Shore towns for kids don’t always have to mean boardwalks full of rides and games—a trip down to Exit 0 to Cape May is where fun and kid-friendly can coexist without flashing lights and thrill attractions (and parents can have some good times too). With candy-colored cottages, a charming Victorian history, a walkable downtown, inspiring museums, a lighthouse, and kid-pleasing ways to get around town (hello, golf cart rental), there are lots of things to do in Cape May with the family any time of year. Scroll down for what to do with kids in Cape May, and be sure to check out our guides to Cape May kid-friendly restaurants and lodging if you plan to stay a while. (featured photo credit: istock/Jonathan W. Cohen)
Get back to nature at Cape May Point State Park
Being at the beach doesn’t mean you have to stake a spot on the sand to get cozy with nature. Instead, take a trip to Cape May Point State Park, where the protected natural area offers ample opportunities to connect with green space, encounter birds and wildlife, and experience stunning views. Walk the trails, spend the day fishing, or take a hike. The famous Cape May Lighthouse is located within this park—whether you take photos from the ground or climb the 199 steps, your family can say they saw one of the country’s most familiar lighthouses. And map out a stop at the World War II Gun Battery 223, which was built as part of the Harbor Defense Project of 1942.
Make your way to the zoo
With 85 acres of wildlife exhibits, Cape May County Zoo and Park is high on the top of our list for kid-friendly things to do in Cape May. And for good reason—it’s open year-round and FREE (yup, you read that right), showcasing over 550 animals spanning 250 species. Your family will see their favorite animals, including cheetahs, monkeys, red pandas, camels, zebras, bears, and even a bald eagle. To add more to your trip, you can adopt an animal, experience an animal encounter or even participate in Zoo Camp in the summer months.
Fly into history
Located at the Cape May Airport, the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum is a must for kids with its interactive exhibits and cool displays. This nonprofit museum—located inside the airport’s historic Hangar #1 and a former training facility for WWII dive bomber squadrons—honors the 42 naval aviators who died in training and showcases the planes and equipment the bombers used. Your kids will be in awe as they enter the hangar, which houses over 25 historic jets, helicopters, and airplanes (you can even sit in the cockpit of select aircraft). There are also interactive STEM displays, a chance to climb into the air traffic control tower, and periodic special educational events and programs.
Shop, eat, and explore
Right in the heart of Cape May is the Washington Street Mall, a pedestrian-only outdoor mall of shops, restaurants, and boutiques where you can shop and pick up local gifts and souvenirs. Stroll along the walkway and step into the Cape Atlantic Book Co. and The Toy Shop of Cape May, to shop for books and toys unique to this shore spot. Got a sweet tooth? Stop by Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, Madison’s Bakery, and The Original Fudge Kitchen for homemade candy treats. For more serious food, the Cape May Fish Market, Fins Bar & Grille, and Delaney’s Irish Pub & Grille offer hearty dishes from the sea and land to satisfy everyone in the fam. If you’re looking for a blast from the past, head to the back of Della’s 5&10, where Margie D’s Soda Fountain serves up breakfast, lunch, and ice cream. It’s like a time machine back to the 50s—sit on a stool at the counter and order up the house favorite, a root beer float, and reminisce about the good ‘ole days (before cell phones).
Tour the town and then some
Cape May is the oldest seashore resort in America, and Cape May’s Historic District is a living museum. The town is a National Historic Landmark with Victorian-era architecture, and the best way to see these preserved buildings from the 1800s and get an overview of this historic shore town is to hop on a trolley tour through Cape May MAC (Museums, Arts, Culture). The Historic District Trolley Tour winds through the Victorian cottages and homes, and once you hop off, you can enter the Physick House, an 18-room mansion with docents who guide you through to explain what life was like back then. There are also maritime tours, a Children’s Tour for littles, and an Underground Railroad Tour, offering an inside look at how historic figure Harriet Tubman, a Cape May resident in the late 1800s, ran the underground railroad and helped to end slavery. For kids who like a thrill, check out the spooky Ghost of Cape May Trolley Tour or the Spirits & Oddities Tour. During the holiday season, there are also special Santa and Mrs. Claus tours and holiday lights tours.
Watch for whales and dolphins
Get out on the water with The Cape May Whale Watcher, and be on the lookout for whales and dolphins from spring through fall. In the summer, some cruises take you by the lighthouse, during the night for fireworks, and even the Atlantic City Air Show. For an in-depth tour of the area and marine animals, The Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center offers cruises and promotes marine animals’ conservation through research, education, and outreach. On dry land, the Cape May Point Science Center offers tours of its historic buildings, which give insight into the rich avian and marine wildlife that rely on Cape May as an ecologically significant area.
Bird with the best of them
According to National Geographic, Cape May is a birding hot spot, which listed the area as one of the best places to bird in the country. Take advantage of this unique position and go Birding by Boat, where you can explore the wetlands and see birds, or the Salt Marsh Safari, back bay birding, and wildlife boat tours, where you can see over 400 species of birds and 300 species of fish. The Cape May Bird Observatory offers migration watches, a school of birding, and even a monarch monitoring project. Kids will get an intro to birding at the Nature Center of Cape May, part of the National Audobon Society, with interactive family programs, live animals, aquariums, nature trails, a bird blind, and a viewing tower. Finally, the Garrett Family Preserve lets you see raptors, migrating birds, bumblebees, and butterflies up close.
Getting around town
Make like a local and explore the town on two wheels. Check out Cape Island Bikes, where you can find tandems, kids’ bikes, trailers, child seats, and even a large surrey with a top and four wheels. Want a zippy way to get around? Ditch the car and rent an electric golf cart. Cape May Carts has road-ready golf carts and will give you a map of where to go and park them (they are a bunch of designated golf cart spots in town).
What to know before you go
Visiting the beaches in Cape May is a must-do in the summer, and beach tags are available. Beachfront meters are in effect from May 1-October 31. Want to stay a while? There are plenty of hotels and resorts to accommodate all budgets. Cape May has a full roster of activities all year round, from their Tomato Festival, Lima Bean Festival, Christmas Parade, craft shows, and live music events, that make it a great spot to visit any time of year. And if you’re looking to create a new holiday tradition, take a ride to exit 0 starting in November when Cape May lights up with jolly decor, holiday-filled happenings, Santa sightings, and of course, lots of old-fashioned charm.
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