Beach Weekend Getaway in Cape May
1Resplendent inns and Atlantic surf meet at Cape May's oceanfront Beach Avenue. Turn inland on Ocean Street to find the open-air, pedestrian-only Washington Street Mall, where dispatchers for Cape May Carriage Company arrange 30-minute tours by horse-drawn buggy.
2Two blocks from the mall is one of Cape May's most elegant and celebrated restaurants, The Washington Inn, where a "Dinner and a Show" prix-fixe meal entitles you to discounted theater tickets at the nearby Cape May Stage. Leave your shorts and flip-flops at the hotel and tuck into seafood, steaks and chops, as well as an exhaustive wine list—the sommelier selects foolproof flights.
3Cape May's theater season runs from May to December at Cape May Stage. The diverse program surpasses that of most regional theaters and often features veteran Broadway actors. Recent seasons have included shows like God of Carnage, The 39 Steps, and Time Stands Stillfor $35 a ticket, a fraction of Broadway costs.
1Start the day with alfresco eggs and pancakes on the massive porch and garden of the Blue Pig Tavern at Congress Hall. Outstanding service, teak furniture, and top-notch ingredients make for a refined experience—and you don't have to be a guest to indulge.
2Familiarize yourself with the wildlife of the local bays, marshes, and beaches with a morning visit to the Nature Center of Cape May on Cape May Harbor. There are interactive programs, exhibits, and viewing platforms for spotting seabirds and harriers.
3Take your newfound knowledge to the beach. Less-crowded patches of sand are found west on Sunset Boulevard towards Cape May Point. At the road's end you'll find Sunset Beach, a sand-side gift-shop that's the place to procure "Cape May Diamonds"–quartz crystals formed in the Delaware River and deposited on local shores. Crab cakes from the store's grill make for a quick lunch with ocean views.
4Sunbathe, surf, fish, or hike along miles of dunes and coastline that lie within Cape May Point State Park. Birders can explore the teeming, freshwater marshes and visit the Cape May Bird Observatory. You'll have already spied the 157-foot-tall Cape May Lighthouse at the southernmost tip of the park (and the state); finish your afternoon by taking in the views across the bay to Delaware from the top.
6Freshen up and then head out for dinner at Black Duck on Sunset. The dishes are highlighted by Asian and Latin flavors and are consistently ranked among the town's best. Just remember to BYOB—you can pick up a on the way at Colliers Liquors, where the staff has great wine recommendations.
7Open since 1885, the Merion Inn has the town's oldest bar and a reputation for enduring sophistication. Cap off your evening with carefully crafted cocktails like a classic martini and free jazz on most summer evenings.
1A leisurely breakfast of fluffy buttermilk pancakes from the Mad Batter is a local tradition at Carroll Villa. Arrive early or prepare to wait at peak times (they don't accept reservations), but rest assured the meal will be a sumptuous start to the day.
2Set aside an hour for a tour of the Emlen Physick Estate to see Cape May's Victorian furnishings up close and learn about well-heeled 19th-century coastal living.
3Fit in another trip to the beach before checkout, followed by a final perusal of the shops at Washington Street Mall, where you can pick up a few souvenirs and some snacks for the ride home.