Anyone who’s tried to go “down the Cape” in summer knows the real danger isn’t sunburn or jellyfish — it’s being stuck in traffic on the Bourne Bridge. So why not trade in the changing of the tide for changing of the seasons and make a go of it in autumn, when a road trip features a rainbow of ochre, ruby and amber hues, along with a chance to decompress with fewer folks angling for a spot on the sand?
The Coonamessett Hotel offers up the perfect respite. Anyone who’s been visiting Falmouth for years — a popular Massachusetts tradition — will likely have a bit of déjà vu driving by, since Eli’s Tavern has been a popular haunt for decades. While old “Coony Classics” like steak tips and lobster rolls are still on the menu, the restaurant interior and the adjoining hotel just underwent a massive renovation and reopening in May. Harissa-spiced scallops and pumpkin walnut bisque with cinnamon tzatziki bring dining into 2018 with a bang in a space straight out of Pottery Barn, and the aesthetic translates into the 30 rooms and cottages. Plush beds, fur blankets, leather couches, antique book wall art and contemporary lighting in earth tones and blues all make for the ultimate comfort and cool factor. It’s pretty typical of Massachusetts-born Lark brand, whose other properties in New England and California feature smaller, boutique-style accommodations in older buildings; it’s rare two rooms are the same dimensions so no two experiences are the same.
The hallmark for most is, however, a hearty continental breakfast, and the Coonamessett doesn’t disappoint there, either. Fresh fruit, house-baked muffins, cereals, Icelandic yogurts, eggs and bagels from Pain D’Avignon (a hot boulangerie for brunching in Barnstable) are all complimentary. But it’s worth it to save up some calories for a nosh or two at Maison Villatte. The line snaking out the door is testament enough to the croissants, tarts fit for a royal, loaves of bread and chocolate chunk-filled cookies that are just gooey enough on the inside, while crispy and buttery on the rim. It’s hard to pick only one treat, so grab one or plan a return trip in the afternoon, before a stroll down Main Street.
Kids will enjoy Gelfi’s candy store (is there ever enough sugar?), where chocolate-covered truffles are made with one of Massachusetts’ most famous exports: cranberries. There’s also pick-and-mix by the quarter pound, and Charlie’s cupcake and ice cream shop, but home bakers will likely be into the myriad kitchen and housewares shops worth poking into. LeRoux offers up all price points, with everything from Le Creuset to packaged spice mixes for your next savory stew or chili. Grab a fun, angled spatula and seasonal party décor at Eastman’s Home & Hardware, where the handyman can also spend time away from the frills looking for replacement bulbs and screws.
Whether it’s the Black Dog for all of your summer board short needs or autumn hoodies, there’s plenty of Sunday sweats shopping or more high-end boutiques; but no matter what you’re shopping for, there’s always some other sort of entertainment on Main Street, too. October brings a Fall for the Arts festival — put together in part by the new Gallery on Main — along with Jazztoberfest. Besides strolling musical acts that go from business to business (and restaurants), there’s a sidewalk sale and village of scarecrows lining the streetlights. Christmastime gets particularly snazzy, with a village stroll with steamy beverages and lots of sales; and seafood lovers will revel in the Cape Cod Food & Wine Fest in June.
If you can’t make it during high season, no worries — the fresh catch still comes in daily so there are still good eats to be had everywhere, and Cape Cod Winery is open year-round for tastings and events like live music, yoga and paint night. Tastings are just $10 and include a souvenir wine glass, so there’s something to bring back home after toasting Falmouth discoveries.