If you thought beach season was over, think again. Cape May, on the southern tip of the Jersey Shore, claiming the title of “America’s First Seaside Resort,” offers way more than the typical beach attractions – sand, surf, and arcade rides. And while it says on the calendar that Columbus Day is Oct. 10, that three-day holiday is celebrated as Victorian Weekend in Cape May.
With many of its bed-and-breakfasts and condo rentals dating back to Antebellum times, Cape May is a Victorian architecture treasure land that entertained presidents, ranging from James Buchanan, widely regarded – perhaps until recently – as the worst president in U.S. history. He squired Southern belles with sparkling wine at a White House party as Civil War broke out. Buchanan, a bachelor president, also partied at Cape May’s Congress Hall, where you can still book a room and enjoy a meal, indoors or out, at the Blue Pig Cafe. Book-ending Buchanan, President Ulysses S. Grant, who helped Abraham Lincoln win the war and save the Union, also stayed at Congress Hall.
Take one of the available Victorian Weekend Trolley tours and explore the area’s treasures. Choose from Mansions by the Sea, Ghosts of Cape May, the Underground Railroad, and Cape May’s Forgotten Sports History. Afterward, you can go shopping, have lunch al fresco along the Washington Street pedestrian mall, or drop by the crafts fair at the Emlen Physick Estate. Here, you can also reserve a brunch or dinner table at Vintage, a climate-controlled tent bistro amid the estate’s flower gardens. (It’s BYOB for wine or other adult beverages.) A tour of the 1879 Physick mansion museum, one of Cape May’s finest examples of Victorian architecture, is recommended. And if you’re theatrically inclined, stick around for Phantoms of the Physick Estate: Spellbound Sisters, a haunted-house melodrama.
If you stay for the week, Cape May Stage offers performances of Send in the Clowns for its back-to-back Sherlock Holmes Weekends starting Oct. 14, in which clues are presented Friday and Saturday evenings for a mystery that is solved by scouring the streets of Cape May. There’s a Sunday night reveal with prizes for the winning sleuths. Meanwhile, enjoy dinner at neighboring 410 Bank Street or Elaine’s Cape May.
And, oh yes. The boardwalk, beach, and the Atlantic Ocean are open 24/7. Cape May-Lewes Ferry is about an hour and a half drive from Easton to the Delaware Shore in Lewes.
Victorian Weekend, Oct. 7-10, capemac.org/experience/special-events/victorian-weekend;
Sherlock Holmes Weekends, Oct. 14-16, Oct. 21-23; capemac.org/experience/special-events/sherlock-holmes-weekend
The Chesapeake Film Festival, which has been mostly virtual the last couple of COVID years, returns to in-person screenings Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the Avalon and Ebenezer theaters in downtown Easton. (Masks optional.) Then it continues with free at-home streaming Oct. 3-9. The live festival opens late Friday afternoon at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center courtyard with a reception honoring filmmakers and donors. Tickets, $125, include admission to the films, starting with a series of environmental documentaries and shorts Friday night at the Avalon. On Oct. 1, day 2 of the festival focuses on “Women of Impact.” Leading off with The Glorias, a narrative feature about the life and work of Gloria Steinem, it features Julianne Moore, Timothy Hutton, and Better Midler. Next is Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, regarded as the first female feature film director. “Women of Impact” resumes with a Sunday, Oct. 2, matinee at the Ebenezer with a William Wyler classic, Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Part II of the double-feature is Directed by William Wyler, produced by his daughter, Catherine Wyler, who will be on hand afterward for a Q&A. Admission is $15 to $25 for in-person screenings. Free at-home streaming begins at 9 a.m. Oct. 3 and ends at midnight Oct. 9.
Also at the Ebenezer: The Prager Family Center for the Arts launched the new international concert series led by Grammy-winning pianist and composer Gabriela Montero on its Sept. 17 opening night. Next up in the series, on Oct. 29, is pianist Yuja Wang of China, winner of both Gramophone’s Young Artist of the Year and Musical America’s Artist of the Year awards. Montero returns to the Ebenezer stage on Nov. 19 with Puerto Rican soprano Larisa Martinez, and the star attraction announced so far in the series – Oscar and Emmy-winning violinist Joshua Bell – with a reprise performance the next day. Canadian pianist and multi-Grammy nominee Marc-Andre Hamelin will be in concert on Dec. 10. Montero returns in a Dec. 17 “Irish Christmas” program with Anthony Kearns, who has performed with the Irish Tenors. After a winter hiatus, the series resumes next summer with two more concerts anchored by Gabriela Montero, starting June 3 with Cuban saxophonist Paquito d’Rivera. Twenty free tickets for each concert are set aside for “underserved communities.”
The Classic Theatre of Maryland (formerly the Annapolis Shakespeare Company) goes back to its roots, as it does at least once a season, by presenting the Bard comedy Twelfth Night, Oct. 7-30 at its theater/cabaret at 1804 West St. (We believe 1804 refers to a street address, not a date of origination for the company.) Here, Classic Theatre reimagines Shakespeare’s romantic, separated-twins/mistaken-identity comedy as a golden age Hollywood tribute. Upcoming cabaret shows feature vocalists Ruby Hayes (Oct. 17) and Heather Maxwell (Nov. 14). They’ll be followed by dual theatrical favorites for the season: White Christmas (Nov. 25-Dec. 24) and A Christmas Carol (Dec. 2-24). While they’re at it, Classic Theatre throws in a Dec. 5 cabaret show starring Broadway’s Ian Knauer (Dames at Sea, Anastasia).
Sabra Richards and her daughter Lynn Richards collaborate on an unusual, if not unique, sculptural exhibit at the Dorchester Arts Center in Cambridge. Kiln-formed fusible glass is Sabra’s principal medium. She chooses glass of myriad colors and creates still more hues by layering various components to be fired along with strands of cane pulled into the malleable glass framed by welded steel to mount wall constructions. Lynn, a third-generation artist in her mother’s artistic mold, incorporates found streetscape elements in her glass and steel sculptures. Together, they are “Richards & Richards” and their show is “Glass, Light, and Steel.” Also at the Dorchester center is “Natural Evidence” by Caroline County environmental artist and writer Mary McCoy who works mainly with such found materials as grapevines, oyster shells, and butterfly wings along with the written word. Both shows open on Sept. 30 and run through Oct. 29.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.