2) SHOP AND STROLL Burn off your meal with a stroll along the Washington Street Mall (washingtonstreetmall.com), a three-block pedestrian concourse between Perry and Ocean Streets, lined with clothing boutiques, kitschy souvenir shops, toy stores and candy and ice-cream shops. Many stores stay open until 9 p.m. or later on Fridays and Saturdays in summer. Then make your way to Cape May’s so-called boardwalk, a paved promenade just a few blocks away that runs parallel to the beach for nearly two miles. Stop in at the Family Fun Arcade (732 Beach Drive; 609-884-7020) for Skee-Ball (25 cents a game), photo booth shots ($3) and other games.
9 p.m.3) BAR BELOW Duck into the cavelike Boiler Room, in the basement of the Congress Hall hotel (251 Beach Avenue, with an entrance on Perry; 609-884-8421; congresshall.com/content/boilerroom.html) for drinks, dancing and live music. Exposed brick walls, low red lighting and strategically placed boiler pit fixtures give this bar/nightclub a cool industrial feel.
Saturday 8:30 a.m.4) SALUTE TO THE SUN Get your stretch on with a flowing yoga class ($20) offered either on the beach or the expansive lawn in front of the Congress Hall hotel (251 Beach Avenue; 609-884-8421; congresshall.com/content/beachyoga.html), depending on the heat. Sign up and grab a mat at the check-in desk in the hotel lobby. (For those looking for a more vigorous workout, there is a circuit training class at 7:30 a.m.) After you have worked up an appetite, load up on carbs just steps away at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House (261 Beach Avenue; 609-884-7199; unclebillspancakehouse.com) where waiters in crisp blue and white uniforms serve various pancake platters and traditional diner fare. 11 a.m.5) HIT THE BEACH You can pick up your beach tags, which are required for anyone 12 and older between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., from Memorial Day through Labor Day at any beach entrance. Cost: $5 daily, $10 for three days, $15 for a week (Saturday to Saturday). Need chairs? Steger’s Beach Service (609-884-3058; eastcoastparasail.com/stegers.html), which rents umbrellas ($11 a day, $55 a week), chairs ($6 a day, $30 a week) and other beach gear from 12 locations along Cape May’s wide stretch of beach, will stake out your spot in the sand.
1 p.m.6) FAMILY AFFAIR Beachgoers line up for American fare with a Greek twist and a seat at one of the cozy booths at George’s Place (301 Beach Avenue; 609-884-6088), originally opened by the current owner John Karapanagiotis’s father-in-law, George Tsiartsionis, in 1968. The Lemon Chicken Greek salad ($8.25) is a good bet after the beach, but if you need a reminder that Cape May is a short drive from Philadelphia, order the substantial cheese steak ($8). A note to parents: George’s doesn’t have highchairs, but Mr. Karapanagiotis, whose family portraits line the walls, will offer to entertain the baby while you eat. Another option: just down the block, the Y.B. (314 Beach Avenue; 609-898-2009), run by George’s brother, Peter, who has cooked under the chef Georges Perrier at Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, offers a range of salads and sandwiches in a small but inviting space decorated in black and white. Both restaurants are cash only and bring your own beer. 3 p.m.7) BREAK FOR WINE Cool off in the cavernous tasting room at the Cape May Winery (711 Townbank Road; 609-884-1169; capemaywinery.com), a short drive away. For $6 you get to taste six wines and keep the glass as a souvenir. Ask for a full glass of your favorite and relax on the shaded porch out back overlooking the vines. 7 p.m.8) BEACH SHACK Order a beer and a bucket of peel-and-eat shrimp ($10) at the bustling Rusty Nail (205 Beach Avenue; 877-742-2507; beachshack.com/rusty-nail.php), an updated twist on a surfer bar housed on the same spot in the 70s. It’s equal parts hip, family-friendly and laid-back depending on the spot you snag. Families congregate around the fire pit and picnic tables, a young crowd lines the bar inside, and heavily tanned locals gather around the outdoor tap, singing Grateful Dead and Melissa Etheridge covered by local musicians. Sunday 8:30 a.m. 9) ON TWO WHEELS Fuel up for a morning bike ride at Congress Hall’s Blue Pig Tavern (251 Beach Avenue; 609-884-8422; congresshall.com/content/bluepigtavern.html), which serves fresh and simple American fare and offers crayons for the kids. Ask for a seat in the outdoor courtyard next to the trickling fountain and order a side of turkey sausage ($4) for sustenance. Then rent some wheels at nearby Shields Bike Rentals (11 Gurney Street; 609-898-1818), where the outfit’s namesake will highlight the best routes on a map. (Be sure to reserve if you want a child’s seat.) Cost: $5 an hour or $10 a day including basket, helmet and lock. Flat roads, wide shoulders and slow-moving traffic make Cape May perfect for the casual bike rider. Ride along the promenade before 10 a.m., after which bikes are not allowed. 10 a.m.10) ONE LAST LOOK If you have the energy to keep pedaling, take Broadway to Sunset Boulevard to visit the Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859. It’s in Cape May Point State Park (www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests), with several trails that lead to ponds, dunes and marshes where birds and other wildlife can be spotted from observation decks. Climb the spiraling 199-step staircase to the top ($7; $3 for children ages 3 to 12) and take one last look at the water before you go.
IF YOU GO The Star Inn (29 Perry Street; 800-297-3779; thestarinn.net ) is a small, upscale motel with 10 brightly painted one-bedroom suites, each with a king-size bed, pull-out couch, kitchenette and flat-screen T.V. in each room. (There are also nine standard rooms and a couple of two-bedroom condos with full kitchens and living rooms.) Summer rates start at $249 midweek or $259 weekends, and include beach loungers, towels and umbrella, set up by the beach staff members who also take food and drink orders. Guests have access to the pool at Congress Hall, a 108-room sister property across the street, where summer rates start at $299 midweek or $329 weekends. With a spa, fitness room, kids camp, lobby shops and valet parking, the Star Inn is the closest thing to a full-fledged resort in a town dominated by motels and B&Bs.
The Queen Victoria Bed & Breakfast (102 Ocean Street; 609-884-8702; queenvictoria.com), a block from the beach, has 34 rooms including 9 suites decorated with period antiques in the Victorian style. Rates start at $230 a night and include breakfast, afternoon tea, bicycles, beach chairs and towels.
The Times just scratched the surface and perhaps just went to the places mentioned many of which are owned by same group. There are so many other hotels and B&Bs. So many great restaurants and bars with their own personalities to visit. But we are going to reconnect with our classmates whether we knew them well in HS or at all. However, the beach is so pleasant in September - no crowds and warm ocean. Best crabcakes and Manhattan clam chowder are at the Ocean View which looks inside like a diner but has the best food for your money in Cape May. The food at the Lobster House which is not in town but at the entrance to the island has great food. But my favorite is a huge lobster salad on a roll at their tiny diner portion (used to be around $6).
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