Cape Cod, a popular vacation destination in Massachusetts, is home to many beautiful places to visit. While the Cape is more of a summer destination, some of these attractions are actually open year-round. However, the best weather on Cape Cod is generally in the summer season. If you plan to visit any of these places, be sure to check operating hours to make sure it’s open during your trip.
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11 of the Best Places to Visit in Cape Cod
Cape Cod National Seashore
Make no mistake. Any of the Cape Cod beaches are wonderful, from the serene boardwalk at Gray’s Beach in Yarmouth Port (with shallow water) to the popular Mayflower Beach in Dennis. Whether they are on Cape Cod Bay or along the Nantucket Sound, these beaches are all popular tourist attractions. However, some of the most beautiful sandy beaches are part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is a National Park and includes 40 miles of coastline, beaches, marshes, ponds, and more, including a visitor center. It encompasses several beaches, including Coast Guard Beach, Nauset Light Beach, Herring Cove Beach, Marconi Beach, Race Point Beach, and Head of the Meadow Beach.
In the summer months, all of these beaches can be popular. So you’ll want to arrive early to make sure you get a parking spot. It’s the perfect place for nature lovers and one of the best things on the Cape. Learn more about the Cape Cod National Seashore on its website.
Cape Cod Inflatable Park
Traveling to Cape Cod with younger children? The Cape Cod Inflatable Park, located in West Yarmouth, MA is a great place for them to get their energy out. In addition to the largest inflatable park in the United States, there’s also the Wicked Waves Water Park. Both of these parks offer loads of fun activities and attractions for families.
When purchasing tickets, you’ll have the choice between buying single-park tickets or combo tickets. There’s a discounted rate for park entry after 4 pm. Cabana and locker rental add-ons are available for an additional fee.
The Cape Cod Family Resort is located adjacent to the inflatable park. It includes two buildings, the family resort and the family Suites, and pet-friendly rooms located a block away. Guests who book their stay directly through the Cape Cod Family Resort also receive combo tickets to the parks. Check their website for specific details.
John F Kennedy Hyannis Museum
Cape Cod is known as the summer vacation home of the Kennedy family, including the 35th president, John F. Kennedy. Learn more about the 60s and the Kennedy family with a visit to the John F Kennedy Hyannis Museum.
The museum offers a variety of exhibits, including one on JFK’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy. Hours are seasonal, so check their website before planning your visit. Timed and dated tickets are available online.
Provincetown, MA, located right on the tip of Cape Cod, is one of the most beautiful places. For a lovely view of the area, visit the Pilgrim Monument, a monument built in the early 1900s that commemorates the Mayflower landing in Provincetown. The pilgrims initially landed in Provincetown and then later sailed on to Plymouth, MA.
To climb the 252-foot tower, you can purchase a ticket to the monument and adjacent Provincetown Museum. It’s a 252-foot tower and can be climbed with the purchase of a ticket to the monument and museum. Timed advance tickets need to be purchased, and include both the monument and the museum. It’s a great place to visit and the monument offers beautiful views.
Provincetown, on the Outer Cape, is among the best Cape Cod towns to visit. While you are in Provincetown, be sure to visit Commercial Street. There, you’ll find art galleries, restaurants, and shops that are fun to explore. Don’t miss the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery for some delicious treats.
Whydah Pirate Museum
Do you have pirate-loving kids in your family? Be sure to stop by the Whydah Pirate Museum, located in West Yarmouth, MA. Instead of focusing on the myths and legends of pirates, this museum focuses on real pirate artifacts that have been found on a shipwreck.
The Whydah Pirate Museum is great for both kids and adults. I was fascinated to learn about how some of the myths really aren’t true. You’ll also see the only authentic pirate treasure in the world.
Unlike other Cape Cod attractions, the Whydah is open year-round. Hours and days in the off-season are limited. Typically, they are open on weekends and school vacations during winter but check their website in advance.
Timed tickets are available in advance, and are a good idea to guarantee admission at a specific time (especially in the busy season). Keep in mind that many families want to visit the museum on rainy days on Cape Cod, so purchase your tickets as early as possible.
Cape Cod Rail Trail
As you drive into Cape Cod from the mainland of Massachusetts, you’ll see many vehicles carrying bikes. One way that families love to explore Cape Cod is by bike.
While there are lots of bike paths and trails, the most popular is the Cape Cod Rail Trail. It’s a 25-mile long trail for hiking, biking, and running. It stretches through six Cape Cod towns, and you can choose to do just part of the trail. There are plenty of parking areas, including some free lots, in the following locations:
- South Wellfleet Trailhead (LeCount Hollow Road)
- National Seashore at Marconi Historic Site
- Salt Pond Visitors Center in Eastham (which is 1/2 mile from the Locust Road intersection with the trail)
- Rock Harbor Road, Orleans
- Orleans Center
- Rt 137 Brewster
- Headwaters Drive Harwich
- Rt 134 South Dennis
- Station Ave South Yarmouth (the trail end on the eastern side)
Not planning to travel with your bike? You can also rent bicycles for your family from various vendors throughout Cape Cod.
Whale-Watching Tours, Fishing Trips, and Dune Tours
While you are on Cape Cod, it’s a great idea to experience some of the nature of the area. There are lots of fun different things you can do with kids – including whale watching, fishing trips, and dune tours.
If you want to experience a whaling trip, there are options that leave from different parts of the Cape. You’ll find some in Hyannis, Provincetown, and other Cape towns. While tours run from April to October, peak season is June through September.
Another fun activity is fishing. If you don’t have your own equipment, there are lots of Cape Cod fishing trips you can take. If you are renting a vacation home or live in the area, you can have your fish filleted and packaged so you can take it back your vacation rental to cook.
A more unique activity is touring the dunes of Provincetown. These tours, which take place in an SUV, run from April to November each year. Private tours can also be arranged. You can find out more information from Art’s Dune Tours.
Cape Cod Museum of Natural History
Explore the unique nature of Cape Cod with a visit to the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster. This museum offers a butterfly playhouse, a small aquarium, other exhibits, and trails.
One of the more distinctive activities at the museum is the field walk, where you can register to take a 90-minute trail walk. During this walk, a naturalist will explain the ecological features of the trail. These walks are included with admission but you’ll want to check their website to find dates and times that it’s offered.
Tickets to the museum can be purchased at the door. They are not sold in advance. While you may consider visiting the museum when the Cape weather isn’t cooperating with a beach day, the outdoor aspects of the museum are best visited on a dry day.
Heritage Museums and Gardens
Located in Sandwich, MA, the Heritage Museums and Gardens offers 100 acres of grounds. This museum includes a hydrangea garden, an herb garden, a pond, and so much more. It’s best visited by those with older kids who may be interested in the gardens because it isn’t specifically kid-friendly.
Interested in seeing specific flowers? Their website will let you know what specifically is in bloom each month.
The Heritage Museum and Gardens also hosts a popular hydrangea festival each July. You’ll get the opportunity to see various species of that beloved Cape Cod flower.
Tickets can be purchased in advance, and are dated. The museum is open rain or shine, although I’d recommend visiting on a clear day if at all possible.
Nickerson State Park
Located in Brewster, MA, Nickerson State Park is a popular Cape Cod destination, especially in the summer. This 1,900-acre state park boasts 400+ campsites, 8 freshwater ponds (4 stocked with trout), a bike path that connects to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, hiking trails, and much more. The outdoor activities offered by this park are among the best things to do in the Cape.
A daily parking fee is charged in season, with a discount for Massachusetts residents. If you just want to use the Cape Cod Rail Trail, it’s best to park at one of the places with a free parking lot.
The Cape Playhouse
Located in Dennis, MA, the Cape Playhouse is the longest-running professional summer theater in the United States. In addition to the traditional Broadway-style productions that run throughout the summer, there’s also an outdoor theater with children’s shows. Check their website to find the specific details on shows, dates, and times.
Other Popular Things to Do on Cape Cod
Other popular things to do and places to visit on Cape Cod include the following:
- Attend a Cape Cod Baseball League game
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
- Nauset Lighthouse
- Sandwich Glass Museum
- Chatham Lighthouse
Staying in Cape Cod
Looking for a place to stay on Cape Cod? Search the map below for a wide variety of available options during your vacation.
Frequently Asked Questions
For a family vacation, I’d recommend staying for about a week. That way, you can enjoy some beach days, some activities, and some attractions.
You’ll definitely want to have a car for your vacation. It’s not easy to get around without one.
There are so many choices, depending on what you plan to do while you are there. We recommend Yarmouth for families because it’s centrally located and is near many popular family activities. It’s also a great beach town, with many of the best beaches in the area.