By Collin Hall
The heap of snow Cape May County received in early January was a nice kick of excitement for the post-holiday slump. Last week, we showed off a flurry of snowy photos from around the county. But since the snow, temperatures have gotten even colder, and many events across the county have been cancelled because of COVID concerns. So, just what the heck is there to do in Cape May County right now? As usual, the answer is: quite a lot! Many locals will be familiar with these beloved institutions, but here’s a refresher on some of the County’s best perennial outings.
Cape May Bird Observatory
There are actually two “Cape May Bird Observatories” in Cape May County; both are funded and kept by the New Jersey Audubon Society. Each center, the Research Center in Cape May Court House and the Northwood Center in Cape May Point, is worth a visit at any time of year. Beyond the two centers, the Audubon Society hosts many bird watches year-round that can be found on the site’s calendar (njaudubon.org/centers/cape-may-bird-observatory/).
The Northwood Center (701 East Lake Drive, Cape May Point) is small, but makes for a nice stop if you’re willing to poke around. The center is a beautiful house hidden behind trees in Cape May Point; the staff is incredibly friendly and can help you know what birds to look out for when you visit. There are lots of resources, pamphlets, and books available to help the fledgling bird-water get started. The center’s proximity to other attractions, like the Lighthouse, make it worth visiting for those with even a passing interest in wildlife.
The center is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. but is closed on Tuesdays. Hours sometime vary, so call in advance to see if the center is open.
The Research Center (600 Route 47 North) is the larger of the two locations and is the homebase of birding in Cape May County. Per the Audubon Society’s website, the center’s grounds “host native vegetation, a dragonfly pond, a bird feeding station, a short handicap accessible trail and a variety of bird life all year.” In the winter, experts at the center say you can spot American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbirds, different kinds of sparrows, and even raptors and Bald Eagles across the grounds and marshes.
The Research Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., but like the other center, call ahead to confirm hours.
The Wetlands Institute
1075 Stone Harbor Blvd
The Wetlands Institute sits on 6,000 acres of protected wetlands and works year-round to research the wetland’s ecology and to preserve vulnerable species; the institute is a protector of Cape May County’s beautiful natural land, and is worth a visit even in the winter.
Starting the first weekend in February, regular programming returns to the Wetlands Institute, including aquarium feedings every Saturday at 11 a.m. and “creature feature” activities for kids. For a full calendar, check out their website.
When the center is open, the institute offers an aquarium with over a dozen exhibits, a “Terrapin station” dedicated to the turtle’s conservation, a quarter-mile wetlands train, and an elevated walkway above the wetlands. The center itself is a beautiful elevated wooden building, and the efforts done by the institute towards preservation and eco-sustainability are worth learning more about.
Cape May Point Lighthouse and Trail
Light House Ave, Cape May Point
Cape May Point is a summer favorite for tourists and locals alike, but many of the same things that make Cape May Point State Park attractive when the weather is warmer also apply to the colder months. The lighthouse is open on weekends and still provides the possible best view of Cape May, and the trails take on a different, quieter tone in the winter months. You might have to suit up to bear the frigid temperatures, but Cape May Point State Park feels like an ethereal spot year-round.
Ocean City and Cape May are home to several arcades that are open year-round; there’s a place in Ocean City with one of my favorite arcade cabinets, Space Invaders Frenzy. The best kind of arcade game is one that embraces its form factor and opts for gimmicks like interesting controllers or frenetic lights, and Space Invaders Frenzy has both. Beyond this, year-round arcades in the county feature pinball machines, ski-ball, and other machines that most associate with the summer.
I can’t list any specific places (if you want to pay for a shoutout, you know where to find us!), but a quick google search will reveal more year-round, neon-soaked arcade parlors than you might expect.
The Carroll Gallery
1048 Washington St., Cape May
Located on the grounds of the Physick Estate in Cape May, the Carroll Gallery highlights different eras from Cape May’s history. The free gallery often highlights the history of Cape May’s Black communities, many of which have faded and changed over time. The current exhibit is dubbed “A Diamond of Their Own,” and highlights “the remarkable history of the Negro Leagues as portrayed by artist Sydnei SmithJordan with supporting materials from the Center for Community Arts.”
“A Diamond of Our Own” is open from January 14 through April 30, 2022.
Events at your local library
Libraries have become more than just a place to do research or to check out books; they are bonafide community centers with a range of activities, lectures, game nights, and events of all types for all ages. This week at the Court House Library alone, there’s a dancing fitness class, a cooking class, teen and adult game nights, and a history lecture on the rise of the Nazi party. That’s a lot of variety! Check out your local library’s online calendar, because each library around the county hosts events year-round.
Cape May County Zoo
Cape May County’s Zoo hosts a large variety of animals that otherwise have absolutely no place being in the county. Their red panda is stunningly cute, and the big cats that call the zoo home are seldom glimpsed on our continent. What makes the Cape May County Zoo special is the highly ethical nature of its operations; it was founded by a prominent executive of the World Wildlife Fund, and the Zoo works year-round towards animal conservation and preservation efforts. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquarium, which is no small feat. Our Zoo is among the best in the world according to a TripAdvisor ranking that ranked the Zoo 13th best.