congresshallI have always known Cape May is great for families; I’ve been going since I was a kid, and for the last few years, my siblings, friends and I have stayed at the glorious Congress Hall for an extended family vacation, but on a recent trip, I was surprised most of all by the food. Congress Hall, which sponsored the trip (along with the Motherhood) recently bought and renovated nearby farmland, and provides produce for its growing family of resorts and restaurants.

The Beach Plum Farm provided all the greens and herbs to the Blue Pig Tavern, The Rusty Nail at the Beach Shack and Virginia Hotel, plus asparagus, tomatoes, corn, broccoli and dozens more vegetables. Chickens will soon be providing eggs, and pigs the bacon.

The farm to table ethos goes two ways; the pigs also eat food scraps from the restaurants. And beehives will start producing honey soon.

Congress Hall says it is America’s first seaside resort, but the National Historic 1879 building has been modernized with en-suite bathrooms, (not added until the 1920s) a top-notch spa, and a nightclub that offers a kiddie karaoke on Thursdays.

The blend of luxury and family friendliness works particularly well at Congress Hall; you can have a romantic get-away here, or bring young kids, and neither intrudes on the other. Imagine staying at one of those grand houses in England, with endless rooms outfitted with comfy beds and butlers at your beck and call, and you get an idea of what the hotel is like. But with much better weather.

capemayWhat to Do
Each day in summer, the Activities Director of Fun offers a different family friendly activity, from carnival games to family painting classes. The pool has toys for water play and the giant lawn has lawn games like bocce or volleyball.

The lawn is used for outdoor yoga and circuit training classes; the small fitness room may be the only uninspiring spot in Congress Hall. You can also sit in one of the rocking chairs and enjoy the free Wi-Fi, or watch one of the frequent weddings.
The hotel also offers beach service, where you can have chairs and umbrellas set up, and order lunch. One quirky thing; you have to buy beach tags for everyone over age 12. These are sold daily, weekly and in a discounted 3-day pass. Usually tags are only checked on weekends, and there’s no additional fee for ‘forgetting’ to buy tags, but the beach tags help pay for the upkeep of the pristine beach, so consider it money well spent.

If you feel the need to leave paradise, you can rent surreys, beach cruiser bikes and children’s bikes fro the on-site shop. You aren’t supposed to ride on the boardwalk past 10am, so take a spin to the Cape May lighthouse, about 2 miles away. You can walk a short nature trail here, or stop at one of the Nature Center, which has an observation tower and interactive kids’ area.

Around Cape May
Cape May also has a couple of miniature golf courses, a beachfront arcade, and a car-free shopping area with fudge stores every 10 feet or so.

Congress Hall is not cheap, but the folks there have an amazing opportunity for travlingmom readers. Book by July 31 using the code MOMBLOG and you get $100 resort credit. Let’s see: drinks at Blue Pig Tavern, lunch on the beach, a massage; you will think of many ways to spend the dough.