Although known as a charming Victorian-styled beach resort, Cape May pleases families with its low-key pace and mix of activities to satisfy a variety of interests.
As the country’s first seaside resort, Cape May has inspired many artistic pursuits, ranging from the plentiful photographs and paintings to a reimagining of Sherlock Holmes as the detective in a Victorian-era case. This ambience stimulates kids into creating their own art, whether on paper or in the fickle sand.
Cape May County Park and Zoo
The Cape May County Park and Zoo offers a lush, leafy place to explore a different world from the sunny beaches accessorized by sea gulls on the cape. Tigers, lemurs, snow leopards and other exotic creatures call the small zoo home and the free admission is the right price for a family looking for an easy afternoon navigating strollers or entertaining restless children.
Cape May Lighthouse
The 1859 lighthouse is located in the Cape May Point State Park and was restored in the 1980s by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC), an active and successful preservation group in Cape May. Visitors can walk up the steps to see striking views but strollers and claustrophobic visitors can enjoy the scenery from ground level.
A gift shop on the grounds offers a variety of lighthouse memorabilia in addition to several oceanic themed toys for kids. Because the lighthouse does close to the public in the event of strong winds, visitors should ensure it is open to the public in the case of inclement weather.
Sunset Beach for Military History and Rock Finding
This southern-most New Jersey beach generally has fewer people than the sandy beaches elsewhere in Cape May. Kids can find plenty of smooth rocks and occasional blue or green sea glass. Kids enjoy combing through the rocks to look for Cape May diamonds, which are quartz crystals buffeted by the sea to a transparent, polished glow.
Each summer sunset also brings a moving flag ceremony complete with Taps that should be seen by visitors at least once. Children are encouraged to participate and learn more about American military history and the soldiers who fought.
Washington Street Mall
The three-block pedestrian mall utilizes several street-wide paths surrounded by ocean-themed shops, toy stores, restaurants, antique stores, and art galleries, making it easy to navigate with strollers or several children in tow.
Street crossings are well marked and the most dangerous aspect is preventing kids from seeing ice cream signs if the parents are not yet ready.
The Beach at Cape May
While there are plenty of other things to do, going to the beach is the most popular recreational activity for families visiting Cape May. The beach is clean and staffed by trained lifeguards, necessitating a fee for each adult to enter the beach.
While there, the tides bring in interesting shells making the evenings and mornings the best time to shell-search, but afternoon crowds ensure vibrant banner-bearing planes and whale watching tours during the day.
Visiting Cape May
Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts dot the area but trip planners should be sure to ask about air conditioning and if there are any special rules concerning children before making reservations.
There are several child-friendly hotels plus dozens of beach rentals available for weekly stays.
Cape May, New Jersey makes a great destination for families looking for an atmospheric getaway.