Amazing Matriarch’s Guide: Off-Season on Nantucket with kids
When you think of Nantucket hot summer days spent seaside followed by warm summer nights mingling outside come to mind. But Nantucket in the off-season is quite spectacular. With few more than the locals on island, you can get a glimpse of real life on Nantucket, see the sites without the crowds enjoy a meal without fighting for a table, and snag a deal on top notch accommodations.
For three days, we packed one suitcase each and set sail for Nantucket Island. My husband, myself, our 5 and 2 year old embarked on the fast ferry from Hyannis to the docks of Nantucket on a chilly spring afternoon. Our adventure began immediately as the unexpected rough seas had the kids referring to Kwazi on Octonauts each time the boat bumped and jumped. Happy to disembark, this final boat arriving for the day (the seas were deemed too rough), we were warmly welcomed to Nantucket and rapidly whisked to our hotel.
The White Elephant is known as a harbor side, high-end, family friendly resort and our stay proved its worth. Located blocks from Downtown Nantucket, this resort is in a prime location for walking, allowing you to leave your car parked (or off island), and without the hassle of navigating traffic (even in mid April it increased as the week wore on) or finding parking. Staying outside of the Hotel and Inn itself, at the White Elephant Residences, our lodging more closely resembled an apartment, ensuring our family could spread out and enjoy our stay on Nantucket, even if the weather kept us inside. The two bedroom unit offered ample space for our family of four, and we sure did make use of it.
With two bedrooms the kids bunked up, enjoying a sibling sleepover all three evenings: movies in bed, staying up late talking and waking far too early; they had a blast in their shared bedroom. They both used it separately when quiet playtime and rest were on their mind. Best of all, they eagerly awaited the trinket placed on their pillow each night by the White Elephant staff- a stuffed elephant upon arrival, one lobster that evening and a whale the another, and I eagerly awaited watching the giddy excitement when they found their treasures.
Fully opening for the season the week we arrived, the White Elephant proved itself to be a well-oiled machine. Functioning as if it had been at full speed all winter, the concierge offered plenty of suggestions, including a sheet highlighting island events the week we were there, earmarked with ideas for entertaining the kids throughout the week. Best of all, they provided us with two guides geared towards kids about Nantucket.
The Nantucket Kids Adventure Guide was invaluable. It offered so many ideas for exploring the island that we could not possibly complete all that appealed to us on this one visit. Listing everything from playground guides to hiking trails to warnings, this book could have entertained us for weeks. The Look Book was a little old for, but still big hit with, my 5 year old son, allowing us to do a treasure hunt of Nantucket’s hot spots.
The library, Atheneum as it’s called, is a short walk from the White Elephant and hosted two activities that my kids still talk about : a sing along and a LEGO challenge. Both free, and requiring tickets or pre-registration, they were great ways to feel like a part of Nantucket and be indoors. Year-round activities change and are geared towards various ages, but are certainly worth looking into before you head over. I initially came across the Atheneum when doing a Google search in preparation for our trip on the Nantucket Island Events website. Offering a comprehensive calendar listing I was able to simply click on the dates I planned to be on island then further research those of interest.
This website also clued me in on free art projects taking place at the Whaling Museum. A visit to the Whaling Museum, followed by diorama construction and a treasure hunt kept my kids entertained for hours after lunch at the Pharmacy’s old fashioned soda fountain.
Situated right outside the White Elephant, you’ll find a sandy shore for play, Children’s Beach. Home to a seaside playground, and snack shack (which had yet to open) we spent time there each day, sometimes returning multiple times a day. The kids loved digging in the sand, and even testing the still cold from the winter water while the air temp hovered in the mid 50’s. We watched the ferry arrive and lobstermen bring in their haul while climbing, swinging and sliding. Holes were dug, friends were made and the sand in their shoes even made it’s way to the mainland.
Dining on Nantucket is anything but ordinary. A collection of quaint eateries mix with foodie havens bringing locals and visitors a taste of island authenticity as well as trendy tastes. Breakfast was something prepped in our large kitchenette: bagels or cereal, but the rest of the day we dined out. Sandwich shops allowed us to bring back lunch so cranky kids could stick to nap time while the rest of of played games or snuggled on the couch with a movie.
When we dined out, we found ourselves in the midst of a dining culture often reserved for major cities. A family friendly dinner at Nix’s brewpub gave adults a darn good lobster roll while serving kids pizza to their liking. A lunch at Fog Island Cafe had us seated among working locals looking for a great sandwich and even better iced tea.
Hiring a sitter for our final night on Nantucket, we walked around town piping into several popular eateries for drinks and dinner. We kicked off the evening with a drink at Nautilus. With its small dining area, chefs table and bustling bar specializes in small plates and killer drinks. It was difficult to stop at just one cocktail as everything is made fresh and the balance of flavors ensure your cocktail showcases the ingredients within. This pre-reservation pop in gave us a glimpse of the menu and left us planning a return to indulge in dinner.
Dune, was where we found ourselves eating that evening and it lived up to all I’d heard. Overwhelemed by the menu choices, we opted to share what appealed to us. Fresh oysters; perfectly briny and icy cold found their way to our table to start our meal followed by a clam special laced with chorizo in a light and aromatic broth, then came a smoky roast shrimp and grits, fluffily cod and the miso ramen. Glasses of wine were poured and dessert ordered before we walked to our final destination that night.
LoLa’s hip vibe made their bar extra inviting. Loud music pumping and small groups chatting gave this Nantucket restaurant the feel of New York City. After a quick nightcap, we turned in for the evening, welcomed back by our sitter who had successfully managed to get our excited kiddos to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Our boat ride home was bittersweet. As we checked out, we saw crowds checking in to take part in Daffodil Weekend. Boarding the fast ferry back to Hyannis, we pledged a return for more off-season fun, maybe in the fall.
-Making hot destinations easier to explore with your kiddos, Jess
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