The Beach Times

A Self-Guided Tour of the Kennedy Legacy Trail
Posted by Kinlin Grover | Monday, October 28, 2019

Kennedys on Cape Cod

The Kennedy family famously spent a lot of time in Hyannis, thanks in large part to their oceanfront property in Hyannis Port. The massive compound acted as a base for the family, resulting in many members spending their summers there. The houses remain in the family to this day and hold a special place in Cape Cod's history.

During your time in Hyannis, you'll be able to take a self-guided walking tour of some of the locations where the Kennedys spent their time while reading about their influence on Hyannis and Cape Cod as a whole. When following the Kennedy Legacy Trail, there are blue dots on the sidewalks throughout town that will lead you through some sites that are associated with the Kennedy family.

The walk is about 1.6 miles and will take you about 90 minutes to complete, but it's well worth the time because of how much you'll learn about this influential American family.

JFK Museum

The tour begins at 397 Main Street, home of the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. The museum features numerous multimedia displays and a series of exhibits that provide insight into the time that JFK spent on Cape Cod.

If you plan to go inside the museum, the cost is $13 for adults, $7 for children between the ages of six and 17, and free for younger kids. There is a discounted seniors' rate available, as well.

Main Street Hyannis

The second stop on the tour is Hyannis' Main Street, particularly the corner of Main and Pearl. John F. Kennedy ran his presidential campaign out of Hyannis, which turned the small, quiet town into a bustling media center in 1960. Today, there's a plaque outside of Torino restaurant and pictures of the Kennedys in Hyannis along the side of the Sturgis Charter Public School that commemorate this period in history.

Roses for Rose Kennedy

You might notice an abundance of roses throughout downtown Hyannis, and those are because of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, mother of JFK and the Kennedy family's matriarch. Rose lived in Hyannis year-round for much of her later life, and there is a plaque outside of an art studio on Pearl Street that honors her contributions.

St. Francis Xavier Church

At the end of Pearl Street, you'll take a right on South Street, which brings you to Saint Francis Xavier Parish, known colloquially as The Kennedy Church. When Rose and Joe Kennedy bought their home in Hyannis in the 1920s, they chose to attend this church, and over the years, many important family events took place here. When John F. Kennedy was president, he would sit in the second row with his family, while members of the Secret Service would surround him in rows one and three. This church is also where Arnold Schwarzenegger married Maria Shriver, Rose and Joe Kennedy's granddaughter.

Hyannis Armory

When John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States, he was at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis. Once Richard Nixon conceded, JFK drove to the Hyannis Armory, the next stop on this tour, to deliver his acceptance speech. You'll have to double back to reach the armory, as it's about two blocks east of the church, across the street from Barnstable Town Hall.

Aselton Park

You'll find three different parts of the tour at Aselton Park: information on the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Peace Corp Memorial, and the Cape Cod Maritime Museum.

John F. Kennedy had a great deal of love for Cape Cod and wanted to see its beauty retained for generations to come. One of the first things he did after being elected was to establish the Cape Cod National Seashore, which protected more than 43,500 acres of oceanfront land and prevented development on its shores. There is a plaque with information on this National Park at Aselton.

In 1961, Kennedy established the Peace Corps, which aimed at sending volunteers from the United States to help out in less developed nations. The memorial at Aselton Park commemorates the 50th anniversary of this organization.

Ted Kennedy is responsible for securing the funding for the Cape Cod Maritime Museum, which is dedicated to remembering, celebrating, and preserving Cape Cod's maritime heritage. Visiting the museum costs $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $5 for kids five and under. Active military members are free.

Hyannis Harbor

It's a well-known fact that the Kennedys loved sailing, and many of their trips left from Hyannis Harbor. Tours into Nantucket Sound leave from Bismore Park, and will even take you to see the Kennedy Compound from the water if you wish. In fact, Ted Kennedy's sailboat, The Maya, is still moored at the Hyannisport Yacht Club, and some tours will show you exactly where it is located.

JFK Memorial

This self-guided tour wraps up at perhaps its most rewarding site, as the JFK Memorial is at Veterans Memorial Park, which features a scenic beach overlooking the harbor. The memorial itself features a fountain and a stone wall with a plaque and is a great way to finish your walk of Hyannis.

Celebrating the Kennedy Family

The Kennedy Legacy Trail is an outstanding reminder of what the Kennedy family has meant not only to the people of Cape Cod but to the country as a whole through its contributions. If you're looking to get to know some of the Cape's rich history during your vacation, walking this trail is an excellent way to learn about Cape Cod while seeing much of Hyannis.

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