FALMOUTH — This Upper Cape town is often passed over for the tall Atlantic Ocean cliffs of Truro or the party atmosphere of Provincetown, but Falmouth offers plenty of choices for visitors — and you don’t have to fight the traffic on Route 6 to get here. You just have to get over the Bourne or Sagamore bridge.
The walls at Coffee Obsession (110 Palmer Ave., 508-540-2233,
www.coffeeobsession.com) are covered with works by local artists that are for sale. But the first things you notice are the robust smell of the freshly made gourmet brew and the sight of crusty, buttery croissants in the pastry display case. The caffeinated drinks will perk you up for a day in the sun. If you’re rushing to catch a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, there’s a sister cafe around the corner from the boat at 38 Water St. in Woods Hole.
The Woods Hole Science Aquarium (166 Water St., 508-495-2001, http://aquarium.nefsc.noaa.gov/index.html) is a public facility owned by the federal government and operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratory. Harbor seals that can no longer live in the wild swim in a 17,000-gallon outdoor pool, while inside visitors can get a feel for spider crabs, tautogs, sea stars, and other local sea life in the touch tanks. This is the country’s oldest marine aquarium, and the exhibits are free to the public.
The Falmouth Historical Society (65 Palmer Ave., 508-548-4857, www.falmouthhistoricalsociety.org, $5 tours) operates the Museums on the Green, including the Conant House built in 1724. Along with the adjacent Dr. Francis Wicks House, the two properties tell the stories of the town over the last few hundred years. The museums overlook the green, where local militia members drilled in the 1700s and sea captains built their homes. The society currently is showing an exhibit called “There’s A War On!” with maps, photos, and uniforms showing what life was like for residents during World War II.
The nonprofit College Light Opera Company (58 Highfield Drive., 508-548-0668, www.collegelightoperacompany.com, tickets $35) is in its 45th season and calls the historic Highfield Theatre home. Located adjacent to the Cape Cod Conservatory, the theater company selects college-age performers from across the country to spend their summers honing their craft near the beach. There are nine operettas and musicals this season, which runs through Aug. 24. Performances include Bock and Harnick’s “Fiddler on the Roof” and Rodgers and Hart’s “Babes in Arms,” accompanied by a full pit orchestra.
You know you’ve arrived at the Cape Cod Winery (681 Sandwich Road, 508-457-5592, www.capecodwinery.com, $5 tastings) when you see bottles with names like Nobska Red, a cabernet blend named for the beloved Falmouth lighthouse, and Beach Plum Chardonnay, a dessert wine. The husband and wife team of Kristina and Antonio Lazzari opened the vineyard and winery in 1994. They wanted to use organic grapes to bottle low-sulfite wines, and since many of the grapes they were importing from California arrived rotten, they decided to start growing the fruit themselves. Visitors take home a free wine glass with each tasting.
The Liberty House women’s boutique and Howlingbird Studio screen printing shop (89 Water St., 508-548-7568, www.libertyhousecapecod.com, and 508-548-7916, www.howlingbird.com) have been sharing retail space in Woods Hole for 35 years. Liberty House offers a variety of women’s clothing and jewelry for both the beach and the yacht club. Howlingbird Studio’s marine designs on T-shirts, sweatshirts, and bags are especially popular with the many scientists studying in nearby labs.
Old Silver Beach (Quaker Road, www.falmouthmass.us/deppage.php?number=9, $20 a day), with its stretches of long, smooth sand can get so packed that some locals stay away until after the crowds thin out, usually around 4 p.m. The beach is extra popular because it provides access to the waters of Buzzards Bay, which are warmer than a swim in Cape Cod Bay to the north or Vineyard and Nantucket sounds on the south side of the arm-shaped peninsula.
The Fishmonger Cafe (56 Water St., 508-540-5376, www.fishmongercafe.com) has been a favorite among locals and tourists alike since the early 1970s. The seaside restaurant has an extensive menu with some of the freshest seafood in town. With views of Eel Pond, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Great Harbor, diners can watch vessels pass by as the sun sets in the distance while sipping a cold, local Cape Cod Beer or munching on citrus herb-crusted cod.
Grumpy’s Pub (29 Locust St., 508-540-3930) is known as one of the best live music venues on the Upper Cape, and for good reason. On a weekly basis, the bar hosts reggae, bluegrass, and blues bands like Jamaican-born Yellowman and Boston’s Cold Chocolate. It’s one of few places in town where you can play pool or air hockey while hearing a live band. There might be a $5 cover, but it’s worth every penny.
James Cronin can be reached