4hrs from NYC
If you are looking for a getaway that will slow you down and make you feel good, that will recharge and positively stimulate you, that will offer you simple, sweet, quiet days with the potential for exciting, colorful nights, Cape May, NJ, is probably just what the doctor ordered.
This historic 2.5 square mile city is located at the southernmost tip of the state, below the Mason Dixon Line. And while it’s far from “the south,” the quaint, innocent feeling will make you think more of the Gulf states than of any recent cable series about the folks of the north. Strangers will bid you a “hello, hi and how are you” while strolling through town—it’s just that kind of place. The climate fits the bill too, featuring warm days and cool nights. According to one boogie boarder renting boards at Southend Surf Shop, in September, the ocean typically stays warm enough to dive in with a regular swimsuit, though the air is a little cooler, so a surf shirt might be needed. But just promenading the beach is spectacular (yes, even in the rain) as much because of the high waves as the special quality of the sand; it was named #2 in a 2011 Tripadvisor poll on best beaches in the country.
Cape May is a sweet town, in every way, as the endless assortment of soda fountains, ice creameries, fudge kitchens and candy stores will attest. The pretty Victorian homes (which are also B&B’s, hotels and houses to let), coupled with the shady, proud, old tree-lined streets makes it a pleasure to idle through the antique shoppes, novelty gift stores and local boutiques. Or, just sit around reading all day. There are almost no chain stores or restaurants here and few buildings exceeding two or three stories. It is also the perfect base for accessing some of the Jersey Shore’s more lively counterparts.
By day, while away the sunshine with a bike ride through the 19th century neighborhoods, visit the local wineries and enjoy making comparisons to our own region’s beauties, go to the zoo or take a ghost tour via carriage ride. To exercise your sea legs, hop on a charter and spend the day fishing (one local swears by September’s primo striper season and says they just get bigger as it gets into October) or take a whale and dolphin watching cruise if you’re looking for something a little more laconic.
By night, rediscover your sticky adolescent exploits at the Wildwood Boardwalk (about ten minutes away). This is the place to walk two miles of amusement park rides, games, tattoo parlors and kitschy pastimes. It’s where you’ll catch the humor of t-shirts advertising “free hugs” or boasting “I may be old, but I saw all the best bands live.” And where girls and boys will have their first rendezvous, reminding you of your own firsts. When the tables beckon, Atlantic City and its sizzling casinos are only about an hour away. Hungry? Cape May is considered to be “the restaurant capital of New Jersey,” with more venues capturing top Zagat ratings than elsewhere in the state. Suffice it to say, don’t worry about where you’re going to eat, just plan on doing a lot of it, especially seafood.
Long before Snooki, or Bon Jovi, The Boss and even Old Blue Eyes, there was the Jersey Shore, and its crown jewel has indisputably been Cape May. Noted as the first resort town of America, its charm is well steeped in Victoriana (though it was first settled in the 1600s). The majority of homes maintain their Victorian appearance, right down to the colors used to decorate them, which won the town distinction as a national historic landmark city in the 1970s. And this place, the one I knew so well in my youth, hasn’t changed very much since then either. Somehow a weekend here can simplify things, just like it did back then.
Tired of the road?
Detour to delicious Red Bank (NJ), roughly midway between central LI and Cape May (Garden State Parkway exit 109). The artsy little town has a manageable assortment of galleries, home stores, funky boutiques, independent music shops and eateries spanning from laid back Surf Taco to chic and cheery Dish. The Cheese Cave is worth the stop to load up on lovely things for your fridge. Not to mention coffee shop reading at Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash Comic Shop. (Remember them? Of Kevin Smith fame?) It’s a casual and friendly village where the tightest knots of crowds are around the guitar strummers on the corner (sorry Starbucks).
::Eat (they may hurt, but won’t kill you)
1. Salt water taffy
2. The original frozen custard (the white and orange one)
4. Deep-fried Oreos
5. Irish potatoes
::Best times to go
Sept 10 & 11: Pet Parade & Kite Festival
Sept 16-25: Food & Wine Festival
Sept 24: Annual Beachfront Run
Oct 1: Octoberfest
Oct 7-16: Victorian Week
1. Miniature golf
2. Skee ball at an arcade
3. Buy a hermit crab
4. Visit a thief and a liar (drop $5 on your fortune at a palm reader)
5. Ride the ferris wheel at Morey’s Piers