Main Street, Hyannis

Hyannis’ Main Street is always a lively hub, but it truly comes alive in the summer months. You can easily spend an entire day with family and friends exploring all that its unique shops and eateries have to offer. A great time to visit Main Street and experience its many charms is during its open street fairs. Photo by Charles Sternaimolo

Hyannis – By Blair Miller

In many ways, Hyannis is a quintessential Cape Cod village—just look at its picturesque beaches and quaint shops. But this is also a village with its own unique identity. Hyannis is arguably the epicenter of the commercial world of Cape Cod. It once was historically dubbed “The Port” because of all the vessels that made their way to and from the village’s shoreline in previous centuries. Much of that hasn’t changed today—there’s just a lot more traffic on land now.

What also hasn’t changed is the glory of its yesteryear—the John F. Kennedy Museum on Main Street is a testament to that. For almost three decades the museum has brought the stories of America’s First Family to the visiting public. Intimate glimpses of generations of the entire Kennedy family are presented in the form of photos, videos and artifacts that immediately remind visitors that the Cape, and more precisely Hyannis, was the beloved home and gathering spot for some of the most influential members of the country’s modern history. In 2019, a new exhibit profiles JFK’s brother in “Robert F. Kennedy: Ripple of Hope.” The Kennedy Legacy Trail, a 1.6-mile self-guided walking tour, begins in front of the museum. It has 10 stops, each shedding insight on the Kennedy family’s connections to Cape Cod.

Todd DeLuca, president and CEO of the Greater Hyannis Chamber of Commerce, says Hyannis became a “global brand” because so many people wanted to spend time in the town that JFK loved. To DeLuca, what sets Hyannis apart is its multifaceted nature. “People come here all the time and they ask where the boardwalk is,” he says. “There isn’t one. You can walk for a mile and have all these choices. It’s Hyannis’ identity.”

That mile (and then some) of Main Street offers the perfect backdrop as its vitality reels you in. Countless restaurants have sidewalk café seating, allowing patrons to indulge in some people watching while enjoying a wide variety of first-class cuisine. Fresh seafood on the patio of The Naked Oyster, accompanied by one of their innovative craft cocktails, makes for a memorable afternoon or warm summer evening. Alberto’s Ristorante delivers an endless menu of Italian delicacies either outside or in their attractive, spacious dining room. Their wine list is one of the most extensive and thoughtful in the entire town. Main Street is certainly popular with tourists in the summertime, many who are discovering Hyannis because they’re catching one of the two ferries to the Islands, but throughout the year, the Main Street Business Improvement District (BID) has a robust schedule that includes street fairs, sidewalk sales and strolls.

Visitors to Main Street in the summer months can experience two of the village’s classic, can’t-miss events for the whole family—the Father’s Day Car Show and Fourth of July festivities. And the off-season doesn’t disappoint, with the traditional Christmas Stroll, which also includes Santa’s Boat Parade at Hyannis Harbor. The Village Green is home to the annual Pops by the Sea concert every August that brings thousands of summertime revelers to the park to either picnic for the festive concert or take in the special night with a table in close proximity to the stage so they can fully experience Keith Lockhart and his Pops orchestra along with special celebrity guests.

Among the gems found along Main Street in Hyannis is the mainstay that is Puritan Cape Cod, founded by Abraham Penn in 1919. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the popular clothing store, featuring top-quality brands for men and women, is run by the third-generation of Penns who say it’s about focusing on “the customer experience and getting to know the person who walks in the door.” That philosophy has extended to the handful of businesses that are intended to be a part of the Puritan shopping experience, including Rendezvous Café & Creperie, where shoppers can grab something from their barista bar or crepe wheel; The Naked Oyster for a bistro-style lunch or dinner; and Solstice Day Spa for a bit of indulgence.

The shopping choices will satisfy all members of the family, including at Islands (585 Main Street). Their selection of sunglasses and activewear for any condition one might encounter on the Cape are popular among all ages. Bennett Gallery at the beginning of Main Street (357 Main Street) is a new addition that showcases the exquisite photography of the region by Cape native Kevin Bennett. SeaBreezes Clothing and Allium are next door to each other (556 and 558 Main Street) and both indulge the shopping desires of any female consumers. At Columbo’s Café & Pastries (544 Main Street), diners can delight in Italian specialties for lunch, dinner and cocktails as well as coffee and pastries. Out back, the more adventurous crowd can hone their golf skills at Donnellan Golf 365 (510 Main Street, Suite 11). Their indoor golf simulators and knowledgeable staff will take the mystery out of the mechanics of the perfect swing.

Penny candy (if only it still cost that much) and fudge are the highlights at the Kandy Korner (474 Main Street), where they have been spinning the cotton candy and handing out samples of fudge to generations of sweet tooth victims for 50 years. Katie’s Homemade Ice Cream (568 Main Street) and Ben & Jerry’s (352 Main Street) will take care of everyone’s favorite hot summer indulgence. And Palio Pizzeria (435 Main Street) will send you out with a slice or a full pie in a variety of innovative and delicious combinations. They also offer daily soups, salads, grinders and pasta, all made with the special attention not normally found in a pizza parlor.

Whether you are headed to your favorite spot on Main Street, wandering here and there to take it all in, or setting up for the annual Pops concert on a hot August evening, the village of Hyannis is open for business, to share its history, its food or its wares—it’s all just a stroll away.