Cape May Gears Up For The Holidays

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CAPE MAY- It’s never too early for a little Christmas cheer! The holiday spirit has taken hold of Victorian Cape May, the man in the red suit will be landing with his eight tiny reindeer, and the Christmas elves have finished decorating the Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington Street, with thousands of twinkling lights just in time for Cape May’s Holiday Preview Weekend, Nov. 18-20, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC). Start celebrating the holidays early with a long weekend of festive tours, activities and food and wine events that are sure to get you into the Christmas spirit.

A highlight of the weekend is Santa’s arrival. Come to the grounds of the Emlen Physick Estate for the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, sponsored by Sturdy Savings Bank, on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. Join MAC representatives, Mayor Ed Mahaney and the Cape Harmonaires at the gazebo for a round of Christmas carols. Old Saint Nick arrives at 7 p.m. and flips the switch to light thousands of bulbs on the giant 60-foot Christmas tree. Children can meet with Santa, sit on his lap and bring their Christmas lists. Warm beverages with traditional cookies are available. Please bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Cape May Community Food Bank. A free Trolley Shuttle will operate from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. between the Washington Street Mall at Ocean Street and the Physick Estate. See how the Victorians decorated their homes for Christmas by taking a self-guided tour of the Physick Estate from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free to see the beautiful 1879 Emlen Physick Estate decked out in authentic Victorian style for the holidays.

The wonders of the season are all on display in the exhibit “An Old-Fashioned Christmas: Holiday Traditions through the Years” at the Carriage House Gallery located on the grounds of the Physick Estate. This year’s main attraction will be the Dickens Village collection beneath the bough of a giant Christmas tree. This impressive Department 56 collection was generously donated by Ernie and Betsy Heegard. Enjoy the images and traditions of the holidays and reminisce. The exhibit opens Friday, Nov. 18 and runs through Sunday, Jan. 1. The Gallery is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas); hours vary. Admission is free.

Returning in 2011 are two tours that welcome you into the Physick Family home for an interactive Victorian Christmas. Step back into Christmas during the 1890s on a Physick Family Christmas Tour. First, you’ll explore Cape May by trolley and then visit the Physick Estate where you’ll enjoy a unique living history experience with members of the Physick family household of the 1890s. This tour is offered on Friday, Nov. 18 at 1:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 19 at 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $10 for children (ages 3-12). You can also take the Physick Family Christmas House Tour, which does not include the trolley portion of the tour. This is offered on Friday, Nov. 18 at 2:15 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19 at 11:45 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:15 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 20 at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children (ages 3-12).

The holidays are the perfect time to indulge your taste buds with food and wine events in Cape May. Get into the holiday spirit with the Mad Batter Wine Dinner, held at the famous Mad Batter restaurant, 19 Jackson St., on Friday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Kick off the holiday season with a five-course dinner as you learn about growing grapes locally and enjoy some of the wines from local vineyards. Dinner is limited to 60 and admission is $75 (tax and gratuity included).

Spend an afternoon touring the vineyard at the award-winning Cape May Winery, 711 Townbank Road, North Cape May, during the Winery Cellar Tour and Tasting on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. You will see how the grapes are grown and then visit the winery, where you’ll be introduced to the winemaker’s art and enjoy a barrel-tasting accompanied by cheese and fruit. Admission is $20 and includes a complimentary tasting glass.

On Saturday, Nov. 19, board the MAC trolley for the Cape May Wine Trail. Spend the afternoon visiting two of Cape May County’s wineries and sampling the unique flavors of each. First enjoy lunch at Aleathea’s at the Inn of Cape May, 7 Ocean St., and then take the trolley shuttle to Natali Vineyards and Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery, where you’ll learn about viniculture and visit the tasting rooms. Admission is $60 per person and includes lunch, wine tastings at each vineyard and a wine tasting glass. The event runs from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

If you’d rather taste, sip and swirl at your own pace, then you’ll love the Self-guided Wine Trail. Spend the afternoon touring Natali Vineyards and Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery in Cape May County and taste wines at each. Admission is $8 and includes a map with the wineries listed and a tasting glass. Tours are offered daily from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

A member of the East Lynne Theater Company regales you with a Victorian holiday ghost tale on the Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8:15 p.m. and 9 p.m. Ride through Cape May’s flickering gas-lit streets and admire the decorations in the Historic District as you listen to a Victorian-era ghost story. Admission is $10 for adults and $7 for children (ages 3-12). Trolleys depart from the Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.

The best way to see Cape May’s Christmas lights is aboard the heated Holiday Lights Trolley Ride. Board a MAC trolley and ride through Cape May’s Historic District to see cheerfully decorated inns and homes as guides talk about Victorian Christmas traditions, lead sing-alongs, and play Christmas music. Rides last about 30 minutes and cost $10 per seat. Your ticket is also good for a 10 percent discount at either of MAC’s Museum Shops. Tours are offered on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m., 7:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. and depart from the Emlen Physick Estate.

Mrs. Claus has made a special trip to the Physick Estate to host Santa’s Trolley Rides on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 5:30 p.m., 6:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Bring the kids to the Physick Estate on Holiday Preview weekend for a ride around Cape May with stories and songs led by Mrs. Claus. After the trolley ride, Santa will greet children with a sweet treat in the Carriage House located on the grounds of the Estate. All seats are $8. All trolleys depart from the Physick Estate. Advance reservations are strongly recommended.

If you’re ready to kick off the holiday shopping season a little early, MAC’s Museum Shops will be open and offer some one-of-a-kind gift ideas like jewelry, teapots, exceptional Harney’s Tea collections, books and more at the Carriage House Gallery Shop on the grounds of the Physick Estate. You can also delight the lighthouse lover on your holiday list with a gift from the Cape May Lighthouse Museum Shop, located next to the Lighthouse in Cape May Point State Park. Here you’ll find Cape May Diamond jewelry, toys, books, and an array of clothing for fans of the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse shop is open Friday, Nov. 18 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19 and Sunday Nov. 20 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Carriage House Gallery Shop is open Friday, Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 20, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Proceeds from both shops benefit MAC’s ongoing preservation and restoration efforts.

Schedules are subject to change. Visit for the most current schedule.

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