It's been an ongoing joke in my life recently that I've been all the way out to the Greek Islands but never to Cape Cod. This is despite growing up in upstate New York and living in Boston for two years. I never even had an innate desire to go to Cape Cod until it's presence as a vacation destination became an all out assault on my life.
At first it was people mentioning here and there about their Cape Cod vacations, then it was everyone I knew in Boston talking about the Cape or their Cape house, or the bridge. Everyone talks about The Bridge. There is more stress and planning about Getting. Over. The. Bridge. than there is about anything else. Seriously. I felt more excited to be driving over the bridge than I felt about actually being on the beach. Because now I can talk with absolute authority about the bridge. Getting there early enough, crossing it, what's on the other side, whatever. I've never felt more in the proverbial loop than I did the moment I crossed that damn bridge. (And FYI: there's two bridges)
Sometime last year both families decided that they wanted to take beach vacations. Various states and beaches were researched, but it eventually came back to Cape Cod. And despite being on the Life List I actually didn't care where any of us went. That being said, I'm so glad we did go to the Cape twice in one summer because there is so much more there than just beaches, and going twice let us experience as much as possible.
The one thing that was incredibly annoying about researching such a popular vacation spot is that there's not enough basic information for the rookies. The are thousands of websites about what to do and where to go and which restaurants have the best seafood, but I needed Cape Cod for Dummies. And not a whole book, just a pamphlet.
This is what I wanted someone to tell me before I went that I now know:
- Yarmouth, Dennis, Chatham, tons of other little towns - Unless you have your heart set on staying up in Provincetown, it really doesn't matter where you stay. The Cape is small and staying in one town versus any other town isn't going to change your vacation in any appreciable manner.
- If you have small children, you want to go to the bayside beaches. The bayside has less wind, lots of tidepools, and is better all around. Mayflower beach is the best (suggested by two different locals and then confirmed with first hand experience), and you need to be there by 8:30a on sunny days.
- Getting a house walking distance to the beach is not nearly as important as it's made out to be. If you're going to spend a day at the beach you're going to have chairs, umbrellas, food, toys, towels, and about a hundred other things that will make it impossible to walk to the beach no matter how close you are. Renting close has it's benefits, but you'll save a ton of money if you don't.
- There are tons of interesting non-beach things to do:
- Walk around downtown Chatham
- Visit the Highland Lighthouse (skip the Chatham lighthouse)
- Walk around Provincetown
- Visit the Zooquarium or the Natural History Museum
- Eat ice cream at Sundae School or Lil' Caboose Ice Cream
- Buy insanely cheap Cape Cod gear at Cuffy's
- Pick out your favorite flavors of taffy at the Cape Cod Salt Water Taffy stand in Yarmouth
- Eat an amazing dinner overlooking Nantucket Sound at the Ocean House Restaurant
- Buy fresh lobsters from the local fish market and cook them yourself (freeze for 15 minutes, then steam)
I'm still dying to go to Hyannis and Martha's Vineyard, but I think that trip will be an extended weekend without the child. Maybe next fall we'll take a little mini-vacation to bike around the Vineyard, drive by the Kennedy Compound, and pretend that we care very deeply about sailing. Stay tuned.