First things first: The Jersey Shore is not (the TV show) Jersey Shore. The former is the first developed coastline in the United States, encompassing about 130 miles in New Jersey from Sandy Hook in the north to Cape May in the south; the latter is a drama-courting MTV reality show depicting a small slice of the demographic that joins the hordes of families, surfers, beach bums, and other perfectly normal people who go “down the Shore” each summer. Even in the context of Seaside Heights, the town in which the show is set, you can easily avoid that crowd if you wish.

But you shouldn’t avoid the other Jersey Shore for any reason at all. For many, it’s a close-to-home summer getaway, an accessible and trustworthy slice of Americana with icons to spare: nice beaches with some of the cleanest water in the mid-Atlantic region; family-friendly boardwalks and mini-golf; historic eateries and rock ’n’ roll bars; great fishing, surfing, windsurfing, and even skydiving. And then there’s the omnipresent crashing sea, the abundant fresh seafood and the smell of salt in the air when you face east, mingling with the heady, less organic but just-as-quintessential scents of fried zeppole dough and hot pizza.

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