We Bought a Farmhouse

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Off Season On The Cape

So many people have told us that September is the best time to visit the Cape because all the vacationers have left, and the towns have a semblance of everyday life once again. Since we visited the Canadian Maritimes in July (which you can read about herehere & here), we decided this would be the year we experienced the Cape after peak season had ended.

Now that we're back, I honestly can't decide which time of the year is better to visit. Being that I'm a little obsessed with the ocean, I would visit the Cape any time of the year (I would be the weirdo walking along the shore on the coldest February day). But, between July/August and early fall, I can't pick. Both had their advantages and disadvantages, and we both loved both them equally.

This year was also different because we took Emma with us. We took Betty to the Cape with us the first two years we went, and she just didn't like it (she doesn't really like traveling a whole lot to begin with, even more so as she's gotten older). So we've been keeping her with a doggie sitter the past few years during our trips, but missed having our pup with us. This year, we decided to take Emma to see how she did, and she was the best little beach companion we could have asked for. She's not a huge fan of the water (it took a lot of encouraging for her to go in), but she loved the sand and hanging out with us, meeting other pups on the beach and visiting the towns. We pretty much took her everywhere with us, except for a few dinners in the evenings. We changed up our routines a bit to each lunches more picnic-style so we could bring her with us during the daytime, and most of the shops let us bring her in. It was really a lot of fun - we love traveling with her.

Sandy snout!

One thing that also put a damper on our trip this year had nothing to do with the season, but everything to do with a fatality that occurred on our first day on the Cape. A young man was killed by a shark attack in Wellfleet on a beach we had actually planned to go to. It was the first fatality in over 80 years due to a shark attack on the Cape, and we were both so shocked and even more saddened. I'm not one to do the "my heart goes out to the family of the victim" posts, but I truly was thinking about his family during our stay. The over-population of seals is bringing the sharks closer to the shores, especially on the National Seashore side. We checked local shark reports every day, and only swam in town beaches where no sharks had been reported, and stayed very, very close to the shore. We enjoyed our vacation very much, but it felt wrong to not mention such a horrible tragedy.

That said, here are a few snapshots from our trip, and stay tuned until the end for our thoughts of peak versus off season vacations on the Cape.

I wasn't kidding or exaggerating when I said we were the only ones on the beach sometimes.
Can you spot little Emmie in the background there? She blends in with the sand.

Someone was not amused by her Nemo life vest, which barely fit her anyway.

How can you not love an overcast New England afternoon. even at the beach?

Lighthouse in Truro.

The original gay bar in P-town, which someone pointed out to me while I snapped this
because I thought it was pretty. Now I'm even more glad I did.

Rum mixed drink at Truro Vineyards/South Hollow Sprits.
It was the first time we'd ever been and would highly recommend it!

Emmie wanted my rum.

The outdoor sitting area was so relaxing - I'm sure it's packed during peak season.
It was only empty here because everyone got up to take a tour.

How we spent almost all our time.
We did this every day, except for one day when it rained and we saw a movie instead.

So, which time of the year do we prefer? We still can't pick. I couldn't agree more that September was a perfect time to vacation here. If you're a local, I totally get why it's the best time of the year. The water is still warm, the beaches are far less crowded, and everything is just a little quieter. Here are our biggest arguments between the two seasons.

Pro peak season
1. There's an undeniable buzz during the Cape in July and August. Some may not like it, but I do kind of enjoy the more lively atmosphere of everyone being there for vacation ... to an extent. In past Cape recap posts, I've said that we eat lunches and dinners super early to avoid the crowds, and we definitely still do that. But the crowded beaches and streets never have really bothered me because I know to expect it. Everyone's usually happy (I mean, how can you not be?), and we've fallen into a routine that allows to to enjoy it, and also, escape it when needed. I know this list will be shorter than the arguments for off-season, but I will say this is a huge aspect to our Cape vacations, and why we enjoy them.

2. Everything is open and ready for tourists. During our recent trip, some restaurants were closed for the season or had shorter hours (not many, but definitely some). And almost all the ice cream places were closed, with some being open on weekends only. For most people, this wouldn't matter, but for this girl, not having daily access to a fresh ice cream cone was, well ... sad.

3. While it's the East Coast and weather is temperamental year-round, and can sometimes (okay, maybe often) not work out in our favor, you can count on July and August to be pretty warm. There were times before our September trip that I was worried about the air being too chilly, which is not something I ever worry about during peak season. I will say, however, that we lucked out during this trip, because weather was pretty nice. Mid to high 70s most days, and we had some chillier days where we still went to the beach, and just bundled up in sweatshirts, which was actually kind of fun (and very New England-y).

4. Longer days. The sun started to set around 5:30-6, and was down by 6:45 during this trip, which made our evenings pass by quickly. Sometimes we felt rushed to squeeze as much beach time in as possible later in the day because we do love a good evening stroll on the beach. In July and even August, it was nice to have that extra hour or so to walk the beach at sunset before it was dark.

Pro off-season
1. Lodging is cheaper. Most hotels, inns and rentals drop their rates because they're in less demand since kids are back in school. If you're looking to splurge on a nicer place to stay, or maybe even a beach-front hotel, September is a great time to take advantage of upgrades being less-expensive.

2. Beaches are more pet-friendly. After Labor Day, many beaches allow dogs, which was a huge bonus for us. I'm going to be kind of sad when we go in July and August and can't bring Emma to the beaches with us as much.

3. Parking isn't as closely monitored after Labor Day or mid-September. I read online before leaving that National Seashore beaches still charged for parking after Labor Day, but most town beaches didn't require parking passes or stickers at this time of the year. So we pretty much could park wherever we wanted, and didn't have to pay extra, or park in a municipal lot and walk. It was really great. I would consider researching specific beaches you plan to visit ahead of time to make sure (that's what we did, and we knew ahead of time that we'd have no issues).

4. Beaches were almost always deserted on weekdays. Beach traffic picked-up a little on weekends, but at most, we counted 8 groups on a large stretch of beach on a Saturday or Sunday (as opposed to, oh, I don't know, close to 100 in July). On weekdays, we were often the only ones there, with the occasional group walking the shore, or only stopping by for a few minutes. It was really, really nice. Peak-season activity is fun for me to do some people watching, but there's something to be said for absolute peace and tranquility against the backdrop of waves.

5. It wasn't so hot that we were always uncomfortable. Being warm on the beach is a great feeling because it makes you want to swim in the water. But it can get to be uncomfortable when it's really hot and humid, and you're walking around the towns or hiking. Having moderate temperatures and with sometimes cooler breezes, especially at night, that required a sweater, was a welcomed change of pace for us. Maybe I'm mentioning this because this summer, in particular, was just so freakin' hot, and we don't have air conditioning, but we really enjoyed the moderate temperatures!

6. Nothing else was ever crowded. The only place we felt was more crowded that we anticipated was Truro Vineyards, and that wasn't even that bad. We went to dinner at normal times this trip (as opposed to our 5 p.m. early bird specials to avoid the crowds during peak season), and we never had an issue getting a table anywhere. I will say, that was awfully nice.

So, it really just depends on what you're looking for and the kind of trip you want. Next year, we're considering doing a trip in July, as per usual, and another off-season trip in September because both experiences were wonderful.

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