Cape May Weekend in September

    For the 2nd year in a row, I pulled the kid out of school on a Friday (good mom?  Bad mom?) and the three of us hopped in the car and headed down to the southern end of NJ...Cape May.  (For last year's adventures:  and

    While last year's trip was more of a trying out of Cape May and experiencing at Civil War battle recreation at Historic Cold Springs Village as part of that, this year was specifically for the Civil War encampment and battle.  (Have I mentioned that my son and I are now reenactors?)  So that was the focus and as a result, I did not plan as much as I did last year.  (This was a BIG mistake on my part, but I do have to say that the lesson has been learned and going forward as a family we are going to plan things out.  It's NOT going to be all on me.  I may be the one doing MOST of the legwork, but we're going to discuss and plan TOGETHER.)  What I did plan was snacks and such because I knew that my son and I would need food and drinks during our long day at Historic Cold Springs Village.  (Although food is available I was trying to cut back on costs as well as take care of myself because my food allergies mean that I really have to do my own thing.) Finally, this year my son knew in advance where we were going and what we were doing; he packed his suitcase and we shared a garment bag to carry our reenactment gear.

    So on a Friday morning, we packed up the car and headed south.  Like last year we made a slight detour to see my parents and drop off some items.  It also gave me chance to hit the local ATM.  A good move, as many places in Cape May are cash only.  (Important to remember for future trips.  The cash went quickly!  In all honestly, I spent a lot more than I would have liked.  Again, more/better planning might have helped keep costs down a bit.)  We spent just enough time with my parents to chat and for James to have a snack (or is that 2nd breakfast again?) before we were back on the road.

    The trip down seemed shorter this time.  Maybe it was because I knew what I was doing and more comfortable.  Maybe it was because I didn't drink a lot of coffee that morning so an additional rest stop was not necessary.  Even with the on and off rain, we still made good time. Such good time that when we pulled into the inn's parking lot (which I missed on the first go round because the entry was narrow and there were no other cars parked there) and went up to the front door of the inn, there was no one there and the door was locked!  Rang the bell, but no one answered.  Called the number posted on the door and got a voice mail.  Tried not worry.  Waited.  Called the number again and this time got a person who let me know that check in was at 2 (this IS on their website under the FAQ section that check in is from 2-5, but I didn't realize no one would be on the premises) but that Rita would be there in about 20 or so minutes.

    It was a little odd in my book, but ...We could have waited on the front porch (where there were plenty of chairs and rockers to enjoyed), but we decided to leave the car and walk up a block or so to the Washington Street Mall.  We wandered around, checking out the shops and dining.  I love the area, even though it was pretty crowded.  We thought about where we might eat a late lunch before heading back to the inn around 2.

    We rang the bell again, and this time the door was answered by Rita.  We checked in and Rita showed us where the coffee machine was and where the beach towels were kept.  She propped the front door open for us (which is NOT done) as we carried our bags up the stairs to the 2nd floor where our room was.  The staircase was beautiful (as was the entire house which was built in the late 1800s and maintains its historic accuracy), but carrying our stuff up was quite tiring!  Being a historic home, our room did NOT include a bathroom.  (I'm not kidding.)  However, we had a private bath, just down the hall. (It was actually next together guest bedroom which must have had a bathroom attached to it, if that makes any sense.)  We had a 2nd key which allowed only us in.  (Although it did make those late night runs to the bathroom interesting.)

    After settling in a bit, we went back to the Washington Street Mall for a late lunch (early dinner).  We ended up at the Ugly Mug  where my son had a burger, hubby had a reuben and I had the spinach fruit salad (salad was the only option due to food allergies).  Meal was good, if pricey. (I feel that is the case throughout the town.  However, that is only the opinion of someone who does NOT dine out a lot.)  Hubby went back to the inn, while my son and I wandered around a little bit. We checked out he kiosk for the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts ( and decided we would like to do the Historic Haunts Combo tour; which is a combination of "the Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour with a visit to the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate to learn about the Victorians’ fascination with spiritualism and today’s methods of “ghost hunting.” “(We had done the Ghosts of Cape May Trolley Tour last year and enjoyed it: (  

    The tour was ok, not outstanding and while I enjoyed our guide, it seemed as if she was just parroting what psychic Craig McManus had written (or perhaps she had taken some of his Cape May Ghost tours.)  Last year, on the trolley our guide focused on stories and asked where each person stayed to see if he knew a story about the hotel.  That made it more personal and interactive.  I enjoyed the Physick Estate portion of the tour more.  Stories were told about the rooms we were allowed to enter and I found that fascinating, although I wish more rooms were open to the public.  If time had allowed, I would have loved to explore the house and the grounds more.  

    Since it wasn't too late, we went for ice cream.  (Actually we took our son for $8 worth of ice cream!  Then we headed back to the inn.  We wanted to shower and go to bed, even though it was early.  This is where things did not go well.  I went in first to shower and the water was freezing, even though I had it all the way on hot.  And when I say freezing, I mean FREEZING.  I was in and out of that shower so fast I barely got wet.  I warned the guys and we all took very fast and very COLD showers.  Definitely not the relaxing experience that I wanted.  (And remember, there was no staff on site at this point.)

    We all climbed into bed...and I DO mean climbed.  The Queen sized bed was on risers so high, that I need a boost to get in.  Now I am short, but...

    Thus began a LONG night.  The room got hot, so we turned on the window A/C unit, which was extremely loud.  (Most window units are!)  The unit was very close to the bed, which made the noise even worse.  We turned on the ceiling fan too, but both my husband and I had problems sleeping.  That coupled with the freezing cold shower made me very unhappy with my choice of place to stay.  While my son WAS able to sleep (the kid can sleep through pretty much anything), I did notice that he tossed and turned quite a lot.  My husband and I discussed the fact that we were both miserable and agreed that perhaps it might be best if we left in the morning and headed home after the Civil War re-enactment at Historic Cold Spring Village the next day.  It would be a long day and a long drive for me, but I couldn't imagine spending another night like this.  We were both MISERABLE.

    We DID manage to get a little sleep, but definitely NOT what you wanted on a vacation.  I had set my alarm for 7; 30 so that we could go out for some breakfast before heading over to HCSV. I had to jump in another COLD shower to wash my hair and then I got my son up.  He definitely WAS NOT happy at the thought of leaving that day, but I couldn't imagine another night like the one we'd just had.

    To make the best of things we headed out to the Washington Street Mall location of our favorite coffee shops:  Coffee Tyme 
    If you love coffee, this is THE place for you.  We all fell in love with the place last year and now they have two locations in Cape May.  And this one was nice and close to the inn.  Coffee for all (and a cinnamon bun for my son) made the day seem brighter.  (I also purchased a pound of their French vanilla...I am not keen on French vanilla, but their French vanilla is awesome!)  With delicious coffee to wake us up, my husband proposed staying the night.    He was NOT going to HCSV and would stay behind to try and get the shower issue resolved and thought we could probably survive the night with just the fan. (No noisy A/C.)  I son smiled.

    Back at the inn we changed into our Civil War era clothes and headed out. (Since I was wearing my "every day" dress I didn't have a hoop on and could drive. When we attend more formal events, I have to dress there.  And get help to do so!)  It was less than a 15 minute drive there.  We spent the next 5-6 hours immersed in history.  As a Union Soldier my son drilled and fought a battle (and didn't die this time!) while I stayed in the camp.  Since it was a nice day (hoorah!), I had brought a book with me (with a generic cover so no one could tell I was reading 21st century novels in the 19th century!) and sat on benches in the sun.  It was relaxing, warm and WONDERFUL.  Of course that's not all I did; part of the fun of the day is being with like-minded civil war historians and while we may not agree on some things (I won't talk politics), I do have to say that the people in the organization are incredibly caring and kind. (Which is why we joined in the first place.) I have yet to be at an event (and we've done 6 thus far) where I did not make new friends or have fun.

    Returning back to the inn, we found my husband in the room.  He had spent most of the day on the porch and wandering bit around, but most importantly, he had talked to a woman who was cleaning the house about the bathroom situation.  She told him that the plumbing was backwards and that you needed to turn too COLD to get hot water.  (When I mentioned this in a review of the inn, I received a response that most people figured that out rather quickly.  Guess I am not MOST people...and I did turn the knob to cold and it didn't get hot within a few seconds, so I gave up.  Turns out you have to wait longer than that for the water to eventually get warm.)

    My son and I changed into our "regular" clothes and we decided to have a light supper at a pizza place on the Washington Mall (which wasn't very good, but...) and then try the Ghosts of the Lighthouse Trolley tour.  This also gave us time to shop around.  It was colder when the sun went down than I had anticipated and I hadn't brought a sweatshirt, so...having purchased one for my husband the day before, I did so.  (Because you can never have too many sweatshirts, right?  Go on, roll your eyes!)

    We arrived in plenty of time for the trolley tour.  I was a little disappointed that we had the same tour guide from the night before.  I like a litter variety.  Since the light house is further outside of town, at least we got to hear different stories of residences and inns that are supposedly haunted.

    When we got to the Lighthouse it was dark.  The park was closed, but because we were on the tour we got our private guide who spoke of the history of the lighthouse before we went it.  The climb to the top is 199 stair on a spiral staircase with several landings.  However, the space gets tighter as you get to the top.  We were about 1/2 way up when my husband said he had enough.  I asked if he would like me to stay with him and help him down, but he declined so I went on with my son.  I have to admit that I had a slight feeling of panic as we continued on and even when we reached the top and went out to enjoy the evening view.  I knew the climb down was going to be more of a challenge for me, so I told my son I was going to start heading back.  There was another woman who was having some difficulty with the space, so I let her go first and kept talking to her.  Not only did I calm her, but I also calmed myself by doing so.

    Back on the ground, I found my husband, who was doing fine.  Shortly thereafter the rest of the group joined us (my son included) and we headed back to town on the trolley, once again hearing tales of haunts as we went.

    Back in Cape May proper (and more importantly the Washington Street Mall), my son asked for ice cream again.  He and I headed off and my husband headed back to the inn.  I got him a less expensive ice cream cone from DQ and we enjoyed the atmosphere for a while before heading back to the inn.

    Hubby was showered (and yes, there WAS hot water) and in bed when we got there.  My son and I showered and got ready for bed too.  We did NOT turn on the A/C and only had the fan going so the noise level was much better and thankfully we all got a decent night's sleep.

    Sunday morning arrived and we packed up our belongings before heading out for breakfast at Coffee Tyme.  While I stuck with a raspberry mocha (so good), my husband switched over to pumpkin spice (!)  I'm the pumpkin spice person in the family (my husband tolerates it/likes it, but I LOVE it!).  Now I had to go back in and purchase a 1/2 pound of pumpkin spice!  (I probably should have bought a full pound, but...)

    Finishing my coffee, the guys agreed to let me do a morning walk before we headed back north. I walked down to the beach and as far south as the road would let me before heading back.  It was a perfect sunny day. (Aren't the days that you have to head home always that way?)

    As it has been over a month since we took this trip some quick reflections:
    • I'm a planner, but I let things kind of go this time.  Not good.  Make a plan WITH the family and then if things don't happen, be flexible.
    • Plan lodgings well in advance.  One of the reasons we stayed where we did is because I had a gift card and this was the one available place to stay at the time.  It would not have been my first choice.  (Or even my second.)  The atmosphere was lovely, but I felt a lot was lacking.  (And according to some reviews I am not the only one.)
    • I NEVER get to spend much time on the beach.  I need to do this!
    • Congress Hall:  if I win the lottery maybe we can afford to stay there.  I know we would love it.  It's just not feasible at this time. 
    • HCSV:  Go and visit if you are in the area.  History comes to life in a fun way...really!
    • Coffee Tyme:  Go for it.  I mean it!  Two locations and can't be beat.  (Also see: )
    • Bring more cash than you think you will need.  Lots of places are cash only; Cape May isn't cheap!
    • Even though we've been twice, there is still much we haven't seen or done.  (I still need to visit a winery or two.)  No matter what season, it seems like there is lots to do in Cape May and the surrounding area.  I need to check them all out!


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