It's good to live in southern New Jersey this time of year.

The tourists vamoose, and the heat of summer gives way to a golden autumn. Leaves change and the Pinelands emerge in reds, yellows and oranges. After the dizzying speed at which the region moves during the tourist season, fall is a time to relax.

It's also the perfect time to rediscover the area. Locals, take a page from the visitor's handbook - when was the last time you took a tour? Here's a sampling of what the area has to offer.

Halloween Tours

October ushers in the first chills of the season - and not just in temperature. Spooky tours rear their heads in two seaside southern New Jersey towns this fall.

The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities hosts its Halloween Happen-ings in Victorian Cape May now to Oct. 31. "It's basically more than two weeks of events and tours that coincide with the Halloween season," says Margo Harvey, MAC communications coordinator. Para-normal investigator and author Craig McManus hosts two trolley tours, during which he will regale passengers with stories about history and ghostly local encounters.

A Ride with the Ghostwriter, through Cape May's Historic District, takes place 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $25 per person. A Lighthouse Ride with the Ghostwriter takes guests to the Cape May Lighthouse Saturday. Tickets are $30 per person.

MAC sponsors several tours of its Emlen Physick Estate, the nonprofit's Victorian house museum. Guides recount ghost stories and discuss Victorian spirituality while leading guests through the 19th-century mansion during the Historic Haunts house tour. Tours are 11:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. Sunday and

Oct. 31. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 12. Combine the house tour with a Ghosts of Cape May trolley tour for $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 3 to 12. The Historic Haunts combination tour is 7:15 p.m. Friday,

Oct. 28 and 29, and Nov. 6 and 13.

To wander what MAC calls "Cape May's original haunted house," try the Phantoms of the Physick Estate tour.

"It's a self-guided tour of our Physick Estate decorated in cobwebs and with spooky characters and Halloween-themed vignettes in each of the rooms," Harvey says. "The whole dining room is converted - it's got a black tablecloth, skeletons sitting in the chairs, eyeballs for food and things like that."

The spooky tour is family-friendly and offered weekends in October. Visit from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, as well as Oct. 30 or 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 31 to check it out. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children.

On Oct. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m., MAC offers self-guided tours of Cape May properties decorated for Halloween. It includes admission to the Phantom of the Physick Estate Tour and a trolley shuttle. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 3 to 12.

For more information and tickets for MAC events, call 609-884-5404 or visit www.capemay-mac.org

Don't miss out on the ghoulish action if you can't get to Cape May. Ocean City's Ghost Tours offers a weekly candlelight walking tour on Saturdays in October and Halloween. The family-friendly tour takes groups to "various sites reported to have hauntings associated with the property," according to Eileen Reeser, tour manager. Guides tell local ghost stories with a theatrical flair - though the stories, obtained from Ocean City history archives, articles and personal interviews, according to Reeser, are all true. "They all have a bit of closet actor or actress in them," Reeser says.

Tours take place 8 p.m. Saturday and Oct. 30 and 31. Tickets are $14 for adults and $8 for children ages 4 to 12. Reservations are required. For more information, call 609-814-0199 or visit

House Tours

Victorian homes spot the southern New Jersey coastline, steeped in history and local lore. What really went on behind those shuttered bay windows?

Experienced guides will tell you at Batsto Village, on the border of Atlantic and Burlington counties. Established in 1766, the historic village produced artillery during the Revolutionary War. Its jewel, though, is the Batsto Mansion, once occupied by Joseph Wharton of Wharton State Forest fame. Volunteers offer tours of the 32-room mansion from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., each hour on the hour Fridays. Tours are $2 for adults, $1 for children ages 6 to 11 and free for children 6 and younger.

"It gives you information on the period furniture and dishes and clothing," says Jeannie Ford, employee of Batsto Village for 24 years. The mansion was built in the late 1700s, but "what you see now reflects architectural changes that Joseph Whar-ton made in the 1800s."

For more information, call 609-561-0024 or visit www.batstovillage.org

For a modern twist on Victoriana, tour the Fairthorne Cottage, 115 Ocean Street, Cape May. Fairthorne Cottage is the sixth annual designer show home of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and restoring historic sites.

The Cottage showcases eight local and regional designers' work 10 rooms. It also is a functioning bed and breakfast.

The show house will close down from Nov. 1 to Nov. 18 for seasonal updates to the rooms.

From Nov. 19 to Jan. 2, the Cottage will be decorated for Christmas. It is open for self-guided tours 1 to 4 p.m. daily and 7 to 9 p.m. Sundays and Fridays until Jan. 2. Volunteers also conduct tours several times per week. Tours are $10 for adults and $7 for children ages 3 to 12. For information, call 609-884-5404 or visit www.capemaymac.org

Group Tours

Discover the bounty in your southern New Jersey backyard with a group tour. For groups of 15 or more, the Tuckerton Seaport, 120 W. Main St., Tuckerton, offers a variety of tours for the casual visitor or nautical enthusiast. The Seaport is a working maritime village on Tuckerton Creek. Tour the grounds during the Seaport Sampler, a guided general walking tour that takes guests back in time through the Seaport's colonial maritime history and up the Tucker's Island Lighthouse. Marsh exploration tours, additional historical tours and Back Bay tours featuring a closer look at the bays.

"All tours are tailored to the group's interest and age level," says Paul Hart, executive director of the Seaport. Tour rates are $8 per person for tours of more than 2 hours, $6 per person for tours of less than 2 hours. Additional fees apply for back-bay tours. For more information, call 609-296-8868 or visit

For groups of 18 or more looking to experience the Pinelands, Cathy Antener can help. Antener operates Piney Power, a small bus tour service that offers comprehensive tours of southern New Jersey to both visitors and locals.

"We do Pinelands winery tours. I point out areas that if they want to come back and go off-roading, they can. I point out areas that they can go kayaking," Antener said.

Some tours loop through Hammonton and Mullica Township, often stopping by Batsto Village and the Annata Wine Bar in Hammonton.

Others take riders up by ghost towns such as Harrisville and Friendship in Burlington County.

"There are dozens of old towns that are fascinating. You can just walk through the towns and feel the history," Antener says. "Whether you're interested in botany or art or drinking wine, there's something in the Pine Barrens for everybody." Tours are available in November and can be booked by calling 609-698-2501. For more information, visit http://www.pineypower.com" target= "_blank">www.pineypower.com

Holiday Tours

If Cape May were a movie theater, Christmas would be its blockbuster event. The city twinkles during the multi-month extravaganza, which starts Nov. 19 and goes into the New Year. "Christmas in Cape May is huge," Harvey says. The city-turned-winter-wonderland boasts lights, holiday cuisine and - occasionally - Santa Claus. The MAC makes sure visitors sample it all with trolley and walking tour options.

On Saturdays and Sundays throughout November and December, bring the kids to a trolley tour with Christmas' most famous family. Beginning at the Emlen Physick Estate, the trolley departs for a ride through Cape May complete with stories, songs and Mrs. Claus. The trolley drops riders off at the Carriage House, where Santa greets children with sweets. Tours begin at 11:45 a.m., 12:45, 1:30 and 2:15 p.m. Saturdays from Nov. 28 to Dec. 18. Tours begin at 11:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sundays from Nov. 21 to Dec. 12. There will be a special set of evening tours Saturday, Nov. 20, departing at 5:30, 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. Seats are $8 per person. Reservations are recommended.

The Taste of Christmas tour doesn't include a visit with Santa, but lunch at the Mad Batter Restaurant after a walking tour of the historic district may suit participants just fine. The hour-long tour begins 11 a.m. Fridays from Nov. 19 to Dec. 31. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 3 to 12.

But if there's one event not to miss, it's the Christmas Candlelight House Tour. Perhaps the biggest event of the holiday season in a city serious about Christmas, the tour is a self-guided jaunt through about fifteen decorated Victorian homes. The tour includes trolley service and a hospitality center where walkers can pick up cookies and get warm. "It's a lot of the most notable bed and breakfasts that decorate for it," Harvey says. "Most places really get into it." The tours take place Saturday, Dec. 4, Saturday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 18 at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children ages 3 to 12. Reservations are required.

For more information about MAC events or to reserve a spot on a holiday tour, call 609-884-5404 or go to

Holiday tours in Cape May

If Cape May were a movie theater, Christmas would be its blockbuster event. The city twinkles during the multi-month extravaganza, which starts Nov. 19 and goes into the New Year. "Christmas in Cape May is huge," said Margo Harvey, communications coordinator of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities. The city-turned-winter-wonderland boasts lights, holiday cuisine and - occasionally - Santa Claus. The MAC makes sure visitors sample it all with trolley and walking-tour options.

On Saturdays and Sundays throughout November and December, bring the kids to a trolley tour with Christmas' most famous family. Beginning at the Emlen Physick Estate, the trolley departs for a ride through Cape May with stories, songs and Mrs. Claus. The trolley drops riders off at the Carriage House, where Santa greets children with sweets. Tours begin 11:45 a.m., 12:45, 1:30 and 2:15 p.m. Saturdays from Nov. 28 to Dec. 18. Tours begin 11:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sundays Nov. 21 to Dec. 12. There will be a special set of evening tours 5:30, 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20. Seats are $8 per person. Reservations are recommended.

The Taste of Christmas tour doesn't include a visit with Santa, but lunch at the Mad Batter Restaurant after a walking tour of the historic district may suit participants just fine. The hour-long tour begins 11 a.m. Fridays from Nov. 19 to Dec. 31. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children ages 3 to 12.

But if there's one event not to miss, it's the Christmas Candlelight House Tour. Perhaps the biggest event of the holiday season in a city serious about Christmas, the tour is a self-guided jaunt through about 15 decorated Victorian homes. The tour includes trolley service and a hospitality center where walkers can pick up cookies and get warm. "It's a lot of the most notable bed and breakfasts that decorate for it," Harvey says. "Most places really get into it." The tours are 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4, 11 and 18. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children ages 3 to 12. Reservations are required.

For more information about MAC events or to reserve a spot on a holiday tour, call 609-884-5404 or go to