Two Maritime Museums
The Cape Cod Maritime Museum, at 135 South St., in Hyannis, on the eastern end of Aselton Park (tel. 508/775-1723; www.capecodmaritimemuseum.org), is small but interesting. The museum displays artifacts from ships that wrecked off the shore of Cape Cod and exhibits a collection of items from the United States Lifesaving Service, the precursor to the Coast Guard. The museum is open mid-March to mid-December Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 4pm, Sunday noon to 4pm. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for students and seniors, and free for children 6 and under. On the north side of town, the Coast Guard Heritage Museum (tel. 508/362-8521; www.coastguardheritagemuseum.org) is located at a former U.S. Custom House, which is also the former Trayser Museum building (3353 Main St./Rte. 6A, Barnstable Village). The main museum building houses displays of pre-Coast Guard groups, such as the lighthouse service, the lightship service, and the lifesaving service. The village blacksmith shop gives demonstrations daily. Also on the property is the oldest wooden jail in the country, built in the 1600s. The museum is open May through October, Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 3pm. Admission is $5.
A Celebration of African-American History
Displaying artwork and memorabilia reflecting the region's African-American and Cape Verdean heritage, the Zion Union Heritage Museum at 276 North St., Hyannis (tel. 508/790-9466; www.zionunionheritagemuseum.org), is located in the former Zion Union Church, a historic African-American church. People of color were the backbone of the whaling and cranberry industries on Cape Cod, and the museum contains a range of historic documents about well-known community leaders. There are revolving art shows and other exhibits that have in common a cultural significance to the African-American community. The hours from mid-April through October are Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 4pm, Sunday noon to 4pm; November, December, and February through mid-April, hours are Thursday through Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday noon to 4pm. Admission is $5 adults, $2 for ages 10 to 17.
A Historic Art Museum
Located in a converted 18th-century red clapboard home, the Cahoon Museum of American Art at 4676 Falmouth Rd./Rte. 28 (just east of the intersection of Rte. 28 and Rte. 130), Cotuit (tel. 508/428-7581; www.cahoonmuseum.org), has long been a popular site for art lovers. The museum is located in the former home of Ralph and Martha Cahoon, whose whimsical folk-art paintings featuring mermaids remain popular years after the death of the artists (Ralph in 1982 and Martha in 1999). The museum sponsors frequent gallery talks and other special events. It is open Tuesday through Saturday 10am to 4pm and Sunday 1 to 4pm. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for students.
Camelot on Cape Cod: The Kennedys in Hyannis Port
It's been nearly 50 years since those days of Camelot, when JFK was in the White House and America seemed rejuvenated by the Kennedy style, but the Kennedy sites on Cape Cod still attract record numbers of visitors every summer.
Images of Jack Kennedy sailing his jaunty Wianno Senior on Nantucket Sound, off Hyannis Port, form part of this nation's collective memory. The vacationing JFK was all tousled hair, toothy grin, earthy charisma, and attractive joie de vivre. Remember Jackie sitting beside him, wearing a patterned silk scarf around her head and looking like she'd rather be in Newport, where no one had ever heard of touch football?
The Kennedys always knew how to have fun, and they had it in Hyannis Port. And ever since Hyannis Port became JFK's summer White House, Cape Cod has been inextricably linked to the Kennedy clan. Although the Kennedys spend time elsewhere -- working in Washington or wintering in Palm Beach -- when they go home, they go to Cape Cod.
Meanwhile, much has changed since the early 1960s on Cape Cod, especially in the Mid Cape area. In those 40-plus years, the mall was built in Hyannis, and urban sprawl infested routes 132 and 28. Yet much, thankfully, remains the same. The Kennedy compound, with its large, gabled Dutch Colonial houses, still commands the end of Scudder Avenue in Hyannis Port.
To bask in the Kennedys' Cape Cod experience, visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, 397 Main St., Hyannis (tel. 508/790-3077; www.jfkhyannismuseum.org). Admission is $5 for adults, $2.50 for children 10 to 16, and $3 for seniors; hours are from mid-April through October Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm, and Sunday and holidays from noon to 5pm. Last admission is at 3:30pm. Call for off-season hours. The museum shows a documentary on Kennedy, narrated by Walter Cronkite, and contains several rooms featuring photos of the Kennedys on Cape Cod. (In the basement of the museum is the Cape Cod Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum. Cost: $5 adults, $3.50 children 10-16, $3 seniors.)
Busloads of tourists visit the Kennedy Memorial just above Veterans Beach on Ocean Avenue; it's a moving tribute, beautifully maintained by the town, but crowds in season can be distracting. Finally, you may want to drive by the simple white clapboard church, St. Francis Xavier, on South Street; Rose attended Mass daily, and Caroline Kennedy and several other cousins got married here.
Spend your day in the Mid Cape recreating like a privileged Kennedy scion. Rent a windsurfer at Kalmus Beach. Play a round of golf at the Hyannis Golf Club (tel. 508/362-2606), a public course on Route 132. Four Seas Ice Cream (tel. 508/775-1394), at 360 S. Main St., in Centerville, is a must.
Rose Kennedy once told a reporter, "Our family would rather be in Hyannis Port in the summer than anyplace else in the world." And yours?
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