Month: May 2015

Tour de Farm rides through Hunterdon

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com

As Mitch Morrison, organizer of Tour de Farm New Jersey, knows, Hunterdon County is a breathtaking blend of rolling hills, quiet farms and green landscape.

Having biked across the United States four times and been biking for 52 years, he said, “I can say it and in my heart and soul I believe Northwest Jersey is one of the most gorgeous places to bicycle in the world.”

For the first time this year, Hunterdon County is coming to Tour de Farm New Jersey, a collection of three biking tours across Sussex, Warren and now Hunterdon counties that brings bikers to local farms along the ride.

Hunterdon riders can set off for the 81-mile Extreme Tour with 4,000 feet of elevation at 9 a.m. or the 20-mile Weekend Warrior Tour with 1,200 feet of elevation at 10 a.m. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm New Jersey)

Hunterdon riders can set off for the 81-mile Extreme Tour with 4,000 feet of elevation at 9 a.m. or the 20-mile Weekend Warrior Tour with 1,200 feet of elevation at 10 a.m.
(Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm New Jersey)

However, this tour isn’t just about wandering the countryside. It’s about taking the sunglasses off and showing bicyclists where their food comes from and introducing them to the farmers that create it, following a dramatic trend in how people think about their food.

“People are getting more curious about what’s being put into their bodies,” said Morrison. “The purpose of the tour is to introduce people to the farmers who serve them.”

As Morrison explained, very few people have spoken to a farmer or visited a farm, so with this tour, they get to finally see the produce, animals and what goes on behind grocery walls.

Tour de Farm New Jersey offers a quirky yet logical pairing — bicycling one of the most beautiful regions of the state while sampling some of the healthiest and tastiest food, bringing New Jerseyans to understanding the purpose of buying local products. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Tour de Farm New Jersey offers a quirky yet logical pairing — bicycling one of the most beautiful regions of the state while sampling some of the healthiest and tastiest food, bringing New Jerseyans to understanding the purpose of buying local products. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Sparta’s Donna Fell, who participated in the Warren County tour last year and will be registering for this year’s tour, said that she loved learning about each farm and talking to the farmers about how they’re making their living. Plus, she said that she learned there were many more local farms than she thought.

A five-year recreational biker who has done several New York City tours with Transportation Alternatives, Fell said that even though she enjoyed the Weekend Warrior tour very much, it was a hard course.

“I found it challenging because of the hills and I am used to riding in the city, which is flat,” she said.

For the first time this year, Hunterdon County is coming to coming to Tour de Farm New Jersey, a collection of three biking tours across Sussex, Warren and now Hunterdon counties that brings bikers to local farms along the ride. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

For the first time this year, Hunterdon County is coming to coming to Tour de Farm New Jersey, a collection of three biking tours across Sussex, Warren and now Hunterdon counties that brings bikers to local farms along the ride. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Morrison stresses that although the tour can be challenging, it isn’t just for experienced riders, as 20 miles isn’t a particularly high mileage for biking.

Besides checking out the farm grounds, bicyclists also sample local farm products, such as the short-rib ravioli that Lou Tommaso of LL Pittenger Farm in Andover plans to offer this year in a partnership with Nicola’s Fresca Pasta of Kenilworth at the Sussex County tour. The farm has been raising beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb and eggs — most of which are sold directly to the consumer — for the past 12 years.

Tommaso has participated in similar events in the past, but he said that last year’s Tour de Farm, his first, brought him more business than eight to 10 other events that he has done collectively. Plus, he said, “It was the single event that I have done that I have gotten the most recognition from old and new customers following the tour.”

Very few people have spoken to a farmer or visited a farm, so with this tour, they get to finally see the produce, animals and what goes on behind grocery walls. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Very few people have spoken to a farmer or visited a farm, so with this tour, they get to finally see the produce, animals and what goes on behind grocery walls. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

LL Pittenger Farm wasn’t the only one to have lasting success thanks to Tour de Farm. Another such farm was Bear’s Den Alpacas, which sold wool products at Tour de Farm of Warren County and then had bicyclists come back at Christmastime to purchase gifts.

However, Tour de Farm wasn’t always the popular outdoor event that it is now. Morrison said that there has been a “dramatic expansion,” as there are now three tours in its third year.

“Frankly, we could have done seven tours, but this year we went from one tour to three,” said Morrison.

The year’s Hunterdon County tour will begin with a farm-fresh locally sourced breakfast provided by tour organizers at South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell on Sunday, Aug. 2, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

The year’s Hunterdon County tour will begin with a farm-fresh locally sourced breakfast provided by tour organizers at South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell on Sunday, Aug. 2, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

During the first year, about 100 total riders roamed Northwest Jersey on the tour, which then exploded to 650 in the second year with 200 being turned away for logistical purposes. So far, 150 tickets have been sold for Hunterdon’s tour, which Morrison said may be capped at 400.

The year’s Hunterdon County tour will begin with a farm-fresh locally sourced breakfast provided by tour organizers at South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 2. Then, Hunterdon riders will set off for the 81-mile Extreme Tour with 4,000 feet of elevation at 9 a.m. or the 20-mile Weekend Warrior Tour with 1,200 feet of elevation at 10 a.m.

Participants are encouraged to bring cash to purchase products at the farm stops, which are Fulper Farms, Woodsedge Wool Farm, Headquarters Farm, Tullamore Farms, Villa Milagro Vineyards, Bobolink Dairy Farm, Philips Farm, Humdinger Alpacas, Fields Without Fences and the Sugar Maple Jerseys Farm. Tour organizers will transport purchases back to South Hunterdon Regional High School in the afternoon for the participants, or they can bring their own backpacks.

The year’s Hunterdon County tour will begin with a farm-fresh locally sourced breakfast provided by tour organizers at South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell on Sunday, Aug. 2, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

The year’s Hunterdon County tour will begin with a farm-fresh locally sourced breakfast provided by tour organizers at South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell on Sunday, Aug. 2, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Until June 1, early-bird registration prices are in effect for $55 for the tour, farm tastings and a T-shirt, which can be purchased on TourdeFarmNJ.com via Eventbrite. After June 1, prices will rise to $65.

Following the tour, a Farm to Fork celebration three-course dinner will take place at Tullamore Farm at 3:30 p.m. and include plated first courses such as New Jersey heirloom tomatoes and grilled peaches, an entrée buffet including world-class grass-fed beef and roasted sweet potato salad with locally smoked bacon, and desserts such as peach and blueberry cobbler with oatmeal streusel and callebaut chocolate brownies.

Fell said, “The Farm to Fork dinner was amazing. They did a great job of feeding everyone health-conscious food in an elegant outdoor setting with wine and white tablecloths.”

Besides checking out the farm grounds, bicyclists also sample local farm products. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Besides checking out the farm grounds, bicyclists also sample local farm products. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Farm to Fork tickets are sold separately and can also be found on TourdeFarmNJ.com via Eventbrite for $150.

Tour de Farm New Jersey offers a quirky yet logical pairing — bicycling one of the most beautiful regions of the state while sampling some of the healthiest and tastiest food, bringing New Jerseyans to understand the purpose of buying local products.

“The necessity of buying local is to help support local agriculture,” said Tommaso. “The only way we can stay in business is to sell our products locally.”

Following the tour, a Farm to Fork celebration three-course dinner will take place at Tullamore Farm at 3:30 p.m. and include plated first courses such as New Jersey heirloom tomatoes and grilled peaches, an entrée buffet including world-class grass-fed beef and roasted sweet potato salad with locally smoked bacon, and desserts such as peach and blueberry cobbler with oatmeal streusel and callebaut chocolate brownies. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

Following the tour, a Farm to Fork celebration three-course dinner will take place at Tullamore Farm at 3:30 p.m. and include plated first courses such as New Jersey heirloom tomatoes and grilled peaches, an entrée buffet including world-class grass-fed beef and roasted sweet potato salad with locally smoked bacon, and desserts such as peach and blueberry cobbler with oatmeal streusel and callebaut chocolate brownies. (Photo: Courtesy of Tour de Farm NJ)

TOUR DE FARM NJ – HUNTERDON

When: Sunday, Aug. 2 with breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., tours starting at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Where: South Hunterdon Regional High School in West Amwell

Cost: $55 until June 1, then $65

Mileage: Hunterdon riders can set off for the 81-mile Extreme Tour at 4,000 feet elevation or the 20-mile Weekend Warrior Tour at 1,200 feet elevation

Farm to Fork Dinner: Takes place at Tullamore Farm at 3:30 p.m. for $150

Contact: Organizer Mitch Morrison at mitchell.morrison5@mac.com

Website: TourdeFarmNJ.com and sign up here

Are timeshares a scam or a steal?

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com 

Timeshare experiences fall into one of two categories.

People either think of those two nightmarish hours they sat through a boring meeting with only a continental breakfast to get them through, or about 8 percent of Americans — according to the American Resort Development Association (ARDA) — think of their beautiful timeshare that they fly off to every few months, trying out different lodgings whenever they please.

The reason that perceptions of timeshares vary so vastly is simply because they either perfectly fit a traveler’s vacation style or they don’t. By weighing what you’re looking for out of your vacation versus its price, you can determine if a timeshare is the right buy for you.

If you can’t find the time to plan an annual trip, you’re not alone. According to a Skift survey, 41 percent of Americans didn’t take a vacation last year, leaving 169 million vacation days at their office desk.

Steve Alessandrini, senior director of public relations for Wyndham Worldwide/ Resort Condominiums International (RCI), said that purchasing a timeshare is one way to commit yourself to traveling regularly.

“When you buy a timeshare, you know that you already paid for that week so you want to use it,” he said. “You are locked in your vacation and you are ensuring yourself that you are going on vacation that year.”

The Gran Velas Riviera Nayarit resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (Photo: Courtesy of Wyndham/RCI)

The Gran Velas Riviera Nayarit resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
(Photo: Courtesy of Wyndham/RCI)

Just because you’re heading to your timeshare, however, doesn’t mean you’re going to the same place every year. Nowadays, timeshares often operate on a points system, so travelers can earn points with their resort and visit any of those properties, sometimes with options for cruising and camping, although there are sometimes fees involved with these exchanges.

Unlike a vacation home, timeshare owners only pay for what they use, making a very expensive property more affordable without worries about year-round maintenance. Also, timeshares, which at their median are priced at $19,725 but vary widely, usually have more amenities than a hotel room.

“You’re getting a lot more space in a timeshare than a hotel room, so if you’re traveling with children, they have some room and you don’t have to tiptoe around at night,” said Alessandrini. “Timeshares also have a home-away-from-home feeling, since you have a washer and dryer and kitchen.”

However, five-star amenities and guaranteed vacations don’t exactly come with a cheap price tag, especially for those not anticipating the financial obligations of a timeshare, including an average annual $600 maintenance fee, the inability to claim it as a capital loss with the Internal Revenue Service if you sell it at a loss, annual network dues and exchange fees.

Robert D’Alia, senior Financial advisor at Merrill Lynch Florham Park, said that in his opinion, it isn’t advisable to purchase a timeshare to build up equity.

“It’s one of those things like joining a country club or putting a pool in your backyard,” he said. “If you’re really going to use it and enjoy it, you look at it as something that you’re investing in for your family.”

The Wyndham Bonnet Creek resort in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Courtesy of Wyndham/RCI)

The Wyndham Bonnet Creek resort in Orlando, Florida. (Photo: Courtesy of Wyndham/RCI)

However, D’Alia also said that compared with the alternative of buying a vacation home, purchasing a timeshare doesn’t tie up a lot of income while also getting use of the facility.

“Timeshares are not for everybody, and consider if you’re going to purchase one. Do your homework and talk to people who have previously owned one because there are hidden costs and people need to be educated,” he said. “Remember, there’s always a secondary market.”

Since there is usually an excess of timeshare units on the secondary market, they tend to be sold at a discount.

However, according to a 2014 American Resort Development Association (ARDA) survey, 83 percent of timeshare owners, whether they bought it from a developer or in the secondary market, are satisfied with their buy and 17 percent even went on to buy a second timeshare to earn more points and exchanges more quickly.

As many potential timeshare buyers have learned, however, timeshares are also known for being sold with aggressive sales tactics, where salesmen offer on-the-spot commitment incentives while travelers are in “spending mode,” as D’Alia refers to it.

D’Alia, who has sat through a timeshare presentation while vacationing in Orlando, said that as a marketing professional, he felt that the salesmen tried to appeal to travelers’ emotions too much.

The presidential suite at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. (Photo: Courtesy of Wyndham/RCI)

The presidential suite at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. (Photo: Courtesy of Wyndham/RCI)

“They let you enjoy the property first and then they get you to relax and sometimes you forget about reality,” he said. “When I come home, I sometimes find that I bought things that I normally wouldn’t. The timeshare did appeal to me and I really felt like I had to pull myself away since it’s very easy in vacation mode to sign off on it.”

Instead, D’Alia recommends that prospective purchasers do not make the decision hastily while they’re on a trip and think it through before signing anything to really weigh the pros and cons.

Alessandrini recommends that travelers make sure they are working with a reputable company and do research on the resort to see if they work with an exchange company such as RCI that allows travelers to visit other destinations. Also, he said that the company should be a member of ARDA or other trade organizations.

Other good signs are if a grace period is offered, allowing purchasers to change their mind before committing or if the unit belongs to an owner’s association, giving the owners a collective voice.

Traveling preferences vary widely, from those who want the guarantee of being able to stay at a five-star resort with their family each year to those that want more flexibility with their wallets and their lodging of choice. It’s these decisions that travelers need to consider when sitting across from a salesman on their trip deciding on how they want to spend the next 20 years of their vacations.

If you’re considering buying a timeshare, check out EndlessVacationRentals.com to book a stay at a timeshare resort to try before you buy.

Modern mega-ships boot old cruises out of the water

Written for MyCentralJersey.com and DailyRecord.com on 5/12/15

“If I get seasick like I do on fishing boats, my entire trip will be ruined.”

“I don’t want to be bored on the ship after only a few days.”

“All of the buffet-style food and desserts will make me gain weight.”

For the recreational traveler unfamiliar with modern cruises, these are common concerns that usually lead one to forego booking a cruise and instead opt for the safe bet of visiting the same Caribbean resort that they have been flying to for the last 10 years.

At one time, these misconceptions were the reality, and cruise passengers suffered from seasickness, a shortage of onboard activities and a lack of healthy dining options, especially when it came to entertaining every age group in the family. However, today, these outdated ideas couldn’t be further from the reality of cruising, which I have found during my five cruises with Norwegian, Carnival and Royal Caribbean in the past 10 years.

When those unfamiliar with cruising think of onboard activities, they generally think of two chief activities — drinking and hanging out at the pool. However, modern mega-ships know that they must be equipped with enough activities for those cruising from five to 12 days. (Photo: ~File photo)

When those unfamiliar with cruising think of onboard activities, they generally think of two chief activities — drinking and hanging out at the pool. However, modern mega-ships know that they must be equipped with enough activities for those cruising from five to 12 days.
(Photo: ~File photo)

Seasickness has almost ceased to exist

The thought of spending day-after-day trapped on a cruise in a bout of seasickness is usually enough for those with a sensitive stomach to forget the cruise and book a round-trip flight to an exotic land destination. However, modern mega-ships are not your uncle’s fishing boat. These ships are 100,000 tons and use stabilizers to provide a smooth ride and can often make passengers feel like they aren’t on a ship at all but instead grounded on land.

These stabilizers, which are large underwater “wings” on both sides of a ship, keep it straight and upright and only grow more advanced with newer ships, especially helpful during times of rough seas like June through November’s Caribbean hurricane season and Mediterranean sailings during the fall and winter.

Diane Jones, a Travel, Ports and Voyages of Old Bridge travel agent who has been on over 50 cruises, said that due to the stabilizers on modern ships and the vast availability of motion-sickness medications and remedies, only one out of the last 100 people she sent on a cruise has come back complaining of seasickness, and Jones said that person did not bring medications with them.

Throughout my cruises, one person I have traveled with has gotten seasick, an ailment which was quickly quelled by onboard medication. On more recent cruises, I struggle to remember I am on a moving ship due to the smoothness of the ride, although ships can get bumpy during storms.

Plus, most cruise ship 24-hour health centers offer medicinal seasickness relief, and passengers who are more predisposed to seasickness, such as women and children, are encouraged to book mid-ship cabins, which are the least motion-sensitive, as well as bring their own acupressure wristbands and motion sickness medication.

The thought of spending day-after-day trapped on a cruise in a bout of seasickness is usually enough for those with a sensitive stomach to forget the cruise. However, modern mega-ships are 100,000 tons and use stabilizers to provide a truly smooth ride and can often make passengers feel like they aren’t on a ship at all. (Photo: ~File photo)

The thought of spending day-after-day trapped on a cruise in a bout of seasickness is usually enough for those with a sensitive stomach to forget the cruise. However, modern mega-ships are 100,000 tons and use stabilizers to provide a truly smooth ride and can often make passengers feel like they aren’t on a ship at all. (Photo: ~File photo)

Boredom is hard to come by

When those unfamiliar with cruising think of onboard activities, they generally think of two chief activities — drinking and hanging out at the pool. However, modern mega-ships know that they must be equipped with enough activities for those cruising from five to 12 days.

“The cruise ship is not only the port of call, but also the destination,” said Meg Daly, district sales manager for Norwegian Cruise Lines. “Your vacation starts the moment you board the vessel.”

Cruisers also flock to cooking demonstrations, beer tastings, spa treatments, Vegas-style shows, Broadway musicals, comedy acts, bowling and dating events, most of which are included in the price of the cruise. I have never paid for a separately priced cruising activity besides shore excursions, and I have never run out of things to do.

Although Matt Ellenberg of East Brunswick prefers going to all-inclusive resorts because he enjoys spending more time at his island of choice, he said that his family had a lot of fun on his recent Royal Caribbean cruise and there was always something to do entertainment-wise.

Jones said that she enjoys cruising because food, entertainment and anything else that cruisers desire is already included and she never runs out of activities.

“Once when I went to a resort in Aruba, I felt bored and was ready to go. I went to the concierge and said, ‘Can you take us off this island?’ ” she said. “There was nothing else to do. We saw a cruise ship and we wanted to say, ‘Take us with you!’

The new Norwegian Breakaway has five waterslides. Norwegian Cruise Line The Aqua Park on the Norwegian Breakaway. (Photo: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

The new Norwegian Breakaway has five waterslides. Norwegian Cruise Line The Aqua Park on the Norwegian Breakaway. (Photo: Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Dieters have a place onboard, too

Many who are concerned with their health are hesitant to book cruises because they feel that with prevalent ice cream, french fries and pizza, even the strictest dieters are bound to fail. However, this isn’t exactly the case.

Although it’s true that unhealthy options are available, cruise lines know that people are more health-conscious these days and there are plenty of options to reflect that with meals that are low-cal, low-carb, vegetarian and gluten-free.

“Everyone is concerned about their health and weight these days,” Daly said, “so we have menus that can attend to your dietary needs and you can actually walk off a cruise having lost weight.”

Sound ridiculous? It’s not. Cruise ships usually have modern, state-of-the-art gyms and other physical activities such as ice skating rinks, ropes courses, tracks, sports teams, dancing venues and yoga. There tends to be so many options for activities on cruises that you actually feel guilty hanging out at the pool all day.

Usually when I cruise, I end up actually eating better than I do at home due to more healthy options than what I find in my fridge at home, plus I work out more regularly, excited to take advantage of equipment and activities that I don’t have at my home gym.

Although it’s true that unhealthy options are available, cruise lines know that people are more health-conscious these days and there are plenty of options to reflect that with meals that are low-cal, low-carb, vegetarian and gluten-free. (Photo: ~File photo)

Although it’s true that unhealthy options are available, cruise lines know that people are more health-conscious these days and there are plenty of options to reflect that with meals that are low-cal, low-carb, vegetarian and gluten-free. (Photo: ~File photo)

Cruises today aren’t your grandparents’ honeymoon getaway — they’re modern, gigantic ships equipped with all of the modern luxuries and amenities of an all-inclusive resort, often without the jaw-dropping price tag. If you’ve been hesitant to give cruising a try, keep in mind that these outdated myths should be left out at sea.

Take mom to nation’s oldest seaside resort

The Jersey Shore gets a bad rap.

Whether it’s an Ocean Avenue full of beach rats, Seaside Heights full of rowdy teenagers or supposed dirty beaches, many have something bad to say about the famous coastline ruling the East Coast.

However, when we think of some of the biggest town names of the Shore — Wildwood, Belmar, Atlantic City — one place that tends to escape the list is Cape May.

For the same reasons that Cape May is set apart from the “typical” Shore town, it’s also an ideal Shore spot to bring mom as Mother’s Day creeps up on us this weekend and spring is in full bloom.

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Walk Victorians that line streets

Unbeknownst to most weekend beachgoers, the entirety of Cape May is designated as a National Historic Landmark because of the concentration of Victorian buildings in the three-square-mile city. Instead of being roped off from tourists with entrance fees tacked on, people live in these 600-or-so homes and they make it count.

You can live in these homes for a brief time, too — take advantage of more than 30 antiquated bed-and-breakfasts in the Victorian district that ooze regality and charm. The historic bed-and-breakfasts often offer antique furnishings, gourmet breakfasts, afternoon tea and period features, bringing a stay not equated with most other lodgings on the Jersey Shore from about $125 a night.

If you wander through the shady, laid-back town, you’ll quickly notice that the colorful Victorian homes are adorned with elaborate gardens, eccentric details and people casually enjoying their tea on wrap-around porches. This makes the city feel very comfortable, lived in and real.

Don’t miss the Emlen Physick Estate on a leisurely walk, a Victorian house museum that will take you back to the era through the home’s architecture and décor throughout 15 restored rooms for $12 a person.

Take advantage of more than 30 antiquated bed-and-breakfasts in the Victorian district that ooze regality and charm and offer antique furnishings, gourmet breakfasts, afternoon tea and period features. (Jenna Intersimone Photography)

Take advantage of more than 30 antiquated bed-and-breakfasts in the Victorian district that ooze regality and charm and offer antique furnishings, gourmet breakfasts, afternoon tea and period features. (Jenna Intersimone Photography)

Lounge on some of best U.S. beaches

The city boasts the cleanest beaches around. It’s probably partially because the neat and tidy beaches, such as Higbee Beach or Poverty Beach, cost $6 a day, but nonetheless, the Natural Resource Defense Council has designated the 24 Cape May beaches one of its 38 cities of “Superstar Beaches” due to the quality of the water.

Although it may not be warm enough to swim during Mother’s Day weekend, the season doesn’t officially start until Memorial Day Weekend, meaning you can skip the $6 daily pass and simply enjoy the bright beaches and clean sand.

Also check out Cape May Point State Park, which is full of beaches, marshlands, an exhibit gallery as well as nature trails throughout its 235 acres. The park is also known as one of the best places in North America to view bird migration, making birding one of the most popular activities for outdoorsy visitors at the park.

You can also climb to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse for $8 a person at the park. Built in 1869, you’ll join the 100,000 people who hike the 199 steps to the top each year and get a stellar view of the end of the state, where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The Natural Resource Defense Council has designated the 24 Cape May beaches one of its 38 cities of “Superstar Beaches” due to the quality of the water. (Jenna Intersimone Photography)

The Natural Resource Defense Council has designated the 24 Cape May beaches one of its 38 cities of “Superstar Beaches” due to the quality of the water. (Jenna Intersimone Photography)

Sample local food and wine

The Washington Street Mall, in the heart of the Victorian district in a walkable distance from the beach and most central bed-and-breakfasts, only contains shops that are privately or family owned and are a great stop for visitors to head to an ice cream parlor, café, restaurant or clothing boutique.

One of my favorite Washington Street Mall restaurants is A Ca Mia, which operates as a bakery, art gallery and Northern Italian restaurant inside a building constructed in 1872. Try the crab cake Italiano, oven-baked crabcakes with fresh crabmeat, peppers, spinach and pine nuts served with caper aioli and capellini in a tomato pesto sauce for $22 for one cake or $31 for two.

The Lobster House, on Cape May Harbor, is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. With a modest price tag for outdoor seating, you can grab some menus, mark it up with friends and family, and head over to the bars to grab your crab cakes, clam chowder and oysters on the half shell at market price and enjoy them on the deck across the bay from million-dollar homes and yachts and plenty of gulls.

The Cape May Winery and Vineyard, about five miles from the tourist center of Cape May, can provide a $6 wine tasting cap to a seafood dinner from down the street. Sample wines throughout four vineyards from 70 acres of the property from one of the three tasting rooms or the wooden deck overlooking the vineyards.

The Lobster House is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. (Photo: Courtesy of Ed Morlock)

The Lobster House is a great alternative to pricey seafood dining with the hometown, lazy feel of a boardwalk restaurant. (Photo: Courtesy of Ed Morlock)

With pastel Victorians and cool streets full of weeping willows, the city boasts wallet-friendly yet memorable family attractions that are ideal for a day trip or a long weekend by the beach to celebrate the number one woman in your life — mom.

 

CAPE MAY ATTRACTIONS

Emlen Physick Estate is a Victorian house museum which contains 15 renovated rooms that can be toured for 45 minutes for $12 a person at 1048 Washington Street and can be reached at 609-884-5404.

Bed-and-breakfasts in Cape May range from $160 to $400 a night for Mother’s Day weekend. Around 30 are throughout the city, most concentrated near the ocean and central Victorian district.

Higby Beach and Poverty Beach are popular Cape May beaches with a $6 entrance fee starting after Memorial Day Weekend.

Cape May Point State Park is full of beaches, marshes and an exhibit gallery off of Route 629.. It’s also widely known for its bird watching opportunities and can be reached at 609-884-2159.

Cape May Lighthouse contains 199 steps to the top and can be hiked for $8 a person at 215 Light House Ave and can be reached at 609-224-6066.

Washington Street Mall is an outdoor mall at 401 Washington St. full of cafes, restaurants, clothing boutiques and dessert shops located in the heart of the Victorian District.

A Ca Mia is a Northern Italian restaurant at 524 Washington St. in the Washington Street Mall and can be reached at 609-884-6661.

The Lobster House is an eat-in or take-out seafood restaurant at 906 Schellengers Landing Rd. on the Cape May Harbor and can be reached at 609-884-8296.

The Cape May Winery and Vineyard is a 70-acre winery that provides $6 tastings and tours at 711 Town Band Rd. and can be reached at 609-884-1169.