Things To Do In Provincetown MA: Top 23 Most Unique Spots (+Map) | Stanton House Inn
The main drag of P-Town, close to the police department, with the Pilgrim Monument in the background

Perched at Cape Cod’s tip, Provincetown is a vibrant, welcoming haven. Famous as an LGBTQ+ getaway, it also hosts the oldest active art colony in the U.S., buzzing with creativity. The town’s rich history spans from the Wampanoag people and Mayflower Pilgrims to Portuguese fishermen and artists. Today, its charming clapboard houses and scenic streets feature colorful locals like filmmaker John Waters. Provincetown offers whale watching, cultural festivals, and scenic beauty, making it a top LGBT destination and a hub for adventure and relaxation.

Ready to explore the best things to do in Provincetown MA? Let’s get into it:

Quick Hits

  • Historic Richness: From its indigenous roots to its role as an LGBTQ+ haven, Provincetown is rich in history, featuring sites like the Pilgrim Monument and the Provincetown Historic District.

    Diverse Activities: Enjoy whale watching, gallery hopping, biking trails, and vibrant festivals. Provincetown celebrates diversity and creativity at every turn.

    Unique Shopping and Dining: Provincetown offers unique shopping and a diverse culinary scene, reflecting its multicultural fabric and extending beyond traditional seafood.

  Map of attractions, activities, and things to do in Provincetown, MA Map design by Stanton House Inn  

 

A Brief History of Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown in Winter, 1920-21 painting by John Noble of the winter months in turn-of-the-century P-Town

Long before its busy streets and art scene, let alone all the Pride flags, Provincetown was ‘Meeshawn,’ home to the Indigenous Wampanoag tribe. In 1602, Bartholomew Gosnold named the area ‘Cape Cod’ after abundant codfish catches. The town’s pivotal moment came in 1620 when the Mayflower Pilgrims landed, anchoring in Provincetown Harbor. Here, they signed the Mayflower Compact during a town meeting, a key document for self-governance. It was the start of Provincetown’s significant place in American history.

Water Front of Provincetown Harbor at Low Tide, circa 1940s postcard

Long before Provincetown buzzed with lively streets and vibrant art, and before rainbow flags danced in the breeze, it was known as ‘Meeshawn,’ home to the indigenous Wampanoag tribe. The plot thickened in 1602 when Bartholomew Gosnold dubbed the outermost tip ‘Cape Cod,’ inspired by an impressive haul of codfish. The real game-changer came in 1620 with the arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Seeking a fresh start, they anchored in Provincetown Harbor and penned the Mayflower Compact right there on the ship, laying down the laws for their new society.

Provincetown has since seen many chapters. Here’s a peek at some milestones:

  • Officially a township in 1727, it became famous for its rich fishing grounds.

  • After the American Revolution, Provincetown thrived in fishing and whaling, attracting a vibrant Portuguese community from the Azores.

  • By the late 19th century, artists and writers flocked to Provincetown, creating a vibrant arts scene. And one of the oldest LGBTQ+ communities in America, to boot.

  • The 1960s ushered in the hippie and LGBTQ+ movements, fostering inclusivity and vibrancy, with the town hall playing a pivotal role.

Today, Provincetown is a beacon of diversity and acceptance. It boasts the highest rate of same-sex couples in the U.S. and renowned as a top gay summer resort. Its rich history is reflected in its architecture, with many historic sites, including the Provincetown Historic District, on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2017, the town added a poignant memorial for those lost to AIDS. The memorial solidifies Provincetown’s role as a welcoming haven for all.

The Best Things to do in Provincetown MA

Park around the P-Town town hall, with the Pilgrim Monument in the background

Provincetown isn’t just steeped in history; it’s buzzing with activities and sights that appeal to every kind of traveler. Here’s a snapshot of the top things to do in Provincetown:

  • Wander through the lively Commercial Street

  • Join a thrilling whale watching expedition

  • Bask in the natural beauty of Cape Cod National Seashore

  • Get inspired at the many art galleries

Provincetown is a place where everyone finds something to love, especially in the bustling downtown area.

Commercial Street

Commercial Street in Provincetown

Commercial Street is the heart of Provincetown. This vibrant 3-mile stretch brims with:

  • Art galleries

  • Unique boutiques

  • And quaint cafes

All set against a backdrop of classic clapboard architecture. It’s a cultural hub for the LGBTQ+ community and a canvas that paints a picture of diversity and creativity. Every corner has a story, every shop a new world to discover.

From art gallery hops on a Friday night to finding that one-of-a-kind souvenir, you can’t miss Commercial Street on your visit.

Pilgrim Monument

Inside of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, looking up the stairs of the tower

Provincetown, or P-Town, isn’t just about modern vibes; it’s a place deeply rooted in the past. The Pilgrim Monument stands as a testament to this rich history. Towering at 252 feet, it marks the spot where the Mayflower Pilgrims first set foot in America in 1620. Climb its 116 steps or take the elevator up to enjoy breathtaking ocean views.

Right next door, the Provincetown Museum deepens the historical experience. Dive into the area’s maritime past and interactions between the Indigenous Wampanoag Nation and European settlers.

Whale Watching

Whales chowing down together within view of a watching excursion in Cape Cod Bay

The wonders of Provincetown extend beyond the land. Embark on a whale watch from April to October in Cape Cod Bay and meet the ocean’s giants like humpbacks, finbacks, and minke whales. These 3-4 hour tours are not just spectacular—they’re educational. Marine experts on board share insights about the local ecosystem and Provincetown’s marine life.

And if the whales are shy, don’t worry! Dolphin Fleet offers a voucher for another trip, so you’re sure to get your moment with these majestic creatures.

Province Lands Bike Trail

Fox Run Trail, one of the trails we biked around in P-Town

Craving a bit of action? Grab a bike and hit the Province Lands Bike Trail for a pedal-powered adventure in Provincetown. This 5.25-mile trail winds through pine forests and sandy dunes, offering a scenic escape into nature. The path is smoothly paved, with plenty of room to pass, making it perfect for riders of all skill levels.

You’ll find comfy benches and picnic tables along the way, ideal for a quick rest or a snack break. Kick off your journey at the Province Lands Visitor Center, where you can park for free. If you didn’t pack a bike, no problem! Places like Provincetown Bike Rentals and Arnold’s Bike Shop have you covered. Whether you’re a cycling newbie or a seasoned pro, this trail is a breath of fresh Cape Cod air.

Provincetown Art Galleries

A few of the many Provincetown Art Galleries

Explore over 40 galleries in Provincetown’s vibrant art scene. Stroll down Commercial Street to discover a mix of classic landscapes and modern sculptures. Visit spots like Alden Gallery’s Spring Group Show and Berta Walker Gallery’s diverse collections. The Provincetown Art Association and Museum offers deeper dives with exhibitions, classes, and cultural events, inviting you to sketch and immerse yourself in local art.

MacMillan Pier

Head to MacMillan Pier for salty sea air, ferries, fishing charters, and sunset cruises. Explore the Whydah Pirate Museum for pirate ship treasures and tales. MacMillan Pier promises a day of maritime adventure and discovery.

Cape Cod National Seashore

Just a short trip from Provincetown, Cape Cod National Seashore spans 44,600 acres of diverse ecosystems. Ideal for nature lovers or those seeking peace, it offers pristine beaches and scenic trails. The Long Point Trail, a 6-mile loop, features stunning views and two historic lighthouses, plus the informative Province Lands Visitor Center with tours and observation decks.

Race Point Beach and Herring Cove Beach

Race Point beach at the Cape Cod National Seashore

What’s a visit to the East Coast without some beach time? Race Point and Herring Cove Beaches are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, or sunset-watching, with chances to spot whales at Herring Cove.

Trails and Dunes Adventure

Provincetown’s charm isn’t just in its lively streets and serene beaches; it’s also in the unique landscapes that surround the town. Near Race Point Beach and the Province Lands Visitor Center, Beech Forest offers a tranquil nature escape. The 1-mile Beech Forest Trail is perfect for a relaxed walk amidst bird songs and wildflowers. For a challenge, try the 2.5-mile Dune Shacks Trail, which takes you through Provincetown’s iconic dunes, inspiring both sailors and artists. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just out for a stroll, Provincetown’s trails offer a unique adventure.

A Day in the Dunes: Provincetown’s Sandy Escapes

Want to dive deep into Provincetown’s natural wonders? Spend a day in the sand dunes! Part of the beautiful Cape Cod National Seashore, these sandy stretches offer a unique ecosystem bursting with activities like:

  • Jeep tours

  • Hiking

  • Biking

  • Kayaking

  • Boat trips

As you meander through these dunes, keep an eye out for the historic dune shacks that dot the landscape, echoing Provincetown’s rich artistic heritage.

For an even richer experience, why not join a guided tour? Art’s Dune Tours offers everything from short day trips to special tours that include a splash of water fun. These expert-led adventures turn a day in the sand into an enlightening and unforgettable journey. So, lace up your boots, and let’s hit the dunes!

Pilgrim’s First Landing Park

causeway leading to Wood End from Pilgrims Landing ParkProvincetown makes a lot of noise about the fact that it was where the Pilgrims that later settled Plymouth, MA, first stepped-foot on America’s soil.

Personally, this history buff believes there are way more interesting reasons to visit Provincetown. But you do you.

Anyway, this park marks the supposed spot they arrived. Not that anyone actually knows where that was.

But what’s really cool here is the causeway that crosses the Provincetown harbor to Wood End.

Walk the rocks to get to more remote points on Wood End, like:

  • Boy Beach (note: not the most direct route to this beach)
  • Wood End Lighthouse
  • Long Point Beach
  • Long Point Light Station

But be careful:

The tide can submerge this line of massive rocks at high tide, or just make it treacherous.

And the sun is brutal in the summer; wear sunscreen, and watch-out for poison ivy on Wood End.

Provincetown’s Festive Events

Provincetown isn’t just about its scenic views and artsy vibes; it’s a place that knows how to throw a party! All year round, the town buzzes with events that showcase its fun-loving spirit and open-hearted community. Take the famous Provincetown Carnival, for example. This week-long fest full of parades, costume contests, and dance parties draws crowds from all over the globe.

And there’s more:

  • Provincetown Pride, complete with a festive rally and sashay to tea dance at the Boatslip Resort
  • Bear Week, which features a series of social events for the bear community every July.

  • Family Week, the largest gathering of LGBTQ-identified families in the world.

  • The Provincetown Portuguese Festival, celebrating the town’s rich Portuguese heritage.

No matter when you drop by, Provincetown is always in the mood to celebrate, welcoming everyone with open arms and a party hat.

Shopping in Provincetown, MA: Unique Boutiques and Local Crafts on Commercial Street

Unique art along the street of the main line of P-Town

Shopping in Provincetown is not your average retail experience. Commercial Street, the heartbeat of the town, is lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques and specialty shops. As you wander along this vibrant street, you’ll encounter:

  • Decorative arts at The Penney Patch

  • Fine leather goods at Cock & Bull Leather

Each shop is a little world of its own, bursting with creativity and the town’s eclectic spirit.

And the shopping spree doesn’t stop at fashion and arts. For those looking to take a piece of Provincetown home, Adam’s Nest and Atlantic Accents offer a wonderful selection of local crafts and gifts. Make sure to also pop into Shalom’s Gift Shop and Sharky’s T-Shirts for a variety of souvenirs that are perfect for gifting or keeping.

This writer used to be a fan of all the hoarders nests of antique shops along Commercial Street. That said, most have closed over the years. But a better-curated (and quite charming) shop I only recently discovered is Botanica, run by a sweet, older couple.

From stylish finds to handcrafted treasures, Provincetown’s shops have something special for every shopper.

Provincetown’s Culinary Scene: Beyond Seafood

New England lobster roll at a P-Town restaurant

Provincetown isn’t just a feast for the eyes; it’s a feast for the taste buds, too! While you might expect a seaside town to be all about seafood, Provincetown mixes it up with flavors from around the globe. You can find everything from:

  • Authentic Mexican

  • Brazilian delights

  • Cambodian treats

  • Indian spices

  • Chinese favorites

Don’t miss the local twist on classic dishes, like the pizza topped with linguiça at Spiritus, a go-to spot for those late-night munchies.

Culinary Delights and Seafood Specialties on Commercial Street

locals lounging on the sand of P-Town harbor in front of the Provincetown Town Hall and Pilgrim MonumentFor seafood aficionados, Commercial Street is your culinary runway. This strip is lined with spots like The Lobster Pot, known for its fresh catch and Portuguese dishes—a true Provincetown icon. For better or worse.

That said, if all you do is go to The Lobster Pot, you will be disappointed. Seriously, it’s a tourist trap.

Personal favorites discovered on a recent trip include:

Craving breakfast or brunch? Check out Chach for homemade muffins and hearty burritos. Whatever your taste, Commercial Street dishes up something delicious for everyone.

Directions to Provincetown, MA, from Greenwich, CT

Thinking about how to get to Provincetown from Greenwich, Connecticut? If you’re driving, it’s a straight shot of about 4 hours and 265 miles. If public transport is more your style, you can mix a train ride to Boston with a ferry trip for a scenic 7-hour journey. Whether you drive or decide to sit back and enjoy the ride on public transport like Peter Pan Bus Lines, getting to Provincetown is well worth the trip. Ready, set, adventure!

Hotels, Inns, and Places to Stay in Provincetown, Massachusetts

View out the front door of The Prince Albert Guest House, looking onto Commercial Street of downtown Provincetown

After a day soaking up the sights and sounds of Provincetown, you’ll want a cozy spot to lay your head. Thankfully, Provincetown is packed with options from:

Prince Albert Guest House

Step back in time with a stay at the Prince Albert Guest House, where history meets comfort. Nestled in a beautifully restored sea captain’s home from the 1860s, this bed and breakfast offers:

  • A tranquil setting within walking distance of all Provincetown

  • Perfect for both quick escapes or extended stays

It’s a top pick for anyone seeking a personalized touch to their Provincetown visit. We stayed here for both of our most recent visits, either in:

  • The Main Inn on Commercial Street

  • Or their new house for group trips on Center Street, behind the Provincetown Library

The Brass Key Guest House

A house in P-Town in the summer months

Looking for a splash of luxury? The Brass Key Guest House wraps you in elegance and comfort. This exclusive spot features:

  • Nine beautifully restored buildings

  • A lush terraced courtyard

  • A stunning infinity edge pool

  • A relaxing in-house spa

  • Shipwreck Lounge, a more relaxed bar with no cover

Known for its warm, inclusive vibe, The Brass Key is a favorite among those seeking a gay-friendly, luxurious stay on the East Coast.

White Porch Inn

For a laid-back, beachy atmosphere, check into the White Porch Inn. This guest house is all about:

  • Stylish, minimalist decor

  • Art-filled spaces that soothe the soul

  • Rooms with views of the Pilgrim Monument or picturesque harbor

The White Porch Inn is your go-to for a chill, artsy retreat in Provincetown.

Land’s End Inn

Perched on Gull Hill, Land’s End Inn offers an escape that’s both opulent and serene. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Luxurious rooms with stunning ocean views

  • A hearty expanded continental breakfast

  • A relaxing wine & cheese hour each evening

Waking up to ocean breezes and thoughtful amenities make Land’s End Inn a standout for an unforgettable stay in Provincetown.

More Nearby Cities and Towns to Explore Near Provincetown, MA

Chatham Light

Provincetown is a treasure trove of activities and sights, but the fun doesn’t stop at the town’s borders. Nearby New England towns like Chatham, Falmouth, and Sandwich each add their own flavor to Cape Cod. Got some extra time? Consider extending your stay to explore these charming neighboring towns.

Chatham, MA

Cute houses in Chatham, Massachusetts

Just a short trip from Provincetown, Chatham charms visitors. The list of things to do in Chatham, MA, includes a picturesque lighthouse, lovely beaches, and lively Main Street. Spend your day seal watching at Chatham Fish Pier, exploring great whites at the Shark Center, or relaxing at Monomoy Wildlife Refuge. Main Street offers a delightful shopping experience with boutiques, galleries, and eateries. Don’t miss the breathtaking views from Chatham Lighthouse.

Chatham is also a hotspot for cultural events and festivals, showcasing the town’s artistic vibe and rich history. Looking to stay the night? From the luxe Chatham Bars Inn to the cozy Chatham Motel, there’s a spot for every budget and taste.

Falmouth, Massachusetts

Solitary Cape Cod home overlooking the ocean

Not far away, Falmouth beckons with its charming harbor and a wealth of attractions. Its historic downtown is packed with unique shops and scrumptious dining spots. Meanwhile the beaches offer perfect sandy getaways for sun seekers.

Whether you’re into history, sandy toes, or tasty treats, Falmouth delivers.

Sandwich, MA

Salt marshes of Sandwich, MA

Dive into history in Sandwich, the oldest town on Cape Cod. This place is rich with historical sites, from the Sandwich Glass Museum to the sprawling Heritage Museums and Gardens. Pack a lunch and enjoy a day at Sandwich Town Beach or simply meander through the town soaking up its timeless charm.

Tl;dr

Provincetown, Massachusetts, blends rich history, culture, and natural beauty. From bustling Commercial Street to peaceful beaches and lively events, Provincetown a cool spot for any traveler. Dive into the local art scene, go whale watching, or relax on a serene beach—Provincetown promises unforgettable memories. So why wait? Pack up, set sail, and discover the unique charm of Provincetown and its neighboring towns.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit Provincetown?

The prime time to hit up Provincetown is from May through October. That’s when you’ll find all the attractions buzzing and the weather just right for all kinds of outdoor fun.

What are some of the must-visit spots in Provincetown?

Don’t miss out on the top spots like the Pilgrim Monument, Commercial Street, Cape Cod National Seashore, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. Whether you’re into sandy toes, artsy strolls, or historical trails, Provincetown has something special waiting for you.

What is the quickest way to get to Provincetown from Greenwich, CT?

If you’re zipping over from Greenwich, CT, the fastest route is by car—about a 4-hour drive straight through to Provincetown. Pack your favorite tunes and snacks for the road!

What kind of food is Provincetown known for?

Provincetown is a foodie’s paradise, famous for its ultra-fresh seafood. Plus, it serves up a tasty mix of international flavors—from Mexican and Brazilian to Cambodian, Indian, Chinese, and classic Portuguese. It’s truly a feast for the senses!

Where can I stay in Provincetown?

Looking for a cozy place to crash? Check into spots like the Prince Albert Guest House, The Brass Key Guest House, White Porch Inn, or Land’s End Inn. Each offers unique charms to make your stay in Provincetown as comfortable as it is memorable.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *