Fact File: Cape May, New Jersey
Distance from Baltimore: 153 miles
Average September temp.: 77 degrees
Average September water temp.: 71.5 degrees
What's New: Love cheese? With advance notice, Seaside Cheese Company (600 Park Boulevard, West Cape May, 609-884-8700), offers private tastings (in shop or at your lodgings) from its 125-plus imported and domestic cheeses, including d'Affinois, a heavenly double-cream brie. Or assemble a tasty beach picnic of their cheeses, house made soups, and artisan breads. Joining its extensive list of tours, the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts now offers two eerie evening excursions: Ghosts of the Light, featuring the 1859 Cape May Point Lighthouse, and Ghosts and Goodies, including a dessert detour to the Mad Batter restaurant (609-884-5404, capemaymac.org). Peckish travelers can refuel at Lucky Bones Backwater Grille (Route 109 at the canal, 866-875-2479). Try their brick oven pizzas and flourless chocolate Ecuadorian Rainforest Cake.
Where To Relax: The crowds have fled, but not the balmy weather, so enjoy the city's immaculate beaches, where access is free after Labor Day. Relax your mind and body with a morning yoga session on the beach or the landscaped lawn of a landmark oceanside hotel, Congress Hall (609-884-5339, yogaatthebeach.net). Take a mid-day break the Victorian way—with scones and a pot of Darjeeling at the Carriage House Tearoom & Café on the grounds of the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate (1048 Washington Street; 609-884-5404, ext. 138 for reservations). Lounge like the locals: Hunt for Cape May "diamonds" (quartz crystals) at Sunset Beach (sunsetbeachnj.com), then linger for Old Glory's lowering as the sun sinks over Delaware Bay.
What To Do: Get a jump on holiday shopping at the Fall Sidewalk Sale September 13–16 at Washington Street Mall (401 Washington Street; washingtonstreetmall.com), a charming pedestrian mall lined with art galleries and shops. Area chefs and vintners showcase their talents during the Cape May Food & Wine Festival September 15–20. This popular event features tasting dinners, a restaurant dine-around conducted via trolley, winery tours, and a chowder cook-off (609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278; capemaymac.org). The autumn birding festival is a month away, but the birds don't know that; scope out migrating hawks from the wildlife viewing platforms at Cape May Point State Park (609-884-2159; nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/parks/capemay.html).