Cape Cod, Family Vacation Ideas - Tidepool Walks, Peter Rabbit, and a Family Supper Train. Sea air, sand dunes, miles of
gorgeous beaches, soft clouds and natural beauty make the Chatham/Brewster area
of the Cape the ideal place for making memories with the kids. Slightly
off-the-beaten- path, the Cape provides visitors with quaint shops, cozy local
museums, excellent eating options, art spaces and historic places to be enjoyed
at an easy going vacation pace. Relax and rejuvenate; become recharged and
inspired while having fun.
Walk in the woods.
Nickerson State Park does not fit the picture most often associated with the
Cape. No salt ponds or sand dunes, instead there are piney woods framing the
banks of eight crystal-clear fresh water ponds. The mysteriously beautiful
“kettle ponds,” are the remnants of the glaciers that carved out the Cape more
than 10,000 years ago. Bonus points: The Cape Cod Rail Trail follows a
former railroad right-of-way for 22 miles through the towns of Dennis, Harwich,
Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. The paved surface has few hills and
well-marked automobile crossings making it ideal for cyclists. In addition, the
trail has a wide unpaved shoulder on one side to accommodate horseback riding,
walkers, and runners. (Nickerson
State Park. Rte.
6A, Brewster, MA. 1(508) 896-3491 or
Only for children.
A cozy place for children to touch and discover, act and react, The Cape Cod
Children’s Museum embraces the fun of childhood in a funky hands-on way. A
pirate ship, an indoor planetarium, and a puppet theater meet the test with high
marks. Toddlers have their own play area ideal for a rainy day on the Cape. (The Cape Cod Children’s
Museum. 577 Great
Neck Road Mashpee, MA 02649. 1(508)539-8788 or
Where’s the fire?
Fire and History Museum in Brewster is an easy outing. Within the museum complex
visitors will find more than 30 antique fire engines the best of which is a
fancy French provincial style engine (circa 1837) from Philadelphia as well as a
Mercedes Benz engine worth a million even in retirement. Bonus points:
Stroll the grounds and enjoy a free demonstration by the town smithy or stop at
the old-fashioned apothecary shop for tonic and powders. (Fire and History Museum.
1439 Main Street Brewster, MA. 1(508) 896-5711.)
Visit with the famous Peter
Reddy Fox and Chatterer the Red Squirrel, Jimmy Skunk, Grandfather Frog, Johnny
Chuck, Sammy Jay, and Hooty Owl? Thornton Burgess, a Cape Cod native, created
these enchanting characters and brought them to life in his storybook series,
The Tales of Peter Rabbit. The Thornton Burgess Museum celebrates the
essence of the tales and their still timely messages about humanity,
conservation and love of wildlife. The spirit of the stories may be felt within
the Green Briar Nature Center, located on Smiling Pool near the now famous
57-acre Briar Patch Conservation Area, home of Peter Rabbit and many of the
other Thornton Burgess animal characters. Interpretive pathways are open to the
public. Bonus points:
The Green Briar Jam Kitchen is not-to-be-missed. And while the museum hours are
seasonal the website offers stories to read and pages
to color. (
The Thornton Burgess Museum.
6 Discovery Hill Road East Sandwich, MA 02537. 1(508)888-6870 or
See how it’s all connected.
Interactive, edgy and fun, The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History provides hours
of hands-on time for all ages. This museum makes each visitor love the Cape and
its connection to the sea. From “Living on the Edge” an interactive coastal
exhibit and its compliment “Coastal Change” to fresh and salt water tanks with
an assortment of indigenous residents and nature trails through wildflowers,
woodlands, marsh, and fresh and saltwater habitats. Meet Myrtle-the-Turtle, a
gregarious diamond-backed terrapin; go birding; try museum sponsored skywatching
and nature hunts. Bonus points: Noteworthy is their innovative hands on
KidSummer day program. (The Cape Cod Museum of
869 Route 6A Brewster, 02631. 1(508)896-3867 or
Is it art?
Child friendly and comfortable, the Cape Cod Museum of Art is a fine place
to go with kids. To connect with young visitors the museum staff created
“Treasure Hunt in the Galleries” so that families may enjoy the museum together
while answering questions that take them through the exhibitions. It is even
possible to draw in the galleries. At the end of the mini excursion children
receive a small prize Bonus points: In addition to an extensive summer
camp program, the museum also conducts workshops during popular school breaks. (The Cape Cod Museum of
Art. Route 6A,
Dennis, MA 02638. 1(508)385-4477 or
Where the wild things are.
Located on the
“elbow” Cape Cod is the 7,600-acre Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge stretching
from Nantucket Sound to the North Atlantic is for the birds. The barrier island
wilderness provides sanctuary for a wide variety of plants and animals living
among the sand dunes, freshwater ponds, and salt and freshwater marshes. It is
where the wild things are. What you take in you must take out. There are no
picnic or camp sites on the refuge. Hike the nature trails; enjoy the natural
beauty and quiet. Beach combing, shellfishing, and surf fishing are popular
activities along the edge. North and South Monomoy Islands are accessible by
boat only. Bonus points: The Monomoy Lighthouse in service from 1828 to
1923 is the only evidence of human occupation. The lighthouse complex on the
south end of South Monomoy Island, includes a wooden lightkeeper's house, a cast
iron light tower lined with brick, and an adjacent brick generator house. (Monomoy National Wildlife
Way, Morris Island Chatham, Massachusetts 02633. 1(508)945-0594, 443-4661 or
Walk along the edge.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is a must-see for anyone visiting the Cape.
Majestically beautiful dunes, cliffs and tide pools frame beaches that embrace
the sea. Within the park there are 10 self-guided nature trails and three paved
Ranger-guided canoe tours, surfcasting and shellfishing demonstrations are
provided seasonally for a modest fee.
The Salt Pond Visitor Center
in Eastham and the Province Lands Visitor Center in Provincetown have
orientation movies, exhibits, a bookstore and information services. Historic
sites within the boundaries of the National Seashore, include the Old
Schoolhouse Museum, the Edward Penniman House, the Doane Homestead Site, and the
Marconi Wireless Station Site. (The Cape Cod National
Marconi Station Site Road Wellfleet, MA 02667 Headquarters
Salt Pond Visitor Information 1(508)255-3421 Province Lands, Seasonal Visitor
Information 1(508)487-1256 or
Get a good book.
Every vacation deserves one
if not two good books. Where the Sidewalk Ends on Main Street in Chatham is the
bookstore to satisfy the need for a good read. Bonus points: From time to
time they host unique reading events that include
Lucy the Reading Dog. Lucy is a wonderful black lab who is trained as a READ
dog. She loves children and looks forward to reading with children throughout
the year. (Where the Sidewalk Ends.
432 Main Street Chatham, MA 02633. 1(508) 945-0499 or www.wherethesidewalkends.booksense.com
The train, the train!
At the Chatham Railroad Museum in Chatham of course time vignettes abound. The
1887 railroad station is a time-link with the area’s past. Vintage photos,
treasured artifacts, model trains, and an old caboose from the New York Central
System provide visitors with an idea about life on the Cape more than 100 years
ago. (The Chatham Railroad Museum.
Depot Road, Chatham.)
Ride the rails. The Cape Cod Central Railroad offers excursion trains from Hyannis Station from
May through late autumn. Named one of the top ten scenic train rides in the
country by USA Today, the two-hour trip takes passengers along cranberry bogs,
through natural woodlands and marshes. Bonus points: During the summer
months they offer a “Family Supper Train.” (Cape Cod Central Railroad. 252 Main Street Hyannis, MA 02601. 1(508) 771-3800 or 1-888-797-RAIL
For fun, kid-friendly Cape Cod Hotels check out Uptake.com and for Cape Cod Restaurant Reviews check out LocalTom.com. They search 5000 travel sites...so you don't have to!
Information provided by Travel Communications Inc. and images provided by museums. Updated 2009.