Christmas comes early to Cape May, where the man in the red suit and his eight tiny reindeer will land at the Emlen Physick Estate - ablaze with thousands of twinkling lights thanks to the work of many elves - just in time for the Holiday Preview weekend sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC).
Even those who think it's a tad early will get in the spirit when MAC representatives, public officials including Mayor Ed Mahaney and the Cape Harmonaires gather at the gazebo to sing carols in anticipation of the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20.
Old St. Nick arrives to flip the switch and illuminate the 60 foot tree. Children are invited to meet with Santa, sit on his lap and, of course, share their Christmas wish lists with him. Warm up with beverages and freshly baked cookies at the Carriage House Tearoom and Cafe.
Kids and parents will enjoy Santa's Trolley Rides 5:30 6:15 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 11:45 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. There will be stories and songs by one of Santa's helpers. Seats are $8. (Check MAC's website for information on Spirit of Christmas, Ghosts of Christmas Past and Holiday Lights trolley rides.)
If you're a train enthusiast, don't miss "An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit: Holiday Traditions through the Years" at the Carriage House Gallery on the grounds of the Physick Estate. Working LGB trains weaving through a Christmas village, decorated trees and old-fashioned toys re-create the traditions of Christmas past, with artifacts ranging from the Victorian era through today. The exhibit runs through Sunday, Jan. 2 (except Thanksgiving and Christmas); admission is free.
New to the preview weekend this year is a crafts show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Star of the Sea Parish Hall, located on Ocean Street above the Washington Street Mall. You'll find unique hand-made items and gifts from dozens of vendors. Admission is $1.
Looking for inspiration for your own holiday decorating? Check out Cape May's sixth annual Designer Show House at Christmas. The Fairthorne Cottage, 115 Ocean St., is decked out for the season by some of the region's top designers. Take a self-guided tour from 1 to 4 p.m. daily, and from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for children ages 3 to 12. Luncheon and dinner packages also are available
By now you must be hungry - and thirsty. Indulge in some of the food and wine events Cape May offers. Cape May Wine Weekend combines a Wine-Tasting Dinner, Winery Cellar Tour and Wine-Tasting Class beginning Friday with a four-course dinner at the Washington Inn, 801 Washington St. Guests will be treated to individual attention by the wine steward.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, visit the award-winning Cape May Winery for a tour of the vineyard, introduction to the winemaker's art and a barrel tasting with cheese and fruit. At 1 p.m. Sunday, learn the finer points of wines at a Wine School class at the Washington Inn. Cost is $135 per person for the package, $20 to tour the vineyard and enjoy a barrel tasting, or $30 to attend Wine School, with the topic of "Wines from the Iberian Peninsula - Spain and Portugal." Check MAC's website for information on other wining and dining events.
More into hops in a pint than grapes in a port? Get your suds-loving self over to the Mad Batter Beer School 2 p.m. Sunday at the Mad Batter, 19 Jackson St. The theme is Flying Fish, New Jersey's largest craft brewery. Cost is $25, including five samples and light refreshments.
Cape May's not the only one getting a jump on the holiday fun. Two Atlantic City casinos host holiday bonanza shows.
Tropicana Casino and Resort, 2831 Boardwalk, kicks off the season with its sixth annual "Happy Holidays - A Magical Celebration" revue in the Tropicana Showroom, running daily through Dec. 16. The show features beloved music, including "Winter Wonderland," "Sleigh Ride," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," "O Holy Night," "Santa Baby" and more. Four singers and 17 dancers bring the holidays to life. Plus, no holiday show would be complete without appearances by Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman. Tickets are $25 and $35 at the Tropicana Box Office or www.pressofatlanticcity.com/tickets. For a complete list of show times and dates, go to www.tropicana.net.
The Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort's Christmas Spectacular runs Sunday, Nov. 28, though Sunday, Dec. 19, in the Hilton Theater, 3400 Pacific Ave. The show presents Broadway-style entertainment for the entire family, bringing favorite holiday songs to life. You'll enjoy the lavish choreography and glowing costumes, too. If you watch closely, you might even catch a glimpse of Ol' St. Nick. Showtimes are 7 p.m. Sundays, 3 and 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Thursdays, 9 p.m. Fridays and 8 p.m. Saturdays. Tickets are $31.50. Call 609-347-7111 or go to www.hiltonac.com for more information.
Holiday Preview Weekend
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 19, through
Sunday, Nov. 21
WHERE: Emlen Physick Estate,
1038 Washington St., and other sites in Cape May
TICKETS: Costs vary
INFORMATION: www.capemaymac.org, 609-884-5404