Regardless of the time of year, Provincetown always knows how to throw a party. This is why the region’s outermost community is perfectly situated at the tip of the 65-mile long stretch known as Cape Cod. No matter how long it takes to get there, the drive is always worth it because a party awaits.
Rolling out the Red Carpet
Perhaps no one event epitomizes that spirit and the inherently welcoming nature of Provincetown more than Carnival Week, held every year in the middle of August, when the town celebrates the diversity that make it so unique. The event is one of the largest outdoor celebrations in Massachusetts, attracting more than 90,000 revelers who take part in a series of weeklong activities that include a sunset boat cruise, costume balls, art fairs, and daily cocktail parties, culminating in a larger-than-life parade – held on the Thursday of Carnival – featuring elaborate costumes, over-the-top performances and colorful floats, all centered around a specific theme (this year's Carnival runs August 11-18 with the theme "Gods and Goddesses").
The excitement that Carnival exudes can be found at other times of the year as well, including the town's multi-day Halloween celebration, which features “Dead Silence,” a one-of-a-kind haunted house at The Art House; a masquerade ball held at Provincetown Town Hall; and the must-see Helltown on Winthrop, held biennially during odd years, where ghosts, ghouls and goblins can be found at every home and business on the street.
And no Cape community ushers in the holidays like Provincetown. Whether it’s the traditional lighting of Provincetown Monument the day before Thanksgiving, the festive lighting of the Lobster Pot tree in the heart of Provincetown's Lopes Square, or the Holly Folly Weekend (complete with a not-so-traditional Speedo run down Commercial Street), Provincetown adds its own colorful flavor to the holiday season.
Embracing Arts and Culture
Provincetown’s ties to the arts go as far back as 1899, when Charles Webster Hawthorne opened the Cape Cod School of Art, earning it the distinction of being the oldest arts colony in the nation.
A strong arts & culture vibe continues to permeate through Provincetown, with galleries, concerts and theater among the town's most popular attractions. The town is renowned for offering an eclectic mix of entertainment for those of all interests and backgrounds. It does so only as Provincetown can, all while drawing A-list talent to this section of the Cape.
That talent can be witnessed at the annual Provincetown Film Festival in June, when it screens a range of indie and more mainstream fare. In recent years, the festival has feted such Hollywood heavyweights as Sofia Coppola, Ang Lee, John Waters, Matt Dillon, Todd Solondz, and Quentin Tarantino.
Every August, the top musicians from around the world make their way to Cape Cod for the Provincetown Jazz Festival. Since 2005, the event has made its mark on the region’s music scene, exposing Cape audiences to a variety of jazz styles. This year, 80s star Molly Ringwald will make her debut (this year's fest is August 10 & 14).
Situated smack dab in the middle of Commercial Street, the Crown & Anchor boasts some of Broadway’s biggest stars, who bring their talents to Provincetown each summer. Make sure to leave some time before the show to fill up on the mouth-watering offerings at the Central House at the Crown & Anchor.
The Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) is another cultural institution that draws visitors from near and far to take in its extensive collection of artwork, to hone their own skills through year-round art classes, and to take part in lectures and cultural events. And the nonprofit Fine Arts Work Center ensures Provincetown will never lose its connection to the arts by supporting emerging visual artists and writers, while hosting a number of readings and talks that add to the vitality of the region.
Nature at Its Finest
Provincetown’s uniqueness extends far beyond its arts and entertainment scene, all the way to the pristine beaches and the ocean that surrounds it.
On land, Art’s Dune Tours provides an adventurous ride through the remote, scenic shoreline of Provincetown, which once inspired artists like Eugene O’Neill and Harry Kemp. While customers have a good chance of getting a glimpse at such animals as seals, whales and a variety of shorebirds, no trip to Provincetown is complete without going on a whale watch.
Two companies – SeaSalt Charters and Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch – give tourists an up-close-and-personal view of whales in the plankton-rich waters of Stellwagen Bank. From spring to fall, the creatures can be seen feeding, swimming and playing here in an awe-inspiring display of nature. The animals are so tied to Provincetown, that the Center for Coastal Studies devotes an entire week to whales every summer as a way to better educate the public on their importance.
The best view of Provincetown can be had at the Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum. Atop the 252-foot granite structure, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view that includes Cape Cod Bay, Provincetown Harbor and the Cape Cod National Seashore. The structure was built to commemorate the first landing of the Mayflower in 1620. The Provincetown Museum offers more insight into the region’s connection to the Pilgrims, the building of the Pilgrim Monument, and the community’s maritime history.
A Taste of Provincetown
Provincetown’s culinary delights serve as the icing on all that the seaside town has to offer. With its proximity to the ocean, Provincetown specializes in seafood, which is why a trip to the iconic Lobster Pot should be on everyone’s itinerary.
The waterfront eatery Fanizzi’s is another popular Provincetown restaurant, with a seafood-heavy menu that also includes mouthwatering steaks, ribs, and burgers. The views alone, which include an occasional whale sighting, are worth the price of admission. And views of Pilgrim Monument are second to none from The Pointe Restaurant at Crowne Pointe Historic Inn & Spa (not to mention the restaurant's creative entrees, many of which feature locally caught seafood).
Other Commercial Street favorites include the modern Tin Pan Alley, the refined Mews Restaurant & Café, and The Canteen, a laid back, casual New England eatery that features some classic Cape Cod favorites, including lobster rolls, fish and chips and clam chowder.
The warm, friendly setting of the Shipwreck Lounge on Carver Street, serves as an ideal spot to start the night or end it. Or you may prefer to simply spend the night there thanks to its cozy outdoor lounge, complete with a fire pit and an extensive cocktail list.
And don't think Provincetowwn just rolls out the welcome mat for its human visitors. It's canine visitors will also enjoy their stay in town, thanks to Provincetown Pet Resort, which offers convenient doggie daycare, cage-free dog & cat boarding, state-of-the-art play areas, and top-of-the-line treats and pastries for your prized companion.
Blogger's Note: This is part of a series of "Road Trip" blogs spotlighting each of Cape Cod's distinctive towns and villages!