Farm-to-table restaurant, coffee shop, and two bars
Two outdoor pools, one with a bar and a saltwater option
Beach service includes free towels, chairs, and umbrellas
Full-service spa offering massages and facials plus small fitness center
Huge lawn with seating and ocean views
Seasonal kids' activities
Some rooms are small and/or have sloped floors
No coffeemakers in rooms
Congress Hall is a 200-year-old hotel that showcases its original features in a fresh and modern package across the street from beach. The 104 rooms and suites are sharp and contemporary, and some have original clawfoot bathtubs and sea-view balconies. Two outdoor pools, a full-service spa, and seasonal activities for kids are available, should anyone tire of the sandy beach. There are also a farm-to-table restaurant and a pair of bars, and eateries in town are within walking distance. Historic quirks, like smallish rooms that can have sloped floors, are not necessarily for everyone. As an alternative, the nearby Ocean Club Hotel is more modern overall, and all of its rooms have balconies with ocean views.
Classy, yet casual, 200-year-old hotel with modern style and ocean views
What began as a low-key boarding house in 1816 has since hosted U.S. presidents and famed composers, fallen into disrepair, and ultimately evolved into a modern hotel that embraces its old-fashioned grandeur. Situated across the street from the Atlantic Ocean, Congress Hall makes the most of the sea air and peaceful views. A sprawling lawn surrounds the L-shaped butter-yellow building, which stands out from the other remaining Victorian-era buildings in Cape May. A row of white-painted colonnades and ground-level terraces line the building, making for an elegant place to spend a summer day with a book. Inside a sunny lobby, bright kelly-green walls combine with quirky seashell sculptures and traditional floral-print sofas around a cozy fireplace. This mix of traditional and more modern elements continues throughout the property, which features replicas of antiques unearthed during a 2001 renovation, as well as some original wooden floors. With its historic charms, casual atmosphere, and quiet seaside setting, the property draws mostly couples on vacation, although a good number of families also stay here.
Across from the beach, within walking distance of Cape May's restaurants
Congress Hall fills a city block in Cape May's Victorian historic district, which is mainly composed of residential buildings. Within a couple minutes' walk are numerous art galleries, restaurants, and shops, especially between Lyle and Carpenters Lanes. Beach Avenue, a block away from the hotel, runs along the sandy shore and is lined with more cafes, mini-golf, and hotels. The beach itself is a three-minute walk from Congress Hall, and guests needn't worry about toting along gear -- beach staff will provide towels, chairs, and umbrellas free of charge. It's about a 10-minute walk to the Cape May Convention Hall, which hosts concerts and events throughout the summer. Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, is less than 10 minutes away by car. Those looking to get out on the water can head about 15 minutes north to Pier47 Marina, where boat rentals are available. Atlantic City Airport and the city's casinos are a 50-minute drive north of Cape May, while the closest major airport is in Philadelphia, which takes up to two hours to reach depending on traffic.
Crisp rooms with vintage flair and a few quirks, and some with sea-view balconies
Rooms and suites at Congress Hall are crisp and classic. There are only slight deviations in style between categories here, and the rooms are dominated by soft blue and white tones alongside subtle ocean-themed art. Deluxe Rooms mix it up with bold polka-dot and floral-print accents, and some have elegant four-poster beds. All rooms are decorated with striped carpeting and white furniture, such as dressers with brass handles and American heritage-style desks. Some rooms extend to balconies with views of the ocean or town. Superior Rooms with sleeper sofas are also available, along with one- and two-bedroom suites, one of which has a full kitchen.
Standard amenities include flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning. There are also mini-fridges tucked away into cabinets, but no coffeemakers. Bathrooms are attractive and gleaming white, with vintage metro tiling and shower/tub combos. Some have original porcelain sinks or clawfoot bathtubs. Robes, toiletries, hairdryers, and ironing facilities are provided. Some rooms are a bit small and may have sloped floors -- a sign of age that could be considered charming or irritating.
Two outdoor pools, beach services, and farm-to-table dining
This historic boutique hotel has a number of features that help it stand out among the beach hotels in Cape May. The two outdoor pools include a saltwater pool as well as a pool that tends to be quieter and occupied by adults only. Weathered-wood loungers and red-and-white umbrellas are on the deck, and there's a bar with covered seating off to one side. The beach is across the street and is public; food and drink service (but no alcohol) plus beach chairs and towels are available through the hotel.
Congress Hall has its own farm, which provides ingredients for its on-site restaurant, The Blue Pig Tavern, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner indoors and outdoor on a street-facing terrace. The Brown Room is a low-lit bar that feels like an elegant living room and slings drinks in the evenings -- it occupies the space that was the hotel's first legal cocktail bar after Prohibition. The Boiler Room, located in the basement, serves brick-oven pizza and hosts live music a few nights a week. Tommy’s Folly Coffee Shop serves coffee along with breakfast pastries and light lunches, to go.
Congress Hall also has a full-service spa with a menu of massages and facials, and a 24-hour fitness center has enough equipment for a basic workout, but is small. Weddings can be held here in the on-site ballroom. A seasonal kids' club offers events like mini-fairs and face-painting, and other family-friendly programming includes karaoke on occasion. Valet parking is free, as is Wi-Fi. Bike rentals are also available on-site and there are shops selling jewelry and souvenirs as well.