A Queer Guide to Where to Stay, Party, and Chill in Provincetown
Discover the spots to eat, drink, and dance, plus the best LGBTQ events throughout the year.
Provincetown, Massachusetts, is one of the most popular LGBTQ holiday destinations in the US—cherished by gay and straight travelers alike—and it’s no wonder why. The small beach town, often referred to as P-town, is located on the northern tip of Cape Cod and has all the makings of a quaint New England coastal town: clapboard houses, charming B&Bs, white steeples, serene beaches, and excellent drinks and seafood. Consider this your guide to discovering why to choose P-town, when to visit; and where to stay, eat, drink, dance, and find the best queer events all year.
What makes it so specialIt’s so gay: P-town is arguably the coolest and most accepted place to be if you’re LGBTQ. Even though the town has a population of only 3,000 people, it's home to 10 gay bars, two gay beaches, and over a dozen annual LGBTQ events. The town boasts plenty of art galleries, over 200 independent shops, a thriving restaurant scene, and over 40 queer-owned B&Bs and inns. In fact, Provincetown has more lesbian-owned businesses per capita than any other place in the US and the highest concentration of same-sex households in the country.
The local vibe and charm: Instead of large hotels, you'll find small inns along with independent shops and restaurants. It is a refreshing change to walk through town and not see the familiar big box retailers or restaurants. Provincetown also holds the title for the oldest gay bar in the US (the A-House), the gayest main street (Commercial Street), and one of the top 10 gay beaches in the world (Herring Cove Beach).
It’s Pride all year: Most of the nightlife and activity occurs during the summer months, but it celebrates queer culture—inclusive and welcoming of any gender and sexual orientation—year-round. All dates and information for P-town events can be found at ptowntourism.com, but here's our rundown.
When to go (and hit the queer events)Visiting P-Town for a queer event will make your trip a hit. The most popular LGBTQ celebrations happen during high season (May through October), but we're giving you all the year's fun right here. Note: This is the typical annual schedule, but as always, check before you go.
Girl Splash: A weeklong summer event just for women including dances, stand-up comedy, and other events.
Family Week: The largest annual gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer-identifying families in the world.
Bear Week: The largest gathering of bears in the world, drawing tens of thousands of men from all over the world.
Carnival: The annual Carnival is P-town’s largest queer event and attracts 90,000 visitors.
Women’s Week: The final party of the season is a festival that celebrates women in a big way, typically in mid-October.
Fantasia Fair: A weeklong celebration for transgender and gender questioning people as well as cross-dressers.
Though the colder months are quieter (many bars and restaurants close between November and March), there are a few things still happening:
Mr. New England Leather Weekend: A three-day event during which the Mr. New England for the following year is crowned.
Holly Folly Weekend: The annual LGBTQ-themed holiday event in Provincetown, with a holiday market, a jingle bell run, sing-alongs, dance parties, and other festivities.
First Light Provincetown: First Light Provincetown is a five-day celebration to ring in the New Year (usually from December 30 to January 5). There are parties, dances, performances, and fireworks.
Snowbound Leather Weekend: Under the motto “Get outta the cold and into the HEAT!”, leather gays meet in P-town for a weekend of celebration and debauchery. This is the first big gay event of the year, which usually takes place in late February.
Out of Hibernation Bear Weekend: This weekend is what it promises: the “bears” come out of hibernation. There are parties, daytime events, drag shows, and brunches.
Single Women’s Weekend: A three-day event with plenty of parties and activities designed to help single gay women meet other lesbians.
Womxn of Color Weekend: WoCW Ptown is a four-day Pride that was created in 2007 in order to celebrate LGBTQ folks of color.
Pride: Provincetown Pride is a 3-day celebration of LGBTQ culture.
How to get thereWith various modes of transport to P-town, it should be easy to get there from any east coast jumping off point. If you’re in the New York area, car or air is your best bet. If you’re closer to the Boston area, you can also go by sea.
By car: From Boston, it’s just over 100 miles, which is about two-and-a-half hours by car. From New York City, it’s just under 300 miles, which is about five hours by car.
By air: From Boston, Cape Air offers daily flights from Boston’s Logan International Airport and is a 20-minute plane ride. From New York's Westchester County, between June and September, Cape Air also offers flights from Westchester (White Plains) to Provincetown. From New York City, JetBlue offers flights from JFK Airport to Hyannis on the Southern Cape. You can rent a car at the airport (book in advance), and from there, it’s just an hour-long drive to Provincetown.
By boat: From Boston, the most convenient way to get to P-town is to take the fast ferry which brings you there in only 90 minutes—and you won’t have to deal with any traffic. A one-way ferry ticket is around $60; a round-trip ticket costs about $90. There are two different ferry operators: Bay State Cruises and Boston Harbor Cruises (each offer three daily trips between mid-May and mid-October).
By bus: From Boston, the Peter Pan bus has a couple of rides per day. Tickets are $20 and it takes just under 3.5 hours.
Where to stayThe first rule of staying in P-town is never to arrive without a hotel reservation, especially if your dates happen to align with an event—Carnival, for example—when the town turns into one huge party and all accommodations are fully booked. The good news is that when planning ahead, you'll have a choice of tons of cool places: mostly privately-owned small guesthouses and B&Bs. Almost all of the B&Bs are in walking distance to the pier and the town center. You can also find entire apartments and homes for rent. Here are a few of our favorites:
Land’s End Inn (22 Commercial Street): Small, high-end B&B with 18 rooms on a hilltop overlooking the ocean.
8 Dyer Hotel (8 Dyer Street): A sophisticated, intimate guesthouse with only seven rooms. The hotel also has a swimming pool and a hot tub.
Harbor Hotel (698 Commercial Street): Inexpensive motel with retro-chic rooms right on the waterfront.
Pilgrim House Inn (336 Commercial Street): Stylish boutique hotel in a historic clapboard building, just minutes from Provincetown’s Historic District.
The Red Inn (15 Commercial Street): Historic inn, built in 1805, right on the waterfront.
The Boatslip Resort & Beach Club (161 Commercial Street): Famous for its daily tea dance, the Boatslip also has rooms and a swimming pool. The waterfront rooms offer views over the harbor and MacMillan Pier.
The Brass Key Guesthouse (67 Bradford Street): A small boutique hotel with rooms in nine historic buildings and a terrace deck surrounding a swimming pool, right in the heart of Provincetown.
What to see and doIn addition to the cool queer events, there are plenty of other ways to spend your time:
Boogie down at the Boatslip Tea Dance: At the famous daily afternoon dance party at the previously mentioned Boatslip, the deck fills up every afternoon when visitors dance the afternoon away to a set by resident DJ Maryalice from 4pm to 7pm (during high season). Going to the Tea Dance is a rite of passage for every P-Town visitor, and it's a great way to meet other queer travelers.
Chill on the beach: Provincetown is a beach town, after all, so of course a visit to the sand is a must. There are several beaches in and around P-town, but Race Point Beach is known for being the sunniest one. It sits at the mouth of Cape Cod Bay at the northernmost point of Cape Cod National Seashore, facing the Atlantic Ocean. If sun worshipping gets boring, take a stroll to one of the oldest lighthouses on the Cape—the historic Race Point Beach Lighthouse, which dates back to 1816, is on the far western end of the beach.
For calmer waters than those at Race Point, head to Herring Cove Beach, a hugely popular spot; the section to the left of the pavilion is known as the town’s unofficial nudist beach. Facing west on Herring Cove Beach is also the best beach to watch the sunset from.
See local art: Stroll down Commercial Street and check out the over 40 art galleries, many of them queer-owned. (Bowersock Gallery and Berta Walker Gallery are two that shouldn’t be missed.) The galleries feature local artists and range from traditional landscapes to contemporary abstract art. If you’re not too tired after a morning of gallery-hopping, visit the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, which has a permanent collection of over 2,500 objects, including both historical and contemporary artworks.
Learn the history of the Pilgrims: The 252-foot tower in the center of Provincetown is the Pilgrims Monument, built to commemorate the arrival of the Mayflower in Provincetown in 1692; and the best place to learn about the history of the Pilgrims. While the history books note that the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth Rock, the Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World was actually in Provincetown before passing onto Plymouth. Climb the monument’s 116 steps for a breathtaking (quite literally) view over the town and Cape Cod.
Tour the dunes: There are miles and miles of sand dunes just outside Provincetown you can explore, but Art’s Dune Tours will make it easy with their off-roading tours, which include sunset tours, dune tours, and dune & water tours that combine off-roading and kayaking.
See whales and seals: If you are visiting Provincetown during the summer months, you’ll want to join a whale watching tour (which typically last three or four hours). Whale sightings are pretty much guaranteed between June and September. Even though there are less than 15,000 whales left—a far cry from the 17th century, when the humpback population in the area was still half a million—boat tours get so close to the whales that it almost feels like you can touch them.
Whale season starts mid-April and runs through October, and you’ll likely see humpbacks whales, mink whales, and fin whales, as well as Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Tour operators for whale watching tours include Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch and SeaSalt Charters, which both earn high praise in traveler reviews.
There are also plenty of harbor seals and gray seals in the waters around Provincetown, and Provincetown Seal Tours and Flyers Boats both offer 45-minute seal tours of Provincetown Harbor, LongPoint, and the Cove.
Explore by bike: Provincetown is extremely bike-friendly, and even beginners will enjoy exploring the town and the surrounding seashore on two wheels. There are several bike shops in town that rent bicycles and helmets, including Provincetown Bike Rentals, The Bike Shack, P-Town Bikes, and Gale Force Bikes.
An easy bike ride would be from the center of town to Herring Cove Beach, which is less than three miles; or Race Point Beach, which is just over three miles from the same starting point. The Province Lands Bike Trail, a 6.6-mile loop that includes both beaches and takes you through pine forests and sand dunes, is a perfect way to get some exercise and explore the Cape at the same time. Another great bike journey is a trip to the Long Point Peninsula, where you can visit the historic Wood End Lighthouse (just under an hour from P-town).
See a queer performance: There are daily events at the Art House, an arts venue with live performances ranging from stand-up comedy to theater productions, and regular shows by queer celebrities.
Where to eat and drinkFor a small town, Provincetown has an incredibly diverse food scene, and you should definitely take advantage of the variety during your visit.
The Canteen (225 Commercial Street): A Cape Cod institution and the best lobster in Provincetown. They also offer local oysters and delicious cocktails, served in a historic building.
Front Street (230 Commercial Street): This is one of the oldest restaurants in P-town, offering an ever-changing eclectic menu, mainly focusing on Italian dishes.
Lobster Pot (321 Commercial Street): Seafood dishes and cocktails served right at the pier.
Provincetown Portuguese Bakery (299 Commercial Street): Tasty Portuguese baked goods, including the famous fried dough “malasada,” meat pies, and sandwiches.
Fanizzi’s (539 Commercial Street): Italian and American fare served with the most expansive views over Provincetown and the bay.
Lewis Brothers Ice Cream (310 Commercial Street): Homemade ice cream, including boozy flavors, as well as sorbets and smoothies.
Spiritus Pizza (190 Commercial Street): Popular late-night hangout spot (open until 2am) famous for their thin-crust pizza.
Chach (73 Shank Painter Road): Scrumptious authentic Mexican cuisine and classic brunch dishes such as eggs Benedict and French toast.
The Mews Restaurant & Cafe (429 Commercial Street): Fantastic seafood with views over the water.
Relish Bakery & Sandwich Shop (93 Commercial Street): Popular bakery offering sweet pastries and savory sandwiches, including many vegan and vegetarian options.
Ciro & Sal’s (4 Kiley Court): Intimate restaurant with exposed brick and scrumptious Northern Italian dishes.
Mac’s Fish House (85 Shank Painter Road): Seafood (shellfish, oysters, and sushi) including $1 oysters and clams during happy hour.
Strangers and Saints (404 Commercial Street): A Mediterranean restaurant and cocktail bar in a nautical-themed historic building (a former sea captain’s home).
Liz’s Café, Anybody’s Bar (31 Bradford Street): A popular breakfast place by day and a cocktail bar by night. The flippers (Portuguese fried dough served with Vermont syrup) are said to have cured many a hangover.
Mistralino (133 Bradford Street): A sophisticated Italian restaurant, run by a gay couple.
Where to partyIf you want to dance the night away, there are a few spots you’ll want to hit during your stay:
Crown and Anchor (247 Commercial Street): A historic gay bar with nightly entertainment ranging from drag shows to cabaret to themed parties. There are six different gay bars on the premises.
A-House (6 Masonic Place #4): Atlantic House is the only year-round dance club in Provincetown, with dance parties seven nights a week.
Club Purgatory (11 Carver Street): A gay nightclub in the basement of the Gifford House Inn with theme nights such as "The Popular Underwear Party."
The Club (193a Commercial Street): Opened by lesbian icon Lea DeLaria in 2019, The Club is a great addition to P-town’s nightlife scene. While it's a restaurant during the day, The Club offers free live jazz Sunday through Wednesday night at 9pm.
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