25 Free Things to Do on Cape Cod
Everyone has heard that the best things in life are free, but here’s a list to prove it. Stumble upon a springtime fairy garden, tour a coastal winery, go leaf-peeping by bicycle, or look out from the top of a lighthouse—all you will spend is a perfect day.
1. Climb Scargo Tower (Scargo Hill Road, Dennis; 508-385-2232) on a clear day to see all the way to Provincetown.
2. Follow the self-guided tour at the Cape Cod Potato Chips factory (100 Breeds Hill Road, Hyannis) to see (and taste, of course) how farm-fresh potatoes become kettle-cooked gold.
3. On a Friday summer evening, spread a blanket on the grass at the Chatham Band Concert (512 Main Street), where the lamp-lit glow of Kate Gould Park and a sea of balloons will inspire you to bunny-hop.
4. Stroll the heaven-scented fields and wooded trails of the Cape Cod Lavender Farm (41 Weston Woods Road, Harwich) to discover a fairy garden—and the irresistible urge to peek in the tiny windows of the miniature stone tower.
5. Standing beneath the Chinese mulberry or among the sunlit rows at Truro Vineyards (11 Shore Road), you will agree such beauty calls for a toast. Complimentary tours of the winery and distillery are offered twice daily from Memorial to Columbus Day.
6. Salute life before cell phones on a free, guided tour of the 1891 French Cable Station Museum in Orleans (41 South Orleans Road, 508-240-1735).
7. Move on to modern advances at the Marconi Wireless Station site and ocean overlook in Wellfleet (508-771-2144), where Marconi transmitted the world’s first transatlantic wireless communication. What he sent: “cordial greetings and good wishes” to the King of England from President Roosevelt. What he could have sent: “I am standing at what is possibly the world’s most beautiful beach.”
8. Catch one of the Movies Under the Stars at Peg Noonan Park (270 Main Street, Falmouth), where the fading backdrop of dusky sky is its own special effect. (Not in Falmouth? Mashpee Commons and the Chatham Community Center host outdoor movie nights as well.)
9. Don’t miss an open house at the stunning Crosby Mansion (163 Crosby Lane, Brewster), where you can daydream about life among the hand-carved walls.
10. The five-acre Spohr Gardens (45 Fells Road, Falmouth) is beautiful at any time of year, but visit during springtime Daffodil Days to admire the world in bloom with thousands of flowers.
11. See what’s brewing during the short daily tour at Cape Cod Beer (1336 Phinneys Lane, Hyannis; capecodbeer.com); there are games to keep the kids busy (and neighboring ospreys to spot) if you decide to stay for a tasting.
12. When you fall in love with the patients at National Marine Life Center (120 Main Street, Buzzards Bay), ask how you can adopt one of the rescued sea turtles, harbor seals or pups.
13. Step back in time on a walking tour of sea captain and patriot homes from the 1600's. Download a map and take your own self-guided tour of the Barnstable Village Cultural District at your leisure!
14. The next time the kids are bored or your spirits are low, report immediately to Taylor-Bray Farm in Yarmouth Port (108 Bray Farm Road, taylorbrayfarm.org) and be cured, whether by baby lambs at the June sheep festival, fall hearth-cooking and hayrides, or the beauty of a snow-dusted farmhouse.
15. Breeze along the 22 miles of the Cape Cod Rail Trail (508-896-3491) and marvel that quiet stretches of solitude are somehow never too far from the eateries, shops and beaches of the towns along the way.
16. On hot days, the coolest kids in town are playing in the sprinklers, jets and sprays at Mashpee Splash Pad (520 Main Street) in Heritage Park.
17. Perfect summer night: Root for the home team at a Cape Cod Baseball League game and watch the future pros swing for the stars. Bonus for Y-D fans: the mythical Donut Burger really exists.
18. If you think you don’t like fishing, the one-mile, wooded walk along the trout stream in the sprawling Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (149 Waquoit Highway, East Falmouth; 508-457-0495) could convert you. First, you’ll need to tear yourself away from canoeing on Cable Pond.
19. Costumed guided tours or self-guided scavenger hunts at the Josiah Dennis Manse (77 Nobscussett Road, Dennis; 508-385-2232) are kid-friendly; let them decide whether the 18th-century classroom was too.
20. If you’re in Hyannis, you’re already following in the footsteps of American royalty. Go the full distance on the 1.6-mile Kennedy Legacy Trail (397 Main Street, Hyannis), starting at the JFK Hyannis Museum.
21. There are 140 species at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium (166 Water Street, 508-495-2001), from bearded sea ravens to rescued harbor seals. Talk with the staff as they feed the animals in the open work area, or reach into the touch tank for a live encounter.
22. Wander the trails at the Green Briar Nature Center (6 Discovery Hill Road, East Sandwich), founded in honor of author and Sandwich native Thornton Burgess, to inspire your childhood love of nature. Also inspiring: The scent of fresh preserves cooking in the nearby jam kitchen.
23. Catch air at one of the free local skateparks in Chatham, Falmouth, Hyannis Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich and Wellfleet. Find addresses for each park at whycapecod.org/bike-trails-and-parks!
24. You will recognize the iconic red-and-white Nauset Lighthouse from your bag of Cape Cod Potato Chips. Late fall weekends are a beautiful time to take a free tour.
25. There’s free, and then there’s priceless: the 43,500 acres of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Start at the year-round Salt Pond Visitor Center (50 Nauset Road, Eastham) to plan your course. Favorite spots include the otherworldly White Cedar Swamp in Wellfleet and the sweeping vistas of Fort Hill in Eastham (check for tours of the Captain Penniman House). Whichever trail you follow, you’re never far from something unexpected, whether a trio of lighthouses in the middle of the woods (a.k.a. “The Three Sisters”), a golden carpet of leaves in the Beech Forest, or 40 miles of coastline you’ll remember for the rest of your life.