By: Courtney Byrne
The past 2 years we visited Cape May, NJ during the Christmas season. We were not able to sneak in a trip this December but so many people have asked lately about things to do and see while they go that I wanted to put together some notes on our favorite things to do for a Cape May Christmas. I’ll start by staying we absolutely love it there at Christmas and hope to go again next year. It’s perfect for all ages – we brought Miles the first time when we was 1 and have brought grandparents too. Every age enjoys it. It’s the most “Christmas feeling” spot we’ve visited and it really puts us in the spirit. It’s a magical place to visit over the holidays!
Cape May Christmas
Where to stay in Cape May at Christmas
The “not to miss” place in Cape May at Christmas is Congress Hall. When I booked our trip the first year, I thought you had to stay at Congress Hall to enjoy all of their festivities. You do not. It’s very convenient to stay there and absolutely beautiful but there are other options.
1. Congress Hall: The pros are it’s where the action is, it’s stunning at Christmas. Really the only con is the cost.
2. Beach Shack: Owned by Congress Hall and you can book it on the Congress Hall site and therefore do many of the holiday packages offered. This is where we have stayed both years at Christmas. It costs less and is only a short walk from Congress Hall. Last year we did a great package that included Breakfast with Santa. The rooms have a set of built in bunks which my kids love and make it possible for us to all fit in one hotel room. Also, the Rusty Nail, which I will mention below is located at The Beach Shack.
3. Rent a house: There are a lot of houses to rent in Cape May and if you have a bigger group, it’s a fun option. We rented this house for Spring Break a few years ago and it’s awesome: Cape May Vacation Rental
4. The Boarding House, Cape May: This summer we stayed at The Boarding House. It’s a brand new hotel in a great location. It was very family friendly, a great price and my kids loved it there. This would also be a good spot to stay at the holidays.
Where to Eat in Cape May at Christmas
1. Breakfast with Santa at Congress Hall: This event is a must if you visit Cape May at Christmas. It’s the nicest breakfast with Santa I have been to (and we’ve attend many!). The room is beautiful, the food is delicious and it’s so nice that you can go up to meet Santa at your leisure. I know some kids like to run right in and see The Big Guy and some would rather warm up and get comfortable hanging out in the room with Santa for a while before hopping on his lap for a photo. You can take as many photos as you like and the set up around Santa, the big chair, etc make great photos.
2. Delany’s: This is a fun pub right in the center of town. It’s cozy, kid friendly and they have fun Christmas decorations. We usually do lunch here or dinner.
3. Mad Hatter: This has been one of my favorite spots since I was a kid. GREAT breakfast!
4. Rusty Nail: This is located at The Beach Shack and is our favorite dinner spot. It’s all decorated for Christmas and they have a big fire going. Also, if you sit in the room with the game tables, the kids can play while you wait for dinner.
5. Beach Plum Farm: More on this special spot below but lunch here is worth getting in the car and driving a few miles from the center of town. We love lunch here! And get a cider donut regardless of what time of day you go!
6. Cape May Sweet House: I am not sure if a candy store counts as a “place to eat” but I think it should at Christmas. This candy store is fun all year but extra magical at Christmas. From the windows to the train that drives around the top of the store, make sure to stop in for some treats.
What to See & Do in Cape May At Christmas
1. Congress Hall: Congress Hall has SO much to do at Christmas. On the front lawn there is a Christmas market to walk around and shop, a spot to write letters to Santa, crafts to make, Stories with Mrs. Claus and so many delicious winter treats. There is also a carousel and our favorite: the train ride! Inside there is a live show you can see (I believe more for adults), gingerbread house making and sometime Mrs. Claus reads in the lobby. Stories with Mrs. Claus in the lobby is one of my favorite Christmas memories from our trips there. Check their site for updates and details on when events are. It’s just a really wonderful place to spend time with family at Christmas.
2. 5 & 10 Santa: The 1st time we visited Cape May at Christmas time we just happened to stumble upon Santa at the 5 & 10. He walked to the back while we were getting a hot chocolate. It was one of those special “we believe” kind of moments which might be why it’s now a favorite spot to stop in at Christmastime. He is in the store and out front and makes everyone smile and laugh. Of course we made sure to go visit him when we returned last year.
3. Walk Around Washington Street Mall: This is the main street with all the little shops. From gifts shops to coffee shops, everyone is decked out for the holidays. There are no cars that drive down (most of it) so it’s fun for the kids to run around too.
4. Walk the Beach: I love the beach in the winter. Cape May has long, gorgeous beaches and if you’re really lucky (we were one year!) you might even get to see snow on the beach. We stayed bundled up but left out shoes so we could feel the ocean in the winter.
5. Horse Drawn Carriage Ride: I stayed back with the boys but my parents, Tom and the girls did a horse drawn carriage ride and loved it. The drivers know so much history of all the old Victorian houses and share details on where the holiday parties were back in the day, where ship captains lived, etc. It’s a great way to see all the houses decorated for Christmas too.
6. Beach Plum Farm:This is one of our favorite spots to visit in NJ and it’s even more special at Christmas. You can read more about the farm on their site and the food they grow and provide to the hotels (it’s really neat). There’s an amazing little store upstairs for Christmas shopping. For the kids: there are chickens to feed and pigs to visit. If it’s not too cold, venture down the path to where the pigs are – it’s such a lovely farm to explore.
Have fun if you venture off for a Cape May Christmas!