A sunny end to a Memorial Day weekend when rain didn’t dampen travel plans for Cape Cod

Tourism was brisk this Memorial Day weekend on Cape Cod, despite weather that hardly felt like the start of the summer season.

“We can take off the down jackets,” Wendy Northcross, chief executive of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, said this afternoon as temperatures climbed into the 60s and the weekend’s chilly rain gave way to sunshine.

“Going into the weekend, I told somebody we’d have the full array of weather Cape Cod has to offer, and we pretty much did,” she said.

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Last week, however, the long-range forecast was much more hospitable, “so people made reservations and held to them,” Northcross said. A soccer tournament went on as scheduled, she added, and “we have the phenomenon of the new CapeFLYER train, so that was a nice shot in the arm.”

The train, which brought passengers as far as Hyannis, carried a couple of hundred passengers on the first two trains at the beginning of the weekend, she said.

Hotel owners on the Cape were happy, Northcross said, and while restaurants weren’t “slammed with lines out the door, they had good, strong business.”

Mary Maguire, Massachusetts spokeswoman for AAA, noted that radio traffic segments on Friday reported backups of about three miles at the bridges onto the Cape, which suggested that the rainy weather didn’t deter too many from driving out for the holiday weekend.

“For Americans, travel is a birthright and Memorial Day plans often are made well in advance,” she said. “People are ready to kick off the summer. Come rain, wind, or traffic, they’re headed out, no matter what, which I think is one of the great things about New Englanders. And we certainly had it all: the rain, the wind, and from what I understand, the traffic.”

One reason many travelers head to the Cape on Memorial Day weekend is to engage in the annual ritual of preparing cottage rentals for the rest of the season, Maguire said.

“Just as everybody turns out to see the Red Sox on opening day, even if it’s raining, people are ready to kick things off on Memorial Day,” she said. “Regardless of the weather, they’re ready to have fun.”

The cost of gasoline can affect travel plans, but Maguire said that according to a survey AAA conducted in the past few weeks in conjunction with IHS Global Insight of Lexington, 62 percent of respondents said prices at the pump would have no impact.

Indeed, although prices have been rising, Maguire said that “as of last week, when people were people were departing for Memorial Day weekend, we were about 15 cents lower than at this time last year.”

Rising prices can be helpful for businesses on the Cape, however.

“We kind of use that as a tag line: a short trip to far away,” Northcross said. “People feel that they’ve gone farther away than they actually have. They still want to take a trip, but it’s usually closer to home.”