By CBS3 Staff

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (CBS) — Despite record-high gas prices, thousands of families made the trip to the Jersey Shore during the Memorial Day weekend. Earlier this month, AAA predicted the number of people traveling for the holiday weekend will reach pre-pandemic levels.

From the beach to the bars, people Eyewitness News spoke to say the unofficial start to the summer was a success.

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LaToya Scott drove to Ocean City with her three daughters. It’s their first big family outing since the start of the pandemic.

“I’m excited that we get to enjoy and just be here and be amongst all the people,” Scott said. “I love being around people.”

Her eldest, Kaylynn, loves swimming in the ocean.

“It feels so calm,” she said. “It feels so cold, a little, and I can just feel like the little seashells on me and I’m like, ‘Eww so tiny.'”

Litterer’s Food Court owner Anna Palmieri said the holiday weekend has been good, especially after a dreary start to the month.

“I feel relief. I feel we’re back,” Palmieri said. “The world’s back.”

Sameh Beskails drove to Ocean City with his family, and he’s not worried about the high gas prices.

“Yes, the gas is going up now, but still, we have to enjoy,” he said. “It’s only one life, you know.”

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Andrew Christian, manager of Venturas Greenhouse in Margate, says it was great to see the place packed again, especially after COVID-19.

“This weekend was probably the craziest we have ever seen it,” Christian said. “But this year, people are excited to get out and excited to have a good time and we have the environment to do that. It was a lot of fun. I haven’t seen this many people out in a while. It’s definitely a good time.”

Christian says the atmosphere was electric and the weather was beautiful, something guests have been waiting for.

“That’s the vibe — fun,” Christian said. “They want to have fun and come out and have drinks, good food and it doesn’t matter if it’s here or other places in Margate, they are just happy to get out.”

Others enjoyed their time on the beach, walking around and just spending time with loved ones this Memorial Day weekend.

Beachgoers are hoping to keep the positive momentum going throughout the summer.

For restaurants and bars, this is just the beginning as businesses start to boom after COVID.

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CBS3’s Brandon Goldner and Kerri Corrado contributed to this report.