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Like a lot of people, autumn is my absolute favorite time of year, especially in the Northeast. Leaves change colors, transforming into bright oranges and yellows. Pumpkins appear on every porch. Apple cider fills every cup. And hoodies finally come out of the closet after unrelenting heat and humidity.
Yup, I love fall.
I even love fall at the Jersey Shore. Actually, the fall is one of my favorite times of year to come down to Cape May for a staycation (or longer if you can swing it).
So, if you think Cape May is only a summer destination, I have great and surprising news for you. You’re able to visit and have a great time all year round. Cape May NJ in the fall is a blast!
Cape May NJ in the Fall Travel Tips
Before I talk about the cool things to do, I wanted to touch on some travel tips about visiting Cape May NJ in the fall. There are a couple of special considerations.
I mean, for a summer resort town, Cape May has a surprisingly vibrant scene all year round, making autumn a delightful time to come and visit.
Still, you need to do a little bit of planning to have a successful vacation.
Check for Spooky (or Not) Fall Events
Fall festivals are abundant in New Jersey and Cape May is no different.
Without a doubt, I always recommend checking out Cape May’s calendar ahead of your visit. From Lima Bean Festivals to Ghoul Cold Spring Village to Sherlock Holmes Weekend, you will want to see if anything special is happening on your trip.
Know Opening and Closing Times
After Labor Day, some shops, attractions, and restaurants limit their hours or shut down until Memorial Day weekend. Like I said, Cape May has more open year round compared to other nearby shore towns, such as Sea Isle or Avalon, but opening hours might be more limited than in the height of summer. Service staff might also be limited after high school and college kids return to their classrooms.
However, if you’re visiting Thursday through Sunday, you’ll probably find most shops and restaurants are open for business. Just double check in advance to avoid disappointment.
Pack for All Sorts of Weather
Cape May’s weather in autumn is unpredictable. For example, you could experience hot and sunny days (like summer) in Cape May in September.
On the other hand, you might encounter chilly and rainy weather in Cape May in November. So it’s best to be prepared for anything. (And don’t forget to grab the best coffee in Cape May if the weather gets brisk).
Stay on Weekends (or Long Weekends)
Like I said above, you’re much better off visiting on the weekends in fall. While summer mid-week isn’t a problem, there’s just more life around Cape May on weekends. Not to mention, most of the fun fall events happen over the weekends.
Now, of course, if you’re seeking a quiet vacation in nature, whether on the beach or wetlands, then you could probably do a mid-week trip with minimal issues.
Best Things to Do in Cape May NJ in the Fall
Whew! Now let’s dive deeper and talk about all the best things to do in Cape May NJ in the fall.
Keep in mind that this list isn’t comprehensive. I’m sure a missed a bunch of fun activities, and will continue to add to this post as I experience beautiful Cape May in the crisp and cool months.
Be Spooked on a Ghost Tour
Fall is spooky season. What better place to visit than Cape May with all its creepy Victorian ghost stories? I love Cape May ghost stories.
Ghost tours run year round, but I personally think that they would be extra fun in October, closer to Halloween. Halloween in Cape May is a joy, no doubt about it.
Cape May has a few different ghost tours available for visitors. You can do a walking tour or ride one of Cape May’s iconic trolleys, as you learn about the resident ghosts.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, a spooky tour is the perfect way to capture the spirit of autumn.
Eat a Classy and Fancy Dinner
Most of Cape May’s finer restaurants are open on autumn weekends. I wrote all about fine dining in Cape May on this blog, because this gem is such a foodie destination. Depending on the restaurant, outdoor dining is still available, so you can enjoy a fine meal in the cool (and still beautiful) weather.
Keep in mind that it is still important to make reservations at Cape May’s most popular restaurants even when you visit in “shoulder season.”
Cape May NJ in the fall has plenty of incredible meals if you know where to look. You may be able to score some Happy Hours at some of the top restaurants this time of year too!
Go to a Festival
Need more reasons to go to Cape May NJ in the fall? What about fun festivals!
Not even kidding, Cape May County as a whole hosts a ton of festivals in the fall. Like I said, make sure to check Cape May’s calendar of events, as well as some other events happening in nearby shore towns.
I’ve listed a couple of the festivals happening this time of year —
- Exit Zero Jazz Festival (September/October)
- Festivals at the Physick Estate (September)
- Lima Bean Festival (September)
- Cape May Fall Festival (October)
- Pumpkin Festival (October)
- Seafood and Art Festival (in Avalon — October)
- Thanksgiving Weekend Events (countywide)
Go on a Shopping Spree at Washington Street Mall
Washington Street Mall is Cape May’s best shopping street. Here, you will discover unique gifts, home goods, boutiques of all kinds, bookstores, delicious snacks and coffee, and so much more.
By visiting Cape May NJ in the fall, you’re far more likely to come across sales than you would in summer or even spring. Since a lot of the stores carry summer styles, great deals are everywhere.
Go find bargains and support local businesses at the same time.
Relax on the Beach
Do you think beach season ends on Labor Day? Think again, my friends!
In September and even early October, it’s possible to sprawl out on the sand and even dive into the Atlantic Ocean. They call the early autumn “local’s summer” for a reason. The beach is perfect. Just keep in mind that not as many lifeguards will be available, and that you will swim at your own risk on certain beaches.
However, even in November, it’s still fun to go on the beach for a walk. There’s something mysterious and magical about epic clouds sweeping over a rough gray Atlantic Ocean, right?
So when visiting Cape May NJ in fall, don’t skip the beach. It’s not just for July and August.
Take an Afternoon Trip to Ocean City Boardwalk
Looking to take a day trip from Cape May? One suggestion is to check out the famous Ocean City Boardwalk.
In autumn, you’ll have a much better chance to park close to the boardwalk, unlikes in summer when parking is a bit of a nightmare. Not to mention, fewer crowds will allow you to enjoy the boardwalk atmosphere, pop into shops, and so much better. Also – less of a chance of getting hit by a bike!
Keep in mind, though, if you want to ride amusement park rides or play a round of mini golf, you have a better chance in early fall (no later than mid-October) and weekends. Due to seasonal staff, some attractions close not too long after Labor Day Weekend, so do your research ahead of time.
Visit the Cape May Zoo
The Cape May Zoo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cape May County. And I totally understand why. This adorable zoo is free to visitors (although donations are always appreciated), and is a delightful place to take a walk while learning about wildlife from around the world.
In my opinion, fall is the perfect season to visit the Cape May Zoo. In summer, the hot and humid weather (not to mention, lack of shade) makes the zoo a little overwhelming, whereas in the fall, you’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.
The Cape May Zoo is about a fifteen minute drive outside of Cape May City, but I still highly recommend a visit if you have time to spare.
Visit the Wineries
Last but not least, the fall is a wonderful time to relax outside at a winery. West Cape May especially has a lot of wineries that welcome visitors.
My personal favorite winery is Cape May Winery and Vineyard. If you visit in the fall, you will find plenty of outdoor seating, and can also order delicious little small plates in addition to the local wines.
And don’t worry if the weather is not amazing! Cape May Winery and Vineyard have fire pits to keep you comfortable and happy even in the cold.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Cape May NJ in fall? Feel free to share them with me! Enjoy the magical of autumn in this splendid Victorian city, all!