Fall Weekends on the Cape
UPDATED FOR 2017
Thanks to a very dear family connection, we spend many summer weekends on Cape Cod enjoying its beautiful beaches. In the fall (with all the kids’ activities), we don’t get to visit as often, but we look forward to the opportunity to get off the beach chairs and follow our favorite biking path to the National Seashore.
For our readers outside of Massachusetts, Cape Cod – locally known as “The Cape” – is a geographical cape extending into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of southeastern Massachusetts.
Here are some of our fall weekend activities on the Cape:
Biking on Cape Cod Rail Trail
There are several biking trails – with a total of 114 miles of biking paths on the Cape – along the ocean vistas, meadows and lakes. Our favorite is the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT), which follows a former railroad way for 22 miles from the town of Dennis in the south through the towns of Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham and Wellfleet. The surface is paved and the hills are few – what’s not to like for a family of casual bikers?
There are several rental shops along the Trail, the biggest being Barb’s at the southern end of the Trail in Dennis.
Exploring the Beaches of the National Seashore
You are never too far from a beautiful beach on the Cape! In the summer, we prefer the warm water beaches of Nantucket Sound in Hyannis, but in the fall we go further to the outer Cape to admire the dunes and waves of the National Seashore Beaches.
Cape Cod Rail Trail has several access points to National Seashore: this past weekend we got off the trail for a walk and a picnic at Marconi Beach in Eastham. There are no life guards on the beaches after Labor Day but parking lots stay open all year (parking fees are not collected after Labor Day).
Visiting a Museum
We have recently “discovered” Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, which houses American cultural artifacts in its three galleries and features the largest garden in all of Southern New England. There are numerous nature trails and hidden treasures (and a nature playground for the kids) to spend a full day exploring the indoor and outdoor collections.
The Museum is open mid April through mid October on a regular basis (through October 9 in 2017), but will reopen for Halloween Festival on October 28, and then for Gardens Aglow Winter Wonderland on November 24 through the end of December (on weekends).
New This Fall at Heritage: Hoppy Fall Festival and beer tasting: September 23.
Visiting the Water Park
We have visited the indoor/outdoor water park at Cape Codder Resort in Hyannis on some rainy summer days before, but last weekend after our 15-mile bike ride it felt especially good to float along the path of the “lazy river”.
After a major recent renovation, the park now has four slides, a lazy river, little kids splash area, 10,000 sf wave pool, as well as hot tub and sauna for parents. In the summer, they open the retractable roof to let the sun in. Call ahead for day passes or check their website here.
Day Tripping to the nearby islands of Martha Vineyard and Nantucket
We have yet to make it to the island of Nantucket, but we have enjoyed several day trips to the island of Martha’s Vineyard (seven miles off the southern coast of Cape Cod) over the years. (Read This post about our most recent visit for lots of practical tips on getting to and around the island).
There are numerous campgrounds on the Cape and September-October is typically mild enough to enjoy a family camping weekend, and even go for a swim.
One of our favorite campgrounds on Cape Cod is the North of Highland Camping area in Truro. This campground in the pine tree forrest is situated directly on the preserved National Seashore and provides access to Head of the Meadow Beach.
Visit a Theater Festival
Provincetown annual Tennessee Williams Theater Festival brings innovative theater from around the globe to Cape Cod every September. This year’s theme: Tennessee Williams and William Shakespeare. Audiences will experience Williams and Shakespeare plays and may get a new understanding of both playwrights.
Here are some other theater events on Cape Cod: WHAT (Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater) offers “thought-provoking” programming year-round. If you are looking for more family-oriented programming, check out the Cape Cod Theatre Company (home of Harwich Junior Theater) and The Cape Playhouse (Dennis).
Walking the Main Street
Without the summer traffic and crowds, fall weekends might be the best time to visit the colorful Provincetown at the very tip of the Cape. We typically visit every fall: walk the main (Commercial street), eat the Malassadas (fried dough) at the Portuguese bakery in the center of town and enjoy some oysters with a water view at the food court (yes, they serve oysters in the food court here!).
You could also take a walking tour to learn about the town’s rich literary heritage or let a van tour take you to the dunes (I heard Art’s Dune Tours are great).
Here are more places to explore:
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham. Boat rides to the refuge are offered May-October, but you might also view the seals on the sand bar along the harbor inlets or at the Chatham Fish Pier (5 Barcliff Ave). Go hiking on the Morris Island trail and watch some interesting shorebird species.
Woods Hole Science Aquarium is small public aquarium with 140 species of marine animals from Northeast and Middle Atlantic waters. Entrance is free (donations welcome).
Truro Vineyards offer daily wine tastings from April to December, and the tours from Memorial Day to Columbus Day.
Have you visited the Cape in the fall? What are some of your favorite things to do?
Note: We received media passes to some of the attractions mentioned in the post. Check the websites for current ticket pricing.