Just as hot dogs are a Fenway favorite, it would be silly to skip clams on Cape Cod. And among the dozens of small shacks, Arnold's remains a standout. This quality-conscious spot now has a dining room and screened-in patio—as well as lengthy lines (it's worth the wait, though). Prepare to get messy while scarfing Wellfleet oysters, lobster rolls, and, of course, the famous Arnold's fried clams. 3580 State Hwy. (Rte. 6), Eastham, MA arnoldsrestaurant.com/.
Massages and facials are delightful—until they cut into your precious sun time, that is. Thankfully, the Spa at the Chatham Bars Inn offers the best of both worlds. The facility's outdoor plunge pool, surrounded by lush gardens, is a tranquil way to take in the beauty of the Cape after an aah-inducing rubdown. Al fresco treatments in private cabanas, meanwhile, maximize the therapeutic benefits of the great outdoors. 297 Shore Road, Chatham, MA 2633, chathambarsinn.com.
We’ve been there countless times: We want one last cuddle with Fido before leaving for vacation, but instead he wriggles out of our hands like an eager camper, more than ready to sniff butts and play with his buddies. These are the moments when pet parenting can be slightly heartbreaking (My puppy! He’s all grown up!). When Urban Hound is hosting him for the weekend, however, that goodbye is a little easier to handle: The luxury accommodations at the pet hotel and daycare facility—which features two indoor play parks and 1,000 square feet of outdoor space—are matched only by the fantastic trainers and staff, who are more than qualified to play in loco petrentis. 129 Malden St., Boston, MA 2118, urbanhounds.com.
White and Shapiro are engaging writers with refreshing viewpoints. MA
Leave your car on the Cape. Nantucket’s iconic harborfront resort, and its well-appointed rooms, are no more than 10 minutes from anyplace you’d want to go: Young’s for bikes, the Juice Bar for ice cream, the beach and ferry, too. And if you’re looking for the best on-island massage, you don’t even have to leave the building. 50 Easton St., Nantucket, MA 02554, whiteelephanthotel.com.
There's finally authentic Mexican on the Upper Cape thanks to this bustling spot in Falmouth Center, which skips the gimmicks and gloppy cheese in favor of fresh, local seafood and a creative Sunday brunch menu with a twist—and a kick. Go for the gloriously runny eggs Benedict topped with smoky braised pork and chipotle hollandaise, or French toast laced with tequila-fried bananas. Bonus: Kids get a free chocolate taco (you might, too, if you ask politely). 188 Main St., Falmouth, MA 02540, anejomexicanbistro.com.
Save the formal service and immaculate silverware for your power lunches in the city. On the Cape, you want to grab something fast and friendly—and then head right back outside. At Blue Willow, the ingredients are fresh, the sandwiches inventive, and the baked goods all made from scratch. Our superlative midday meal: the signature grilled chicken and Brie panini followed by a fudgy, walnut-studded 'outrageous' brownie. 1426 Route 6, Wellfleet, MA 2663, .
This is the site to hit before you go anywhere. Updated every few minutes, SmarTraveler.com offers information about tie-ups on local roads and the MBTA. Even better than the concise written alerts are the live video feeds form problem-prone paces like the Central Artery, the Cape Cod bridges, and Route 128. The picture quality is good, though you can't quite discern drivers' obscene hand gestures as they back up on Storrow.
The food at Fin is subtle at first, but soon shows its adventurous side. Take the chowder. It's a go-to order at any restaurant on the Cape, but Fin uses oysters instead of clams and adds a drizzle of white-truffle oil. That level of detail and savory depth permeates the offerings here, from the flawless pan-seared scallops to the salted-peanut ice cream. 800 Main St., Dennis, MA fincapecod.com.
This half-mile stretch cuts a sandy swath into the rocky terrain of Cape Ann's coastline, giving picnickers plenty of sheltered space to spread out and dig in. Nearby, the Kitchen Witch makes packing the basket effortless with gourmet sandwiches, pints of pasta salad, and homemade cookies. Work off your lunch with a romp in the invigorating tide pools, or let your repast settle as you lie back and wallow in the view. Beach Street; the Kitchen Witch, 4C Summer St., Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA 1944, .
The long lines don't lie: Arnold's serves fried clams at their messy best alongside the fluffiest, tastiest onion rings we've ever eaten. The location doesn't hurt either: It's right on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, with picnic tables in the shade of tall pines where you can pitch your kickstand and enjoy surprisingly reasonably priced seafood on a cafeteria-style tray. As a gesture to gourmets, there's even a raw bar. But stick to the specialties: fried clams, steamers, lobster, and corn on the cob. Rte. 6, Eastham, MA arnoldsrestaurant.com/.
This tiny bakery makes breads, sandwiches, and European-style pastries worth searching out—plus unbelievable muffins, pies, and wedding cakes. But what puts it over the top is its inelegant-sounding "dirt bomb," a dense, indulgent breakfast pasty dusted with cinnamon and sugar. It's a sweet way to jump-start any Cape Cod morning. 5 Cottage St., Orleans, MA cottagestreetbakery.com/.
Want a side of local color with your Devil's Purse pint? Pay a visit to this neighborhood hang, where Cape Cod memorabilia—from family crests to vanity plates—fills every inch of wall and ceiling space. It's not all about the kitsch, though: Bartenders behind the lacquered wooden bar aim to please, and the late-night menu satisfies with grub for both landlubbers (burgers) and seafarers (fish and chips). 38 Main St., Orleans, 508-255-5165; 429 Main St., Harwich Port, 508-430-0404; land-ho.com. 38 Main St., Orleans, MA 2653, land-ho.com.
Cape Cod sometimes feels as though it's sinking under the weight of its many ice cream shops, but Sundae School rises above with handmade, creamy flavors in such addictive permutations as espresso crunch, Kahlúa chip, and Bass River mud (coffee ice cream with fudge, almonds, and chocolate chunks). Add such toppings as fresh, plump blueberries, bananas, buttery hot fudge, homemade cream, and a fresh Bing cherry, and you've got more than just an ice cream treat. You've got a religious experience. 606 Main St. (Rte. 28), Harwichport, MA sundaeschool.com.
Vacationers can play it two ways as they settle into this welcoming, wood-filled space for a midday meal: fuel up for an afternoon of high-impact romping in the sand, or just plain fill up for several hours of indolence under the sun. For the former, there's leaner fare such as grilled chicken on Portuguese muffins and a salad with gorgonzola, walnut, and sun-dried cranberries. For the latter, choose from plus-size portions of clam chowder, crab cakes, fish and chips, and other Cape Cod classics—and enjoy the wistful glances from those sticking to moderation (poor things). 23 West Road, Orleans, MA 2653, beaconroom.com.