Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Cape Cod Vacation

Wanna Travel to Cape Cod, MA- Must Read!
WARNING: Virtual Vacation Experience Imminent
map via
*Map photo super cheesy, yet super useful...making my geography teachers proud.

Okay, so I was going to have a little more posting experience under my keyboard before I tackled the Cape Cod post, but with the sun making me feel like we go!

This will be our third annual trip to the Cape this year and let me tell you, if you have never been you've gotta go. Especially if you have children. This is a very different experience than the Orlando type vacay, but if you're up for a change this is it.

I definitely thought I could complete this post with a simple MUST DO/MUST NOT DO list. But, being that I've already committed the cardinal sin of run on's...I apologize in advance for rambling. So welcome to the post term paper from hell about one of the most beautiful places to take a family vacation in the states.

Renting a Place to Stay: There are no real luxury hotels on the Cape that are within walking distance to a TGIF' fact the only fast food restaurants on the Cape are a McDonald's on your way in and about 950 Dunkin Donuts...seriously, click here. So what you do is rent a house for a week, or two, or three. We always find our rentals on the website, and I will tell you what you need to look for (this is where my map image comes in handy). You have three options: Near/on the ocean, near/on a fresh water pond (many, and all warm and clean), or neither. Either way you can't lose because the entire Cape can be driven within one hour from top to bottom during the week. Please note that the "ponds" of the Cape are similar to what we call a "lake" in the midwest.
Things You Want in Your Rental House: I did not include the obvious, this is a list of everything you need to make the Cape experience unique.
-Lobster Pot (you're at the cape!)
-Bath Tub (kids, blah blah blah)
-Towels & Linens (to be expected, but read the rental description first)
-OUTDOOR SHOWER (so amazing, so relaxing, and so useful after a day at the beach)
-Fenced-in Private Backyard (the kids, and goes great with that outdoor shower, hehe)
-Crib and/or Highchair (if you need them your rentee will find them)
-Wagon (to walk to the beach and carry sand toys, ask for sand toys)
-Board Games (for late Cape nights, watching the stars, drinking wine in a hammock) 

Must Visit Beaches and Lakes: There are several ocean beaches and lakes to visit, but I narrowed down our favorites so you can spend time relaxing vs. beach hopping.
-Ridgevale Beach (i.e. where we took our family photos last year)
-great for finding crabs and shells
-clean, warm water inlet on one side, open ocean on the other
-easy parking
-snack bar/bathrooms
-Marconi Beach (National Seashore)
-great for watching surfers (see hunk in hammock)
-breathtakingly beautiful views
-good facilities
-complete ocean experience ready for photo ops and getting tan

-Schoolhouse Pond (freshwater pond located in Chatham, local secret)
-clean, glacier created, great for children
photo via
-easy parking
-ice cream truck visits every hour...

*So those are the big three you must do, and do again.

Restaurants: This is a big deal, because Cape restaurants can be as terrible as the tourist attraction type restaurants in NYC...god awful. Here are the places you should splurge on and enjoy multiple times during your visit.
-Chatham Fish & Lobster Company-Chatham. Lobster rolls, fish & chips, and shrimp. Wanna see where they get their fish?
-Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar- Eastham. Perfect for kids and adults, picnic style gourmet food, clam bar, great location for lunch after Marconi Beach. Good reviews too.
-George's Pizza House-Harwich. Because sometimes you just want pizza, and crappy pizza sucks. This place has just cheese, or goat cheese.
-Alberto's Ristorante- Downtown Hyannis. A great italian cuisine, outdoor eating, amazing dessert bar that includes house made gelato.
-Pisces- Chatham. Upscale type feel and fare. Similar to that of our very own Lucrezia's.

*Sorry for all of the linking, but if you are on vacation and come to this blog, you're welcome!

Kettle Ponds: You have to experience at least one of the several Kettle Ponds of Cape Cod...if not in person, then virtually.
A glacial kettle pond is when a giant ice block falls off the top of a glacier-creates a hole in the earth, and then melts. The pond has a very small beach and then drops off severely, to reveal crystal clear cold water perfect for goggles.
*We visited this one, Gull Pond, in Wellfleet. The problem is there is no where to park, except for the parking lot right next to the pond...which you need a town parking permit to park in. We parked there anyway and ate the $50 ticket, which was promptly placed in our rental car wipers. Worth it? For sure.

Cape Cod League Baseball: The reason we make the trip every year. To be able to see the best of the best as far as college ballers go...this is the place to see them. See great baseball at small, family friendly, ball parks. Many of these players go on to the major leagues. There are several different town affiliated teams, and ball parks to boot...but these are our favorite.
-Chatham Angler's- Located in the heart of the downtown, good food, good ice cream, and the best playground I have ever seen.
-Yarmouth Red Sox- There is an open field for the kids to run, and great food. Okay, well they have the Cool Dog. Yes, it is for people.
photo via
With most things covered...I knew this would be lengthy...I still want to run down what towns are worth stopping in, and why.

Chatham: The "crown point" of the Cape. A quaint downtown with nice children's clothing stores, and a small occupying toy shop to pass some time. No tax on clothing either...a great bonus. My personal favorite is a clothing shop called CQX...I bought a tank top there last spring for $30, which is currently featured as a part of Anthropologie's spring line, and costs $88 plus tax. 
Places not to miss:
-Sundae School Ice Cream
-The playground pictured above
-Ridgevale Beach
-Schoolhouse Pond
-The Chatham Fish Pier: simply drive to the fish pier around 4pm and watch the fishermen bring in the daily catch...and watch the huge seals wait for scraps. My nephew took this picture there last summer. 

Provincetown: Well, this is the biggie for people headed to the Cape...and I can honestly tell you there is NOTHING like the freedom of Provincetown. Sammy and I drove the hour drive to the tip of the Cape awaiting an "amish" type village with people dressed like pilgrims making homemade candles. Boy, were we ever surprised...pleasantly! This is   a better idea of what you will find. Let Freedom Ring! 

Provincetown has a great Portuguese influenced cultured, mixed in with sexual freedom, and any excuse to party. Still extremely family friendly, with GREAT history and things to see.
Places not to miss:
-Board Stiff Surf Shop: downtown Provincetown.
-Visit any of the "walk-up" restaurants for a quick bite
-Climb the Pilgrim Monument: for the views, the exercise...and stop by the museum.

These photos seriously do not do the view justice at all.

No-there isn't an elevator.

Hyannis/Hyannisport: This is where people do the whole "Kennedy" Cape thing. The downtown in Hyannis is great, and the harbor is spectacular! Super charming and upscale, with the Italian restaurant mentioned earlier.
Places not to miss:
The John F. Kennedy Memorial
The Harbor...just go check it out.
The vibe-the downtown area has a great one.


Other "Must See's":
The Nauset Lighthouse-Eastham. This is the lighthouse on the cover of Cape Cod Potato Chips. It is the easiest of the Cape lighthouses to get to. This is a photo we took two years ago.

A Cranberry Bog- this seems like a simple thing, but they are tricky to find. We drove on a driveway between two houses to find this one.


Pirate's Cove Golf Resort- South Yarmouth. The best putt-putt you could ever hope to play! Seriously...Imagine the Disney Peter Pan ride with golf.

Hopefully I have been useful, if not entertaining for those of you who have thought about the Cape for your next family trip. Please comment if you have any questions or additions! Here are a few favorite photos from our trips. Stay Mad!


  1. Thanks for the insight!

  2. Michelle this is simply awesome! I've always wanted to pick ur brain about ur cape cod vacations and now I have it all in writing! So awesome. This is defiantly somewhere I've always wanted to go. :) thank you!

  3. Love this post and it definietly makes me want to spend some time there :) Sounds like OUR kind of vacation! Thanks for posting!

  4. Thanks for the info! I was just recently searching online for Cape Cod vacation rentals, But I'm undecided on a specific location. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Hello James! If you are going with a family I would either stay in Chatham (great family beaches) or harwich (central location). If you are going for the purpose of nature and the national seashore I would try for welfleet. Chatham is your best bet for shopping, toy stores, ice cream shoppes. Definitely visit hyannisport, but kind of $$ to stay there. Hopefully this helps! We rent via home away!