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Cape May, NJ (with a short visit to Atlantic City)

Discussion in 'Non-Vegas Trip Reports' started by lithium78, Jul 6, 2014.

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  1. lithium78

    lithium78 High-Roller

    Joined:
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    My Trip Report

    For our summer vacation this year, originally my wife and I had been planning to hit Vegas again with my in-laws, but my wife decided to veto the idea a few months ago, since we have been spending a lot of vacation time at casino resorts lately. If it was up to me and my father-in-law, we would go to casinos every single time, but we decided that we’d be nice this time and go with the ladies’ idea of taking a trip to Cape May, NJ instead.
    Cape May is a quaint seaside town on the very southern tip of New Jersey and it’s actually so far south that it is about 60 miles south of the Mason-Dixon line. Back at the turn of the 19th century, it was the premier resort town on the East Coast and everyone from US Presidents to billionaire businessmen would go there to escape the heat of the Summer (long before there was air conditioning.) The entire town is a national historic district, because it has more original Victorian houses than anywhere else in the country outside of San Francisco. There was a big fire in the 1870s that wiped out the entire western half of the town, so everything was rebuilt in Victorian style.
    Due to the national historic district status, chain hotels aren’t allowed in the town, so everything is either a historic beach hotel or bed and breakfasts. We stayed at the Southern Mansion, which is a bed and breakfast originally built in 1863 and was one of the few houses in town that escaped the great fire. The Southern Mansion was renovated in the 1990s for something like $13 million and it is now the only AAA Four Diamond inn in Cape May.
    The rooms at the Southern Mansion are very spacious with beautiful reproduction Victorian furniture and authentic period paintings and photographs. The bathrooms are kind of small and the sink is in the bedroom instead of the bathroom, but that’s just how it was done in Victorian times, so we just went with it and it was fine. Service was very attentive and we had no complaints at all.
    Breakfast was served between 8 am and 10 am each morning. They had different specials each morning (like french toast with maple walnuts and lobster omelets) and I didn’t eat the same thing two times in a row. My wife is allergic to eggs, but they had no trouble accommodating her.
    The first evening we arrived, we took a horse-drawn carriage tour of the town and the driver told stories about the various historic homes in town and the history of the great fire of the 1870s. We then went shopping in the quaint shops on Washington Mall, which was like an authentic version of Main Street USA at Disney World. We may have bought several pounds of homemade fudge and a bunch of saltwater taffy. After that, we walked down to the beach and walked along the seawall between the beach and Beach Ave. There is no real Boardwalk in Cape May with amusement piers and the like, because Cape May is more of a relaxing Shore town instead of a high-excitement kind of place like the nearby Wildwoods. Cape May is for strolling and enjoying the beach, not for the Snooki crowd.
    The next morning, after breakfast, we took a tour of the Willow Creek Winery just outside of town in West Cape May. This winery is probably the newest in the area and they’ve only been producing since 2012. They had a very nice operation there with an Italian-style villa and tasting building. The Cape May area is similar in climate to the Bordeaux area of France, so they were growing grapes like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc. We did a tasting and I brought several bottles of their Pinot Noir home with me. The winery also has an active farm and the eggs produced there are used at the Southern Mansion.
    That evening, we ate at the Washington Inn, which is practically across the street from the Southern Mansion. I had the Sea Bass and my wife had the Swordfish. It was absolutely fantastic and our server was very personable and attentive. She gave us a lot of good suggestions for activities and we came back another night for dessert because we enjoyed their food so much.
    The next day was Independence Day and we had wanted to visit the Cape May Zoo, but we were rained out by the passing of Hurricane Arthur. (Thank goodness it passed out to sea instead of hitting us.) Most activities in Cape May are outdoors and we couldn’t change our theatre tickets to that night due to the holiday, so we said “what the heck” and went up to Atlantic City for the day.
    I had some freeplay for the Showboat, so we went there first. I am really going to miss the old Boat. My father-in-law was surprised that it was an actual full-sized casino instead of the weak locals stuff they have out in Chicago. I told him that the place is being shutdown at the end of August and he said that it felt like it was dying. There was no longer a Simulcast area and very few table games were open. All the staff there looked like they were facing the gallows. It was really sad.
    After that, we decided to head over to Caesars to see if the table games were any better. My father-in-law said he still didn’t like what they had to offer, so he just played some video poker. I honestly wasn’t all that impressed by Caesars AC, because it was really dark in the casino and very smoky. I know Caesars is one of the oldest properties in town, but they really need to put in some more lights and make the place a little friendlier. The layout of the place was really weird too. It was hard to find your way around. I suppose that’s because the casino had to be squeezed into the area where it was built since there is so much built around it that was already there beforehand. Parking in particular was a real hassle compared to the Showboat.
    My wife and mother-in-law spent the evening enjoying the Boardwalk and the Caesars Pier Shops. There was a Sand Sculpture World Cup taking place and a DJ was hosting a dance party down on the beach. It looked like a lot of fun. If we had a little more time to be there, I would have enjoyed joining in. We left to head back to Cape May around 10:30 pm and my in-laws said they would like to spend a couple days in AC the next time they come to visit.
    The next morning, we took a trolley tour of Cape May and visited the Emlen Physick house which was the historic house that set off the town’s preservation movement in the 1970s. After that, we headed back down to the beach and spent most of the day there. Cape May has one of the nicest beaches on the East Coast, although the water was a little cold. We spotted some dolphins playing out in the water at a distance from the beach and it was a really peaceful day. In the evening, we watched a play at the Cape May Stage (“Moon Over Buffalo”) which we enjoyed a lot. It was a comedy that ran on Broadway back in the 1990s with Carol Burnett and it was a lot like a “Carol Burnett Show” live show.
    Overall, I had a really good time in Cape May. It was just the kind of low-key relaxing vacation that really makes the stress melt off you. It’s also close enough to Atlantic City that you can still easily scratch the old gambling itch. I highly recommend Cape May.
     
  2. jerseyguy

    jerseyguy VIP Whale

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    Cape May is a great place to go. If you get back there ,try to make it during Victorian Week,usually in Oct. Lots of activities walking house tours etc.Only 40 miles south of AC so it's a great day trip to get away from the casinos for folks who ask what else theres to do in AC.
     
  3. hammie

    hammie VIP Whale

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    I enjoyed your trip report, thanks. Next trip, check out Cape May Brewing Company out by the airport, there is a tasting room with about 8 taps but no food is served (NJ Law). The Zoo is a great day trip and you can bring a picnic lunch, the admission is free but a donation is suggested.
     
  4. RockyBalboa

    RockyBalboa VIP Whale

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    Love seeing some Cape May love on the board!

    That was my family's go to spot when I was a kid.

    I am going next month with some of my family (taking my mom and sister down for four days) and I was shocked at how expensive it has become! I am paying $1200 for those three nights. Insane!

    But it will be a good time and I am looking forward to seeing CM again.
     
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