Summer in Cape Cod means no B word Busy: No boredom allowed here, as all ages find plenty to do and see, from biking and beaches to miniature golf and children's theater. One problem: crowds.

Taking the Kids

August 11, 1996|By Eileen Ogintz | Eileen Ogintz,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

DENNIS, Mass. -- I couldn't believe our luck. For an entire week, no one once uttered that dreaded vacation B word.

Not only did the kids avoid boredom, but everyone -- parents included -- had more than enough to do on Cape Cod, whether it rained or the sun shined.

The kids didn't try out every beach. I didn't make it to every potter whose work I'd hoped to see.

Drag the kids away from the beach up the tiny road into the woods to Scargo Pottery where they can watch experienced potters at work. The kids will love the huge castle bird feeders. You'll be hard-pressed to leave without buying something. Call (508) 385-3894.

"We were on the cape for two weeks, and we never even got to Cape Cod National Seashore, we were so busy," said Martha Melvoin. Melvoin and her two sons had traveled from California to sample Cape Cod's pristine beaches, quaint towns and, most important to the kids, miniature golf courses. (Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf in South Yarmouth got a definite thumbs-up from our crowd.)

Between the beach and fishing, biking, in-line skating, golf and miniature golf, bowling, theater and shopping, not to mention eating lobsters and fried clams or simply lazing, we could have happily vacationed here all summer and still not seen it all.

The Cape Playhouse in Dennis presents a children's theater production on Fridays in the summer; call (508) 385-3911. There's even baseball, thanks to the Cape Cod Baseball League that's been around since the late 1800s and gives everyone a chance to experience minor-league ball.

One day we drove to Provincetown at the tip of the cape. It's known for its artists and large gay community. The kids loved the scene as well as the dozens of souvenir shops.

Another afternoon, we headed in the opposite direction, to the Pairpoint Glass Works in Sagamore, where the kids watched master glassblowers practice their craft as they have for more than 100 years. They left clutching purple and green sundials.

Of course, we hit the beach plenty, too, not letting the clouds dissuade us from braving the waves or building sand castles (come prepared with plenty of pails, shovels and watering cans). One decided favorite: Nauset Beach on the Atlantic Ocean beyond East Orleans. There are nine miles of beach here, backed by a low dune. Don't miss the onion rings at Liam's at Nauset Beach. Another best bet: the Water Wizz water park in Wareham near Buzzards Bay.

For more recommendations of places to eat and stay, call the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce at (508) 362-3225. Make sure to ask for a free copy of "Kids on the Cape," which offers everything from reviews of child-friendly restaurants to day trips to the schedule of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Call the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism at (800) 227-MASS and ask for a list of cape festivals. It seems one town or another has one each weekend. Another terrific resource is "Cape Cod and the Islands" by Kimberly Grant (Countryman Press, $17).

The kids didn't even get bored (much anyway) driving along the 300-mile coastline. Wherever we looked were new sights: fishing harbors, salt marshes, picturesque houses and, of course, the beaches.

I wished we had left more time to explore the 27,000-acre National Seashore, with its miles of bike paths, hiking trails and beaches. Check in at the Salt Pond Visitor Center in Eastham or the Province Lands Visitor Center in Provincetown to find out about ranger-guided walks and talks that focus on the life in the dunes, from wildlife to the early settlers.

Wherever you turn, there's plenty of history to soak up here too, from Plimouth Plantation to Sandwich, the cape's oldest town and home of Heritage Plantation's collection of antique cars, to the lighthouses that are as much a fixture here as the sand dunes. For Peter Rabbit fans, the Thornton W. Burgess Museum houses memorabilia from Peter Rabbit's author and offers some children's programming. Call (508) 888-4668.

The most determined sightseers in our group left early one morning to take a ferry to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, the two famous islands off the coast that in the past were a bastion for fishing and whaling and today are a mecca for well-heeled vacationers.

The one drawback to all this vacation fun in the sun: the crowds. Some 5 million visitors come here every year, more in summer than any other time, clogging narrow roads and crowding beaches. That's why if you can, consider a trip after the peak summer tourist season.

"September is wonderful here," says Wendy Williams, a longtime local and author of "The Best Bike Paths of New England" (Simon and Schuster, $11).

Williams' favorite cape bike path for families: The Cape Cod Canal Recreation Area in Bourne.

Two wide, flat roads closed to traffic run along both banks of the canal, she explains, enabling kids to watch sailboats and ships as they whiz by on bikes. Call the Recreation Hotline at (508) 759-5991.

Our gang liked the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which runs more than 25 miles from Dennis to South Wellfleet. For hardy young cyclists, this is New England's longest paved bike path.

After the ride, when the kids are screaming for ice cream, Williams suggests heading to Osterville to the Four Seas, which has been making its own for more than 60 years. The ice cream is so good -- despite a plethora of other homemade ice cream stands up and down the cape -- that many Cape Codders wouldn't think of going anywhere else for a treat, Williams said.

Have a scoop for me.

Pub Date: 8/11/96

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