A Guide to Celebrating Christmas in Cape May

New Jersey’s premier showcase for Victorian splendor turns up the old-fashioned charm with a full month of seasonal festivities.

Clockwise from left: A festive gathering at the Exit Zero Filling Station; Le Petite Mansard is a private residence on the holiday tour; a fig sidecar at the Virginia Hotel’s Ebbitt Room; a toast at Blue Pig Tavern; a duo of wreaths bedeck the doors of a Victorian home; Reese, age 4, is all smiles on a colorful carousel; a frosty peppermint milkshake at Exit Zero Filling Station; see the sights from a horse-drawn carriage. Photos by Jessica Orlowicz

 

Cape May has been making spirits bright for more than a century. The charming seaside town, full of Victorian architectural treasures, is decked out for the holidays starting in mid-November. It’s a place where bah, humbug just doesn’t cut it. With twinkling gaslights, trolley rides, candlelight house tours, delicious dining and an actual Winter Wonderland, even the grouchiest of grinches can’t help but get in the holiday spirit. There’s something for everyone on your list, from ages 1 to 92.

Congress Hall 

The grande dame of them all, Congress Hall, the country’s oldest seaside resort, doesn’t hold back during the yuletide season. Some 45,000 feet of cedar roping and 10,000 lights are strung around the property; another 5,000 lights festoon its 30-foot Christmas tree. Shining through the holiday season since 1816, Congress Hall kicks off its magical Winter Wonderland on November 29. The indoor/outdoor celebration is complete with festive holiday decorations, rides on the resort’s carousel and Congress Hall Express train, Santa’s workshop, hands-on arts and crafts, a flea market–style shopping village, gingerbread decorating, blazing firepits, hot chocolate and more. 

Congress Hall, clockwise from left: Carolers at the Christmas-tree lighting; Mrs. Claus joins in the fun at Breakfast with Santa, an elaborate buffet offered Saturdays and Sundays throughout the season; the Winter Wonderland shopping village. Photos by Jessica Orlowicz

The official Tree Lighting is scheduled for 6–10 pm on December 6. Revelers can enjoy live music on the Grand Lawn as the hotel kicks off the holiday season by lighting the resort’s magnificent tree. 

Breakfast with Santa takes place every Saturday and Sunday, starting November 30. An elaborate breakfast buffet, highlighted by a visit from jolly old St. Nick, is served in the resort’s ballroom. Tickets go on sale starting November 1.

For more information, go to congresshall.com/winterwonderland. 

Christmas Candelight House Tours

Cape May, renowned year-round for its charming Victorian architecture, transforms itself into a Dickensian village during December. Visitors can take a magical nighttime tour of dozens of homes and inns, all decked out for the season. Tours are self-guided; participants can walk or ride a trolley.

Holiday Preview weekend is November 22-24; Christmas Candlelight House Tours are offered 5:30–8:30 pm on December 7, 14 and 28. Tours book up quickly. To reserve tickets, go to capemaymac.org.

The Washington Street Mall

This pedestrian-only promenade comes alive with holiday spirit all season long. Most retailers stay open late; stroll through a mix of antique shops, souvenir and novelty shops, and high-end boutiques. Decorated with lights and greenery and highlighted by strolling carolers, the Mall is great for people watching and the occasional Santa sighting. Best of all, downtown parking is free all season long.

Beach Plum Farm

This farm-to-table restaurant and market is a quick two-mile drive from the center of downtown. The 62-acre farm welcomes overnight guests in five cottages all year long, but literally sparkles during the holiday weekends with its special seasonal dinners. 

Guests are invited to start the evening strolling among the twinkling lights of the Elfin Woodland Marsh Trail, where appetizers are served by a crackling fire; dining takes place al fresco, under a tent, or in the greenhouse—depending on the weather. 

Beach Plum Farms, clockwise from left: The candlelit Marsh Trail; the Hidden Barn Christmas tree; the Hoop House is decorated and set for holiday guests. Photos by Jessica Orlowicz

Chef Josh Liwoch’s farm-to-table menu is inspired by whatever is fresh at the farm that particular week. The BYO dinners begin at 6:30 pm; reservations are required.

Beach Plum Farm is part of Cape Resorts hotels and restaurants. 

For more information, go to beachplumfarmcapemay.com.

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