We were always looking for new, fun and (sometimes) educational things to do with the kids while we were visiting Cape May. The beach was always the BIG draw for all of us— I’m not gonna lie. Carving out a little time around the water, sand and sun is so easy to do though. Bonus—we found it made for extra special lifelong memories. There are three great museums in Cape May that are definitely worth checking out! I also did another post a few months ago A Fun (almost no beach) Day with the Kids in Cape May that has some other awesome things to try!
The NAS Wildwood Aviation Museum (which is actually at 500 Forrestal Road, Cape May) has so much to offer folks of all ages. Located in a real-World War II hangar, there are many fun and interactive ways to learn about aviation and history. The 92,000 square-foot, all-wooden hangar was originally built by the US Navy in 1942. From 1943-1945 it was commissioned as a training facility for dive bomber squadrons that would ultimately fly in the Pacific during the war. They actually did target practice over the Delaware Bay. After it was decommissioned, the hangar changed hands several times before being purchased for $1 by Dr. Joseph Salvatores and his wife Patricia Anne.
The hangar is on both the New Jersey historic register and National Register of Historic Places. There are over 26 aircraft on display from propeller driven, to jets to helicopters. You can even climb into a real air traffic control tower just like it was in the 1940’s!
Let’s start with planning a visit… The museum is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and prior booking is highly recommended. From April 1st to November 30th, it is open daily. The rest of the year it is open Monday – Friday. As you would expect, they are closed for major holidays. If you are lucky enough to plan your visit for Thursday mornings, there is a 30-minute guided tour that is included in the price of admission. The museum is pet friendly so feel free to have Fido join in on the adventure.
More than just a museum
Planning an event? The museum is a unique and memorable venue to hold a wedding, corporate event, fundraiser— the list goes on. There have even been proms held there – how cool right? The space can accommodate 300+ people with indoor and outdoor setups. Imagine the photo ops! You can check out a few here.
Events at the museum are held throughout the year and are updated on the Event section of their website. In the past there have been fly-ins, festivals, veterans’ ceremonies, historical lectures and more. Their Facebook page is a great resource for staying on top of what’s happening.
Shopping anyone? There is a great gift shop with all sorts of interesting and unique items. Pick up that quintessential t-shirt, a new water bottle, a baseball cap, stuffed animal… I could go on and on—there are tons of stuff to buy. A limited selection is available online as well.
The National Air Station Wildwood Foundation is the not-for-profit organization that maintains the museum. In addition to preserving a small with of World War II history and aviation exhibits, it honors the 42 naval aviators who perished while training there. If you are a regular visitor to Cape May, I invite you to become a member and enjoy the benefits (unlimited admission for a year, guest passes, discounts etc) and feel the satisfaction of supporting this great cause. Of course, contributions are always welcome and greatly appreciated.
If you need any other motivation to check this little slice of history out, I suggest you look through all the raving reviews on Tripadvisor. Added bonus – Cape May Brewery, Tasting Room and Brewtique is just a stone’s throw away. The beer garden is also pet friendly. Wingnutz Nut House and A Place on Earth Soap Factory and right next door to the brewery.
Another fun but tiny museum is the Fireman’s Hall History Museum is on the corner of Franklin Street and Washington Street. Pop in for a quick stop while you are out and about. It is free to the public (donations greatly appreciated) and is just a neat place to visit for those who love fire trucks at any age. You can see it all in less than an hour. A must see is the 1928 La France pumper that has just returned after getting a full frame-off restoration.
The last museum (but certainly not least) on this list is the newest one to Cape May. The Harriet Tubman Museum is located at 632 Lafayette Street right down Franklin Street from the Fireman’s Museum (about a two-minute walk if that). The museum is a tribute to Harriet Tubman; the significant abolitionist movement in the area; and the part that Cape May played a part in the Underground Railroad.
Harriet lived in Cape May in the early 1850’s and worked as a cook and a domestic servant in hotels to fund her mission of bringing the enslaved to freedom. The structure itself is the historic Howell House and was the home of the Rev. Robert Davis who was the pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church. It has already gotten fantastic press being listed as #5 on USA Today’s list of Best New Museums 2021. The Wall Street Journal included it in the article New Jersey’s Best Weekend Getaways Are Even Better this Summer.
It is a deeply moving experience and one you will never forget. The centerpiece of the exhibits is a breathtaking nine-foot statue depicting Harriet guiding a small child called The Journey to Freedom by Wesley Wofford. I encourage you to stop in and sign up for a tour. They are scheduled throughout the day from Wednesday to Sunday. Please check out their Facebook pages for more details. The museum is also raising funds with a Buy A Brick Campaign. You may purchase a brick for either the front or side walkway to honor or memorialize a loved one or commemorate a special event. Grab a brochure at the front desk to get all the details and the form to order.
I hope you take a little time out of your visit to stop in these great, educational and unique museums in Cape May. Each one has so much to offer and is the foundation for wonderful memories. In partnership with FerryVision, I also did a short video on these museums that will be shown in the Cape May-Lewes ferry, as well as your Smarty TV via Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV and Android TV.
I continue to be astounded about how much Cape May has to offer. What’s your favorite Cape May museum? Let me know in the comments or via email. It is always great to hear from you!