Christmas in Cape May: A Magical Experience For The Whole Family


Sure, the holidays are supposed to be joyful, but when you’re bogged down with to-do lists, gift buying, and decorating on top of all your everyday stuff, that’s a recipe for dampening your holiday spirits. So here’s an idea— why not slow down and recapture that joy during a weekend away that celebrates a classic small-town Christmas like those Hallmark movies? Create a new holiday tradition by heading to Christmas in Cape May, where this Victorian-era village lights up with jolly decor, holiday-filled happenings, Santa sightings, tasty food, and of course, lots of old-fashioned charm. And with off-season rates at hotels, this is that family escape you’ve been dreaming of—without blowing your holiday budget. Read on to make this the merriest time for your family this season. If summer in Cape May is more your cup of cocoa, check out NJMOM’s guide to kid-friendly things to do in Cape May. (feature photo credit: Congress Hall Cape May)

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The decorated Victorian homes in Cape May line the street with holiday delight. Photo Credit: istock/Kirkikis

Things to do to celebrate Christmas in Cape May

A Christmas steeped in history with MAC

Before you plan your Christmas in Cape May, check out this listing of events that is the Little Black Book of Christmas in Cape May—you’ll find an overview of everything festive to do, including kid-centric activities, tours of Victorian-decorated inns, trolley tours, a recreated-Dickens village exhibit and the inside scoop for where to see the big guy in the red suit. A good start is the Emlen Physick Estate, a decorated former Victorian home now a museum, which features whimsical and fun holiday displays all around. 

Breakfast with Santa

If seeing Santa is at the top of your list, why not combine a visit with a delicious meal? Santa will be on the breakfast circuit this season, stopping on select dates at The Inn of Cape May and Congress Hall every weekend starting November 25. But be sure to book those spots now—reservations fill up fast and do sell out. 

Santa’s Trolley Rides

Hop on a trolley with Mrs. Claus, who’s visiting from the North Pole, as she tells stories and plays festive music on a ride through the historic Victorian homes and streets, showing off the beautiful light displays. The big guy joins in on the fun at the gazebo at the Physick Estate, where kids can share their wish lists and take photos. 

Cape May Convention Hall

This event space has incredible views (it’s located on the beach) and hosts holiday festivities, including their Holiday Crafts Fair on November 24 this year, which features pottery, jewelry, home accessories, and more from local artists and makers, making it a perfect spot to find those one-of-a-kind gifts.  

Physick Estate Christmas House Tour

Step back in time to a Victorian Holiday at the Physick Estate, where you can learn how Victorian residents celebrated Christmas long ago. This living history tour features docents dressed in 1890 costumes and explains the differences between Christmas then and now. At nighttime, the popular candlelight tour visits more than a dozen homes, churches, and inns that show off how Victorian and more modern interiors are beautifully decorated for the holidays.

An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit

Starting November 17 in the Carriage House of the Physick Estate Museum, this free exhibit is the kind of thing your kids will talk about for days. The stunning scene will wow them— model trains whiz alongside the charming, miniature Dickens Village beneath a giant glowing Christmas tree. The kiddos can even drop off their Santa letters here.

All That Glitters Trolley Tour

What better way to see Cape May in its holiday best than on an old-fashioned trolley ride? Kids will be in awe of the twinkling lights and festive decor on homes and inns in the historic district. Expect it to feel like 1899 as the Victorians ring in the new year during the trolley tour.

Cape May Carriage Tours

No Christmas movie experience would be complete without a historic horse and carriage ride—and with the lights on the candy-colored houses twinkling, it captures the magic of the holidays perfectly. You can take a ride in a classic horse-drawn carriage or wagonette ride, or for a storybook feel, book the Cinderella Pumpkin ride, which is a beautiful lit-up carriage fit for a princess or prince. Be sure to bundle up, but if you catch a chill, there are blankets in the carriages to keep you warm.

Winter Wonderland At Congress Hall

With candy cane-striped tents filled with gorgeous gifts and a 30-foot-lit tree, the Winter Wonderland is a magical experience the whole family will love. Littles hop on a train ride, ride the carousel, and sip cocoa while you shop for whimsical gifts and festive decor. The tree officially is lit on the evening of December 1 in a rousing front lawn ceremony filled with live music, a holiday sing-along, and a countdown for the big reveal.

Cape May County Zoo

What’s one of the best things about this zoo? It’s open year-round, and it’s FREE. Plan to check out the camels, giraffes, otters, birds, reptiles, and the festive decor as you walk along the path. And on November 25, don’t miss the chance to see Santa light up the tree with a celebration featuring live holiday music, an ice sculpture demonstration, a bounce house, character appearances, free treats for all, and a visit by the jolly man in the red suit. You can also take a 90-minute guided tour or give your kids a huge thrill by booking an animal encounter, the zoo’s signature experience that lets you meet animals and learn how they are cared for behind the scenes.

Willow Creek Farm and Winery

Take a break from the holiday happenings and head to this vineyard, the only winery on Cape May Island surrounded by the ocean and the bay. With a microclimate reminiscent of France’s famed Bordeaux region, this winery offers rich reds and crisp whites for tastings, and if you want to stay awhile, a farm-to-table menu for lunch and dinner. They also host a Holiday Sip & Shop on December 9-10.
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Cozy up this holiday season at a hotel in Cape May. Photo Credit: Cape May Resorts Group, Congress Hall

Hotels to stay in for Christmas in Cape May

Lokal Hotel

This boutique beach hotel is a fresh modern design twist in a sea of Victorian-style bed and breakfast inns. The fam will feel right at home here— each room features a cozy living room, a full-service, stocked kitchen with plenty of dining space (so you can have meals in with littles), marble bathrooms, and comfy beds, including some with kid-friendly bunks. Feeling like you need to unwind? Schedule a massage while kids play board games provided by the hotel. Lokal Hotels’ smaller size and attention to detail give you a sense of calm as soon as you step through the doors—a welcome relief to all the holiday hustle and bustle happening outside.
5 Stockton Place, Cape May, NJ 08204

ICONA Cape May

This beachside, newly-renovated boutique hotel is awash in white and blues with a fresh, contemporary feel that puts you in vacation mode as soon as you enter the lobby. The ample nautical-style rooms can accommodate any size family (book an ocean-view suite for separate living and sleeping areas if you want more space), and the bathrooms are super luxe with marble finishes. The hotel’s prime spot on Ocean Ave makes it a short walk (or trolley ride) to all the festivities in the center of town.
1101 Beach Avenue, Cape May, NJ 08204

The Grand Hotel

You can’t beat the beachfront location, huge-sized rooms and suites with kitchenettes, the onsite family-friendly restaurant Hemingway’s, and an indoor pool at this full-service resort. Kids will have a ball splashing around in the pool and playing arcade games in the game room while you sweat it out in the fitness center. Each morning, Hemingway’s offers an ample breakfast menu filled with Belgian waffles and omelets. Since lunch and dinner menus feature locally sourced seafood and mouthwatering steaks, there’s no need to leave the hotel (which is so key when you’ve got littles that go to bed early). Check out Hemingway’s Bar if you can carve out adult time (and swing a sitter).
1045 Beach Ave, Cape May, NJ 08204

Congress Hall

This picture-perfect, historic hotel is what Christmas in Cape May dreams are made of— the seaside resort transforms into a winter wonderland complete with a carousel, train, Santa, and an enchanted shopping village where candy cane striped tents offer unique gift shopping and hot cocoa. Inside, the entire resort is decorated with a traditional yuletide touch from top to bottom, with fresh greens, giant nutcrackers, and a magnificent lit tree that makes you feel like you’ve landed in a classic Christmas movie. Opt for one of their holiday packages for a festive treat.
200 Congress Place, Cape May, NJ 08204

The Virginia Hotel

Ok, this one is not kid-friendly, but it’s worth a mention if you can sneak away for a romantic weekend to this beautiful manor, which has privileges with Congress Hall (hello fitness room and spa). The gorgeous, charming decor makes you feel like you’re in a friend’s fantastic country house—each room boasts luxe Belgium linens and plush furnishings done up in crisp whites and soft blues, while the cozy living room downstairs has a roaring fireplace and comfy leather chairs. A continental breakfast is included with each room, and for dinner, you won’t want to go any further than the famed Ebbitt Room— they source the cuisine from their very own Beach Plum Farm, and there’s a jazzy piano player on weekends. Guests with children are invited to stay in their private Virginia Cottages.
25 Jackson Street, Cape May, NJ 08204

Want more info on what to do during the holidays and the rest of the year? Check out this informational guide to all things Cape May.

Where do you love to celebrate Christmas in Cape May?

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About Author

Lisa Cohen Lee is a freelance writer, editor, and mom to a tween-age boy based in Summit, NJ. Her work has appeared in print and online, including Glamour, Self, Woman’s Day, O The Oprah Magazine, NY Post, NJ Monthly,,, and Brit + Co, among others. A Garden State native, Lisa is always on the lookout for new local adventures and events to entertain her son and husband. Most days, you can find her chauffeuring her son around town and trolling the coolest coffee houses for #NJMOM fuel.