Sorry, Sea Isle. You're cozy and quiet in the winter, but not a spot I'd recommend for shopping. I could say the same for Avalon and Stone Harbor. I drove through on my way back from Cape May, and I felt like I was in a ghost town. BUT -- I recommend stopping in at Wave One Sports (221 96th St. #225, Stone Harbor, 609-368-0050). Their embroidered sweatshirts put all those cheap shore-named copies to shame. They're pricier, yes, but they last much longer. I was given my Avalon sweatshirt in high school, and it still looks great (no jokes about how ancient it must be, okay?). Pictured in this post is my new-ish Cape May sweatshirt. It's very warm and cozy right about now.

Also make sure to stop in Murdough's Christmas Shop (256 96th St., Stone Harbor, 609-368-1529). My advent calendars for, well, forever have come from Murdough's. In fact, my father bought me one from Murdough's that I'm picking up today so I can hang it in my office (a subtle and sparkly reminder that I have to finish my shopping ASAP!) Even in the summer, I love stopping in for a whiff of that piney, Christmas smell. Make sure to peek behind the counter to say hi to the Golden Retriever who's always keeping the cashier company.

Another great Christmas shop down the shore is Winterwood (3137 RT 9 S., Rio Grande, 609-465-3641). I'm a fan of their Rio Grande location, but they also have stores in Wildwood and Cape May. The Winterwood stores are big, sprawling winter wonderlands. They have just about every kind of Christmas decoration you could ever want -- and beyond.

Cape May
Ah, lovely, beautiful Cape May. The offerings are too many to list. My suggestion? If you're looking for something for that someone who already has everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING, right down to the bulk of the Sharper Image catalogue -- consider buying them a gift certificate to one of Cape May's many gorgeous and beautiful B&Bs. Not only are you giving that person something unique, but you're also providing an experience that you can't get in any catalogue.

If you're an animal lover, and make sure to stop by Whiskers (605 Hughes St., Cape May 609-898-1232. It's where I found the perfect Jack Russell Terrier ornament for my tiny Charlie Brown-style tree.

Since you can't just shop and run in Cape May, stick around a while and check out Cape May Stage's Every Christmas Story Ever Told. I hear it's a hoot.

And with that, I'm off for a mini vacation to Arizona. Sure, I'm a Jersey girl through and through, but even I could use a hit of desert sun right about now!

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