Renting a house that will accommodate several generations under one roof is not only economical, it enables your extended family to spend time together and have privacy as well. The Atlantic Ocean beach resort area around Cape Cod offers the simple pleasures of bygone days to family visitors who choose it as New England’s second most-favored destination.
Here are my six top beach destinations overall; chosen because they are easily reachable, have enough varied activities to please most kids, parents and grandparents, and offer fair weather almost year-round. Each is reviewed in more depth on this site.
- Cape Cod, Massachusetts
- Galveston, Texas
- Newport Beach, California
- San Diego, California
- Sanibel/Captiva Islands, Florida
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
What’s Special About Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Parents who have fond memories of days spent digging and splashing will certainly find Cape Cod a great choice. With 77 beaches on 300 miles of shoreline, this peninsula offers unlimited seaside activities from sandcastle building to clam digging to whale-watching excursions. Plan to tour the 40-mile-long Cape Cod National Shoreline, from Chatham to Provincetown. This lifeguard-supervised area created in 1961 offers dramatic dunes and marshlands and free ranger-guided tours of the extensive plant and wildlife. Note that this sand-lined coast fronts a cold and sometimes rough Atlantic Ocean.
Visitors can also bicycle the 25-mile paved Cape Cod Rail Trail from Dennis to Wellfleet, comprised of 15 towns and several small villages each with its own beaches. Bikers can explore cranberry bogs, visit lighthouses and enjoy the performances of several local summer theatre companies.
A favorite among kids, Nickerson State Park features woods sloping down to the banks of eight clear fresh kettle water ponds. There’s over 1,900 acres to explore and 400 campsites including yurts. Take the kids fishing, biking, hiking, canoeing or even horseback riding for a day of fun.
Bass River Sports World (508/398-6070, 934 Route 28 South Yarmouth, MA 02664-5624) is a place where families can enjoy various sports activities, including the cool Skull Island mini-golf, soccer cages, softball/baseball cages, as well as video games. Don’t miss the skatepark, bmx course, and batting cage if your kids are into these sports. The sports center is open daily at 9am from April to October.
Cape Cod’s infamous Flying Horses Carousel features the country’s oldest carousel. It was constructedd in 1876 and originally operated in Coney Island, NY before moving to the Oak Bluffs area in 1995. It still lives in a red barn and delights its young guests (and their parents!).
The Cape Cod Children’s Museum (508/539-8788, 577 Great Neck Road South, Mashpee, MA 02649) offers families hands-on exhibits, has its own planetarium, toddler play area and even its own pirate ship. The museum is open daily and has been voted the #1 rainy day activity on Cape Cod.
These activities, coupled with the area’s great beaches and many restaurants, will keep any visiting family’s plate full in summer. Winter activities are limited but many families enjoy the brisk weather and strolling along the snow-clad dunes. For the rainy, cold or quiet days, plan to visit the Railroad Museum (508/945-5199) and nearby playground in Chatham and the National Marine Fisheries Service Aquarium (508/495-2000) with low-to-the-ground touch tanks in Woods Hole.
Tips for Planning Your House Rental on Cape Cod:
Once you’ve reviewed the “virtues” of each of my favorite destinations, discuss them with other family members, determine how convenient they will be for all parties, and decide whether you’re heading East or West. Then you can determine with other family members how many bedrooms and bathrooms everyone will need. (Most rental vacation homes have one or more sofabeds and roll-aways for extra kids.) Allow as much flexibility in your rental dates as possible.
Several real estate agents I interviewed mentioned that since large rental homes (5-6 bedrooms) are rare, they are often booked far in advance. However, they also mentioned that many families register their homes for rental only after the January 1st deadline each year. That means you’ll have the most choices of rental homes if you call the recommended agents early in the year.
Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce at 888/332-2732 or 508/362-3225
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