- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Tag: holidays

Six things to do in Cape May this Valentine’s Day

You might think of Cape May as a summer-only destination, but it’s beautiful here year-round. Our off season is quiet, and there isn’t as much to do during the week like there is in the height of August, but if you’re looking for somewhere less crowded to spend Valentine’s Day, keep us on your list. Here’s our guide to what’s happening this year.

2017 Light Up Cape May Winners

Congress Hall holiday decor 2017

Photo credit: Laura Thistle

The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May held their annual Light Up Cape May contest to determine the best-decorated houses and businesses this holiday season. Awards will be given at the Chamber Social Tuesday, Dec 12th at Elaines Restaurant. Here are this year’s winners:

Business Window
1. Spirit Catcher Photography
2. Fralingers
3. Delaneys

1. Nature Center of Cape May
2. Sunset Liquors

1. Albert Stevens Inn
2. Mission Inn
3. Henry Sawyer Inn

1. DeGroff Residence
2. Cottrell Residence
3. Kirk Residence

Best Display
Zeitler Residence

Best Overall
Congress Hall

All dressed up in holiday lights

Cape May is ready for the holidays! We took the vote to Facebook and asked our fans to determine who’s got the best lights in town. The Dormer House won hands down.

2013 Easter Fashion Stroll

easter-interiorThe 2013 Easter Fashion Stroll, sponsored by the City of Cape May, the Washington Street Mall Merchants and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May,  prevailed even though light showers threatened to dampen the day mid-way through the judging.  But both the judges and the participants braved on. Mayor Edward Mahaney, Jr. presided over the event. Prizes were awarded according to age, gender and Easter attire and all donated by the Mall merchants and surrounding businesses.

A Cape May Christmas

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time is to stroll the streets of Cape May and West Cape May peeking into the windows of the Bed and Breakfasts, hotels and guesthouses to see how tall their tree is or how many of them there are. Is the dining room table set? Is it formal Victorian or wonderful whimsy? Last year ventured into a handful of Bed and Breakfasts for an inside look and our Art Director Stephanie Madsen and I decided to do the same this year.

The wonderful thing we discovered is that Cape May has something for everyone’s taste. Each accommodation has its own creative twist when it comes to tackling the O Tenenbaum question. Take the Albert Stevens Inn on Myrtle Avenue in West Cape May, for example. As soon as the door opens, a Christmas tree that reaches all the way to the second floor staircase comes into view.

The beautiful thing about this welcoming tree is that it puts you into the mood ASAP and draws you into the parlor where another tree shines brightly in the corner by the fireplace. It doesn’t take much persuasion before you find yourself sitting on the sofa in front of the fire admiring the intricate Victorian ornaments, frosted fruit and tiny candlelights which decorate the tree. It’s a more whimsical spirit which comes into play in the dining room. The tree is filled with colorful ornaments which remind us of simpler times. Santa sits in the corner, next to the tree and I can just imagine him watching over the guests as they sit down to breakfast. It’s a homey feeling at the Albert Stevens Inn. Mantle pieces, archways and the sideboard are filled with greenery, warm lights and nostalgic trinkets. Yes, Stephanie and I can both see waking up to the smell of freshly roasted coffee and breakfast cooking in the kitchen.

The mood is more sedate at the Angel of the Sea Bed and Breakfast on Trenton Avenue. A well-lit fireplace and a stately Christmas tree greet us as we escape from a wicked Nor’easter outside. Angels, appropriately enough, are the theme for this tree and mantle piece. They stand guard over the fireplace and pose, as though in mid-flight, around the tree. Greens and red poinsettias complete the décor and guests checking in are lucky enough to arrive in time for tea which is being served in the dining room just adjacent to the parlor. Even the severe photographs of Victorians hanging in the dining room are softened by the red flowers which garland the frames on the wall. Stephanie and I must resist the temptation to sit down at one of the tables and order ourselves a nice hot cup of tea. Duty calls.

At The Columbia House, on Ocean Street, the mood changes with each room. An elfish gnome on the mantlepiece waits for us to enter the foyer and watches us as go from room to discover a different delight in each suite. Whereas red poinsettias dominated Angel of the Sea, Columbia House features a foyer decked in white garland and white poinsettias, complete with a fireplace flanked with the poinsettias and two adorable snowman standing sentry by the fire. Astonishingly, they seem impervious to the heat. We’re the ones melting away. A small table-top tree sits in the corner of the ground floor suite, decked with gold ribbon, tiny white lights and lovely, feathery white angel sitting atop the tree.
Upstairs (another one of those elfish gnomes is peeping through the staircase as we ascend), we are drawn to the suite at the end of the hall where the fireplace glows. A garland of greenery bedecked with tiny, white twinkle lights, white tropical flowers and Victorian ornaments hangs from the mirror above the mantle. And isn’t that a gnome sitting guard on the mantelpiece? A tiny, four-foot tree with white lights and white pearl garland stands in the corner. Oh yes, we can see ourselves sitting by the fire sipping cocoa, exchanging winks at those peevish elves.

Like a child, I run straight into the foyer at The Dormer House on Columbia Avenue and up the stairs to see just how high their Christmas tree really is. Pretty darn high. I can’t see the tree top. Up the stairs I bound to see where the tree goes – to the second floor landing and there she is – a beautiful golden angel all by herself looking as though she’s about to break into an aria. Back down the stairs I go to look a bit more closely at the ornaments. Stars, horses, lacey umbrellas, golden snowflakes, colorful Christmas balls adorn the tree. Garland lit with tiny white lights runs from the door, near the stairway along the mantelpiece and over to the next doorway.

A white sea glass reindeer stands poised on the mantelpiece as though listening for sleigh bells in the distance. And above the mantle clock is a large beveled mirror with a decorative wreath hanging from it. Meanwhile, Stephanie is mesmerized by the archway, which innkeeper Dennis Doherty built himself to match the original woodwork on the stairway. Greenery lines the arch. Warm lights, white pearls and silky white ribbon soften the greenery and welcome the visitor into the lush parlor where another fireplace calls us to come on in and have a nice hot cup of tea, poured from the vintage silver tea pot. Much as we’d like to sit a spell, we have many inns to visit before we rest.

The sun has come out on the morning we visit the Primrose Inn Bed and Breakfast on Lafayette Street. Innkeeper Sally Denithorne’s full-sized poodle Coco has figured out how to open the door for us, so we soon find ourselves in a bright, sunny dining room with the table set and ready as though breakfast were to be served at any minute. Her other poodle Beau peeks from the corner of the table. He is careful not to knock over any of the Christmas decorations on the tall whimsical tree in the corner of this cheery room. Cookies, candies, and candied-fruit brighten the tree and bring a smile to Beau’s face. From here we go into the parlor and there is a pedestal tree standing near the fireplace.

It is adorned with shells as is the mantelpiece and the wreath above it. Many of the shells were found on our beaches, says Sally. After a storm is the best time, she says. And so no one is forgotten, a Giving Tree is placed on the front porch with a sign on the porch rail reading; “Bring hats and mittens and attach to tree.” They will be gathered later and donated to the needy children of Southern, NJ.

Simplicity is the key to the décor at the Rhythm of the Sea Bed and Breakfast and is in keeping with the craftsman-style theme of this Beach Avenue inn. The front room is large and airy and there is much to take in, still the eye goes straight to the fire place and the cozy arrangement of a couch in front of it to sit back and relax. The mantle is filled with simple greens, shells and rich golden ornaments. A touch of Europe is evident throughout the inn but especially so in the wooden Christmas Candle Pyramid sitting on the table behind the couch. How soothing it is to stand in this lovely room surrounded by a view of the sea at nearly every turn.

At the Mason Cottage on Columbia Avenue thoughts of Dickens and Tiny Tim come to mind when walking into the dining room – table for 10, could be 12 with just a couple more chairs added to the head of the table – Christmas goose and Figgie pudding. I can see Monsieur Cratchit carving the goose now. This table, by the way, was made especially for the Mason Cottage many, many years ago. After dinner (or breakfast as is the case at a Bed and Breakfast) guests can meander into the parlor near the front entrance where a majestic Christmas tree stands in front of the parlor’s floor-to-ceiling window for all to see. A sofa, complete with holly pillows, says come sit and stay a while. And beware of the mistletoe hanging from each doorway – a Christmas smooch is just around the corner.

There is much thought and loving detail which goes into the Christmas décor at Saltwood House on Jackson Street beginning with the Old Glory Christmas table-top tree in the front parlor. There is so much to take in here, it’s hard to know where to look first – shall we examine the Santy Claus plaques hung on the stairway, first? Or maybe, we should take a peek at the bookcase or beneath the end table where mischievous figurines peek at us from their perch. Little villages have been carefully staged throughout the front parlor, the dining room and even innkeeper Don Schweikert’s quarters. Our favorite figurines are the Santa Chefs in the kitchen, rotund, jolly and each crammed with Christmas treats amid their aprons.

Susan and Stephanie at the Columbia House. Photo taken by Jim Zeitler.

So, that’s our tour and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. It’s nice to know that people still take the time to decorate with such thought and care and we can’t help but think how lucky the guests who stay in these historic houses are. Hey – why not treat yourself or someone you love to a night in Cape May? Hospitality Night (Dec. 7-8) is just around the corner, you know. Otherwise, may dreams of beautifully decorated inns dance in your head. Happy Holidays from those of us at to all of you.

Step inside for a picture-perfect Cape May Christmas

My assignment? To offer you, our readers a picture postcard of what it is like here in Cape May during the holiday season.

I, for one, would love to know what the inside of a B&B looks like at Christmas. Anyone coming into town can see the exterior but only a select few get a peek inside. So, it’s off I go with my camera. I picked the perfect week just before Thanksgiving weekend and just after.
All the innkeepers are scurrying around trying to get ready for their holiday guests.

My first stop was the John Wesley Inn on Gurney Street. Bonnie and Lance Pontin are the innkeepers. Bonnie greets me at the door. I’ve never been inside the John Wesley.
It is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I feel like a little kid when I walk in. The front parlor is warm and cozy. There are already dolls and teddy bears about the room.

The Christmas tree in the corner by the window is so colorful. I’m thinking, if I were a kid, what fun it would be to run down the stairs and turn the corner to find this tree on Christmas morning.

And what fun it was to walk into the John F. Craig House on Columbia Avenue Friday after Thanksgiving. Barbara Masemore welcomes me to the inn. Her husband Chip is still putting the finishing touches to his flying Santa which is suspended from the ceiling in the sun porch. But again, it is the front parlor that beckons me. The fireplace was lit as was the tree. The songbook was open inviting me to come on over and play a carol or two but what I really want to do is just sit in the parlor and look at everything – the Lionel train set around the tree, the cute little ornament on the tree of Santa in his birthday suit with only his Santy hat to cover …
well never mind.

The point being – there is so much to take in, so many details to discover that is almost like that book I Spy… I spy a lovingly inviting place to sit back and get away from the fast pace.

My next stop that morning was The Mainstay Inn also on Columbia. I am greeted at the door by Diane, the Mainstay’s innkeeper. After the preliminary introductions, she goes back into the kitchen to finish her chores and I am alone in this impressive house. The front parlor is regal and more in keeping (ha ha all puns intended) with the gentlemen’s gambling club that the Mainstay was built to accommodate.

The Christmas tree is, of course, 13 feet tall and it is eerie standing here with the game table at the opposite end of this very long room already set for a card game. I can almost imagine the servants carrying silver trays of bourbon and sherry to the men sitting about the room. And I think it would be Chopin not Irving Berlin they would be playing on the lovely piano next to the Christmas tree.

Monday morning, I pay a visit to the Mission Inn on New Jersey Avenue (the east side of town). Innkeeper Susan Babineau-Roberts comes to the door and as soon s I walk into the foyer, I am awe struck. Of course, I knew it was a Mexican-styled house and décor but it is so different, so airy and uncluttered. Susan has just finished cooking breakfast and checking out the holiday weekend guests.

The smell of baked pears and the aromas of quiche and baked bread fills the air. The tree in the corner next to the fireplace is lit, as are the greens-laden sconces on the walls about this very large, yet inviting room. The star motif throughout the house, including the tree topper, distinguishes the Mission Inn’s décor in ways too numerous to describe. Somehow the star says Happy Holidays, we’re always happy here, and everyday is Christmas to us. Raymond Roberts tells me the star outside was to be a temporary decoration but the idea struck such a chord with their guests – that it has become a part of the Mission.

The Queen Victoria on Ocean Street, awaited me that same afternoon – Innkeeper Anna Marie McMain graciously showed me the Queen Vic, the adjacent property, the Prince Albert on Columbia Ave, and the Queens Hotel on Ocean across the street from her sister property.

History exudes from these three inns and it is particularly embodied in the three Christmas trees on display. In the front parlor of the Queen Victoria is the McMain family tree. Upstairs is the tree decorated in the fashion of the 1890s where the concept of less is more was way beyond the Victorians. In the front parlor of the Prince Albert the cutest little tree is on display. It is an 1840s tree, pre-Victorian, not free standing and very dedicated to the more pagan aspects of the winter solstice those being fruit primarily. And in the dining room of the Prince Albert is an 1870s tree, also on a table top and filled with stuff but not nearly as much stuff as the 1890s tree. Finally, the lobby of the Queens Hotel is rich and warm. The tree in the corner as you walk in is welcoming, not imposing, but the best thing is the mirror which, surrounded by greens, reflects the warmth of the entire room.

My last stop is the Buttonwood Inn at Broadway and Myrtle avenues in West Cape May. This is the perfect place to stay and watch the Christmas parade. Diane and Roger Ring are the innkeepers and the minute I walk into the front parlor, I am hooked. I can keep my eye on the Christmas tree in front of the large picture window and still watch the parade as it passes by.

If you happen to stay at the Buttonwood on a week when there is no Christmas parade, no worries, the cozy sofa arrangement in front of the fireplace will be more than enough to keep you happy. But the nicest touch in this room is the piano and the harp at the opposite end from the window. I can’t play the piano nor the harp but just thinking about playing both makes me feel serene. The room and the inn look like a divine place to find serenity at any time of the year.