It is that time of year when daffodils peek through the warm soil, tulips unfurl their tight folds, and kids count the days to the annual summer beach vacation. Spring has arrived, so begin planning now for a diversion from the usual beach destination. Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is an exceptional vacation spot where kids can enjoy splashing along numerous beaches—many with lighthouses in the background. They can touch a real pirate’s treasure, cheer for playful whales, and find that American history can be entertaining. Families from around the world vacation on this 70-mile-long peninsula where President John F. Kennedy’s family’s compound of summer homes in the village of Hyannis’s enclave at Hyannisport is among its most popular places to visit.
Cape Codder Resort and Spa – Hyannis, Massachusetts
Of Cape Cod’s 15 towns, we chose Hyannis, where the Cape Codder Resort and Spa, is the perfect lodging choice for families. Kids will tell you the reason they love the resort is the Cape Codder Water Park located on-property. Complete with a clear retractable roof, the Waterpark is perfect for both sunny and rainy days. Enjoy 30,000 square feet of fun featuring four body slides, the “Stormy River”, a wave pool, and the “Pirate Bay” kiddie area. Adults will appreciate the 24-person whirlpool, and the two saunas after a busy day of activities along the Cape.
With 244-guest rooms, suites and the Residences set on 15 acres, Cape Codder has a price-point to fit every family’s budget. Our favorite was the Residences - that seemed more like a home and included two-bedrooms, three bathrooms, a dream kitchen and expansive living room separating the two bedrooms. For family dining, the Resort’s Hearth’n Kettle restaurant is a favorite for guests and locals. The children’s menu features popular items like cinnamon bun pancakes and chicken cheese quesadillas. Parents rave over the regional cuisine featuring quality seafood, and the fresh chowder is scrumptious.
Cape Codder’s Beach Plum Spa is a full-service spa providing an extensive menu of services. Bring the kids! Ask about the Kids’ Corner where the Strawberry and Chocolate Manicures are popular. For the golfer in the family, try the nearby Hyannis Golf Course, and end the day with a Sport or Deep Tissue message in the spa. The Resort has a full range of activities in the summer including family movies and bonfires for roasting marshmallows.
Adventure Along the Cape
The Kennedy Connection: Our 35th President, John F. Kennedy’s connection, is found in Hyannis and Hyannis Port. Board a Hyannis Harbor Cruise ship on Ocean Street to get a waterview of the six-acre Kennedy Compound and Memorial on the Hyline Cruise Line. Kids enjoy ringing the bell and watching the sail boats glide. Tour the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum at 397 Main Street in Hyannis, and learn why the Kennedy mystique draws visitors from across the globe.
Exploring Sandwich: The Cape’s old town of Sandwich was settled as a trading post in 1637. We enjoyed exploring this town where rows of prim weathered clapboard homes and a town hall with huge pillars was exactly the New England experience we expected. Have you ever toured a circa 1637 home? The Hoxie House is overlooking Shawme Pond, and is believed to be Cape Cod’s oldest home. The 1701 inlaid blanket chest was my favorite. After sightseeing, we enjoyed the sandwiches, cupcakes and cinnamon buns at Beth’s Bakery.
Heritage Museums and Gardens: A short drive from downtown Sandwich took us to Heritage Museums and Gardens—adorned with luscious award-winning hydrangeas. Set on 100 acres, the Museum is geared toward family fun. Kids will appreciate a ride on the 1908 Looff Carousel located in the American Art & Carousel Gallery. Between 1876 and 1916, Looff built 40 carousels; only about ten are still in operation today.
The most popular feature in Heritage Museums and Gardens is Hidden Hollow, an interactive outdoor discovery area for kids of all ages. The “Splash” area, which includes a hand pump that children use to fill buckets, watering cans, and other vessels with water, has been enhanced through the addition of a dramatic waterfall and discovery streams. The Adventure Park is a great way to engage the entire family with an outdoor adventure in zip line and climbing fun. In the Museum’s Automobile Gallery, you will find 39 cars from 1899 to 1962, including a 1909 White Steam Car which was the first official automobile of a United Sates President, namely William Howard Taft.
Authentic Treasures from Below: At the Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth, we found portions of the only authenticated pirate treasure ever discovered. The ship sunk during a storm in Wellfleet’s, in 1717 and was discovered 250 years later by explorer Barry Clifford. The experience begins with a video in a dimly lit room with true tales about Captain “Black Sam” Bellamy’s excursions as he plundered and robbed ships of their treasures, including the Whydah. Kids are so “pumped” after the video that they run to board the full-scale Whydah replica to touch the actual bounty--coins, pirate pistols, and sword hilts. Stop to watch the world of nautical archaeology that is unlocking the ship’s contents.
A Whale of a Good Time: Bring your camera! A whale watching excursion takes you on a three to four-hour adventure and is very popular. Make reservations before you leave home. Take the Hyannis Whale Watcher cruise departing from Barnstable Harbor where professionals will navigate the waters to Stellwagen Bank, where these giant mammals – North Atlantic right, minke, sperm, sei, humpback, fin and pilot whales – often breach from the water and put on a thrilling show.
Beaches and Lighthouses: The Cape Cod National Seashore is a spectacular 40-mile stretch of beaches, dunes, marshes, ponds, and uplands including historic attractions and eight picturesque and nostalgic lighthouses. The Cape itself is home to more lighthouses than any other destination in America (not all are commissioned).
Take the kids to climb Nauset Light and Highland Lighthouse. Be sure to check for dates, times, and height restrictions. We came back to Nauset Light as dark was fast approaching and the fog was rolling in. Here, you can show your kids how the powerful light casts its beams to the sea.
Art’s Dune Tours: Board an SUV from Provincetown for a family adventure. Our driver/guide escorted us to the Peaked Hill Bars Historic District along the National Seashore protected lands. Here, the massive dunes and vegetation were extraordinarily unique. For a moment, it felt like we were in the desert. The tours are educational and kids will learn about the conservation and preservation efforts of the Province Lands, and will leave with a better understanding why Cape Cod is one of the most fragile places in America.
Notice the famous dune shacks that were originally built to save the lives of stranded ship-wrecked sailors. Here, the primitive dune shacks (no electricity or water) have been occupied by such notables as Tennessee Williams. Inside the tiny wooden walls, artists, poets and writers have produced masterpieces in isolation with no distractions. Today, there are still creative minds lodging here, but there is a long waiting list. For families, reserve the Sunset Dune Tour where seals usually appear along the shore.
Plimoth Plantation: We stopped at Plymouth, Massachusetts, on our way to Boston and visited Plimoth Plantation. It is a fascinating living history museum where role players, dressed as Mayflower Pilgrims, are still “living” in the 1600s and speaking with old English accents. Encourage your kids to interact with them and ask questions while the “Pilgrims” are performing daily chores. The 17th-Century English Village is a re-creation of the small farming and maritime community built by the Pilgrims along the shore of Plymouth Harbor.
Visitors can help weed the garden, prepare a meal, participate in a muster drill, or play a Pilgrim game. You will want to visit the Plimoth Grist Mill and the Wampanoag Homesite where you can learn about the Native peoples who have lived here for over 10,000 years.
Fast Facts: Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce is the official destination marketing organization and regional tourism council for the entire Cape and its 15 towns. www.capecodchamber.org
For Reservations for Cape Codder Resort and Spa visit: www.CapeCodderResort.com
Hint: JetBlue has very reasonable non-stop flights from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta to Boston Logan. Hyannis is less than a one and a half hour drive from Boston.