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My family loves Cape Cod for summertime getaways. The Cape Cod bridges are only an hour from Boston, but they transport you to a totally different world. It’s a cute, quaint area with more than 500 miles of coastline and you’re never far from amazing beaches.
The Cape, as it is known by locals, is a perfect family-friendly destination in Massachusetts whether you drive from your home in the Northeast or fly in from any other part of the country. The closest airports are Hyannis (HYA), Boston (BOS) and Providence PVD). There is a decent variety of points-friendly hotels allowing you to travel on a budget.
The geography of Cape Cod is referred to generally as Upper Cape, Mid Cape or Lower Cape. The Cape isn’t all that big, but summer traffic can be fierce. When you take that into consideration, driving from one end to the other can take some time. Keep that in mind when you plan your daily activities.
If you decide to visit Cape Cod this summer, here are some great activities to do with your kids — aside from playing at the beach, of course.
1. Watch a Baseball Game
Cape Cod is well-known for its Cape Cod Baseball League. Baseball players from all over the country come to the Cape to play in this summer league with the hopes of one day being recruited by a Major League team. With 10 different teams in the league, there is bound to be a game nearby at some point during your vacation. (Regular season games take place between June 10 and July 31, 2019.) Admission is free.
2. Shining Sea Bike Trail
This 10.7-mile bike trail takes you from various points from North Falmouth down to Woods Hole. The trail is paved, flat and off-road — perfect for a family bike ride. The trail follows an old railroad trail along the coastline, providing beautiful views all the way. Once you get to Woods Hole, you can enjoy a cute village with restaurants and sweet ice cream shops.
If you didn’t bring your bike, you can always rent one for the day. If you are in Falmouth, you can rent at Holiday Cycles of Falmouth Heights, Corner Cycle or Arts Bike Shop or at one of the many other bike shops throughout the Cape near where you’re staying. We found rates as low as $19 per day for adults and $13 for kids. Some shops rent bikes with baby seats.
3. Cape Cod Children’s Museum
The Cape Cod Children’s Museum in Mashpee is the perfect rainy day activity. Be warned: It can get busy. In addition to its many pretend play and learning areas, there are activities scheduled throughout the day such as art projects, sing-along and story time. It’s a small space, so keeping an eye on your child is quite easy. We have visited the museum many times in the past and it’s probably best for children between the ages of 1-6.
During the summer, the museum is open Monday through Saturday, from 10am to 5pm and on Sunday from noon to 5pm (Admission: $10 per person for ages 1-60; $8 per person for 60+; free for under age 1). If you visit on July 19, 2019, you can visit the museum for free as part of the Highland Street Free Fun Activities summer program.
4. Heritage Museums & Gardens
The Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich is perfect for every age group. The museum is situated on 100 acres and is home to many amazing exhibits. Of course, the kids will probably love the Hidden Hollow area the most, but a close second will be the antique car collection and the vintage carousel. The Hidden Hollow area includes a place for kids to fully immerse themselves in nature and then get soaking wet in the splash area. (Hint: Bring a bathing suit or a change of clothes.) The grounds are absolutely breathtaking and you can easily spend most of the day there. I promise you that you’ll love it!
Daily tickets don’t come cheap, so be on the lookout for a Groupon, which are offered frequently. Tdiscounted tickets can save your family a good amount of money. If you have an museum membership back home, check to see if there are any reciprocity discounts to other museums. The museum will offer free admission on Aug. 23, 2019, as part of the Highland Street Free Fun Activities. Admission is $20 for adults, $10 for ages 3-17, and kids under 3 are free.
5. Woods Hole Science Aquarium
The Woods Hole Science Aquarium is a great activity if you happen to be in the Woods Hole area in Falmouth. I went there decades ago as a child, and now take my own kids to this small aquarium — not much has changed. There are touch tanks and about 140 different species of marine animals. Woods Hole is a wonderful destination in itself, so this is just one activity while you’re there. You can also bike down the Shining Sea Bike Trail to get there. Admission is free.
6. Carousel of Light
The Carousel of Light is a pop-up carousel located in the center of Falmouth. It is open during the summer at Mullen Hall School. Once you are done riding the carousel, your kids will love the massive playground next door or the play area in the library across the street. After all that activity, you can walk to shops and restaurants in Falmouth Center. Rides are around $3 per person.
7. Cape Cod Inflatable Park
The Cape Cod Inflatable Park in West Yarmouth will provide your kids (or adults) with a full day of fun. Think inflatable slides and bouncy houses — both wet and dry. There is a toddler section and a challenge zone for older kids looking for more of an adventure. In addition to the inflatables, there is mini-golf and a huge arcade featuring more than 50 games. Tip: Check on Groupon to see if you can purchase discounted admission tickets. Admission starts at $25 per person; $20 for kids under 38 inches. Discounted rates are available after 4pm.
8. Cape Codder Indoor Water Park
At the Cape Codder Resort & Spa in Hyannis, you’ll find a massive waterpark. The 30,000-square-foot waterpark includes four waterslides, a 300-foot lazy river, a kiddie spray pool, a wave pool and a 24-person whirlpool. Needless to say, there is something for everyone. One thing to know is that your kids must be at least 48 inches tall to ride the waterslides.
To guarantee your reservation, stay at the property, but there are also a limited number of day passes available. Book far in advance if you are staying at another hotel on the Cape. Tip: Look at Groupon to see if you can purchase a discounted day pass. Day passes cost $40 per adult; $30 per child under 48 inches. “Spectactors,” who don’t swim, can buy a pass for $20. Children 3 and under are free. Discounted passes are available Friday and Saturday from 5–10pm. Nightly hotel rates start at $269 and include admission to the waterpark. If you have the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, price out a stay on Hotels.com to earn up to 20% in rewards on your stay. (You’ll earn 10x miles by booking and paying with your Capital One Venture Card via Hotels.com/venture and paired with the Hotels.com rewards program benefits.)
9. Cape Cod Potato Chip Tour
Free tour and free chips — need I say more? If you are a potato chip lover, or just looking for something for your family to do on a rainy day, the Cape Cod Potato Chip Factory is right in Hyannis. The self-guided tour will take you through the facility to see how the chips are made, which is always a fun experience for kids. Note: The factory is closed to visitors until June 17, 2019, because of remodeling. Check the website before visiting.
10. Whydah Pirate Museum
The Whydah Pirate Museum in West Yarmouth is the perfect place to see real pirate treasure and learn about an authentic shipwreck. This museum is geared toward older children, although there is a scavenger hunt for younger kids. (Tip: The amount of time spent at the museum is up to you, but most families will spend about 90 minutes.) Spring hours are from 10am to 5pm. Last entry is at 4pm. Check the website for summer hours. Admission is $18.95 for adults; $14.95 for kids 5-17, and kids 4 and under are free.
11. Outdoor Children’s Shows at Cape Rep Theater
The Cape Rep Theater in Brewster puts on two different plays over the summer. In 2019, your kids will have an opportunity to see the Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed (June 25–Aug. 28) and Pitter Patter Puppets (July 11–Aug. 22). Shows run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10am and last about an hour. Tickets range from $10 to $12 per person.
Mini-golf is a favorite pastime on the Cape, and Pirates Cove in South Yarmouth has one of the biggest courses — there are two 18-hole mini-golf courses. And, of course, there is ice cream right on site after you are done. If you’re staying on the Upper Cape or Lower Cape, you’ll be able to find closer mini-golf courses. Admission is $11.50 for adults; $10.50 for kids 4-12, and children 3 and under are free. If you want to play all 36 holes, it’s $18.95 for adults and $17.50 for kids.
13. Bumper Boats, Batting Cages, Zip Line
Grand Slam in Harwich Port has it all. Probably the most popular activity is the bumper boats, but you can also try out the batting cages or zip lining. Tip: Bring cash as Grand Slam doesn’t take credit cards. (Later, you can head down the street to Bud’s Go-Karts for some outdoor go-karting.) Each boat can accommodate one adult and one child under 46 inches tall and costs $8 per ride.
14. Whale Watching
Some of the best whale watching can be found off the coast in Provincetown. One of the more popular tours is Whale Watch Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown. Summer is one of the best seasons to spot some sea life. If you’re lucky, you’ll see different types of whales as well as dolphins. Expect to pay $53 for adults; $33 for kids, children 4 and under are free.
Tours can last from three to four hours, so make sure that your kids are OK on a boat for that long (without getting seasick).
15. Day Trip to Martha’s Vineyard
Although there is a ton to do right on Cape Cod, a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard can also be fun. Getting there by ferry is part of the fun and takes less than an hour. (Just keep in mind that some of the ferries only run seasonally.)
- Hi-Line Cruises: Hyannis Harbor to Oak Bluffs
- Steamship Authority: Woods Hole to Vineyard Haven & Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs
- Island Queen: Falmouth Harbor to Oak Bluffs
- Falmouth Edgartown Ferry Service: Falmouth Harbor to Edgartown
Typically, tourists take the ferry to Oak Bluffs and then take a bus (or ride bikes) to Edgartown. Family activities include riding the oldest merry-go-round in America, experiencing a Pirate Adventure outing, renting bikes, visiting lighthouses and exploring beautiful beaches. Of course, do not forget the many ice cream shops. Ferry passage varies with Steamship Authority being cheapest with one-way prices at $8.50 for adults and $4.50 for kids. Children 4 and under are free.
Cape Cod truly is a family-friendly destination with activities to entertain everyone at the beach, bike riding along the coast or visiting waterparks or museums. Just make sure to use the best credit card for entertainment to maximize the points and miles you’ll earn experiencing all of these summer-time favorites. Even while enjoying your relaxing vacation, you do not want to leave any bonus points/miles on the table.
Featured image by Posnov / Getty Images
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