Doo-wopping Wildwoods, NJ

Beach- Wildwood New Jersey. Photo: Shutterstock
Beach- Wildwood New Jersey. Photo: Shutterstock

Echoes of The Ink Spots, the glow of neon, and “Jetson”-style motels designs make the Wildwoods, NJ a lively, living museum of the Doo Wop Era.

Visiting the Wildwoods is a trip in the Wayback Machine. In the ’50s and ’60s, the fantasy-themed hotels, garish color palettes, and unashamedly kitschy décor identified the most trendy beach resorts. It was called “Doo Wop” from the vocal backgrounds of the popular music of the time.

When that fad ended, other towns replaced the unique motels and quirky street life with dull, homogenous buildings and lights. The Wildwoods, though, declared them historic landmarks. It has the largest concentration of Doo Wop-era motels in the nation, with the colorful neon signs lending the streets a carnival air at night. Encouraged by the Doo Wop Preservation League, newer buildings run with the theme, creating a “Neo Doo Wop” architecture.

Sunset over the North Wildwood. Photo: Shutterstock

The Doo Wop Experience Museum and Neon Sign Garden tells the resort’s backstory and houses salvaged signs and ’50s-era artifacts, like dinette sets and boomerang tables. The outside garden has a collection of fully restored neon signs. The one hour ’50s Neon Night Tour travels through the unique architectural landscape on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Purchase tickets ($12 for adults/$6 for kids) at the museum.

Two Doo Wop motels to try are the Caribbean ( and the Starlux ( A member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America, the Caribbean has 1950s décor with 21st century amenities. The Starlux also has that ’50s feel and two restored Airstream trailers if you want to experience retro RVing.

The Doo-Wop Diner on the Boardwalk (, Marvis Diner (, and the Star Diner Café ( are “period-appropriate.” At Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor (, you can put a quarter in the juke box and sip your malted while sitting in a ’57 Ford Fairlane or Chevy Bel Air.

For more information on the Wildwoods, visit

Insight Guides | Fran Severn