United States

Things to Do in Cape Cod

Named for the abundance of cod off its shores, Cape Cod -- or "the Cape," as locals refer to it -- has been a travel destination for nearly 400 years. The Pilgrims’ first stop in the New World was not Plymouth but rather Provincetown Harbor at the tip of Cape Cod in November 1620.

Cape Cod’s earliest industries were fishing and whaling, and many picturesque lighthouses remain from this time. With the discovery of petroleum in the 19th century and the subsequent decline in the market for whale blubber, the Cape turned to tourism, taking advantage of its long stretch of beaches, beautiful vistas and charming village centers.

Here are 7 ideas for making the most of your visit to Cape Cod.

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1. Whale Watching

The waters around Cape Cod are home to numerous species of whales and dolphins, making a whale watching excursion an experience you will never forget. All ages marvel as the humpback whales slap their tails or when they “breach” -- shooting up almost vertically and turning in mid air, landing on their side or back with a huge splash. Dolphins leap and play and seem to enjoy having an audience. Whale watches leave from Hyannis or Provincetown, rain or shine. Plan around 4 hours for the entire trip.
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2. National Seashore

When you think of Cape Cod, you think beaches -- long, beautiful stretches of beach backed by high dunes. The National Seashore, created by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 and administered by the National Park Service, stretches nearly 40 miles along the Atlantic-ocean side of Cape Cod, from Chatham all the way to Provincetown. The 6 beaches within the National Seashore offer natural as well as some cultural amenities; for example, Marconi Beach in Wellfleet was the site of the first transatlantic wireless communication between the US and England in 1903. The Cape Cod Rail Trail runs through the National Seashore -- rent bikes and make a day of it by biking all morning and taking in the surf in the afternoon.
Doug Kerr, flickr

3. Cape Cod League

Heads up baseball fans -- the Cape Cod League is the best amateur summer league in the country. Over 250 former Cape Leaguers currently play in the majors, such as former Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (Falmouth 2004). See the stars of the future up close and personal on any of the 10 franchise teams located in Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Cotuit, Falmouth, Harwich, Hyannis, Orleans, Wareham and Yarmouth-Dennis. History buffs should check out the Cape League Hall of Fame exhibit at the JFK Hyannis Museum.

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