John Kiska — who grew up just outside of Pittsburgh — was 10 years old when his older brother took him to Wildwood for the first time. Most memories of the trip are a little fuzzy, but the experience of riding his first water slide at Morey’s Piers made an indelible mark. Even after John grew up, got married and had kids of his own, he held onto this thrilling childhood moment.
So, in 2007, John decided to gift his own family a Jersey Shore vacation. After a ton of research, he and wife Myleen booked a room at Wildwood’s Blue Palms resort. Then they packed the kids — 17-year-old Milan and 13-year-old Devin — into their car and drove six hours southeast from their home in White Oak, Pennsylvania. Little did they know, this would become a yearly tradition.
“We’ve enjoyed every stay,” he says. “We have a saying we like to use: “Even a rainy day in Wildwood is better than a sunny day at home.”
Initially, it was the practicality that drew them in. John was seduced by the Blue Palm’s Stay and Play package, which includes access to the rides and slides of the piers. This is important since, living so close to Ohio’s Cedar Point, long considered the roller coaster capital of the world, the Kiskas have become a family of coaster connoisseurs.
“At some places, you can go to the beach, and then what do you do the rest of the time?” John says. “Morey’s Piers offers a nice mixture.”
But the annual holiday at the Blue Palms has evolved into so much more than a convenient and economically sound place to crash after a day of playing hard. It’s also become an attraction in its own right, thanks largely to the staff.
“I’m thinking of Nikki at the front desk,” John says. “She’s just a tremendous person, always taking care of us in every way. I stay in touch with her throughout the year, checking in with her during bad storms or hurricanes. She’s absolutely become a friend.”
The Blue Palms is also a place where John’s able been able to reconnect with his wife and their two kids, now 29 and 25 years old.
“It’s about togetherness,” he says. “We’ve been known to order pizza at 1am on the Blue Palms deck, just enjoying sitting around talking with one another and other guests. That’s what it’s all about.”
Even after a late night, John will make an effort to wake up early for a bike ride on the boardwalk with his daughter, Devin. In October, she will get married in a ceremony back at home, but it’s possible Wildwood — and all the memories they’ve shared here together — might factor into John’s father-of-the-bride speech. After that — who knows? — John might eventually be introducing grandchildren to their first water slide.
“God willing!” he says. “We certainly hope so. Isn’t it nice to imagine… everything might just come full circle.”