The Cape escape has begun.
It’s not easy to get there, given that traffic has picked up, but once you’re there it’s worth the drive. I have been lucky enough to spend summers on Cape Cod since I was a child. Record crowds are predicted this summer, which is great for local businesses — but not so great for families seeking a restful vacation.
If you’re planning a trip to the Cape, there’s plenty to do when you’re not at the beach! Other than the usual mini-golf and go-carts (which are also fun!), here are some of my favorites.
Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail :: Wellfleet
I almost don’t want to give this hidden trail away, but it’s quite magical and great for younger kids because of the wooden boardwalk. It’s an easy walk through a beautiful landscape, and it’s close to the ocean and Marconi Station for a bit of history.
Cape Cod Pirate Adventures :: Hyannis
We took our son on this excursion when he was 4, and he loved it! The kids dress up as pirates, read treasure maps, and become part of the “crew” on this 90-minute pirate ship adventure. And there are plenty of spots close by on the water to grab lunch before or after your trip.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History :: Brewster
My son attends a nature summer camp here, but there is plenty to see inside the museum if you’re not attending camp. And it’s great for all ages! Check out the mini-aquarium, feed butterflies in the butterfly garden, attend a guided nature walk, and learn about the ospreys nesting close by. There are also beautiful adjacent conservation lands and a path that leads down to the beach. (And while this article is not about food, I feel obligated to throw in a plug for nearby Hopkins House Bakery.)
In-person shows are back this summer! Attend a family theater production, or sign your kid up for a theater class. Check the website for the schedule.
Heritage Museum and Gardens :: Sandwich
There is so much to do here, and you can bring a picnic lunch or buy lunch at the cafe. There are 100 beautiful acres of flower gardens to explore, an antique car museum inside one of the buildings, a carousel, and walking trails. We have attended family concerts and festivals here in the past as well.
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary :: Wellfleet
This spot offers wildlife to observe, with trails that wind through marshlands and out to the ocean at low tide. There are plenty of guided and self-guided activities, including an indoor nature center. One summer we signed up to make fish prints on T-shirts, which my son thought was very cool. Other activities available include a bird walk, a turtle prowl, and a seashore ramble to look for wildlife such as crabs, turtles, and fish. There is a summer camp as well.
Aquatic Exploration Cruise :: Barnstable/Hyannis
This two-hour ocean cruise operates out of Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary. Kids can learn about marine life and observe sea creatures — some hands-on! Unfortunately, the program was not running last year, but hopefully it will be back up this summer. (If the boat doesn’t end up running this summer, Long Pasture is still worth checking out for its butterfly garden, kayaking, and trails to the beach.)
Cape Cod Waterways :: Dennis
We have rented both kayaks and pedal boats here. There are also paddleboards for those more adventurous. The water is calm, and the wildlife views are wonderful. There are family-size kayaks that can fit two adults and two kids. We also found the pedal boat to be fun with our son sitting in the middle between my husband and me.
Tanglewood Marionettes :: Brewster
An old-fashioned marionette puppet show is offered weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the First Parish Meeting House. Shows include classics such as Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.
Shark Center :: Chatham
Learn all about great white sharks and receive a shark tooth fossil at your visit. Reservations book up well in advance, so be sure to book early before you get to the Cape.