I remember spending rainy days at this aquarium while waiting for the ferry to the islands. I’m not going to lie: Not much has changed in 30 years. But, it's free, and there are touch tanks and 140 species of marine animals on display.
This bright and colorful museum offers a variety of hands-on exhibits for kids. Be sure to check the event calendar online for an ever-changing list of offerings.
Related: 100 Things To Do in Boston with Kids Before They Grow Up
Take a spin on Heritage Museum and Gardens' 1908 carousel.
Gorgeous gardens, unique sculptures, and interesting exhibits make any day at the Heritage Museum and Gardens a fun one, but Fridays bring an extra-special treat with musical performances and entertainment. Be sure to head over to Hidden Hollow to experience one of the best children’s play areas ever. Heritage Museum and Gardens is open April through October.
Take in the stunning views along the Shining Sea Bikeway. This trail follows the coastline from Woods Hole to Falmouth and is suitable for just about any level of biking.
Visitors flock to this narrow neck of rocky beaches to see spectacular sunsets over Buzzards Bay. The path to the Knob features beaches on both sides. The beaches themselves are not long, but well-marked trails through a 12-acre wooded area offer a nice hike leading out to this uniquely shaped area.
Things To Do in Hyannis with Kids
If the free potato chips alone aren't enough to entice you, the factory tour itself is pretty cool, too—and also free. During the tour, visitors can see the entire process of how Cape Cod potato chips are made, from potato to bag. The tour tends to get crowded on rainy days, so plan wisely. Note: The factory is closed on weekends.
8. Pirate-Themed Mini Golf
Whether you choose to putt-putt at Pirate's Cove or Skull Island, it doesn’t really matter. Summer nights in the Cape are made for mini golf, and these two locations do not disappoint. Waterfalls, pirate ships, and a glowing skull make these courses above par. Pirate's Cove is open early April through the end of October, while Skull Island opens early April and closes in late September.
9. Corporation Beach
The curve of this beach creates a tidal pool that is perfect for children who want to explore the ocean in shallow water. The receding tide leaves large flats to explore in its wake, including sea life such as snails and crabs.
Related: Gorgeous New England Islands for Family Getaways
The sunsets from Gray's Beach Boardwalk are breathtaking.
Gray’s Beach Boardwalk, located right on the Yarmouth/Dennis town line, is the perfect place to see a spectacular sunset. The 800-foot boardwalk spans far out over the marshes. It's a very unique place on the Cape!
This one-hour cruise is a great way to learn a little bit about the Cape’s maritime history while sailing the harbor and seeing such landmarks as the Great Island, the Kennedy Memorial, and more. Cruises are offered mid May through mid October, and kids up to age 12 ride free in the mornings.
12. Melody Tent Children's Theater
See top-notch children's theater and music under the Cape Cod Melody Tent in Hyannis all summer long.
Located on Main Street in Dennis Port, this art studio has a fun DIY project for just about anyone in your family. Our favorite is creating pictures with sea glass and other found treasures.
The Edward Gorey House is the former home of author and artist Edward St. John Gorey, now a museum. It's fun to visit at any time, but Fantastagorey Day (usually the first Saturday in August) should not be missed. This fun Cape Cod tradition is a family day with face painting, storytelling, and a scavenger hunt.
Related: Our Favorite New England Hotels for Families
Explore a pirate-ship relica at Whydah Pirate Museum.
This place goes way beyond “shiver me timbers” and “aye me hearties." Kids will thrill to see and touch real pirate artifacts, climb aboard a pirate-ship replica, and learn about nautical archaeology.
Things To Do in Chatham
No boat? No problem! You can (almost) always see the seals hanging out around Chatham Fish Pier. Make sure to stop by the Fish Market and grab some fresh seafood to bring home, or a lobster roll to eat on one of the picnic tables.
Visit this family-owned lavender farm located on 11 secluded acres. The small farm boasts over 7,000 plants, and the property is surrounded by 75 acres of conservation land with woodland walking trails. The farm, open March through December, is free to visit. The lavender harvest occurs between late June and mid July.
A trip to Nickerson State Park instantly transports you to a different world with pretty pine forests and crystal-clear freshwater ponds. This state park is like a vacation from your vacation, offering the perfect place to go biking, hiking, or camping as a family.
Related: 25 Things To Do in Chatham, MA
Find a treasure and a treat at the Brewster Store.
We have spent many rainy days scouring through the trinkets and treasures at this general store. With penny candy, books, souvenirs, and other unique items, this store easily transports you back in time.
This mile-long (round-trip) hiking trail is easy enough for even the youngest hikers. The view of Cape Cod Bay at the end makes it worth the climb!
Great White Sharks are perhaps the Cape’s most famous tourists and also the most misunderstood. The Chatham Shark Center offers interactive exhibits, videos, displays, and virtual-reality experiences to teach visitors more about these captivating creatures.
I have spent many days here at low tide, exploring tide pools filled with crabs and other creatures. You can spend the whole day and watch the landscape dramatically shift with the changing tide.
Related: 14 Outdoor Water Parks in New England
Cool off and have fun at Cape Cod Inflatable Park.
Don’t let the name fool you! A wave pool, a surf simulator, a swim-up bar for adults, an expanded toddler area, and a lazy river make this spot so much more than just inflatables, though there are plenty of those, too. Add in an arcade and some mini golf and it's easy to see why families keep coming back year after year.
24. Go Shopping in the Quaint Town of Chatham
With its historic buildings, Chatham’s picturesque downtown is New England charm at its best. Find Ducks in the Window, a store completely dedicated to rubber ducks. Also check out the Chatham Candy Manor and Chatham Toys.
Groove to music or catch a children's theater show at Cape Rep's outdoor theater in the summer. The shows usually run about an hour, and if it rains, they move indoors.
Every Wednesday night in the summer, enjoy tons of children's entertainment like balloon twisters and magicians, live music, and entertainment all along Main Street in the picturesque town of Harwich Port.
This museum is small, but if you are looking for something to do with a tiny train lover, this is the place to go. Housed in a beautiful antique railroad depot, the Chatham Railroad Museum features a 1910 restored wood caboose that children can explore. It's open June through September and one weekend in October; check the website for dates.
Related: 100 Things To Do in New England with Kids Before They Grow Up
See seals and other marine life on a Monomoy Island boat tour. Photo courtesy of Monomoy Island Excursions
Visit a barrier island off the coast of the Cape with this boat tour and you're sure to see seals and more marine life. Unlike a whale-watching tour, this comparably short boat ride always results in stunning views and wildlife spotting.
You can’t miss the whirling windsocks and kites on Route 28. Dr Gravity’s Kite shop has loads of kites to choose from and a friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Don’t let the crowds scare you—my family has always been able to find a parking spot at the Chatham Lighthouse Overlook. See the functioning lighthouse and gaze out at the Atlantic for a stunning view. It's popular for a reason! The Coast Guard offers weekly tours throughout the summer.
Rain or shine, the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is guaranteed entertainment for the whole family for a few hours with indoor and outdoor options. Spend some time watching the birds, explore the touch tank and aquariums, or walk the trails along the salt marsh.
On select Mondays nights throughout the summer months, the shops in Chatham stay open a little bit later, and the streets come alive with live entertainment and music.
Things To Do in Provincetown with Kids
Take In the beauty of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
33. Explore the National Seashore and Become a Junior Ranger
Kids can get to know the stunning Cape Cod National Seashore by becoming a Junior Ranger. Check in at the Visitor's Center for what they'll need while exploring these 43,000 acres.
34. Enjoy the Sunset at Race Point
There is nothing quite like watching the sun melt into the ocean, and the view from Race Point does not disappoint. If the weather cooperates you will experience a visual treat of swirling reds, blues, and oranges. You'll definitely want to bring your camera.
There are several whale-watching companies that will take you out to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, a gorgeous area to see whales and more marine life in their native habitat. Be patient and you're nearly guaranteed to see a whale. I have literally been “sneezed” on by a whale here. (See here for more whale-watching adventures from Boston.)
Related: 23 Things to Do in Provincetown with Kids
There's so much to explore in Provincetown!
P-town is the most northern tip of Cape Cod and a popular getaway. It has a rich history of fishing culture, but today it is popular with tourists, writers, and artists. Provincetown's vibrant downtown is lined with small shops and restaurants, making it a perfect destination to stroll around.
One of the best things to do in Wellfleet is to hike the Great Island Trail, a moderately challenging 5.4-mile loop that takes about two hours to complete. This is a very popular area for birding, hiking, and mountain biking, so you'll likely encounter other people while exploring.
Explore the stunning dunes surrounding Provincetown in a specially outfitted Suburban that takes families on a narrated ride with breathtaking views. There is no minimum age for this tour, but be prepared to pack your own car seat. Tours run from the beginning of May through the end of October.
Many species of migratory birds fly through the friendly Cape area, making the region a prime spot for bird watching. But, Pilgrim Heights is just about the only place on the Cape where you can see the graceful Mississippi kite.
Related: Exploring the Cape Cod National Seashore
How many animals can you spot at the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary?
My family has been taking the hike from the Audubon’s Visitors’ Center at this wildlife sanctuary down to the bay since my daughter could walk. Plan your trip for low tide and you will be treated to fiddler crabs, herons fishing, and a variety of other wildlife.
One of only a few hundred drive-ins left in the country, this Wellfleet theater is a step back in time. Park the car, tune the radio to 89.5 FM, and sit back to enjoy the show! The theater is open from Memorial Day until just after Labor Day.
On the road to Nauset Light Beach (Cable Road) , just before arriving at the beach, look left and you will see three landlocked lighthouses with an interesting history. Completely free to view anytime, these three lighthouses are set into the landscape off Cable Road and are a lot of fun to explore, look inside the windows, take pictures, and read the history posted there.
More Fun Things To Do on Cape Cod with Kids
This 22-mile running, biking, and walking trail winds its way through six Cape Cod towns. Biking is the most popular way to hit the Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT): its flat, paved surface is easy for the whole family to navigate.
Related: Nantucket with Kids: 35 Fun Things to Do as a Family
Kayaking is a great way to explore the waters of Cape Cod.
44. Go Kayaking
There isn’t much of a learning curve to kayaking, making it such an accessible way to explore the water. Rent a kayak and take advantage of all of Cape Cod's rivers, lakes, ponds, and seashores.
45. Search for Seashells
Longnook Beach, Breakwater Beach, and Cold Storage Beach are just a few of the best spots to search for seashells. We’ve found scallops, clam shells, and oyster shells all along the Cape. Your best bet is to hit the seashore in the morning before the crowds.
If you're on the Cape from June through August, catch a Cape Cod Baseball League game. This is the premier amateur baseball league in the nation, and tickets are free! Whether you root for your (vacation) home team or pick the field with the best playground, a night spent at the ballpark will not disappoint.
Almost every town on the Cape has a small independent bookstore that is owned by locals and filled with a lovely collection of children’s books. Two of our must-sees are Below the Brine in Harwich Port and Where the Sidewalk Ends in Chatham.
Related: Best Cape Cod Beaches for Families
Many anglers get their start right off the beach on the Cape.
48. Learn to Fish
Just about any jetty, dock, or beach is a perfect place to cast your fishing line into the deep blue ocean. Sure, you may not catch anything, but that’s part of the thrill of fishing. (Anglers 15 and older must apply for a Massachusetts fishing license.)
Cape Cod Restaurants and Food to Try
This family-friendly Hyannis brewery offers brews, tours, corn hole, and a gift shop. Find a rolling food truck serving local favorites Thursdays through Saturdays in the summer.
With laser tag, bowling, escape rooms, arcades, and so much more at Ten Pin Eatery in Hyannis, your kids will be begging for a rainy day on the Cape.
I debated whether I should include this small Dennis Port bakery because I don’t want the line to get any longer—but the muffins are too good to keep it a secret!
Nosh on your lobster rolls at this family-owned-and-operated cafe's picnic tables while surrounded by stunning views of Sesuit Harbor. Sesuit Harbor Cafe, located in Dennis, also has a full kids' menu with classics such as chicken tenders and hamburgers.
This donut shop in West Dennis has the most delicious “design your own” donut bar! You get to pick a donut, glaze, drizzle, and toppings from the menu, then watch the magic happen!
I literally cannot come to the Cape and not stop at Arnold’s in Eastham—it’s a must. Delicious fried seafood and lobster rolls are no-brainers, and the kids love the basket of crayons and coloring sheets.
Related: Cape Cod with Kids: Free and Inexpensive Rainy Day Activities
Kids won't mind when Sundae School is in session!
55. Delicious Ice Cream
The award-winning Four Seas Ice Cream in Centerville has been serving up its delicious homemade ice cream since 1934. Take your cone to go, or sit and enjoy a frappe in the dining room. For a school your kids won’t mind attending, visit Sundae School Ice Cream, a Cape Cod institution, in Dennis Port or Harwich Port. Make sure to ask for a paper hat for the perfect photo op. And if you dare, try the lobster ice cream at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Falmouth. Trust me—this buttery treat is worth a try!
Cape Cod Hotels for Families
This oceanfront resort has been a home away from home for families coming to the Cape for generations. The resort boasts tons of kid-friendly amenities such as bunk beds, pools, and a kids' club.
This gorgeous coastal retreat offers guests their choice of standard rooms, suites, and cottages. Community amenities like an outdoor and covered pool, fire pits, and lawn games make this the perfect place to call home on the Cape.
Related: Best Indoor Water Parks in New England for Easy Family Getaways
The water park at the Cape Codder has both an indoor and an outdoor portion. Photo courtesy of the resort
With an indoor/outdoor water park filled with slides and sprinklers, fun treatments such as strawberry pedicures at the spa, arcade games, a packed kids' activity schedule, and more, the Cape Codder truly has it all.
The entire family, including the dog (in select rooms), is invited to Pleasant Bay Village. Family-friendly amenities include a heated outdoor pool, lawn games, and a playground. Make sure to stop by the front desk and ask for fish food to feed the resident koi.
If you are looking for something completely different, check out AutoCamp Cape Cod. Choose from a variety of accommodations including Airstreams, Luxury Tents, and so much more.
All photos courtesy of the author unless otherwise indicated.
A version of this article was first published in 2018. Updated in 2022, 2023.