When it comes to beachy summertime getaways, it doesn’t get much more quintessential than Cape Cod.
Long stretches of beach, adirondacks on the lawn, and an ease to the air that makes you feel as though you’ve finally arrived.
When we arrived in Cape Cod, I was struck by just how much it was exactly like I thought it would be. Usually we build up these places in our heads, but in reality they fall short. The picture-perfect cottages. Mom and pop restaurants. Unspoiled beaches. Cape Cod checked all the boxes.
And for that reason, Cape Cod puts you in a state of mind that just makes your soul feel happy. Which is why it’s exactly the perfect place for a summer family vacation.
What’s there to do in Cape Cod, you ask?
Read on for 8 things we think every family should experience in Cape Cod:
1 | Hit the Beach
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Cape Cod without a trip (or 3 or 4) to the beach!
Cape Cod offers some pretty marvelous pieces of shoreline: public, private and protected.
So you’ll have your pick as you head out exploring. If you’re in Provincetown, head to Herring Cove Beach for a kid-friendly day. In Eastham, Coast Guard Beach is a popular spot within the Cape Cod National Seashore. And mid-Cape, spend the afternoon at Lighthouse Beach in Chatham or Bank Street Beach in Harwich Port.
Whichever you choose, make sure you know the rules for parking. At beaches along the Cape Cod National Seashore, it’s as simple as buying a day pass for your vehicle. But for smaller municipal beaches, you may need to purchase a beach sticker, or even Uber or walk in if non-residents are not allowed to park during the day.
2 | Bike the Cape Cod Rail Trail
The Cape Cod Rail Trail spans 22 miles, from Dennis to Wellfleet, with the Old Colony Rail Trail connecting another 8 miles from Harwich to Chatham. Whichever you choose to set off on, both trails offer a unique way to see the inland Cape, winding through lakes, trees, towns and fields.
3 | Eat Lobster Rolls in Provincetown
The merchant village of Provincetown is a fun city to explore, but I won’t lie, we went there on a mission for lobster rolls.
Just a few blocks from MacMillen Pier, The Canteen is said to have the best in the Cape. And while I certainly haven’t done enough research to fully substatiate that claim, I can say definitively that they were pretty dang good (especially when coupled with the expansive beachfront patio or frose on tap).
Afterwards, spend the day perusing Provincetown’s quirky shops and art galleries on busy Commercial Street.
4 | Day Trip to an Island
Though the Cape offers much to see and do in it’s own right, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the highlights of our Cape Cod adventure: a day trip to Nantucket!
Visitors of Cape Cod looking to venture off the shore will have their pick of two storybook islands: Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. Both are just a high-speed ferry away, and while the trip is spendy, can easily be done as a day trip.
Each offers their own unique charms, but whichever you choose, plan to spend plenty of time walking the beautiful streets, playing on the beach, and eating wonderfully fresh seafood.
5 | Stop at a Schoolhouse Ice Cream Shop
It wasn’t until I started researching for our Cape Cod trip, meticulously scouring Google Maps for things to do, that I realized schoolhouse ice cream shops are quite the thing around here!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad about it. But upon further research, I can’t seem to pinpoint where this trend started. Any locals have the inside scoop? 😉
6 | Shop Downtown Chatham
“Shopping”, per se, is not my usual go-to activity with kids. But strolling quaint little towns? That sure is!
If you have the time, stop along Main Street Chatham for a stroll. There are many children’s boutiques, candy stores, and even a few ice cream shops to delight both kids and adults. Ducks in the Window was a particularly quirky favorite of Evelyn’s!
7 | Go Searching for Lighthouses
Perhaps it’s because I’m from the Midwest, but lighthouses have always had a sort of whimsy, storybook feel to me. So of course, when in Cape Cod, we had to go searching for a few of them!
Most of the lighthouses in Cape Cod are small and unassuming, but coupled with a trip to the beach, it’s always fun to spot a new one.
There’s Chatham Light in Chatham, and it’s sister lighthouse Nauset Light on the Cape Cod National Seashore. Drive a little further up the cape and you’ll hit Highland Light, Cape Cod’s oldest, or Long Point Light on the tip of the Cape in Provincetown.
8 | Walk the Kennedy Legacy Trail
History buffs will appreciate a trip to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. The museum tells the Kennedy family story, and offers a look at some rare photography of the famous first family.
After your visit, follow the Kennedy Legacy Trail to learn more about the Kennedy family’s history in Hyannis. The trail leads you along Main Street, past the “Kennedy Church”, St. Francis Xavier, and the Hyannis Armory, where JFK gave his acceptance speech after winning the presidency.
Hyannis is not exactly as it was during the Kennedy heyday, no doubt. But while the town’s lost some of it’s glamour, the Kennedy Compound does still exist just a couple miles away.
Have you been to Cape Cod? What are you favorite spots?