Congress Hall Hotel – Cape May, New Jersey

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Congress Hall is located in very southern tip of New Jersey in  the heart of the historic shore own, Cape May.  This is NOT Snooki’s Jersey Shore! In fact, you won’t find a tanning bed or rowdy boardwalk within miles of this Victorian style, family-friendly, seaside community.  If you are looking for a sophisticated, family,  beach destination, with  full-service amenities including spa, and beach service,… than Congress Hall just might be your place.

Cape May is just under a three hours drive from  New York City, and hour and a half from Philadelphia. Cape May is not only America’s oldest seaside resort but is also a National Historic Landmark City.

Located in the center of Cape May is the Congress Hall Hotel. Steeped in great history and adorned with lots if classic Victorian charm, Congress Hall is truly a unique beach-side experience.

The Property

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Congress Hall is located in the center from town and just across the street from the Atlantic Ocean. Even though the hotel is not right on the beach, it does have unobstructed views of the water. The hotel sits on the large Grand Lawn with with Adirondack chairs and plenty of space for kids to run around and fly kites.

The vibe of the hotel is Victorian charm with modern updates. The floors are slanted, the stairs creak but the hotel is very clean and welcoming.

Dining 

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Whether you decide you dine at Congress Hall or at of if the hotel’s nearby sister properties, you will have a variety of  fare to chose from.  In the village of Cape May you will also find many dining options from fine dining to pizza… all within walking distance.  The food onsite at the hotel is isn’t amazing, but it’s decent. It was better in years past, so we were all little disappointed during our last stay.

On site dining options:

The Blue Big Tavern offers a casual atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating. The restaurant is a crowd pleaser for families and reservations are suggested. The menu offers farm fresh produce (grown at their own local farm) as well as seafood and steak and everything in between. Their baked macaroni and cheese is a favorite for kids… and adults too! The Blue Big Tavern is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In Room Dining is also an option at Congress Hall, with items from the Blue Pig Tavern menu.
Perk: Blue Pig kids cups and coloring books

The Boiler Room is located… you guest it… in the basement of Congress Hall. Here you will find more of a bar-like vibe, with brick oven pizza, draft beer and the occasional live entertainment.

The Brown Room is located just off the lobby int he heart of the hotel. Here you will find another cocktail lounge with tables a couches. This is a great place to have a drink and perhaps play a board game or two before dinner.

Tommy’s Folly Coffee Shop is also located on the hotel’s main floor. If you aren’t in the mood for a sit-down meal, the coffee shop offers lots of great quick-serve items for breakfast and lunch (pastries, muffins, tarts, wraps, chips, cookies, etc.)

Off site dining:

The Rusty Nail is a casual beach bar located a short walk away at the sister property, The Beach Shack. Here you will find solid pub food, live music, sandy floors, and cold drinks. This is a great option for families.
Perk: Beach Shack Frisbees for the kids!

Avoid:

The Lobster House which is NOT affiliated with Congress Hall. The Lobster House’s dockside location is rather appealing, however the food is beyond terrible!!! The long lines are not worth the wait or the money!!


The Pool

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The pool is located on The Grand Lawn and is surrounded by well maintained gardens. There are two pools on site with wait and towel service and lifeguards on duty. The pool care can get crowded during peak hours so you may want to reserve your chairs early. At the pool you will also find tons of kids armed with pool toys! There is also an adult pool just off to the side but there isn’t much of a privacy buffer between the two pools.

Pool Amenities:

  • Lifeguards on duty from 11am – 6pm
  • Towel and wait service
  • Nearby showers and bathroom

The Beach

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We had our initial reservations about the beach since it’s a public beach shared with other hotels and the community, and it’s across the street from the hotel. We imagined it to be very crowded with long walks to the bathroom and back to the room for forgotten items. Fortunately, the distance and crowd level was manageable and not enough to deter us from making a repeat visit to the resort.

Side Note:

Alcohol is NOT permitted at the beach, but you can have sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages.

Additional Beach amenities:

  • Lifeguardscape-may-congress-hall-cabana-beach
  • Cabanas available for rental (reserve ahead)
  • Helpful beach attendants
  • Towel Service
  • Chairs and Umbrellas
  • Wait Service

The Rooms 

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The property offers a few different room types, at different price points. For our family or four, we stayed a two adjoining, ocean view rooms with one king bed and two queens. It would have been nice to have an outdoor balcony, but overall we were pleased with the accommodations.

Like the hotel common areas, the rooms are old and not without their quirks. The floors are slanted and creaky, but nonetheless the rooms are clean have had some modern updates. WiFi service is also very spotty in the hotel.

If Congress Hall does not have a room configuration you are looking for, you might want to look into one of their nearby sister properties. All Cape Resorts have access to the Congress Hall beach services.

Room Amenities:

  • 100% Belgian cotton sheetscape-may-congress-hall-double-bedroom
  • Cotton terry robes
  • WiFi
  • Aveda beauty products
  • Twice daily housekeeping

Shopping

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There are two lovely shops located in the hotel lobby. Tommy’s Folly General Store offers
bestsellers, newspapers, Blue Pig merchandise, sunscreen, and miscellaneous provisions. Tommy’s Folly Boutique offers a stylish collection of clothes and unique home accessories.

Activities at Congress Hall

Congress Hall does a great job offering various activities for kids. Depending on when you visit, they might be offering:

  • Carnival games on the lawn
  • Pottery Painting
  • Yoga on the lawn (Adults)
  • Kiddie Karaoke
  • Family movie night under the stars
  • Kids Club
  • Bike Rentals

Activities Close to Congress Hall

  • Miniature golf
  • Cape May Zoo
  • Cape May Trolley Tours
  • Shopping on the Washington Street Mall (pedestrians only)
  • Arcades on the promenade (they are somewhat out of sight, so don’t fret)
  • Museums and Lighthouse


Excitement Level:

moderate

Ambiance:

Victorian charm

Highlights:

  • Lifeguards on duty at pool and beach
  • Plenty of activities for young kids
  • Walking distance to beach and town
  • Hotel’s Victorian charm
  • Onsite bike rental shop
  • Full service spa on property
  • Beach and pool wait service
  • Valet Parking

Lowlights:

  • Pool area can become crowded
  • Hotel is across the street from beach, and that’s where the closest bathrooms are located
  • Small workout room
  • Service and food is not as good as it used to be
  • Spotty WiFi Service
  • Staff, including the concierges, aren’t very knowledgeable about the area as most of the staff members are from abroad

Takeaway:

You will not be wowed by the service or food of this stately, yet family-friendly New Jersey Shore resort, but it’s still one of the better most well-appointed shore resorts in New Jersey. The staff is adequate but not first-rate, the rooms are clean and the hotel atmosphere is charming.

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