Although the drive to this beautiful part of Massachusetts is long and often snarled with traffic, the rewards are worth it (and you can always fly or take the train!).
Every summer when we finally arrive, I open the car door to see the stars against the blue-black night sky and wake up my daughters so that they, too, can experience the stars so close you feel you could touch them.
A walk down to the pier near our house clears out all the New York City insanity from my head in mere moments. I stare at the majesty of the sea and feel inspired by unlimited possibility.
Watching my daughters settle in to the neighborhood, I appreciate how easy and relaxed a Cape Cod summer can be. In the mornings, I watch the kids head off on their bikes to sailing or tennis lessons. On Tuesdays, I head over to potluck ladies’ nights for fun conversation; on Wednesdays, I pack up for our weekly nighttime beach picnic. Making the most of every day is, as my sister describes it, all about being a “day-seizer.” There are plenty of perfect blue sky days on the boat, leisurely moments in a porch-front rocking chair, and time enjoyed with cousins, family and friends. Inevitably, there are the negotiations of how much penny candy the children can have from the little store across the street. This is the bubble I run to in the summer months, but there are plenty of wonderful things to see and do for your own family visit to the Cape this summer.
Here are a couple of our family’s favorite things to do and see along the Cape:
Italy might have their famous gelato, but Cape Cod is renowned for its homemade ice cream. The three best, in my opinion (after years of
taste-testing!), are Four Seas in Centerville, the Ice Cream Smuggler in Dennis, and the Brewster Scoop in Brewster. Four Seas Ice Cream has been in business since 1934, and is run by a retired teacher, who always makes sure to hire some of the best students in town. In fact, he doesn’t let people apply for a job to work there — a potential employee has to be “approached.”
Cape Cod is one of the world’s top 10 whale watching destinations, and
Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises, in Barnstable, offers twice daily excursions out to see Humpback, Finback and Minke whales. Most appealing for kids ages 5 and up, the trip I took with my daughters and nephews a few years ago is one we will never forget – we saw a mother and baby whale swimming right along side of our boat! Plan ahead though as this is quite a popular excursion, and the boat ride is about a 3 ½ -4 hr trip.
Cape Cod has gorgeous beaches each with their own unique character and attributes.
Sandy Neck Beach in Barnstable, on the north side of the mid-Cape, is open from 8 am until 9 pm in peak summer season. The beach is lifeguarded and a daily pass can be purchased at the Gate House ($15 for summer weekdays, and $20 per day on Saturday and Sunday). There are restrooms and changing facilities, as well as concession stands.
Craigville Beach in Centerville is on the ocean side of the mid-Cape. This south facing stretch of flat, sandy beach is one of the most popular of the few public beaches, so it tends to get very crowded. Definitely come early in the day for the best parking. Great for children, this spot is also close to Four Seas Ice cream, a perfect end to a of sun and swimming.
The Cape Cod Baseball League is recognized as the best amateur summer league in the country by college and professional baseball scouts. Teams are located throughout Cape Cod. The league has been around since 1885!
Opening day is June 12th, and don’t worry, one of the best thing about CCBL is that you don’t need tickets! Come out and enjoy some baseball, as each team is its own non-profit. Some famous New Yorkers who got their start in CCBL were the NY Yankees Thurman Munson (Chatham 1967), Manager Joe Girardi (Cotuit, 1984), and the Mets’ Bobby Valentine (Yarmouth 1967). Schedules and locations can be found at capecodbaseball.org.
JFK Museum – Main St in Hyannis (jfkhyannismuseum.org)
This summer, in honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination, the museum will be featuring a special exhibit “Cape Cod: The summer of 1963 to November 22, 1963 – Days of Joy, Days of Sorrow”. It is a look back at the President’s final months on his beloved Cape Cod. The JFK museum is a small museum dedicated to highlighting the former President’s love of Cape Cod – while likely most suited toward grade school children, there is a grassy park right next door for kids to run around before or after a visit.
Cape Cod Melody Tent
An open air concert venue, the Cape Cod Melody Tent has been a tradition on the Cape for over 60 years. It hosts a variety of musical events and performances throughout the summer, from Abba and the B-52s to Chris Botti and One Republic this summer – along with Cinderella’s wedding and Beauty and the Beast. Children’s shows are perfect for a rainy day!
Brewster General Store
Travel east on Rt. 6A to Rt. 124 and arrive at the famous Brewster Store, a true American General Store built in 1852, filled with penny candy and old-fashioned treats for all ages. One mile farther east on 6A and owned by the same family is The Strawberry Patch, a gift shop housed in an 1872 horse barn. A life-size black horse welcomes you. Here you will find a miniature carousel, a children’s maze and a garden railway – all adding to the summer fun of a drive through Brewster.
Box Lunch (next door to JFK Museum in Hyannis).
For a picnic on the beach, a visit to the park or a ride on a boat, Box Lunch is the perfect spot to pick up a delicious and freshly made sandwich. One of their specialties is the children’s “rollwich” –my daughters wish they could eat here every day!
Tucked near the Hyannis airport, this is a little bit of Paris hiding on Cape Cod. Come for breakfast, lunch or dinner – and be prepared to take something home with you – croissants, freshly baked bread, handmade grilled pizza to order, or their awesome Croque Monsieur.
Since 1967, Baxter’s Boathouse Club and Fish and Chips restaurant, has been family owned and operated in Hyannis. The building is built entirely over the water, and customers can still tie up in their boats and have lunch or dinner.
Centerville Pie Company
These are the best pies I have ever eaten! Founded in 2009 by two friends, Oprah Winfrey discovered them on a visit soon after they opened, and helped make their chicken pies famous! From seasonal berry pies, to key lime and chocolate cookie pies, our whole family enjoys them all!
After spending almost two decades in her marketing and advertising career, Caroleen H. Mackin turned the page a few years ago to spend more time with her family and succumbed to an obsession with traveling, both near and far. She hopes to share some of the places she has discovered along the way, and some tips for planning your own family trips. She lives on the UES with her husband and daughters, ages 10 and 12.