Things to do in Cape May: A Charming, Old-Fashion New Jersey Beach Town
Cape May is your quintessential summer beach town. Walking the promenade, eating Italian ice and relaxing on the beach. The vintage feel of Cape May took me back to another era. Exploring it was super fun, and there is no shortage of things to do in Cape May with kids. It truly is a quirky, charming, old-fashioned beach town.
Know Before You Go
- Cape May is a historic Victorian seaside gem and one of the oldest vacation resort destinations in the country. The entire city is a National Historic District, with nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings
- Cape May beaches are public. Beach tags are required for individuals ages 12 and up. They offer daily ($6), weekly ($18), and seasonal ($28) fees (as of summer 2016). There’s a limit of 5 beach tags per person. Beach tags can be purchased at any beach entrance from beach patrol crews and at City Hall.
- Cape May is a historic town. Most accommodations have minimum stay requirements. It’s a big B&B locale. There are no major hotel chains.
- You can either get to Cape May by driving there or by taking the Cape May-Lewes Ferry from Lewes, DE.
- Once there, the Great American Trolley Company has free Park & Ride service to the Washington Street Mall, beach, and promenade, and one-way trolley rides in Cape May.
- Walking and biking are the best way to see the island.
Getting to Cape May
Having a transportation obsessed toddler son, my husband and I opted to drive from D.C. to Lewes, DE and take the ferry to Cape May. We hopped on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. The entire operation is very well run and worked seamlessly for us. You have the option of riding with or without your car. We opted to go without and just depend on public transportation while we were there. The ride is about 90 minutes long but the kids were occupied the entire time. You can sit inside or outside, and they have an array of things to keep everyone occupied from TV’s to food to just staring at the water. Our son was on sensory overload. He didn’t know whether to focus on the cars sitting on the boat or the ships that passed us by. He really enjoyed it! The highlight of the ferry for all of us, was when we saw a replica of the Kalmar Nyckel ship sharing the water with us.
Things to do in Cape May off the beach
Washington Street Mall is an open pedestrian space with shops and restaurants, and a definite must see in Cape May. It’s about three blocks long and is very family friendly. There were benches and fountains up and down Washington Street, making it easy to do some tag team shopping while keeping the kids occupied.
We stumbled upon the Cape May Fireman’s Museum and the kids absolutely loved it. The museum is free and houses an antique fire engine from 1928 called American La France.
The most exciting thing to do in Cape May for us was definitely the promenade. Cape May’s promenade is nearly two miles long and leads you through a picturesque walk of the beaches. It’s laden with candy shops, ice cream fronts and most importantly, the arcades. The kid’s loved walking, taking a sugar break and playing in the arcades.
- Uncle Bill’s Pancake House was a big hit for us. It’s clean, friendly and you can have breakfast all day long!
- Stewart’s Root Beer is your quintessential burger and fries place with ice cream counter and juke box playing.
- Mario’s of Cape May is a fun, family owned Italian place. They make their own dough and sell pizza by the slice or whole.
- Della’s 5 & 10 is an old-fashioned soda fountain where you can not only enjoy ice cream sodas, floats and sundaes but also sandwiches, salads, and breakfast all day.
Where to Stay
Renting a beach house is probably the best way to go if you want to experience all of the things to do in Cape May. If you do decide to go the B&B route, below are the best options with little ones:
- Antoinette’s Victorian Suites
- Carroll Villa Hotel
- The Chalfonte Hotel
- Columbia House
- Pharo’s Inn
- Victorian Lace Inn
• Get the best price on your Cape May rental here •
Photo Credit: Joe Berger / 8thStreetPhotos.com