Cape May, New Jersey, a picturesque coastal town with sweeping beaches and elegant Victorian architecture, truly comes alive during the holiday season. This National Historic Landmark District transforms into a magical winter wonderland, inviting visitors from near and far to partake in its collection of cherished Yuletide traditions. With ornately decorated homes, locally-owned shops and eateries, horse-drawn carriage rides, and festive events around every corner, Cape May offers an old-fashioned Christmas experience that delights people of all ages. From the lighting of the Christmas tree at the zoo to breakfast with Santa at the La Mer Beachfront Resort, there are endless ways for families and couples to embrace the holiday spirit in this charming seaside destination. Its historic inns, bed and breakfasts, and hotels provide cozy accommodations from which to explore Cape May’s holiday charm. So if you’re seeking a nostalgic Christmas celebration brimming with beloved traditions, visit Cape May, where the sights, sounds, and smells of the season await you.
Annual West Cape May Christmas Parade
Kicking off the holiday festivities in Cape May is the Annual West Cape May Christmas Parade, a cherished tradition that has been enchanting locals and visitors alike for 57 years. Mark your calendars for December 2, 2023, and be ready to witness a spectacular parade that starts promptly at 5:00 PM.
The parade route takes you on a journey through the heart of Cape May, beginning at the West Cape May Volunteer Firehouse. It then marches south on Broadway, winding east on Perry, and ultimately ending on Carpenter Lane in the City of Cape May. You’ll see festive floats, marching bands, dance troupes, and specialty acts all getting into the holiday spirit. Of course, Santa himself always makes a grand entrance in his bright red sleigh to excited cheers from the crowds.
This event is made possible through the hard work of dedicated volunteers and generous donations from the community. Should inclement weather dampen the spirits on parade day, fear not, for the event will be rescheduled to Sunday, December 3rd. So be sure to bundle up and bring the hot cocoa!
Cape May’s 50th Annual Christmas Candlelight House Tours
Cape May MAC’s Christmas Candlelight House Tours have been a staple of the holiday season since their inception in 1974. This self-guided walking tour allows you to immerse yourself in the magic of Cape May during Christmas. As you wander Cape May’s gas-lit streets, you’ll encounter carolers in Victorian dress filling the air with music, and have the opportunity to explore over a dozen beautifully decorated homes, inns, B&Bs, churches, and hotels.
Each stop on the tour showcases the unique charm of Cape May. You’ll glimpse gorgeously adorned Christmas trees, meet Santa in his workshop, and see elegant interiors decorated with wreaths, garlands, poinsettias, and more. Both Victorian and modern holiday embellishments are on display, providing a fascinating look into Cape May’s history and traditions. Don’t miss out on this beloved Christmas tour, which has become one of Cape May’s most popular holiday happenings.
Holiday Lights Trolley Tours
There’s something simply magical about seeing the historic Victorian homes of Cape May decked out for the holidays. You can experience it all aboard the Holiday Lights Trolley Tours. Climb aboard an open-air trolley and get cozy under provided blankets while enjoying a narrated tour through Cape May’s charming streets.
As you ride along, your knowledgeable guide will share fascinating facts about Cape May’s origins and holidays past while timeless Christmas music fills the air. You’ll ooh and ahh at the twinkling lights and decorations of homes, shops, and hotels adorned in their holiday finest. Afterward, grab a hot cocoa or snack from one of Cape May’s cafés to warm up. This nostalgic trolley tour captures the essence of an old-fashioned Christmas, perfect for getting into the holiday mood.
Christmas at Cape May Winery
For a more relaxed holiday experience, head to Cape May Winery located just a short drive from the center of town. With a cozy indoor tasting room warmed by a fireplace, it’s the ideal spot to unwind with a glass of wine and soak in the Christmas spirit. Guests can sample Cape May Winery’s seasonal mulled wines along with cheese plates, charcuterie boards, and other small bites. If weather permits, blankets are offered so you can sit outside to enjoy the fresh air while sipping wine and taking in views of the vineyard.
The winery also hosts live music events many evenings and weekends during the Christmas season. Local musicians provide lively holiday tunes to entertain guests. Cape May Winery is a charming place to gather with loved ones and celebrate the holidays over award-winning wines.
Santa’s Tree Lighting Celebration at the Zoo
Santa’s Tree Lighting Celebration at the Cape May County Park & Zoo is a beloved family-friendly event that really evokes the Christmas magic. Held annually on November 25th, festivities kick off at 5:00 PM with Santa himself lighting up the Christmas tree while excited children look on with glee.
Prior to the lighting, kids can visit collectibles and craft vendors set up on the zoo grounds from 2:00-6:00 PM. There’s also a bounce house, slide, holiday music and performances, including the always amusing “Elves Gone Wild” skit. And of course, Santa will be available to meet children and pose for that perfect Christmas photo. Warm up with hot cocoa as you take in the jolly sights and sounds of this wonderful community celebration. It’s the ideal way for families to welcome the holiday season.
Where to Stay in Cape May for Christmas: La Mer Beachfront Resort
Guests staying at La Mer Beach Resort will find themselves immersed in Yuletide magic with the resort’s festive happenings:
- New Year’s Eve Prix Fixe Dinner (December 31, 2023): Bid farewell to 2023 and welcome 2024 with a sophisticated prix fixe meal at The Pier House Restaurant. The $99 per person dinner includes appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert selections plus a champagne toast. Make reservations to ring in the new year in style!
- New Year’s Day Brunch (January 1, 2024): Recover from the night before and start 2024 off right with La Mer’s lavish New Year’s Day brunch. Enjoy live music and sumptuous offerings like made-to-order omelets, carving stations, pastries and more. Reservations recommended.
- Cape May clearly knows how to spark that holiday magic with its charming Christmas traditions and activities. From festive parades and trolley tours to wine tastings, zoo celebrations and resort festivities, there are so many ways for families and couples to embrace the spirit of the season in this quaint seaside town. Visit and discover the wonder of Christmas in Cape May for yourself!
With its enviable location, weathered charm, nature’s beauty, and abundance of sights, tastes and activities, Cape May promises a spectacular seaside getaway you’ll cherish for years to come. Whether you crave leisurely beach strolls, exhilarating amusement rides, indulgent wining and dining, or rejuvenating spa treatments, this historic oasis truly offers it all. Immerse yourself in Cape May’s storied past, abundant nature, and nostalgic seaside allure. Start planning your perfect Cape May escape today!