Located on the tip of a peninsula, Cape May is the crown jewel of the Jersey Shore. English sea captain, Henry Hudson, founded Cape May in 1609. Eventually, this beautiful Victorian village became the go-to vacation destination for kings, queens, and presidents. Considered America’s oldest seaside resort, Cape May retains its small town American charm complete with trees that canopy the streets, an adorable town center with small shops instead of chain stores, and an outdoor mall that runs to the beach. This coastal community is a family-friendly place to vacation, and there are dozens of fun activities in convenient proximity to your vacation rental in Cape May.
1. Cape May Trolley Ride
Load everyone onto the trolley. It’s the best way to view the gorgeous Victorian homes, check out the local shops, and visit historic areas and beaches. A sweeping tour of the area makes it easier to decide on specific places you want to visit. Kids from 5 to 10 can take the children’s trolley tour and hear all the tall tales about Cape May pirates and sing along with the guide to a childhood favorite “The Wheels on the Trolley Go Round and Round.”
2. Cape May County Zoo
Pack a picnic and prepare to get acquainted with the inhabitants of this beautifully designed zoo, ranked 13th best in the world and 5th best in the U.S. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown and has year-round free admission. Twenty-two acres of well-maintained gardens are home to over 550 animals and 250 different species. Giraffes, zebras, and camels are easy to spot as you wander along Savannah’s wooden walkway. The kids can say hi to Rocky the tiger and lions, Lex and Belle, in the big cat house, then stop and talk to Brutus, the aviary’s favorite gray parrot. There is a small playground and snack stand when you need a break.
3. Cape May Point State Park
Take a scenic bike ride or hike to the 1859 lighthouse along well-maintained and safe paths. Once there, climb the 199 steps to the top for magnificent views of the Bay, and then visit the adjacent wildlife center. Be sure to take advantage of the interpretive center that provides tons of information about the wildlife and habitats. Take one of the many nature walks along the freshwater or brackish wetlands, keeping your eyes peeled for an occasional otter. Muskrats swim in the pond, and you can spot turtles taking their sweet time crossing your path. The one-mile trail is clearly marked, and elevated boardwalks keep your feet dry and clean. A hawk-watch platform is the best place in the eastern United States to view the migrating birds, and a small museum has a “Please Touch” tank just for the kids.
4. Carnival on the Lawn
Check out the Monday night Carnival festival on the lush lawns of Congress Hall. The kids can get their faces painted, play skee ball, stuff themselves with hot dogs, watch a clown making balloon animals, and take a Zumba class.
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5. Sunset Beach
By far the most popular beach of the five on Cape May, Sunset Beach is picturesque and tranquil. Everyone loves the daily flag ceremony that honors the men and women who died defending our country here and abroad. Each flag raised at this touching ceremony is a casket flag donated by families of the fallen. By far the most exciting activity for the kids is treasure hunting for ‘Cape May diamonds,’ the pretty quartz pebbles that hide in the sand.
6. Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center
Climb aboard the American Star for a three-hour adventure at sea as you search for humpback whales and other species such as baleen, fin, and right, as well as detecting pods and herds of frisky bottlenose dolphins. Along the way, you are sure to spot sea turtles, stingrays, sharks, and other incredible marine and seabird life.
7. Salt Marsh Safari – The Skimmer
The Skimmer, a 40-foot U.S. Coast Guard catamaran, takes you on the most incredible wildlife journey. The entertaining and knowledgeable staff brings animals on the boat so the kids can have a close-up-and-personal, hands-on experience while learning about the behaviors and habitats of the animals. It’s not unusual to have a pigeon come aboard and eat right out of your hand.
8. U.S.S. Atlantus
Just off Sunset Beach at Cape May Point, it’s easy to see the remains of the U.S.S. Atlantus. This ship was one of 12 experimental concrete ships built to transport American troops home from Europe following World War I, which it successfully accomplished before sinking off the shores of Cape May following a horrific storm in the 1920s.
9. Sail on a Tall Ship
Ahoy mates! Bring the kids aboard the 115-foot oyster schooner A. J. Meerwald so they can experience life as a sailor in Delaware Bay. The crew loves to let the kids help raise and lower the sails, and encourage them to take a turn at the helm.
10. Surrey Ride
Surrey rides around the town are a blast for the entire family and even the little ones who can’t yet help pedal get a kick out of seeing everyone else work hard while viewing the sights. If your kids would prefer to ride a bike of their own, rentals are plentiful as are bike racks when you stop for a cold drink or ice cream.
11. Family Fishing Trip
All aboard the pretty Cape May Lady for a four-hour family fishing trip every Tuesday and Thursday. Everything you need — fishing rods, tackle, and bait — are waiting on board for you, so relax and have some fun.
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