During winter, you have two options. You can stay inside and ignore all the things to do outdoors, or you can bundle up and explore everything a different season has to offer. One great getaway destination during the winter is the historic Cape May County in the southern tip of New Jersey. It’s a popular destination during the summer; Travel Channel ranked the area’s beaches as one of the top 10 in the country, calling the area a crown jewel of the region. But there are some oft-overlooked things to do that are perfect during the winter. Whether you’re traveling with friends and family or on a romantic weekend, here are the top things to do in the winter in Cape May County, New Jersey.
Historic House Tours
Known for its Victorian architecture and rich history, Cape May County receives thousands of visitors during the winter for its many historic house tours. Travelers can opt to go on a walking tour or take the trolley where a guide narrates the route. On more mild days, walking tours are a good option that last up to about two hours through historic districts while guides will make stops in prominent destinations and give lectures on area history. Iconic locations include the Emlen Physick Estate (a Victorian mansion from the 1800s with live reenactors) in Cape May, and the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse (Gothic architecture that is open for guests to hike to the top) in Wildwood.
Cape May is considered one of several birthplaces of the Doo Wop music scene, and visitors can join a one-of-a-kind Wildwood Doo Wop Tour. Lovers of the 1950s music can ride around for 45 minutes to see all the iconic Doo Wop landmarks including the Doo Wop District, where a string of vintage motels with original kitschy signs still stand.
The town of Cape May in Cape May County is also famous for its cluster of historic buildings—many of which are rumored to have paranormal activity. Several ghost tours are available in the winter like the Cherry House Tours, where brave guests wander around a house with EVP recorders and EMF meters.
With its gorgeous architectural surroundings, one of the best ways to see Cape May County is by horse-drawn carriage. Cape May Carriage Company in Cape May allows guests to feel like they’ve wandered back into time as they ride around the historic district in an authentic vintage-style carriage. Guests can purchase tickets on the corner of Ocean Street and Washington Street mall and ride for up to 30 minutes. During the sightseeing ride on the carriage, riders can ask the knowledgeable coachmen questions about specific landmarks or request a narration during the ride. Carriages and horses are usually adorned with flowers or holiday ornaments to give it a romantic feel—if that’s what you’re looking for. Haunted carriage rides are also sometimes available by request.
Polar Bear Plunges
Cape May hosts a number of Polar Bear Plunges each winter, where daredevils brave the icy Atlantic Ocean by jumping in wearing only bathing suits—but it’s all for a good cause. The Polar Bear Plunge events aim to raise funds for the Special Olympics and its 25,000 athletes. In 2015, $348,000 was raised. Trophies and championship cups are given out to the highest fundraising teams.
Cape May County is known for its variety of restaurants including old-fashioned hot dog stands and upscale oceanfront dining, and during the winter, the county’s various historic districts are seaside harbors are the place to find some of the best dining in the region. Seafood is the most popular cuisine for guest to feast on during their visits to the area, and this doesn’t change even as the seasons do. Restaurants including Harbor View, Harpoon Henry’s and Beach Creek Oyster Bar & Grille in Cape May offer fresh seafood brought in from its local waters. Outside Cape May, several seafood restaurants Crab and Seafood Shack in Wildwood and Mike’s Seafood in Sea Isle City are popular among locals and visitors, ranking as some of the best in the county. Those with a sweet tooth will want to take advantage of Cape May’s old fashioned establishments like Original Fudge Kitchen (where fudge is served warmed and fresh off the oven), Stewart’s Root Beer (a traditional place to get root beer floats), and Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream in Stone Harbor. When night falls, hit the county’s many historic bars with Victorian decor like Ebbitt Room at the Virginia Hotel (Cape May), Merion Inn (Cape May) and Westley’s Irish Pub (Wildwood). During the winter, many restaurants and bars have heated lamps for diners to still enjoy the scenery outside while staying warm.