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A hidden gem, the Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center

Jenna Russell/Globe staff

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I first heard about Cape Cod Canal Visitor Center from another mother. She was surprised that I had never been there, understandably, since the place was barely a five-minute walk from where we were standing at a playground near the Sagamore Bridge.

This tiny, kid-friendly museum is the very essence of a hidden gem, surprisingly rewarding and requiring just the slightest detour off the beaten path.

Some of the offerings are simple: a touch table full of seashells; a train table equipped instead with toy boats and a model of the canal. Others are show-stoppers, especially the 45-foot canal patrol boat Renier, installed here after her retirement from service, and open for kids to take turns “driving” in its wheelhouse.

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