Complete Insider’s Guide to Cape May
Many are drawn to Cape May for its ocean sunsets, some come to climb the 199 steps to the top of its famous lighthouse, and others seek to visually soak up the Victorian charm of the only city to be designated a National Historic Landmark.
Fans of the American-born resort call it their “happy place,” and it’s easy to see why. The Washington Street Mall is a shopper’s paradise with artisan jewelry and chocolate to everything Scandinavian, from saltwater taffy to an entire shop devoted to beef jerky.
Historic trolley tours, holiday parades, music festivals, and scrumptious dining options only scratch the surface of this city’s appeal.
While vacationers descend on Cape May from May to August, Cape May is much more than a summer destination, according to locals. There’s something for everyone all year round, which is why it was named Jersey’s Best Destination of the Year 2022.
The designation, announced in the magazine’s December issue, was the culmination of months of reflection on various aspects of a destination that can attract visitors, ranging from arts and entertainment to cuisine and historical significance. and timeless appeal.
Undoubtedly, the city has made a valiant effort to expand its network wide enough to capture the attention of visitors of different age groups, interests and sensibilities.
“Our goal is to meet the needs of all ages,” said Kacie Rattigan, Director of Tourism/Civic Affairs and Recreation for the City of Cape May.
Free concerts at Rotary Park, ticketed concerts at the Cape May Convention Hall throughout the summer, the annual Baby Parade, Independence Day and Halloween parades, and the annual tree lighting are just some of the events that keep visitors coming back, she said.
“The city itself has a lot to do for the public when it comes to museums, theaters and hotels. Cape May is rich in history,” she said. “It’s also a great opportunity to learn.”
One example is the 1879 Physick House Museum, an 18-room mansion built by famed American architect Frank Furness and one of the finest examples of stick-style Victorian architecture in the country. Visitors can take a guided tour of the first and second floors of this structure, which was restored 50 years ago by the Cape May MAC (Museums. Arts. Culture.) organization.
MAC saved the mansion from the wrecking ball in 1970 and continues to maintain it today, said Jody Alessandrine, CEO of Cape May MAC.
“It was very much like the house in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ that George and Mary Bailey had, where the kids went to the basement in the ’60s and the house was in bad shape,” Alessandrine said. “A few people got involved and saved the house.”
Tours of Cape May Gardens will take place on May 21 and June 25, the seasonal wagon tours are always a hit and the Christmas candlelight house tour has been a tradition for nearly half a century, a-t -he declares. This year, the Candlelight House tour is scheduled for December 3, 10, and 17.
Another must-do is the self-guided Christmas Lamplighter Tour, where guests can visit Cape May’s bed and breakfast inns and private homes decorated for the holidays. The tour includes a gift and a visit to an old-fashioned Christmas display at the Physick Estate Carriage House.
“All of our holiday light tours sold out last Christmas,” he said. “And there were 1,100 people at the lighthouse between Christmas and New Years.”
The West Cape May Community Christmas Parade takes place on the first Saturday in December, and the Christmas tree lighting at Rotary Park, complete with carolers, is an annual favorite.
During the winter, from late December to March, the Cape May Convention Hall turns into a roller skating rink, he said, and individual hotels also host events throughout the year.
“Cape May has something for everyone, from two top notch theater companies as well as the Exit Zero Jazz Festival in the spring and fall,” said Doreen Talley, Executive Director of the Greater Cape Chamber of Commerce. May.
The Exit Zero Jazz Festival takes place May 13-15 and the lineup includes 10-time Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval, the Mingus Big Band, Artemis and Marcus Miller, among others.
“We host award-winning wineries and top restaurants where you can find menus ranging from appetizers to fine dining on the same street,” she said. “It’s a destination for all seasons; not just summer,” she said.
But, if summer is your thing, you might want to head to the Cape May Music Festival from May 1 to June 30, to hear classical, chamber, jazz and more.
Mystery-loving theatergoers can get tickets to dinner and mystery drama, “The Trouble With Silver Spoons,” at the Chalfonte Hotel, scheduled for May 18-25. More mysteries will be announced for September and October.
Speaking of theatre, visitors can become detectives on the weekend of October 14 and 21, in an original mystery, “Sherlock Holmes and Send in the Clowns!” The play begins Friday night and ends Sunday with the mystery revealed. You’ll roam the streets of Cape May looking for clues to help you fill in the missing pieces. Full weekend packages include accommodation.
Foodies might be interested in Restaurant Week in June, where diners can enjoy an appetizer, main course and dessert for $38 at participating restaurants. The Independence Day parade along Beach Avenue takes place on the Saturday closest to the 4th of July, and you can always count on the annual 4th of July fireworks launching in front of the convention center from a barge 400 meters offshore.
“When you’re in Cape May, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but even now that I’ve worked for the tourism juggernaut, it still doesn’t get old,” said MAC’s Alessandrine. “It’s an incredibly special place. There’s something for everyone, whether you love history, the beach, water sports, wineries, distilleries, breweries, arts and culture, independent or professional theatre. There is something for everyone, whether you want to be intellectual or otherwise.
A veteran reporter for The Star-Ledger, where for 21 years she covered news stories and lifestyle features, Carmen Juri is now a high school teacher and freelance writer. She is also a mother of two teenagers and a globetrotter who loves to cook and go to the theatre.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Jersey’s Best. Subscribe here for in-depth access to everything that makes the Garden State great.
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