The first weekend of December always marks the unofficial kick off to Christmas on Cape Cod, with holiday festivities in almost every town across the Cape.  And the merriment that happens in the charming seaside community of Falmouth epitomizes the best of those festivities; it's enough to soften the hearts of even the most hardened holiday Grinches.

During the Falmouth Holiday by the Sea festivities, traditional carols are sung at Nobska Light on Friday evening, just as the sun sets over Vineyard Sound. On Saturday morning, runners come decked out in their jolliest costumes for the Jingle Jog 5K and Kids Elf Run, departing from Falmouth Harbor on Scranton Avenue. Don’t miss Santa’s arrival by boat at Falmouth Harbor. Stroll Main Street all weekend to see its shops and restaurants decorated in their holiday finest, and once you've crossed items off your holiday shopping list, get inspired at Saturday evening's lighting of the Falmouth Village Green.

The exclamation point to the weekend takes place on Sunday at noon, when decorated floats, live animals, costumed characters, dance troupes, bagpipers and Jolly Old St. Nick march down Route 28 as part of the annual Falmouth Christmas Parade, a Falmouth tradition and the largest holiday parade in Southeastern Massachusetts.

The Holidays by the Sea Weekend gives a glimpse into what makes Falmouth so unique. But there’s much more to the town than one weekend of holiday cheer.

The Great Outdoors
If lighthouses, beaches, biking and communing with nature are your thing, then you’re in luck. Falmouth has all of that and more, starting with historic Nobska Light. For spectacular views of the ocean, hop in the car and take a scenic ride along Surf Drive en route to the lighthouse, which overlooks Vineyard Sound.

Biking is another popular way to reach Nobska Light via the Shining Sea Bikeway, which stretches almost 11 miles from Woods Hole to North Falmouth, with views of woodlands, marshes, salt ponds and the ocean. While the bike path will not take you directly to Nobska, it travels close enough that a side trip is worth the effort.

When it comes to beaches, take your pick as Falmouth has plenty. During the summer, Old Silver in North Falmouth is the most popular for tourists and locals alike, thanks to its soft white sand and warm waters. Chapoquoit Beach in West Falmouth is an ideal spot for those looking to take in what may be one of Cape Cod's most breathtaking sunsets. And the Knob, accessible from Quissett Harbor, is a hidden gem; easy-to-navigate hiking trails will lead you to a high cliff boasting some pretty spectacular views of Buzzards Bay.

Culture & History
Movie buffs should mark their calendars for the end of July/beginning of August, when the Woods Hole Film Festival showcases the best in independent cinema. Past attendees have included actress Michelle Monaghan, actor Joe Pantoliano and Oscar-winning documentarian Barbara Kopple. During the fall, winter and spring, the festival continues to place a spotlight on indie fare thanks to its Dinner & A Movie series, which takes place at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s (WHOI) Redfield Auditorium.

Highfield Hall & Gardens, a historic mansion once slated for demolition and since restored to its former glory, is another must-see on your tour of Falmouth. The building plays host to concerts, lectures, educational workshops and art exhibits throughout the year. While there is no wrong time to visit, a great time to do so is now, when staff decks the Hall for the holidays.

Right next door is Highfield Theater, home to The College Light Opera Company, a summer theatre tradition since 1969 and the Falmouth Theatre Guild.

You can brush up on some important town history with a visit to the Falmouth Museums on the Green, which overlooks the town Village Green where members of the Colonial militia practiced in the 1700s. Later, go to the Falmouth Public Library lawn to admire the statue that pays homage to town native Katharine Lee Bates, who penned the patriotic anthem “American the Beautiful.”

Food, Food and More Food
While there’s a lot to love about Falmouth, restaurants are at the top of the list, as there is no shortage of options for foodies. Falmouth’s picturesque downtown has a bevy of choices, from authentic Mexican food (Anejo Mexican Bistro) and equally authentic Irish fare (Liam Maguire’s) to slightly more upscale comfort food with great craft beers (Bear in Boots Gastropub). After your meal, make sure to indulge your sweet tooth at Cupcake Charlie’s.

Not far from downtown is Quahog Republic, a no-frills dive bar that does burgers, quahogs and chowder just right. With a friendly staff that subscribes to the local chain’s “Live, Give and Relax” philosophy, there is a reason this Falmouth restaurant is a favorite among locals.

Woods Hole
No trip to Falmouth is complete without a visit to Woods Hole, which is often the last stop for those heading to Martha’s Vineyard. The quaint fishing village is home to some of the world’s leading scientific institutions, including WHOI, which was responsible for the discovery of the Titanic in 1985. The Woods Hole Aquarium is always a kid-pleaser, as is the Woods Hole Drawbridge, which raises every half hour to let boats go in and out of the harbor from Eel Pond.

Woods Hole has several eateries to choose from, including the Landfall, The Captain Kidd, Shuckers. and Quicks Hole Tavern – each of these offers stunning water views, matched by a menu of local seafood cooked to Cape Cod perfection. In busy summer months, when parking in the small village can be hard to find, leave the car behind at Falmouth Mall and take the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority's WHOOSH trolley, a relaxing and pleasant ride to Woods Hole via downtown Falmouth.

Blogger's Note: This is part of a series of "Road Trip" blogs spotlighting each of Cape Cod's distinctive towns and villages!