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Sorry Drinkers, This Huge Vacation Town Is Dry (But, There Are Work Arounds)

Some people like letting their hair down and enjoying their vacation with an adult beverage. However, if your vacation plans take you to one famous vacation town in New Jersey, you could run into a problem or two during your stay. T

oday, we’re sharing what you need to know about Cape May, New Jersey, and a few workarounds so you can enjoy your vacation.

Let’s get started!

About Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May rests on the southern tip of the Cape May Peninsula in New Jersey. This small village is one of the first vacation resort destinations in the country. While the population drastically increases in the summer, the population hovers around 3,600 residents. Due to the concentration of Victorian architecture, the entire Cape May Historic District is a National Historic Landmark.

European colonists first encountered the native Kechemeche people sometime around 1600. The town became a popular vacation destination for people from Philadelphia. As its popularity grew, the city improved to earn its reputation as one of the loveliest resorts in the country. 

The city suffered a couple of massive, devastating fires in 1869 and 1878, which destroyed many homes and businesses. Almost all the rebuilt homes were replaced with Victorian-style houses, resulting in Cape May becoming the second most extensive collection of Victorian-style homes in the country.

Friends cheersing beers on the beach
For those who want to enjoy a nice cold beer on the beach, Cape May, NJ is not the destination for you.

What Is Cape May, NJ Known for?

Today, people primarily know Cape May, New Jersey, for its thriving tourism industry. The many lodging options, shops, restaurants, and other tourist attractions depend on the immense summer influx of vacationers looking to experience the boardwalk, beaches, and other exciting adventures. However, the city has more than a touristy look or feel.

The concentration of Victorian-style homes is second to only San Francisco. These gingerbread-like homes are where many locals live. These locals love their town and enjoy attending popular events like the Cape May Jazz Festival, Cape May Music Festival, and the Cape May, New Jersey, Film Festival. The city is passionate about the arts and culture, and it shows.

Cape May is also famous for Cape May diamonds, some world-renowned migrating birds, and marine mammal life. Whether you want to test your luck at finding Cape May diamonds, spotting a Cape May Warbler, or observing dolphins and whales in their natural habitat, Cape May is the place to do it.

Is Cape May a Nice Vacation Spot? 

Cape May is a fantastic vacation spot, especially if you’re looking for a small beach town to visit. There are many historic hotels, B&Bs, and Airbnbs in the area. The beaches often fill during the summer months with vacationers looking to dip their toes in the saltwater.

While fall and spring may not be the best time to go for a dip in the ocean, the chilly and crisp nights make for an excellent opportunity for a sunset stroll along the beach. You should consider Cape May if you’re looking for a vacation spot without the hustle and bustle of a busy city!

Sunset over the ocean at Cape May
Soak up the sun and sea while relaxing at Cape May.

Is Cape May a Dry Town?

While Cape May is one of several towns in New Jersey with stricter guidelines for alcohol, they have eased restrictions in recent years. In June 2020, Cape May’s city council voted to allow outdoor consumption of alcohol on their beaches, promenades, local malls, and several streets throughout the town. However, the approval comes with a few caveats.

First, the approval was only on a seasonal basis. The new ordinance allows public drinking consumption through October, which is typically the end of peak tourist season. The regulation only allows the approved locations to serve alcohol from 5 pm to 10 pm during the season. Lastly, drinks must be in unsealed, non-glass containers of less than 16 ounces.

They prohibit kegs and coolers in the drinking zones, and drinkers can only have one drink at a time. 

Can You Drink Alcohol in Cape May?

Drinking alcohol in Cape May is perfectly legal. However, until the June 2020 city council vote to change the local ordinance, retailers did not sell alcohol in the city. Residents and tourists were and continue to be free to consume alcohol they acquire outside the city limits within Cape May.

Couple cuddling on sail boat in Cape May
From laying on the beach to exploring the waters on boat, there is plenty to see and do in Cape May, NJ.

What to Do in Cape May, New Jersey?

There is plenty to see and do in Cape May. Here are a few of the most popular activities that tourists and locals like to enjoy. Let’s see how many you can add to your travel itinerary.

Cape May Beaches

While Cape May beaches may not be as recognizable as Maui or Miami Beach, they’re still incredible. They offer opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, and almost anything the other beaches in the world offer. They’re a great spot to set up camp for the day and spend time with your friends and family while enjoying the sound of seagulls and crashing waves.

If you’re approaching the end of your day, head to Higbee Beach and enjoy Sunset Point, where you can watch the sun disappear behind the horizon.

Pro Tip: Avoid swimming in these Deadliest Beaches in the USA!

Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum

The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum may have seasonal hours, but it offers year-round educational opportunities. Adult admittance is $14, and children (3-12) are $10, but it’s worth every penny. There is no charge for children under two years of age, and active duty is free. The Cape May Airport is the museum host, which the U.S. Navy used from 1941 to 1942.

The museum is home to some incredible aircraft but primarily focuses on World War II models. This is a must-see attraction for anyone passionate about airplanes.

Willow Creek Winery

Visit the 50-acre vineyard known as Willow Creek Winery for a chance to taste what Cape May, New Jersey offers. This winery produces various award-winning wines from its 15-year-old grapevines. Get a glass or bottle of their delicious nectar and enjoy it on their brick patio and enjoy the atmosphere.

Grab a bite to eat off their full grill menu and experience the deliciousness this winery offers. Do a wine tasting tour and get an in-depth look at what goes into creating each bottle of wine.

Washington Street Mall

The Washington Street Mall is a beautiful outdoor mall offering more than 75 establishments in Cape May’s heart. You’ll find boutiques, fine dining, bars, and much more spread across three city blocks. The mall opened in 1971 and continues to expand its offerings. This is an incredible place to go for a stroll, grab a bite to eat, and people-watch. 

Nature Center of Cape May

The Nature Center of Cape May began in 1992 to provide “quality environmental educational experiences, encourage stewardship of the harbor area and other natural areas, and promote volunteerism as a rewarding means of community involvement and service.” At this nature center, you’ll find a full schedule of programs for the general public to learn about natural history.

The New Jersey Audubon Society adopted the nature center in 1995. The center now serves to provide hands-on activities for all ages.

Pro Tip: Spend the night at one of these 20 Best Free Camping Spots (on the East Coast).

Are the Beaches Free in Cape May, New Jersey?

Anyone wanting to use the beaches of Cape May between 10 am and 5 pm, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, will need a beach tag. You can visit the City Hall Tax office or any beach entrances to purchase your beach tag. Costs range from $8 for a daily beach tag to $30 for a seasonal one. Children under 11 do not require a beach tag. The city offers active military and veterans free beach tags.

Is Cape May, New Jersey Worth Visiting? 

There’s a reason why Cape May’s population explodes during the summer months. It’s an excellent place to take a vacation and spend time with your loved ones. If you visit during the summer, don’t expect to have the place to yourself, but the city comes alive as tourists and locals make summertime memories. What are you waiting for? Start planning your trip to Cape May today!

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