On a short stretch of Old King’s Highway, otherwise known as historic Route 6A, you’ll arrive in a section of Dennis that features some of the region’s top cultural attractions.
Here, between the elegant dining of The Pheasant and the much more casual Ice Cream Smuggler, visitors will find three of the most vibrant attractions when it comes to Cape Cod entertainment – the independently owned Cape Cinema, the Cape Cod Museum of Art, and the historic Cape Playhouse.
A Cultural Trifecta
First opened in 1927, the Cape Playhouse offers the greatest legacy of the three, having hosted such luminaries as Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart, and Shirley Booth, all of whom spent time on stage at the Dennis theatre. Today, the playhouse continues to draw some of the top Broadway stars to its roster of summer productions.
A sculpture garden greets you at the nearby Cape Cod Museum of Art, where exhibits range from historical pieces to more contemporary work by some of the area's finest artists. Throughout the year, the museum plays host to a series of events, including educational talks, food tastings, musical performances and hands-on workshops that allow you to tap into your own creativity.
And the Cape Cinema, an art house that opened its doors in 1930 (co-founder Raymond Moore founded the Cape Playhouse three years earlier), screens independent fare typically not found in larger theater chains. The ceiling of the art deco-style cinema wows with a dramatic 6,400-square-foot mural created by American painter and illustrator Rockwell Kenton.
A short drive from Dennis’ cultural attractions lies Scargo Tower, a 30-foot high cobblestone structure that was rebuilt in 1901. Bring your camera; the tower sits atop the highest hill on the Mid-Cape and boasts views as far as Provincetown and Plymouth on clear days.
Bike enthusiasts should add the Cape Cod Rail Trail to their itinerary. The trail starts in South Yarmouth and winds through Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, and Wellfleet. The route passes by the Cape Cod National Seashore, scenic salt marshes, and several lakes suitable for swimming and picnics, including Nickerson State Park in Brewster. If you don’t have a bike, don’t worry. Dennis Cycle Center sells and rents bikes and is located right on the trail.
Crowes Pasture Conservation Area in East Dennis off Route 6A is a popular hiking spot with a variety of trails, including pathways providing access to the beach and spectacular views of Cape Cod Bay and Cole’s Pond.
Golfers looking for a little challenge and a lot of fun should tee off at Dennis Highlands and Dennis Pines, two town-owned golf courses that are consistently rated among the best on the Cape. And for some putt-putt excitement, check out Holiday Hill Mini Golf in Dennis Port.
For those traveling with their furry friends, don't miss Dennis' Fresh Pond Dog Park, a fully-fenced shaded park with a freshwater swimming area for dogs, and a walking trail through the woods.
No trip to the Cape is complete without some time on the water, and Dennis has some of the most family-friendly beaches on the Cape, among them Corporation Beach, Mayflower Beach, and West Dennis Beach. And a sunset picnic at Chapin Beach is the perfect end to any day.
Best of Dennis dining
If all this excitement is making you hungry, the culinary offerings in Dennis can satisfy the heartiest of appetites.
For a casual seafood outing that epitomizes old-school Cape Cod (and where flip flops are definitely allowed), Captain Frosty’s, and Kream ‘n Kone are preferred picks. Each has been a Cape Cod mainstay for decades, and are local hotspots for fried seafood goodness, followed by one of their signature cones. Another beloved vacation tradition is the homemade ice cream at Sundae School in Dennis Port, recently voted #5 in the country for Best Ice Cream Parlor by USA Today.
As its name suggests, The Ocean House offers breathtaking ocean vistas, paired with some pretty spectacular New England cuisine and a great martini list. Their lively beach bar is a popular place for happy hour, and to enjoy cocktails by the sea. Upscale dining with a view is also on the menu at the waterfront Ebb Tide, a Cape Cod tradition since 1959, and The Lighthouse Inn, celebrating its 80th anniversary.
Scargo Café, located in a charming and romantic colonial building a stone's throw to Cape Playhouse, offers classic entrees mixed in with more contemporary offerings and an expansive wine selection. It's a great place to hit either before or after taking in a performance at the playhouse or a showing at Cape Cinema.
If you asked a local, they'd say both Paradise Pizza and The Box Lunch give customers no-frills dining with some of the tastiest pizzas, subs, and sandwiches around. And for late-night excitement, both the Lost Dog Pub and Cleat & Anchor combine pub-style food with an array of specialty cocktails and beers on tap that goes perfectly with their regular schedule of live entertainment.
Blogger's Note: This is part of a series of "Road Trip" blogs that spotlight each of Cape Cod's distinctive towns and villages!