Road trip from Chicago to Falmouth is memorable regardless of the year

Marty McFly climbed into a DeLorean time machine (1985) the same summer our family of five buckled up in a first generation Toyota Camry. McFly was going back to the future and we were heading to the East Coast.

Armed with a Rand McNally Road Atlas, we mapped our route weeks before and booked overnights in Cleveland, Syracuse, and Boston before we planned to reach Falmouth, Massachusetts. Lodging had to offer an indoor pool — my motto: let children swim before dinner and they sleep through the night.

Today? Well, I’d stay longer at each stop to see more than our lodgings and experience dinners beyond pizza delivery. On our vacations, selecting where to eat breakfast and lunch fell to the kids. It was always an adventure.

About Cleveland: If we were traveling today, we’d stay for two nights on the way out and on the way back. While the swimming pool dictum would remain, we would experience the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, find beef cheek pierogies, visit the A Christmas Story House museum and follow the kids around the Great Lakes Science Center.

Nobska Lighthouse, Falmouth, Massachusetts

Nobska Lighthouse, Falmouth, Massachusetts. Photo courtesy of Ben Nugget for Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Ditto for Syracuse. Today, I’d stay another day to step into the lives of the locals — inspired by the virtual experiences posted on its website. We did cross over into Canada for a look at Niagara Falls from the Canadian side — so worth it. Today? You bet we’d stick around to see the falls illuminated at night and reserve a ride on the Maid of the Mist plus find a joint where we could order poutine.

Back stateside, we eventually pulled into Boston, got last minute directions from my nephew, who warned us if we went under the overpass, we would have missed our exit. It was 1985, of course, and no GPS. Next thing we knew the overpass was in view and both kids sounded the alarm — “We are going under the overpass!”

There’s nothing quite like three days in Boston. We walked part of the Freedom Trail, visited the USS Constitution and visited Faneuil Hall Marketplace. When scolded by the wait staff at Durgin-Park restaurant (sadly now closed), we laughed at ourselves. Its Yankee Pot Roast still puts all others to shame.

In Cambridge, my daughter eyed an Au Bon Pain cafe. Since it was her turn to pick, she announced we should stop at “bone pane.” To this day when craving one of its croissant sandwiches, we make a point to mis-pronounce the name. Dining in Boston? Wouldn’t change a thing, but would add an overnight stop at the Omni Parker House Hotel — where Parker House rolls originated.

There’s so much to appreciate in Boston, leaving for the shore wasn’t easy. En route to Falmouth, we stopped in Plymouth to board the Mayflower II. I was proudly taken aback at how easily my children accepted the reenactment, listened to the stories and engaged in conversations. Visiting today? I wouldn’t change a thing.

Mary Lu Laffey discovered a place that puts the awe into ‘awesome’ on Avery Island, Louisiana: Jungle Gardens, 250 semitropical acres adjacent to the home of TABASCO pepper sauce.

Mary Lu Laffey discovered a place that puts the awe into ‘awesome’ on Avery Island, Louisiana: Jungle Gardens, 250 semitropical acres adjacent to the home of TABASCO pepper sauce.

Arriving in Falmouth, we easily found the rental house recommended by a friend of a friend. Undaunted by the size of the place — it slept 10 —and the many rooms that were locked plus a staircase that ended at the ceiling, we unpacked and headed out for dinner along the water.

To a family of Midwesterners, Falmouth was quintessential Cape Cod. We dined al fresco at Landfall on Woods Hole Harbor and each of us were impressed at the menu and the view.

Back at the house, we gathered in jammies to speculate about the stairway to nowhere and started to spook ourselves, recalling scenes and quotations from scary movies. While gathered in the living room, we all heard the floor squeak upstairs and quietly agreed that the house must be haunted.

During daylight hours, we found discovery around every corner. Most not-to-miss lists for Falmouth include Nobska Point Lighthouse, clambakes, the warm water pools at Wood Neck Beach and its sandbar. Shopping? The downtown is packed with possibilities, but mostly we wanted to be by the water, mesmerized by the power of the ocean. Looking at the massive swells of the gray Atlantic, we knew we weren’t in Illinois anymore … and we wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Former magazine and lifestyle editor Mary Lu Laffey writes for trade and consumer travel publications and websites. Her first story for Leisure Group Travel appeared in 2018, many moons after she and her family took a road trip to the small, seaside town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. Laffey was delighted to walk down memory lane to share this tale. It really was “a dark and stormy morning” (raining) when dad, mom, auntie and two children under the age of 10 buckled-up in a Toyota Camry for the trip of a lifetime.