victoriancapemayCape May is a very special seaside town tucked away in Southern New Jersey. It has history; it has entertainment; it has the seaside.  You can ride bikes or a surrey and explore the Victorian homes, take a horse-drawn carriage, climb to the to of a light house, shop in the town’s center or just lie by the pool. Kids can play miniature golf, look for diamonds at Sunset Beach, search for seashells, go dolphin watching, play in an arcade, have frozen custard at a stand or just sit back and take in the cool breeze of the Atlantic Ocean.  

Located near sister towns Atlantic City and Wildwood, it’s got a very different look and feel.  It’s not a boardwalk town, it doesn’t have an amusement park. On the contrary, it’s quaint, quite respectful to its history and guests who come knowing they’re going to have a relaxing vacation by the sea. Cape May is pretty low key and full of old-world charm.

If you’re looking for family-friendly accommodations during your visit to Cape May, look no further than Congress Hall.  Located a block from the shore, the hotel puts every ounce of its soul into the design, decor and activity offerings. It really takes hold of its history and origins and incorporates it into everything.  It opened its doors in 1816 as a boarding house.  Cape May was America’s first seaside town.  At the time, the inn was sparse but busy.  In the 19th century, it grew, along with Cape May’s reputation as a vacation resort and gained recognition as a summer retreat for the nation’s Presidents, like Grant, Pierce, Buchanan and Harrison.  In 1968, Bashaw’s grandfather took over the hotel, and it has flourished ever since.  It was purchased by the Cape Resorts Group in 2002 and underwent a $25 million renovation.

The resort has the vibe of a classic, airy beach house (like key chains that are old luggage tags, classic dishes and the rooms themselves feel likecongresshall400 actual cabanas), but it is also sophisticated and first-class at the same time.  It takes real skill and attention to achieve that outcome.  The hotel is an L-shaped, 4-story building with porticoes the entire length of the building at the 3rd story level.  It faces the ocean — the “porch” is a fantastic place to sit in one of the many rockers and while away the hours in peaceful bliss (and it even picks up the WIFI signal).

Just behind the porch, there’s a gorgeous pool with free umbrellas, towels and beach chairs.  You can get a private cabana for a fee.  Kids will love the pool and will want to spend hours there.

Congress Hall’s philosophy is to provide memories for families.  They offer Congress Camp, a camp for kids aged 4-12, which offers evening activities in July and August and painting and ceramics classes.  Their holiday offerings sound so interesting: on the 4th of July, they offer a lobster bake and an All-American Celebration with music, face painting, picnics, a choir and fireworks. In December, they offer Winter Wonderland, which sounds beautiful where the hotel lights a big tree and the entire hotel.  As a matter of fact, Cape May is supposed to be all lit up at that time.   In the spring, they offer “Family Ceramics”.

The food at Congress Hall is exquisite.  The hotel has hired the most impressive chefs from all over the world.  The Blue Pig Tavern, located in the hotel’s lobby, offers delicious classic cuisine, and I can honestly say the food was heavenly.  The Rusty Nail, just a few blocks from Congress Hall which is also Congress Hall owned, offers inexpensive beach food with live music and tables to sit and dine by the sea.  They also offer room service.

congresshall2For moms and dads able to step out, there’s a bar conveniently placed downstairs called The Boiler Room.  They feature local entertainment and are open into the wee hours of the night.

If you’re planning to visit Congress Hall, you can receive a $100 Resort credit to be used during your stay at Congress HallVirginia Hotel, or beach shack. Reservations must be reserved online using the promo code MOMBLOG. They must be booked by July 31, 2011 for stays in 2011. The $100 credit will be applied at the time of checkout and is not valid with any other offers.

Disclosure: The folks at Congress Hall and the Motherhood provided my visit free of charge, but all opinions expressed are completely my own.