Cape Cod Without the Crowds
Labor Day may be the symbolic end of summer, but on Cape Cod, that 70-mile-long bent-arm-shaped peninsula in eastern Massachusetts, there’s still plenty of family fun to be had after that. You’ll find pleasant temperatures, lots of elbow room on the bike paths, inviting wide-open beaches—with free parking—and a full slate of fall festivals. Oh, and that place with the legendary clam rolls that was impossibly packed in August? Now you can waltz right in. All good reasons to ignore the calendar and start packing.
KAYAKING, South Orleans
Dick Hilmer, a science teacher and kayaker, guides outings on Nauset Marsh, a resting spot for migrating shorebirds and seals.
DUNE TOURS, Provincetown
You’ll cruise through the Sahara-like dunes of Cape Cod National Seashore, past tiny shacks once occupied by artists and writers such as Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams and Jackson Pollock, who found inspiration in the wide-open spaces and clear light.
WHALE-WATCHING, Provincetown or Barnstable
Humpback whales—as many as 20 in a group—linger in the deep waters of Stellwagen Bank until late October before swimming south to winter in the Caribbean. Naturalists lead half-day trips out of Provincetown and Barnstable.
Fall is prime time for fishing. Hook them in the surf, in saltwater rivers or out on the open water with the guidance of captain Bob Betti, whose company specializes in family angling trips in pursuit of cod, striped bass, bluefish and tuna.
BIKING AND WALKING
The Shining Sea Bikeway, a mostly flat 10.7-mile paved trail between Woods Hole and North Falmouth, shows off some of the Cape’s choicest scenery: salt marshes, oyster ponds, cranberry bogs, barrier dunes and the open sea.
Harwich Cranberry Festival
A weekend of parades, music and fireworks celebrates the cranberry harvest across the 14,000-plus acres of bogs on the Cape and in southeastern Massachusetts. Harwich.
Bourne Scallop Festival, Buzzards Bay
Every year, three tons of fried scallops are dished out during this popular event in a park beside the Cape Cod Canal. There are also carnival rides, kid-friendly entertainers, an art show and performances by top regional bands.
Jam Kitchen Workshops, East Sandwich
Cook up some mango-plum or cranberry-apricot jam in a Saturday afternoon parent-child workshop at the Green Briar Jam Kitchen.
Home to some of the world’s best oysters, Wellfleet celebrates with shucking contests, boat tours, musicians, jugglers, a kid’s fun run—and bushels of oysters for the tasting.
Sandwich Glass Museum
Enjoy more than 6,000 colorful, light-catching pieces made by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co. in the 1800s. The highlight for most kids is the glassblowing demonstration.
Woods Hole Science Aquarium
This small aquarium has 140 local marine species on display, including lobsters, horseshoe crabs and starfish in kid-level tanks. Several seals make their home in an outdoor pool, where you can watch feedings and exercise sessions.
Pilgrim Monument and Museum, Provincetown
A 252-foot-tall granite monument commemorates the pilgrims who stopped here on their way to Plymouth. The 116 steps and 60 ramps make a fun climb for active kids.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
Explore Cape Cod: 508.240.1211; explorecapecod.com
Art’s Dune Tours: 508.487.1950; artsdunetours.com
Dolphin Fleet: 800.826.9300; whalewatch.com
Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises: 800.287.0374; whales.net
Cape Cod Family Fishing Charters: 508.776.0350; capecodfamilycharters.com
Corner Cycle: 508.540.4195; cornercycle.com
Bourne Scallop Festival: bournescallopfest.com
Jam Kitchen Workshops: 6 Discovery Hill Rd. off Rte. 6A; 508.888.6870; thorntonburgess.org
Wellfleet OysterFest: Wellfleet; wellfleetoysterfest.org
Sandwich Glass Museum: 129 Main St., Sandwich; 508.888.0251; sandwichglassmuseum.org
Woods Hole Science Aquarium: 166 Water St., Woods Hole; 508.495.2001; aquarium.nefsc.noaa.gov
Pilgrim Monument and Museum: pilgrim-monument.org