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To wrap up my series on our Cape May trip via Living Social, it’s time to talk about what to do in a shore town when half the town is still shut down and it’s way too cold to sunbathe.  Cape May is still full of activities in the off-season, so here are some highlights from our own trip.

Physick Estate
Jared loves touring old mansions.  In fact, whenever we travel, I think it’s safe to say we visit at least one.  We even made a special trip to Rhode Island to do the mansion tours one 4th of July weekend.  This trip was no exception, and with an abundance of Victorian-style homes, Cape May offered a lot of options when it came to tours.

The Emlen Physick Estate is the only Victorian house museum in Cape May.  It’s a neat story.  This house was in disrepair, and then the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts was formed in 1970 to bring it back to its historic state.  I won’t bore you with the historical details, but for $10, you get a 45 minute tour of the estate that concludes with a visit to the Carraige House, which typically has a separate historical display towards the back.  For $18, you can do a combination trolley tour of historic Cape May plus the mansion tour.  Our hotel gave us a voucher for the tours, however, we visited the mansion before we visited the hotel.  Darn.  Check with your hotel to see if they offer any deals for the tour.

Cape May Winery
I’m about to make a huge claim here and say that the Cape May Winery is one of the best wineries we’ve ever been to from an atmosphere perspective.  The tasting room is a gorgeous, expansive room with tables, couches, a bar and barrels lining the whole side wall.  Large enough to accommodate large groups without making other people feel like they are waiting around forever, the tasting room is really just a fantastic room.

Given how awesome the room was and how much it made us want to linger, we chose to do a tasting for $6 that included tasting 6 wines plus a souvenir glass.  Both Jared and I chose a mix of reds and whites to try, along with a dessert wine for me and a port for him, which I usually don’t find too much of at local wineries.  The wines we liked the most, like the Victorian White were very sweet.  That happens to be our preference, however, I also enjoyed some of the other more dry whites as well.

After our tasting, we decided to purchase a full glass of our favorites and sit in the tasting room for awhile, something I’ve never seen at other wineries.  Typically you go straight from tour (if there is one) to tasting, and then to the gift shop.  The Cape May Winery really encourages people to linger, with a balcony upstairs that looks over into the vineyard.  If it hadn’t been so windy and cold that day, this is something I definitely would have loved to do.  In fact, we saw one couple up there splitting a bottle and just hanging out.  Such a great, restful and fun activity, and we can’t wait to open the bottles we ended up buying.  Definitely worth a long afternoon stop on your trip to Cape May!

Cape May County Zoo
Another thing we’re huge fans of are gardens and zoos.  I’ll admit I was spoiled in DC, visiting the National Zoo sometimes every month without having to pay.  The Cape May County Zoo was a fabulous find.  With free admission year round, I was kind of expecting just a few animals set up in a dinky little park, but was pleasantly surprised to find it is so much more than that.

From lions and tigers and bears to simple geese, ducks and wandering peacocks, the zoo layout is one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.  I think we spent about 2 hours wandering around, enjoying the weather and all of the diverse animal populations.  Although the zoo was packed the day we were there, the expansive nature of the set-up allowed us to see everything we wanted to see without crowding around with other people.  Perfect for children and adults alike, the zoo is located a few miles outside of downtown Cape May in Cape May Courthouse.  Worth the drive, particularly since it’s free.  Just remember to support organizations like this with your donations to keep them up and running!

For all those that think of a certain show when they think of New Jersey, try visiting us first.  You’ll see there’s much more here than bumps and fist pumps.

I don’t know how many other people do this, but every time we visit a new area, we always think we’ll just find restaurants as we’re walking around to wander in to and enjoy.  Sometimes, that’s easy.  However, during off season in Cape May, it’s not!  I had done a bit of research before our trip, and written down a few restaurants, however, many of them ended up still being closed for the season.   After asking around at the Cape May Winery, we decided to have dinner at Axelsson’s Blue Claw Restaurant.

Funny enough, Jared had actually also been here with his parents when he visited Cape May years ago.  To be honest, in my research I had been avoiding strict seafood restaurants, as I’m not a huge seafood fan.  Not easy to do when you’re visiting a shore town.  I was a bit nervous that Axelsson’s wouldn’t have anything that would not only fit with my Weight Watchers plan, but that would also leave me feeling satisfied.  I was happy to find that the menu was diverse enough to include seafood options that weren’t too over the top “fishy” so to speak.  We settled on the Fromage as an appetizer (because who can resist brie??).   For an entree, I had the crabcakes and Jared had the seafood kabob, a totally new pick for him!

The food was fantastic at Axelsson’s.  The man we talked to at the winery had told us that “you can’t go wrong with anything you get there” and he was right.  The service was friendly and attentive without rushing you through, although it was a busy night.  They did seat us right by the piano, which I thought would annoy Jared, but the music blended in nicely and wasn’t overpowering to the point where you can’t talk.  While we did skip dessert, we had a full view of the station where these were being made, and they looked wonderful!  Although Axelsson’s is about a 5-10 minute drive from where we were staying, it was definitely worth the trip (however, if we had to give up parking, I might change my mind about that!!).

After our fabulous dinner, we returned to the Carroll Villa and hit up The Mad Batter for dessert.  Jared had been talking about a white chocolate mousse for days that he remembered having as a kid, and lucky him, it was still on the menu.  The Mad Batter bar was alive with groups of people hanging out, listening to the live music, so we ended up sitting at an actual table.  Jared was correct about the White Chocolate Mousse-it was worth the points.  Topped with whipped cream, strawberries, and a light strawberry sauce, the mousse was creamy, with bits of white chocolate in it, and so rich I almost couldn’t finish it (and I never say that!).  Definitely worth it!

Our trip included a voucher for brunch at The Mad Batter, so we returned the next morning to sit in the “sun room” type portion of the restaurant.  The Mad Batter had a great assortment of brunch-type libations, such as mimosas and bellinis, along with a pretty extensive menu.  The food was your typical brunch fare, but I’d certainly go back to check out the dinner options.  All around, a great experience with The Carroll Villa and The Mad Batter!

While The Mad Batter did not take reservations while we were there for brunch, it’s worth an ask in the summer if they do.  The restaurant was pretty busy for off-season, so I’d call ahead if you’re visiting during a busy time.

Looking for more options?  Find more Cape May restaurants here.    Happy eating, travelers!

 

Thanks to Living Social, Jared and I recently had the opportunity to check out Cape May, New Jersey for the first time (well, my first time-Jared was there as a kid).  As we walked around, I started thinking about all the great places we’ve been to in New Jersey that might get overlooked for those of us that live in-state.  Hence my new mission to tell you about them as we go along.  🙂

We covered a lot of ground while we were in Cape May, so I’ll start today by reviewing the lodging that we used.  The next set of installments will cover dining and area attractions.  We don’t want a super long post, after all!

The Carroll Villa Bed and Breakfast
The deal we purchased included a one night stay at the Carol Villa Bed and Breakfast, located less than a block from the beach.  Upon arrival, we received our complimentary bottle of champagne, as well as some coupons to area attractions (all part of our deal).  The check-in attendant was very friendly and made us feel welcome.

While the room we stayed in was certainly a bit small, it worked fine for us since we didn’t spend too much time in it anyway.  The shower had great pressure, and the bathroom was very clean and well kept.  Our room was right above The Mad Batter, the restaurant at The Carroll Villa, and during the live music, it was a bit noisy.  As in we could hear the specific songs the singer was performing.  However, we got back to our room around 9:45 p.m., and it all seemed to stop by 10.  If you’re sensitive to noise, though, as I know many are, this may not be the place for you!  I believe there are rooms on the other side of the hotel, so I would ask about those just to make sure.

Given that it was off-season, we were able to find parking about a block away.  In the summer, I can definitely imagine that parking is a challenge for guests at The Carroll Villa.  If you’re planning to stay in the summer, I would recommend calling ahead to find out what is recommended.

As mentioned, The Caroll Villa does have a restaurant, The Mad Batter, which is a great restaurant with a modest bar as well.  I’ll talk about this more in dining, but our deal did included a breakfast voucher, and we liked the convenience of having something right there.

Overall, The Caroll Villa was a beautiful place to stay, with an at-home feel that made even our short stay relaxing and comfortable.  If you’re thinking of vacationing somewhere this summer, I’d call early-I’m sure they book up pretty fast!  Thanks to Living Social and The Carroll Villa for helping us find out what Cape May has to offer!

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