Which town on the cape would you recommend? We want to relax on the beach, and have a nice town to walk to for shopping. Any suggestions? Thanks
Hyannis (part of Barnstable) is the biggest and in many ways the best. Centrally located, it has many shops and all kinds of restaurants you can walk to up and down Main Street. There's a free HOHO trolley to get you around also. Recommended dining: Alberto's for Italian (NYTimes raves about it!). Many others, including lots of sidewalk cafe options. Enjoy a drink under the 200 year old tree at The Beach Tree, down a short alley at the lower end of Main Street. Also: bring your appetite to the all you can eat Brazilian Grille, wayyy down Main St. Fixed price about $25 pp, every kind of grilled meat, fish & veggies served off skewers tableside. The food just keeps on coming,until you say "Please! No more!!!" Meal includes huge salad bar. Not a meat lover? Just get the Salad Bar option.
Hyannis is the place to catch the HyLine ferry (better than Steamship; as HyLine takes reservations , but no cars) out to Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard. Both islands offer $20 two hour bus tours, highly recommended.
Big news this summer: trains now run to the Cape from Boston on weekends! See www.CapeFlyer.com. Train arrives at bus station so you don't need a car here. See: CCRTA.com for bus info.
The village of Sandwich is well worth a visit, not so much for the beaches(rather rocky), although they do have a very nice, quite long boardwalk over the salt marsh, but rather for 3 important museums there.
First and foremost is Heritage Museums and Gardens, 100 acres of beautiful gardens and manicured grounds, populated by several museums. As you enter the grounds, you'll notice a round stone "barn", modeled after an historic Shaker barn; it's the home of several dozen pristine antique cars, one of the best collections in the entire USA. However, this year (2013), all but one of them, a 1928 LaSalle, have been replaced by 15 unique "concept cars" from the 1950s and 60s, some with glass bubble tops a la The Jetsons. Also on display, the first Corvette, designed, by the way, by the man who designed that LaSalle almost 25 years earlier!
Also on the grounds, an Americana museum which includes an original 1903 Coney Island Carousel with hand-carved horses. Riding this is free with admission and is a real treat for the family and anyone with a modicum of nostalgia.
A third museum at Heritage has exhibits which vary year to year; this year, they're showing items related to cars. Last year, they had an historic American Kitchen collection.
Speaking of food, there is an excellent outdoor cafe on the grounds for sandwiches, cold drinks and snacks. However, carrying food around the grounds is discouraged, in order to avoid litter.
Heritage offers a nice kids area, in addition to the Carousel, so they'll have fun, too,
Wear good walking shoes; there's a lot of walking to be done. Handicapped accessible, too, with free chauffeured golf carts offered to those less able. Summer visitors will also enjoy live concerts some evenings on the outdoor stage; bring a blanket or folding chairs.
See their website: http://www.heritagemuseums.org .
Closer to the center of Sandwich Village is the Sandwich Glass Museum. Found here, as you might expect, is one of the largest collections of historic glass, a nod to the signature product of the town in the 19th century. Since the museum was remodeled a few years ago, they've added a glass furnace for glass blowing demonstrations. The kids will love this! See: http://www.sandwichglassmuseum.org .
Glass is part of this town's heritage, so it's not surprising that it still boasts several glass blowers, making contemporary and traditional designs. Most let you watch them blowing glass and some will let the kids "help", too! Recommended: Michael Magyar's "Glass Studio on Cape Cod", located on Rt. 6a in East Sandwich; http://www.CapeCodGlass.net . Another good choice, harder to find down on Cotuit Road, is the McDermott Glass Studio. http://www.mcdermottglass.com . Heading out of town, next to the Sagamore Bridge, is Pairpoint Glass. Actually in adjacent Sagamore, Pairpoint's webpage asserts that it's the oldest operating glass works in the country, in business since 1837. This is actually a good take as you are either arriving or leaving Cape Cod, as it's right off of Exit One. Glass blowing during the week only. http://www.pairpoint.com
Finally, if you ever saw "Bill Nye, the Science Guy" on TV, you've heard of the Nye Family. The Nyes were among the first families to arrive in this country, back in 1635, Their historic Nye Family Home is open during the summer season for tours. Dating to 1685, the home can be seen on this website: http://www.nyefamily.org Located on Old County Road, a country lane off of historic Route 6A, it's a peaceful off the beaten track type of experience for antique / history lovers.
Restaurants in Sandwich: The largest and best is the historic Daniel Webster Inn, located right in the village center. Serving 3 meals a day, 7 days, this is not cheap eats but quality gourmet cuisine. Ask to be seated in the "Conservatory", a greenhouse type of room overlooking a lovely garden. The more casual Tavern offers a lighter, less expensive menu and a huge fireplace for winter visits.
Waterview Dining: For seafood lovers, the seasonal Seafood Sams is located alongside the Cape Cod Canal. This is real family style dining for the kids, as long as you can get them to try seafood. Think fish and chips or fried clams and fried shrimp. Affordable prices, good views of large ships passing through the nearby Canal.
Hemispheres, on the beach is closer to Cape Cod Bay; it's fine for a drink and a burger but many say the wide views there are better than the food. We usually go there for a drink outside on their deck once a year. Prices are higher than the food quality. Get a beer or a mixed drink on the deck and soak up the view at sunset, then move over to Dan'l Webster for a *good* meal you'll remember fondly.
Another option we enjoy is the British Beer Company, situated right on Route 6a. Huge menu of good food and dozens of beers, as you'd expect, all at family friendly prices. This is not a bar, per se, but a fun, British-themed restaurant where you can feel good bringing a date or the kids. A bit dark inside but that's the atmosphere. Parking can be (make that usually is) tight, so get there *early*. Reasonably priced, never had a bad meal there; we go often since we live in Sandwich. Open year round.
Further down Route 6a, in East Sandwich, is Amari's Italian Restaurant. Good food, moderate prices, high noise factor. We always enjoy the food but if loud restaurants get your goat, go elsewhere. Sitting in the bar is quieter and they have the same good menu.
If you are staying further down Cape, in Hyannis etc., the Cape Cod RTA bus line services Sandwich.
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I agree with a visit to Sandwich, it is a lovely town with a lot to do and see. Don't miss the canal area, great walking or biking trail (you can rent a bike in Sandwich) and the museum there about the canal is free and interesting too. You didn't mention the Belfry Inn for food, it's expensive but really good. Heritage is just so beautiful!
I visited the Cape for the 1st time the 1st weekend of Nov with 2 other friends. I was actually surprised to learn that a majority of the shops, restaurants, and even museums were closed through May.
I may have missed this when researching for this trip, but it would have been nice to know this fact. Had I known, I would have visited other areas near Boston.
almost every question asked about CC in Fall, Winter, Spring asks about when businesses tend to close or open for the season. Unless there is something specific, many posters here suggest other places to go at this time of year.
I agree with Neslaw1. Where did you do your research?
I think that 'majority' is a bit strong. Orleans, Falmouth, Hyannis are all year round towns and have plenty of restaurants, shops etc open. Even Chatham and Provincetown should have enough to keep you happy. The beaches are still worth taking a look at even if you don't actually stay long on them.
There's a sizeable population on the Cape year round, churches are active and there are plenty of children around, lots of school buses.
TravelWithRiley: The Cape is a beach destination, it's the Northeast; you do the math. The Cape is a nice place to live off season, it isn't the best place to visit off season, imho. There's plenty to do year round, but the best things for a visitor to do all happen in the summer, of course!