My mom and I--and the Cape.
July 16, 2014 9:47 AM   Subscribe

My mom and I are leaving western PA tomorrow morning to drive to Cape Cod. Our original plan was just to wing it and go with the flow, but now that it's upon us, I'm nervous about not having anything planned. What can we do once we're there?

Last minute question--my mom and I are leaving western PA tomorrow morning to drive to Cape Cod. We already have a hotel booked (in West Yarmouth, if that helps), and are only going to be there through Sunday, leaving Monday morning to drive back. She's been to the Cod in the 70s, and I've never been. Our original plan was just to wing it and go with the flow, but now that it's upon us, I'm nervous about not having anything planned.

I'm currently printing out schedules for the ferries to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket (we'll probably do one, not both), and we might drive up to Plymouth. I'd like to see Provincetown as well, but really, I'm open to anything.

Is there anything we MUST see or do? I know this is the summer season, so it's going to be congested and hot. We're okay with that. We just want to enjoy our first mother-daughter trip without my dad and brother (who just want to hang out in the hotel room during any trip we take).

We like exploring little shops, walking around beaches (not swimming in the ocean so much, though) and...? I think my mom would like to see at least one lighthouse, but she probably won't want to climb up into it.

Making things a little more difficult:

*We don't like seafood and are mostly vegetarians (I am fully, she'll eat chicken). Any notable places we could/should we eat?

*My mom is early 60s, I'm early 30s and while neither of us are daredevils, my mom is pretty timid (I'm actually flying up from Tampa to PA so we can drive to the Cape; my mom won't fly and is iffy with boats, though she's prepared for the ferries). Local parks are probably okay to visit, renting bikes might be.

*I understand this is not a cheap place, and while I'm okay with things being a little spendy, my mom is the kind of person who balks at spending more than $20 on a pair of shoes. I figure if there's any splurge-worthy things, I'll pay for them, but it would be best to stay toward the reasonable end of the cost-spectrum.

Tl;dr--my mom are arriving in Cape Cod tomorrow and will be there through Monday morning with nothing planned. What fun, easy things can we do there?
posted by dearwassily to Travel & Transportation around Massachusetts (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Spend a day in Provincetown -- just walking around is fun, and there are also dune tours if you want to plan something in advance. Take a ferry to Martha's vineyard, also good for walking around, little shops, Victorian houses, etc. That and greasy fried seafood is pretty much what the Cape is about, IMO.
posted by Behemoth at 9:56 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Definitely do Provincetown! This is a great place if you like to walk around and explore little shops.

If you're interested in the Kennedys, maybe you'd find this walking tour in Hyannis interesting.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 10:21 AM on July 16, 2014

Try to avoid doing much driving on Saturday - that's usually the day when week-long vacation rentals turn over so traffic is particularly bad (Friday afternoon/evening would be the other bad time to drive). So I would recommend that Friday evening and Saturday day be spent close to West Yarmouth - Saturday could be your Hyannis day, or it might be a good day to take the ferry to Martha's Vineyard (ferry leaves from Hyannis).

I love Provincetown but keep in mind that it is about a 50 mile drive from West Yarmouth and it will take you a good hour or so to get there.

Renting bikes is an especially good idea on Martha's Vineyard - it's a very convenient way to get around in addition to being a fun activity.
posted by mskyle at 10:27 AM on July 16, 2014

I think adding an island is trying to cram too much in. Stick to the Cape, go to P-town. If you're really set on an island go to Martha's Vineyard so you spend less time on ferries than if you go to Nantucket.
posted by mareli at 10:45 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Go to Provincetown, and stop at the Truro Lighthouse on the way. If she decides she's up for boating bravery, do a whale watch. But just wandering around the shops in Ptown and the ~hour drive there and back will be a good solid day. Hyannis' downtown area is also lovely, and pretty close to where you are staying. Both of those will be a lot more empty on a sunny day when all the families want to go to the beach. Take Route 6A and stop off when you see an interesting-looking bookstore or what have you. (Route 6 is faster but there's only so much looking at low scrubby trees I can take.)

For going beachcombing, I'd recommend the bay side rather than the ocean side; it's quieter and rockier and there are more shells and things to find at low tide. The National Seashore is also generally more peaceful for that. (Really, bringing a picnic lunch to a beach on the bay side and chatting with my mom for a few hours sounds like perfection. Now I'm really sad I won't be getting to the Cape this year.)

I would avoid going off-Cape by car until the day you leave; the traffic on the bridges can be a real pain, especially on Saturdays when most week-long cabin rentals turn over. Plymouth might be a fun thing to do on the way home though.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:49 AM on July 16, 2014

Every one is saying go to P-town, but what to do along the way??? The Marconi National site is where the first trans-atlantic radio was used. The Wellfleet Flea market is at the WellFleet Drive in. Also, downtown Wellfleet is proto-typical Cape Cod; Macs on the dock is well worth the stop for lunch (not sure about vegan offerings). Truro has a winery and a great spice shop, and you can climb a lighthouse. . If you are baseball fans the Cape Cod League is in full swing. Games are free, sometimes they pass the hat... Great evening thing to do. There are several fields, so check the schedule.
posted by Gungho at 10:57 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Truro Vineyards is a nice place to stop on the way to/from Provincetown and very mom friendly.
posted by stripesandplaid at 11:09 AM on July 16, 2014

• Do Yoga at Chatham lighthouse beach - even if you've never done Yoga before you will really love this class, and the teacher, Valerie. Any body types or skill levels are welcome. All you need is a towel and sunscreen. (

• Have dinner or lunch (or oysters at the bar) at the Impudent Oyster in Chatham

• Definitely have lunch (and cocktails!) at Winslow's Tavern in Wellfleet - amazing food, lovely shaded terrace. Wellfleet is lovely to walk around too.

• Check out the many craft shops and small bookstores in Orleans, the annual book sale at the town library is a great way to pick up tons of dirt cheap books, too. They also do a craft fair where you can buy locally produced art, jewelry, wood carvings, etc.

• Provincetown is great too, as other people have mentioned. Check out the japanese style garden behind the fancy decoration store for some peaceful relaxation. There's also a book store (can't recall the name, but you cross a tiny little bridge to get in and it's in an old house rather then a commercial building) which is full of great used books, quite a few aged tomes there!

• Bike the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a long bike trail with some scenic stops. I love the ride from Orleans to Marconi Beach. There's a great lunch place (the Sub & Cone) along the way.

• Go to the beach. Nauset beach is great. The line to get a coffee milkshake or some fried food at Liam's is worth it. It's expensive but the quality is top notch. Of course, you can always stop at the Village Farm Market (formerly Fancy's Farmstand) to get great deli food to bring to the beach instead.

• Skaket beach is lovely too. Sunset there is especially lovely. At low tide there's shin deep water for what feels like a kilometer. Really nice place to walk. Bring some bug dope though.

• Oh, and don't miss Edward Gorey's house if you're a Gorey fan.
posted by signsofrain at 12:10 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't know where western PA is in your definition, but from around Breezewood, it was more than a 10-hour drive to Truro last week. I hope you can take turns driving or spend a night partway.
posted by sevenstars at 12:52 PM on July 16, 2014

Nthing Provincetown and a whale watch tour (if mom is up for that.) Advising you not to go to Plymouth if you are on the Cape. It's out of the way and there's more to see and do on the Cape.
posted by Sal and Richard at 1:14 PM on July 16, 2014

Out of Falmouth, there's a sailboat tour on the Liberté.

I've done this cruise twice and it is beautiful and very enjoyable and affordable.
posted by plinth at 1:46 PM on July 16, 2014

Big fan of the Cape Sea Grille in Port Harwich. And the whale watching out of Provincetown -- it really does put other whale watching to shame.
posted by MattD at 2:02 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

if you're into radio history, Marconi Beach is cool as is Woods Hole (Falmouth) if you like your nautical history. Lobster Pot in P-Town if your mom does fish, Glass Factory and Pottery place in Sandwich or Brewster, the original Christmas Tree Shop (definitely a NE thing, may not be a PA thing).

Spent most summers on Cape so ping me if you need more.
posted by TravellingCari at 7:55 PM on July 16, 2014

If you do decide to day trip to the Vineyard, mefimail me, I might be able to meet up and buy you two a beer.
posted by vrakatar at 8:18 PM on July 16, 2014

Nthing PTown, and you don't have to get on a boat at all if your mom doesn't want to. Tons of galleries, stores, things to see, and reasonably priced, yummy food. If either of you is into photography you'll have a blast.

Right now the PTown Museum of Art has a retrospective of the work of Robert De Niro Sr. which I missed last weekend by a day. And you might just run into John Waters if you visit PTown Bookshop!
posted by Sheydem-tants at 10:13 AM on July 17, 2014

Response by poster: We hit Martha's Vineyard, climbed to the top of the Highland Lighthouse in Truro, visited Skaket Beach and spent a day in Provincetown. We had a lovely trip, thanks to your wonderful suggestions!
posted by dearwassily at 8:11 AM on July 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

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