Before the invention of modern nautical technology, sudden storms, dense fog, and strong currents provided a challenge for even the most seasoned sailors. These treacherous conditions proved insurmountable for many navigating the waters surrounding Nantucket, dashing vessels against the shoals and sinking more than 700 ships over the centuries. So many wrecks began to fill the floor of the waters around Nantucket Island that the area was referred to as "a graveyard of the Atlantic."
The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum honors the bravery of the local islanders?often members of organizations such as the Massachusetts Humane Society, United States Life-Saving Service, and the United States Coast Guard?who placed their own lives in danger by attempting to rescue the crews stranded aboard sinking ships. The museum's permanent collection, which consists of more than 5,000 pieces, gives guests an opportunity to learn more about these individuals' heroic efforts.
In addition to vintage photographs and exhibits recounting famous shipwrecks and the ensuing rescue attempts, the museum also features period artifacts that helped save lives. Additionally, the museum is a great place to take a bike ride or picnic on the beautiful grounds with views of the water.
In November of 1620, a modest sailing ship touched the shores of what would become Provincetown, bearing a group of Pilgrims who would create and sign the Mayflower Compact. Both the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum were built to commemorate that historic event and preserve Provincetown history for future generations.
Eye Catcher: The Pilgrim Monument was dedicated in 1910 to the Mayflower Pilgrims. Standing 252 feet tall, it's the tallest US structure made of granite. Visitors can venture up the 116 steps and 60 ramps to the top, a full 350 feet above sea level.
Permanent Mainstay: Many of the exhibits celebrate the area's maritime history, such as the recreation of a 19th-century sea captain's quarters at sea. Others celebrate the area's culture, including the Art Colony, American Theatre, Admiral MacMillan?s voyages, and much more
Don't Miss: FORGOTTEN PORT: Provincetown?s Whaling Heritage, a special exhibit through November 30
Past Exhibits: The Playwright of Peaked Hill Bars told the tale of how Eugene O'Neill's early life in Provincetown impacted his creative voice.
Special Programs: In the summertime, the museum sponsors weekly historical walking tours of the surrounding area. At the end of November, in a century-old tradition, they light up the during a lighting ceremony that celebrates the Pilgrims' 1620 landing.
The Cape Cod Museum of Art celebrates the work of artists from Cape Cod, southeastern Massachusetts, Nantucket, and Martha's Vineyard, many of whom achieved lasting influence around the globe. Highlights from the museum's seven galleries include plein-air paintings by John Joseph Enneking and Joseph Eliot Enneking ? famed American Impressionists ? and an original piece by Hans Hofmann, the Provincetown artist some call the father of Abstract Expressionism.?
Of course, not all kinds of art hang neatly on walls; the museum also features an extensive outdoor sculpture garden, a screening room showing independent films, and ceilings primed and ready for whenever someone invents floating antigravity canvases. The museum's staff always looks for new and varied kinds of work to add to their collection, even from amongst visitors: they use their space to run year-round art classes for adults and children, cultivating the very local talent that their galleries celebrate.
American history and culture stand proud against the botanical backdrop of a 100-acre estate at Heritage Museums & Gardens, where guests can unplug and relax in natural beauty. It first became a homestead in 1677, eventually being developed as a farm (where Heritage's world-renowned rhododendrons were first bred) and then, in 1969, opened to the public.
With more than 20 interactive exhibits designed to stimulate the imagination, Cape Cod Children's Museum blurs the line between education and sheer entertainment. Little ones can siege the castle, cook up pretend pancakes at the Starfish Galley diner, climb the life-size tree house, or spend hours patiently standing in line at the mini post office. The music room's piano and drums add fuel to the creative fire, while a reading wagon offers respite in the form of a story-time break. The museum also hosts birthday parties, during which groups of kids can explore the many exhibits at will.
It would take months of sea travel, extensive scuba certifications, and fluency in several crustacean dialects to find—let alone interact with—all the creatures found in Ocean Explorium's interactive exhibits. The science center emphasizes environmental stewardship and scientific literacy through several educational habitats such as touch tanks of local aquatic wildlife—including New Bedford's world-famous scallops and schools of rays and sharks. The Living Laboratory exhibit brings visitors face to face with sea creatures such as baby sharks, shark egg cases, coral farm, and moon jellies. Beyond the up-close encounters with denizens of the deep, Ocean Explorium also enlightens patrons with a variety of non-living displays. The Explorer's Zone presents scientific experiments that reveal the workings of the natural world through hands-on exhibits themed around different weekly topics, and Discovery Bay enthralls children aged eight or younger with games, puzzles, and a sand and water table. Advanced computers construct a three-dimensional image of our home planet as it appears from outer space in the Science on a Sphere exhibit, displaying global weather patterns in real time or replaying natural phenomena from history, such as the time it rained men.