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.
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/.
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.
Thought the king of Cape resorts couldn’t possibly get any better? Think again. To get ready for the post-COVID travel boom, CBI bolstered its private beach with additional sand — about 7,000 cubic yards, to be precise — along with new beach cabanas, lounge chairs, and umbrellas. You’ll also find fresh treatments at the sprawling spa complex (don’t miss the Moroccanoil hydration ritual), the return of live music on Bayview Terrace, and plenty of fun, interactive children’s programs for when the kids tire from leaping in and out of the water — and you tire of watching them. 297 Shore Rd., Chatham, MA 02633, chathambarsinn.com.
In a neighborhood that's more about hot dogs than haute cuisine, it can be hard to get a decent meal. That's where Audubon Circle comes in. This darkly lit, sleekly cool restaurant with the long slate bar has a small but satisfying menu of dressed-up pub grub, from the downright delicious burger with spicy home fries to the rare seared tuna with garlic mashed potatoes. The legendary pot stickers (dumplings and steamed vegetables served in a paper takeout container) can provoke food fights—over who gets the last bite. And thanks to the expertly mixed drinks and ample supply of local and national beers on tap, there's plenty to please diners and drinkers who long for more than the watered-down suds at Fenway. 838 Beacon St., Boston, MA auduboncircle.us/.
If brunch is the most civilized way to dine, the Harvest is the most civilized place to have brunch. First there's the restaurant's lovely garden patio, which in warm weather offers a leafy retreat from the traffic of Harvard Square. Then there's the table presentation. No paper napkins and messy tabletops here—brunch at the Harvest is a white-linen, Sunday-best affair. But it's the menu that renders this restaurant a class above, with its three-course, prix-fixe ($33) menu of gourmet takes on classic dishes. The eggs Benedict, for instance, are served not one but two ways: crab and avocado on one orb, smoked ham and asparagus with roasted red pepper hollandaise on the other. Omelets come with such citified ingredients as wild mushrooms, spring onion, or pancetta. It's the final course—dessert—that makes this tradition a proper indulgence, from the milk chocolate panna cotta to the irresistible classic chocolate layer cake. 44 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA harvestcambridge.com/.
In the past year alone, Pollen Floral Design owner Krissy Price has dreamed up masterpieces for a distillery engagement party, a restaurant wedding, and seaside nuptials on the Cape. She’s as comfortable working in jewel tones as she is in pastels, giving big, beautiful blooms the starring role in every custom installation, free-flowing bouquet, and color-packed centerpiece she crafts. MA bostonpollen.com.
Owner Philip Saul knows that casual doesn’t have to mean sloppy. To wit: Where else can you try on Japanese selvedge denim in two contemporary, tailored fits? Whether you’re shopping for cheerful printed tees and canvas shorts for your next Cape vacation or fitted button-downs and slim-fit pants for breezy weekends in the city, playing it cool never looked this sharp. 577 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02118, saultne.com.
Most Cape restaurants fall into one of two categories: beachy seafood shacks staffed by teenagers, or precious tourist traps with huge markups. The Naked Oyster is neither—just a sleek raw bar and restaurant featuring oysters fresh from chef Florence Lowell’s farm. Enjoy baked bivalves of every variety, inventive fish preparations, and a civilized bar scene fueled by well-made drinks. 410 Main St., Hyannis, MA 02601, nakedoyster.com.
Based solely on the coolness of its bayside pool, Wequassett would swim away with this prize. But it also excels in every other way: The cozy cottage accommodations feel like the Cape of yore (albeit with Molton Brown toiletries and nightly turndown service); prime Signature rooms have fireplaces and unmatched water views. And then there's the exquisite golf course. The outdoor bar. The laid-back yet attentive staff. Need we go on? 2171 Head of the Bay Rd., Harwich, MA 2645, wequassett.com.
Seven thousand yards of championship golfing, nestled in 170 acres of sweet-smelling pine forest: The 72-par Dennis Pines is a course to be reckoned with. With water at four of the holes, enough trees to test anyone's accuracy, and the notorious par-5 twelfth, the course is arguably the toughest—and certainly one of the most beautiful—on Cape Cod. Amenities are plentiful, including an expansive driving range and practice green, a nice little lounge, and a well-stocked pro shop. Rte. 134, East Dennis, MA dennisgolf.com/.
Surprise—not everyone on Cape Cod covets pressed khakis and leather loafers. Step out of conservative Falmouth and into Maxwell & Co. to find cutting-edge American and European looks by Strenesse, Etro, and Twilltwentytwo. Teens and grandmothers alike are sure to find something appropriate in this large space, which also carries clothes by Lacoste, Ted Baker, and Robert Graham. 200 Main St., Falmouth, MA shop.maxwellandco.com/.