Cape Cod, Massachusetts is so much more than a beautiful vacation spot with picturesque beaches and scenic nature trails. Whether you are visiting the Cape for a day or a week, you will find plenty of opportunities to explore the region’s rich arts, culture, and history.
Start your exploration in Yarmouth, where sea captains anchored their families in stately homes, literary leaders honed their craft, and artists continue to find inspiration. From paint classes to pirates, here are some of the most interesting places to explore.
Step into local arts, culture, and history on Cape Cod
The Cultural Center of Cape Cod
Offering a wide variety of experiences, the Cultural Center of Cape Cod is the perfect way to learn about the area. Stroll through galleries displaying work from the “Fresh Paint Artists,” catch one of many visiting performers, or take one of their community-centered classes. Entertainment includes everything from stand-up storytelling to Saturday night dance parties. As for lessons – spend your day cooking “Cape Cod Cod” like the locals, or learning to paint the ocean with a glass of wine in hand. Whether you’re looking for a night out on the town or just a chance to discover something new, the Center has something for you.
The Edward Gorey House
If the macabre is in any way up your alley, be sure to visit the home of one of Yarmouth’s most influential artists. Edward Gorey is best known for his dark but charming illustrations, including his fantastically morbid alphabet book: Gashlycrumb Tinies. His gothic aesthetic has gone on to inspire the likes of Lemony Snicket, Guillermo del Toro, and of course Tim Burton. If you’re in the mood for something a little off the beaten path, this museum dedicated to Gorey’s legacy is just what you’re looking for. Uncover the mysteries behind this eccentric artist, pick up a souvenir like no other, and, if you time it right, take part in one of the seasonal festivals the house puts on.
Captain Bangs Hallet House Museum
Originally inhabited by an 18th century sea captain, this quaint little museum provides a relaxing and engaging look into the past. The house is part of Yarmouth’s Captains mile walking tour, an array of historic homes on one of Yarmouth’s main streets. While most of the buildings are privately owned, this house has been preserved just as Captain Bangs Hallet would have found it after one of his 18 month voyages to China almost two centuries ago. It features fully period furnishings, including an entirely antique kitchen Mrs. Hallet and her staff would have used. Knowledgeable guides will lead you through the house, share stories of the Captain’s thrilling adventures, and answer any questions.
The Whydah Pirate Museum
Batten down the hatches and prepare to have your timbers thoroughly shivered; this museum might just be the highlight of your trip. The center focuses on the tale of the Whydah Gally: a former slave-ship that was commandeered by pirates in 1717. The Whydah’s story has all the best parts of pirate lore: motley crews, tragic shipwrecks, and even lost treasure. Spoiler alert: after 150 years, the latter was found and is now on display! Visitors have the chance to walk through a reconstruction of the shipwreck, get a glimpse of the on-site conservation efforts, and discover the largest collection of pirate artifacts from a single shipwreck in the world. Between the ship’s diverse and democratic crew and the team of historians working to preserve their story, there’s power and heart in the tale of the Whydah Gally – not to mention a great deal of fun.
Explore more history – both old and new
For an even deeper dive into Yarmouth’s coastal history, check out the Historical Society of Old Yarmouth website. You’ll find information on additional historic sites, as well as walking tour guides. Or stay up-to-date with the latest arts and culture happenings on our local events calendar for the latest local arts and culture events.