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Cape vacations aren’t just for summer anymore

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Conjure a trip to Cape Cod and you're most likely to envision lazy summer days, bathing suits, flip flops, fried clams, and ice cream cones. While travelers flock to the Cape in droves for family vacations in July, it isn't the first place (or the second or third) that comes to mind when planning a winter getaway with the kids. But it should be on the radar. Cape Cod is just shy of 70 miles from Boston, which makes it an easy escape for a short jaunt.

In February, when there are far fewer crowds, you'll see a different side of Cape Cod. You won't have to waste time waiting in lines and you will have the opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of the barren coastal landscape. If bundled up beachcombing isn't your thing, there are plenty of family-focused activities to fill your days and appealing places to stay — several of which offer special events during the upcoming school vacation week (Feb. 13- 21). You'll need to dress warmly on a winter trek to the Cape, but you should pack the bathing suits too.

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Centrally located in Hyannis, the landmark Cape Codder Resort has undergone ambitious renovations in recent years to make it an attractive year-round destination. You could spend your entire stay here without getting antsy. Kids will be enthralled with the 8,000-square-foot indoor wave pool, complete with two-foot waves, multiple water slides, waterfalls, and a 24-person whirlpool. There's also a heated outdoor pool open year round, two restaurants, and a spa. During school vacation week, there are daily arts and crafts programs and complimentary movies as well as live animal demonstrations, decorate your own cookie workshops, and evening DJ dance parties and magic shows. Room rates start at $189. 1225 Iyannough Road, Hyannis. 855-861-4370, www.capecodderresort.com.

Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club
Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club

Located in Brewster, overlooking Cape Cod Bay and surrounded by nearly 400 acres, Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club offers a slew of daily activities for guests during school vacation week. Among the offerings: pizza parties at one of the resort's two indoor pools, cupcake bar happy hours, hip-hop classes, and a program based on Project Runway where kids design their own fashions. At night there's a special kids buffet at the on-site Bayzo's pub; family oriented movie nights, and karaoke. For adults who have a window of time on their own, there are cooking demonstrations, yoga, and spinning classes. Accommodations are plush and updated. Guest rooms in the Mansion start at $145; one, two, and three bedroom villas begin at $175.

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Young imaginations are encouraged to run free at the Cape Cod Children's Museum . The spacious Mashpee facility is a great place for kids ages 2 through elementary school to release their energy as they move from one interactive exhibit to another. There's a planetarium, a pirate ship, and an enormous walk-in submarine where kids can drive and observe artful depictions of sea life. A grocery store is stocked with play food and a boat is fitted with fishing gear that kids can operate to "reel" in fish. A large stationary tractor is a big hit and the dress-up room is filled with an endless array of costumes. The museum has frequent arts and crafts programs, yoga and movement classes, and music. 577 Great Neck Road South, Mashpee. 508-539-8788, www.capecodchildrensmuseum.org.

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While the Cape theater scene dies down in the off-season, the Harwich Junior Theatre is devoted to offering performances and arts programs geared to children year-round. From Feb. 12- March 6, "Shrek the Musical" — a version of the hit movie staring a loveable ogre Shrek who embarks on a quest to save the beautiful princess Fiona — graces the stage. Performances take place on Fridays at 7 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. During school vacation week, special matinees will be offered on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 105 Division Street, West Harwich. 508-432-2002, www.hjtcapecod.org.

Candy making at Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen.
Candy making at Green Briar Nature Center and Jam Kitchen.

Located on a tucked away spot in Sandwich abutting over 50 acres of trails and conservation land, the Green Briar Nature Center is run by the Thornton Burgess Society. Founded to carry on the pioneering work of author and naturalist Thornton W. Burgess, who wrote about Peter Rabbit and his animal friends in over 170 books, there are exhibits devoted to Burgess and small animals. Also on site, is the Green Briar Jam kitchen, a "living museum" where visitors may witness jam, jellies, relishes, and pickles prepared the old-fashioned way. A family candy making class is scheduled for Feb. 17. Older kids are invited to participate in "Winter Survivor" on Feb. 17 and 18, when they'll be asked to help their "tribe" meet challenges and navigate the property using a compass and map. There are special morning story times for younger kids on the vacation week schedule, too. 6 Discovery Hill Road, East Sandwich. 508-888-6870, www.thorntonburgess.org.

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Set upon 400 acres of forest, marshland, ponds, and the vast expanse of beach along Cape Cod Bay between Quivett and Paine's Creek you'll want to bundle up and explore the inspiring setting surrounding the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History . Inside, the nature education center encompasses a natural history library, an aquarium, and several exhibits devoted to wildlife including a honey bee observation hive and a preserved bird collection. During school vacation week hands-on activities include an exotic animal demonstration on Feb. 13 and "Birdwatching for Beginners" on Feb. 18; there will be live children's music on Feb. 15. 869 Route 6A, Brewster. 508-896-3867, www.ccmnh.org.


Jaci Conry can be reached at jaci@jaciconry.com.