cape cod bridgeThe Cape escape has begun.

It’s not easy to get there, given that traffic has picked up, but once you’re there it’s worth the drive. I have been lucky enough to spend summers on Cape Cod since I was a child.  The crowds of visitors are great for local businesses — but not so great for families seeking a restful vacation.

So I’ll let you in on a secret — there is a ton of fun to be had on the Cape when you’re not at the beach and when you want to steer clear of the traditional mini-golf and go-karts (which are also fun!). If you’re planning a trip to Cape Cod, try a few of these favorite activities.

Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail


I almost don’t want to give this hidden trail away, but it’s quite magical and great for younger kids because of the wooden boardwalk. It’s an easy walk through a beautiful landscape, and it’s close to the ocean and Marconi Station for a bit of history.

Cape Cod - Boston Moms

Cape Cod Pirate Adventures


We took our son on this excursion when he was 4, and he loved it! The kids dress up as pirates, read treasure maps, and become part of the “crew” on this 90-minute pirate ship adventure. And there are plenty of spots close by on the water to grab lunch before or after your trip.

Cape Cod Museum of Natural History


My son attends a nature summer camp here, and there is plenty to see inside the museum if you’re not attending camp. And it’s great for all ages! Check out the mini-aquarium, feed butterflies in the butterfly garden, attend a guided nature walk, and learn about the ospreys nesting close by. There are also beautiful adjacent conservation lands and a path that leads down to the beach. (And while this article is not about food, I feel obligated to throw in a plug for nearby Hopkins House Bakery.)

Harwich Junior Theater/Cape Cod Theater Company


In-person shows at a local theater are such a lovely summer activity for the family! Attend a family theater production, or sign your kid up for a theater class.

Heritage Museum and Gardens


There is so much to do here, and you can bring a picnic lunch or buy lunch at the cafe.  There are 100 beautiful acres of flower gardens to explore, an antique car museum inside one of the buildings, a carousel, and walking trails. We have attended family concerts and festivals here in the past as well.

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary


This spot offers wildlife to observe, with trails that wind through marshlands and out to the ocean at low tide. There are plenty of guided and self-guided activities, including an indoor nature center. One summer we signed up to make fish prints on T-shirts, which my son thought was very cool. Other activities available include a bird walk, a turtle prowl, and a seashore ramble to look for wildlife such as crabs, turtles, and fish. There is a summer camp as well.

Kayaking Trips

Barnstable, Sandwich, Mashpee

Several family-friendly kayaking tours operate out of Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary. Paddle amongst tidal rivers and bays, and learn about aquatic species including oysters, fish, and sandpipers. Some tours include a trip out to Sandy Neck Lighthouse, where you can climb to the top. Kayak trip or not, Long Pasture itself is worth checking out for its butterfly garden and walking trails to the beach.

Cape Cod Waterways


We have rented both kayaks and pedal boats here. There are also paddleboards for those more adventurous. The water is calm, and the wildlife views are wonderful. There are family-size kayaks that can fit two adults and two kids. We also found the pedal boat to be fun with our son sitting in the middle between my husband and me.  

Tanglewood Marionettes


An old-fashioned marionette puppet show is offered weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays through the First Parish Meeting House. Shows include classics such as Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.

Tanglewood Marionettes in Cape Cod

Shark Center

Chatham and Provincetown

Learn all about great white sharks and receive a shark tooth fossil at your visit. Reservations book up well in advance, so be sure to book early before you get to the Cape.

I hope you’re able to check out some of these fun family activities if Cape Cod is part of your summer plans!

Cheryl Mastrogiovanni
Cheryl is a native of Salem, MA, and now resides in Arlington with her husband and son. A graduate of Boston College, she has been a high school counselor for over 20 years and enjoys helping seniors navigate the college application process. A lifelong Boston Bruins fan, Cheryl began attending hockey games with her father in the original Boston Garden at the age of 8, a tradition she is now sharing with her son. Cheryl published a children’s picture book about the Bruins, and is also passionate about soccer, Cape Cod, all things Italian, and spending time with her family. As much as she loves to travel, she equally loves coming home. Loves: playing soccer on the weekends, GOOD pizza, hot summer nights, '80s music, sneakers, and being organized Dislikes: long meetings, loud noises, messiness