Last Updated on April 25, 2023

“Welcome to Congress Hall, America’s first and oldest seaside resort” the valet told my husband and me upon our arrival to Cape May. Congress Hall in Cape May is America’s first seaside resort.

The charming town is situated at the southern tip of New Jersey. Cape May is home to picturesque beaches along with a vibrant cultural scene featuring theaters, art galleries and music festivals held throughout the year.

But most visitors come to Cape May for its well-preserved Victorian architecture; many of its homes and buildings date back to the 19th century.

There’s no better place to stay in this lovely Atlantic Coast town than Congress Hall. We found it to be a charming, comfortable, luxurious, yet unpretentious property within walking distance of the heart of town.

It’s no surprise this delightful property has been honored by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the top US hotels in the Northeast and awarded a place on Condé Nast Traveler’s Reader’s Choice Awards “Top 20 Hotels in the Mid-Atlantic and New York.”

Congress Hall in Cape May is also awarded with TripAdvisor’s “Certificate of Excellence,” and named to the 2021 Travel + Leisure “World’s Best” awards.

History of Congress Hall

Lobby area of Congress Hall.
Lobby area of Congress Hall. Photo by Noreen Kompanik

Congress Hall has a rich history dating back to 1816 when it was first built as a simple boarding house. Over the years, the property has undergone several transformations and renovations to become the grand hotel it is today.

In the early 19th century, Cape May was a popular summer destination for wealthy Americans seeking relief from the heat of the city. Congress Hall quickly became a popular spot for these visitors, with its prime location near the beach and the town’s many attractions.

In 1866, Congress Hall was completely destroyed by a fire, but was quickly rebuilt with even more grandeur and elegance. It became known as one of the finest hotels on the East Coast, and over the years, it hosted many notable guests, including several U.S. Presidents.

Perhaps the most significant event in Congress Hall’s history was the 1872 Republican National Convention, held on the hotel’s grounds. This convention nominated Ulysses S. Grant for his second term as President of the United States.

In the years that followed, Congress Hall continued to be a popular destination for vacationers, but by the mid-20th century, the hotel had fallen into disrepair. It was eventually purchased by the Cape May Historic Hotel Corporation in the 1990s, and underwent a $25 million restoration to restore it to its former glory.

Today, Congress Hall in Cape May remains one of the most iconic and historic hotels in the United States, attracting visitors from around the world who come to enjoy its luxurious amenities and rich history. It’s one of our favorite East Coast seaside destinations, and one guests will long remember.

Book your stay at Congress Hall Hotel in Cape May

Congress Hall Hotel in Cape May

Simple pleasures of the past blend with modern amenities in the 108 rooms and suites of this luxury boutique hotel. Each has its own unique character, and the décor feels as if you’re stepping into your personal cottage by the sea.

Deluxe rooms feature a luxurious king bed, heritage-style desk, sitting area and a spacious bathroom with a soaking tub and separate glass-enclosed shower.

Classic American meets quaint seaside cottage in Congress Hall’s standard rooms featuring king or queen beds. Guests have their choice of seaside, town-side or south wing views in both room types. Each accommodation sports Beach Plum bath products and plush cotton terry robes.

Rooms are spacious, well-appointed, with luxurious bedding, flat-screen TVs, and high-speed Wi-Fi.

Congress Hall Hotel Cape May, NJ

Seaside room at Congress Hall.
Seaside room at Congress Hall. Photo courtesy of Congress Hall

The Sea Spa at Congress Hall in Cape May offers a range of treatments and services, including massages, facials and body wraps. The spa also has a relaxation room, a steam room and a sauna.

A heated outdoor pool is seasonal, and surrounded by lounge chairs and umbrellas. The hotel also offers beach service with chairs, towels and umbrellas for guests on the nearby stretch of sand. Cabanas are available for an extra fee.

The onsite fitness center is fully equipped with cardio and strength training equipment. Guests can rent bikes to explore Cape May and the surrounding area or book a guided bike tour.

Other options include beach yoga, tennis lessons, shopping, and nearby hiking and biking trails. The hotel concierge is on site to offer assistance as needed.

Dining at Congress Hall

Though there are many delightful restaurants in the easily walkable town of Cape May, guests do have options of dining at the hotel’s restaurants, bars and eateries.

The Blue Pig Tavern is a Cape May favorite of locals and visitors alike. Tucked in a corner of Congress Hall, the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner featuring farm fresh cuisine.

The Brown Room (named for the rich colors of its décor) is a stylish Prohibition-era lounge serving cocktails and lighter fare.

Congress Hall’s vibrant underground music club and pizzeria is aptly called The Boiler Room and offers artisanal cocktails, draft beer on tap and wood-fired brick-oven pizzas.

Ideal for a quick breakfast or lunch on the go, Tommy’s Folly Café is located just off the hotel lobby. An outdoor spot perfect for cocktails and small bites, Grand Lawn & Veranda Bar sports a picturesque garden setting and sweeping Atlantic Ocean views.

Welcome to the beaches of Cape May.
Welcome to the beaches of Cape May. Photo by Pixabay

So, whenever you decide to visit Cape May, the state’s coastal treasure, a stay at Congress Hall in Cape May sets the stage for a ‘step back in time’ to the glory days of the Jersey shore.

This alluring hotel invites guests to sit a spell on its rocking chair-filled veranda with a glass of iced tea in hand to just enjoy watching the world stroll by.

Book your stay at Congress Hall in Cape May!

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