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Christmas in Cape May

The seaside town celebrates the holidays the old-fashioned way


Christmas in Cape May

Cape May’s historic homes sparkle for the holidays.

Photo by Joseph Evangelista

Cape May, N.J. has long been a place my family has visited and I consider it among those locations and experiences that sparked my interest in design and architecture. Sitting at the Southern tip of New Jersey, the quiet, leafy streets are lined with charming, sometimes rather sizable, Gingerbread houses that enhance their intricately carved details with a rainbow of color combinations. One look at these homes and you know they have generations of stories to tell.

A visit to Cape May feels a bit like a step back in time and, while it’s a lovely and colorful place to visit year-round, Christmas is the time of year when the town’s Victorian influences really get to shine with the addition of twinkling lights, wreaths and bows; carolers in the streets; and old-time “trolleys” carting you around to take it all in. The effect is palpable, almost emotional. It’s as though you’ve stepped into the pages of A Christmas Carol.

A Victorian Christmas

Throughout Cape May, you can tour centuries-old hotels and historic houses for a look at the furnishings and decorative elements that have been preserved to be enjoyed today and for generations to come. Each bed and breakfast, each historic house and hotel in town is a lesson in design history both with the decorative pieces still in use and those looking for a second (or third or fourth) lease on life in the antiques shops that fill many a hotel lobby.

One historic house that does a particularly good job at capturing the spirit of the holiday season is The Physick Estate. In addition to the decoration of the house itself, The Carriage House Gallery, which is a part of the Physick property, presents a holiday exhibit throughout the season called An Old-fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions through the Years. The exhibit is designed to capture the feeling of Christmases gone by with a massive Christmas tree complete with presents and model trains beneath.

The Estate typically celebrates its tree lighting with a festive ceremony that includes free, self-guided tours and holiday carols while also raising awareness and supplies for local organizations like the Cape May Community Food Bank. And, making the evening complete, Santa traditionally stops by to do the honor of lighting the tree.

The Holiday Spirit

The holiday events are non-stop in Cape May and are a great way take in the distinctive architecture and interiors that fill its streets and make it such a unique piece of design history. Below is just a sampling of the events that highlight the season. Check in with the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities for regularly details and to find out about events that offer an immersion in this pretty city’s design and architecture throughout the year. And, if antiques are indeed on your agenda, you may want to make stops in Cape May a recurring event on your calendar. Throughout the year, the Center hosts crafts and antiques shows that include the wares of vendors and craftsmen from throughout the Northeast.

Holiday Food & Wine Events

Dine with Santa: Breakfasts and dinners with Kris Kringle
Cape May Winery Cellar Tour & Tasting
Cape May Wine School
Cape May Wine Weekend
Holiday Chefs Dine-Around
Mad Batter Holiday Wine Dinner

Christmas Theater in Cape May

Cape May Stage
East Lynne Theater Company

Holiday Tours & Events

A Cape May Christmas Tour
Christmas Candlelight House Tours
Christmas Traditions Lecture
Dickens Christmas Extravaganza
Physick Estate Christmas Tours
Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides
Holiday Crafts Fair
Holiday Lights Trolley Rides
Holiday Inns Tours
Lamplighter Christmas Tours
Santa’s Trolley Rides
Spirit of Christmas Tour

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