When my dear friends, Emily and Cooper of The Motherhood, invited me to visit Cape May for a Mom Blogger Retreat, I knew it was a trip I didn’t want to miss, but I had no idea what a gift it would turn out to be.
I grew up going to the beach often — Virginia Beach, to be exact. My grandparents lived nearby and we would often stay with them, but many summers my parents rented a hotel room on the beachfront. Those are some of my fondest childhood memories. Look, here I am!
When I met my husband, he introduced me to the Jersey Shore. His family vacationed in Ocean City every summer, and I fell in love with the idea of staying at the beach in a comfortable rental home rather than a generic hotel. Unfortunately that also means schlepping all your bedding, towels and food for the week. And since our entire extended family of 16 would stay in one house, it got just a wee bit cramped and we eventually disbanded the tradition. Here we are enjoying ice cream on the Boardwalk, on the last of our extended family shore trips.
Last weekend I was introduced to the Cape Resorts Group — a collection of properties scattered along the Cape May beach.
We stayed at the exquisite Congress Hall, built 1878 and lovingly refurbished by Curtis Bashaw and his sister, Colleen, in 2002.
You see, this is not just any ordinary resort owned by some remote benefactor. Curtis and his siblings grew up here. Congress Hall and many of the other properties in the resort group were originally owned and run by Curtis’s grandfather as a Bible Conference Center back in the sixties. He told us of summers as a child playing hide and seek throughout the halls of the hotel, then as a teenager working as a bellhop on the property, and eventually as a young man purchasing and restoring the buildings to their original glory.
Just feast your eyes on this gracious stairway — no cold, concrete stairwells here!
There is live music in the Brown Room, Yoga on the Lawn, Personal Training Sessions, Family Karaoke nights, and even Art Camp for kids while parents get to spend a night out alone. Then there are fabulous celebrations for the major holidays such as their 4th of July Lobster Bake with a live Dixieland Band, patriotic music, and of course fireworks to end the night. Christmas also sounds like a magical time to visit Congress Hall with their Winter Wonderland and Breakfast with Santa. I’m already plotting ways to come back and bring my family.
The attention to detail around the resort is phenomenal. Look at the room keys — inspired by the luggage tags of the early 1900s — when Cape May was a summer haven for folks from Philadelphia and New York and D.C.
I was treated to a luxurious Swedish Massage at their Sea Spa on Friday afternoon after a long, hot afternoon touring the farm.
I enjoyed a crisp glass of chardonnay one evening before dinner in the Brown Room, a cozy lounge is located right off the main lobby.
The hotel is located right on the beach, and just a 2 or 3-hour drive from the Philly suburbs, New York or D.C.
Photo credit: Girlymama
And if you don’t feel like slogging down to the beach, you can sit by the pool where hotel staff bring you cocktails to sip while your kids splash and play. Whatever you choose to do with your time at Congress Hall, Curtis and his team have gone out of their way to make this a vacation for both the kids AND the parents, by providing everything you need from the beach towels to the linens. You don’t have to bring anything but your bathing suit. (See now, THAT is my kinda vacation.)
This is why Congress Hall has become a summer home for extended families. As Curtis explained, “we are facilitating a party for them so they can make memories and build traditions.” I’m thinking this would be the perfect place for our family to resurrect our annual beach tradition, hmmm…
(I didn’t notice the beer bottle on the adirondack chair until I uploaded this picture. Hilarious.)
Curtis made time to spend with us, regaling us with stories of his childhood and the history of Cape May and the features of his various properties. He also took us on a tour of the farm that supports the restaurants on the campus. I usually try to recap my events in one post, but this time I’ll save the farm trip for another day.
We didn’t get to see all of his properties, but we did have dessert one afternoon at The Virginia, the first of the hotels that he renovated. The Virginia is geared towards couples and is the perfect location for a romantic getaway. If I go back to Cape May sometime with my husband, I’m staying HERE!!
Also included with The Virginia are The Cottages — a great alternative to weekly shore home rentals. Unlike your typical shore house, The Cottages come fully equipped with kitchens, linens and housekeeping services. These are perfect for larger families — if you have a family of five or more as we do, you know that fitting into a single hotel room is pretty tight. But the cottages solve this problem while still allowing you the conveniences of hotel services. I wish we’d had a chance to see these, but there wasn’t time.
The Beach Shack offers casual accommodations for families looking for a cool hangout where the kids can play and they can enjoy live music and drinks by a fire pit. There are rooms here for larger families, and I’m actually looking at dates for a possible family getaway at the end of the month!!
We had dinner one night at The Rusty Nail, the surfer bar located in the courtyard of The Beach Shack. Parents sat around the fire sipping cocktails while the kids played on the lawn. They make a mean mojito, I can tell you that. And I thoroughly enjoyed my mahi mahi.
On the last night, we ate dinner at The Blue Pig Tavern, located in Congress Hall. Here are Melissa and I, enjoying the ocean air. We took every meal outside — such a treat!
Curtis also shared the story of the history of Cape May, America’s first seaside resort town. Fortunately many of the charming Victorian houses have been preserved. Visiting Cape May feels like walking back in time.
Of course we made time to visit some of the shops one morning — also within walking distance of Congress Hall. There is no need for a car in this this town.
I have SO MANY MORE photos, and I still want to tell you about the farm tour. You just know I was like a kid in a candy store!!!
I hate to wear out my welcome with the longest. post. ever. But I know that many of you are families (like us) on a budget (like us!) who are always on the lookout for a fun place to go that’s not too far away. I can honestly say that before this trip, Cape May wasn’t really on my radar, but now I’m plotting ways to get back there as soon as I can.
I should also mention, the Cape May County Zoo is gorgeous, and FREE. It’s only a 20 minute drive from Congress Hall.
Have you been to Cape May? Have you driven by Congress Hall and assumed it wasn’t for you?
You should give it a closer look. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Big thanks to Cooper and Emily for helping to organize this amazing trip. We had SO much fun!!
You can follow Congress Hall on Facebook to stay apprised of all the latest news and events. And if you’re planning to visit Cape May this year, you can receive a $100 Resort credit to be used during your stay at Congress Hall, Virginia Hotel, or the Beach Shack. Make your reservation online using the promo code MOMBLOG, and the reservation must be booked by July 31, 2011 for stays in 2011. Your $100 credit will be applied at time of checkout. This offer is not valid with any other offers.
Disclosure: This trip was sponsored by Cape Resorts Group and The Motherhood. I was provided with meals and accommodations and a spa treatment in order to appreciate the Congress Hall experience. All commentary and opinions are my own.
All photos were taken by me, with the exception of those specifically credited.