Find Cape Cod Tourist Attractions, Activities, Events & Things to Do: 65 Exciting Things to Do...only on Cape Cod & the Islands
RIDE THE RAILS
While clickety-clacking along 46 miles of rail, view the Cape from inside out. Peering through windows of the red railcars of Cape Cod Central Railroad (252 Main St., Hyannis; 508-771-3800), you'll see Sandy Necks dunes, marshes, native flora, fauna and canal water views. Scenic excursions are available through the end of October. Or, let the rhythm of the train relax you while enjoying a three-hour, five-course meal on the dinner train. All aboard!
BETTER UNDERSTAND CREATION
The Connecticut naturalist Hal Borland wrote that if he didn't go out into the October woods every year, he'd miss an essential understanding of creation. Visiting the Waquoit Bay Reserve (Route 28, Waquoit; 508-457-0495) at this time of year is something like that. Between Mashpee and Falmouth, this living laboratory was designated in 1988 as an educational resource for the stewardship of 825-acre Waquoit Bay, one of the Northeast's most important saltwater estuaries. Hiking trails: South Cape Beach State Park, the Quashnet River area and Washburn Island, all under the management of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
BLAZE A HAPPY TRAIL
By foot, ski, bicycle or horse, you can take the happy trails of the 95-acre Cataumet Greenway. Administered by the Bourne Conservation Trust (508-563-2884), they include, among an impressive list, the Broyer and John E. Handy conservation areas. Try your skills at beachcombing on seven-acre Lawrence Island, fronting on Megansett and Squeteague harbors. Or hike out, nearer the Cape Cod Canal, to the Freeman Farm and the Bourne Sisters Woodland, or along the scenic way through the 40-acre Red Brook Pond area.
Be sure to learn the legend of Princess Scargo before your visit to Scargo Tower (Scargo Hill Road, off Route 6A, East Dennis). Then march up the tower's swirling staircase and notice Scargo Lake's shape below. Marvel at panoramic views of Cape Cod Bay. On a clear day, you can see from Provincetown to Plymouth.
VISIT THE BUGABOO ROOM
You'll find the Benjamin Nye Homestead and Museum (85 Old County Rd.; 508-888-4213) tucked away next to the East Sandwich Grange. Step over the millstone at the door of this quaint 1685 Colonial and enter the keeping room, where a spinning wheel stands guard before the hearth. And don't miss the tiny, frightful Bugaboo Room under the stairs. Christmas in November is an annual event at the homestead, a preservation project of the Nye Family of America. Open from noon to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday from June 15 through Oct. 15. Admission.
GREET THE GHOSTS
Don't wait for a dark and stormy night to enjoy a good old Halloween scare. Meet the ghosts of Jonathan Hatch and friends at the Falmouth Ghost Tour at the Old Burying Ground off Locust Street. You'll recognize Hatch, the town's founder, right off by his black-brimmed hat, overcoat and brown knickers. Everybody there over age 100 reappears periodically, thanks to the local historical society (508-548-4857). If you run into them, say hello to the spirits of Sarah Croswell and Desire Bourne, last seen around these parts in 1703. You might even shake hands with the Grim ReaperÑall in fun, of course.
KICK UP YOUR HEELS
If you feel like kicking up your heels on the Upper Cape, join the contra-dancing at the Woods Hole Community Hall (508-540-6229) at 8 p.m. on the first Saturday or at Cotuit's Freedom Hall at 8 p.m. on the second Saturday of every month. Your best bets for nightlife are McGann's Pub, 734 Route 28 in East Falmouth; Cafe de la Terre, 25 Market Street in Mashpee Commons and Slap Happy's Grille and Bar, 4 Bourne Bridge Approach, Buzzards Bay.
Wear your quahog-kicking cowboy boots (or any other suitable footwear) and, at low tide, head to one of North Dennis's beaches (Corporation, Chapin, Mayflower, all off Route 6A.) Whether on a crisp, cool autumn day or a blustery winter's day, feel the rush of the wind and the enormity of sky and sea. Meander over tidal pools and vast tidal flats. If you see white shapes peeking from under the sand, kick around them to uncover giant quahog shells are a great Cape souvenir!
MEET THE ACTORS
Visit one of the oldest, longest-running community theaters in Massachusetts, the Barnstable Comedy Club (Route 6A, Barnstable Village; 508-362-6333). Founded in the 1920s, this amateur theater group draws locals from many walks of life to perform periodically throughout the year. Tickets: $14-$20. Call for scheduled productions.
FIND FAMILY SKELETONS
For genealogy buffs, Edgar Frances Waterman Memorial Genealogical Collection, housed in the Eldredge Public Library in Chatham (508-945-5170), is an invaluable resource. Even those with a casual interest in family history will find something fascinating in its extensive collection of family genealogies, county and town histories, indices and databases. Open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
SEE THE SEA LIKE A SEAGULL
Get a seagull's-eye view of Cape Cod from a Cessna (at Cape Cod Flying, Marstons Mills Grass Airport, Route 149 and Race Lane, Marstons Mills; 508-428-8732). This perspective offers you a glimpse of just how many bodies of water exist on the Cape. Not only surrounded by the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay, the Cape has 365 lakes and ponds, one for each day of the year. Rate: $90 for 30 minutes, three people.
SOAR WITH EAGLES
Prefer a more serene aerial view of the Cape? Soar in silence 5,000 feet above land. Share thermals with an occasional bald eagle, red-tailed hawk, osprey or seagull. Glider rides, particularly spectacular in the fall, are available year round at Cape Cod Soaring (Route 149 and Race Lane, Marstons Mills; 508-420-4305). Rates: $95 to $165.
RELAX LIKE A KENNEDY
The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum (397 Main St., Hyannis; 508-790-3077) invites you into the Kennedy's Hyannisport haven. With a multi-media exhibit that features oral histories, a David Cronkite narrated video and over 75 photos of a barefoot, suntanned, relaxed and smiling Jack Kennedy, unwinding here by the sea. Exhibit spans 1934-1963. Open year-round. Fall: Monday through Saturday. Winter: Thursday through Saturday. Adults, $5; teens, $2.50; under 10, free.
TAKE IN SOME CURTAIN CALLS
During the off-season, the venerable Harwich Junior Theatre morphs into the Harwich Winter Theatre (Division Street; 508-432-2002, ext. 4), bringing to its historic stage plays geared toward a more general audience. Past offerings have included King Lear and Frankenstein. Tickets: $16. Each fall the Chatham Drama Guild (Crowell Road, 508-945-0510) mounts a mystery and comedy, usually drawn from the British stage. Tickets $16. This fall's season at the Cape Rep Theatre (3379 Route 6A, East Brewster; 508-896-1888) includes the East Coast premiere of David Henry Hwang's Tibet Through the Red Box, as well as Tennessee Williams' The Rose Tattoo. Tickets: $20-$25. The Academy of Performing Arts (120 Main St., Orleans; 508-255-1963), while billed as community theater, stages productions that are anything but. This fall's lineup includes Neil Simon's Rumors, Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance, and Agatha Christie's Murder in the Vicarage. Tickets; $18.
DISCOVER WHAT SHAPES THE CAPE
The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History (869 Route 6A, Brewster; 508-896-3867) provides a quick way to learn about the Cape's geology, flora and fauna. Displays detail the coastal processes that shape the Cape, and exhibits provide examples of native creatures of the land, sea and air. Step out the door and experience the natural world first-hand by following the museum's trails through three distinct environments: coastal woodland, salt marsh and shoreline. Open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., admission $3.50 for kids, $8 for adults.
CATCH AN ARTISAN
The art gallery scene quiets down during the off-season, when many artists prefer to sequester themselves in their studios and work on material for next season's exhibits. Some, however, maintain studio/galleries where visitors can see new work and sometimes catch the artist in the creative process. Hours can be intermittent, so call before dropping by. The Struna Gallery (3873 Main St., Brewster; 508-255-6618) is where artist and printmaker Timothy Struna works and displays many of his paintings and prints. Pewter Crafters of Cape Cod (792 Route 28, Harwichport; 508-432-5858) is the Cape's only pewter studio where artist Ron Kusins creates traditional and contemporary pieces in the studio behind the shop, using time-tested casting techniques to produce functional art. If you hear footsteps coming from the second floor of Yankee Ingenuity (525 Main St., Chatham; 508-945-1288), that's Jon Vaughan mounting and framing his spectacular photographs, which capture off-the-beaten-path Cape Cod in amazing color and texture.
WALK THE ATLANTIC, GLIMPSE A SEAL
Lighthouse Beach and South Beach in Chatham (at the end of Main Street, parking across from the Chatham Lighthouse) offer long walks along the Atlantic; early morning is especially spectacular as the sun rises over the steely waters. Lucky strollers may also catch a glimpse of a seal or two just off shore; don't be surprised if they stare at you with as much curiosity as you watch them.
TAKE A DRIVE-BY
Chatham's Old Village Historic District (Main Street from Shore Road to Bridge Street), an area once known as Scrabbletown, is a hodge-podge of styles ranging from elegant captain's houses to simple Cape shanties. You can find historical facts and a map at www.oldvillagechatham.org. A drive along the Old King's Highway Historic District, Route 6A, from Sandwich to Orleans, provides an example of historic preservation at its finest. Known for its string of graceful captains' houses, most built during the mid-1800s, the scenic roadway is also flanked by examples of Colonial, Victorian, Greek Revival and Italianate architecture.
GET A WHALE OF A GUARANTEE
Before the end of October, be sure to book aboard the Portuguese Princess II or the Captain Red of Portuguese Princess Excursions (70 Shank Painter Rd., Provincetown; 888-234-3531) for an exciting three-hour trip to Stellwagen Bank, the feeding ground for humpback, minke and fin whales, that lies just six miles north of town. Experienced naturalists are aboard to interpret whale behavior, introduce you to the diverse marine environment and to answer questions. Portuguese Princess Excursions boast a whale sighting success record of 99 percent. Tickets ($30, adults; $24, ages 5-12; children under 4, free) may be purchased online, by phone or at booths on Fisherman's Wharf or Macmillan Wharf, where the boats are docked.
Osprey Sea Kayak (Pleasant Bay, South Orleans; 508-240-1211) offers several three-hour guided tours of the gentle waters around Pleasant Bay Ð perfect for the beginner and expert alike. Basic paddling instructions are given before heading out in top-quality, fully equipped kayaks. The pace is relaxed with a focus on the human connection to natural environment. Trips depart several times daily from May through October. (There's even a tour for women only!) Fees: $49 per solo kayak; $35 per person in a tandem.
GO FOR BASS AND BLUES
Islanders and anglers of all ages gear up for the month-long Martha's Vineyard Striped Bass & Blue Tournament (Derby Headquarters, 1A Dock St., Edgartown or Larry's Tackle, 258 Upper Main St., Edgartown, 508-627-5088). School children spend hours catching squid, the perfect bait, and sport fishermen share fish stories from years past, perhaps recalling last year's 49-pound bass reeled in by 12-year-old Molly Fischer. Winners from each category turn a key for a chance to bring home a Boston Whaler or Chevy truck. (We hope that Molly is enjoying her Boston Whaler.) Call for registration information.
A fun day of vineyard touring and wine tasting awaits at Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod (Route 6A, North Truro; 508-487-6200). Watch as vintners make your favorite barrel-fermented Chardonnay. Beautifully unique wine bottles and cranberry wines are part of this vineyard's charm. The tasting room and gift shop are located in a restored 1830s farmhouse; enjoy a picnic on the grounds. Open April through December. Call for tour schedule.
FIND A STEAL
Saturdays and Sundays from mid-April through the fall, you can find just about anything at the Wellfleet Flea Market on the grounds of the Wellfleet Drive-In (Route 6, Wellfleet; 508-349-0541) At this packed flea market, you'll find items from household goods to clothing and jewelry, vintage to brand new.
TOUR A LIGHTHOUSE
Located within the Cape Cod National Seashore, Nauset Light (Eastham; 508-255-3421) is one of the most famous lighthouses on the East Coast, originally built in 1877. The lighthouse is open for tours Sundays, spring through fall. Also visit nearby Nauset Light Beach to see the abundance of seals in the fall.
CLIMB TO THE TOP
If you make it to the top of the 252-foot Pilgrim Monument (High Pole Hill, Provincetown; 508-487-1310), you can expect an amazing view of Provincetown and Provincetown Harbor. The monument celebrates the Pilgrims' landing in Provincetown in November 1620 (yes, the intrepid band landed here first). The Pilgrim Museum at the base of the monument offers exhibits on the Pilgrims, whaling history, Provincetown's early theater history and the building of the monument itself. Open daily through Oct. 31 and on weekends only through November. Adult admission, $7; students $5; free admission on Sundays from 9 am to noon.
READ ALONG WITH
What do Art Buchwald, Walter Cronkite, Carly Simon and Judy Blume have in commonÉaside from their love of Martha's Vineyard? Their love of the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore (44 Main St., Vineyard Haven; 800-693-0221, 508-693-2291). Novelist Ward Just says Bunch of Grapes, in the summer, is a mighty convenience and in the winter an absolute necessity. Visit anytime of year to enjoy an excellent selection of books. Weekly events feature well-known speakers, readings and book signings by authors and poets.
PARTY HEARTY, PARTY LATE
For the past 27 years, the happeningest after-hours place on Martha's Vineyard was the Hot Tin Roof. That same venue has new owners and a new name, Outerland (322 State Rd., Vineyard Haven; 508-693-1137), but the lineup of very best in live music and comedy entertainment remains the same. Past headliners have included the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Hall & Oates, James Taylor, Carly Simon (former owner), Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Cliff, Bo Didley, War, Arlo Guthrie, Bare Naked Ladies, Blues Traveler, John & Jim Belushi, Peter Tosh, Koko Taylor, Brian Setzer and Ben Harper. Outerland has the largest dance floor on the island and a stage that affords fans close-up views of their favorite bands. Toss in multiple bars and food stations, plus a café with a reasonably priced menu, and you've got an unforgettable night out. Doors open at 7 p.m. on concert dates, with performances at 8 p.m. Shuttle bus and taxi service are readily available from town. Open through Jan. 15.
PICK UP STICKS
Visit Craftworks, Contemporary American Crafts (42 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs; 508-693-7463), a whimsical gallery featuring unique items made by local artists, as well as juried artists from across the country. This Vineyard gallery carries an extensive line of jewelry, hand-blown and stained glass items and Sticks Furniture. With the sea as their theme, these hand-painted, one-of-a-kind signed pieces are inspirational.
PULL THE WOOL OVER
The views from the 80-acre pastureland of Allen Farm (South Road, Chilmark; 508-645-9064), a working sheep farm, include picturesque vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and Chilmark's Upper Pond, where flocks of migrating birds soar overhead. This is one of the most photographed locations on all of Martha's Vineyard. See horses and grass-fed Corriedale sheep and then shop for toasty and exquisite hand-woven blankets and knitted items, made from wool sheared right here on the farm.
SIP SOUP ON FRIDAYS
Join an island tradition, mix with locals and enjoy a yummy Friday evening dinner at Grace Episcopal Church's Soup Suppers (Woodlawn Avenue, Vineyard Haven; 508-693-0332). The tiny church's magnificent Tiffany stained glass windows are some of the finest on the island. Learn about their history from friendly islanders. Suppers are free, but donations encouraged.
GO FOR THE BIRDS
Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge (Dike Road, Chappaquiddick Island; 508-693-7662) is a 516-acre expanse that is just a short ferry ride from Edgartown. Here you will find an assortment of endangered shorebirds, towering dunes, salt marshes and ponds and beautiful East Beach. Felix-Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road; 508-627-4850), a 350-acre property, provides walking trails through dense forestry and includes ponds that are habitat for turtles and waterfowl.
FEED ON GHOSTS AND GOSSIP
Liz Villard is the lighthearted spirit behind the delightful three-town tour, Ghosts, Gossip and Downright Scandal (508-627-8619). Designed to give visitors a sense of the island during a 70-minute tour (of Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Vineyard Haven), Liz finds nothing dull about the lore. Understandably. Take the captain murdered by his mutinous crew in the Pacific, for example: Before word could reach his wife, a bolt of lightning shot down her chimney, killing her. Liz's Turkey and Horsefeathers Tour occurs around Thanksgiving; her Bah Humbug is part of Christmas in Edgartown. By appointment, Liz also offers tours of some of the island's most fascinating graveyards. Tour fee: $10 per adult; call for current schedule.
FROLIC IN THE SNOW
Lucky the winter traveler who encounters cold and snow on Martha's Vineyard. If the weather outside is frightful, there are several delightful apre's-blizzard options. Parsons Pond in West Tisbury is a favored local spot for ice-skating. Sledding is swoopingly divine at both Tisbury's Lambert's Cove and on the slopes at Oak Bluff's Farm Neck Golf Course. For a real novelty, pick up a freshwater fishing license from any town hall and head out to West Tisbury with your rod for a little ice fishing. According to fisherman and fifth generation islander Jeff Canha, Uncle Seth's Pond on Lambert's Cove Road might net you pickerel, largemouth bass or yellow perch.
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DRESS LIKE A WHALER
Children can pretend they're aboard a Nantucket whaling ship at the Nantucket Historical Association Whaling Museum's Discovery Room (15 Broad St., 508-228-1894 ext. 0), where fall activities include interactive hands-on learning opportunities, dressing up like a whaler, playing computer games or making historic crafts. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 16. Hours Oct. 17-Dec. 18 are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Monday. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are $15 for adults; $8 for ages 6 to 17; and free for children under 6.
TALK LIKE A PIRATE
Another fun island destination for children is The Toy Boat on Nantucket's Straight Wharf (508-228-4552), where owner Lauren Brock has a unique mix of classic and handmade toys that emphasize creative play. Special free events held in the fall include International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Sept. 19) or National Grouch Day (Oct. 19).
Fall is the perfect time to explore Nantuckets quieter waters on a kayak. Put in at Washington Street Extension on the south side of the harbor, where Sea Nantucket (508-228-7499) rents kayaks. If you want to paddle around one of Nantucket's inland waters, like scenic Hummock Pond, Sea Nantucket will deliver for no extra charge. Half-day rentals are $40 for a single and $70 for a double.
FIND THE HIGHEST POINT
With close to half of its 50 square miles protected by conservation groups, Nantucket offers hikers a lot of unique trails of varying lengths and scenic variety. Trails maintained by the Nantucket Conservation Foundation (118 Cliff Rd., 508-228-2884 off Polpis Road offer hikers and mountain bikers miles and miles of narrow dirt roads through moors and coastal heath ablaze in fall foliage. Fall is the perfect time for a hike around the Windswept Bog, near the intersection of Polpis and Wauwinet roads. Other suggestions include Squam Swamp off Wauwinet Road; Sanford Farm; and Altar Rock, the highest point on Nantucket at 90 feet above sea level.
TAKE A CREATIVE VACATION
In the fall, the Nantucket Island School of the Design and the Arts (23 Wauwinet Rd., 508-325-6659) offers lectures and programs at its Sea View Farms, a converted dairy barn with several studio outbuildings in a meadow. Take part in one of the creative vacations at the rustic yet charming Harbor Cottages (508-228-4485), a 10-minute walk from downtown. NISDA also hosts artist residencies and Elderhostel International programs throughout the fall.
Another way to experience Nantucket's vibrant arts scene is by seeing a play in the restored Methodist Church, the home of the Theatre Workshop of Nantucket (2 Centre St., 508-228-4305). Th