50 Fun Things To Do Every Day of Every Season On The Cape & Islands Year-Round
The Cape may have nearly 560 miles of shoreline, but there is more to do here than sit on a picture-perfect beach, reading a book and working on your tan…not that there’s anything wrong with that.
We’ve put together 51 things to do; not just in the summer months, but every month. Read on for activities available all year long, a slew of stuff that starts up in the spring, fall festivities and winter attractions and, of course, lots of classic summertime Cape Cod fun. There’s even a section devoted to fun on the water.
This is the ultimate go-to list of what’s red hot right now from Falmouth to Provincetown and on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
Cape Cod National Seashore
An absolute must on the top of every visitor’s list. Millions come to take in the pristine beaches, self-guided nature trails, bicycle trails, lighthouses, picnic areas, scenic overlooks and historic sites. Begin your visit at one of the park’s two visitor centers: the Salt Pond Visitor Center, open year round, or the Province Lands Visitor Center, open May through October, to plan your expedition. The National Seashore provides an opportunity to see 43K acres of unspoiled land. Most activities are free. Beach fees: $15 per vehicle or $3 per person on foot or bicycle. Salt Pond Visitor Center: 50 Doane Rd., Eastham; 508-255-3421. Province Lands Visitor Center: Race Point Rd., Provincetown; 508-487-1256.
Cape Cod Canal
Not only a safe channel for boats, but a perfect place for recreation. On any given day, you can join in on the bicycling, jogging and rollerblading along the canal’s 7-mile service road. A self-guided bike/hike map, with numbered poles 500 feet apart, indicates points of interest. At the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center (CCCVC), open May through October, you’ll find interactive films and exhibits on the operation and history of the canal. CCCVC: 60 Ed Moffitt Dr., Sandwich; 508-833-9678.
Nantucket Whaling Museum
The definitive source of all things Nantucket is the Nantucket Historical Association. Whaling is a huge part of the island’s story; a concept that’s brilliantly depicted with the NHA’s recently renovated Whaling Museum. A fully reconstructed skeleton of a 46-foot sperm whale hangs overhead and the implements and treasures of whalers, imported from distant shores, fill the rooms. Kids will dig their very own ‘Discovery Room’. Open year round. Adults $15, seniors $10 and children $8. 15 Broad St.; 508-228-1894.
A comprehensive collection of the works of famed American artists Ralph and Martha Cahoon, housed in a restored 1775 Georgian Colonial, once their home. The couple started out as furniture decorators, but eventually transitioned to easel painting. In the 1960s Ralph found his true calling, mermaids. Other paintings on display include the works of Ralph Blakelock, William Bradford, James Buttersworth and John J. Ennekin. Closed Mondays and for the month of January. 4676 Falmouth Rd., Cotuit; 508-428-7581.
Relive childhood memories at one of four carousel locations on the Cape and Islands. History buffs will appreciate the Flying Horses Carousel on Oak Bluffs Ave. in Oak Bluffs (the oldest operating platform carousel in America and a National Historic Landmark), on Martha’s Vineyard, the restored Charles I.D. Looff 1912 hand-carved carousel at Heritage Museums and Gardens, 67 Grove St., Sandwich. Built in 1876 by Charles W.F. Dare, the Flying Horses Carousel offers rides for $1.50. The carousel ride at Heritage Museums and Gardens is free with admission. Other carousels include the Cape Cod Carousel & Fun House Arcade at 541 Main St., in downtown Hyannis, and the Island Carousel at Cape Cod Mall on Route 132, Hyannis.
Harwich Walking Trails
The Harwich Conservation Trust has preserved precious open space; acres and acres which, save for walking trails, remains untouched—no cement walkways, no big signs, no carnival feel, just land, glorious land. Check out their website at www.harwichconservationtrust.org. Click on ‘Did you hear about HCT’s new trail guide?’, scroll down through a couple of paragraphs and you’ll find the whole list. To request a free copy of the guide, you can either call them at 508-432-3997 or email at HCT@cape.com.
Cape Cod Soaring
Glider rides offer a truly unique way to take in Cape Cod. Our geographical make-up, with water on both sides, creates world-class thermals, the natural updrafts that propel the gliders. An enclosed cockpit allows for year-round touring. Multiple price packages are available, based on trip length. Tour prices range from $105 to $175. 114 Lovells Ln., Marstons Mills; 508-420-4201.
JFK Hyannis Museum
From the JFK statue at the entrance, to the multimedia exhibit inside, the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum offers a look inside the personal life of our 35th president and the time he spent at the family compound in Hyannisport. Four rooms of exhibits show various aspects of Kennedy’s life through over 80 photos, spanning from 1934 to 1963. Admission: $5 for adults; $2.50 for children 10 to 17. Open mid-February through December. 397 Main St., Hyannis; 508-790-3077.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Museum
The Wampanoag tribe was settled on Cape Cod long before anyone else and their museum celebrates the tribe’s heritage and history. The building was constructed in the early 1800s by a missionary to the Wampanoags. A massive diorama depicts the tribe’s home life. Not only is the museum a hub of history, it’s also the epicenter of their society; 85 percent of Wampanoag people live within 20 miles of the museum. Open year round, donations are appreciated. 414 Main St., Mashpee; 508-477-0208.
Polly Hill Arboretum
Enjoy more than 1,600 varieties of plants on this 70-acre preserve, an island landmark named for horticulturist Polly Hill and home of the famed West Tisbury Azaleas. For a peaceful walk, take one of the nature trails that crisscross the property. Tours are also available along with a year-round schedule of educational opportunities and lectures. Grounds are open from sunrise to sunset. Admission: $5 for adults; free for children. 809 State Rd., West Tisbury; 508-693-9426.
Provincetown Art Association Museum
There is always something new going on at the Provincetown Art Association Museum. Helping to uphold Provincetown’s long tradition of fostering the arts, the museum, founded in 1914, serves as a cultural center, displaying contemporary and historical art exhibits, hosting film screenings and art courses for adults and children. Admission: $5, adults; free for children. 460 Commercial St., Provincetown; 508-487-1750.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary
Massachusetts Audubon showcases the Cape’s diverse habitats; beaches, woods, salt marshes and ponds, in this 1,100 acre retreat. A wide variety of wildlife is drawn to the ecologically sensitive area. Choose a bird walk led by a naturalist, take part in an educational program or go on a guided tour of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Evening lectures and camping facilities are also offered. Trails are open every day, 8 a.m. to dusk. The Nature Center is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed Mondays in the off season. 291 Route 6, South Wellfleet; 508-349-2615.
This the kind of rare place that offers both children and parents a place to enjoy together. Children—pre-school aged to pre-teens, especially—will love exploring the 30-foot pirate ship and the planetarium; learning through the science-based exhibits; using their imagination at the puppet theatre; building things in the toddler play area and more. Admission: $6. Open daily, excluding select holidays. 577 Great Neck Rd., Mashpee; 508-539-8788.
Chappaquiddick Island & the On Time Ferry
If you want to tour the 14-acre Mytoi Japanese gardens, or just make the trip to Chappaquiddick, a short trip on the “Chappy” ferry will be in store for you. Once on shore, walk or pedal 2-1/2 miles to Mytoi with its winding footpaths through a birch walk, camellia dell, stone garden and hillside garden. Other attractions on Chappy are Pogue Lighthouse and offshore fishing. The small On Time Ferry (Memorial Wharf, Edgartown; 508-627-9427), with room for pedestrians, bikers and just three cars, transports you from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick in minutes. Fares: $4 per person round trip; $12 with car, $6 with bicycle.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
A 22-mile paved path from Dennis to Wellfleet offering one of the best ways to catch back-door glimpses of the real Cape Cod; past historic houses, cranberry bogs, salt marshes and ponds. Bike and gear rentals, as well as refreshments, are available at several points along the trail. An 8-mile extension from Harwich to Chatham takes cyclists along main roads through parts of Harwich and along the shoreline past such landmarks as Chatham Light and the Chatham Fish Pier. The trail starts at a parking area on Route 134 in South Dennis.
Starting in Spring
Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf
There’s just something so beachside summer vacation about mini-golf. Cape Cod has scads of courses and Pirate’s Cove is one of the most popular with its splashing water falls and sculpted ‘mountains’. There are two 18-hole courses, complete with sunken treasure ships and sharks. Open from mid-April through October. About $8 per person. 728 Route 28, South Yarmouth; 508-394-6200 or 508-394-5252.
Already in existence when the Cape Cod National Seashore was created, Art’s was grandfathered and they’re now the only ones allowed to drive in several protected Provincetown beach areas. Take the one hour tour along the coast and into the spectacular dunes or go with the sunset tour or a clambake, a lighthouse tour or a surf-fishing tour. Rates start at $25 for adults and $17 for kids. Offered mid-April through Halloween. Visit www.artsdunetours.com for details. 4 Standish St., Provincetown; 508-487-1950.
Sure, the Cape is known for its exceptional seafood, but wine? This local vineyard proves that our sandy peninsula has got the goods to both dine and wine. Several varietals, ranging from Nobska Red (a Cabernet blend) to a delicious Cranberry Chardonnay, are produced from the estate-grown grapes. Stop in any time for tastings, May through December, or a tour of the winery on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. in the summer months. 681 Sandwich Rd., East Falmouth; 508-457-5592.
Anybody will be sure to enjoy a ride aboard this traveling ode to history. Trips range from the two-hour scenic excursion to the three-hour elegant dinner train. Also offered are luncheon excursions and a family supper train with child-friendly entertainment. As you roll along, take time to notice the uniquely Cape Cod landscape. Scenic excursions from $16 to $20 and trains serving meals from $39.95 to $65.95. 252 Main St., Hyannis; 888-797-7245 or 508-771-3800.
At the seven-acre Cedar Spring Herb Farm (159 Long Pond Rd., Harwich; 508-430-4372), you can wander the organic herb gardens and winding woodland trails, or browse the small shop featuring homemade herbal remedies, skin products, fragrances and teas. The farm is open May to November, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For a different sort of experience, visit the Cape Cod Lavender Farm (Island Pond Trail, Harwich; 508-432-8397). This is the largest lavender farm on the East Coast and consists of some 14,000 plants, which combine to spread a wonderful aroma over the area when the flowers bloom in June and July.
The Pilgrims first landed in the New World in 1620 at Provincetown, as this 252 foot-tall granite tower so loftily reminds us. Join the millions who have climbed the 116 steps to the top for an incredible view of Provincetown, Cape Cod Bay and the Cape Cod National Seashore. A museum at the base of the monument offers exhibits about building the monument and Provincetown history. Open daily, April through November. Admission: $7 for adults; $5 for seniors and students; $3.50 for children. One High Pole Hill Rd., Provincetown; 508-487-1310.
Short, long, formal, informal, scenic, challenging—Cape Cod offers a great variety of road races to run. The 10-km Hyannis Marathon along the waterfront takes place in the spring. The popular Cape Cod Irish Pub Run in West Harwich and the 5-mile Brew Run in Brewster take place in the summer. But arguably the most widely known Cape Cod road race, attracting world-class runners to its challenging and scenic course, is the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race run every August.
Olde Barnstable Trolley
Sightsee while seated as Olde Barnstable Trolley takes you on a one-hour narrated tour of the historic town of Barnstable. The tour covers four-miles of quaint streets and history-filled sites, including Olde Kings Highway, Hyannisport, Centerville and more. An excellent way to see the town and get around, the trolley can also be used as a shuttle service between eight different sites. Tickets ($10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for kids) available at the JFK Hyannis Museum, 397 Main St., Hyannis; 978-767-3761 or 508-771-TOUR.
You’ll find eight working lighthouses on the Cape, mile-for-mile one of the largest concentrations in the world. Overlooking the Atlantic, it’s the region’s oldest and highest lighthouse and the observation deck offers an incredible view, not just of the ocean, but also the high-tech FAA domes and an ornate stone edifice, known as the Jenny Lind Tower. Children must measure 51 inches to climb the lighthouse. Open mid-May through mid-October, admission $4. 27 Highland Rd., Truro; 508-487-1121.
Ocean Science Exhibit Center
Learn about the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the vessels and tools developed by its engineers that scientists world-wide now use. Short videos provide an introduction to WHOI, show a day in the life of the deep submersible Alvin, and highlight the 1985-1986 discovery and exploration of the wreck of the Titanic. Step inside a full-size model of the inner sphere of Alvin. Requested donation is $2. Open Monday through Saturday, May through October, and Tuesday through Friday in November and December. Closed major holidays and January through March. 15 School St., Woods Hole; 508-289-2663 or 508-289-2700.
A veritable smorgasbord of classic fun; golf driving range, skateboarding park, in-line skating rink, batting and soccer cages, large game room and arcade, and the pièce de résistance: Skull Island Adventure Miniature Golf Course. The 38,000-square-foot golf course is a nod to the Swiss Family Robinson, with features like a large tree house, 20 waterfalls and 25 fountains. Open late February to late October. Prices vary. 934 Route 28, South Yarmouth; 508-398-6070.
Nantucket Historical Association’s Walking Tour
Learn about Nantucket’s rich history of whaling captains and their intrepid wives, Quaker roots and the Great Fire of 1846 on a 1-1/2-hour walking tour of historic downtown. With more than 20 properties under its umbrella, the NHA brings island history alive and provides an unbeatable perspective of how Nantucket came to be an international destination. Tours are offered in the summer only; hours vary. $10 for adults; $8 for seniors; $3.50 for children. 15 Broad St., Nantucket; 508-228-1894, ext. 0.
Cape Cod Melody Tent
Get up close and personal with your favorite stars at the intimate Melody Tent. Among those who have performed under the big-top are Tom Jones, the Indigo Girls, Willie Nelson and LeAnn Rimes. Tony Bennett is always a highlight of the season. Other than the roster of performers, not much has changed here in the last 55 years – so olde Cape Cod. Daytime events include food festivals and child-friendly shows. Visit www.melodytent.org for calendar. 21 West Main St., Hyannis; 508-775-5630.
Stroll along Hyannis Harbor and check out these artists’ shanties. The Harbor Your Arts shanties provide the opportunity to connect with local artists in a setting rich in natural beauty. Photographers, painters, sculptors, jewelry designers and potters have all found a creative home inside one of the14 harbor-side shanties. Open weekends in late May to mid-June; and daily mid-June to late September. At the Ocean Street Docks, Hyannis.
See Hyannis off-shore and on in one these quirky, ‘quacky’ vehicles. The amphibious machines take you on a 45 minute trip throughout downtown Hyannis and then launch into Lewis Bay. Once in the water, you’ll cruise past historic Kennedy landmarks, working lighthouses, and beautiful Cape Cod beaches. Quacking upon entry to the water is mandatory! Tickets prices are $17 for adults and $14 for kids, seniors, and students. Main St., Hyannis; 508-790-2111.
4th of July Celebrations
The Cape celebrates the most patriotic day of the year throughout Fourth of July week, scheduling fireworks, parades and fun-filled family events. Town to town, patriots can find activities such as picnics, pie-eating contests, face painting, children’s shows and more. But the festivities would not be complete without fireworks. Some of the most notable shows take place at Rock Harbor in Orleans, MacMillan Pier in Provincetown and Falmouth Heights Beach. Check town websites for dates and details.
Take a 2½-hour narrated bus tour that covers all six towns, including views of the Gay Head Cliffs in Aquinnah, Edgartown Light, the gingerbread cottages in Oak Bluffs, and miles of stunningly picturesque vistas. Operating mid-April to November. Tickets: $26, adults; $14, children. To make reservations, call 508-627-TOUR (8687). Check their website at www.mvtour.com for details and pick-up locations.
Since the cranberry is Cape Cod’s most famous fruit, a fall tour of a working cranberry bog is in order. The Cape Cod Bog and Cranberry Company offers 90-minute tours of their organic 10-acre bog; includes a month-by-month explanation of the harvesting process, a look at equipment used in daily operations and a meet-and-greet with some of the animals on the farm. Tickets: $15 for adults; $10 for kids. Tours are by reservation only. Located at 374 Main St., North Harwich; 508-432-0790 or 508-364-6474.
Bourne Scallop Festival
Looking for food, fun, and live entertainment? Then look no further than this 40-year-old celebration of the hallowed local shellfish; games and rides for kids, daily arts and craft shows, a home show, and fantastic food. The festival runs for three days in September, and is located steps from the Cape Cod Canal, in Buzzards Bay Park on Main St. in Buzzards Bay. General Admission is $5, and scallop combo dinners are a steal at $18. Don’t miss this American Bus Association top 100 rated event. 508-759-6000; www.bournescallopfest.com
Fall for the Arts Festival
The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod celebrates autumn with its annual event in the towns of Dennis, Hyannis and Falmouth. Galleries, arts foundations and restaurants in each town team up to create the weekend-long extravaganza. It’s free for everyone and includes live concerts, painting demonstrations and special exhibits at museums and theaters. Participating restaurants offer special menu items, cooking classes and live entertainment. A great chance to buy some local art, listen to some local music and try some local cuisine.
OysterFest is the town of Wellfleet’s largest—can’t-miss—event. Always the weekend after Columbus Day, the event kicks off on Friday and is packed with activities through Sunday, including an art auction, 5K road race, cooking demonstrations, children’s entertainment, tours, the Main Street Festival with fine arts and crafts vendors, music and food. The main event every year is the oyster shucking competition. The two-day festival is a fun and lively celebration of Wellfleet’s shell-fishing history. www.wellfleetbayoysterfest.com
Boat Builders’ Show
The wooden boat builders’ show offers maritime fun for the whole family. The February show’s highlights include boat-building demonstrations, displays of boating accessories and, of course, beautifully crafted boats. Truly a rare opportunity to get a good look at the painstaking work and dedication required to build a beautiful seaworthy vessel. Admission is $5. Free for children under 12. Held at the Resort & Conference Center at Hyannis, 35 Scudder Ave., Hyannis, 866-828-8259.
Chatham Christmas Stroll
It just doesn’t get any more Norman Rockwell than this New England holiday stroll: horse-drawn hayrides, decorating the town tree and a reading of “The Night Before Christmas”, Santa arriving at the Chatham Fish Pier via boat and holiday shopping open houses where the merchants up and down Main Street offer goodies to quell any shopping hunger pangs. Dates and details can be found at www.chathaminfo.com/events. Falmouth, Harwich, Osterville, Yarmouthport and Nantucket host strolls, as well.
Chatham’s First Night Celebration
Crowds of revelers cruise up and down Main Street and in and out of a host of activities. Purchase a First Night button ($15.00 adults, $5.00 children) at a participating business for unlimited entry to the dozens of musical acts taking place all afternoon and evening long. The night finishes with a big BANG with fireworks set off over Oyster Pond. Event schedule and a list of where to buy buttons can be found at www.firstnightchatham.com.
Falmouth Christmas Parade
This annual parade is a classic. Main Street is lined with lights and garland as floats and street performers parade through the spectator-lined streets. The sidewalks fill up fast, so consider getting there early to get a good spot. And you may want to consider bringing along a thermos of hot cocoa – Cape Cod winters can be chilly. Parade route focuses on Main Street, Falmouth; 508-548-8500 for general information.
Holiday Theater Performances
The Harwich Junior Theater (HJT) and the Academy of Performing Arts both offer timeless holiday entertainment every year. At the Academy of Performing Arts, in addition to a classic Christmas-themed play that runs through December, they put on a show over one weekend that’s heavy on seasonal music. At HJT, the holiday performance has a family flavor and generally runs for most of the month of December. Show details are on the theaters’ websites. Harwich Junior Theater: 105 Division St., West Harwich; 508-432-2002; www.hjtcapecod.org. Academy of Performing Arts: 120 Main St., Orleans; 508-255-1963; www.apa1.org.
Cape Cod is known for its ample fishing opportunities. Between May and October town harbors and marinas are full of boats to charter for a memorable day of deep-sea saltwater fishing. Aboard the Fishtale, passengers sail out of Saquatucket Harbor in search of bluefish, cod, haddock, tuna, pollock and striped bass. Fishing trips of up to six people cost between $500 for 4 hours and $800 for 8 hours. The Aquarius, an ultra-modern 35-foot sportsfisherman sailing from Barnstable Harbor, takes care of everything, from tackle and bait, to cleaning the catch of the day. Rates range from $550 for 4 hours to $775 for 8 hours. Check area websites for additional fishing opportunities.
Take the kids on an adventure on the high seas; a swashbuckling excursion with Pirate Adventures on the Sea Gypsy in Hyannis (508-430-0202) or Orleans (508-255-8811). Your little scalawags will don sailor sashes, have their faces painted, and use a secret map to search for sunken treasure. During a pirate ship mishap, the kiddie crew must fire water cannons to save their bounty! Sea Gypsy sails six times daily mid-June through Labor Day. The trip is geared to ages 3 to 10, but all are welcomed. Cost: $20 per person. Reservations required.
Some of the best whale watching in the world can be experienced off the coast of Cape Cod at Stellwagen Bank, feeding ground for humpback, finback and minke whales. Three outfits on the Cape offer three- to four-hour excursions. Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises out of Barnstable Harbor (888-942-5392) and the Dolphin Fleet and Portuguese Princess Excursions (800-442-3188), out of Provincetown, offer daily trips. Prices range from $37 to $45 for adults and from $26 to $29 for children. Be sure to bring a camera to capture the exhilarating sight of these mammoth creatures.
Cape Cod is kayaking paradise: cruise the Provincetown coastline in an ocean kayak from Flyer’s Boatyard in Provincetown (508-487-0898 x 205); paddle down the Bass River in a tandem kayak from Howie’s Kayaks in West Dennis (508-398-0060); or take a guided tour of Barnstable Harbor through Rideaway Kayaks (508-247-0827), just to name a few. Flyer’s Boatyard rates: $30 for 4 hours in a single-passenger kayak; $50 for a double-seater. Howie’s Kayaks’ rates: $20 for 90-minutes in a single; $35, tandem. Rideaway’s day rates: $50 single kayak; $80 tandem kayak.
Lobster Roll Cruise
What’s better than eating fresh seafood on a cruise across Cape Cod Bay? The Lobster Roll Cruise offers both lunch and dinner aboard their 58-foot custom-built vessel. During the 90-minute sailing and culinary adventure, passengers can watch the constantly changing scenery while sipping a cocktail and nibbling on tempting treats such as lobster rolls, chicken Caesar salad or prime rib. Lunch cruise costs $27; dinner cruise is $42. 356 Sesuit Neck Rd., East Dennis; 508-385-1686.
Take a sailing trip to yesteryear on the Bay Lady II. Your sail will take you either across the bay towards the bluffs of Corn Hill or around Long Point Light at the tip of the Cape in the direction of Wood End Lighthouse: it all depends on the wind. Departs from MacMillan Pier with several trips daily, including the sunset sail. From $20 for adults and $12 for children. Reservations required. 20 Berry Ln., Provincetown; 508-487-9308.
Viking Princess Nature Cruises
For Outer Cape family fun and education, try the Critter Cruise, a 75-minute interactive exploration. The family ‘mateys’…arrrgh… might prefer the Pirate Fun Cruise. Just about anyone will enjoy a Provincetown Harbor cruise. Rates range from $9 for a child’s passage on a harbor cruise to $25 for a sunset cruise and everything in between. Check out the lengthy list of excursion options at www.capecodecotours.com. MacMillan Wharf, Provincetown; 508-487-7323.
Down Woods Hole way, check out the ninety minute Discovery Cruise; touch tons of critters, pull up a lobster trap or bottom dredge, see the catch in the tide-pool touch tank, and learn how to collect and analyze marine data. Everything is catch and release, and kids are taught to handle marine life respectfully. Boats run Monday through Saturday during July and August. Cost is $22 for adults, children are $17. Water St., Woods Hole; 800-376-2326.
Starfish Water Safarisvh
The Starfish—the only riverboat cruise on the Cape—takes a relaxing ride down Bass River, the largest all-salt tidal river on the Eastern Seaboard. Bring your binoculars for the 90-minute cruise because you won’t want to miss any of the spectacular sites—beautiful riverfront estates, sea captain’s homes, windmills, a lighthouse and abundant wildlife. Onboard are a full bar and refreshments. Reservations are strongly recommended. Tickets: $18, adults; $7, kids. 109 Main St., West Dennis; 508-362-5555.