Cape Cod has long been a family-friendly destination. Whether you’re visiting for a day, a weekend, or a week, the region caters to those with children. The Cape is a place where special memories are made at a young age. And those memories bring families back year after year to capture the magic and beauty of this region.
For many, that magic and beauty revolves around the arts, bringing joy to those young and old. So what are you waiting for? Grab the entire family and get ready to be inspired on your Cape vacation!
Performances, Puppets, and Live Theater
At the Cape Cod Theatre Company, their lineup of shows is one the entire family will enjoy. The theatre is sure to make audiences of all ages laugh, think, and experience the joy and wonder of the stage.
Thanks to its educational offerings, the theatre offers children a chance to get into the act and tap into their creativity, both as performers and in behind-the-scenes roles.
In Falmouth, Highfield Theatre is home to the College Light Opera Company during the summer, bringing college-aged students from around the country to entertain audiences of all ages with classic Broadway fare that has included the “Wizard of Oz,” “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Mary Poppins,” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
Throughout the rest of the year, the Falmouth Theatre Guild does its part, bringing productions that are perfect for adults and children alike.
For more family-friendly entertainment, head to Brewster where the Cape Rep Theatre has shows geared specifically towards children, including the popular “Puppets, Paul, and Mary.” It’s more of the same in Orleans at The Academy of Performing Arts which brought E.B. White’s classic “Charlotte’s Web” to the stage in the summer of 2021. This summer, it will be producing the family-friendly “101 Dalmatians” and “Mary Poppins.”
At Payomet Performing Arts Center in Truro, its Cirque by the Sea show combines the allure of the wild west with aerial acrobats, juggling, live music, and comedy that will make your Cape vacation one to remember. And with its youth circus camp, Payomet gives your children the opportunity to put their creative skills to the test.
And then there’s the Cotuit Center for the Arts which has a lineup of live programming that the kids will love, including puppet shows, pirate scavenger hunts, and interactions with wild animals. It also hosts summer workshops — photography, ballet, theater, clay, and more — that allow children to tap into their creativity.
Encounters with Animals
Before you hit the Bourne Bridge, Buzzards Bay’s National Marine Life Center will have the entire family buzzing with excitement as you learn about the great work this nonprofit is doing to rehabilitate injured seals and sea turtles found in Cape waters. Make sure to follow their Facebook page and see the results of their work in action as they regularly release those rehabilitated animals back into the wild.
You can continue to get up close and personal with wild animals at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History in Brewster, where you can not only learn about the fascinating life cycle of butterflies, you can feed them.
While there, make sure to visit the nearby Brewster Flats, which are visible during low tide. Representing the largest such flats in North America, they measure roughly 12,000 acres and extend from Brewster to North Eastham. During the summer, the museum leads tours as part of its award-winning popular Mudflat Mania hikes where families can learn about the area and explore the sea creatures that bring the region to life. You’ll want to wear comfortable hiking or water shoes and bring a towel and a pail and shovel to get the most out of the experience.
The museum also regularly welcomes Amazing Animal Ambassadors, allowing the little ones to make friends with Cali the talking cockatoo, Boomerang the kookaburra, Big Red the red tegu, Milo the fennec fox, Bailey the African pygmy hedgehog, and many more creatures of all shapes and sizes.
Owned by Bethany Jakubson, who has been working in zoos and aquariums since 2006, Amazing Animal Ambassadors also makes visits to other nonprofits throughout the Cape, including the Cotuit Center for the Arts and the Thornton W. Burgess Society in Sandwich.
And then there’s the always-popular whale watches – they leave out of Hyannis Harbor and Provincetown – along with seal tours out of Chatham, Harwich Port, Orleans, and Provincetown, that will awe and inspire the entire family.
Carousels on the Cape
Near downtown Falmouth, the hand-carved nautical-themed wooden horses spin round and round, creating a magical experience for young ones eager to ride the Carousel of Light. Adjacent to the Mullen-Hall School, the carousel was crafted by artist Lance Shinkle and has been delighting families since 2013.
It’s open seasonally and within walking distance to the Village Science Playground, which boasts an impressive array of slides, climbing areas, and swings against the backdrop of lighthouses and science-themed activities that tie into the character of the region.
Nearby is the Falmouth Public Library which plays host to a number of family-friendly events, including nursery rhyme time, story walks, and live musical performances throughout the year.
Falmouth isn’t the only town that is home to a carousel. At Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, the carousel is one of the most popular attractions, thrilling riders for over a century.
It was crafted by Charles Looff in 1908; it’s one of 40 carousels he built between 1876 and 1916 and one of roughly 10 that are still in operation today. Looff carousels are known for sparkling mirrors, glittering jewels, lavishly decorated animals, and real horse-hair tails.
The one at Heritage was purchased by Josiah K. Lilly, III in 1968. Four years later it was reassembled on museum grounds where it has been delighting visitors ever since.
While the carousel is a draw for children, it’s not the only attraction at Heritage. Make sure to stop by Hidden Hollow which is nestled in a two-acre dry kettle hole and features stepping stumps, log balance beams, nature-inspired art, building blocks, and a sandbox where kids can learn, play, and explore.
Cape Cod’s Pirate Adventures
Looking for escapades on the high seas? Then jump aboard the Sea Gypsy in Hyannis Harbor and join Captain Drake, Captain Claudia, and Captain Tom on the whimsical Cape Cod Pirate Adventures. Your kids will be transformed into pirates for a treasure-hunting voyage around the harbor, complete with a water cannon battle.
Once on land, make a quick trip to the nearby Cape Cod Maritime Museum, where the entire family can learn about the region’s close connection to the water. Kids can even start on their path to becoming a seafarer through the museum’s Young Mariner Program, where they’ll learn about navigation, seamanship, tides, marine life, sailing, and local ecology.
On Cape Cod, pirates aren’t just characters portrayed on the big screen. They are tied to the region’s history, which you and your children can learn about at the Whydah Pirate Museum in Yarmouth.
Opened in 2016, the museum houses the largest collection of artifacts recovered from a single shipwreck, the Whydah Gally. Captained by the famed pirate Samuel “Black Sam” Bellamy, the ship was caught in a storm on April 26, 1717, and wrecked off the coast of Cape Cod. There were only nine survivors, six of whom were hung, two were freed, and one sold into slavery.
Inside the museum, families can learn about the incredible tale of the Whydah, its crew, and its discovery in 1984 by underwater explorer Barry Clifford. There’s an impressive partial replica of the Whydah and new artifacts from the sunken ship that Clifford and his team continue to unearth during their dives to the site.
Also on land, the little ones are encouraged to help pirate Fanny O’Waddle and her first mate Scurvy find the lost treasure of the dread pirate Captain Boneyard McClavicle as part of the Cotuit Center for the Arts fun-filled pirate scavenger hunt, held twice a week from July through August.
Emphasis on the Kids
Perhaps no place is more family-friendly than the Cape Cod Children’s Museum. Striking the perfect balance between learning and play, the museum caters to children of all interests, ages, and abilities.
The centerpiece is a playground modeled after a pirate ship, just one of several nautical themes that can be found throughout the museum. With a variety of interactive exhibits, children can immerse themselves in activities that improve their motor skills, allow them to socialize with peers, and teach them important lessons pertaining to science, math, spelling, art, and music.
With several themes to the museum – there’s a castle, post office, tree house, music room, spaceship, puzzle tables, and more – children can get lost in their imagination and tap into their creativity. The museum even hosts regular events throughout the year, including story time, yoga, Disney sing-a-longs, arts classes, and themed dress up days.
In Mashpee, the museum is not alone in catering to families. The nearby Color Me Mine is a chance for parents and their children to bond while painting pottery together. The pieces can serve as keepsakes, perfect reminders of your visit to Cape Cod.
Get Lost in a Book (or a Class)
There are two ways to learn – by reading or by doing. And on Cape Cod, your kids will have the opportunity to do both. Boasting over 20 independent bookstores, Cape Cod gives children an opportunity to get lost in the faraway lands that only books can offer.
Each bookstore has its own distinct character, with several catering to younger audiences. That’s exactly how Eight Cousins Bookstore on Falmouth’s Main Street started in 1986. And while it now offers books for adults, its children’s section remains front and center.
Yellow Umbrella Books in Chatham and Titcomb’s Bookshop in Sandwich, both of which play host to author visits throughout the year, are other stores popular with the little ones. At Titcomb’s, make sure to get a selfie with the iron colonial man statue out front – your favorite author has most likely done the same.
Not only can children get lost in a book, they can do the same in a workshop where they can learn how to paint, act, write, draw, sing, and express themselves artistically.
In Falmouth, children can do just that at The Just Write It Class taught by published author T.M. Murphy; Brian Switzer’s Acting Camp in Woods Hole; and the Falmouth Art Center where kids can learn pottery, how to draw, and create with clay.
Similar classes can be found throughout the Cape with the Meetinghouse Clay Center in Bourne, the Cotuit Center for the Arts, the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in Yarmouth, Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis, the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill, and Provincetown Art Association and Museum doing their part to inspire the next generation through art.
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