New Jersey's push to bring back summertime tourists has made national headlines – from "Jersey Shore" cast reunions to Obama/Chris Christie bonding sessions. With rebuilds still in progress in many seaside towns, some prospective vacationers seem to be in "wait and see" mode. But if the first week of summer was any indication, this famously scrappy state isn't waiting nervously for maximum-occupancy crowds to return. No matter what the weather, the Jersey Shore is ready to show all comers a good time. Pictured here: Monmouth County beach view
|Margaritaville Atlantic City|
Spirits were high at the opening of Margaritaville Atlantic City in Resorts Hotel Casino, a highly anticipated new attraction that brought more jobs into the city at just the right time. "We welcomed over 600 people to the Margaritaville family with the opening of our restaurants and bars in the Resorts Casino Hotel," said General Manager Miles Lederer. The majority were local hires.
|Proud to Be "Parrotheads"|
Cheeseburger in Paradise, anyone? How about a Landshark Lager? It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere, right? Oh, actually, just inside the 5 O'Clock Bar, where Who's to Blame ® Margaritas are always free-flowing. Some people claim…that Jimmy Buffett is a demigod of lifestyle branding. And his devotees showed up in force to kick off summer on the Boardwalk.
|Ocean Place Resort at Long Branch Boardwalk|
People who have been worried that the beach destinations of Monmouth County wouldn't be cleaned up by summer can go ahead and confirm that summer beach house rental now. As this picture shows, the upscale enclave at Pier Village and the Long Branch boardwalk to the north are in tip-top condition. While other sections aren't rebuilt, neighboring Asbury Park had a "grand reopening" for its boardwalk on May 18, and Belmar was among the first Jersey Shore boardwalks to reopen. The heavily damaged Sandy Hook beaches are fully operational, thanks in large part to tireless volunteer efforts.
|Tiki Bar, Ocean Place Resort & Spa, Long Branch|
Although the scene at Ocean Place's popular Tiki Bar was mellow on Sunday afternoon, there were hundreds of people spilling onto the hotel lawn and the boardwalk by 6 p.m., and the party lasted into the night. This is a usual scene at the OP, which was one of the lucky Monmouth County hotels to survive Superstorm Sandy relatively unscathed. New owners of the landmark hotel have big plans to build an outdoor beachfront swimming pool by the bar in time for summer 2014.
|Ama Restaurant at Driftwood Cabana Club, Sea Bright|
A narrow strip of land with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Shrewsbury River on the other, Sea Bright is one of New Jersey's most picturesque areas on a good day – and one of the most vulnerable when the storm hit. Approximately 75 percent of the town received major damage. The Driftwood Cabana Club, pictured, was among the first to reopen, and the Stavola family, who own it, continue to support local recovery efforts. Tickets are now available for a Super Dinner and Fireworks fundraiser at Ama Restaurant on July 1; proceeds will go to Sea Bright Rebuild.
|Casino Pier at Seaside Heights|
In spite of Jersey Strong rebuild efforts and a shot of Snooki love, iconic Seaside Heights was not 100 percent operational by Memorial Day. The amusement park rides at Casino Pier are still under reconstruction. But regulars didn't let that stop them from enjoying the attractions that have already reopened, including the Casino Arcade, Go-Karts and the beloved carousel. Attractions will continue to open through summer and beyond, including some new ones like the Surf Shack funhouse.
|Caesars Entertainment Takes it to the Streets, New York City|
Of all the promotional efforts geared toward getting people back to the Jersey Shore, Caesars Entertainment certainly came up with the most attention-grabbing campaign. Forget Governor Christie and Prince Harry – Caesars delivered near-naked, body-painted models to the streets of Manhattan, where they gave away 3000 free overnight stays.
|Mary J Blige at Caesars Atlantic City|
And the spectacle only gets better once you arrive. Caesars kicked off summer with a high-energy performance by R&B diva Mary J. Blige. Willie Nelson, the Doobie Brothers and Hank Williams are among the summer concert headliners, while the Blue Man Group is slated for a week of shows in August.