Holidays in Cape May: This Charming Seaside Town Transforms Into a Winter Wonderland

From charming shops to cozy carriage rides to a Victorian gingerbread house, Cape May knows how to do the holidays.

Beach Plum Farm. Photograph Courtesy of Getty Images

Mom-and-pop shops and quaint B&Bs dot this charming seaside town that transforms into a winter wonderland come Christmastime. The ornate Victorian homes and walkable streets that attract summer visitors to this Jersey Shore point are now full of wreaths and mistletoe.

Carriage and trolley rides provide cozy blankets for passengers and offer holiday themes — one’s even led by Mrs. Claus herself.

Where to stay From bed-and-breakfasts like the Colonial Revival-style Dormer House (from $185 per night) to high-end hotels like historic Congress Hall (from $219 per night), you’ll find folks relaxing on rocking chairs and sipping hot chocolate next to decked-out firs as the surf’s gentle roar mingles with Christmas music in the background. Congress Hall even sets up a winter shopping­ village on its lawn each year.

Best spot for a selfie Bundle up for a beachfront stroll and take a pic at the historic Cape May Lighthouse. Or pose by a colorful Victorian gingerbread house that’s festooned in garlands.

Most festive activity Christmas shopping at the tiny boutiques lining the picturesque Washington Street Mall.

Where to eat Instead of lobster rolls at picnic tables, think tomato bisque by the fire — all the seaside charm without­ the sand in your toes. Winter igloos have been set up on the Grand Lawn of Congress­ Hall for outdoor dining. Not a beach person? There’s a 62-acre working­ farm just a few miles from downtown that feels like you’ve entered a rustic­ wedding venue. Beach Plum Farm, complete­ with a market, a kitchen, and overnight cottages, takes farmhouse chic to new levels, offering a magical woodsy atmosphere­ on a sustainable working farm. Its holiday­ farm-to-table dinners­ — think pine garlands, string lights, and long candlelit tables — start at $124 per person. That includes a welcome reception, seasonal cocktails and hors d’oeuvres around a woodland fire, and a multi-course family-style seated meal. It all wraps up with a Christmas sing-along hayride, new friends — and maybe even a new love interest.

Published as “Know-it-All Guide: Joyful Jaunts” in the December 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.