Cape Cod is one of the most popular family summer vacation destinations in New England and is definitely worth a visit. But, when you are planning your Cape Cod vacation, you may wonder which of the many Cape Cod towns is best for your family vacation.
Located in the “Upper Cape” area of Cape Cod, Falmouth MA can be an easier destination if visiting the Cape for a day trip from Boston or a shorter trip. Since you won’t have to drive too much through the Cape, you can save lots of time. In addition, it’s the perfect spot if you are planning to take the ferry into Martha’s Vineyard. Here are the best things to do in Falmouth MA for your next family vacation.
Disclosure: We received a complimentary/media rate for our stay at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel. This post contains affiliate links and a click-through/purchase through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.
Things to Do in Falmouth MA
The coastal town of Falmouth is located in the Upper Cape, between Buzzards Bay and Mashpee. To get there (like the rest of Cape Cod), you’ll need to drive over either the Sagamore or the Bourne Bridge. Traffic to both of these bridges can back up during the busy season, so plan your trip accordingly. I like to travel on the weekdays rather than on the weekends to save time.
Like many other towns on the Cape, Falmouth is made up of smaller villages. These include Woods Hole, Davisville, Hatchville, East Falmouth, North Falmouth, West Falmouth, and Quissett.
Shopping In Falmouth
I can’t resist shopping when I’m on vacation, and Falmouth has a really cute Main Street area with gift shops, restaurants, and services. Whether you love shopping as I do, or just want to get a snack, ice cream, or dessert, Main Street is a great place to visit.
Park your car in one of the metered spots along the main or side streets, and then start at one end of the street before turning around and coming back. Parking can sometimes be a bit challenging, but if you have your choice of spots, start at one end. Although all of the walking is outside, this can be a good rainy day activity in light rain.
Shops on Main Street in Falmouth include Celebrations of Cape Cod, which offers gifts, Christmas ornaments, books, and more. Looking for a jewelry memento from Cape Cod? The Guilded Oyster has Cape Cod and nautical-themed fine jewelry including some exclusive designs.
For souvenir clothing, visit Soft as a Grape, a local chain with t-shirts, sweatshirts, and other casual apparel. Main Street also has other local chains, like the Black Dog (originating on Martha’s Vineyard) and Cupcake Charlie’s (for delicious cupcakes).
When we visited with our kids, they loved the Blast from the Past gift shop, which offers vinyl records and other retro souvenirs of pop culture. It’s a great spot to explore.
There are plenty of other shops along Main Street, so be sure to allocate a few hours to walk around and shop.
If you are looking for more traditional chain shops, there are two good options a short drive from Falmouth. The Cape Cod Mall, located in Hyannis, offers stores like Target, Barnes and Noble, and Macy’s. There’s also Mashpee Commons, with L.L.Bean, lululemon, and Vineyard Vines, along with lots of other shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues.
Beaches in Falmouth
When visiting Cape Cod in the summer, you absolutely have to have at least one beach day. The beaches on the Cape are beautiful and can be a great way to relax and cool off. Falmouth offers several different beach options. Be sure to check the official Falmouth beach website before visiting, because some lots are specifically designed for resident stickers only.
Here are some of the most popular Falmouth beaches to visit:
Old Silver Beach is located on Buzzards Bay and has a section for residents and a section for the public. Restrooms and concessions are offered on a seasonal basis. I love Old Silver Beach – it’s one of my favorite beaches in Massachusetts.
Other public beaches in Falmouth include Menauhant East and Surf Drive. These beaches have paid parking lots. Free parking is available at the freshwater Grew’s Pond at Goodwill Park.
There are also plenty of other beaches across Cape Cod if you want to travel a bit. Our favorites include the Cape Cod National Seashore (including Nauset Light Beach in Orleans, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, the Coast Guard Beach in Eastham, Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, Race Point Beach in Provincetown, and Head of the Meadow Beach in North Truro, as well as Seagull and Smuggler’s Beaches in Yarmouth.
If you are looking for a gentle beach for small children, Gray’s Beach has a beautiful boardwalk and a nice little sandy area. It’s also located in Yarmouth.
When packing for your Falmouth vacation, check out our beach vacation packing list to make sure you have everything you need before visiting. There are shops in town, but it’s usually easier to bring things with you if you are driving.
Shining Sea Bikeway
Are you bringing your bikes to Falmouth and want to take a great bike ride? The Shining Sea Bikeway is a converted rail trail that runs 10.7 miles from Woods Hole to North Falmouth. If you didn’t bring bikes, but still want to ride, there are several companies in Falmouth that offer bike rentals.
This overview of the Shining Sea Bikeway is very helpful to read if you are considering riding on the trail.
Ferry to/from Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket
Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (the “islands” part of “Cape and the Islands”) are both accessible via passenger and car ferry. Ferries to Martha’s Vineyard conveniently leave from Woods Hole in Falmouth. These islands are fun to visit both for a longer trip and for a day trip – depending on how much time you have.
The Steamship Authority operates out of the Woods Hole terminal with sailings to Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs (seasonally). If you are planning to bring a vehicle with you, it’s especially important to make advanced reservations, as the ferries can get very booked up.
There’s also the Falmouth-Edgartown ferry, which goes directly into Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard. These are passenger-only ferries, however, and don’t accommodate vehicles.
If you want to go directly to Nantucket, you’ll need to drive to nearby Hyannis for a ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket.
Restaurants in Falmouth
There are lots of delicious restaurants in Falmouth, many of which are kid-friendly and casual. Check with the specific restaurant you want to visit to see if reservations are accepted. If not, consider visiting at an off-peak time to avoid a long wait.
Here are some of our favorite restaurants:
Falmouth Raw Bar: looking for a waterfront casual seafood restaurant? The Falmouth Raw Bar is located on Falmouth Harbor and offers huge lobster rolls (called the Monsta Lobsta Roll), oysters, chowder, shrimp, and other seafood dishes. Reservations are not accepted.
Estia on Maine: Located on Main Street in Falmouth (with another located in Mashpee Commons), Estia is a Greek restaurant offering lunch and dinner. The large menu includes salads, gyros, wraps, kabobs, steak, seafood, and pizza. I loved the kabob entree I got there, while my kids loved the pizza.
The Quarterdeck Restaurant: The Quarterdeck seafood restaurant is also located on Main Street. It offers lunch and dinner. Items on the menu include a raw bar, lobster, fish, chicken, pasta, and salads. Reservations are not accepted, and seating is first-come, first-served. Outdoor seating is available.
Pickle Jar Restaurant: While shopping on Main Street, stop at the Pickle Jar Restaurant for both breakfast and lunch. Offering sandwiches, salads, soups, and breakfast all day, the Pickle Jar is a popular and delicious restaurant.
Quicks Hole: Located in Woods Hole, Quicks Hole offers two restaurants – Quicks Hole Tavern and Quicks Hole Taqueria. Both have kids menus.
Woods Hole Science Aquarium
Note that due to current circumstances, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium is closed to guests. They don’t currently have a reopening date, but we will update this post when we learn of one.
The Woods Hole Science Aquarium is the oldest public aquarium in the United States. When it’s open, it offers 140 species of marine animals and sea life from the Northeast in exhibits and a touch tank. They also offer educational programs.
The aquarium is self-guided and strollers aren’t permitted due to the small size. Keep an eye on their website to see when they’ll be reopening for guests.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Interested in Oceanography? In the peak summer months of July and August, guests can sign up for a walking tour around the facility (including some of the typically restricted facilities). Sign up for a tour (offered at either 10:30 am or 1:30 pm in July and August) on their website.
Nobska Point Lighthouse
I always love visiting lighthouses in coastal locations. They are always in such beautiful locations and are so unique. The Nobska Point Lighthouse is located in Woods Hole and is definitely worth a visit.
Tours are offered in the tower on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am-12 noon. The Keeper’s House is being renovated and is closed to guests. Visit their website before going to learn about bag restrictions and other rules
Where to Stay in Falmouth
There are lots of vacation rentals and hotels to choose from when planning your trip to Falmouth MA. If you primarily want to visit the beach during your trip, the Sea Crest Beach Hotel is one of my favorites. It’s located right on Old Silver Beach and offers two pools (including an indoor pool), a beach bar, several restaurants, and more.
Other popular hotels include: