Family Friendly Vacation: Cape May, New Jersey

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Last week, my family of four along with my husband's three brothers, their wives and six of my nieces and nephews ranging in ages 4-12 vacationed in Cape May, New Jersey.
This is our third time renting a vacation home as an extended family in Cape May, although the first time with our twins.

Cape May=Historical Charm

Cape May, self dubbed "The Nation's Oldest Seaside Resort" is located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey nestled between the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The national historic landmark's streets are filled with beautifully maintained Victorian-era homes. With their painted clapboard siding and gingerbread moldings these houses beg for you to stroll leisurely along the streets or enjoy a trolley ride at night among the gas lit street lamps.
We were going for historic charm and location when this house was chosen. 

Where to Stay?

Renting houses in Cape May is very easy. My sister-in-law used By The Sea Realty on Bank Street to book our stay this year. We rented an adorable house built in 1902 complete with a carved wooden staircase and rocking chairs on the front porch.  Recently renovated and full of charm the house had no problem accommodating the 16 of us. However, don't go renting an old home with expectations of open concept living spaces or a plethora of bathrooms. When renting, in addition to enough beds you may want to look for a few added details...
Outdoor Showers and Storage Areas- no need to drag sandy, wet children or beach things through the house
Front or Back Porch- makes a great hangout for everyone during the day or for the adults once the kids have gone to bed 
Air Conditioning- our house had a main cooling unit on the first floor and individual units in the bedroom which was great for controlling ideal sleeping temps but not so great for bathrooms and humidity
Large Dining Area-if you plan on eating meals at home be sure there will be enough room to accommodate everyone
Parking- staying closer to the beach means paying for street parking, so look for a house that has plenty of off street parking or be prepared to park further up the road to avoid meters 

Don't worry if renting a house isn't for you.  Although you won't find chain hotels here, there are a number of adorable bed and breakfasts, charming inns, and historic hotels.

What To Do With Toddlers?

The Beach-My girls loved going to the beach and playing in the surf and sand.  Just be prepared to buy beach tags ( $15/week per person over age 12) when you step on the beach and don't forget them if you need to go back to the house for something. The beach tag inspectors will ask for tags. 
Washington Street Mall- charming area filled with boutiques and restaurants. Take the stroller or let them walk with you to burn off that extra energy before bedtime.  Great place to grab some dinner (we liked Stewarts or Cape May Fish Market this year) and then some frozen custard at Kohr Brothers. 

Kiwanis Park on Madison Ave.-Great playground and duck pond. Two baby swings and a large jungle gym made this park a favorite for my girls.
Walk the Promenade or Beach Ave.- The Promenade is the paved area that runs between the beach and Beach Ave. It's perfect for morning jogs or afternoon jaunts.  There are shops, an arcade, and a few restaurants dotted along the path. With plenty more on the opposite side of Beach Ave. I had some very yummy Salted Caramel Ice Cream from Zoe's one afternoon.

Cape May Zoo- We didn't make it there this year. But the zoo is a favorite among the kids. Many zoo memberships offer free or discounted admission to this zoo so be sure to check that out before you go.

For older kids...

Mini Golf
Activities at the Nature Center like "Dipping For Fishes" or "Ghost Crab Hunt" are big hits for kids ages 3+
Whale Watching Boat Tour
Finding Cape May Diamonds at Sunset Beach
Touring the Lighthouse
Movie on the Beach on Thursday nights
Historical Tours

Where to Eat?

There are a lot of great restaurants, but some of our favorite this year include

Uncle Bill's Pancake House Beach Ave.- delicious light, and fluffy pancakes and good coffee. Yum!
McGlades on the Pier Beach Ave.- we went here for breakfast twice since it was so close to our rental house. Excellent omelettes and blueberry waffles. The girls loved the french toast and the fresh fruit plate is one of the best I've seen. 
The Lobster House Schellengers Landing Rd- there is an inside restaurant part, but eating outside on the deck overlooking the water was fun for the kids and adults. Be aware the Take Out Shop is very busy and hectic at dinner time.  My sister-in-law loved the lobster salad and my husband was very happy with his fried clams.  My girls split the kids shrimp with french fries and we still had leftovers. I had crab cakes. It's hard to compete with real Maryland crab cakes, but I enjoyed my meal. 
Stewarts Rootbeer Washington Street Mall- soda shop complete with burgers, sandwiches, and root beer floats. Great for kids. 
Cape May Hot Bagels Beach Ave- looks like a total dive, but has great pancakes, coffee, and breakfast sandwiches
Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard Washington Street Mall- cool, creamy, and refreshing. Goes beyond the traditional chocolate and vanilla custard with flavors like peanut butter, orange cream, and strawberry. Have your scoop rolled in sprinkles for that extra something special. 

Vacations aren't the same as they used to be pre-twins.  Not so relaxing or rejuvenating, but there is something magical when watching your child squeal with delight as she splashes in the surf or catching the pure joy that flashes in her eyes when she tastes her first bite of frozen custard. Every day unravels a new experience for a toddler and as the parent you get to share in those simple pleasures all over again through your children. So, yeah when you return home you may feel that you need a vacation from your vacation, but don't let that stop you from planning something special.

Let me know if you have any other great places to eat, stay, or things to do at Cape May. I'd love to try something new next time!

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