- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: July 2017

Congress Hall takes us “Into the Third Century”

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Jordan Rowan, center; Lily Cosgrove (Annie), Alexander Shannon (The Lamp), and Curtis Bashaw, far right.

Congress Hall’s new play Into the Third Century is Cape May’s answer to Disney’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. If you’ve never heard of this play before, that’s because it was written specifically for Congress Hall by their marketing manager, Iraisa Ann Reilly, and Curtis Bashaw, Co-Founder and Co-Managing Partner of Cape Advisors and Cape Resorts Group. The play begins in 2066, on Congress Hall’s 250th birthday, on the day the hotel digs up the time capsule buried in 2016. It manages to combine time travel and local history with a dose of American patriotism, plus some good family dining.

We had tickets for opening night, so after valet parking the car (which I didn’t realize is something you could do if you dine at Congress Hall, after working in this town for 12 years–you really do learn new things every day), we made our way to the ballroom. A gauntlet of cast members (and Blue the Pig!) offered greetings and trays of champagne, and we wandered around the banquet tables with our glasses until we located Table 3.

The ballroom was decked in red, white, and blue; the wait staff was immaculate in old-fashioned black and white serving costumes. To our delight, food was waiting for us on the table when we sat down. The first course was a family-style spread of artisan cheeses and dry-cured sausages, beets, carrots, asparagus, green beans, carrots, and roasted red peppers, eggs, pickled vegetables, and fantastic cornbread with wholeberry jam which we wholeheartedly recommend. A glass of red or white wine was included during the first course, and a second was offered halfway through the production.

The play kicked off with a song–The Stars and Stripes Forever–and the musical numbers kept coming. You’ll recognize most of them, although singing along might prove difficult if you’re singing from memory: the lyrics have been altered to reference Congress Hall. But if you like to sing along, you’ll be happy to know that not only is it welcomed, it’s part of the show. (Hint: The lyrics are printed in the show booklet!)

Across the play’s two hours, Curtis (who plays himself at the age of 106) and the story’s protagonist, Annie (a 16-year-old who works at Congress Hall) take you through 250 years of the hotel’s history. Cape Resorts staff members take on multiple roles, portraying historical figures including Thomas Hughes (the man who built Congress Hall), President Franklin Pierce, Annie Knight, John Philip Sousa, John Wanamaker, First Lady Caroline Harrison, Edward Dale, and the Reverend Carl McIntire–played by his actual grandson, Curtis Bashaw.

A family-style dinner was served during intermission, a great excuse to chat with the people around our table as we passed the dishes. Even with all of us sharing platters, there was no shortage of food, which included so-tender-you-can-cut-it-with-a-fork pot-roast (though gravy would’ve been nice), cod in a ravigote sauce, and the best chicken tenders I’ve ever had. I almost skipped them–That’s for kids! cried my inner adult–and that would have been a mistake. Sides included corn and tomato succotash, rice pilaf, and macaroni and cheese. I cleaned my plate.

Many moments will have you laughing (Wawa is still around 49 years from now AND we can teleport!), but there were touching moments as well. The performance of The Declaration of Independence comes to mind, but for me, the highlight of the show was Jim Lennon’s portrayal of Robert Thormann and his solo A Challenger, which told of the loss of Thormann’s son. When Lennon is on the big screen (or stage) one day, I can say I marched up to him afterwards to shake his hand.

Although Blue the Pig in choir robes arguably earned the most applause, we want to give a nod to the Congress Lamp, played by Alexander Shannon, who wore a hat with a three-bulb lamp post sticking out of it for the majority of the evening. His character is the one who has been at Congress Hall the longest and travels throughout time with Annie, tying the generations together.

Since the play centers around Congress Hall’s 250th birthday, dessert is, appropriately, birthday cake with generous frosting. Cake enthusiasts will appreciate this. (If anyone from Congress Hall reads this, I beg you to offer an alternative. Cherry pie, maybe? Apple? Also coffee.) It’s served at the very end.

Despite being amateur theater, there is heart at the center of the production. It’s obvious that Curtis and his staff care about the hotel, its history, and its significance to Cape May, now and in the future. And they have no shame in letting the audience know that.

If you don’t enjoy musical theater, this one’s not for you, but if you like your theater locally grown with a helping of home-style cooking, Into the Third Century plays Wednesdays through August 23. Tickets are $65 for adults and $15 for children. From start to finish, expect to be at Congress Hall for about two hours. I got home around 9pm and was still singing.

For more information and tickets, visit Cape Resorts’ website

5 reasons to try a B&B (for people who think they don’t like B&Bs)

I’m a huge advocate of bed and breakfasts; I regularly travel and prefer booking a quaint B&B over a hotel any day. Bed and breakfasts, to me, provide a personalized experience during a trip. I love making conversation with the homeowners and getting their unique perspectives and insider tips on things to do when exploring a new place.

However, I know that there are many common anxieties when it comes to B&Bs.  For those of you are nervous about your first bed and breakfast experience, we’ve broken down five questions about these wonderful places to stay and provided some honest, factual answers, using Cape May’s exquisite B&Bs as examples! Take a look:

Are B&Bs outdated and lacking modern amenities?

Far from it. Cape May’s B&Bs help you experience the town’s rustic charm while enjoying contemporary amenities at the same time.

The breathtaking Queen Victoria Bed & Breakfast is known for its extraordinary service and attention to detail when it comes to making sure guests are satisfied. Be assured of superior accommodations adhering to the high standards of Select Registry: a guide to identifying which property among the registry’s association of hundreds is best for you.

Likewise, the oceanfront Angel of the Sea is a bed and breakfast that offers travelers a choice of 27 gorgeous rooms with complimentary wireless internet throughout the B&B, and bonus: free access to the B&B’s beach chairs, beach cruiser bicycles, beach umbrellas, and beach towels!

Are shared bathrooms common at B&Bs?

No! Today, almost all B&Bs have private en suite bathrooms. If you are unsure about the bathroom situation wherever you’re staying, you can call the location and they will be more than happy to answer your questions.

The colorful and vibrant Saltwood House in the heart of Cape May’s historic district has four beautifully decorated guest units all with private baths. We recommend booking the Saltwood’s luxurious Cape Island Suite: two bright and airy bedrooms and a full bath with a frameless glass shower enclosure, complete with a rain shower head.

Not only does The Mooring have all rooms and suites equipped with a private bathroom, they also recently revamped them all; fresh appliances and sparkling clean bathrooms await guests. Likewise, the Wilbraham Mansion’s suites have beautiful bathrooms that include state-of-the-art jacuzzi tubs.

Since food at these B&Bs is homemade at the innkeepers’ discretion, what if I don’t like their options?

On the off chance you won’t like innkeepers’ delicious food, they’ll make sure you get the kind of meals you want!

In fact, the Mainstay Inn on Columbia Avenue provides special consideration for any dietary restrictions or allergies upon request; they are happy to oblige and make sure guests are getting the food choices they desire. In the summer, the inn provides a tasty breakfast buffet and guests are encouraged to enjoy their meal on the veranda or in the Inn’s lovely garden.

The Bedford Inn on Stockton Avenue (just one block from the beach, by the way) has their breakfast menu up for guests to check out before booking, boasting an impressive array of options like eggs florentine, Belgian waffles, omelets and stuffed french toast.

Will my B&B have air conditioning? Otherwise, I’ll be too hot in the summer!

Absolutely, and will include other at-home comforts and necessities.

At Beauclaires, you can choose from 6 elegant rooms and suites, all with king or queen size beds, private bathrooms, color television with DVD players, hair dryers, iron and ironing board, and air conditioning. Each room also has a private sitting area with views of the beach, and most all even have fireplaces, if you’re looking for some coziness during a winter weekend getaway. Rhythm of the Sea has similar perks: air-conditioning and ceiling fans in rooms to keep you cool and refreshed.

What about curfews or other odd policies?

This is a completely outdated idea!  Bed and breakfasts are in business to make travelers comfortable in every way, and to get travelers excited and involved with the city or town’s goingson. The Albert Stevens Inn shows its guests their commitment to getting them involved in Cape May by being the closest bed and breakfast to all of the town’s fun wineries and breweries, plus the closest to the strawberry, tomato, and lima bean festivals.

Hosts aren’t worrying about if you’ll disturb them by coming in late, since often they are in another wing of the inn. Most B&Bs have traditional check-in and check-out times like any hotel as well. All bed and breakfasts respect guests’ privacy first and foremost, and strive to make sure guests feel welcomed, safe and happy.

We hope we’ve helped clear up some B&B rumors for you! Do you still have doubts? Let us know your questions in the comments section. For more options, visit our list of Cape May B&Bs.

State budget impasse forces closure of Cape May’s Lighthouse, WWII Lookout Tower

Visitors to Cape May for the 4th of July won’t be able to climb the lighthouse or visit the WWII lookout tower unless the State of New Jersey lifts their closure of all state non-essential operations, which includes beaches, forests, and historic sites. The closures are due to a stalemate over the Fiscal Year 2018 NJ budget and went into effect July 1st – just in time for the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Michael Zuckerman, director of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities, a nonprofit that operates both the lighthouse and lookout tower, issued this statement: “Each day these two sites are closed means thousands of dollars lost in support of MAC’s historic preservation mission. We regret this political impasse continues. It is disrupting thousands of visitors’ plans for the holiday weekend and hurts non-profit organizations such as MAC. We urge the governor and legislature to come to a sensible agreement.”

For Cape May visitors, the shutdown affects Cape May Point State Park (where the lighthouse sits), the WWII Lookout Tower, and Higbee Beach, which is a state wildlife management area. Cape May City’s beaches – the ones with the beach tags – are open.

Update – July 4, 2017

Governor Christie has signed a budget deal and ordered all closed state parks to reopen for July 4th. NJ’s government shutdown lasted three days. State government offices reopen tomorrow.