Historic, scenic, and secluded, the former Portuguese fishing community and longtime artists colony of Provincetown is also one of the world's most popular resort destinations among gay and lesbian travelers. The height of the buzz in is the summer, especially July and August, but P'town enjoys a year-round presence and can be quite enchanting during the peaceful, windswept winter months and the mild, relaxed spring and fall shoulder seasons. The town continues to improve and become more well-rounded, with more upscale inns, fine art galleries, and superb restaurants than ever before. Its scenic beauty is unparalleled in New England.
Although Provincetown is most popular in summer, and many of its businesses open only from May through October, it's actually an appealing destination year-round, especially during the less-crowded but still mild spring and fall seasons.
Average high-low temperatures include:
- January: 37 degrees Fahrenheit and 23 degrees Fahrenheit
- April: 52 degrees Fahrenheit and 37 degrees
- July: 79 degrees Fahrenheit and 63 degrees Fahrenheit
- October: 60 degrees Fahrenheit and 45 degrees Fahrenheit
Snow falls occasionally in winter but doesn't often last long, and summer breezes generally prevent extended heat waves. Fall and spring offer crisp, cool, and often beautiful weather. Precipitation averages 3 to 4.5 inches per month year-round.
Provincetown lies at the very end of Cape Cod, on the so-called "Outer Cape." If you picture the Cape as a curled arm, Provincetown would be the hand. It's at the narrow end of the Cape, and the town itself faces south and is set on sheltered Cape Cod Bay. The western and northern reaches of Provincetown are dominated by the pristine, wind-swept dunes, beaches, and seagrass of Cape Cod National Seashore. The northern section of town fronts the frothy Atlantic Ocean. Provincetown is at the end of U.S. 6, the main road across Cape Cod.
Driving distances to Provincetown from prominent places and points of interest include the following:
- Boston, Massachusetts: 120 miles (2.5 hours)
- Burlington, Vermont: 330 miles ( 6 to 6.5 hours)
- Montreal, Canada: 490 miles (8 to 8.5 hours)
- Newport, Rhode Island: 120 miles (2.5 hours)
- New Haven, Connecticut: 220 miles (3.5 to 4.5 hours)
- New York City, New York: 300 miles (5.5 to 6.5 hours)
- Northampton, Massachusetts: 210 miles (4 to 4.5 hours)
- Portland, Maine: 210 miles (4 to 4.5 hours)
- Providence: 120 miles (2.5 hours)
- Sagamore Bridge (entrance to Cape Cod): 60 miles (75 minutes)
- Washington, D.C.: 520 miles (8 to 9 hours)
Provincetown is a relatively easy place to reach without a car, and it's very easy to explore on foot. In summer the traffic is horrendous, and a car can actually be a liability, so consider leaving it at home.
Cape Air has direct service from Boston's busy Logan International to Provincetown Municipal Airport. High-speed ferry service is available from mid-May to mid-October from Boston Harbor Cruises and Bay State Cruise Company. From Boston, the high-speed ferry to Provincetown takes about 90 minutes, which means it's possible to make the journey as a day trip if you catch the first sailing and return on the last one. But this entails a somewhat long day on the boat—if you can possibly spend even just one night in Provincetown, you'll likely have a much nicer stay (and enjoy the chance for a leisurely dinner and some nightclubbing). The number of sailings per day varies a bit between the two companies. You can also opt for a seasonal ferry from Plymouth on Captain John Boats. And there's excellent bus service to and around P'town.
Events and Festivals
- Mid-February: Mates Leather Weekend: Snowbound.
- Mid-March: Northeast Ursamen: Out of Hibernation.
- Mid- to Late April: Provincetown Green Arts Festival.
- Mid-May: Single Women's Weekend.
- Early June: Women of Color Weekend.
- Mid-June: Provincetown International Film Festival.
- Early July: Independence Day at Crown & Anchor.
- Mid-July.: Provincetown Summer Bear Week.
- Mid-July.: Taste of Provincetown.
- Late July: Girl Splash Provincetown.
- Early August: Family Pride Coalition's Family Week.
- Mid-August: Provincetown JazzFest.
- Late August: Provincetown Carnival Week.
- Late September: Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.
- Early October: Mates Leather Weekend.
- Early to Mid-October: Women's Week.
- Mid- to Late October: Fantasia Fair.
- Late October: Serenity by the Sea: Provincetown Roundup.
- Early November: Provincetown Men's Weekend.
- Early November: Fall Playwrights' Festival.
Neighborhoods and Nearby Communities
Provincetown is the smallest town on the Cape based upon area (it also has one of the smallest year-round populations), and much of the town is occupied by Cape Cod National Seashore, which extends from P'town's western tip to the north and then east to the next town, Truro. The town itself has two main drags, Commercial Street and Bradford Street. P'town generally referred to as having three sections: the quiet and peaceful West End, the bustling downtown center, and the East End with its number of galleries and guesthouses.
From P'town, as you head east on U.S. 6, you come to the charming towns of Truro and Wellfleet.
Provincetown has a handful of prominent attractions, but the main things to do here are relax, browse the many cool shops and galleries, and enjoy the outdoors perhaps by biking or visiting the beach at Cape Cod National Seashore.
Attractions right in town general revolve around history and culture. There's the 252-foot-tall Pilgrim Monument, which looms over town (you can climb to the top for an amazing view). You can learn about the town's rich art history at the striking Provincetown Art Association and Museum. There are also terrific whale-watching excursions, and memorable seashore trips offered by Art's Dune Tours.
A handful of resources provide information on the city in general, and a few on the local gay scene. For general visitor information, contact the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce. The Provincetown Business Guild is your one-stop for information on gay-oriented and gay-friendly accommodations, restaurants, shopping, and trip-planning. The local Provincetown Banner has plenty of local info on the town. And useful LGBT newspapers such as Bay Windows and The Rainbow Times cover all of New England and have frequent coverage on Provincetown.
Getting to Know the Gay Scene:
America's premier gay resort developed as an art colony at the turn of the 20th century. A young artist and entrepreneur named Charles Hawthorne, charmed by the town's seclusion and magnificent setting, founded the Cape Cod School of Art, which is one of America's first open-air academies. By 1916, the town's once vibrant fishing industry had slowed, and its whaling industry had died. But a half-dozen art schools had opened; the Provincetown Art Association had staged its first exhibitions, and a small band of modernist theater folk—notably the young Eugene O'Neill and Edna St. Vincent Millay—had begun to produce plays on a small wharf in the town's East End.
During the next few decades, many leaders of the nation's artistic and literary movements spent summers here, but as time passed, the town was identified increasingly for its outrageousness—its willingness to flout convention. By the 1960s Provincetown had become a haven for anyone whose artistic leaning, political platform, social manifesto, or sexual persuasion was subject to persecution elsewhere in America. Today the most visibly gay resort community in the United States, excluding the Pines and Cherry Grove in Fire Island, is as appealing to artists as it is to gay and lesbian tourists.
And more recently, Provincetown has become more eclectic. From late June through Labor Day, gays are still the most visible tourists and part-time residents in town, but the rest of the year sees all kinds of visitors, both gay and straight. Additionally, businesses here now cater to a somewhat more affluent crowd. T-shirt and taffy shops now share space along Commercial Street with sophisticated art galleries and hip boutiques.
Whereas 10 or 15 years ago, the lodging landscape in summer was dominated by modest gay guesthouses with cheap, bare-bones rooms, Provincetown now has numerous upscale gay-owned inns with elegant rooms, fine amenities, and rather steep rates to match. Provincetown becomes ever-more sophisticated each season, which is not to say it's any less of a town to let your hair down, party, catch up with old friends, or make new ones.
Not everyone who's been visiting P'town for years appreciates the way it's continued to gentrify and become more mainstream, but most visitors - and residents - appreciate the increased diversity and variety of places to shop, eat, and stay. There's little question that Provincetown will be a top gay resort getaway for decades to come.