C-C-Chill Out in Cape May

And now, for something different: going down the shore in winter — a time when summer visitors traditionally stay away, leaving the frozen days and frigid nights to year-round residents, locals who stay on by choice, and wild creatures that do so purely by instinct.

Cold weather and all it brings reveals a world largely unknown to high-season travelers, but one that has begun to become more popular. It's a world that isn't as bleak as imagined.

Rather, it's a time and place filled with exceptional natural beauty, peace and quiet, and soul-soothing solitude. And the bracing sea air on a winter's day remains a memorable treat for the body and spirit, anywhere along the South Jersey coast.

And where better than Cape May, just a two-hour drive from the city?

Hard to believe that Cape May — and this was many years ago — had a reputation as being inhospitable to Jews. How times have changed!

Megan Hutton, the marketing manager of the Cape May Chamber of Commerce, cites certain activities, such as the Sherlock Holmes Weekend, beginning on March 3, as of particular interest. There's also "Crafts in the Winter," at Convention Hall, on Feb. 18; "Antiques in Winter," also at Convention Hall, on Feb. 19; and the Discover Cape May Historic House Tour, on Feb. 25.

"Overall, more people are coming in the off-season now, even in cold weather," she noted. And remember, she mentioned, there are many winter days at the Jersey shore that are well-above freezing.

As for hotel and motel prices, they're lower in the off-season, stated Hutton, with only a two-night minimum, instead of the three-and four-night minimums typical of the Memorial Day to Labor Day period. And a number of B&Bs stay open year-round.

One of the shore's best cold-weather experiences is a walk on the beach. Filled in summer with sunbathers, surfers and other seekers of the prime vacation-season's fun, the sandy expanse is mostly deserted in winter, providing a perfect setting for exploring and lingering, and for photos as well, especially when it's snowing.

Some other winter-wonderland photographing opportunities include shots of reflected sunlight on ice; the contrasts and similarities of snowdrifts and sand dunes; and, as always, sunsets, often blessed in winter by brilliantly clear skies.

At Cape May Point, snow on the lighthouse landscape is another telling picture of the eye-catching differences between the seasons.

While many people have seen such photographs, most are content to leave themselves out of the picture — preferring instead to wait for warmer weather. But for those with a sense of discovery and adventure, the more frigid moments at the shore have their rewarding moments.

Coming across tidal pools on the beach that may have frozen over puts a definite twist on expectations. How different they and the pools are in winter. Gone are the warm, shallow depressions filled with still seawater, scattered here and there by the shoreline in summer.

For more information, visit the Cape May Chamber of Commerce at: www.capemaychamber.com.



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