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THE SEASIDE VICTORIAN
What: Virginia Hotel
Where: Cape May, New Jersey
The pitch: Staying at a Victorian inn by the ocean sounds blissful, with lovingly decorated bedrooms and afternoon cookies, maybe even a friendly ghost drifting around the parlor. But the reality is often a letdown, with musty furnishings that look like they were bought at Miss Havisham's yard sale, and an owner who gives you the hairy eyeball when you trail sand onto her lace runner. The Virginia Hotel is in a different class altogether. It's Victorian, sure enough, housed in a 1879 landmark building with neat gingerbread trim, painted shutters, and a porch that's begging for postbeach cocktails. What sets it apart from its neighbors in Cape May's historic district is the second half of the name: Expect hotellike perks such as room service and nightly turndown, valet parking, and a staff who'll gladly schlep your luggage upstairs or tote your cooler down to the ocean a half block away (chairs and beach towels are provided, too). The 24 rooms are done up in breezy white and sea foam, with whimsical nautical prints and furnishings—ask for one of the two rooms with private patios facing onto Jackson Street. As for Cape May itself (New Jersey?), it's on the southern tip of the Garden State, its leafy historic district attracting a low-key, sophisticated crowd markedly different from its boisterous boardwalked cousins.
The details: Pleasant surprises include plasma TV's, Bulgari bath products, Belgian cotton linens, and, yes, central air. There's even Wi-Fi for those who can't quite tear themselves away from the office—though those people should be punished.
The killer app: In a sea of factorylike lobster houses (your table is ready when your pager explodes!), the inn's Ebbitt Room is a revelation. Chef Andrew Carthy's modern American menu (yellowfin tuna tartare, eggplant-crusted halibut) and global wine list focused on boutique producers such as Burgundy's Domaine Michel Gros make for the town's most sophisticated dining experience.
Tel: 609 884 5700
Doubles from $265