Historical and beautiful Cape May, NJ is located on the southern tip of the Jersey shore. Make no mistake though – this Victorian seaside town is nothing of the likes of some of its T.V. neighbors! All charm and no cheese, Cape May is considered by many to be the oldest seaside resort in America, and one of the country’s most popular spots for a family vacation.
Cape May is a historical landmark, full of Victorian style houses, horse-drawn carriages, and gas-lit lamp posts. Old-fashioned ice cream parlors and candy shops dot the town, restaurants are bustling, and the quaintest of b & b’s and inns fill the picturesque streets.
Close to town (within walking distance) is the beach, an amazing stretch of white sand, one of the prettiest on the East Coast. Really, it’s one of the best beaches we’ve been to. Outside the center of town there are state parks, nature preserves and farmland, making Cape May truly a place that checks all the boxes. Here are the top things to do and see with kids.
Top Things to See and Do with Kids in Cape May
Take a Trolley Ride
You would think first up on the list would be the beach, but actually taking a trolley ride is a great way to orient yourself and see and get a feel for the city. There are several tours offered by MAC Trolley Tours, including a Children’s tour, Ghosts of Cape May tour, Mansions of Cape May tour and more.
We chose the Historic Downtown tour, which came highly recommended and did not disappoint. Our guide was informative, friendly and funny, and we came away learning so much about Cape May’s history and architecture. It was great fun for the kids and was a highlight of the trip for all.
Hit the Beach
As I mentioned above, Cape May’s beaches are beautiful. Pristine, white sand beaches go on for miles, and there are many different beaches to choose from. Which one to go to really depends on where you’re staying. Parking is a bit of a zoo, so you’ll most likely just want to enter the beach closest to your hotel, b & b or house rental. Note that there is a fee to access the beaches and is known as a “Beach Tag”. It’s $6 per person per day, or there are bundle packages for multiple days. Kids under 11 are free. You can buy beach tags right on the beach as you enter – there is staff at each entrance selling them.
At sunset make sure to go to Sunset Beach near Cape May Point where you can see, of course, the sunset. It’s also popular due to its proximity to the SS Atlantus, a half-way sunken concrete ship that is eery and cool all at the same time and will intrigue the adults as much as the kids. There is also a daily flag raising ceremony during the summer months to honor our country’s veterans.
Walk Along the Promenade
The promenade, or “boardwalk”, runs along Cape May’s beaches and is a classic spot to take in the town’s Americana vibe. There are arcades, surf shops and knick-knack stores, and across the street pizza joints, pancake houses and ice cream parlors. Most notably though, the promenade is where everyone goes to get their morning run or power walk in. We even took the girls for a run! With the beach on one side, and the action on the other, the promenade is a great spot for exercise and people-watching.
Cape May is a great spot to go for a bike ride, due to its flat and scenic streets. Bike around town, or go for an early morning bike ride on the promenade. Biking is permitted on the promenade only before 10:00 a.m. There are a bunch of bike rental stores, many that will deliver to your hotel or house, such as Geared Up Rentals, Cape Island Bicycles and Shields.
Visit the Cape May Lighthouse
Ok, full disclosure, the Cape May Lighthouse was closed when we were there due to New Jersey’s budget’s not passing! It’s located in Cape May Point State Park, and all state parks were closed at the time of our visit. We didn’t realize it was in a state park when we went to visit it, and it was shut down. We’ve heard this is a fun thing to do with the kids though.
We were still able to walk around some of the grounds, so make sure when you’re there to check out the World War II bunker in the beach nearby. We were kind of cackling as to why there was a WW II bunker there – on the Atlantic – but it’s nonetheless a cool site to see.
Stroll along Washington Street Mall
Located in the heart of Cape May, Washington Street Mall is a 3 block outdoor walking street mall filled with everything from pubs and restaurants to boutiques to old-fashioned sweet shops to tourist shops. It sounds like a tourist trap, which it is, but it’s actually very lovely and has some fun stuff to peek into. Many of the restaurants are BYOB as this section of town does not have a full liquor license. You’ve been forwarned!
Visit a Winery!
Cape May is fast becoming a wine-lovers haven, as this section of farmland in between the bay and the ocean has the perfect microclimate to grow grapes. There are several wineries to choose from, but we spontaneously ended up at Willow Creek winery (read my post on wine tasting at Willow Creek winery) and had a blast. It was kid-friendly, the staff was great, and the place was hopping. It looked right out of Napa and made for an especially fun and relaxing afternoon.
Go to the Zoo
One of the great things about Cape May is that it has its own zoo! The Cape May County Park and Zoo is by all accounts a fantastic zoo, with a nice amount of animals and boardwalk style paths. Unfortunately we did not have time to visit it on this trip, but we’ve made a mental note of it for next time since so many people rave about it.
Eat at a “real” Crab shack
My husband and friend are both from Maryland and insisted we find the real deal as far as crab shacks go. We most certainly did! After scouring the web, we went to the Crab House in Two Mile Landing in Wildwood, which had awesome crabs, as well as an awesome main menu and drinks. The food was delish (for the kids as well), the cocktails were flowing, and best of all, we could see the sunset right from our table. Don’t be discouraged by the long waiting line – it goes pretty fast as this place is huge. We arrived at prime time and only had to wait 15 minutes.