When my parents sold their house back in my native Philadelphia last fall in favor of taking up a primary residence in South Carolina, they also purchased and renovated a home in the historic district of Cape May, New Jersey, so that they could escape the southeastern summer heat. I grew up going to Cape May – my family actually owned two homes there prior to this one, but sold the last one back in 2009. Since I reside in Florida and have a lot of travel coming up (I take off for a 10 day trip to Italy tomorrow), I wasn’t sure when I’d be able to check out the new digs. But thanks to a last minute work trip, I was able to make an impromptu weekend visit to check out the new beach house while I was up north last week. A lot has changed in Cape May, a little beach town known for its grand Victorian architecture, in the summer of 2009. What I once felt was a sleepy town is now brimming with gourmet restaurants, chic boutiques, and even a brewery and a few wineries. In fact, Cape May has even been recognized as one of America’s top 10 beaches by the Travel Channel. Since I was only in town for a few days, I didn’t get to cross all that I wanted off of my Cape May bucket list, but I did want to share a glimpse of the new house and a recap of some of my favorite local activities. I’ll be heading back later this summer, and can’t wait to share more about the house and town with you.
The new house includes some fabulous outdoor space and a serious indoor bar, perfect for entertaining, so we only went out to dinner one of the nights that I was there. I was able to cram in three lunches out, a happy hour, and a delicious dinner, though. Here’s a recap of where I went.
- The Blue Pig Tavern: This local favorite serves up classic American dishes inside of America’s oldest seaside resort Congress Hall, which celebrated its bicentennial back in 2016. Its name derives from a gambling parlor sited in Congress Hall in the mid-1800s, and it was actually the first tavern in Cape May. My sister and I split some avocado toast and a goat cheese and beet salad.
- The Rusty Nail: A frequent happy hour haunt for my aunts, uncles, and cousins, “the Nail,” is a famed, iconic surfer bar and restaurant that made a name for itself in the ‘70s. I had to leave before Sunday night happy hour at the Nail, but did get to enjoy nachos, peel and eat shrimp, and fish tacos for lunch on Saturday.
- The Lobster House: When I look back on childhood summers spent in Cape May, my most vivid memories are of sitting on the dock at this always-packed waterfront seafood restaurant learning how to pick smash ’em crabs with my mom’s side of the family. No one else in my immediate family has the patience for picking crabs other than my mom, so we waited for everyone to depart on Sunday to head over for crabs, shrimp, and steamers. I left covered in Old Bay seasoning and happy as a clam.
- Fins: This local bar that occupies the space formerly known as the Pilot House on the Washington Street Mall is another favorite watering hole for my extended family. We met some of my aunts and uncles there for drinks on Friday night before heading out to dinner.
- The Washington Inn: We hosted a big family dinner on Saturday night (my mom served my favorite chicken marsala and mashed potatoes), but we ate out on Friday night in the bar at the Washington Inn. Built in 1840 as a Plantation home, the Washington Inn is nestled on tree-lined Washington Street in the heart of the Cape May Historic District, just around the corner from my family’s new abode. My parents are confident that the Inn serves the best food in Cape May, and I was not disappointed. I shared brie and strawberry crostinis with my sister to start, followed by a delicious cioppino for dinner.
The famed Washington Street Mall is home to three blocks of stores and restaurants. I was sad to see that some of my old favorites like women’s boutique Free Shop and the book store are no longer there, but I was impressed by some of the newer shops. I only made purchases at one of them, though, and it’s clear that it will be my favorite for years to come.
- Cash & Clive: I’m not exaggerating when I say that every look featured in this post includes something from this hip boutique located just off of the Washington Street Mall. My mom has been spoiling me with gifts from my favorite designers like cupcakes & cashmere, Bella Dahl, Rails, and J.O.A. since she first stumbled into the boutique a few months ago, so I was excited to finally check it out for myself. The girls at the store knew exactly who I was before I even stepped inside thanks to my ever-popular mother, who they now refer to as “Aunt Sandy.”
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