Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Just returned from a wonderful trip to Cape Cod, Massachussets with my family. This place is very interesting to me as a perpetual knowledge seeker not only for its natural beauty, fauna and history, but because it has (as I'm sure all of the state of Mass.) many well-stocked, modern and expertly staffed libraries and bookstores galore! I'm not talking about the huge bookstore chains you find in malls across the country, but distinctive, traditional mom-and-pop bookstores that have all the charm of small towns. Each has carved its own niche -- one specializes in children's books, another one in books about nature, and yet another one in maritime history.

Cape Cod is comprised of several small towns -- Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, Mashpee, Brewster, Barnstable, Hyannis, Yarmouth, Dennis, Chatham, Harwich, Orleans, Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown. There are also the two island of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket to explore. You can only get to these by ferry or airplane.

It's a great place to take the kids, especially if you can wing it sometime in Fall. In summer the Cape is extremely crowded. Some attractions of special interest to homeschoolers:

- Whaling Museum and Historic Sites in Nantucket
A must-see for kids of all ages. There's an excellent guide for children with activities that will keep them entertained as they explore the museum. It even has a children's room where younger children can draw, play and read all about whales and whaling industry. The amazing skeleton of a whale alone is enough reason to visit.

-The Cape Cod Children's Museum in Mashpee

-The Zooquarium in West Yarmouth

-The Cape Cod National Seashore
Explore the natural beauty of Cape Cod. Check out lesson plans before you go hiking on the scenic nature trails. Website also provides a map of all parks, with notes on what you can expect to see and facilities.

-Whale Watching at Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off Provincetown
Before you head out to see the whales, find out all you can about humpback, minke, and pilot whales as well as harbor porpoise and white-sided dolphins. These imposing creatures made us feel humble and in awe as we gazed at their size and grace. The on-board naturalist explains the different characteristics, feeding and mating habits of the particular species you're seeing. You also receive a brochure explaining what you can expect to see.

-The Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum in Provincetown
See where the first pilgrims landed (you read that right) and read the history of Provincetown while you climb up the highest granite tower in the United States.

-John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum in Hyannis
Remember this charismatic president while you watch a video, see the many pictures and hear stories of his days on the Cape. Click here to see a virtual tour of the museum.

-Heritage Museum and Gardens in Sandwich
A picturesque setting, antique cars, unofficial trails, a windmill, an herb garden, beautiful flowers, the Cape Cod Baseball League museum, a 1912 carousel and many more interesting treasures await you at this unique park-like historical tour.

-Whydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown
Explore the history and artifacts of the only pirate shipwreck ever discovered. This small museum is well worth the trip and its gift shop has a nice assortment of pirate souvenirs and books on the Cape to keep the whole family happy. Check out the Whydah exploration and information here.

-Thornton W. Burgess Museum in Sandwich
Those who know and love this beloved author will like browsing the toys, books, games and household goods featuring famous characters such as Peter Rabbit, Jenny Wren, Jimmy Skunk and Reddy Fox.

We liked The Cape so much that we plan to return again some day. We feel we haven't even begun to scratch the surface as a week wasn't enough to experience all that Cape Cod has to offer. The islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are also very interesting to see, and the latter is especially lovely to experience by biking around if you have the time. Note to men -- avoid the cobblestoned streets when biking if you ever want any more children!

photo courtesy of elroySF

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