And All Is Well Because You’re Here – Cape Cod

The wheels of the borrowed stroller had barely hit the cobblestones before the clanging of the bell caught our attention.

Looking across the crowded street, I met his eyes, twinkling from underneath his wide-brimmed hat. He clicked his buckled shoes together, clanged his bell three times, tossed his cape over his shoulder, and cried out in our direction: “AND ALL IS WELL BECAUSE YOU’RE HERE!”

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If you’ve never had life affirmations shouted at you from a pilgrim decked out in his Sunday best, have you really even lived? That alone might be worth the trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Situated at lands’ end on Cape Cod, Provincetown is a quirky mix of history, culture, colorful characters, and sassy charm.

Think Key West meets Savannah, but in the most New England way.

Between the shops, restaurants, farmers market, and monuments, there was more than enough for us to do in an afternoon. We only had a few hours, so we walked the harbor and saw replicas of historical sailing vessels, ferries unloading boatfuls of weekenders from Boston, and whale watching tours departing for guaranteed sightseeing.

Commemorating the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620, Provincetown will celebrate the 400th anniversary next year. So, we gave into peer pressure and a few brave souls conquered the 116 steps and 60 ramps to climb Pilgrim Monument. They were rewarded with incredible views of the cape and the Atlantic Ocean.

From the packed streets of Provincetown, we drove a few miles down the road to Race Point Beach. The entire Atlantic coastline of Cape Cod has been preserved as a national park. The Cape Cod National Seashore is massive and completely full of unspoiled beauty.

(Tip: If you have a 4th-grader, you can get a pass that will grant you year-long free access to all parks within the U.S. National Park Service. Click here for more info and to print your pass! https://everykidinapark.gov/get-your-pass/)

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We climbed over the dunes and staked our claim on a few square feet of sand. The kids were mid-dash to the water, when I spotted the purple flag waving high above the lifeguard stand.

“STOP!”

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I wasn’t entirely sure what the flag meant, but the menacing outline of a shark against the purple background called for a google search at the very least. Sure enough, the flag warned beachgoers that Great Whites were in the area. A few of the more, um, stubborn people went for a swim anyway and gave us the best laugh when a seal surfaced right behind them. They practically walked on water trying to make it to shore.

We had a wonderful time. Cape Cod might be the most quintessential New England experience. Shingled cottages, charming towns, waving sea oats, bonfires on the beach, clambakes. Cape Cod has it all.

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No matter what’s going on back home or whatever stress you’re carrying on your shoulders, it all falls away when you make it to the cape. You don’t have to take my word for it. Take it from the life-affirming pilgrim.

All is well because you’re here!

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Plymouth Rocks

IMG_3300The sunlight filtered through the trees, creating a kaleidoscope of shadows on the trail. Our footsteps were hushed by the dirt path, and the only other sounds were the songs of both bird and man carried on the breeze. I didn’t understand the words of either, but I wanted to hear more of both.

As we drew closer to the music, other sounds began to stand out. The giggles of children, the rhythm of tools, the crackle of a cooking fire. The trail delivered us from the forest and into an apparent time portal. We stepped into the clearing and found ourselves in a 17th century Wampanoag homesite. IMG_3290
This is the magic of Plimoth Plantation. You step through the gates and into history. You are in it. You can see it, taste it, smell it, and talk with those living it. The goal is to “illuminate the past and inspire the future.”

 

The staff welcoming you to the riverside Wampanoag homesite are not role-players. They are all members of local Native Nations and very graciously share their heritage with visitors. You’ll learn all about the traditions, customs, and everyday life of the people who’ve lived in this region for thousands of years.

 

As you continue down the path, you’ll come to the 17th Century English Village built along Plymouth Harbor. Painstakingly recreated homes and gardens line the village street. The people you’ll meet have adopted the names, histories, and viewpoints of actual Plymouth residents. You can observe, you can participate, you can ask questions. It’s truly the most immersive living history we’ve ever known.

 

 

Just down the street from Plimoth Plantation, you’ll find the harbor dotted with anchored boats, a shady park dotted with gift shops, and the star of the show–Plymouth Rock. If not for the beautiful columned structure, security guard, and chiseled 1620, it might look like any other boulder. And if we’re being historically accurate, it could very well be any other boulder. But I’m still glad to have stood there and looked down as the tide came in.

 

If you’re hungry, I’ve got an idea for you. Before heading to the Plantation, we headed to the beach for lunch. Sandy’s at Plymouth Beach offered fantastic casual meals and an even more amazing view. It’s an open air restaurant overlooking Plymouth Beach. We had some great seafood sandwiches and the kids meals came in a keepsake sand pail with attached shovel. Because genius.

 

Even though Plymouth is mostly known for all things Pilgrim, you can certainly find other things to see. Check websites like See Plymouth and Visit Massachusetts for more ideas.

IMG_3304Plymouth opens the door to a completely new understanding of history. But there’s even more fun to be had! Come for the pilgrims, stay for the beach! Either way, Plymouth Rocks.