Victorian Cape May, New Jersey, is a charming place for the family to visit during the holiday season. You’ll think you’re lost in Charles Dickens’ London when you take in all the old-fashioned decorations throughout the city. Heated trolley tours show visitors around the city; at night, a storyteller narrates the popular Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Ride. Some trolleys even have a special guest with a white beard dressed in red!
The Emlen Physick Estate offers a unique living history experience with tours through the festively decorated Victorian mansion. The Carriage House Gallery, adjacent to the Physick Estate, is featuring a new exhibit this year. “An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions through the Years” has a model train, vintage dolls and Victorian decorations. Cape May’s two professional theater companies are offering performances of “Louisa May Alcott’s Christmas” and the comical “Every Christmas Story Ever Told.” Younger children will be thrilled by Breakfast with Santa or Tea with Mrs. Claus. Families can discover the uniqueness of Cape May from a kid’s perspective with the Cape May Family Treasure Hunt.
While in Cape May, families can also take advantage of the seashore joys the region offers year-round:
Shopping: Washington Street Mall features many cool shops for holiday shopping. There are also many suppliers of salt water taffy and other treats, sweatshirts, toys and cool souvenirs. The Whale’s Tale has been in the same spot since 1974 and has remained unchanged. They have a great selection of cards, toys, seashells and gifts, many keeping with the beach theme.
The Lighthouse: The restored sand-colored 1859 Cape May Lighthouse is for ambitious climbers. At the top of the 111 steps, you’ll see a great view of Cape May. The oil house now houses a gift shop with lighthouse- related stuff, and a fun little museum is right next door. This is a state park great for walks, kite flying, and inspecting the outside of the World War II bunker.
The Cape May County Zoo: Boardwalks, gazebos and flowering landscapes create a pleasant setting for the variety of animals. The original barnyard animals have been joined over the years by big cats, snakes, birds and the African Savannah crew. The free zoo is located in the expansive Cape May County Park, about 20 minutes up Route 9 from Cape May Island.
The Cape May – Lewes Ferry: Since 1964, these big boats have been transporting people across the Delaware Bay to Cape May from Lewes, Delaware. The ferry is not simply a mode of transportation, though. This 90-minute cruise sometimes results in close-up views of marine animals and shore birds.
Cape May, located at the southern tip of New Jersey and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay and Cape May Canal, calls itself “America’s Oldest Seashore Resort.” This popular family-friendly Victorian seashore wonderland is an easy drive up the coast from the Chesapeake Bay area.
Cape May Chamber of Commerce: (609-884-5508), capemaychamber.com.
Mid Atlantic Center for the Arts: (800-275-4278), capemaymac.org (tours, events, lighthouse).
The lighthouse (609-884-2159) at Cape May Point State Park is maintained by the Mid Atlantic Center for the Arts, (800-275-4278), capemaymac.org.
Cape May County Park and Zoo (609-465-5271), Exit 11 of the Garden State Parkway.
Cape May-Lewes Ferry, (800-64 FERRY), capemaylewesferry.com.
Margaret Mantet is a freelance writer and owns a vacation home in a town neighboring Cape May.