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Summer in Cape Cod, the hook-shaped peninsula dangling at the end of Massachusetts, is about as American as it gets. Families spend the day at the beach and dine together al fresco, enjoying fresh-caught bounty straight from the ocean. Grinning children bounce around dressed in brightly colored outfits, matching their just-as-preppy parents and dogs tug at the end of leashes to greet passersby. In Cape Cod, you’re hard pressed to find a home not proudly displaying an American flag year round, and come 4th of July, they boast one of the oldest parades in the country. Patriotism oozes from every home, storefront, and person you meet there, and there’s perhaps no more American place to spend a long weekend. With plenty to do along the Cape through fall, make sure you check these eight off your list.

RELATED: 5 awesome Boston getaways that are not Cape Cod

1. Shop downtown Chatham

Downtown Chatham, Cape Cod | Photo by Compass + Twine

If there is a more charming Main Street in America, we haven’t found it. The long drag is dotted with locally owned boutiques, souvenir shops, candy stores, and plenty of bars and restaurants. Cars creep along searching for a place to park, while families walk care-free along the sidewalk, dipping in and out of the storefronts.

2. Eat baked oysters at the Sacred Cod

Baked Oysters + Chowder | Photo by Compass + Twine

Local oysters can be found on just about every menu in Cape Cod, often hauled in just hours before you enjoy them. The briny, ocean flavor is perfectly complimented with a drizzle of mignonette or a dab of cocktail sauce. Raw oysters are usually the way to go, since they’re so incredibly fresh—until you taste the baked oysters at the Sacred Cod. Served in their shells and swimming in browned butter, they’re topped with toasted breadcrumbs. The browned butter gives the briny oyster a sweet, nutty flavor and the bread crumbs offer the ideal amount of crunch. These babies are addicting and will have you wondering why you’ve been eating oysters raw all these years.

3. Explore the Cape by sea

Fishermen bringing in their daily catch | Photo by Compass + Twine

All along the Cape, you’ll find outfitters eager to take you out for a sail. Enjoy being on the water and seeing the coastline from the sea! Take a whale watching or seal spotting cruise or sip a cocktail during a sunset sail. If being on the water isn’t your thing, live vicariously from the shore, watching the fishermen bring in their daily catch.

4. Get your fill of lobster

A delicious lobster roll | Photo by Compass + Twine

The lobster in Cape Cod is so sweet and delicious, it easily stands alone. Eat it plain or dipped in drawn butter and you’ll live happy; toss it in a little mayo and cram it into a toasted bun and you’ll die happy! Cape Cod lobster rolls are usually lightly dressed and always served in a top-sliced toasted bun. The meat is roughly chopped (none of that shredded lobster salad business), leaving your roll chock full of tasty lobster chunks. Fries are a must for the side and are usually served with malt vinegar.

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5. Dine at Impudent Oyster

Impudent Oyster | Photo by Compass + Twine

Dinner at Impudent Oyster is a must when you’re on the Cape, as are reservations at this popular eatery. This restaurant is old school and feels like a Midwest supper club. The famed, casual establishment serves some of the most delicious (dare we say it!) food on the East coast. Standard dishes like Oyster Rockefeller are taken up a notch with lobster added into each bite, and inventive dishes like sole topped with crab, brie and asparagus delight the taste buds. A meal at Impudent Oyster is one you won’t soon forget.

6. Stay at Chatham Bars Inn

Chatham Bars Inn | Photo by Compass + Twine

Built in 1914, Chatham Bars Inn has been a staple for vacationers to the Cape for more than 100 years. It was first touted as an exclusive hunting lodge for monied Bostonians and, over the years, has evolved into a favorite family retreat. Take a spin around the sprawling property and you’ll quickly see why.  Shingled cottages dot this waterfront hotel, brick paths wind through beautiful manicured lawns and gardens and white adirondack chairs rock peacefully in the breeze at every turn.

7. Watch the tide come in and out

Low tide on the Cape | Photo by Compass + Twine

See the water first at high tide and it looks like any other ocean you’ve seen. Wait a few hours, though, and you won’t believe your eyes. At low tide, the water recedes so much you can walk almost a mile into what was the ocean just hours ago. Sand bars pop up seemingly from nowhere, bright green patches of sea kelp dot the sand and the oceans bottom reveals itself covered in smooth sea stones. A beach that started out just a few meters wide becomes a mile wide at low tide, giving you plenty of space to play, stretch out, sunbathe or explore!

8. Ogle the gorgeous homes

A beautiful Cape Cod home | Photo by Compass + Twine

Hours can be spent cruising or walking around the neighborhoods on the Cape. Many of the homes are historic and have been passed down through generations. Shingled facades seem to be the most popular, with red, blue, or even green shutters decorating the windows. Perfectly manicured lawns and stunning flowers complete the picture-perfect scene, leaving you wishing you’re family had passed one of these beauties down to you!

Tagged: New England, Top 10 Lists

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Compass + Twine
Sarah Driggs and Lindsay Ridenour are the story-tellers behind the NYC-based luxury travel blog, Compass + Twine. Follow along on Instagram @compassandtwine as they unearth some of the best hotels and travel experiences around the globe. From scenic landscapes to local cafés, they reveal the true character of a destination, always highlighting the best place to stay on compassandtwine.com .

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