Get away to Cape May for the holidays

If you are looking for a magical place to go this holiday season that truly feels like a cinematic winter wonderland, there is a place not too far away you can go now through New Year’s Day.

Located at the lowest point of New Jersey is Cape May, one of the state’s most beloved beach towns and “The Nation’s Oldest Seashore Resort.” Its summertime galore turns into the perfect Christmas village for tourists, and it’s worth checking out if you are willing to take the nearly three-hour-long drive from Ramapo or wherever you may be this holiday season.

Cape May has been a hotspot for visitors since the 19th century, and there continues to be a magic found within the town that draws people in year after year. ​In addition to having all the sandy, beachy vibes found at every other Jersey Shore, Cape May significantly stands out because of its Victorian assets. Houses, buildings and even forms of transportation stay true to the early 1800s Victorian era, when the town was founded.

The picturesque streets are always decked out in bright lights and holiday decorations, and the gingerbread-trim homes with perfectly mowed lawns and lacy picket fences model what can only be best described as a village found inside a snow globe. You can explore the beautiful sites by just walking or driving past on your own, or you can have a richer experience and purchase tickets for Cape May’s Annual Christmas Candlelight House Tours.

The self-guided tour has been around since 1974 and remains one of Cape May’s most beloved traditions. Guests can walk through the bright streets, listen to live carolers and musicians, and visit more than a dozen of the Victorian beauties. For only $45, you can enter a variety of well-decorated homes, Bed and Breakfasts, hotels and churches that preserved their Victorian charm. 

The tours only run on Saturdays, though, so there are only a couple chances left this season to join a tour. However, just wandering along the streets yourself with good company and a warm drink can be just as wonderful. I recommend grabbing a coffee or hot chocolate from Magic Brain Cafe before continuing your way down Perry Street to have the best Christmas light-looking experience. 

After, cross over to Washington Street Mall, Cape May’s pedestrian-only outdoor mall that has over 60 stores and multiple coffee shops, restaurants, ice cream shops and galleries. Strolling down the cobblestone street without the need to worry about cars driving by is a treat in itself, and the shimmery lights and classy decor is the icing on top. 

If you’re still looking for gifts, check out Across the Way or Just for Laughs – my two favorite shops – for a variety of cute, unique and funny products, from jewelry to oven mitts to candles. 

If you’re still up for some shopping, take the short walk over to Congress Hall, Cape May’s renowned beachside grand resort. The hotel, known for its yellow colonnade exterior, has been around since 1816, and when it is decked out for Christmas, you’ll wish it was the hotel you’re stuck staying at when your flight gets delayed in a cheesy Hallmark film. 

However, you don’t need to spend the night to visit the wonderful experiences the resort offers at Christmastime. There are several restaurants, cafes, spas and gift shops within the hotel to keep anyone occupied, but the real magic happens outside in the courtyard, which is directly across from the beach.

Every Black Friday through New Year’s Day for the past twelve years, the courtyard turns into a true Winter Wonderland. An extremely large Christmas tree gives light to the small kiddie train that rides around the courtyard’s perimeter and the Enchanted Vendor Village, which lines the entirety of the swimming pool. 

Several vendors from local Cape May stores set up shop in candy cane-striped tents, finished with bright string lights. It is the perfect way to be Santa’s little helper and get all your holiday gift goodies, even if they’re only for you. The Enchanted Vendor Village is open Thursdays to Sundays all afternoon and evening. 

Though it may be a bit of a ride and a rather beach breezy experience, spending the day in Cape May over the holiday season is something not to miss out on. Who knows, going down the shore may become one of your new favorite holiday traditions.

Photo by Emily Melvin.