In her classic tribute to this sandy peninsula, singer Patti Page sang wistfully of “miles of green beneath a sky of blue.” While the lyrics were penned 60 years ago, the message remains timeless.

Then and now, people come to find inspiration in Cape Cod’s incomparable natural beauty, including a long and impressive list of writers, musicians, craftsmen and fine artists who are drawn to Cape Cod specifically to create. The fruits of this inspiration are now best observed within state-designated cultural districts—thriving clusters of galleries, artisans, museums and performance spaces across the region.

There are four cultural districts on Cape Cod: Sandwich Glass Town, Barnstable Village, Hyannis HyArts and Orleans Village Center. Take a quick ferry ride or flight to the Islands to find three more—the Aquinnah Circle and Vineyard Haven Cultural Districts on Martha’s Vineyard, and the Nantucket Cultural District on Nantucket.

Sandwich Glass Town is the first cultural district you’ll encounter after crossing the bridge onto Cape Cod. A stroll through charming Sandwich Center will transport you back in time. View the 363-year-old Dexter Grist Mill as it turns, still powered by flowing waters. Make time to explore Sandwich Glass Museum’s collection of vintage glass, and witness glassblowers hard at work.  

Next, experience all that Heritage Museums & Gardens has to offer - relaxation among the exquisite gardens and antique car collection, or thrills at the Cape’s only aerial adventure park. Heritage is also known for cutting-edge exhibits; their 2017 Painted Landscapes: Contemporary Views exhibit will showcase a startlingly beautiful collection of American landscape paintings from over 40 of the country’s best contemporary painters.

Just off historic Route 6A on Jarves Street is where you can find Collections Gallery, a cooperative featuring the work of 15 local artists under one roof. Origami sculpture, clothespin dolls and home décor are a few of the unique finds, along with pottery, stained glass and jewelry. Farther down 6A is Maureen Burbic Gallery, home to the artist’s original paintings, with subjects that would brighten any room. For something completely different, don’t miss Hillport Gallery, the home studio of woodcarver Doug Amidon. Doug’s woodcarvings are each handmade and full of whimsy; a more extraordinary gift idea would be hard to come by.

Added bonus: From Friday through Sunday in season, a free park-and-ride trolley makes stops at shopping, historical, scenic and cultural venues within the Glass Town Cultural District. Stops are marked with a Glass Town Cultural District emblem, so keep an eye out for the signs!

Meandering farther down Route 6A is a journey of quaint notions and fondness for simpler times. It also leads right into the heart of the Barnstable Village Cultural District, a harborside respite. First stop is Tales of Cape Cod, one of the first organizations to preserve the region’s history in oral and visual form, working from tape-recorded interviews with old time Cape Codders. The nearby Sturgis Public Library, the oldest building housing a public library in the United States, is home to an extensive collection of the Cape’s genealogical archives.

Independent working artists are busy creating within the Olde Schoolhouse and Artist Studios, built in 1854 by Samuel Sturgis Crocker and converted into co-working studios in 2009. Delve into historic maritime rescues through the exhibits of the Coast Guard Heritage Museum, located on the same property as the oldest wooden jail in the United States, built in 1690. Between the jail and museum sits Smithy, the town’s third-generation blacksmith still forging regularly. And the Cape Cod Art Association is the perfect place to lose track of time as you admire top-notch photography, sculpture, and juried exhibitions.

On the southern side of Barnstable in Hyannis Village is the town’s other designated Cultural District, known as HyArts. As the Cape’s central hub for business and shopping, arts and culture abound here. South Street’s Little Beach Gallery houses the works of Jen Villa and her artistic cohorts (over 60 of them), offering trendy and mindful gift ideas. Public art dots the HyArts landscape, with local artists commissioned each year for new initiatives, while the Kennedy Legacy Trail takes visitors on a walking tour of the area as it relates to the life and times of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The trail also leads past the HyArts Campus on Pearl Street at South Street. This vibrant enclave comprises Gallery Artrio, an award-winning venue with jewelry, paintings and sculpture; Studio 46 on Pearl, a home converted to be an artist live/work space; the studio of Jeanmarie O’Clair and her Bass River Pottery, where she can be seen throwing clay all summer; and the Guyer Barn, a community space for showcasing the works of new and established artists, performances by theater groups, and just about anything else creative-minded.

Within short walking distance is the Hyannis waterfront, where each June welcomes the arrival of Artist Shanties—brightly colored sheds from which independent artists sell their custom wares to passersby.

The easternmost Cultural District is located in Orleans Village Center, a charming and relaxed downtown with a quirky sensibility. Main Street’s Firehouse Gallery is a creative space for exhibitions and events, and Cape Coddle across the street features handmade products by designers, artists and craftspeople from across America. The first piece of public art for the town since 1883—a majestic steel whale diving over a one-ton fieldstone—was installed in June 2015 and can be seen on Cove Road.

A weekly Farmers Market offers local produce and fresh goods right next door to The Artist Cottages, a collection of vivid wooden huts where creators showcase and sell their work, with new artists rotating in each week. A stop at Orleans Market Square is a must—here you can find the spectacular Gallery 31, the Coastal Craft Gallery cooperative, and the highly eclectic store Oceana.

Immersing yourself in the cultural districts of Cape Cod is an opportunity to explore the Cape from an entirely new perspective. Meet unique characters, discover remarkable creations by local artists, view captivating public art and engage in cultural events for the entire family.

Who knows, you may even become inspired to create some art yourself.