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Finding the Good Stuff in Cape May with Kids

Two weekends ago, we took a vacation to Cape May with kids–five of them! I’ve never been anywhere on the Jersey Shore, but it was the perfect distance between Lancaster, PA (from which my brother, his family, and my parents were traveling) and Brooklyn, where I live.

Below are my tips for a long weekend in Cape May with kids. As usual, there is an emphasis on healthful food, eco-friendly attractions, and wellness.

Where to Stay in Cape May with Kids

cape may with kids congress hall group

Because we were a big group with a lot of kids, we wanted a resort more than an inn so that we could do mostly on-site activities rather than schlepping eleven people around.

After researching our accommodation options, we chose to book at Congress Hall, which is the oldest seaside resort in the country. After spending four days at Congress Hall, I can say with confidence that it was super kid-friendly and worthy of recommendation. The staff at Congress Hall was excellent, the food was mostly good, and the beds and pillows comfortable (if not organic!).

For a lower-priced option, I thought the Beach Shack looked really fun. If you happen to go to Cape May without your kids, I think the Virginia looks really cool.

There were just a few things we didn’t love about Congress Hall:

  1. The bath products, while from Beach Plum Farm, had conventional toxins in them–they were not actual handmade skin and hair products, despite the claims on the labels.
  2. There was a wedding in the hotel on the Saturday of our stay and while the music stopped at around 11:00 p.m., it was pretty loud until then.
  3. Some of our group stayed in the main hotel, and some in the Congress Place Suites, which had a king-sized bedroom, a living room with a pullout couch, and a small (but very pretty) kitchen. The suite was a little disappointing because of its small size–it was much smaller than it appeared in the online photos. Having the kitchen was nice, and we definitely saved money by making eggs in the morning in the room, but the room felt really cramped with all of us in there.
  4. The food at Tommy’s Folly wasn’t good. The fruit cup was past its prime and I am fairly sure that my breakfast panini contained American cheese.
rose poolside congress hall cape may with kids gimme the good stuff
This was me for at least, like, two full days at Congress Hall.

Where to Eat in Cape May with Kids

Overall, my kids ate relatively well during our trip to Cape May, thanks in part to the fact that we fed them breakfast and several dinners in the room. (While the local Ace grocery store wasn’t exactly Whole Foods, we found organic milk, veggies, hot dogs, frozen pizzas, etc. there)

As a New Yorker, I am pretty picky about what I call “great” cuisine, but I have to say, the food at the resort itself was pretty good.

clam bake cape may with kids gimme the good stuff
The clambake on the lawn of Congress Hall was a splurge but worth it.

Some meal highlights of our trip:

1) The avocado toast at the Blue Pig Tavern’s breakfast.

As a Brooklyn resident, I’ve had plenty of avocado toasts in my day, and this one with local watercress and radishes was one of the best.

avocado toast blue pig congress hall with kids gimme the good stuff

 

2) Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop.

I mean, as a Vermonter I am obviously biassed, but you just really can’t beat a B&J’s cone on a hot summer afternoon, right?

Ben and Jerry’s Cape May with Kids Gimme the Good Stuff
My brother and I are were the only Vermont-born of our group, so everyone else got kicked out of our photo.

 

3) The Boiler Room.
These brick-oven pizzas aren’t organic, but were loaded with local veggies. The meat eaters among us particularly loved the arugula/prosciutto one. The salads were also locally-sourced and super tasty.

4) Okay, so I didn’t personally have this one, but a reader told me the the cucumber-mint sakitini at the Virginia is amazing (and relatively healthful!).

There also were some disappointing meals in Cape May, including dinner at The Lobster House and Beach Plum Farm breakfast (which sounded so good–like, grain bowls with eggs–but really didn’t deliver).

lobster house bread cape may with kids gimme the good stuff
The best part of The Lobster House meal was this insane everything-bagel loaf of bread. The rest of the meal was kind of gross.

Wellness and Fitness in Cape May

  1. Fitness: I had really big plans of doing the Beach Boot Camp offered by Congress Hall every day, but instead only did yoga on the beach one morning. It was a nice class, but a little hot outside even at 8:00 a.m. Lots of people were out jogging the short boardwalk in the early morning, so I’d bring running shoes if we went again. There is a yoga studio in Cape May, but we didn’t go there since the hotel offered daily classes.
  2. Spa: A few of us indulged in beach massages, which were lovely but again a little hot. I might opt for the indoor version on my next trip. Other than that, the massage therapist was awesome, and used only essential oils for her body work.
  3. Other activities: My husband and I took a few really pretty bike rides around our hotel and to Beach Plum Farm. You can ride bikes on the boardwalk only before 10:00 a.m. My parents brought bikes, but they also have them available right at Congress Hall.

bike beach plum farm cape may with kids gimme the good stuff

What to Do in Cape May with Kids

  1. As I mentioned, bike riding was a pleasant way for my husband and me to spend an afternoon, but the rides we took always took us on some busyish streets, so I wouldn’t have felt safe with my kids on bikes.
  2. Congress Hall had a lot of fun activities for the kids, which are also open to the public.
    congress hall carnival cape may with kids gimme the good stuff
    My kids loved the carnival at Congress Hall, including this fire thrower.
    tie dye congress hall cape may with kids gimme the good stuff
    The boys spent one afternoon making tie-dyed shirts at Congress Hall
  3. Beach Plum Farm is a short drive away, and is worth a trip. Wolf feeds chicken beach plum farm cape may Gimme the Good Stuff
  4. My husband and brother took the boys to the arcade downtown during the hottest part of one day, and they all came home saying it was amazing.

arcade cape may with kids gimme the good stuff

4. We never actually made it to the zoo, but it gets rave reviews and offers free admission!

5. Of course, my kids hated the ocean and wanted nothing to do with the beach, so we spent most of our time at the pool. We rented a cabana for one day at the beach, but if I go back I wouldn’t spend the $125 since as a guest of Congress Hall you get access to umbrellas, lounge chairs, and food service for free.

beach tent congress hall cape may with kids gimme the stuff

Where to Shop in Cape May

Congress Hall itself has cute shops, with toys and souvenirs that are above average.

The Washington Street Mall is the main street in Cape May, and it’s a cute little pedestrian-only street. Lots of the stores are the usual tourist junk, but a few were worth popping into, including Cash & Clive and Whale’s Tale for toys.

Beach Plum Farm features a little market of gorgeous produce as well as an upstairs gift shop with unique items.

tomatoes beach plum farm cape may with kids gimme the good stuff

West End Garage is definitely worth a trip, too. It’s kind of like a mini Brooklyn Flea, and I found a gorgeous handmade bike basket for my mom in there.

The Bottom Line on Cape May with Kids

I was pleasantly surprised by how pretty and, well,…sort of hip Cape May was. Is it as charming as Nantucket (where I had traveled the weekend prior with college friends–and no kids)? No, but it certainly defied Jersey-shore stereotypes.

Please share your own experiences in Cape May with kids in the comments below. And if you want to read our reviews of other clean travel destinations, click here.

Stay sane,

 

 

 


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3 responses to “Finding the Good Stuff in Cape May with Kids”

  1. You’re amazing and that’s a great post for having a quality time with kids.

  2. This is a great way of spending time with kids. Loved it.

  3. Love your post, you enjoyed a lot there. I never had chance to go there but may be some day this will help me.

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