Western New York Family
Lighthouses, Museums, Seafood and More can be found on Cape Cod
Cape Cod, just the name invokes images of seaside cottages, lighthouses, seafood, and even the Kennedy family. Cape Cod, a peninsula in eastern Massachusetts, is all that, plus a whole lot more. Last summer my family took a road trip to Cape Cod and spent a week enjoying all that the area has to offer.
Why Cape Cod?
At the beginning of last year my family had been tossing around ideas for where to go for summer vacation and thought that maybe somewhere in New England would be nice. As fate would have it, my husband and I attended the annual fund raising auction held at the high school that both my older sons graduated from. One of the live auction items was a week at a 4-bedroom vacation home in Pocasset on Cape Cod. We bid on it and had the highest bid.
As a family of six we need larger accommodations, so it was perfect. And since the cottage slept 8, we told our older sons they could invite one of their friends to join us. We did have to take two cars, however, as we would never be able to fit 7 people, plus luggage and food items, in the minivan. It also gave the boys the opportunity to go off and do stuff on their own, such as go to the beach or go golfing. Here are several links to finding vacation rentals on Cape Cod. www.memorablegetaways.net, which is where we stayed, www.capecodtravel.com, www.capecodrentals.com and www.vacationcapecod.com. Keep in mind that you have to make vacation home reservations well in advance, so prime locations may be booked for this summer.
Things to do
The vacation home, which also had a full kitchen and dining porch, was located beside a small lake on the “Upper Cape”. It included amenities like a paddle boat, canoe, fishing dock and a small beach nearby, so rather than sightseeing every day of our vacation, we planned our week to include a few days of just relaxing at “home.” My ten year old, who loves to fish, brought along his fishing pole and spent hours by the lake fishing with my husband. We also enjoyed building sand castles on the beach and using the paddleboat.
Places to see
There are many things to see and do on Cape Cod; one couldn’t possibly see everything the area has to offer in one trip. We targeted three different areas to visit on three separate days during our stay: Sandwich, Chatham, and Hyannis.
Sandwich, founded in 1637, was the first town to be settled on Cape Cod, so it is filled with history and New England charm. (www.sandwichchamber.org). My favorite place that we visited was the Sandwich Glass Museum, which highlights glassware that was made by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company which operated here from 1825 to 1907.
The museum tour begins with a glassblowing demonstration, which takes place on the hour. Afterwards, stroll through the museum to learn about glassmaking from ancient times to the 19th and 20th Century. Kids are given a worksheet with a treasure hunt to located items located in the various displays; they receive a small prize at the end for completing the sheet.
I especially like the way the over 5,000 glass items were on display; many of the displays were in front of windows, allowing natural light to illuminate the glass. I could have spent hours here looking closely at each item; however, we did want to visit other places in town; so a couple hours had to suffice. Sandwich Glass Museum, 129 Main Street, Sandwich, 508-888-0251 www.sandwichglassmuseum.org .
Our next stop in Sandwich was the Cape Cod Canal Visitor’s Center, which gives visitors an overview of the Cape Cod Canal, with a variety of interactive exhibits. The canal, which was created in the early 1900’s, saved ships 162 miles by using the canal, instead of traveling around the tip of Cape Cod. Today the canal, which is the widest sea-level canal without locks in the world, is used for both commercial shipping, as well as recreational use. Cape Cod Canal Center, 60 Ed Moffitt Drive, Sandwich, 508-833-9678, www.capecodcanal.us
We also visited the HeritageMuseums and Gardens in Sandwich, which is actually a collection of three museums located on 100 acres of gardens and nature trails. These museums include the AmericanHistoryMuseum, which has changing exhibits, as well as military memorabilia, the Art Museum, which has an extensive collection of New England Folk Art, as well as a working antique carousel, and the J.K.LillyIIIAntiqueAutomobileMuseum, which has more than 30 vintage cars on two levels. HeritageMuseums and Gardens, Pine and Grove Streets, Sandwich, 508-888-3300, www.heritagemuseumsandgardens.org
The town of Chatham (www.chathaminfo.com) which has numerous upscale shops, as well as a historic lighthouse along the Atlantic Ocean, was about an hour east of where we were staying. We spent one day of our vacation there. After shopping and having lunch, we walked the mile from town to the lighthouse, where parking is at a premium. Actually, parking is hard to find anywhere in Chatham unless you arrive early in the day.
We had to wait in line about an hour for the opportunity to climb the 44 stairs and a ladder to get to the top of the lighthouse tower. However, once we got there, the view was great! The lighthouse is only open for tours Wednesday afternoons from 1:00-3:30pm. (Admission is free) Afterwards, we took a long walk along LighthouseBeach.
For dinner, we headed a north to Orleans and enjoyed dining at the Lobster Claw, which has been named the “Best Family Restaurant on Cape Cod.” Naturally, we had lobster. My oldest son, who really doesn’t like seafood, tried the deep fried lobster, which he said was delicious. (www.lobsterclaw.com)
Hyannis has a lot to offer visitors. (www.hyannis.com). Our first stop was the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory, which has a walk-through, self-guided tour, where visitors can peer inside the actual factory through large picture windows and see potato chips being made. The factory makes 350,000 bags per day of their unique kettle-cooked chips. Everyone get two sample size bags at the end of the tour and can purchase their products in the gift shop on the way out. (www.capecodchips.com)
Next on our agenda was a stop at the Toad Hall Car Collection, a private collection of over 50 classic sports cars. Most are English and all are red. The boys, as well as my husband, really enjoyed looking at them (www.toadhallcars.com). We then headed into the main part of town and had lunch at one of the many restaurants that line Main Street. While sitting at an outdoor table, we caught a brief glimpse of actor Adam Sandler, who was in Cape Cod that week filming the movie, I Hate You Dad.
No visit to Hyannis would be compete without a stop at the John F. Kennedy Museum, (www.jfkhyannismuseum.org) a multi-media exhibit which chronicles with photos and other memorabilia the years that JFK spent summering on Cape Cod at the Kennedy “compound,” which the family still maintains today. You can view the “compound” from the water if you take one of the HyannisHarbor cruise tours.
Since taking a harbor cruise is the thing to do in Hyannis, we took a tour on the Bay Spirit, a 63 foot catamaran (www.bayspirittours.com). On our 75 minute tour we passed several lighthouses and had a great view of the Kennedy compound. There are also many other cruise lines operating out of the inner harbor, including ships that will take you to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
So Much to See, So Little Time
You would need more than a week to see and do all that Cape Cod has to offer. For example, we didn’t have the time to drive to Provincetown, on the very tip of the cape, which is known as an artist colony, as well as a natural area with sand dunes. There are also dozens of beaches on Cape Cod, including beaches located on the Atlantic Ocean, Cape CodBay, and Nantucket Sound. One can also go whale watching or deep-sea fishing, rent a bike to travel on one of the many bike trails on Cape Cod or enjoy nature along the Cape Cod National Seashore.
For general Cape Cod information, including a link to their tourism guide, visit www.capecodchamber.org