A mural on the indoor pool wall at The Grand Hotel in Cape May throws visitors back in time
Photos by Laurie Gordon
By Laurie Gordon Two things: Valentine's Day is around the corner and it's the middle of winter. How about a little drivable little getaway with your sweetheart or family? Here are several ideas. COOL CAPE MAY If you're missing the shore, there's a throw-back-in-time-town at the tip of the state that has Victorian houses, a cobblestone thoroughfare and even offers horse and buggy rides. Cape May abounds with things to do in the winter from its myriad of shops to it's rich history. Congress Hall is at its center, a massive yellow building with white pillars that burned down and was rebuild in centuries past and has been visited by a good number of our country's presidents. Inside its walls, The Brown Room features a swanky environment with couches and a roaring fireplace for a chilly afternoon. The Cape May Winter Beer Garden at Congress Hall will be held on both Friday, February 9th and Friday, February 16th from five to 10 pm. Fire pits are lit to keep you cozy whether you're enjoying a lively game of tabletop corn hole with friends or just hanging out. Around the corner, Carpenter Square is blocked off to traffic and is a wondrous outdoor mall. It features all kinds of stores and restaurants including The Ugly Mug and Delaney's among others. Heading toward the beach, there are several hotels that stay open year round. The Grand Hotel even has an indoor pool and hot tub. Stepping into a horse and carriage is like stepping back in time. The Cape May Carriage Company offers tours that show you Cape May's beautiful Victorians and enchant you with its history. If you want to experience a horse and buggy ride, bear in mind that all carriage tours leave from the corner of Ocean Street and the Washington Street Mall and tickets can be purchased during regular business hours for the same day. They don't take credit cards, so have cash or travelers checks handy to book your Handsome Carriage Ride. For a special treat, drive down to the very tip of New Jersey and climb the lighthouse. The view from the top is stunning, and if it's a clear day, you can see Delaware across the sound. Cabanas offers lunch, dinner and evening entertainment with a surfer vibe plus a nice view of the promenade. There is music on the weekends, and on Sunday, February 18th, Cabanas will feature Beatles Night. And then there are the Wine & Chocolate Wine Trail Weekends These will be held on February 10th and 11th as well as on the 17th and 18th. Go to Hawk Haven's Tasting Room to kick off the tour and support local wine growers while enjoying wine and chocolate pairings along the way. ECCLECTIC NEW HOPE If you're looking for something a little more eclectic that's about a two hour drive from Sussex County, head to New Hope, Pennsylvania. The Delaware River is incredible with its ice flows and jams this time of year, and a very awesome spot to watch it is at The Landing. Not the main restaurant, but around back. Meander to the left of the building down to the terrace and you'll discover an enclosed bar and restaurant area that's specially heated for the winter and affords an amazing view of the river. If you've never seen an authentic Bohemian Moonshine Electric Ukulele, The Four Crows has it and many other instruments in the string family hanging on its walls and for sale. Afternoon and evening musicians perform at The Four Crows including Bill Ihling who belts out an incredible version of Mr. Bojangles At John & Peters, a place famous for many a rock star getting his or her start, Wineskin will be playing this Friday night, on Saturday, Words in Flight will go on at 2 pm and Love or Lust Burlesque will take the evening stage. Sunday afternoon Black Cat Habitat, a pop rock band led by Rachel McCullough will perform and in the evening Mrs. Pumpkins Mardi Gras Party will take the stage. There are plenty of places to walk including over the bridge back to the Jersey side where you'll land in Lambertville and get a great view of the river. Not too far from this bridge was the spot where George Washington crossed the Delaware. There are numerous places to stay in and around New Hope ranging from bed and breakfasts to country inns. For couples, something romantic just 15 minutes from New Hope is Crossing Vineyards and Winery. On February 11, the popular wine and chocolate pairing class will include instruction, tasting and your own box of Pierre's Chocolate. Or enjoy a romantic five-course gourmet dinner with a bottle of house wine on February 14. A DAY TRIP TO CHESTER Located about 45 minutes from Sussex County, Chester, NJ is a great day-trip destination. Downtown Chester is home to a host of shops and restaurants. The Midnight Owl features all things fantasy, spiritual and whimsical. It's is filled with trillions of trinkets. unique gifts and clothing as well as decorative flags and spinners. It's one of the staples of Chester shopping and the prices are very reasonable. Head to Chubb Park, off of Route 24, to Chubb Park. The 85-acre facility was donated to the township by the Chubb Family and features fields, ice skating, a sledding hill and access to the Patriots Path Hiking Trail. Alstede Farms is definitely a place to hit in Chester. Located at 1 Alstede Road, it's all about fresh. As the seasons change, there are new forms of produce, new colors and new aromas at the table. Alstede Farms has a delightful market which is open daily and is a true inspiration to try new foods and new preparation methods. Rows of Purl is located in the downtown and is owned by Sparta native, Jenny Monteleone. It features handmade crafts from a variety of available yarns. The boutique places a particular emphasis on developing individual growth of an artist, and providing excellent customer service for those who knit, crochet or are fiber artists of any kind. Nearby, off of 206 and across from the Shop Rite shopping plaza, there are some upper end chain stores including White House Black Market, Talbots, Chicos and Banana Republic to name a few. Heading back toward Sussex County, pass through Flanders and on your right you'll find a gem in The After which features diner style food and some amazing ice cream. A few miles north of the After, stop in to The Market Place for some great, fresh food and wine to take home.