One subject that I have been asked about many times is planning a pub crawl in Cape May. I personally think Cape May is an ideal location for a pub crawl for two very important reasons. 1. There are so many great bars in Cape May with very different vibes and character. 2. Cape May is incredibly walkable. That being said, planning is absolutely essential.
My family likes to poke fun at me about my pre-crawl planning, but I believe is it key to a successful experience. My definition of a successful pub crawl is one where you don’t underestimate your ability to cover ground, have fun at each stop and don’t get to the point where the last stop is a blur. Candidly, speaking from experience, it is the way to go. You may have a different definition and that is completely OK. I enjoy not just the cocktail, but the company of friends and family, as well as the really great people you can encounter along the way. Especially in Cape May, I can say I have met some incredibly interesting, funny and just plain lovely people during our annual family pub crawls. One year, an extremely generous couple blew us away by picking up our entire tab at the Brown Room. They didn’t tell us they did it. We found out when we went to settle up the bar bill. At that point, they were long gone so we were unfortunately unable to thank them.
Planning the crawl
OK, back to my pre-planning strategy (again, for which I am frequently mocked by family in the nicest possible way). Hydrating extra during the day is very important. Especially if you have been on the beach or in the sun all day, water, water and more water. Second, I believe that a carb loaded meal before venturing out for the evening will give your body what is needs to manage the intake of all that alcohol. Third, the route is essential—deciding which bars, how many and in what order makes the evening go a lot smoother. We have settled on 5 different bars, but that is obviously a very personal choice. Always add a backup bar or two in Cape May, as it is a crap shoot if you will be able to get a seat or even space near a bar some days. We like to do it mid-week to give us a better chance at getting in. Fourth, I plan my type of drink throughout the evening. I generally start with rocks drinks first and then move to straight up drinks. So, for example the first 3 might be orange crush, gin and tonic, mojito etc and then move to things like martinis. When we do our annual family one, my sister-in-law Liz and I always end with the classic blood orange martini at The Brown Room. We do try to intersperse snacks along the way, but don’t make the mistake of waiting too long. It is likely the kitchen might close, and you will be out of luck depending on the time of the evening. Based on my carb theory, Liz has suggested soft pretzel rod necklaces for each of us. I think next year might be the year we try it!
Which route to take
There are several things to consider when planning the actual route. First, decide on when you will leave and how many bars you want to hit. Second, get a sense of what is in reasonable walking distance to your home base (house, hotel, B&B etc.). Third, map it out and decide which order you want to go. You can go with a plan of starting at the farthest one (I don’t recommend starting at the closest one) or make a bit of a circle out of it if you can. Your appetite for walking and drinking will definitely help you decide on your route. The time of year will likely also contribute to your ideal route.
There are really so many ways you could approach the route planning of a Cape May Pub Crawl. Here are a few suggestions to get your mind going:
Option 1 – our July 2022 route-home base is Windsor Avenue
Barefoot Bar and Restaurant at the Marquis De Lafayette Hotel on Beach Avenue – Super fun bar on the deck in front of the hotel and directly overlooking the ocean. They typically have music starting in the early evening. They are known for their happy hour specials. There is a great selection of cocktails, beer etc and a really solid bar food menu. Bonus points for being doggie friendly.
Elaine’s on Lafayette Street – Great patio bar with a lively vibe and typically an eclectic friendly crowd. Jason is one of our favorite bartenders in Cape May (fun fact he is also a fire eater). They offer a full dinner menu as well as picky stuff (I like the cheese fondue). From martini’s (including several dessert martini’s) to their tangy spiked lemonade—they have it covered. Elaine’s is also a very doggie friendly spot and there is nightly music as well. Although I usually stick with the outdoor patio bar, they have a lovely inside one as well.
Fins Bar & Grill on Decatur Street near the Washington Mall – They have one of the coolest bars in Cape May (in my opinion)—blue glass that is lit from below that absolutely glows! They have happy hour, a super drink menu and both a bar and full dinner menu is you are looking for a nosh at this point. Their cherry mule is one of my go-to cocktails there. It seems like they are always updating their drink menu and coming us with new and innovative cocktails. As a side note, in the quiet season Fins often has Sunday event that benefit local nonprofits. Gotta love that!
The Porch at the Ebbitt Room/Virginia Hotel on Jackson Street – They offer a lovely selection of interesting and innovative craft cocktails, along with wine and beer. Their bar food menu is small but tasty. Sitting on the comfy chairs on the porch on a summer’s evening, sipping a cocktail and people watching on Jackson is one of my favorite ways to spend time in Cape May. Our little group almost always ends up striking up a conversation with the other folks enjoying the evening. If you’re not feeling the porch, the inside bar (typically with piano music) and lounge areas are oh so lovely as well.
The Brown Room at Congress Hall on Congress Place – This is always our last stop on our pub crawl and Liz and I always have their blood orange martini. We love the Brown Room for its elegance and grace as well as some of the best cocktails in town. Whether you sit at the semicircular bar, or in the comfy cozy lounge in front the fireplace, I am certain you will be delighted. They also make a mean craft cocktail with the finest ingredients. The bar menu is quite limited, and the kitchen is likely closed later in the evening. If the Brown Room is full (which it often is), venture outside and have a drink on the lawn where you can rock in rocking chairs or sit around café type tables. If the weather isn’t cooperating, The Boiler Room in the basement of Congress Hall has a fun stainless steel bar, great drink menu and awesome pizza! Bonus – some night there is a band and dancing.
Option 2 – more casual and laid-back option
Beach Shack on Beach Avenue – This bar has a surfer bar vibe and is always hopping! The fire pits and live music make it a fabulous first stop. They are famous for their no shower happy hour and a toes in the sand location across from the beach. Whether you are outside or at their classic indoor bar, the drink and food menu is great to start you off. I just love their margaritas and fried zucchini sticks (amongst many other things). It is worth noting that the garage doors go down at 10:00pm so plan accordingly. The Nail is also a very doggie friendly bar with a nice doggie menu. Our dog Lance gets the chicken bowl.
Carney’s on Beach Avenue – A fun bar that has been a favorite of Cape May visitors and locals alike for decades. They have a fabulous indoor bar with and extensive menu of drinks and food including happy hour specials. As an added touch, they have themed nights (including karaoke) and dancing on select evenings. You really must check out their calendar of events to get the full scope of all of the fun that is offered at Carney’s. Depending on your homebase, it might make more sense to end here, as they are open until 2:00am.
Blue Bar at The Mad Batter on Jackson Street – We have added this great bar to our pub crawl itinerary many times. The casual yet fun atmosphere, music and quaint décor is always a really good time. They offer extensive menus of food and drink, but they are known for The Original Manmosa. It is orange vodka, Allagash White Wheat Beer, Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice, Champagne in a 23 oz pilsner glass garnished with an orange slice. They are no joke! I think they limit you to two, but I suggest if you imbibe think about stopping at one. As an aside, they also make a mean Blood Mary!
Delaney’s Irish Pub and Grill on Washington Mall – An Irish Pub in Cape May, NJ? Yes you read that right. There is a definite over the pond feel about Delaney’s from the beverage to the food menu as well as the décor and cozy ambiance. Of course, you can get a Guinness, but they offer so much more as well.
The Ugly Mug on Washington Mall – The Mug opened in 1926 and has been one of the areas favorite night spots ever since. The mugs suspended from the ceiling belong to the members of The Ugly Mug club. When a member passes on, their mug is turned to face the ocean. This iconic Cape May bar is a great end point to a fantastic pub crawl. Their musical entertainment typically doesn’t start until 10:00pm and from what I hear the dance floor is always packed.
Option 3 – this beach themed option has a little walking involved or depending on your timing—use the free Jitney.
Hemmingway’s in the Grand Hotel on Beach Avenue – Hemingway’s is described as “classically casual never stuffy” which is a perfect way to start a pub crawl. They offer happy hour specials and entertainment with dancing on Friday and Saturdays.
Tiki Ten 35 Bar at the Ocean Club on Beach Avenue – A fun outdoor bar by the pool at the Ocean Club is also a great stop. It has a great tropical vibe including palm trees. They have a nice selection of food and drink, and the view can’t be beat. We love going there and just settling on the comfy chairs to sip a cold drink and listen to the music (often steel drums).
Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grill at Montreal Inn on Beach Avenue – This is the only roof top bar in Cape May and as an added bonus it overlooks the gorgeous Atlantic Ocean! Under new management in 2022, they have been trying to blend the old with the new (I hear they brought the soft pretzel back—part of my a fore mentioned strategy). It’s still a super lively location with music 3-4 nights a week and ocean breezes!
Porch at The Inn of Cape May on Beach and Ocean Avenue – Also under new ownership in 2022, it looks like this spot is quickly becoming a favorite (based on Facebook posts). There are tables on the porch and on the front lawn. They offer a full drink and food service and music on select nights. This is another special spot along the beach that just has such a Cape May feel to it.
I hope I have provided you with some ideas on planning a pub crawl in Cape May with friends or family. This is a great complementary post for my Planning a Cape May Bachelorette Party or A Girls Trip in Cape May.
There are many other bars that I did not mention, so maybe that is for another post. I tried to group them by location and route. I am sure you have your favorites, and I would honestly love to hear about them. What is your favorite bar in Cape May? Do you have a pub crawl route of your own? Please let me know!
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