Shopping on Cape Cod

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When Rich and I owned an inn in North Conway, one of the major outlet shopping meccas in New England, it was not unusual for our inn guests to plan a whole weekend around shopping. They would arrive on Friday evening with maps of the outlets malls in hand and a glint of firm resolve in their eyes. On Saturday morning, fueled by a hearty breakfast cooked to order, off they went in search of bargains galore. We could measure their success by the number of discarded shopping bags, boxes, and price tags strewn across their guestrooms when they checked out on Sunday afternoon. Their trash put a strain on our recycling efforts, to be sure, but we took satisfaction in knowing they had at least made a contribution to the local economy.

Once we moved to Cape Cod, we expected our “shopping” market to drop significantly. While there are a few outlet shops in the immediate area, and the Wrentham Village Premium Outlets within an hour’s drive of our inn, we did not expect shopping to be the prime motivator for a trip to Cape Cod. Not everyone likes to shop, especially if it’s for the mundane necessities of everyday life. But, as we quickly found out, for many of our  guests, shopping is a “must do”. Some want to have something more tangible than just photos of their vacation; others are on the hunt for something unique or unusual to bring home to a family member or as a “thank you” gift for the house- or dog-sitter. And, what came as a surprise to us, we have many foreign visitors who travel from the U.K., France, Germany, and other European countries especially to take advantage of the comparatively low prices they find here on electronics, fashion, and other luxury items.

But when our guests first asked us where to shop on Cape Cod, we were at a loss as to where to send them. Then we took a closer look at the myriad shopping opportunities in our local area, from traditional shopping malls to quaint shopping villages and small town Main Streets. So now when we get the inevitable question “Where can we go to shop?” we can point our guests in the right direction to suit their individual needs. Here in a nutshell, are some of the “shopportunities” on Cape Cod:

Shopping Malls

Cape Cod Mall: Route 28 & 132, Hyannis; 508-771-0200. Enclosed, single-level shopping mall. Anchored by Macy’s and Sears; 100+ additional stores including Banana Republic, Ann Taylor Loft, Talbot’s, Gap, Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie and Fitch. 400-seat Food Court, 2 full-service restaurants, 12-screen cinema megaplex. Hours: Mon.-Sat., 9:30 am – 9:30 pm.; Sun., 11 am-6 pm.

Mashpee Commons: Mashpee Rotary, Route 28 & 151, Mashpee; 508-477-5400. Laid out like a traditional New England village. Over 90 stores, including upscale merchants such as Ann Taylor, Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, and William Sonoma; plus Chico’s, Claire Murray, and Gap. An assortment of smaller stores featuring fine arts and crafts, antiques, toys, and jewelry. Several cafes and fine dining opportunities, plus a 6-screen cinema.

Lemon Tree Village: Main St., Brewster (Rte. 6A, about 1 mile west of town center). A small shopping complex on two levels, with unique shops featuring garden statuary, gourmet cooking utensils, locally made arts and crafts, pottery, birding supplies, clothing, gifts, jewelry and toys. Small café adjacent. Hours: 10 am-5 pm. daily, year-round.

Main Streets: One of the beauties of Cape Cod is that it is comprised of 15 uniquely individual small towns, each with its own main street of commerce, some more populated than others, but with their own charm and appeal. Walking down the main streets of Cape Cod is a delightful pastime. Naturally the larger the town, the more walkable its main street. But we could spend hours meandering the shops in Falmouth, Hyannis, Chatham, and Provincetown, and often do. Most shops are open from mid-April through mid-October. In summer, some shops may remain open until 11 pm. Shops that stay open year-round are often open only on weekends during the quiet months of January through March.

Main Street, Falmouth: One-of-a-kind gifts, home decor, men’s and women’s apparel, housewares, books, art and antiques, plus plenty of bistros and cafes for lunch or dinner.

Main Street, Hyannis: In addition to the usual fare, you’ll find vintage and designer clothing, beachwear, leather goods, gourmet cookware, candles, homemade fudge and saltwater taffy, sporting goods, an Army/Navy surplus store, fine art, and the requisite tourist souvenir shops. Interspersed along the way are several good restaurants, ice cream shops, mini-golf, and a carousel.

Main Street, Chatham: The shops of Chatham are perhaps a bit more chic, in keeping with its old world and old money tradition. Here you’ll find a preponderance of casual resort wear, children’s clothing, vintage clothing, contemporary art, fine arts and crafts, handmade gold jewelry, antiques and accessories, lightship baskets, fine linens, gourmet cookware, home furnishings, alongside tee shirt shops, a candy store, a jam and jelly shop, and a shop featuring 1960’s memorabilia. And when it’s time to rest your weary feet there are plenty of casual restaurants, plus a fine-dining opportunity or two.

Commercial Street, Provincetown: Commercial Street in Provincetown is a one-way street lined with everything from fine art galleries, funky eclectic shops (some featuring items that may make you blush), tee shirt shops, import stores, great bistros and bars with outside dining, a kite shop, soaps and toiletries, hand-crafted jewelry, hip men’s and women’s ware, a pet lover’s store, and just about anything else you can imagine or need. One of our favorite things to do is just to sit and watch the constant parade of humanity. When our guests are looking for something out of the ordinary or want to take a walk on the wildside, we always recommend P’Town.