Live music on the Village Green. Jazz strolls down Main Street. African drumming classes in downtown.
Hyannis has the cultural vibrancy of a large city with the small-town feel of the Cape. It’s why no trip to Cape Cod is complete without a stop into the HyArts Cultural District where you’ll find a perfect blend of live entertainment, art, history, food, and nature.
“Hyannis is the center, where Cape Cod happens,” says Elizabeth Wurfbain, executive director of the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District. “This is the hub of transit and with over 120 locally-owned businesses, shops, restaurants and more on a mile-long Main Street, year-round events, entertainment, historic museums, and a beautiful harbor, it has something for everyone.”
Hyannis is one of only two towns on the entire Cape — Provincetown is the other — where visitors can easily go from a thriving Main Street to a working waterfront, Hyannis Harbor, within five minutes. Make sure to take the scenic Walkway-to-the-Sea brick pathway which passes by the Hyannis Village Green en route to the ocean. Along the way, look for the bright-colored birdie riddle boxes which were designed by local artist Donna Rockwell and contain interesting facts about Cape Cod.
Connect with Local Creatives at Hyannis Artist Shanties
A must-see for day trippers is the popular artist shanties at Bismore Park and the Harbor Overlook. Here, you can meet local creatives, purchase their work, and watch as they practice their craft at these colorful seaside studios. At Bismore Park, each shanty is named for Barnstable’s seven villages— Hyannis, Osterville, Marstons Mills, Barnstable, Centerville, Cotuit, and West Barnstable — and are decorated with images depicting the past and present of those villages. The Harbor Overlook shanties are named for public beaches. Open spring through the fall, and special holiday events, artists change weekly throughout the season.
The walkability of downtown Hyannis and its easy access to the water make it unique to the Cape. Artist shanties, shops, museums, and beautiful vistas of the harbor are easily accessible from the village’s public parking lots. And with an eclectic mix of 40 restaurants, from breakfast spots to pizzerias to sandwich shops to fine dining, you’ll find the fuel you need for your cultural adventure.
At the corner of South and Pearl Streets is the Hyannis HyArts Campus, a collection of town-owned properties — Guyer Barn, 50 Pearl Gallery, and Studio 46 — which serve as a community art space, exhibiting locally-made art and hosting workshops and classes which are open to the public. The campus has its own artist-in-residence program, just one way Hyannis is providing opportunities for local artists to access a professional working studio space and gallery in downtown Hyannis.
Multiple times throughout the year, the village’s main thoroughfare shuts down to vehicular traffic for Hyannis Open Streets, a celebration that brings out the kid in all of us. With a variety of street performers – there’s stilt walkers, face painters, musicians, jugglers – combined with vendors, dance parties, kids’ games, yoga classes, and giveaways, the family-friendly event epitomizes what it truly means to be a community.
During the summer, the Hyannis Village Green comes alive with an array of fun, eclectic activities that those of all ages can enjoy. From free Cape Cod Ukulele Club concerts to family-friendly movies to live performances by the Barnstable Town Band to the always entertaining Hyannis Sound singing their brand of a cappella music, there’s an event every day of the week in July and August. An updated list of year-round events can be found at ArtsBarnstable.com.
Every July, the region embraces its signature flower during the annual Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival. Visitors are welcome to explore private gardens throughout the Cape for a nominal fee to support local nonprofits. Hyannis gets into the act with the artist shanties at Bismore Park featuring special activities tied to the festival.
Explore the Kennedy legacy in Hyannis
This community – and its natural beauty – attracted the Kennedys to the Cape nearly a century ago. The family’s connection to the region can be felt throughout Hyannis.
“I always go to Hyannisport to be revived, to know again the power of the sea, and the master who rules over it and all of us,” President John F. Kennedy once said.
Our country’s 35th president stands tall on Hyannis’ Main Street where a statue of him, created by sculptor David Lewis, greets visitors to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. Here, patrons will be transported back to Camelot and explore President Kennedy, his family, and his ties to the Cape with an orientation video narrated by Walter Cronkite, photos, and exhibits that explore his life and legacy.
“The Cape was the one place President Kennedy could relax and feel at home, even while nearing the weight of the world,” says museum Director of Programs and Operations Jennifer Pappalardo. “Here you can step into the unforgettable Hyannis Port days of the 1960s when a beloved President and his family brought joy and hope to a nation.”
It’s the perfect stop for any history buff and a great way to kick off your journey along the Kennedy Legacy Trail. This self-guided 1.6-mile walk through Hyannis lasts roughly 1.5 hours and includes 10 different stops, including the impressive JFK Memorial at Veteran’s Beach on Ocean Street, overlooking Lewis Bay where President Kennedy often sailed during his time here.
Wherever you are on the Cape, you’re never far from the water. At the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, you can explore the region’s past- and present-day ties to the sea. With exhibits that celebrate sea captains, boat building, fishing, aquaculture, lighthouses, and nautical art, the museum offers a fascinating insight into Cape Cod’s rich maritime traditions.
“The rich maritime history of Cape Cod has been a driving force in the region for centuries. From the clambakes of early Native Americans to the heroics of 19th century sea captains, the ocean plays a vital role in the economic and recreational lives of Cape Codders and visitors,” says the museum’s Executive Director Elizabeth York. “At the Cape Cod Maritime Museum — the Cape’s only museum devoted to maritime culture — we preserve and interpret the rich nautical traditions and history for which the Cape and Islands are known.”
And thanks to its charming catboat Sarah – an 1886 Crosby catboat replica built in the museum’s Cook Boat Shop – you can experience the magic of the water on an hour-and-a-half sail around picturesque Hyannis Harbor.
At the opposite end of Hyannis on North Street, the Zion Union Heritage Museum is a celebration of the region’s African American, Cape Verdean, Wampanoag, Brazilian, and Caribbean people of Cape Cod. Opened in 2007, the museum was once the home of Zion Union Church and features artwork, lectures, and film series that offer a unique lens into the critical contributions that People of Color and diverse communities have played in shaping the Cape.
A cultural vibrancy in Hyannis
Throughout the year, one-of-a-kind cultural events bring a life and vibrancy to the region like Love Live Local’s Love Local Fests which bring together Cape artisans, makers, crafters, and makers, in the summer, fall and the holiday season, give the public a chance to embrace the philosophy of shopping local.
In the fall, the Hyannis Film Festival, a relative newcomer to the cultural scene, adds another layer of depth to the local artistic offerings.
And then there’s the Cape Cod Melody Tent. Harkening back to old Cape Cod, this unique entertainment venue has brought national acts to the region since it first opened in 1950. At the time, it was the third musical tent to open in the United States.
Today, no trip to the Cape is complete without catching a comedy show or concert at the Melody Tent which has welcomed some of the top musicians and comedians in the world to perform at its iconic round stage. It’s just one of the many reasons why you should come to Hyannis for your fill of arts, culture, and entertainment.
For places to stay on the Mid-Cape, click here. For dining options on the Mid-Cape, click this link. And for additional things to do during your visit to the Mid-Cape, click here.