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A Victorian Christmas in Cape May, N.J.
By Nancy Schretter

Although a family visit to Cape May might seem like something best saved for the hot summer months, this quaint Victorian town comes alive during the winter holiday season. Houses and buildings throughout the historic district are decadently overdecorated in holiday finery, millions of twinkling lights permeate the town, craft shows and Christmas parades abound, and heated trolleys transport visitors on guided holiday tours of the inns and mansions. For the shopping fanatic, a multitude of stores offer visitors a wide variety of tempting gifts and pleasures. What a great way to get in the holiday spirit!

Cape May's turreted, gingerbread-laced houses and restored Victorian setting makes it the perfect place to experience an old-fashioned Christmas. The town and its surrounding region warmly welcome families and offer a wide variety of holiday activities and attractions from which to choose Christmas in Cape May. The festivities start with a Holiday Preview Weekend in late November and continue through the town's Family New Year's Eve celebration. Christmas in Cape May Schedule. Holiday decorations will remain up throughout the town through the first week in January.

The longest-running holiday event in Cape May is the annual Christmas Candlelight House Tour. This is the 29th year that the town's Victorian inns, houses, churches and hotels decorate themselves inside and out for the holidays and open their doors to the public. Self-guided tours generally are offered on three Saturdays in December, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Free shuttle service is provided on heated trolleys, and two hospitality centers serve hot beverages and treats to guests. For more information on dates and times, check out this website for a list of inns and hotels open each weekend Christmas House Tours.

Active families won't run out of things to do during their holiday visit. One of the most educational options is the "Physick Family Christmas" heated trolley tour, which allows children a closer look at the history and architecture of Cape May, follwed by a living history experience at the Emlen Physick Estate. Here, kids will experience Christmas circa 1895 and learn more about what holiday celebrations were like in that era. Families can enjoy an authentic tea luncheon or elegant afternoon tea at The Twinings Tearoom located in the recently restored 1876 Carriage House on the grounds of the Physick Estate Mid Atlantic Center for the Arts. For more information on tour dates and times, as well as other wassail and candlelight tours, visit this Christmas trolley tour site: Cape May Christmas Trolley Tours.

Kids are sure to love Cape May's Christmas Parades, while shoppers will revel in the town's holiday craft fairs Christmas Crafts Christmas parades take place on several weekends during the season, and feature bands, floats, fire engines, Santa Houses, reindeer carriages, and Mr & Mrs. Santa Claus. Craft fairs will tempt holiday shoppers with handmade crafts, wool products, pottery, woodcarvings, jewelry, and other wares.

Cape May a wonderful place to visit for the holidays, and it can be a very reasonably priced getaway as well. Seaside locations often offer exceptional values in the off-season and Cape May is no exception, as this recent U.S. News article attests A Midwinter Night's Dream. A number of historic inns and properties are offering special rates during November and December Bed and Breakfast Specials, and you'll find many options for family-oriented accommodations. Some of the best family-friendly properties in the area that are still open during the off-season are The Southern Mansion, The Queen Victoria Bed and Breakfast Inn, The Virginia Hotel, Captain Mey's Bed & Breakfast and Congress Hall.

While the image of Cape May tends to be couples oriented, many properties cater to families desiring more spacious accommodations. In the off-season, they offer great values as well. The Goodman House, with its dollhouse museum and adorable suites, is a great place for families who would like to spread out a bit more. Some of their accommodations offer kitchenettes. The Seamist, one of the most photographed mansions in Cape May, also offers efficiencies and apartments for families. For families still interested in that prime oceanfront view -- even in the off-season -- the Summer Station Oceanfront Condotel and the Marquis de Lafayette are oceanfront resort hotel properties that welcome families. For more information on great places to stay in the Cape May area, see CapeMay.com's extensive accommodations list Cape May Lodging.

Those who visit during the holidays should make sure to also enjoy Cape May's abundance of nature and beautiful surroundings. Despite the cooler temperatures, families visiting Cape May can still enjoy walks along the beach, taking a four-seater surrey bicycle ride through town, visits to the Nature Center of Cape May and Cape May Point State Park, and climbing the 199 stairs of the Cape May Point Lighthouse. To learn more about the various attractions of this great family destination, read travel writer Karen Rubin's article on the Family Travel Network which details her family's holiday visit: Cape May Family Adventures.

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