NEW YORK CITY — A weekend escape down to the restored boardwalks of the Jersey Shore has never been easier, more affordable and more accessible to New York's carless masses.
NJ Transit trains run from Penn Station to five different beach points — Long Branch, Asbury Park, Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach and Belmar — with round-trip tickets and beach passes available for $31.50 package deals through Labor Day. Bus service from the Port Authority extends to Seaside Heights/Seaside Park, Island Beach State Park, Atlantic City, Wildwood and Cape May.
DNAinfo New York scouted the shore points from Long Branch to Cape May to see what was open and what to do during a visit this summer.
Post-Sandy skinny: The boardwalk is still missing, but most of the beaches that escaped severe erosion have been open since Memorial Day.
Beach fee: $5 (weekdays) or $7 (weekends and holidays). $3 always for ages 14-17. Children under 14 and seniors over 61 are free.
Don't miss: Windmill Hot Dogs is a tried and true Jersey Shore experience — allegedly a favorite of Bruce Springsteen — and an indelible part of the local culinary folklore since the 1960s. Long Branch is home to the original location, a windmill-shaped building at 200 Ocean Ave., with eight other locations in Monmouth County and beyond.
If it's raining: Horse racing at nearby Monmouth Park Racetrack, rain or shine, has been a Shore tradition since 1870. Races take place (mostly) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer — check the schedule — and children 12 and under are always admitted free. Every Sunday is Family Fun Day, with clowns, face painters, live music, pony rides and a bounce house from noon to 4 p.m.
If you're driving: Exit 105 on the Garden State Parkway.
Post-Sandy skinny: Most businesses were reopened within months of the storm and the boardwalk was repaired in time for Memorial Day.
Beach fee: $5 (weekdays) or $6 (weekends). Children under 12 are free.
What to do: Enjoy the restaurants, bars, attractions and people-watching on the boardwalk. Catch a gig on the outdoor stage at the Stone Pony, the iconic music venue that has an alumni including Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughn, The Ramones and Elvis Costello.
If it's raining: All shore points are loaded with attractions, but few will be as popular with visitors of all ages than Silverball Pinball Museum in Asbury Park. Home to more than 180 classic pinball machines from the 1950s through to the present, it's a hands-on museum where a $10 pass will buy you an hour of time — no quarters required. The perfect spot to bring back old memories and create new ones.
If you're driving: Exit N-100A/S-102.
Post-Sandy Skinny: The fishing pier was lost to the ocean but most of the boardwalk has been repaired, save for a few temporary asphalt walkways. Many of the dollhouse-style Victorian homes that give "God's Square Mile" its unique charm were spared.
Beach fee: $8 (daily).
What to do: Lounge on the pristine beaches — or sign up for surfing lessons at Ocean Grove Surf Shop (19 Main Ave.).
If it's raining: The Grand Auditorium's roof was resealed less than two weeks after the storm and the historic landmark is back in action, with concerts every Saturday night.
If you're driving: Exit N-100/S-100B.
Post-Sandy Skinny: The dunes, which absorbed most of the damage, have been repaired with the boardwalk and pavilions open for business.
Beach fee: $7 (weekdays) or $8 (weekends).
Don't miss: Just seven blocks wide and 13 blocks long, the restaurants and shops of Main Street are the highlight of this kid-friendly destination. None are more iconic than Vic's Italian Restaurant, whose thin-crust pizza has garnered rave reviews since 1947.
If it's raining: Catch a flick at the Beach Cinema, the 520-seat single-screen landmark that opened as the Palace Theater in 1915 and smells of buttered popcorn and raw nostalgia.
If you're driving: Exit N-100/S-100B.
Post-Sandy Skinny: The fishing pier is gone and many of the permanent structures were destroyed in Sandy, but most of the boardwalk has been repaired.
Beach fee: $7 (daily). Children under 12 are free.
Don't miss: Cool treats from Strollos Italian Ice (500 Main St.) are a perfect way to cap a day at one of the shore's most renowned family beaches.
If it's raining: Just a block from Belmar train station, Sweet! is a perfect spot to stock up on homemade candies, cupcakes and confections. For a less traditional option, try the chocolate-covered bacon.
If you're driving: Exit 98.