Vacationers In Chief: Presidential Destinations of Presidents on Cape Cod and the Islands

The Cape and the Islands have been a popular summertime destination for decades. So it comes as no surprise when our nation’s presidents have enjoyed the sunny shores of the Cape and the Islands.

In the last few decades, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket have become popular choices for political fundraisers, social events, and of course—vacations.

The Clintons, the Obamas, and of course—the Kennedys (whose names at this point are practically synonymous with Hyannis Port) have all spent vacation time here on the Cape and Islands. For the Kennedys, it was always their second home.

With the Obamas vacation underway, let’s take a look back at vacations of President’s past (and present)…

The Kennedys

The Kennedys

Let’s begin with the obvious one—the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis Port. Originally rented in the summer of 1926 by Joseph P. Kennedy and then bought two years later, the Kennedy compound consists of three houses overlooking historic Nantucket Sound.

Each separate house is a white-framed clapboard structure typical of many homes in the area. Complete with private movie theaters, four car garages, neatly manicured lawns, lounge areas, and an entire hallway filled with dolls from around the world (which sounds low-key terrifying to me) complete this story-like compound.

Here, the Kennedy children spent their summers, learning to sail and enjoying the local beaches. Jack Kennedy bought a smaller house next door in 1956 and Ted Kennedy bought the house next to the other two in 1959.

Ted lived in the compound until his death from brain cancer in August 2009. Throughout the Camelot era, the house was used as a base for JFK’s victorious presidential campaign and the main destination for himself, Jackie, Caroline, and JFK Jr. The family would also vacation in Newport, RI—but it’s truly the Kennedy compound that has become symbolic of the Kennedy family and the Camelot era.

hillaryclinton3aThe Clintons

Throughout the 1990’s, the Clintons practically made the Vineyard their second home. In the summers of 1993, `94, `97, and `98 Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea spent their time on the Island playing golf, taking scenic bike rides, shopping in local bookstores, and entertaining elite guests that included everyone from political luminaries like Robert McNamara and Jackie O. to entertainers like Ted Danson and Carly Simon.

They spent ten days on the Island in the first summer of Clinton’s presidency. At the Bunch of Grapes bookstore, the Clintons purchased $119 worth of books. Later in the week Hillary was seen in Edgartown, pouring through old city records dating back to the 18th century. Bill was seen playing golf multiple times and both of them attended church services at the Tabernacle and Union Chapel on the Sundays they were on the Island. They reportedly sang the hymns without the need of the hymnal for the lyrics.

In later visits, their public appearances became less frequent. As conflicts in Sudan and Afghanistan, coupled with the Lewinsky scandal and his impeachment, the Clintons curtailed some of their visits, spending more time in private.

In the new millennium, the Clintons still found time to visit the island. Whether for political reasons or purely social reasons, it feels as if the family has never left. In recent years, the Clintons have held numerous fundraisers in and around the Cape and Islands. In fact, on August 20th Hillary Clinton will be on Nantucket at the home of the former ambassador to Portugal, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley’s home for one fundraiser and in Provincetown for a fundraiser at the Pilgrim’s Monument the next day.

Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images The Obama family on vacation.

Photo by Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

The Obamas

This one is really obvious as well. The Obamas have spent every summer of their time in the White House on the Island except one — never on the Cape, however. The current first family’s time on the Vineyard has become an annual tradition.

People flock the streets to catch a glimpse of President Obama on the golf course and figure out where the First Family has done some of their summer shopping and where they have decided to go out for a meal. Many local business owners actually do not mind the crowds so much as it typically generates a lot of extra business.

The Obamas have frequently been seen all over the Island, particularly at restaurants and golf courses. Barack Obama has played golf at the Farm Neck Golf Course and he and his family have frequently eaten at Island hotspots such as the Sweet Life Café and the Beach Plum Restaurant. In fact, Sasha Obama had a summer job earlier this summer at the popular Nancy’s Restaurant and Snack Bar!

While it remains to be seen if the Obamas will continue to vacation on the Vineyard after Obama’s presidency ends in January remains to be seen, but we can all say it sure has been exciting to have the Commander in Chief in our own backyard these past seven years.

Other Presidents

Grover Cleveland had his summer White House at Grey Gables on the Upper Cape. Ulysses Grant visited Provincetown in 1873 and President Theodore Roosevelt also visited the Pilgrim’s monument in 1908 to commemorate the placement of the monument’s cornerstone. It was also rumored that President Dwight Eisenhower planned a visit to the Cape and the Vineyard over the Fourth of July weekend in 1957, but he never came.

In closing, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that even the most powerful and influential people on this earth are not immune to the magnetic beauty and charm of Cape Cod and the Islands.

By Christian Papadellis

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