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Cape Cod with Young Children

by Barbara Rogers

Jun 27, 2019

Stillman Rogers

Destinations / North America

With more than 400 miles of coastline, much of it white-sand beaches, Cape Cod is New England’s favorite summer playground. It’s a natural for families with young children who can build sand castles, collect shells and safely play in the warmer waters of the north shore. Some of the more protected Atlantic beaches are also good for kids, and the Atlantic provides other diversions as well — boat rides to visit seals, and tales of pirate treasure.

 

Best Beaches

Everyone has a favorite beach, but for young kids we favor the gently sloping, shallow beaches  lapped by the protected waters of Cape Cod Bay. Corporation Beach in Dennis is in a small cove, further protected by a breakwater on Nobscusset Point. There are lifeguards, a snack stand and a playground. Farther west in Dennis is Mayflower Beach, a good place to gather sand dollars. You can park at any of these with a Dennis beach sticker, purchased at the Dennis Town Hall, open daily.

 

In neighboring Brewster, Paine’s Creek is a smaller beach, but with its own built-in water park ride. The creek flows gently through the marsh to the beach and kids can ride an inflatable through this natural lazy river ride. There’s not a lot of parking, so arrive early or in mid-afternoon when people start leaving.

 

Cape Cod Museum of Natural History

The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History makes the Cape’s natural world come live for kids, engaging them with hand-on exhibits and experiences, such as feeding butterflies and learning how robotic bees may someday help pollinate food crops. In the aquarium they can get close to a changing array of creatures that live in local waters — sea horses, lobsters, Painted Turtles, eels, frogs and Horseshoe Crabs. An exhibit explores the world of the Wampanoag people, and the butterfly house is alive with Monarchs and Painted Ladies. Reserve ahead so your children can feed them.

 

Whydah Pirate Museum

What kid could resist the chance to see and touch real pirate treasure? They can, at the Whydah Pirate Museum. In 1717 the fully rigged galley ship Whydah sank off Wellfleet during a storm, scattering thousands of pounds of silver and gold on the ocean floor. The Whydah had been captured by pirate Samuel Bellamy, known as “Black Sam,” some years before it sank, and was used to attack more than 50 vessels and relieve them of their cargo. The interactive museum is filled with pirate tales, and tells the story of the Whydah and its recovery in 1984. The treasure displayed is the largest collection of pirate artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck anywhere in the world, and the museum’s exhibits illustrate the archaeology involved and give a unique glimpse into the lives of the pirates.

 

Sandwich, Cape Cod, New England. Photo: Stillman Rogers

Sandwich, Cape Cod, New England. Photo: Stillman Rogers

 

Heritage Museums & Gardens

Two attractions at Heritage Museums & Gardens, a complex of Americana museums, will appeal to kids, and you may have trouble convincing them to leave either one. A complete carousel with music and horses that move up and down is enclosed in a pavilion, and, unless there’s a line waiting, kids are welcome to ride it as long as they like. Outside, hidden among the 100 acres of trees and gardens (known especially for the rhododendron and hydrangeas) is the aptly named Hidden Hollow, an outdoor learning and discovery center with sand to dig in, rocks to climb, timbers to balance on and a series of pools with water to pump, carry, pour, splash in and experiment with.

 

Kandy Korner

This old-fashioned candy store on the main street of Hyannis will induce a sugar high just by walking in. But you’re on vacation, so indulge a little and let the kids run off the extra energy on the beach. Kids love watching fudge being made and filling the little baskets with their choice from penny-candy jars. No beach vacation is right without salt-water taffy, and the chocolate-covered cranberries are divine.

 

Kandy Korner. Photo: Stillman Rogers

Kandy Korner. Photo: Stillman Rogers

 

Places to Stay

Also in the pretty town of Sandwich, The Belfry Inn & Bistro looks like a church, which it once was. The bistro and guestrooms still have beautiful stained-glass windows. More conventional rooms fill two adjacent houses, some adjoining as suites perfect for families. In the first floor of one is the family-friendly Next Door Burger Bar, serving plain and fancy burgers (and a non-burger kids menu) at reasonable prices in a casual setting.

 

If you’d prefer to stay in one place, kick back at a resort and let someone else entertain the kids, head for the Chatham Bars Inn. Its Beach Buddies program for ages 4 through 6 changes daily and includes building sandcastles on the beach, cupcake decorating, kite flying, magic shows and supervised kids’ meals. Clam Diggers, ages 7-12, spend their mornings creating watercolor masterpieces, getting baseball tips from the local team and learning to perform improv comedy.

#WhereverFamily

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