NYC and Philly: Don’t miss this incredible day trip escape in your own backyard

Jun 25, 2020

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As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

I was planning to spend the second half of June exploring Iceland, but — as many other Americans have likely experiencedthat trip fell through. While I could have booked a domestic flight, with COVID-19 cases on the rise in many states throughout the United States, I decided to stay home and began eyeing day-trip options, instead.

I landed on Cape May, New Jersey, a roughly 90-minute drive from where I’ve been spending much of the last few months in Philadelphia, or 2.5 hours from New York City.

Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps.

Located at the southern tip of New Jersey, Cape May has long been one of my favorite destinations in the state. It was but a footnote in Gene Sloan’s piece on 7 easy Philadelphia escapes, but it really is a special place.

I love walking past the Victorian homes, eating in the restaurants and lounging on the beach — often far quieter than other spots on the Jersey Shore, given that it takes a bit more driving to reach Cape May.

I highly recommend exploring the area by bicycle, and I brought my folding bike along. Driving is an option, too, but open parking spaces can be difficult to come by, especially if you’re planning for a weekend visit.

After a bit of exploring, my first stop was Beach Plum Farm — a fantastic recommendation from TPG contributor Adam Erace.

The 62-acre farm provides produce to Cape May restaurants, residents and guests. There’s a market inside, and a cafe out back. It was a popular spot, but with loads of distanced seating all around the property, I didn’t have any trouble finding somewhere private to park myself.

For $15, I got to enjoy one of the best ham and cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had, in an absolutely perfect setting, to boot.

After lunch, I rode my bike to the back of the farm, where I encountered loads of livestock, including pigs and some of the happiest-looking free-range chickens I’ve ever seen.

I even came across a little piglet surprise! If you have a chance to visit the farm, be sure to bike or walk to the fields out back.

While I didn’t stop to eat or drink, I rode my bike by Willow Creek Farm & Winery, located just next door — I felt like I had been teleported to Napa, if only for a minute.

I’ve also enjoyed my visits to The Lobster House, which is offering outdoor dining this summer. While everyone was wearing a mask when not sitting to eat — thanks to strict enforcement — the line was a bit too long when I stopped by this time.

After spending the morning on the outskirts of town, I rode over to the main pedestrian shopping area, on Washington Street. Uncle Charley’s ice cream didn’t have a line, so I went in for a scoop and appreciated the mask requirement, hand sanitizer and social distancing markers, throughout.

Most stores are open, too, with mask requirements strongly enforced — including West End Garage, pictured here. I didn’t quite feel comfortable enough going indoors except when necessary, though, so I snapped a pic through the window.

If coronavirus isn’t keeping you away from hotels, there are plenty of places to spend the night — Congress Hall is easily one of the most popular picks, but with weekend rates exceeding $500 per night, you’d probably be better off booking a bed and breakfast or renting a home with friends.

I also recommend biking over to the Wildwood boardwalk, about seven miles (40 minutes) from downtown Cape May. The ride was long and warm, but the views were fantastic, and I didn’t have any problem biking on the side of the road.

Much of the town was very quiet during my Wednesday visit, though the boardwalk was crowded enough that I decided not to stay long.

There are plenty of interesting lodging options to choose from there, too, including the Jolly Roger motel, which opened in the 1960s.

After a couple of miles of riding, you’ll encounter the boardwalk, though you’re only allowed to ride a bike before noon, between Apr. 15 and Oct. 15.

Unlike in Cape May, where many people were wearing masks outdoors, I didn’t find that to be the case in Wildwood, so keep that in mind if you’re thinking about a visit.

While the boardwalk was quieter than usual, many of the attractions were open, including various games and even some rides.

I felt much more comfortable in Cape May, with lighter crowds and far greater adoption of face masks. After an incredible day of riding around and exploring both towns, I returned to where I started near Cape May Point, where I had no trouble keeping my distance from other visitors, with hundreds of feet to myself.

Be sure to check out our 7 easy Philadelphia escapes you can get to in 3 hours or less for more great East Coast escapes, and head over to my Instagram story highlight (@zachhonig) for more day-trip action from Cape May.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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