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Tired of playing second fiddle to Cape Cod, the Hamptons and the Delaware beaches, the New Jersey Shore has quietly been attracting tourists and visitors to its quaint towns, large beaches and fun-filled boardwalks for the better part of this century. From Avalon to Asbury Park, for teenagers to aging romantics, there really is something for everyone on the largest sand dune between Philadelphia and New York. Close to Newark Airport and easy to get to from New York City, it's no longer a secret that the Jersey Shore is full of quiet, affordable inns and charming towns.

Start looking for Jersey Shore towns at www.visitnj.com, the state's tourism website. For shore sites, check out www.state.nj.us/travel/sr06_mainpage.shtml, which has vacation specials, maps, events, attractions, and hotel information listed by location. The most popular shore site might be the casinos and the glitz of Atlantic City (www.atlanticcitynj.com). With a huge boardwalk and major music headliners such as Aretha Franklin and Leonard Skynard and boxing events lasting through the summer, Atlantic City has great hotel packages and lodging deals. With one night packages beginning at $104 per night at the Tropicana (tel. 800/345-8767; www.tropicana.net) and two night packages starting at $158.50 through June and then going down up to $194 through July and August, casino stays with all the trimmings are more than affordable. The next door beaches at Margate are popular spots among college students. If you go to Atlantic City, the subs and Cheese Steaks at the White House Sub Shop (tel. 609/345-1564) are as good as any Philly sandwich shop.

For a quiet getaway without the kids, the town of Spring Lake (www.springlake.org) has the longest stretch of a non-commercial boardwalk in the entire state, meaning you can walk on your own in peace and quiet. Billed as a sophisticated adult weekend getaway, Spring Lake has several bed and breakfasts and small inns perfect for romance and together time. The Ashling Cottage (tel. 732/449-3553; www.ashlingcottage.com) has Victorian rooms furnished in dreamy white colors with reduced summer rate packages taking $100 and $70 off normal rates. With a large front porch and gazebo, this yellow mansion is a step back in time. The Normandy Inn (tel. 800/449-1888; www.normandyinn.com/specials05.html) has specials that take 20 percent off of any stay on certain July days, specifically July 5, 6, 11, 12, and 13. Normal rates for a small room start at $115 per night. Built as a summer rental home in 1889, you can hear the waves from your room at this quintessential beach inn.

Families can let loose at Long Beach Island (www.longbeachisland.com) where the boardwalk is full of games and group activities geared towards kids. Located in Ocean County and consisting of several towns along a barrier island looking out on the Atlantic Ocean, Long Beach is full of white sandy beaches, Victorian architecture, and a carnival atmosphere. The Island Guest House (tel. 877/524-7829; www.lbinet.com/islandguesthouse) has rates starting at $115 for a standard room in a central location just steps away from the beach and shops. The Barnegat Lighthouse is nearby as is a National Wildlife Refuge where the brush goes long and the seagulls fly. While the beaches might be the draw, several water parks, kayaking, bird watching and golf are also popular activities.

Nearby Seaside Heights (www.seasideheightstourism.com) has an AVP pro volleyball tournament taking place from June 29 to July 2, 2006 attracting the best beach volleyball players in the world. With games and rides and two fun-packed piers, Seaside is a blast all summer long. The Bay Breeze Hotel (tel. 732/830-4555; www.thebaybreezemotel.com) is an old style two story beach motel with a concrete motel pool. Rates start at just $79 per night and discounts are given for week stays. It can get expensive around holiday times, but midweek stays are less expensive than the $129 weekend rate. You get free beach badges with your stay at this summer resort roadside motel that wreaks Americana. For info on that volleyball tournament and ticket information, check out www.avpseaside.com or call 877/287-8499. Legendary beach star Karch Kiraly is scheduled to attend. An all session General Admission pass costs just $40.

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