The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts run a variety of different tours, several of them on these traditional trolleys. We chose to do the Historical District Trolley Tour which weaves its way for about 45 minutes around the streets of the Victorian centre, while a guide points out the features of the different houses you pass. It’s a good way to get your bearings in the town and to learn about the various architectural styles of the period such as Gothic Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival. So it wasn’t the best of planning on our part to choose to do this tour on our last day in Cape May! But the weather was so good at the start of the week that we’d made the most of it and focused on outdoor activities like whale watching and beach walks. I really would recommend that you learn from our mistake and do this tour early on if you’re interested in history as it will help you understand more about the Painted Ladies of Cape May.
Our guide also pointed out some other buildings of note, such as the old Fire Station, and told us some interesting things about the town’s past, such as the great fire that destroyed it in 1878, and its role in the Underground Railway when escaping slaves were offered shelter in some of the local houses – indeed, there are stories that secret hiding places and tunnels can still be found in some of them. Surprisingly Cape May lies below the Mason-Dixon Line and there was segregation here until 1948 when it was outlawed by New Jersey State law. Our guide pointed out the buildings that had been the black elementary school and the blacks-only hotel.
If you want you can combine this tour with entry to the Emlen Physick House as the trolley makes a stop there, but we’d been the previous day so stayed on board for the return to our starting point at the MAC Information Booth
There are several ways of seeing Cape May other than on foot. Cape May offers trolley tours on cars that look somewhat like cable cars found in San Francisco, but Cape May's are not on rails and are not limited to specific patterns. There are also specialty trolley tours which visit natural habitats, the Coast Guard Base, Ghosts of Cape May and the Physick Estate. Evening trolley tours might interest you, so you might consider a "Gaslight Trolley Tour" or "Romantic Moonlight" Trolley tour which will take you to the 1859 Cape May Lighthouse where you will have a panoramic ocean view under starlit skies!
See Cape May by trolley! Trolley Tours of Cape May are offered every day--it's a great way to see the town. There are l/2 hour tours to the East end of town or the West end of town which cost $6 for adults and $3 for children 3-12. There is also a 2 hour combo trolley/Physick Estate tour costing $12 for adults and $6 for children 3-12.
Tickets are available at the Information Booth on the Washington Street Mall and at the Visitor Center at the Emlen Physick Estate.