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Travel Mom Says: The Wildwoods and Cape May are shore to please for family vacations at the beach

Start planning early for summer fun.

About as far south as you can get in the state of New Jersey, the Wildwoods and Cape May are my favorite spots for beach vacations.  We have been to Wildwood every summer since I was ten years-old and the town truly feels like a home away from home. Both areas are very family-oriented and now is a good time to book a vacation.

1) Where will you stay? Throughout North Wildwood, Wildwood, and Wildwood Crest there are many quaint motels – and I mean that sincerely.  Some have been refurbished and restyled to the point where they're rather luxurious to call motels, others are basic and clean, and others are pretty funky and retro. They give a cool flavor to the drive through town as well as many options for vacation. Another possibility is the condo rental – all varying in price depending on size, location and condition.  

Cape May has a few traditional hotels, but what I love about the whole town is its beautiful Victorian style.  The best place to stay in Cape May is a bed & breakfast.  Most have a 3 night minimum in-season.  t’s like staying in an old family mansion–with some other families–and they usually serve everyone a lovely family-style breakfast with things like scones and jam.

2) What will you eat?  Oh my, where to begin?  You go on vacation worrying about wearing the bathing suit and then there is all that yummy food! 

We absolutely love Piro’s in North Wildwood, a traditional, family-run Italian restaurant. They make Sunday gravy (on Sunday) and have their own gnocchi.  They also have fresh seafood.  Their salmon is my Dad’s favorite. 

Neil’s Steakhouse in Wildwood is great for large parties.  You can make a reservation, but there usually isn’t a huge wait.  The clam chowder is really good and I’ve never disliked any entrée – steak or seafood – that I’ve ordered. 

In Cape May, the Mad Batter is great for brunch or dinner.  They offer an original menu featuring seafood selections.  The seating area is beautifully decorated. 

There are many more – Jersey Girl in Wildwood with its great martini bar and gourmet menu, Jackson Café in Cape May with its ski lodge feel and simple, less expensive, but still yummy menu.

Pizza on the boardwalk is fantastic.  I also love Curly’s fries, but do not be deceived.  They are not curly.  I prefer these fat, hot fries with vinegar, but you are allowed to have them with ketchup if you like. Kohr’s Bros. frozen custard is my third requisite Boardwalk food, but there are also many more favorites around, such as funnel cake or waffles and ice cream. 

Wherever you go, no need to worry about the kids making noise. You are in a family vacation zone.  

3) What should you do? Go to the beach, of course!  Wildwood has a huge beach. Even when it is crowded, you never feel squished. That spaciousness has always made it easy to head down by the water to build sand castles or to run back to the empty space away from the water to fly kites or play touch football. Cape May also has a very clean, family oriented beach. Much of the Cape May beachfront is convenient to restaurants and shops.  And in both towns, you will most likely be able to walk to the beach from where you are staying. 

If you are renting or staying in a motel or bed and breakfast, be sure that you get your beach badges from the proprietor. Both Wildwood and Cape May have seasonal badges which are generally provided for guests. 

4) What are the best “off-the-sand” activities?  You must go to the Wildwood boardwalk. It is required. Well, seriously, it is pretty cool.  Three piers of rides, including two loop-di-loop roller coasters, a wooden roller coaster, and a truly HUGE Ferris wheel let it compete with any amusement park.  The Sea Serpent has been my favorite roller coaster since I was 10 years old.  There are plenty of rides for the little ones too. My daughter’s favorite is the carousel, a classic.  She also likes to “drive” the truck and fly on the elephant. 

Throughout the summer, there are festivals along the boardwalk.  The International Kite Festival is really beautiful once they get them all flying.  It looks almost like fireworks during the day with all the colors.  My Mom loves the craft fair and always gets a great outfit for my daughter and usually something for one of her dolls too!  Both will be held on Memorial Day weekend this year.

The Cape May Zoo is definitely a favorite of everyone in the family.  We try to go on cloudy days or in the morning before it gets too hot.  This is no “small town zoo.” There are plenty of large animals, as your feet will tell you after you walk the grounds to see them all.  Our favorites are the giraffes and the goats.  I am truly amazed that they manage such a big zoo on simply donations.

5) What else should you do? Before 10 a.m., you can ride a bike on the Wildwood boardwalk.  Bring your own or rent one in the many shops located near the boardwalk.  You can climb the Cape May lighthouse.  The kids will love to look for Cape May “diamonds” right around the corner. 

Shopping is phenomenal in Cape May, especially if you are a treasure hunter.  You will find many original things. Take a boat ride to go dolphin watching – they like to chase the wake.  Another option, drive your own wave runner.  The bay in Wildwood is generally full of them on nice days. 

If you can't get there in the summer, it's good to know that, off-season, in October, you can walk along the beach in Wildwood in the nature reserve. The walk is off limits during the summer to protect the birds’ mating season.  It is super-peaceful and you will see a million birds.  

I hope you enjoy those toes in the sand!  Be sure to let me know if you discover anything new.  I'd love to check it out. 

Please share your favorite destinations, travel secrets, and comments.  And wherever you wander, enjoy your trip, have a great time, and be safe!  Bon Voyage!


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