Just on the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown has a long history as an LGBTQ-inclusive destination. With expansive beaches, top-rated restaurants, a picturesque town center, and a rich history, Provincetown (or Ptown as it is affectionately called) is home to a diverse and creative community. Its many summertime events, from the iconic Provincetown Carnival in August to LGBTQ community events for lesbians, bears, families and everyone else, are a unique way to experience the small town.
I’ve written before how there’s just so much to do in Provincetown, and for a small town, there’s really a lot going on. If you’re looking for a quiet beach holiday, it’s possible. If you’re looking for a raucous weekend of parties, there’s that, too. Provincetown is the kind of place that is what you make of it.
With such a comfortable and laid-back atmosphere and an “anything-goes” attitude, it’s a really special place. That’s probably why so many visitors love returning year after year, summer after summer.
The town’s commitment to LGBTQ initiatives, as well, makes it one of America’s most accepting and LGBTQ-friendly destinations. Discover the best of Provincetown in my LGBTQ gay travel guide below.
Provincetown Gay Travel Guide
What to do in Provincetown
There’s a lot of history in Provincetown. It was the original landing spot for the pilgrim refugees on the Mayflower, so the town has always been intertwined in American History. Next year, in 2020, the town will celebrate 400 years since the first landing!
On a small hill in the town center, the Pilgrim Monument towers over Provincetown as a landmark and observation point. It’s possible to climb the granite tower (the tallest all-granite structure in the United States) to get a 360-degree view over the bay. At the base of the Pilgrim Monument, the Provincetown Museum offers an overview of the town’s history—from before the Pilgrims landed to modern day (including an exhibition on the town’s commitment to the LGBTQ community since the late 20th-century).
Besides history in Provincetown, the town is also famous for its art. It’s one of the oldest art colonies with a reputation for attracting and inspiring artists, creators, performers, and writers for centuries. While there are many art galleries in Provincetown with a wide range of styles and artists on display, the town’s own Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) is a great way to get a glimpse of the town’s commitment to the art community. The permanent collection includes a number of important works, but the museum also makes an effort to showcase contemporary local artists, as well.
Take a walk down Commercial Street in Provincetown and you might be inundated with information, flyers, and travel tips. That’s because the town is a hotspot all summer long for cultural events and activities. Seemingly every week in the summer (and frequently in the off-season even!), Provincetown hosts countless themed parties and events.
One of the biggest places in town to catch a glimpse of this contemporary culture is at the Crown & Anchor. The complex, located directly on Commercial Street, has seven different gay bars and club spaces on its premises, including a hotel and pool! Some of the biggest names in entertainment show up here each season for different variety shows and performances. Make a visit to the ticket office for last-minute ticket offers, but for big-ticket shows, make sure to book in advance!
Where to Eat in Provincetown
With its location at the end of Cape Cod, Provincetown predictably has a lot of great seafood. But there’s so much more to the culinary offers in town! With so many creative people living and visiting Provincetown, it’s no surprise that there’s a great culinary tradition here. This is the town where Anthony Bourdain even got his start in cooking!
For seafood, just about everyone in Provincetown will likely find themselves at restaurants like The Lobster Pot, The Canteen, and Pepe’s Wharf Restaurant. Each offers great seafood dishes at decent rates. The New England style lobster roll is the seafood lunch of choice at many of these restaurants. It’s served on a soft, buttery hot dog bun with warm lobster meat without mayonnaise. It’s a Cape Cod and local favorite and you can find it everywhere, but my personal favorite was at the Canteen (not least because of the great frosé wine & beach views!).
One of Provincetown’s coolest restaurants is the Mediterranean tavern Strangers & Saints. Located in a former captain’s home, the restaurant and bar have a plush, nautical décor, a large outdoor patio, and a cozy, warm setting inside. Dishes on the menu are Mediterranean inspired, mostly made for sharing with a group. Don’t miss out the cocktail offers!
On Sundays in Provincetown, the streets come alive with day-trippers and weekenders looking for a relaxing but buzzing brunch spot. Spindler’s Restaurant, on Commercial Street, transforms their standard weekday menu to one with popular Mexican brunch dishes from Chef Eduardo “Papi” Rios. “Sabores De Mexico” is available on select days depending upon the season, but always for Sunday brunch—and with a cocktail menu of tequilas and mezcals.
Where to Drink & Party in Provincetown
As such a popular destination for LGBTQ travelers, Provincetown has plenty of gay bars and clubs. The most popular summertime LGBTQ event is the everyday Tea Dance at the Boatslip Resort. The party takes place every day from 4pm to 7pm. It’s worth the entrance price for the party because the music is great, the drinks are strong, and the people are friendly. It’s a great place to start a night out.
One of Provincetown’s most iconic gay bars is A-House (short for Atlantic House). Located in a historic building, it’s one of the oldest gay bars in America. It’s a buzzing dance club with plenty of space indoors and out to mingle, across three different club spaces (including a leather bar). Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams were known to visit the A-House back in early 20th century when the bar was regularly a hangout for alternative visitors. Today, it’s a fun nightlife spot and one of the few gay bars in town that operates year-round.
Other gay bars in Provincetown include Club Purgatory (one of the bigger nightclubs and one that hosts weekly parties such as an underwear party every Thursday and Saturday night). Popular LGBTQ events, including drag shows, can be found at a number of the LGBTQ clubs and event spaces such as Post Office Café & Cabaret, Crown & Anchor, and The Art House. Look out for flyers and pamphlets around town or check the Ptown.org website run by the Provincetown Business Guild which primarily promotes LGBTQ-owned businesses and events.
Where to Stay in Provincetown
Finding a place to stay in Provincetown is a bit of an art form. There aren’t many big hotel properties so accommodation can be a challenge to find during popular themed weeks and festivals. The real charm of Provincetown is in the small-town life with the big-city attractions, and that comes across through the boutique hotel options available. It’s best to stay in a small boutique bed & breakfast or family-run hotel in Provincetown because of the level of service and attention.
The 8 Dyer Hotel has been a staple of Provincetown for years. The LGBTQ bed-and-breakfast operates as a 4-star hotel with exceptional service and fantastic on-site amenities, including an outdoor pool and indoor jacuzzi & sauna. Beautifully decorated with chic modern design touches, the 7-room hotel is on a quiet street just a few minutes’ walk from a lot of the nightlife and action along Commercial Street. Check rates and availability on the 8 Dyer hotel website.
Also on the East End of Provincetown, the newly opened Stowaway Guesthouse offers a unique boutique bed-and-breakfast experience. Its location is especially convenient to Provincetown’s gallery district, and as such, it features a large collection of art and design items throughout the property. As a popular LGBTQ property, the Stowaway Guesthouse also hosts occasional special LGBTQ events. It’s not uncommon to find drag queens hanging out in the common spaces or cozy backyard terrace! Check rates and availability on the Stowaway Provincetown hotel website.
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Provincetown is a unique destination—a bit like other small beach towns, but special in its own ways. With a large LGBTQ local population and a history of support for the community, it’s one of America’s best LGBTQ destinations.
Note: My visit to Provincetown was supported and sponsored by the town. Discover more travel tips for Provincetown on their tourism website. Additional LGBTQ tips and a guide to the town is produced by the Provincetown Business Guild.
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