Top Things to Do in Provincetown, MA
- March 15, 2019
Provincetown, located at the very tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, has spent the past few decades cultivating its reputation as a... Read More
While Provincetown (or “P-Town”) isn’t the easiest New England destination to access, the remote location only serves to increase its appeal. Situated at the very tip of the scenic crescent-shaped sandbar that is Cape Cod, the town is chock-full of quaint shops, hip eateries, and gorgeous photo ops. Since P-Town is also something of a haven for the LGBTQ community, it’s not unusual to see people in drag roaming the streets at all hours, right alongside the vacationing families with kids in strollers. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.
It’s easiest to reach the town by sea, especially during the summer months, when the Cape is choked with traffic. In fact, the Pilgrims were the first to learn this, long before the area became a tourist mecca. While they would eventually travel farther inland to the place now known as Plymouth, where the land is more arable, their ships landed first on this sandy tip of Massachusetts. Ferries and high-speed catamarans depart daily from Boston Harbor in season; the journey takes two to three hours, depending on which boat you choose. Prices for the 2019 season are $93 per adult, and $68 for children ages 3 to 11. Alternatively, you can book a flight through Cape Air, a local airline; or brave the coastal highway and make the journey part of the adventure.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll find that the town is pleasantly easy to traverse on foot. Many prime destinations can be reached by walking, and since driving can be a hassle, you should probably plan on leaving the car in one spot for the duration of your stay. The Mayflower Trolley provides both transportation and entertainment, as the conductors regale riders with snippets of history about the are. Bike rentals are also available, and the Cape Cod National Seashore offers numerous scenic bike paths for day trips. If you’d like to go farther afield, the Cape offers clean, hassle-free bus service to numerous other towns along the stretch.
All this sea air is sure to whet your appetite. Be sure to check out one of the following P-Town staples during your visit. Some of them are more touristy than others, but with good reason—you should see for yourself what all the fuss is about.
It’s impossible to miss this local institution—the neon lobster sign is one of P-Town’s most visible landmarks. While the clam chowder is a top draw, the area’s Portuguese roots are well-represented in other offerings, such as the littleneck clams baked with linguica sausage and the stuffed Portuguese cod entrée. The waterfront dining rooms offer splendid views of Cape Cod Bay. Try to arrive either early or late to beat the crowds.
The stylish interior of this seaside eatery serves as the perfect backdrop to the creative cuisine. Fanizzi’s is open for lunch and dinner, as well as a hearty Sunday brunch that offers an “all-you-can-eat” buffet starting at 10 a.m. All of the seafood dishes are standouts, but those with landlubber taste buds will appreciate the broad selection of burgers and steaks.
What better way to start your day than with a stimulating beverage of your choice, enjoyed at an outdoor table beneath a shady umbrella, with a view of the sand and surf? The folks at Joe can turn a routine coffee stop into a grin-inducing ritual you’ll look forward to every day of your trip. If the pumpkin butterscotch scones happen to be available, don’t hesitate to grab one—you don’t know what you’ve been missing.
The rustic space that houses this upscale hotspot was formerly a stable, which is how the restaurant earned its moniker (“mews” is a British term for stables that are found either at the end of a courtyard or down a lane). The menu is diverse and features many tempting options, from vindaloo with chickpeas to Vietnamese beef. Check out the list of celebrities and other big names who have dined at Mews throughout the years before adding your own name to the take.
While you’ll find no shortage of comfort food at Mac’s, the vibe is decidedly sleek and citified, with subway tiles and contemporary artwork adding to the décor. While you could easily make a meal out of the impressive raw bar, chowders, and salads, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the fish tacos with spicy slaw or the lobster fra diavolo with house-made bucatini. During happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., clams and oysters are available for a “buck-a-shuck” (a dollar apiece).
Once you’ve curbed your appetite, you’ll be looking for ways to work off the extra calories you couldn’t resist. Fortunately, P-Town offers numerous opportunities for exercise, from the low-key to the strenuous.
No trip to P-Town would be complete without a stroll down this legendary street, which stretches from the Art Association & Museum in the East End, all the way to the rowdier street performances on the West side of town. You’ll definitely want to take the time to duck into a few shops along the way—maybe to pick up a souvenir or two for the friends and dog-sitters back home, or to scope out a locally crafted sculpture to remember the trip by. Numerous cafés and restaurants beckon as well, if you think you can fit in just one more pastry. Why not—you’re on vacation!
This 350-foot-tall monument makes up a substantial portion of the Provincetown skyline, but it’s best appreciated from the inside. Once you get to the top, the views will be worth the climb. If you have little ones in your party, make sure to prepare them for the relatively staid nature of the building itself—there’s many a visitor who’s been disappointed not to find a twelve-story Pilgrim hat awaiting them at the spot.
Art’s Dune Tours
If you’ve always dreamed of taking a ride across the sand dunes in a real old-fashioned buggy, now’s your chance. These quaint wagons will get you up close and personal with the Cape Cod National Seashore, with an experienced guide to entertain you along the way.
Assuming you aren’t prone to seasickness, this quintessential seafaring adventure should be on everyone’s bucket list. The sight of a humpback whale in full spinning breach is something that has to be seen to be appreciated. Make sure to bring along a warm layer or two—even on hot days, the wind on the open sea can be fierce.
Long Point Lighthouse and Race Point Lighthouse
Both of these navigational beacons belong to the Cape Cod National Seashore, and lighthouse enthusiasts won’t want to miss out on either one. Race Point offers more to see and do—even overnight accommodations and wedding packages—but Long Point is just as awe-inspiring, due to its remote and barren locale.
Whether you’re hopping to Provincetown for a single night or for a whole week, your visit is sure to leave you wanting more. Fortunately, the bustling streets and open sea will always be eager to welcome you back.