By Laura D.C. KOLNOSKI

There is simply no place in the eastern U.S. like this city and sea side resort at the tip of southern New Jersey’s Cape May Peninsula (off the Garden State Parkway’s exit Zero).

3E3F8861

International devotees flock to its alluring Victorian charm year ‘round, but from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, it transforms into a Charles dickens Christmas village steeped in yuletide charm.

Cape May Winery
Producing award winning vintages for two decades on 70 acres. Tours, tastings, and festive seasonal decorations. 711 Town Bank Road, 609.884.1169, capemaywinery.com

Carroll Gallery exhibit “An old Fashioned Christmas”
The Carroll Gallery at the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate beckons with a large Dickens Village display beneath a giant Christmas tree. Through January 1. 1048 Washington Street, 609.884.5404, cape-maymac.org (The Physick Estate hosts various holiday-themed events.)

IMG_4348

Timepiece Spread

Cheery Cherry house Christmas tour
1:00 – 3:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, Dec. 11 – 14. View more than a dozen decorated rooms in a 167 year old privately owned home. $10 for those over age ten. 609.884.5405, capemaymac.org
Christmas Candlelight house tours
5:30 – 8:30 p.m., Saturdays Dec. 2, 9, and 16. These self guided walking tours are a marquee event. Visit homes, inns, hotels, and churches amidst carolers and strolling musicians. Hospitality centers offer beverages and treats. $35 adults, $20 children ages 3 – 12. 609.884.5404, capemaymac.org

Lamplighter Christmas tours
Self guided evening tours of five bed & breakfast inns or private homes where owners share holiday spirit. Includes Carroll Gallery’s “Old Fashioned Christmas” destination. Adults: $20, Children 3 – 12: $15. 609.884.5404

The toy shop
Wildly imaginative gifts for real kids and grown up ones. 510 Washington Street, Mall, 609.884.0442, Facebook

download

Queen Victoria
Yes, it’s an inn, but it’s also a Christmas showplace. Marvel at its Early, Middle, and Late Victorian Trees and stunning décor and antiques. 102 Ocean Street, 609.884.8702, queenvictoria.com

Treehouse Antiques
The welcoming Victorian home and attached carriage house are laden with treasures, vintage pieces, and collectibles. The Garden, located on the property, offers fountains, bird baths, planters, and other garden ornaments. 742 Seashore Road, 609.884.4600, Facebook

Rolley tours
Always enlightening and entertaining, Cape May’s Trolley Tours sparkle in December. Choose from the “Ghosts of Christmas Past,” “Holiday Lights,” and “Santa’s” Trolley rides. Rates vary. 609.884.5405, capemaymac.org

Washington Street Mall
As much a primary tourist destination as a shopping, dining, and nightlife mecca, Washington Street hosts three pedestrian friendly blocks of discovery and fun, and serves as headquarters for trolley rides, tours, and information. An excellent source of unique gifts. heartofcapemay.com

Della’s 5 & 10
Walk past the retro to modern goods lining the aisles to the delightful soda fountain and eats counter in back. Everything about it is delicious! 501-503 Washington Street Mall, 609.884.4568, dellas5and10.com

IMG_1096

Carney’s
The go to spot for happening honky tonk, American fare, and live music. 411 Beach Ave., 609.884.4424, carneysnj.com

Fins Bar & Grille
Coastal cool amidst the historic, this colorful eatery off the Washington Street Mall features two large fish tanks, a sleek fireplace, and live music. 142 Decatur Street, 609.884.3449, finscapemay.com

Lucky Bones Back Water Grille
This trendy lunch and dinner spot offers fresh local fish, an extensive menu, and a gift shop. 1200 Rt. 109, 609.884.2663, luckybones.com

Mad Batter
Famed for its breakfast fare, this award winning hot spot in the Carroll Villa (get it?) also serves lunch and dinner with nightly live music and back yard garden dining in warm months. 19 Jackson Street, 609.884.5970, madbatter.com.

Oyster Bay restaurant & Bar
Upscale casual steak and sea food house with a large bar and nautical theme. 615 Lafayette Street, 609.884.2111, oysterbayrestaurant.com

Sapore Italiano
Cape May’s premier classic Italian fine dining experience in a lovingly restored Victorian home. Zagat rated, BYOB. 416 S. Broadway, West Cape May, 609.600.1422, saporeitalianrestaurant.com

The Ebbitt room
(Virginia Hotel) An esteemed, well appointed eatery and tavern. 2017 Open Table Diner’s Choice and Wine Spectator Award of Excellence winner. 25 Jackson Street, 609.884.5700, caperesorts.com

Night Lights006

The Lobster house
Marquee tradition for top shelf seafood in a nautical atmosphere on Fisherman’s Wharf. Bonus: fresh fish market! Return in warm months to experience the schooner American moored adjacent. 906 Schellengers Landing Road, 609.884.8296, thelobsterhouse.com

The Merion Inn
Since 1885, a favorite for its rich history, live piano bar, and luscious cuisine. 106 Decatur Street, 609.884.8363, merioninn.com

The Peter Shields Inn & Restaurant
Overflowing with period elegance, this 1907 BYO award winning, Zagat rated dining experience is a top pick. 1301 Beach Ave., 609.884.9090, petershieldsinn.com

UGLY MUG
It’s tradition to pop into “The Mug” for a warming quaff and primo pub food. Live music on weekends. 426 Washington Street Mall, 609.884.3459, uglymug.ba

Washington Inn
An INDUSTRY favorite and one of Cape May’s most romantic fine dining destinations. Don’t miss the Wine Bar. 801 Washington Street, 609.884.5697, washingtoninn.com

Angel of the sea
An elegant, charming, and romantic Victorian beachfront mansion. 5 Trenton Ave., 609.884.3369, angelofthesea.com

The Beach Shack
On Cape May’s southern end, this island inspired accommodation offers a beachy departure from the Victorian. Open through December. Don’t miss the lively Rusty Nail restaurant and bar. 205 Beach Ave., 877.742.2507, caperesorts.com

Congress Hall
One of America’s oldest seaside resorts (1816) is captivating inside and out, especially at Christmas. Recently voted “Best Hotel in New Jersey” by Travel & Leisure and its readers, it’s also a famed tourist destination. Multiple restaurants and bars, a spa, outdoor holiday market, and eye popping holiday deco rations earned its place as “The Grande Dame of Cape May.” 200 Congress Place, 888.944.1816, caperesorts.com

Icona Cape May
Owned by the Morey family of Wildwood Boardwalk fame, the boutique Icona chain is known for upscale accommodations, amenities, and Aloha spirit. 1101 Beach Ave., 609.898.8100, icona.com

photo 216

La Mer Beachfront Inn
A modern respite with great views, balconies, a gym, and the Pier House Restaurant & Bar. 1317 Beach Ave., 609.884.9000, capemaylamer.com

Marquis de Lafayette Hotel
A Cape May favorite, in the same location since 1885. The 501 Restaurant and bar is also on site. 501 Beach Ave., 609.884.3500, marquiscapemay.com

The Grand Hotel
Straddling the old and new with historic touches and updated rooms, the large, award winning oceanfront Grand decks its halls at the holidays. Featuring an in door heated pool, Hemingway’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant, and live entertainment. 1045 Beach Ave., 609.884.5611, grandcapemay.com

The Queen Victoria
Glorious eye popper any time of year and one of Cape May’s most famous B & Bs sparkles at Christmas. 102 Ocean Street, 609.884.8702, queenvictoria.com

The Sandpiper Beach Club
An all suite hotel with balconies and a fireside lounge. 11 Beach Ave., 800.732.7816, caperesorts.com

The Southern Mansion
This circa 1860 gem in the historic district offers full gourmet breakfasts and an immersive Victorian experience. 720 Washington Street, 800.381.3888, thesouthern-mansion.com

photo 0628