After Memorial Day weekend was off to a dreary start, crowds of eager visitors descended onto the region’s boardwalks Monday afternoon to soak up the sun and celebrate the end of the COVID-19 restrictions in the state.
Beginning Friday, masks were no longer required indoors for fully vaccinated people and social distancing rules came to an end in New Jersey for retail businesses, food and beverage establishments and casinos.
“After all this time, it feels amazing to be out here,” said Bob Relovsky, 24, of the Marlton section of Evesham Township in Burlington County.
In Atlantic City, the beach and Boardwalk were packed with people dining, drinking, playing arcade games and sunbathing.
Music could be heard up and down the boards while tram cars transported visitors from one attraction to the next.
Ellen Straub, 25, of New York City, was happy the weather finally turned around.
“I’ve been here all weekend. Yesterday and the day before, the weather was really bad so I’m happy we got a bit of a break from that and saw the sun,” Straub said.
For visitors Paris Archung, 23, of Syracuse, New York, and Tara Campbell, 24, of Long Island, New York, being able to spend the weekend free of COVID-19 restrictions was a breath of fresh air.
“I feel so refreshed, being able to go out, be normal and socialize with people. It’s been amazing,” Archung said. “We went out last night, and it was so nice not to have a mask on. And it was cool because everybody was feeling the same. We were all there to socialize and have fun after the pandemic.”
“We went to Hard Rock and heard live music for the first time in more than a year and the best part was actually seeing everyone’s faces,” Campbell said.
McKenna Willard, 24, of New York City, said being fully vaccinated helped she and Straub feel at ease now that masks are not longer required.
“We’re both vaccinated so that’s helpful, at first it felt weird not wearing a mask but we got over it pretty quickly,” Willard said. “And it’s going to be hard to go back to New York because it’s still pretty strict there.”
Kylie W., 17, said she’s happy the restrictions have been eased but hopes people continue being cautious when it comes to the COVID-19 virus.
“It’s great that things are opening back up but people need to remain safe,” Kylie said. “I think people need to understand that the pandemic isn’t over just yet, but it does feel great to be able to enjoy the holiday without a mask. It definitely feels like we’re getting back to normal.”
On the Ocean City Boardwalk, crowds stood in line for food, played mini golf and shopped.
And the beach was packed. Some — mostly teenage girls — even braved cooler temps in bikinis.
Helena O’Connell, of Philadelphia, was in town for the weekend with her sister and both of their families. O’Connell was strolling the boards with her son and grandchildren on Monday afternoon, after staying inside for the first two days of the holiday weekend due to rain and wind.
But the family enjoyed the whole weekend a lot, she said.
“It forced us to stay together, instead of going in different directions,” O’Connell said of the cold and rain Saturday and Sunday. “There were 16 of us in one room in the house. We all played games.”
At Congo Falls mini golf, worker Matthew Flecknoe said Monday was “crazy busy.”
“It’s like the middle of the summer,” Flecknoe said. Saturday was dead, he said, but Sunday “people started braving the coldness” and it had picked up a bit.
Staff writer Michelle Brunetti-Post contributed to this report.