Cape Codder Resort: New Waterpark, Spa Make Hyannis Hotel "Place to Be" for Families
By Karen Rubin
Like Goldilocks, after enjoying a full spectrum of accommodations during visits to Cape Cod, from grand resorts and quaint bed-and-breakfasts to tented campsites, I feel I have finally found the perfect family resort on Cape Cod-the service level of a luxury hotel, the amenities of a major resort (including an extraordinary indoor water park), ideally located near to beaches and cultural attractions, offers a selection of marvelous restaurants, and is priced just right: the Cape Codder Resort.
The newest resort in Hyannis is actually the oldest, the former Sheraton Four Points, which, when it opened in the 1960s, was "the" place to go. But the property had not kept pace with changing needs and tastes of travelers and was allowed to deteriorate. The Catania family, which operates the enormously popular Hearth & Kettle Restaurants and has proved superb hotel operators with the John Carver Inn in Plymouth (where there is now an indoor waterpark, also), and the historic Daniel Webster Inn in Sandwich, has completely rebuilt the interior, so that everything is fresh and sparkling new. It is worthy of its new name, the Cape Codder Resort.
In addition, they have introduced new amenities that will delight contemporary travelers, such as a delightful, stand-alone, 8,200-sq. ft. fully enclosed indoor water park, housed in a circular building, built at a cost of $2 million (even flying in a specialist from Florida who makes "water dance"). There are two marvelous water slides (one 80 foot, the other 50 foot) and a wave pool generating two-foot waves, a shower of water that descends from an "umbrella," as well as hot-tub and two saunas. It is wonderfullyly entertaining for families, especially after a day of sightseeing, biking or at the beach. It is open and free for the exclusive use of guests, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (you get wrist bands when you arrive which provides admittance).
Outside the waterpark, which is in an interior courtyard, an entire beach is being constructed, where the resort will host clambakes and entertainment. There already is a beach volleyball court, lounge chairs, playground, and, towards the rear of the hotel, tennis courts. There will also be arcade games near the pool (there is presently a game room is being moved).
The resort offers a brand new fitness room, large and airy, with massive picture windows opening to the court yards on either side and well stocked with state-of-the-art equipment (televisions, too) and is accessible by guest keycard, up until 10 p.m. The resort is in the process of opening a full-service, two-story spa with five treatment rooms for massages, facials and wraps.
The redesign successfully proves as welcoming and accommodating for family gatherings-even weddings-as for corporate functions and association or organization groups, especially with the access to the Hyannis Golf Club just up the road from the resort. The resort offers 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in nine meeting facilities, including a ballroom, and can accommodate groups as large as 400.
The range of restaurants within the property are worthy of a much larger resort. It boasts the newest of the enormously popular Hearth & Kettle restaurants which are sprinkled throughout the Cape and Plymouth-a charming Colonial-style room that is comfortable for families with children yet serving a wide selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner items to satisfy discriminating diners as well as picky kids. The selections are freshly prepared and beautifully presented and offer excellent value, so these restaurants draw a long line of diners from outside the hotel. The restaurant also offers a bakery (stocked by the Catanias' own bakery, nearby), so you can pick up your own continental breakfast, if you choose (there is also room service).
More distinctive breakfast selections (beyond the more run-of-the-mill delicious omelettes and such) include Summer Raspberry Pancakes ($5.99); a Veggie Crepe Omelette ($6.99) that drew rave reviews; a Wild Mushroom 'n' Bacon Crepe Omelette ($6.99); and a Florentine Omelette. Hearty sandwiches such as a Chicken 'n' Avocado Melt, and Nauset Burger (bacon, avocado and melted cheddar), hearty soups and chowders (Lobster 'n Corn Chowder, $4.99 for a large and Lobster Stew are among the new items) are served from 11:30 a.m. until closing (like New England's answer to Greek diners here). Dinner entrees offer a large choice of seafood (swordfish, lobster, grilled salmon), chicken, and beef and are priced from $10.99 to $14.99 (except for lobster, which is at market price).
V.J.'s Grille Room is an elegant room overseen by Executive Chef Robert Catania, who oversees all the restaurants, and Executive Chief Bob Signoriello who worked for the British Royal Family for a year. Distinctive appetizers include Oyster Martini (Cotuit oysters in lemon Vodka with citrus granite and Vodka-lemon aspic, $7.95); and Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio (with white truffle oil, capers and shaved Parmesan cheese, $8.95); entrees include a selection of steaks, lamb, duckling and seafoods (Cedar-Plank Roasted Salmon, baked stuffed lobster, grilled Swordfish steak), and for vegetarians, Wild Mushroom Ravioli. VJ's offers a stunning private banquet area, as well.
Just next to VJ's is the Grand Cru, a city-style Wine Bar with a delightful Mediterranean motif, that is sized just right to be a very relaxing and enchanting getaway in its own right. The Wine Bar features carefully selected wines from around the world, available by glass and served in crystal stemware. It also features fine draught and bottle bears from around the world. The Catanias also plan to present entertainment, possibly a jazz combo, in the Grand Cru.
VJ's is named for the patriarch of the Catania family, Cape Cod locals, and the Cape Codder Resort, as all the Catania properties, is very much a family affair. Debra Catania, who has really masterminded the renovation and redesign, is the Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Public Relations. Brothers Richard and Robert Catania, both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, oversee the restaurants as well as the development of the Grand Cru. Frank Catania is Vice President of Operations and Advertising, and William Catania, Vice President and Treasurer, oversaw all the construction at the Cape Codder.
The Cape Codder Resort represents the complete rebuilding of the former Sheraton Four Points, which opened in the 1960s. It was the first major hotel in Hyannis, a sleepy village which took center stage in the international arena when John F. Kennedy became President, and became "the" place to hang out. When Starwood Hotels put the property up for sale, the Catania Family acted swiftly and since acquiring it only last December, have spent millions of dollars to completely rebuild the interior and renovate all 261 guest rooms and suites.
The rooms, some which feature hot tubs and fireplaces, have been renovated in differentiated groupings, ranging in style from a Cape Cod cottage look (our personal favorite, with white furniture and blue spreads), to rooms with cherry wood furniture and four-poster beds, and elegant suites (some two-story). There is Nintendo 64, big-screen remote-control televisions and in-room movies; the bathrooms have plush granite vanities.
Ms. Catania has created delightful sitting areas in nooks and crannies throughout the resort and in small garden-like settings and courtyards, which are wonderful for family reunions as well as corporate gatherings. In one garden area, she is creating a "bird sanctuary" with birdhouses and feeders.
What elevates the Cape Codder Resort to the level of truly "elegant" however, is the high quality, friendly service of the staff.
Rates at the Cape Codder Resort are relatively modest for the area: peak season rates start at $150 for a standard room; $335 for a suite, but fall to $99 in the off-season. Beginning in September, the resort will offer golf, spa and family packages (check the website). Cape Codder Resort, Route 132 & Bearse's Way, 1225 Iyanough Rd., Hyannis, MA 02601, 888-297-2200, 508-771-3000, www.CapeCodderResort.com, info@CapeCodderResort.com.
Location, Location, Location
One of the great appeals of the Cape Codder is how well situated it is on Cape Cod. Indeed, it is located on a main artery (Rte. 132, just a couple of miles off of Route 6), where there is convenient bus service and a free trolley that takes guests to Main Street and the beach. We found that we were within 15-20 minutes driving time from just about everything we wanted to do on this particular trip-or even had time for.
On one morning, we went up to the awesome Sandy Neck Beach on the north shore, getting there before 9 a.m. and the crowds (there is a parking fee after 9 a.m.). This is a magnificent, soft-sand beach that stretches for miles with a backdrop of grassy sand dunes and Great Marsh (bring insect repellent, along with sunscreen, because there were "greenheaders," large biting flies), that culminates with a lighthouse. Getting there, you go along 6A, Kings Highway, which ribbons through the most delightful towns and villages (all the towns along 6A have public beaches).
Also about 15 minutes away is Dennis, the start of the 25-mile long Cape Cod Rail-Trail, an exquisite paved path solely for bicycles, roller-bladers and walkers, that goes all the way to Wellfleet, passing by the Cape Cod National Seashore.
In the other direction, about 15 minutes away, is another fabulous paved path for biking/blading/walking: the Cape Cod Canal, which stretches about seven miles on either side of the Canal.
Without driving from the hotel, however, I was able to take my bike and link up with a delightful path that travels along Phinneys Lane, up to the charming town of Barnstable, along 6A, the largest of the Cape's 15 towns and home to the county seat, with its majestic Courthouse (just next door to the Comedy Club), Sturgis Library (the oldest public Library in the U.S., dating from 1644, 508-362-6636, www.capecod.net/sturgis), Trayer Memorial Museum and the Old Jail, and scores of centuries-old homes. In Barnstable Village, Tales of Cape Cod, operating out of the Old Colonial Courthouse (built in 1774 it is the oldest wooden courthouse on the Cape), offers a lecture series Tuesday evenings in July and August (508-362-8927). Also, Old Selectmen's Building offers exhibits for artists just starting out (1889 Rte. 149, West Barnstable, 508-362-3934).
Main Street, Hyannis, is delightful in the evening, with scores of lovely restaurants (even a 1960s style coffeehouse, where you can go for discourse on serious issues of the day), shops, a pleasant miniature golf course and carousel that will delight children, and even a bowling alley. There is a Village Green where there are concerts presented. During the day, take time to stop in to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum which focuses on his Cape Cod years, with photos, oral histories and a video (allocate about 30-60 minutes; 397 Main St., 508-790-3077, www.hyannis.com).
We spent one full day in historic Sandwich, visiting the Heritage Plantation (really a fantastic museum of marvelous collections of automobiles, military objects and art, and American art, and 76 acres of gardens and a carousel that will delight children; allocate at least three hours; 67 Grove St., 508-833-2904, www.heritageplantation.org). Just nearby spend an hour at the Sandwich Glass Museum, which provides fascinating insight into this facet of the Industrial Revolution and the evolution of the technology of making glasses for the masses; children's activities and hot glass demonstrations ($3.50/adults, $1/children 6-16, 129 Main St., Sandwich, 508-888-0251, www.sandwichglassmuseum.org).
Other cultural attractions within easy reach of the Cape Codder in Hyannis: the Cahoon Museum of American Art, in Cotuit, housed in a 1775 Georgian colonial farmhouse, offers an initiate setting for viewing art (4676 Falmouth Rd., Rte. 28, 508-428-7581, www.cahoonmuseum.org); Cape Museum of Fine Arts, in Dennis, which offers seven galleries, auditorium and landscaped sculpture garden, and focuses on artists who have been influenced by the Cape and islands environment (60 Hope Lane, Dennis, 508-385-4477, www.cmfa.org); Capt. Bangs Hallet House, in Yarmouth, is an 1840s Green Revival style house that is furnished in the manner of a prosperous 19th century sea captain which this summer is themed for Civil War memorabilia; there is also a 1 ½ mile nature trail that meanders through 50 acres of meadows and woodlands (11 Strawberry Lane, Yarmouth Port, 508-362-3021, www.HSOY.org).
You can also catch a two-hour scenic passenger train, from Hyannis to the Cape Cod Canal on the Cape Cod Central Railroad (there are also elegant dinner excursions ($13/adult, $9/child, 3-11; dinner excrusions $49.95; 888-797-RAIL, www.capetrain.com). Or try whale watching on a jet-powered speed boat, through Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruises (800-287-0374, 508-362-6088, www.whales.net).
Just down the road from the Cape Codder Resort, is one of our all-time favorite restaurants, which we make a point of visiting whenever we are on the Cape: Starbuck's (the restaurant is named for an aviator and pre-dates the ubiquitous coffee shops). Starting with an actual antique airplane that is suspended from the ceiling, the restaurant has the most exquisite, eclectic, whimsical and interesting collection of antiques and memorabilia (there is a PeeWee Herman doll, a Mr. Peanut, Royal typewriter, traffic light) that is pure delight. The room is very comfortable for families and if the furnishings and the menu are totally whimsical (where else can you find Hummus on the same menu as Chicken Quesadilla and Mauna Loa Chicken), the food preparation is serious, with everything made from scratch out of the freshest, best quality ingredients (the Clam Chowder is extraordinary; try it in a fresh bread bowl, $4.99). The portions are enormous and exquisitely presented and offer superb value. Desserts are to die for, like the truly unique Fried Ice Cream (a ball of vanilla ice cream is coated and fried for a few seconds and served with coconut and chocolate sauce, $4.79); Death by Chocolate; Bourbon-Laced Pecan Pie; and Peanut Butter Pie. The family owned and operated restaurant has been serving Cape Cod visitors since 1985; the same family also operates the popular Vinny Testa restaurants (the ninth just opened in Shrewsbury, MA, a three-story building on a lake). Starbucks, Rte. 132, Hyannis, 508-778-6767, www.starbuckscapecod.com.
For shopping, there is the Cape Cod Factory Outlet Mall just beside the Sagamore Bridge (508-888-8417), but if you miss it, you get another opportunity at a small (about six shops) Tangier Outlet on Route 6 West, just before you get on 25, headed home. Main Street Hyannis has some marvelous shops, including a nifty flea market, and a lovely gift and souvenir boutique, Seaside Selections (370 Main Street). Of course, antique shops abound, particularly along 6A (check the Cape Cod Antique Dealers Association, 508-362-2025).
Cape Cod is a fabulous destination for travelers, but can be overwhelmed in summer. The renovations that the Cape Codder Resort have made make this a phenomenal destination in off-season, when the biking trails, cultural sights, beaches are so invigorating to explore, and give you a cozy place to return to. Indeed, the water stays warm well into October, and the scenery takes on the magnificent colors of Indian summer. Cape Codder Resort, Route 132 & Bearse's Way, 1225 Iyanough Rd., Hyannis, MA 02601, 888-297-2200, 508-771-3000, www.CapeCodderResort.com.
Photo caption: The new indoor waterpark at the Cape Codder Resort boasts a wave pool and two waterslides.