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LGBTQ+ Travel Guide to Provincetown, MA

Gay Travel Guide to Provincetown MA
Photo by Mark Martins from Pixabay

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Provincetown, Massachusetts, referred to by the locals and the LGBTQ+ community as Ptown, is Cape Cod’s most popular vacation destination. One of the original “four corners” of the US for LGBTQ+ travelers seeking a respite from their “straight” day-to-day lives, it’s a town where you can not only be yourself, but also be embraced for it. Provincetown sits at the very tip of Cape Cod, surrounded by water on three sides. In other words, you won’t find yourself in Provincetown by accident. If you’re there, it’s intentional.

Provincetown, while accurately described as an artist’s colony to its many residents, visitors, and vacationers, is a classic beach town for the LGBTQ+ vacationer that has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to relax on soft sand, go for a refreshing swim, take long walks along the shoreline, enjoy water sports, or simply watch a spectacular sunset, you’ll find the ideal spot for all of these and more. 

How to Get There: Planes, Trains, Ferries, and Automobiles 

Getting to Provincetown is as breezy (or, should we say, “gayly forward”) as the sea air that welcomes you upon arrival.

Planes: Visitors can fly directly into Provincetown Municipal Airport from major cities or Boston’s Logan International Airport and then take a short regional flight.

Trains: The only option for train travel is to take the CapeFlyer train, running from Memorial Day to Columbus Day, from Boston to its last stop, Hyannis. From there, it’s an hour and a half bus ride on Peter Pan Bus Lines to Provincetown.

Ferries: Fast ferry services from Boston and Plymouth provide a scenic ride to Provincetown in 90 minutes or less.

Automobiles: A scenic drive via Route 6 gets you to Provincetown giving you an overview of all of the towns of the middle and upper Cape along the way. 

Traveler Tip:  Route 6 is primarily a one lane roadway, and is the only roadway into and out of Provincetown, so plan your arrival and departure sometime outside of the hours of 8AM and 6PM on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer months, also known as the “high season.”.

How LGBTQ+ Friendly is Provincetown

Seriously, are we really asking this question? Maybe the better question is, “How straight-friendly is Provincetown?” In all seriousness, for those unfamiliar with the mecca that Provincetown is for the LGBTQ+ community, not only is Provincetown welcoming and inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community – it thrives because of it. With its year-round LGBTQ+ residents, its highest rate of same sex couples in America, and the influx of LGBTQ+ tourists in the summer months, Provincetown is a place where you can be authentically you. From its rainbow-adorned businesses to its drag brunches, and everything in between, when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, Ptown is, undeniably, one of the “gayest places on earth.” 

The Provincetown Pride Center 

The Provincetown Pride Center is an LGBTQ+ non-profit that honors Provincetown’s LGBTQ+ history and its role in the national gay rights movement. It also supports the local queer community’s growth and development by offering support, resources, and a gathering place for visitors and locals alike. With frequent events, meetings, and outreach programs, it reflects all that the LGBTQ+ community represents.

PRIDE Events in Provincetown 

No destination throws a Pride celebration quite like Provincetown on Provincetown Gay PRIDE weekend. Organized by the Provincetown Business Guild, Pride Weekend serves as the unofficial start to the summer season and stands out as THE most  inclusive and diverse event on the town’s calendar. There are activities galore during this 3-day event, many either starting at the city’s meeting spot, Town Hall, or taking place there. The Stonewall Stroll, for example, starts there and continues down Commercial Street serving as the town’s local equivalent of a Pride Parade.  Drag nights, pride cruises, drag bingo, a Pride Rally, and the Stonewall Stroll, are just a few of the many Pride events drawing thousands from the LGBTQ+ community for this weekend in Ptown.

History of Provincetown

Provincetown holds a unique place in American history, dating back to 1620 when the Mayflower Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, made their first landfall in the New World on its shores. The Pilgrims spent five weeks in Provincetown Harbor before moving on to Plymouth. This historical significance is commemorated by the Pilgrim Monument, a symbol of the town’s legacy.

While the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and into the 90s nearly wiped Provincetown off the map as many shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues were forced to close as owners and entertainers fell victim to the disease, the town’s resilience and strong sense of community led to its revival and renewal as a resort destination that welcomes all.

Culture and history of Provincetown, MA
Photo by Ruth H Curtis from Unsplash

Recommended Places to Stay in Provincetown

Provincetown has options to meet both your needs and budget. You can choose from bed and breakfasts, boutique inns, hotels, guesthouses, cottages, or condos. Many provide waterfront views or convenient proximity to town, making it easy to walk or bike ride to Ptown’s downtown area, art galleries, restaurants, and beaches. 

Traveler Tips: As mentioned earlier, the “West End” of Ptown is where the action is. However, in the far west end, it’s as peaceful and quiet as the east end with a little bit of a longer walk into town. And speaking of getting into town, unless you’re planning day trips elsewhere on the Cape, an automobile can be an inconvenience as not all places to stay, and very few places in town, provide parking. So check before you book your accommodation. Walking and peddling are the best means of transportation.

The Crown & AnchorLocated on Commercial Street in the heart of Provincetown, this multifaceted entertainment venue and hotel with its 18 waterfront rooms, a restaurant, six bars, a beach club, a gallery, and multiple performance venues, has everything . Guests can enjoy comfortable accommodations, including waterfront suites, a heated waterfront pool and direct beach access. Dine at The Crown & Anchor’s Central House Restaurant or enjoy nightly award-winning entertainment and live shows. 

Traveler Tip: The Piano Bar, with “Piano Man” Bobby Weatherby on Saturday nights, is akin to a campfire sing-along and just as much fun. Get there early for a seat, but if there are none, you can stand outside the open windows on Commercial Street and sing along with the crowd. 

Gabriel’s, a Provincetown HotelThe oldest women-owned inn in New England, and located a block from Commercial Street, Gabriel’s provides both convenience and tranquility with its expansive courtyard of gardens, a goldfish pond, a waterfall, and fire pits. Gabriel’s rooms, suites, one-bedroom apartments, and rooms suitable for children and pets, come with private baths, air conditioning, fireplaces, sun decks, and garden access. 

The Red InnNestled along the shoreline of Cape Cod Bay on Provincetown’s West End, The Red Inn,  has been serving guests for over a century. For those looking for a cozy, intimate stay, the Red Inn has a selection of rooms with waterfront views, creating the ultimate in comfort and tranquility. The on-site restaurant’s menu changes with the seasons including many of your Cape Cod favorites. 

Traveler Tip: Happy Hour from 2:00-4:30 features a one-of-a-kind raw bar, a Happy Hour menu, and a unique selection of beer, wine, and cocktails. We recommend sitting at the bar and ordering the Lobster Sliders from the menu. Trust us, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Maine. After that, take your drink onto the veranda and enjoy amazing views of Cape Cod Bay, as you feel the ever-present breeze on your face. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss. 

Recommended Restaurants in Provincetown

Provincetown has so many restaurants from which to choose depending on what you’re in the mood for and whether you prefer casual, upscale, or something in between. You can find fresh seafood, creative small plates, classic New England dishes, international flavors, and choices for vegetarians and vegans. Whether a laid-back seafood spot is your style, a cozy bistro, or something more elegant, Provincetown has all of that and more. Here are our favorites!

Restaurants in Provincetown MA
Photo by Steve Wrzeszczynski from Unsplash

The Lobster Pot – At the corner of Standish and Commercial Streets, smack dab in the middle of town, stands this Provincetown tradition and seafood institution. No visit to Ptown is complete without having a meal at The Lobster Pot. Known for its extensive seafood menu, its atmosphere is that of a traditional fish house with two waterfront dining rooms with harbor views. As a “walk-in and put your name on the list” restaurant, there may be a wait for a table, especially for dinner on a weekend. 

Traveler Tip: To avoid the wait, which can sometimes be hours long, we suggest checking out The Top of the Pot, the second-floor bar area for available seating at either the bar or high-top tables, where you can try a Bloody Mary or one of their signature drinks as well as have a meal. We also recommend the award-winning clam chowder or lobster bisque, both are the best in Ptown.

The Mews – With two seating levels, each with its own atmosphere, the upper level “Bistro” has both bar and table seating with window views of the beach and bay. The lower level is more relaxed with glass doors that open up to the beach. Both levels have the same a-la-carte dinner menu with Continental and ethnic specialties. Reservations are a must, especially “in season.”

Jimmy’s Hideaway  If it’s an intimate, cozy, romantic spot you’re looking for, look no further than “the hidden jewel of Provincetown restaurants,” Jimmy’s Hideaway. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Commercial Street, this subterranean restaurant serves up American cuisine with a little comfort food on the side, and an extensive wine list and specialty drinks that are off the chain. Prefer an al fresco, waterfront dining experience? Jimmy’s Hideaway also has an outdoor patio with views of the harbor.

Traveler Tip: Reservations are a must so make yours as soon as you arrive in Ptown, and whatever the dinner special is – GET IT! But, if you prefer a dish from the menu, we recommend the Lump Crab and Corn Cakes with Romesco sauce, saffron aioli, and citrus fennel salad as an appetizer, followed by the Scallop Piccata with white wine, garlic, lemon, parsley, capers, potato pancake, and sautéed vegetables. It’s one of the best Piccata sauces we’ve ever had. 

Victor’s This West End, “off the beaten path” restaurant’s dinner menu features New American cuisine with “small plates” designed for sharing. Victor’s has a cottage-style setting with a cathedral ceiling, a central stone fireplace, and hand-crafted tables. Enjoy the Raw Bar Happy Hour with a selection of fresh seafood, including Wellfleet oysters, local clams, and shrimp. A true Ptown hidden gem, Victor’s is open for dinner Friday through Tuesday starting at 4:00PM. 

Traveler Tip: Try the Fresh Pimm’s Cup Cocktail. It’s one of the best cocktails in town.

Spiritus Pizza– Hands down, bar none, Spiritus Pizza is absolutely, positively THE best pizza in Provincetown. For both locals and tourists, it’s more than just a place to “grab a slice,” it’s a Provincetown institution. The perfect place to connect with friends over pizza, or coffee from their coffee bar. You can also pick from over 30 tasty Häagen-Dazs ice cream flavors while enjoying local art. It’s a must-visit when you’re in town.

Traveler Tip: Every night the locals sit on the half wall out front to people watch, chat, and catch up on the day’s events. There’s always a crowd at Spiritus both inside and out, especially after the bars close at 1:00 AM. Spiritus stays open until 2:00 AM to capture the club crowd looking for a late-night slice. Be sure to bring cash as no credit cards are accepted.

Things To Do and See in Provincetown

Provincetown’s small-town, beach vibe makes it the perfect place to enjoy its beautiful beaches, take a dune tour, or head out on a whale watch expedition. For history and art lovers, Ptown is overflowing with museums, art galleries and exhibitions. Or, maybe you prefer an outdoor adventure like kayaking, sailing, fishing, or simply enjoying the sunsets over the bay.  Whatever your pleasure, you can find it and more in Provincetown.

Whale Watch Dolphin Fleet of Provincetown New England’s first and finest whale watch is a 3-4 hour naturalist-guided trip, with a sundeck and viewing platform on the bow, central air, a galley with food and drink, and ample seating on both upper and lower decks for all on board. Offering sunset tours, and, in the unlikely event of no whale sightings, all paying passengers receive a pass for a future trip. 

Whale watching off Provincetown, MA
Photo by Todd Cravens from Unsplash

Sunset Sail – Watching the sun set over the water from one of the many beaches in Ptown for many, is an experience that never gets old. Watching the sunset while sailing on a schooner through Provincetown Harbor and into Cape Cod Bay creates unforgettable moments. Sail aboard the Bay Lady II, and enjoy the ever-changing scenery and soothing sounds of the wind and water.

Traveler Tip: Pack a cooler of appetizers and libations, as well as a sweater for the cool wind you’ll encounter while sailing, for an experience that is sure to create lasting memories.

Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum – Built between 1907 and 1910, this monument commemorates the first landing of the Mayflower Pilgrims in the New World in 1620. Standing at a height of 252 feet, it has a panoramic view of Provincetown. Visitors can climb the 116 steps inside the monument to reach the top. The museum has exhibits and collections highlighting the town’s maritime history, the early days of American theater, and the arts community that’s thrived in Provincetown for generations.

Herring Cove Beach This long, sandy beach is popular among LGBTQ+ beachgoers as the only “gay beach” in Ptown. Families often set up near the parking lot with picnic baskets, while the LGBTQ+ sunbathers head to the south section of the beach. The entire beach faces west, making it an ideal spot to catch a beautiful sunset. Herring Cove has more parking than other Cape Cod beaches, and includes a snack bar and restrooms.

Traveler Tip: Once you pass the guardhouse for Herring Cove Beach, make a left into the parking lot. While there are about 200 parking spaces, they fill up fast and getting there after 10:00 AM risks you not getting one. If you travel light, riding your bike is always the best option, as there are plenty of bike racks to lock up your bike.  As you make your way to the beach, go left at the “fork in the path,” as the  family beach is to the right. You immediately notice a predominantly “segregated” beach scene with women on the near end and men on the far end. Don’t ask us why, it’s been that way for as long as we can remember.

Where to Shop and Stroll in Provincetown

Obviously, Commercial Street is the most famous place to shop. However, while strolling through Provincetown, you may want to explore the side streets to discover hidden treasures. These winding paths often lead to more boutiques, specialty shops, and art galleries, providing a scavenger hunt type of experience. 

Commercial Street – If you’re looking to stroll, shop, dine, go to a club or enjoy a show, Commercial Street is the place to be. On a “non-beach weather”  or “I’m too sunburned to go to the beach” kind of day, this “walk anyplace” town is filled with shoppers looking to check out the more than 150 stores lining both sides of Commercial Street. From jewelry to marine supplies and everything in between, whatever you’re looking for we guarantee you can find it on Commercial Street.

Stores Not To Miss: D Flax has some of the best Cape Cod/ Provincetown logoed clothing in town. Marine Specialties is just a fun place to explore, as it has everything you can possibly imagine. Womenscraft is a feminist/queer book and gift shop where everything is made by women. And, when you’re looking for a sweet treat, the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery has some of the best baked goods in town.

Head Statue outside of Rice Polak Gallery Provincetown
Photo by Mohann from Pixabay

The Gallery Stroll – Every Friday night during the summer season in Provincetown, the town’s art galleries open their doors for The Gallery Stroll. It’s an opportunity to explore the art galleries from east end east to west end, with special exhibits of all types of artwork, from paintings and sculptures to photographs and mixed-media pieces. The stroll typically begins in the early evening and continues on into the night.

Bars, Clubs & Nightlife in Provincetown

While shopping on Commercial Street may rule the daylight hours, when day turns to night, Commercial Street turns into an LGBTQ+ playground. There is never a dull moment! From drag shows and drag queen barkers hawking those shows, cabarets, stand up comedy shows, live music performances, dance parties, and street artists, to big-name nightclub acts, Provincetown’s nightlife scene is like Mardi Gras meets the LGBTQ+ Community.  

The Boatslip Tea Dance – After a day at the beach, what better way to get your night started and groove on than dancing and partying at the Boatslip Tea Dance, a daily tradition for nearly 50 years. Starting in mid-June and running through Labor Day, the Boatslip’s outdoor deck is transformed into the biggest waterfront “dance like nobody’s watchin” party in Provincetown. With great music, great drinks, and a great vibe, this late afternoon tradition is a “must do” for both first-time visitors and annual vacationers.

Traveler Tip: The line for the Tea Dance starts forming around 3:30. To avoid the line, wait until 4:15 or later to arrive. You’ll still have plenty of time to dance, drink, socialize, and soak up the Boatslip’s Tea Dance experience. Depending on the day, the cover is either $5 or $10.

The Atlantic House – The Atlantic House, or “A-House” as it’s commonly known, is a favorite of visitors and locals alike. Made up of three individual bars, the Little Bar with a jukebox, the original Leather and Levi Macho Bar, and the Big Room, Provincetown’s #1 year-round dance club, is one of the oldest buildings in town, rumored that it may be one of the earliest discos in the country. 

The Club Provincetown – As a restaurant, beach bar, and nightclub all rolled into one, The Club Provincetown is one of the “new kids on the block,” or should we say Commercial Street. Early reviews suggest The Club in Provincetown is one of Ptown’s “best kept secrets” and the place to go for nightly live jazz music, specialty cocktails, and great food in an al fresco setting. 

The Post Office Cafe and Cabaret – The Post Office Cafe and Cabaret can best be described as a first floor café serving GREAT breakfasts, lunch and dinner, and a second floor cabaret hosting the best in comedy, drag, and burlesque shows. The Cabaret stage has showcased performers from every corner of the entertainment industry. 

Traveler Tip: Arriving early for preferred seating, or opting for VIP access is advisable, and staying for multiple shows is well worth the visit. 

Annual Events & Festivals in Provincetown

Annual events and festivals in Provincetown have something for everyone.  From Carnival to Women’s Week and everything in between, there’s always something to celebrate in Ptown.

Provincetown Carnival Originally called “Carnival Week,” the festivities of this August event  begin early as festival goers dress-up in elaborate, and sometimes outrageous costumes, while eagerly anticipating the Carnival Parade, stretching from the Harbor Hotel in the East End to the Coast Guard Station in the West End along Commercial Street. Carnival is a must-do for anyone looking for an unforgettable summer experience in Ptown.

Traveler Tip: The week of Carnival is THE most popular vacation week in Ptown’s summer season. If you plan to go, make it your New Year’s resolution to book your accommodations as soon as possible – and we mean no later than January.

Women’s Week – A week-long celebration of women by and for women, Women’s Week is all about celebrating LGBTQ+ women. With hundreds of activities including  plays, literary meet-ups, writer’s workshops, comedy shows, concerts, and more, Women’s Week is the final and biggest event of the year for women.

Traveler Tip: The growing popularity of Women’s Week over the years makes it imperative that you book your accommodations for this October week early in the New Year. 

Trans Week Held in October, Trans Week, formerly known as Fantasia Fair, is a transgender event where you can be authentically you throughout this week, with an opportunity to participate in the Fantasia Fair Fashion Show and the Follies talent show. 

Holly Folly – Typically taking place over a weekend in December, Holly Folly marks the beginning of the holiday season. During Holly Folly, you can expect to find a holiday market, where vendors sell gifts and crafts, a festive “Shop Hop,” encouraging shopping in the town’s shops and boutiques, along with live entertainment, drag shows, and caroling, that add to the holiday spirit.

Nearby Places Worth a Day Trip to Provincetown

Taking a day trip “up Cape” allows you to experience the charm, history, and natural beauty of the Cape Cod region while enjoying your stay in Provincetown. While all of the towns along the Cape are well worth spending a day exploring, here are a few of our favorites.

Truro – Less than ten miles southeast of Provincetown off of Route 6, is the quaint town of Truro. There you can visit Highland Light, the first lighthouse on Cape Cod, Truro Vineyards for local wine tasting, or the Highland House Museum to see artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that provide insights into Truro’s past.

Wellfleet – Located halfway between the “tip” and “elbow” of Cape Cod, is the town of Wellfleet. Known for its oysters, (which you must try) the Harbor, for a leisurely stroll, numerous art galleries of local artists, and the Wellfleet Drive-In for a classic drive-in movie experience by night, and home to The Wellfleet Flea Market by day on weekends. 

Chatham – While a little bit longer of a drive from Provincetown, (about an hour) it is well worth the trip. There you can experience Lighthouse Beach, Chatham’s historic Main Street for shopping, dining and strolling, and The Chatham Fish Pier for a glimpse of the local fishing industry and maybe even spot some seals. 

Provincetown: Where Who You Are is Cause to Celebrate

For centuries, Provincetown has been a port in the storm, a safe haven, and refuge for the LGBTQ+ community. One of those rare places that regardless of who you are or who you love, you feel you have a place there, and the experiences you have while there, you can’t have anywhere else. There was a time, when holding the hand of the one you love as you walk down the street, when the one you love is the same sex as you, could only take place here. None of that has changed in Ptown, it’s still as welcoming, inclusive, and diverse as it’s always been, where everyone is free to express their true selves.


**Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Events are subject to change. Please check the events webpage for updates and schedules.

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