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If Cape May had a personal ad for late September, here's what it might read: If you love your feet in the sand, close boardwalks, Victorian mansions lined with picket fences, antique shops, awesome architecture, lobster rolls and beach food with a dose of class and an arty group of residents, then come to Cape May. The tiny Victorian town is a weekender's delight filled with tiny shops, architecturally stunning walks with old houses complete with wrap-around front porches, and wonderful restaurants and beachfront landscapes. In the early fall, when the summer crowd's drift further away, Cape May comes alive with the crisp air off the ocean breeze.

Normally a gastronomic delight (the New York Times called it the "food capital of New Jersey"), Cape May holds it's ninth annual Cape May Food and Wine Festival (tel. 800/275-4278; www.capemaymac.org) from September 17 to 22, 2005. The festival includes relay races, wine tasting, tours of the Cape May Winery, a Lobster Bake Luau, Country Fair, beer tasting, and Gourmet Marketplace. Tickets can be purchased for individual events or the entire festival.

A "Holiday Spirit Overnight Package" (tel. 800/275-4278, ext. 185; www.capemaymac.org/overnightpkg/this-week-in-cape-may-packages.htm) good for travel between November 18 and 20, 2005, is priced from $350 per couple. Geared to jump starting the holiday season with decorations, gifts, and Christmas holiday recipes, the package includes two nights at the friendly Carroll Villa Hotel (tel. 877/275-8452; www.carrollvilla.com), a national landmark hotel on bustling Jackson Street, a full breakfast on both mornings, 30% off dinners at the hotel's Mad Batter Restaurant, a cooking class and a visit to the Cape May Lighthouse.

For places to stay in the Cape May area, start your search at www.capemaytimes.com. The site has information regarding much that a visitor or resident would need to know about Cape May. The site includes movie listings, a restaurant guide, hotel links and arts and entertainment information. You can even find details on fishing, birding and renting property in the vicinity. For example, the events page lists several guided birding walks that start from just $10 per person.

For a place to stay, look to the Henry Sawyer Inn (tel. 800/449-5667; www.henrysawyerinn.com/inn.htm), a Victorian house built in 1877. Fall and winter room rates range in price from $85 to $225. A mid-week "Victorian Sweetheart" package starts at $365 for a two-night stay with champagne in the room, one-half dozen roses, a $50 gift certificate to a Cape May restaurant and an audio-tape walking tour of the town's historic district. Travel is good during the week for the months of February, March, April, May, October and November. The inn's rooms are furnished in Victorian frill with large beds and period furniture. It's a short walk to shops and restaurants on Cape May's Washington Street.

Another great inn, the John F. Craig House (tel. 877/544-0314; www.johnfcraig.com) is just one block from the ocean and one-and-a-half blocks to shops and restaurants. Built in 1866, the Craig House has eight quaint rooms, one suite and serves a full breakfast daily. For winter travelers, the hotel has a great fireplace and provides beach chairs for relaxing on the sand to guests who don't mind a little nip in the air with their ocean gazing. Rates start from $165 for winter weekends (that's for two nights). The hotel can arrange for carriage rides around the town for couples. The rooms are very stylish and large, mixing old world furnishings with modern amenities. All rooms have fireplaces and televisions. With a library and an outdoor porch, there's plenty of common space to get to know your fellow travelers.

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