Christmas in Cape May 🎄— Where to Play and Stay

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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 Cape May, where this Victorian-era village lights up with jolly decor, holiday-filled happenings, Santa sightings 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.

featured image via Lokal Hotel

WHERE TO PLAY:

MAC Center: Before you plan, check out this listing of events that is the Little Black Book of Christmas in Cape May– you’ll find everything you need to know in their interactive calendar, including kid-centric activities, tours of Victorian decorated inns, local gift ideas and the inside scoop for where to see the big guy in the red suit.
Cape May Convention Hall: This event space has awesome views (it’s located on the beach) and hosts a ton of holiday festivities, including their Holiday Crafts Fair, which features pottery, jewelry, home accessories and more from local artists and makers (perfect for picking up gifts or decor). There’s also a roster of holiday concerts and a free family fun day, featuring Santa and lots of kid-friendly activities, like games, bouncy houses and face painting.
Physick Estate Christmas House Tour: Step back in time to a Victorian Holiday at the Physick Estate where you can learn how the 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. Check out the candlelight tour to see how the residents would have entertained for the holidays. Tours are $15 for adults, $8 for children.
An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit: This free exhibit located in the Carriage House of the Physick Estate museum is the kind of thing your kids will be talking about for days. They’ll be wowed by the stunning scene— model trains whiz alongside the charming, miniature Dickens Village beneath a giant glowing Christmas tree.

Holiday Lights Trolley Ride: 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 lots of sing-alongs to Christmas music throughout the 30-minute ride. On weekends, Mrs. Claus hosts the rides which end with a meet and greet with Santa at the carriage house. Rides start at $10 for adults, $8 for children.

Winter Wonderland At Congress Hall: Come to shop for gifts at the vendor village, while littles hop on a train ride, listen to stories read by Mrs. Claus, make seasonal crafts, take a ride on the carousel and sip hot cocoa while admiring the 30-foot lit tree. Be sure to watch the costumed carolers sing and warm up with a hot toddy. It’s a magical experience you and your family won’t want to miss.
Cape May County Zoo: What’s most awesome about this zoo? It’s open year-round, and it’s FREE. There’s also free parking, so plan to spend time checking out the camels, giraffes, otters, birds and reptiles, as well as the festive decor and lit tree as you walk along the path (if you’re thinking for next year, make sure you don’t miss the Santa’s Tree LIghting experience with a Polar Express train that happens the weekend after Thanksgiving). You can also take a 90-minute guided tour ($20 per person) 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 that’s 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. There are holiday events happening throughout the season, including an ugly Christmas sweater party and pet-friendly night with shopping from local vendors.

WHERE TO STAY:

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 a huge breakfast buffet filled with Belgium waffle and omelet stations, and since both their lunch and dinner menu 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). If you’re able to carve out adult time (and can swing a sitter) check out the Hemingway’s Bar, which hosts live music during the week and a DJ spinning ’80’s music on the weekends.
1045 Beach Ave, rates starting at $107

Congress Hall: This picture-perfect, historic hotel is what Christmas dreams are made of— the seaside resort transforms into a winter wonderland complete with a carousel, train, an enchanted shopping village and Santa’s Workshop, where kids can get personalized elf hats, listen to Mrs.Claus read stories, make crafts and write letters to the big guy. If that’s not enough, 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 definitely makes you feel like you’ve landed in a classic Christmas movie. Opt for one of their holiday packages that includes a family bingo and dinner, breakfast with Santa or a festive feast complete with all the trimmings on Christmas Day.
200 Congress Place, rates starting at $139

Lokal Hotel: This boutique beach hotel is a fresh twist of modern design in a sea of Victorian-style bed and breakfasts. The fam will feel right at home here— with each spacious studio and two-bedroom room, you get a cozy living room, a full-service, stocked kitchen with plenty of dining space (so you can have meals in— a real relief for those traveling with littles), marble bathrooms and comfy beds, including some with kid-friendly bunks. Feeling like you need to unwind? Schedule an in-room massage while kids play board games provided by the hotel. The smaller size and attention to detail gives 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, rates start at $271 

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 amazing 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. Ring in the New Year with a package that includes dinner for two in the Ebbitt Room, glasses of champagne, extended late check-out, breakfast and complimentary valet parking.
25 Jackson Street, rates starting at $149. 

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.


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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, Allure.com, Prevention.com, 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.

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