January is a funny time. Being that it holds the distinction of being the first month of the year, one would imagine that it would come roaring in like a cheerleader — pom poms waving and pockets overflowing with fun activities and opportunities to celebrate the fresh start of the new year.
But it doesn’t.
In fact, outside of the first handful of boozed-up, post-midnight hours, the entire month as a whole becomes an almost somber dirge, generously packed to its frozen gills with biting winds and temperatures so mercilessly low one can hardly imagine there will ever be another time when an outside trip won’t require layers of parkas and Gore-Tex by the pound.
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Like an album with an unlistenable opening track, January is a most unwelcome start to any good year. But only if you allow it be.
That’s right. While the frosty weather during this time of year may seem like a direct betrayal of our beach-themed lifestyle, one needs to remember that, compared to other parts of the country during winter, South Jersey still has lots to do — even in January. Sure, it’s the Jersey Shore and the beach is not exactly calling our name this time of year, but if you are looking to kick out the January blues, there are quite a few ways to keep yourself busy till bathing suit season arrives.
Trade in the blues for some red-hot jazz
The South Jersey Jazz Society holds a variety of musical events no matter what time of year it is, but our pick for the one to catch this month is the CD release party for “Peace and Love,” the new album from TJP (formerly known as The Jost Project). Paul Jost and his band will set up shop over at Gregory’s in Somers Point from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16. It’s sure to be a night of some of the most incredible musicianship you will see all year. Gregory’s is located at 900 Shore Road in Somers Point. Go to SouthJerseyJazz.org for more.
Skate the cold away
What better way is there to turn up the heat during a frosty January day than to head over to Cape May’s Convention Hall for some old-school roller skating action? Every weekend roller skating is offered, with two sessions on Fridays (4 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.), as well as two sessions on Saturdays and Sundays (1 to 3 p.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.).
Skaters can either bring their own skates or rent them from the facility. Cost of admission is $5 for skaters and $2 for non-skaters. Located at 714 Beach Ave. in Cape May Go to DiscoverCapeMayNJ.com.
Dine out … without the holiday mayhem
While the holidays are known for bringing everyone together, sometimes that in itself can cause everyone to, well, be together … literally.
And for that exact reason, January is a great time to head over to a favorite restaurant that might have been just a bit too packed to enjoy during the holiday season. Take, for example, the Smithville Inn, which brings in huge holiday crowds in December, but things slow down nicely in the early part of the new year. Plus, they feature live piano by Lenny Mitchell in the Captain’s Dining Room on Friday and Saturday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to close. Located at 1 N. New York Road, Absecon. Go to HistoricSmithvilleNJ.com.
Be the first on your block to ride the Observation Wheel
We have been forced to wait a long time for the Steel Pier’s Observation Wheel to finally open to the public, but that day has finally come. The grand opening and all its fanfare is scheduled for sometime this spring, however, you can ride on it now (the wheel operates as long as it’s at least 40 degrees outside).
This towering 227-foot structure may look like a traditional carnival Ferris wheel, but this is an “observation” wheel with heated gondolas so you’’ll be warm and toasty inside. And this is no quick spin either — each ride lasts for over 15 minutes, providing you ample time to gaze in wonder at the beautiful skyline and seascape of America’s Playground. The Steel Pier is located at 1000 Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for kids. Go to SteelPier.com for more info.
Do a brew pub crawl in Hammonton
You spend so much time at the beach during the warmer months, that January is an ideal time to head west a bit to explore the picturesque town of Hammonton, where a steady number of breweries have popped up in recent years. Three 3’s, Tomfoolery Brewing and Vinyl Brewing Company each put out some incredible craft beers, and the best part is, each have tasting rooms that are open to the public — and within walking distance to each other. Head to one, or all three, and BYOG — bring your own grub — in case you get the munchies. Go to TomfooleryBrewing.com, VinylBrewingNJ.com and Three3sBrewing.com for more info.
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Check out a big name
Sure, there are more acts touring during the summer months. But one of the true advantages of living in the Atlantic City area is that you are guaranteed to have some big name headliners lining the bills all year long. So instead of moping about the cold, grab a pair of tickets and have yourself a fun night out. The next few months bring in shows from some seriously heavy hitters — Trevor Noah at Borgata on Sunday, Ace Frehley of KISS on Feb. 1 at Millville’s Levoy Theatre, Mary J. Blige on Feb. 16 at Borgata, and more.