Winter Wonderland at Congress Hall in Cape May

Deck the halls with a Victorian twist

An Evening in Ocean City

 Photo by Scott Dunn/Getty images

Looking for a Christmas getaway near New York City and Philadelphia? Historic Congress Hall is a family-friendly property offering a seasonal Winter Wonderland of activities. Providing hospitality since 1816, Congress Hall is America’s oldest seaside resort and is located in the heart of the historic Victorian district of Cape May.

Winter Wonderland at Congress Hall

The resort's Winter Wonderland season runs on Thursdays through Sundays from November 23 to December 31, 2018. Congress Hall’s grand lawn is transformed into a winter snowscape, more than 20 vendors come together to make a holiday shopping village, and Santa meets with kids in his workshop. Meanwhile, the Congress Hall Express train travels around Cape May’s North Pole. Other highlights include:

  • Tree-lighting ceremony
  • The holiday breakfast with Santa has a buffet of scrambled eggs with fresh herbs, bacon, fruit, an omelet station, pancake display, sweet treats, and more.
  • Dinner with the Clauses is held on December Fridays with a three-course menu and live entertainment.
  • Gingerbread house-making crafts and competition
  • Train rides on the Congress Hall Express
  • Story time with Mrs. Claus 
  • Santa’s workshop 
  • Congress Hall Express and carousel 
  • Holiday shopping village 
  • Winter Wonderland concert series 
  • The Santaland Diaries is a 90-minute play by David Sedaris. It tells the story of a struggling young writer who takes a job as a Christmas elf at Macy’s in New York City.

About Cape May

Cape May is a small city at the southern tip of the Cape May Peninsula of New Jersey, with Delaware Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. One of the country's oldest vacation resort destinations, the whole city is designated a National Historic Landmark due to its proliferation of Victorian architecture. As early as 1766, visitors encouraged by their physicians to take in the good sea air came to Cape May from Philadelphia by horse-drawn wagons, stagecoaches, sloops, and schooners.

At the turn of the century, advertisements in the Philadelphia papers described "the beautiful situation of Cape May, the sea-bathing, and the fish, oysters, and crabs to eat and enjoy." Cape May has been ranked among the best beaches in New Jersey in the past, but the city itself is an attraction worth exploring for the history alone. During the summer, Cape May's population swells from 3,000 year-round residents to nearly 50,000.

What to Do in the Area

The Cape May County Zoo is home to more than 500 animals and a new Tree-to-Tree ropes course for adults and children 7 and older. (While the zoo is free and open every day but Christmas, the ropes course is pricey and requires reservations.) Whale-watching tours in Cape May also continue for most of the off-season as the Delaware Bay is home to the fish that humpback and finback whales love to eat.