Cape Cod has a rich history, and the Kennedy family has been a big part of it. Over nearly 100 years, the family has spent time on the Cape and developed what has become known as the Kennedy Compound. The JFK Hyannis Museum shares this history and the Kennedy family legacy.
The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum is just one component in Cape Cod’s Kennedy Compound, a property that is still occupied by members of the prominent Kennedy family. Though you cannot tour the main property, you can learn more about one of the most beloved presidents in American history at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. And you can also stroll the Hyannis Kennedy Legacy Trail of the compound with informative displays about the famous family. Discover more about these Hyannis points of interest and test your JFK knowledge during your Brewster, MA, vacation!
The Hyannis Kennedy Compound is just one of many attractions you can experience during your stay on Cape Cod! The Maritime Museum in Hyannis is another popular place to explore local history. And the Hoxie House will also take you into the past when you walk through the oldest house in Cape Cod.
For even more fascinating things to do on Cape Cod, download our free Cape Cod Vacation Guide!
About The Kennedy Legacy
Members of the Kennedy family have been prominent figures in business, politics, and public service since the early 20th century. In 1928, industrialist and politician Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and wife Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy purchased a summer home in Hyannis Port.
Situated on the waterfront, the home was a getaway for the family, which included nine children — Edward M. Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy, Jean Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Joseph Jr. Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, Patricia Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Rosemary Kennedy.
Over the years, the family held positions in London’s U.S. Embassy, WWII, the U.S. Senate, and the White House. However, the home didn’t become known as the Kennedy Compound until after John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy purchased two nearby homes in the early 1960s.
The compound is less than 3 miles from Main Street, where the JFK Hyannis Museum tells the family’s story.
An Overview of the JFK Hyannis Museum
Prominent members of the Kennedy family still use the Kennedy Compound, so the main property isn’t open to the public. However, you can learn everything possible about the family and their contributions to the country at the JFK Museum in downtown Hyannis.
Opened in 1992, the museum is overseen by the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum Foundation, which preserves and promotes president John F. Kennedy’s and his family’s legacy and deep connection with Cape Cod.
Exhibits at the Hyannis Kennedy Museum
Within the three galleries of the JFK Hyannis Museum, you’ll see several multimedia exhibits and artifacts related to JFK, Jacqueline Kennedy, other family members, and the Kennedy Compound.
Before becoming the 35th president of the United States, JFK was the first to use photography and television to market his presidential campaign. You can see photos and videos, as well as listen to oral histories in the museum’s exhibits. In an orientation video, Walter Cronkite narrates JFK’s experiences.
Since it opened in 1992, the museum has featured several temporary exhibits too, some of which have been featured more than once.
JFK at 100: Life and Legacy is a special exhibit that was introduced in 2017 and is still available. It explores the role that Cape Cod played in shaping the man that JFK became, how he became so committed to public service, and how his legacy lives on.
In 2018, the RFK: Ripple of Hope was a special exhibit that commemorated Robert F. Kennedy. It returned in 2021 and will remain on display through 2022. This exhibit includes his early life but focuses on his time as U.S. attorney general, the U.S. Senate election, and his presidential campaign.
John F. Kennedy’s Rocking Chair, ca 1962
JFK’s rocking chair is a loan exhibit introduced in 2021. The JFK Hyannis Museum became its temporary home while The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria in New York are under renovation. It will return to the legendary hotel as a permanent exhibit when the renovations are complete in 2023.
Presidential Summers: The Kennedys on Cape Cod
Keeping the JFK Hyannis Museum galleries fresh and exciting, the museum is introducing the Presidential Summers exhibit for 2022. It features archival videos, artifacts, family photos, and more related to JFK and his family’s time in Hyannis Port.
JFK Museum Hyannis Events
Throughout the year, the JFK Hyannis Museum hosts a range of museum events, such as lectures, book signings, screenings, live webcasts, and more.
JFK Museum Hours, Admission, & Other Details
The JFK Hyannis Museum is open to the general public from about mid-April through November. However, it’s open with limited hours on Wednesdays through the winter. You can even schedule a private tour during the cold season.
Admission into the museum is free for children ages 5 and younger. Entrance for youths, adults, and seniors is very affordable, though, and you can learn more on the museum’s website.
Of course, discounts and free admission are given to museum members, Massachusetts teachers with school identification, and active military personnel (special days).
For accessible parking, the JFK Hyannis Museum has one designated handicapped space in front of the property. Two more handicapped spaces are behind the property in the municipal parking lot. There are a limited number of walkers and wheelchairs available free of charge.
Also, the museum has an elevator that offers access to all of the public floors, and accessible restrooms are on the main floor. If you have a service animal for vision impairment, your service animal is welcome to enter the museum with you.
For assistance with accessibility resources, talk to admission or museum store staff. In addition, volunteers on the first floor are wearing Docent buttons. You can ask them any questions about the museum’s collections, exhibits, and history.
John F. Kennedy Museum Store
Before you leave the JFK Hyannis Museum, stop by the museum store for a keepsake. It offers a wide variety of books, bookmarks, cards, prints, scarves, T-shirts, and more to commemorate your visit.
Self-Guided Walking Tours of the Hyannis Kennedy Legacy Trail
Although not specifically part of the JFK Hyannis Museum, the Hyannis Kennedy Legacy Trail is a self-guided walking tour of downtown Hyannis sites that are significant to the Kennedy family. This linear trail starts at the museum, where you can grab a brochure and map.
Along the way, you’ll pass informational signs at 10 sites — such as the John F. Kennedy Memorial — providing details about their significance. You can also use your smartphone to get audio and video information from QR tags, uncovering the history and stories of the Kennedy family on Cape Cod.
It takes about 1.5 hours to complete the 1.6-mile trail while taking in all the information. During the summer season, you can take a free trolley back to the museum. If you visit during the winter, the walk back will take about 35 minutes.
Explore Things to Do in Hyannis
The JFK Hyannis Museum and Kennedy Legacy Trail are just two of the many attractions that you can experience in this Cape Cod town. We recommend checking out some other things to do while you’re there.
Cape Cod Central Railroad
The Cape Cod Central Railroad offers scenic train rides through the Cape. The train passes cranberry bogs, dunes, marshes, and some places that are only accessible via train. Some of the rides are narrated with historical information, while others include Sunday brunch, lunch, or dinner.
Cape Cod Melody Tent
For more than 60 years, the Cape Cod Melody Tent has presented concerts, comedy acts, and special entertainment during the summer. There’s always something for everyone to enjoy.
Pirate Adventures Hyannis
If you want to spend some time on the water during summer, why not hunt for treasure with Pirate Adventures Hyannis? Aboard the Sea Gypsy ship, children are face-painted to be official crew members and participate in crew duties — hoisting flags, blasting water cannons, and reading maps.
Best Hyannis Restaurants for a Bite
You’re likely to need a bite to eat after all the walking you do at the JFK Hyannis Museum and on the Kennedy Legacy Trail. Here are a few places that we recommend in Hyannis.
If you like Thai food, Bangkok Kitchen makes authentic dishes with fresh ingredients. Every order is customizable. The menu includes salads, soups, desserts, Thai curry, and special dishes. But, the noodles are particularly delicious.
Spanky’s Clam Shack and Seaside Saloon
Seafood is a common craving on Cape Cod, and Spanky’s Clam Shack and Seaside Saloon makes some of the best on the Cape. Resting on Hyannis Harbor, the restaurant serves broiled, fried, and grilled shellfish and fish. But, its clam chowder is award-winning.
Spanky’s has a raw bar and serves chicken, pasta, and steak dishes as well.
Cape Cod Creamery
For a sweet treat, head to the Cape Cod Creamery for the finest gourmet ice cream on Cape Cod. The ice cream is denser and less airy, which is why it’s so flavorful and has won awards. You can choose from about 30 flavors.
A Luxurious B&B Fit for a President
Do you want to reside in luxury like a president? You can get a taste of what that would be like at Candleberry Inn in Brewster Massachusetts.
Located on historic Route 6A, our Georgian-style inn is American history preserved and is decorated in stately furnishing and elegant hardwood floors. Our luxurious rooms will make you feel like American royalty, and every morning, you can indulge in a gourmet breakfast.
Best of all, Candleberry Inn is located in proximity to many things to do in Brewster, and nearly all the things to do on Cape Cod are only a 1-hour drive or less away. It takes less than 30 minutes to reach JFK Hyannis Museum!
Check our availability to book your accommodations today!