The gay resort community of Provincetown, at the very tip of Cape Cod, ranks among the world's great seaside vacation destinations. In this relaxing, picturesque beach community surrounded by water on three sides, it's perfectly fine just to relax with a book or stroll at a leisurely pace around town. But you'll also find some very fun activities to keep you busy while in Provincetown, from a fantastic selection of indie boutiques and art galleries to some first-rate venues for visual and performing arts to the beaches and historic lighthouses at Cape Cod National Seashore. Here's a list of some top things to see and do while vacationing in Provincetown.
Thinking of getting married here? Check out the Provincetown Gay Wedding Guide.
Especially on weekends from May through October, Commercial Street comes alive with foot traffic - it's hard to think of another place on earth where you'll see more gays and lesbians walking around each evening. Commercial Street is the town's main thoroughfare, and it's lined with gay-friendly restaurants, shops, and inns.
One popular stop along Commercial is the Human Rights Campaign (205 Commercial St., 508-487-7736), which raises money for its many great causes on behalf of gay rights by selling gifts and taking donations from its gift shop.
In season, the quaint, old-fashioned Provincetown Trolley (508-487-9483) offers 40-minute narrated tours of town - it's a good way to get the lay of the land here. The open-air trolleys leave from Town Hall 10 until 7 pm (every 30 minutes until 4, and on the hour thereafter).
Established in 1921 and partially responsible for Provincetown's rise as a gay destination, the Provincetown Art Association (PAAM) (508-487-1750) has been beautifully expanded and ranks among town's most interesting attractions.
The museum here contains a gallery with rotating exhibits that feature works by prominent Provincetown artists as well as an extensive permanent collection containing works by dozens of luminaries who have lived and worked on the Outer Cape since it became a popular artists' colony in the late 19th century. Names you may recognize include Milton Avery, Peggy Bacon, William Merritt Chase, Charles Demuth, Philip Evergood, William Gropper, Charles Hawthorne, Hans Hofmann, Karl Knaths, Joel Meyerowitz, Ross Moffett, Robert Motherwell, Man Ray, Larry Rivers, John Singer Sargent, Andy Warhol, and many others. The expansion in 2006 nearly doubled the size of the facility, which has also been awarded Silver LEED certification for being building with an eco-conscious design.
Visible from virtually any point in town (and for that matter from a good way down U.S. back around the Cape), the impressively regal Pilgrim Monument (High Pole Hill Rd., off of Winslow St. via Bradford St., 508-487-1310) rises 252 feet above town. This stunning granite obelisk was completed in 1910 to commemorate the landing of the Mayflower at Provincetown in fall of 1620. Climbing all 116 steps and 60 ramps to the crowning observation area is a somewhat arduous task (it only takes about 10 minutes for most people, but it's a bit of a slog if it's hot outside...or you're hung over). The rewards are considerable, however, as views of town and the surrounding sea are magnificent on a clear day.
You can climb the monument year-round through the day (hours are extended until 7 pm in summer), and admission includes access to the adjacent Provincetown Museum, where an eclectic array of exhibits traces the history of the Cape, from the centuries when Cape Cod was occupied by indigenous Wampanoag Indians through the Pilgrim and later the Colonial era and right through Provinctown's emergence as a prolific fishing village and then charmed artists' colony and vacation destination. Because it's best to enjoy the view from the monument on a clear day, this is one Cape Cod museum that you shouldn't save for a rainy afternoon - go when the sun is shining.
You'll find miles of soft, golden sand at Race Point Beach, the popular sunbathing and beachcombing spot on the north side of Provincetown at Cape Cod National Seashore. It's not exactly a gay beach per se, but on a summer day, you'll find plenty of lesbians and gay guys tanning their hides along this gorgeous stretch of beach.
In the next town over, Truro, high dunes rise behind spectacular Coast Guard Beach from the ocean at Cape Cod National Seashore. You'll find fewer crowds at the Truro sections of the seashore as well as some of the most dramatic scenery.