Early November in Cape Cod, or Elsewhere?
October 21, 2019 12:33 PM   Subscribe

We're traveling to Boston for a conference at the end of October, and have tacked on 4 days afterwards to stay somewhere in the area for a brief vacation, as neither of us have spent a lot of time in the New England area. Lured by the possibility of going to the Gorey House, we were thinking of going to the Cape Cod area for that time. Researching the area, though, it appears that a lot of Cape Cod will be shut down. Would we be better off heading elsewhere--and if so, where?

*We'll have a car, and will be flying out of Boston.
*While It may be easier to simply stay in Boston or head to Providence, our last vacation focused on several large European cities, and we live in another (American) one, so we're hoping for a bit of a change of pace.
*Things we're interested in: fall foliage (realizing that much will be gone by the time we get there), photography, museums, food, nature, scenic small towns (the Chicago area is not chock-full of them).

Ideally, wherever we end up will be central enough for some flexibility, depending on the weather--i.e., close enough to cultural attractions if the weather is bad. (We were thinking of Sandwich or thereabouts, but may be offbase.)

Thanks so much for any guidance you can provide!
posted by carrienation to Travel & Transportation around New England, United States (15 answers total)
Berkshires in Western Mass. MassMOCA is there, plus lots of hiking options and nice small towns to explore. Northampton would be a great base to explore from.
posted by veery at 12:56 PM on October 21, 2019 [4 favorites]

Cape Cod is sort of shut down but people do still live there so there are some things that are open. I spend summers on the South Coast of Massachusetts (I live in VT, foliage season is over here entirely and we're into Stick Season which is no leaves on the trees and no snow on the ground) and I really love the way the towns empty outs and there is space everywhere to walk. drive and park. Certain things in my area are open year round and are super fun (Whaling Museum is the main one I think of but oh my gosh there is so much good food in New Bedford). Another option that is pretty simple is heading out to Westerm Massachusetts and doing a little sightseeing in the cute Five Collegearea. You could go see what is up at Mass MOCA which is so out of the way but really cool depending what is there. Montague Book Mill is also unlike any other place. Some of this depends how much you are interested in driving versus just getting to a place and staying there.

I am a huge fan of autumn beaches and just getting to walk around in nature before the weather gets punishing but there are other places you can be where there are more things open and more walkable stuff that won't make you feel that you're missing out on some of the good parts of the place.

On preview: yep.
posted by jessamyn at 12:57 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hi, my parents live in East Sandwich and November or December is pretty much the only time I DO visit; I also grew up making very frequent visits to my grandparents in a town near Buzzard's Bay (which you drive past to get to the Cape itself).

The Cape does get quiet in the off-season, but it's not, like, devoid of people entirely. Granted that I'm largely there for holidays, so I'm not looking for a ton of museums, but my parents and I do still have a tradition of restaurant-dinner-and-a-movie the day after whatever holiday I'm there for. And we are usually able to find meals at a variety of different price points.

If you want to ensure that you get access to other cultural things, I'd maybe look into staying in one of the slightly larger towns, like Hyannis or Barnstable. Or you could go all the way out to Provincetown; that's definitely going to have things going on (we made a mini road trip out there one Christmas on Christmas Day and had a pleasant few hours poking around). The Cape is small enough that basing yourself in one of those bigger places and then making day trips to the smaller towns is entirely do-able.

The Cape knows that its biggest tourist draw is the beach, and anything beach-oriented will be closed; but that just clears out the crowds so you'll have a lot of the other attractions to yourself.

If you're still unsure, look into the space just south of the Cape (kind of in the Cape's "Armpit", so to speak) - Marion is the town my brother lives (and where our grandparents lived), and it's a lovely little town. New Bedford, to the south, is more of a smallish city, but has some historic museums that may be of interest.

And while the beach-tourism stores may be shut, the beaches themselves may be open, and a beach stroll in the Autumn or winter is still lovely.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:01 PM on October 21, 2019

We went on a vacation to Brewster MA almost exactly a year ago. It was definitely quiet (this was the goal for that vacation) with a higher proportion of locals and some stuff closed, but I really enjoyed it. Pretty simple itinerary: walking, restaurants (definitely some good ones open), bowling, board games, at least one art gallery, and I think we saw a movie.
posted by supercres at 1:04 PM on October 21, 2019

Plimoth is on the way to the cape and October is a fine time to visit both the living-history center and also the town.
posted by anastasiav at 1:09 PM on October 21, 2019

I should add that the towns in the Cape tend to be pretty small in general, and as such, museums being few and far between may be more a function of that than being because you're there in November as opposed to August. Again, though, there are things you will find (the Sandwich Glass Museum is definitely open in November, for instance).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on October 21, 2019

Portsmouth NH is a lovely walkable town we have gone to a bunch of times on Metafilter recommendations. Functional little city, terrific restaurants.

Can vouch for Western MA. 91 is the interstate that takes you north and south when you get there and Brattleboro (again, a nice, approachable, walkable arty little city) is up there.

Food is better in Portsmouth.

Mass MOCA is a lot of fun -- decent restaurants in the town and the place itself is trippy and fun.

You could spend four days in Western MA and find a bunch of cool things to do, especially if you're willing to drive 45 minutes to an hour for different destinations within the area given a home base--all of them pretty cool.

I find the vibe overall a little more chill in Portsmouth but given the list I think you'd get more entertainment out of Western MA.

The more north you go, the farther along the foliage is in terms of color but catch the light right on a sunny day and it should be pretty nice.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:12 PM on October 21, 2019

Oh, Keene NH is also nice -- I probably wouldn't stay there but for the whole walking around, looking at pottery, and eating lunch thing it's also reachable via Western MA without needing to levitate to get there.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:13 PM on October 21, 2019

The Cape is quiet out of season, but it’s not as if there’s nothing open; it’s just the summer/tourist things that go dormant.

The Gorey House (in my opinion an interesting place, but not in itself worth a special trip) is only open Friday & Saturday at this time of year, and other places of the sort may well have similarly restricted hours. The B&B next door to the Gorey House, The Compas Rose, was nice when we stayed there about five years ago. Depending on the weather, the seashore can be beautiful and really nice to visit out of season (easy, free parking!) as long as you like walking and not sitting — we enjoyed a MLK day visit to Race Point Beach a few years ago. It was quiet, but we were not the only people there. I have also enjoyed Chatham beach in the off season; I had fun flying a kite in the stif breeze.

It’s a beautiful place, and I concur with EmpressCallipygos that, as long as you don’t want the summer beach experience, out of season it the time to go!
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 2:50 PM on October 21, 2019

Yeah, no, come to Providence. It’s the least cityish city ever. There’s a small downtown, but it has a bustling food scene, is delightfully photogenic (go to Swan Point Cemetery, as you should be taking a stroll down Hope Street anyway, so you’d be in the area), and since you have a car, you can day trip to Newport, and also check out the nearby New England fall stuff here in RI. The Roger Williams zoo, in PVD, is doing their annual jack-o’lantern extravaganza, which is pretty neat to check out.
posted by Ruki at 3:25 PM on October 21, 2019 [1 favorite]

The height of autumn color is over in the Berkshires, but it’s still beautiful. This is perhaps the best hiking season though, as bugs are mostly gone and it’s cool but not cold yet.
posted by spitbull at 5:02 PM on October 21, 2019

Also look into Newport, RI. You could spend days visiting the mansions there, but they also have the Touro Synagogue, Fort Adams, and the Cliffwalk, to name a few other attractions, and some great restaurants.
posted by Preserver at 7:20 PM on October 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Cape is awesome right now! Still leafy, still warm, no tourists. If you're down for moody beach walks, mushroom or cranberry picking, quiet restaurants full of locals, come! Pick Provincetown or Chatham or somewhere in the armpit like Hyannis where there's a bit more local life.
There's a lot of science happening too, check out what's happening at NOAA in Woods Hole or (personal plug) Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, where there's awesome programs year-round if you like birds or turtles.
posted by Freyja at 5:05 AM on October 23, 2019

Thanks for all of your help! I thought about western MA but my partner preferred to stick closer to the original plan, though we won't be staying on the Cape--we found a AirBnb we liked just outside New Bedford. But we'll be looking into all sites that are within driving distance mentioned above.
posted by carrienation at 11:23 AM on October 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Most sites on the Cape should be within driving distance, yay! It's not a big place; Sandwich is only about an hours' drive from New Bedford, and you go through some pretty spots on the way so it's not like "ugh we have to drive an hour" it's more like "oh this is a pretty drive and hey, we also got to a cool destination".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on October 28, 2019

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