I’ve had my time at Seaside Heights, the definitive Jersey shore party spot from the eponymous MTV series. I’ve burned on the beach, crashed in dive-y motels, spent too much money in boardwalk arcades, drank more than I should, and eaten… just pure garbage. Because it’s there, it’s cheap, it’s glistening, and “f*ck it!” — that’s what you do at the Jersey shore. You go big, then you go home.
Honestly, it’s so much fun when you’re doing it. But eventually, you crave more substance from a weekend beach escape. Sometimes in your travel life, you feel primed for something new.
A search for the Jersey shore without all the Jersey Shore, eventually led me to Cape May — at the Southern tip of the state. I had heard that it would be an escape from my clustered and cranky North Jersey life, and in 2015 and 2016 it proved to be exactly that. It’s a lovely little resort town with a diverse sampling of food and fun-to-look at Victorian relics. But for all it had been in those two previous trips, it still hadn’t been perfect. Not quite.
Thanks to proximity and convenience, my wife Michella and I planned on returning to Cape May at some point in 2017. In all likelihood, we would have stayed in a sh*tty motel with premium pricing, because proximity to an ocean often supersedes everything else. We would have eaten good but forgettable food at a pub or a non-descript restaurant, seen the sights, and had a really nice time. Nice. Nice.
Then a better offer came along. Michella and I were invited to Congress Hall, a resort that has hosted four sitting US Presidents — Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant, and that scamp Benjamin Harrison. I quickly accepted — we’d be going back to Cape May to live like kings.
After three trips — one of which was particularly luxurious — I’ve constructed a Cape May playbook, to help you on your own Jersey Shore trip.
Someplace To Rest And Remember
Beyond it’s reputation as a presidential vacation spot, Congress Hall has some serious historic bonafides. You can trace them by taking a walk down the hotel’s halls and admiring the framed pictures. They serve to tell the story of a landmark that was born in 1816, decimated by fire in 1878, rebuilt, and modernized by its current owner, Curtis Bashaw, in the early 2000s.