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Located at the far tip of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod peninsula, Provincetown is a small coastal community with a big reputation for good times. The popular summer destination is a magnet for seekers of sun and fun up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Famously welcoming, Provincetown’s open-minded attitude has made it popular with LGBTQ+ travelers, who have helped shape much of its current nightlife scene.
Fittingly for a community made up mostly of surf and sand, Provincetown’s seafood shines bright in the eateries that dot the city’s main thoroughfare. But some of its history as a Portuguese fishing village is also evident at local bakeries and restaurants around town. That history forms one element of the town’s two historic districts. The other comes from hosting and supporting artists. Considered the country’s oldest continuing art colony, Provincetown’s museums and many galleries showcase local artists, while its theater scene receives national acclaim for its more than 100 years of groundbreaking productions.
Provincetown is a 2.5-hour drive from the nearest major airport, Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), but that’s without any of Cape Cod’s notorious summer traffic, which can nearly double your drive-time. In the off-season, however, traffic dies down and driving becomes the most realistic option. From late spring to mid-fall, the easiest mode of transportation is the reliable ferry system, which shuttles passengers 90 minutes across the bay from Boston. The small Provincetown Municipal Airport (PVC) offers flights year-round to Boston and seasonally to Westchester, New York. Once in Provincetown, walking and biking are the preferred methods of transportation. It’s also fairly easy to rent a bike for your stay at one of the many shops in town.
Provincetown’s high season brings warm, dry summer weather and long sunny days. Crowds line the streets in August for Carnival Week, seven days of pool parties, parades, and costume balls. Fall and spring see cooler, wetter weather, but remain relatively mild, giving you an opportunity to more easily and affordably explore Provincetown’s history, art, and boutique shopping. In winter, the town practically hibernates. Many restaurants and galleries shutter for the season, and other businesses limit their hours. But if you’re willing to brave the chilly temperatures, it becomes a place to hunker down, cozy up, and get away from everything else.
When a famous American playwright rented a decommissioned lifesaving station in 1919 in which to write among the Provincetown sand dunes, he cemented a tradition. Today, 19 shacks remain in the Peaked Hills Bars Historic District, many of which operate as artist and writer residencies. While you can take tours of the dunes, adventurous travelers can also leave their shoes at the trailhead off Snail Road and walk up the soft sand path on their own.
At the very tip of the Cape Cod Peninsula, Herring Cove Beach enjoys smooth sand and calmer waves. The gentler water of the only bay-facing beach here brings in hordes of swimmers on hot summer days, while concerts in the evenings keep people there long after the stunning sunset.
This 5.5-mile paved path winds through the National Seashore, looping among cranberry bogs, pine forests, and sand dunes. Spur trails shoot off toward various beaches, ponds, and trailheads, making it a nice way to explore the area, especially when you add in stops for picnicking and swimming.