Family Weekend Getaway in Cape Cod

  • Distance from Philadelphia: 70 miles
  • Best time: May to October
  • Best for: FamilyOutdoorBeaches

The Cape Cod village of Falmouth is the area's best family destination. Cool breezes, warm water, and an easily navigable town are some of the calling cards; attractions, shopping, and easy day trips to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket round out the bill.

What makes Falmouth a favorite among travelers is how self-contained it is. With ample restaurants, beaches, and local entertainment, one could easily spend a vacation cruising ice cream cone to sand to Main Street without ever crossing the town lines. The extra-added bonus: the newly expanded Shining Sea Bikeway (now spanning more than 10 miles) makes it possible for families to enjoy much of the landscape via two-wheeler. –By Lisa Oppenheimer

Friday

Cape Cod Cheat Sheet

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1. Stash the gear, don the flip-flops and head to town. Cute restaurants line Main Street in Falmouth. Get in the laid-back mood for the weekend with comfort food from local-favorite and locally owned Liam McGuire's Irish Pub.

2. Grab a homemade ice cream from Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium and then recline on the grassy lawn across the street at the Margaret E. Noonan Park. In season from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. all of Falmouth comes out for the town's free Friday-night schedule of family friendly concerts.

3. End the night with a ten-minute drive north on Route 28 to Chapoquoit Beach. Park the car (parking is open to all permit-free after 5 p.m.) and watch the sun as it sets gloriously over the water

Saturday

1. Get the day off to a good start. The Country Fare Restaurant has everything a comfy diner needs: cheerful proprietor, homespun décor, and comfort-food breakfast fixing such as eggs, pancakes, and potatoes.

2. Today's the day for leisurely strolling and beaching. A few minutes up 28 in North Falmouth, Old Silver Beach has white sand, amenities like food stands and bathrooms, and most importantly, parking that doesn't require a permit (it will, however, cost you $20). Come early as there are lots of people vying for those parking spaces.

3. When you're beached out, drive south to Woods Hole. The historic section near the ferry port at the end of the Shining Sea Bikeway is also home to Pie in the Sky where the smell of fresh-baked popovers, among other goodies, is impossible to resist. If you haven't had lunch at the beach, you can also eat up Pie's selection of sandwiches, soups, or quiches.

4. Nearby, the Woods Hole Science Aquarium, purportedly the nation's oldest (depends on who you ask), invites you to get to know some of the local critters. Admission is free; stick around until 4 and you're likely to catch the seals getting their late-afternoon meal.

5. If you're still feeling energetic, head back through Main Street, buy a kite at Kaleidoscope Toys and fly to the unofficially designated kite field at the intersection of Falmouth Heights Road and Grand Avenue.

6. A day in the sunshine and fresh air has no doubt taken a toll on the brood. Head back to the hotel for some down time and clean up before dinner. For nighttime eats, check out Crabapples where the homemade crab cakes and chowder look as yummy as they taste.

7. No Cape Cod day is complete without a good cone of something cold and sweet. End the day in town at Ghelfi's Candies of Cape Cod where you can choose among the local favorite homemade ice cream and chocolates.

Sunday

1. Yes, you'll find the obvious at the Cape Cod Bagel Cafe. But the bagels have chewy outsides, soft insides, and come in creative sandwiches (peanut butter and banana!) that make the menu definitely worth the trip.

2. Drive off the Cape for a 9 am whale watch out of Plymouth on Captain John Whale Watching and Fishing Tours. Yes, it's early—but the great good benefit is that you'll be past the dreaded rotary and over the bridge long before the crowds.

3. After you've made the obligatory trek to the Rock (that would be Plymouth Rock), head to the hard-to-miss Cabby Shack that actually serves Freedom Fries, but will amuse the kids (and moms and dads) for its resemblance of something Jimmy Buffet would have built.

Where to Stay

Adorable doesn't quite do the Shoreway Acres Inn (rooms from $89/night) justice. Within walking distance to town, the throwback retreat has gazebos and lawn swings, plus an indoor and outdoor pool, and more importantly for a hungry family, a full breakfast included every day.

It's been around forever, but the Sea Crest Beach Hotel (rooms from $165/night) on Old Silver beach, was renovated to sparkling new in 2010. More than 200 rooms make for a variety of room rates, and some surprisingly good deals.

It's not the fanciest hotel, but the Cape Wind Waterfront Resort (rooms from $109/night) offers some good bargains, and interesting amenities such as some rooms with kitchenettes and old-time favorites like paddleboats, badminton, and croquet.

When to Go

Many hotels stay open year round, but attractions are often seasonal, open May to September. Like many beach destinations, shoulder seasons (spring, fall) are particularly economical, especially if you're a fan of biking in less than searing temperatures.

How to Get There

By Car: Falmouth is 78 miles from Boston, but it will take you more than 90 minutes since the last stretch covers two-lane local roads. Traveling on a summer weekend? Expect the trip to stretch out into hours. From Boston, drive 93 south to Rt. 24 south to Rt. 495 over the Bourne Bridge. Follow Rt. 28 South into Falmouth.

Taxis and some public transportation are available. Ideally, though, a car is essential.

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