After my kids graduated high school and left to pursue higher education, my wife and I discovered a truth about Cape Cod that its visitors, and some of its residents, have yet to learn: summer is busy – spring is uncertain – winter is long – but autumn is its best season.
During our first post-Labor Day vacation in 1992, we learned that its benefits outweigh any drawbacks. Days may be shorter but the sunsets are as pretty. The water might be too cold for swimming, but the beaches are pleasant and far less crowded. Fall air, warm enough to work on one’s tan through September, gains a crispness that helps people feel alive.
Some tourist attractions and activities are unavailable, a few businesses close and restaurants often cut back their hours or reduce their menus after Labor Day, but the Cape Cod Rail Trail and hiking paths are still usable, parking at the Cape Cod National Seashore and town beaches is free, end of the season sales can produce unexpected bargains, and the cost of accommodations frequently are reduced off-season. The natural beauty of the Cape is enhanced in autumn, and the ability to get around is unhindered by summer crowds and traffic.
Autumn on Cape Cod lasts from after Labor Day into October. Though many vacationers, tourists, and summer workers now depart before the end of August, the growth in the number of weekend homes has created a second season that continues through Columbus Day weekend or Halloween, though with Veterans Day falling on a Friday, it may extend into mid-November this year. It can even continue to Thanksgiving, though with the coming of the holiday season, and the departure of snowbirds for points south, there is often a decline until the spring.
The Cape’s fall season offers a variety of activities for visitor and resident alike that are not available during the summer.
Its fall foliage, while later and perhaps not as brilliant as that of northern New England and much of Massachusetts, when combined with the crisp air and bright sunshine of most autumn days, encourages outdoor activities, a key to enjoying the season. Apple picking may not available here, but there are many places, commercial and otherwise, that offer pumpkins, mums, apples, apple cider and those marvelous cider donuts, “Indian Corn” and other seasonal items worth spending a Saturday afternoon finding.
Another opportunity to enjoy the Cape’s fall season is the athletic events that the Monomoy Regional High School, Cape Cod Regional Technical School, and other educational institutions offer. A full schedule of boys and girls team sports, including football, field hockey, and soccer, means that on any weekday a game is available to watch. The opportunity to be outside, the excitement of the competition, and the youthful spirit on the sidelines make the effort to attend worthwhile.
Cape Cod offers the often-unexpected experience of cranberry harvesting in the fall. Flooding the bogs, shaking loose the berries, vacuuming and loading them into trucks, is an unusual and enjoyable activity to watch, often including the opportunity to purchase a Cape-grown product for use in preparing a favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal.
Special events are also held in Harwich and on the Cape during autumn, including those related to the annual Harwich Cranberry Festival. On Oct. 8 the Route 124 Bridge over Route 6 will be dedicated in memory of Ralph W. Burns with a number of activities. On Oct. 15 the First Annual Harwich Port Festival and Sidewalk Sale will be held, and on the 15th and 22nd will be the Lantern Tours of the Harwich Center Cemetery. Saturday, Oct. 22 is the annual Harwich Beach Cleanup sponsored by the Harwich Conservation Trust, and Oct. 14 through 31 is the annual Pumpkin People in the Park held at Gould Park on the Main Street of Chatham.
One of the pleasures of October on the Cape is the chance to light and decorate our homes and businesses for Halloween, which has become a major adult celebration as well one focused on children. The Cape’s winter will come all too soon, and the chance to brighten our homes, neighborhoods and town, first for Halloween and then for the Holidays, can be a cushion against the cold and darker season to come.
Autumn maybe a better season than summer in which to live in or visit Harwich and Cape Cod.