JFK Museum Hyannis
Authors: Marco & Angelo

Authors: Marco & Angelo

We own the Candleberry Inn, a boutique bed and breakfast in central Cape Cod. We're glad to share our recommendations on all the great things to explore throughout Cape Cod.

What Are the Best Museums on the Cape Cod Museum Trail?

Table of Contents
    Add a header to begin generating the table of contents
    Scroll to Top

    Cape Cod gives locals and visitors the chance to dive into unique natural habitats, culture and art, and a long history. In fact, there are more than 75 nature centers, art and cultural centers, museums, and historical societies on the Cape Cod Museum Trail.

    We’ve compiled a list of 23 of our favorite and unique spots in each region to get you started exploring the Cape Cod Museum Trail. If you want even more options, you’ll find lists of additional great museums and historical societies to visit in each region too.

    Get our free Cape Cod Vacation Guide, full of the best things to do in Cape Cod. The best activities, restaurants, museums, events, views, and much more!

    Click here to request the guide.

    JFK Museum in Hyannis MA
    photo courtesy of @lanceraab

    About the Cape Cod Museum Trail

    The Cape Cod Museum Trail is a digital initiative and physical journey sponsored by First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union to connect the dozens of museums across the Cape.

    Established in October 2015, the idea of the trail was born after some museum directors gathered to talk about how they could coordinate, promote, and share each other’s resources.

    Ever since, more museums have joined the effort — from Woods Hole, Bourne, and Sandwich in the Upper Cape to Brewster and Chatham in the Lower Cape to Provincetown at the tip of the Outer Cape.

    Museum Mondays in May

    Since 2021, the Cape Cod Museum Trail has organized Museum Mondays in May. Every Monday in May, select museums are open to the public for free, celebrating the art, culture, and history of the Cape. The trail organizes other programs as well:

    • Cape Cod Art Week — a celebration of the creative impact of arts and culture, featuring presentations from artists, creative entrepreneurs, and cultural organizations.
    • Monday at the Museum Podcast — a series of conversations with local historians, musicians, artists, and more that you can listen to on the go.
    • Pilgrim Landing Trail — a 55-mile trail across the Lower and Outer Cape that traces the Pilgrims’ experiences and explorations.

    Cape Cod Museum Trail | Planning Your Visit

    There are many ways to plan your visit to the best museums on the Cape Cod Museum Trail. You could visit all of the museums in a region, or select a few stops as you take a scenic drive from one end of the Cape to the other. Either way, below are some of our favorites in each area.

    Top-Rated Museums in Upper Cape Cod

    Cape Cod Cape Verdean Museum & Cultural Center | East Falmouth

    The Verdean Museum & Cultural Center is the first of its kind in the Upper Cape to celebrate the rich history and contributions of Cape Verdean. It has a collection of about 1,000 artifacts related to Cape Verdean, Cabo Verde, and other Lusophone migrations. Admission is free!

    One attraction here is The Emerald House, a historic farmstead that represents the rich immigrant history of Falmouth. The center hosts activities and events throughout the year as well.

    Museums on the Green | Falmouth

    Run by the Falmouth Historical Society, the Museums on the Green is a beautiful 2-acre property that features an early 20th-century reconstructed barn, Colonial gardens, a Cultural Center, a four-seater outhouse, two historic cannons, and two 18th-century homes.

    Each building and exhibit shares a story about the seaside community’s locals at the time. The Hallett Barn Visitor Center features rotating exhibits and the Whaling Wives Gift Shop. Walking tours and trolley tours also depart from here from late May to early October.

    Aptucxet Museum Complex | Bourne

    Open Memorial Day Weekend through Indigenous Peoples Day Weekend, the Aptucxet Museum Complex is a 12-acre campus along the Cape Cod Canal. It consists of small historic buildings, outdoor installations, and replicas that tell of local Colonial history through the 20th century.

    The main building — the Aptucxet Trading Post — is a replica of the Pilgrim Trading Post that the Plymouth Colony built in 1627 for trading with the Wampanoag Tribe and Dutch traders.

    Cape Cod Military Museum | Bourne

    The Cape Cod Military Museum promotes an appreciation and understanding of how Americans have contributed to 20th-century conflicts. Rather than glorify war, the museum honors the sacrifices that military personnel — particularly those from Southeastern Massachusetts — have made at home and abroad.

    Heritage Museums & Gardens | Sandwich

    Combining museums and gardens, Heritage Museums & Gardens commemorates the culture, leisure, work, and lives of Southeastern New England locals — especially Cape Cod and the islands.

    Its museum collection consists of 18,000 items — from automobiles to fine art to Indigenous Peoples’ artifacts. You can even ride the hand-carved, 1908 Looff Carousel. On top of that, there are 100 acres of designed gardens, nature trails, sweeping lawns, and shrubs and trees.

    Sandwich Glass Museum | Sandwich

    Featuring some of the most unique Cape Cod art, the Sandwich Glass Museum interprets the history of the town, which is the oldest on the Cape. Much of this history involves American glass production.

    Along with viewing historic and locally made glass creations, you can watch glassmaking presentations every hour. A glassblower lights up the glory hole and turns and twists the hot glass into various forms. You can feel the heat from the furnace!

    More Upper Cape Museums

    Things to Do in Cape Cod - JFK Hyannis Museum
    photo via JFK Hyannis Museum

    Unique Mid Cape Cod Museum Trail Stops

    Cape Cod Maritime Museum | Hyannis

    Preserving Cape Cod’s maritime history and traditions, the Cape Cod Maritime Museum features collections, exhibitions, educational programs, and public events. Highlights include cultural exhibits, marine artifacts, boat building, and shipwrecks.

    John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum | Hyannis

    If you’re interested in JFK, head to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum to learn about this former president’s legacy. Experience the Summer White House days of the 1960s, and find out why the area was considered the Kennedys’ “heart and home.”

    1717 Meetinghouse | West Barnstable

    The 1717 Meetinghouse is a historic memorial, place of worship, village center, and town meeting place. This fascinating structure was built before George Washington was born and was home to the 1806 Paul Revere bell! The current bell was made between 1828 and 1835 by the Revere family.

    It’s just an interesting place to view and look around from Memorial Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.

    Coast Guard Heritage Museum | Barnstable

    Featuring more than 2,700 square feet and two floors of exhibits, the Coast Guard Heritage Museum is dedicated to all things U.S. Coast Guard from its beginning as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. You can tour the museum with a guide, the free audio system, or on your own.

    Cape Cod Museum of Art | Dennis

    Founded in 1981 by artists, the Cape Cod Museum of Art houses artwork by the finest artists on the Cape, celebrating the region’s distinct artistic identity. Alongside an outstanding art collection across seven galleries, the CCMoA is surrounded by a Sculpture Garden and has a film screening room.

    Whydah Pirate Museum | West Yarmouth

    One of the most unique spots on the Cape Cod Museum Trail, the Whydah Pirate Museum has the first exhibition of authentic pirate treasure in the world. You’ll find the biggest worldwide collection of pirate artifacts that have been recovered from one shipwreck — the Whydah.

    The museum tells the story of the slave ship and how it was turned into a pirate ship in the early 18th century, revealing its true story and who lived on board. New exhibits are added as more artifacts and treasures are excavated.

    More Museums in the Mid Cape

    Things to Do in Cape Cod - Sandwich Glass Museum
    photo via Sandwich Glass Museum

    Best Museums in the Lower Cape

    Brewster Historical Society Museum & Windmill Village | Brewster

    Founded in 1964, the Brewster Historical Society preserves local history and artifacts, specifically the restored circa 1799 Cobb House Museum and Windmill Village. Cobb House has five permanent galleries. Even when the house isn’t open for tours, you can enjoy the grounds and garden.

    Windmill Village next to Drummer Boy Park is home to a circa 1795 Higgins Farm Windmill, circa 1795 Harris-Black House, and circa 1867 Hopkins Blacksmith Shop. The buildings are open to explore from late June through Labor Day Weekend, including blacksmith demos every weekend.

    In addition, the Brewster Historical Society hosts the farmer’s market from early June to early September. It also hosts the Harvest Market in early October, as well as other festivities throughout the year.

    Cape Cod Museum of Natural History | Brewster

    When it comes to exploring nature, there’s plenty to do at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. Established in 1954, the museum is located in a 17,000-square-foot building on 80 acres of land next to 320 acres of conservation and town land.

    It’s certainly easy to spend an entire day here! We don’t have room to list all of the exhibits and attractions, but here are a few to give you an idea of how much there is to explore:

    • Nature Trails
    • Aquarium
    • Preserved Bird Collection
    • Guided Archaeology Walks
    • Guided Family Field Walks
    • Butterfly House & Pollinator Path (including butterfly feeding)
    • Honey Bee Observation Hive
    • Moon Adventure Game & Interstellar Explorations
    • People of the Land: The Wampanoag

    Brooks Academy Museum & A. Crowell Barn Museum | Harwich

    Maintained by the Harwich Historical Society, the Brooks Academy Museum is housed in the old Pine Grove Seminary. Sydney Brooks oversaw the two-room school, teaching a high school curriculum to boys and girls. Today, it houses exhibits about the town’s history.

    Also on the museum grounds is the A. Elmer Crowell Barn Museum, which highlights the story of the world-famous bird carver. You can watch real video footage of Crowell in his workshop and carving demonstrations.

    Atwood House & Museum | Chatham

    Home to the Chatham Historical Society, The Atwood House was built by Captain Joseph Atwood in the 1750s. On the ground floor, you can explore eight rooms that contain items from the 1700s to the 1900s, encompassing three centuries of Cape Cod family life.

    The house has remained unchanged since its original structure, except for the Marjorie’s kitchen addition in the 1830s and the addition of essential electricity. It’s even furnished like it was during the 1700s and 1800s. Also on the grounds are a lighthouse turret and the Nickerson North Beach Camp.

    Caleb Nickerson Homestead | Chatham

    Established in 1897, the Nickerson Family Association maintains Nickerson family properties, including the Caleb Nickerson Homestead. The circa 1829 home features an Antique Cape design with a working beehive and three hearths.

    Also on the property are a reproduction post-and-beam outhouse, heirloom kitchen garden, archaeology dig site, and memorial monument. All is open for guided tours from June to September. Additionally, this historic landmark is located where English settlers made their first home in Chatham in 1664.

    The Centers for Culture and History in Orleans | Orleans

    Bringing Cape Cod culture and history to life, The Centers for Culture and History in Orleans has three interesting historic sites for activities and learning.

    The Meetinghouse is an 1834 Greek Revival structure that was once the meeting house for the Universalist Church of Orleans. Now, it houses a museum with special exhibits and hosts cultural programs.

    The CG36500 Motor Lifeboat is famous for its nighttime rescue of 32 crew from the Pendleton tanker in 1952 during a fierce winter storm. The boat is the center of the book “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue” and the 2016 film “The Finest Hours.”

    Built in 1937, the Hurd Chapel is a newer addition to the property with plans to make it a place for research, meetings, and storage for artifacts and archives.

    More Lower Cape Cod Museums

    Things to Do in Cape Cod - Gardens Aglow - Heritage Museums & Gardens
    photo via Heritage Museums & Gardens

    Excellent Stops on the Outer Cape Cod Museum Trail

    Captain Penniman House | Eastham

    Completed by local artisans in 1868, the Captain Penniman House is a 2.5-story, wood-frame home with a mansard roof. It was home to the family of Captain Edward Penniman, one of the most successful whaling captains in the region.

    A unique feature is the octagonal cupola with arched windows. It was raised high enough so that the Captain could see ships passing in both the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Cod Bay.

    Also on the 12 acres of property purchased from his father, Penniman had a barn and a greenhouse. The greenhouse was destroyed in a 1920s hurricane and never rebuilt. Since then, the property has retained its 19th-century site plan.

    Eastham Historical Society Museums | Eastham

    The Eastham Historical Society has several museums and places to explore on the Cape Cod Museum Trail. The 1869 Schoolhouse Museum and the 1741 Swift-Daley House are open for tours in July and August. Other points of interest include the Ranlett Tool Museum, Dill Beach Camp, and Olde Gift Shop.

    Wellfleet Historical Society & Museum | Wellfleet

    At the center of the Wellfleet Historical Society & Museum is a collection that has been gathered for more than 60 years and housed in two buildings near the heart of Wellfleet. The collection consists of art, documents, letters, maps, nautical objects, and photos rich in local history.

    Most of this collection is on permanent display in its main building, which was a former store. Various display cases and floor-to-ceiling shelves house the items. The society features temporary and special exhibitions as well.

    The second building is a house that dates from the 18th century in some parts and the 19th century in others, all of which are furnished accordingly.

    Highland House Museum | Truro

    Built in 1907, the Highland House Museum was once a seasonal hotel. It’s located near the Highland Light and is a classic model of a summer resort hotel at the turn of the century. You can tour the museum from June through September.

    When you take a look inside, you’ll explore permanent exhibits about the area’s Indigenous Peoples. There are also rotating displays of locals’ contributions to the domestic crafts, railroad, and salt mill industries over the years.

    Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum | Provincetown

    Standing 252 feet above Provincetown, the Pilgrim Monument commemorates the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims in the town. It was completed in 1910, featuring 166 steps and 60 ramps to the top.

    At the base of the monument, the Provincetown Museum educates visitors about the town’s role in Pilgrim and American history. There are many permanent and temporary exhibits to explore, including Indigenous Peoples’ and maritime artifacts and exhibits for modern American theater and decorative arts and furniture.

    More Museums in the Upper Cape

    plaque with date inn was built
    National Register of Historic Places Plaque

    Stay in a Historical Cape Cod Bed and Breakfast

    No matter how you decide to discover the wonder of the Cape Cod Museum Trail, Candleberry Inn can be your home away from home. Our inn was built in the 1700s and has its own rich history, which we are more than happy to share with you.

    With renovations that maintain the historical charm, we can provide luxurious accommodations with modern comforts and amenities. When you’re ready to plan your Cape Cod getaway, check our availability for your travel dates!

    Get our free Cape Cod Vacation Guide, full of the best things to do in Cape Cod. The best activities, restaurants, museums, events, views, and much more!

    Click here to request the guide.

    Share this post

    Share on facebook
    Share on pinterest
    Share on email