Featured Stories & Articles from Cape Cod Travel Magazine: Daytrip to Quincy
Cape Cod is the perfect place to stay and discover not only the natural beauty and culture throughout this peninsula, but the continuing story of how our country was founded and a new nation was designed. This region, known as the Massachusetts Cultural Coast, provides a playground for the history buff and a haven for art lovers throughout the communities of Cape Cod, the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Plymouth and cities like New Bedford, Fall River, and Quincy. Here are two day trips of special interest to those with a thirst for history: Plymouth and Quincy. Both are within a 30-minute to 2 hour drive from points on Cape Cod and make for a great adventure during your stay.
Daytrip to Quincy: Journey to the Heart of America’s History
Long before David McCullough published his book John Adams in 2001, the city of Quincy was home to the Adams National Historic Park. Prior to that year, annual attendance at the park was less than 50K. Last year it was 300K. According to the park’s website, John Adams and the HBO produced mini-series of the same name, helped spur interest in both the city, one of the oldest in the country, and the park.
Quincy is about 45 minutes north of the Cape Cod Canal, making it a great place for a daytrip. You can see the sights and still be back on the Cape early enough for dinner.
The park’s Visitor Center is located on Quincy’s main drag, Hancock Street. Here you’ll find scale models of the homes where John Adams and John Quincy Adams were born and the ‘Old House’, a continuous-running video, a souvenir section and ticket sales for the trolley and tours. Trolleys for the short trip to the presidential sites queue up out front.
Before boarding the trolley, or maybe when you’re done with the tours, check out this downtown area. It’s where the United First Parish Church is located, just a few doors down from the Visitor Center, as well as the Hancock Cemetery, right across the street. Both are worth a visit.
Built in 1828, United First Parish is a beacon of understated Yankee elegance. The creamy white pews and the tall clear-glass windows are sedate and simple. The high ceiling is covered with hand-carved raised lotus flowers of varying sizes.
The church had not yet been finished when John Adams, the second President of the United States, died in 1826. After its completion, his son, John Quincy Adams, the country’s sixth president, petitioned the church to have the remains of his father and mother, Abigail, moved there and encrypted in the basement. John Quincy and his wife, Louisa, are encrypted there as well. This is the only place in the world to hold the remains of two former U.S. Presidents and the sense of history is incredibly moving.
Across Hancock Street is the 200-plus-year-old Hancock Cemetery where the crypts and slate tablets bear such hallowed names such as Adams and Quincy. The cemetery is wide open, no charge and no tour.
If you’re looking to grab lunch there are several choices. Acapulcos Mexican Restaurant, a casual sit-down place with lots of southwestern favorites, is in the first block behind First United Parish. Down Hancock a couple of blocks is Alba, an old bank building converted into a stylish restaurant. The menu offers an eclectic mix of Italian and Mediterranean. Take out places include the Boars Nest, with unique sandwiches, and Eatin’ Healthy, whose name is pretty self-explanatory.
Whenever you’re ready, hop onto the park’s trolley for the trip back to the birth of American politics.
South of downtown are the John Adams and John Quincy Adams Birthplaces. Both houses, 17th-century saltboxes, sit where they were initially built, within 75 yards of each other. Each house is sparsely furnished with period pieces, including a hand-carved wooden rocker said to have held the future presidents.
After seeing the stark and simple birthplaces, the now 10,000 square-foot ‘Peacefield’, or ‘Old House’, located about a half-mile north of the Visitor Center, is spectacular. The home was purchased by John and Abigail in 1788, after their return from Europe, where John had served in diplomatic posts during the Revolutionary War. It was built in 1731. It would eventually house four generations of Adamses and ultimately be donated by the family to the United States.
Four-and-a-half acres still surround Peacefield and visitors are encouraged to explore the grounds while waiting for their ranger-led tour. Walking paths are hedged with dwarf boxwood and roses climb the trellises along the back of the building. Adjacent to the house is the wisteria covered Stone Library, built in 1870 to house the family’s growing collection of manuscripts, books and pamphlets.
Once inside, it’s tough not to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’. The property is lovely, exquisitely preserved and extravagantly decorated. When John and Abigail bought the home, it was just seven rooms. They immediately began expansions and Peace Field now has 22 rooms.
Virtually every room on the tour has an amazing story; in the Paneled Room the couple dined with President James Monroe. In the Dining Room, oil portraits of four early presidents surround the gleaming table. The Study served as workspace for both presidents when they used Peace Field as their ‘Summer Whitehouse’. Even the President’s Bedroom is on the tour.
If you’ve still got some time, or are looking for a meal before heading back to the Cape, head north, along the Furnace Brook Parkway to Marina Bay, a harbor-side development with high-rise condos and a boardwalk filled with restaurants and a handful of shops.
Restaurant choices vary from Cream & Sugar, a warm down-home coffee shop, to Siro’s, a big place with several dining rooms, all with views of the boat-filled marina. The menu is Italian with some seafood thrown in. A selection of sandwiches is available all evening, perfect for a quick meal on the deck before hitting the road. Other restaurants include the WaterClub, a seasonal eatery that offers classic pub food, signature drinks and a late-night club scene.
Small shops also dot the boardwalk, places like the aptly named Dockside Gifts, which is part gift shop and part clothing boutique. Adorable flip flops adorned with bright, patterned grosgrain bows and luscious oversized scarves in lightweight fabrics are perfect for casual Cape dinners.
Quincy may still be Boston’s lesser-known cousin, but with its deep history and great museums, variety of restaurants and a happening waterfront, it was only a matter of time before the crowds started coming. Maybe it was McCullough’s book, maybe it was the miniseries or maybe it was just time, but this town has clearly been discovered…and is worth discovering.
Adams National Historic Park
1250 Hancock St. • 617-770-1175
United First Parish Church
1306 Hancock St. • 617-773-1290
Next to City Hall at 1305 Hancock St
1388 Hancock St • 617-479-1900
1486 Hancock St. • 617-376-2522
1429 Hancock St.
617-376-0606 • www.boarsnestdeli.com
1253 Hancock St. • 617-657-6001
Siro’s at Marina Bay
307 Victory Rd. • 617-472-4500
Cream & Sugar
305 Victory Rd. • 617-770-3600
319 Victory Rd. • 617-328-6500
Dockside Gifts & Etc.
304 Quincy Rd. • 617-472-0002Back to Cape Cod Travel Guide Stories