21 Wild Things to Do In Provincetown MA: At The Edge of the World

WHY GO: A good number of people come to “The Cape” to visit the Cape Cod National Seashore. But there are things to do in Provincetown MA unlike anything you’ll encounter elsewhere in and around Massachusetts’ favorite summer playground.

Provincetown, MA on the tip of Cape Cod is high energy and gay in all definitions of that word.  Once a maritime center, and where tired Pilgrims on the Mayflower first landed, it started to draw actors and artists when “alternate lifestyles” were best left to edge of earth locales. 

Now, it seems, everyone – gay or straight – wants in on the action. If you haven’t been to Provincetown MA in the last few years you’ll be happily surprised. Restaurants and lodgings have upped their games. Art galleries have proliferated, and there’s a new funicular to take you from town up to the Provincetown Monument!

If it’s your wish to rub elbows and other body parts with as many people as possible, come “in-season” – end of Spring to early Fall.  Otherwise, enjoy Provincetown’s quiet history and world famous dunes in the cooler months. We let you in on our favorite places in this Wild Provincetown MA Getaway.

Looking to impress your honey? We’ve got ideas about the Most Romantic Things to do on Cape Cod.

Need ideas about dreamy escapes in Massachusetts? Check out our Best Romantic Getaways in MA.

Things To Do In Provincetown MA

Pilgrim Monument and Museum, Provincetown MA
Pilgrim Monument and Museum

CLIMB: Pilgrim Monument

For an overview of Provincetown and much of the Cape, there’s no better perspective than from the top of the Pilgrim Monument. The Monument, the tallest all-granite structure in the United States, was built between 1907 and 1910 to commemorate the Mayflower’s 102 passengers who landed first in what is now Provincetown. It also is testament to the 41 men onboard who signed the Mayflower Compact on November 11, 1620 in this very harbor. 

After climbing the 252 foot tower (116 steps connecting 60 ramps), for phenomenal views of Provincetown Harbor and Cape Cod, spend some time in the adjoining Provincetown Museum. 

Pilgrim Monument Museum
Provincetown Museum

This thoughtfully planned out museum has been much upgraded and modernized from the “Grandma’s attic” it was years ago. Starting with the “Landing of the Pilgrims” in 1620, exhibits showcase a mix of local communities, lore, trends, and characters.

Arctic explorer, Admiral Donald MacMillan, namesake of MacMillan Pier, was from Provincetown. So, the museum features the taxidermied polar bears and walruses that he brought back from his expeditions in the early 1900’s.

Provincetown's Floating House Plaque
Provincetown’s Floating House Plaque

Another display enlightens visitors about homes that were actually floated downtown from an endangered barrier island. These are identified by a blue ceramic plaque of a house riding on waves, installed near each front door. (A fun pastime is searching for these homes while walking down Commercial St.).

The Mayflower

Mayflower Room, Provincetown Museum
Mayflower Room, Provincetown Museum

The most popular exhibit, the Mayflower Room, has stood the test of time, yet has been tweaked to spectacular effect. A scale model, complete with wax figures, the Pilgrim Boat replica is now dramatically lit within a black frame. Check website for dates and hours of operation, and admission fees.

DO: Take Incline Elevator From Bradford St. to Provincetown Monument

Happily, a new incline elevator now brings visitors from downtown Provincetown to the Pilgrim Monument, formerly a tough uphill walk or drive with limited (and expensive) parking. 

PAAM, Provincetown Art Association and Museum
PAAM, Provincetown Art Association and Museum

VISIT: PAAM (Provincetown Art Association and Museum).

On the East End of lively Commercial Street, PAAM has been showcasing local and regional artists with some connection to Cape Cod since 1914 (1916 in this building).

A new Silver LEDE designed wing designed by Boston’s Machado and Silvetti Asoc. was added in 2006, granting this small town some serious art cred. As if it needed it.

Encompassing five galleries and over 3,000 works of art, including 96 drawings by Edward Hopper and 69 by Jo Hopper (the second largest collection of Hopper works outside of the Whitney Museum) in its permanent collection, PAAM should certainly be a stop on your gallery crawl.

Rainbow flags flutter over shop lined street with many pedestrians

WALK: Commercial St.

A one-way thoroughfare not suitable for claustrophobics, this main drag is a parade every day. Running parallel to the beach, Commercial Street is the main artery of Provincetown, measuring about three miles end to end.

Commercial St. is inundated with art galleries and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum on its East End; boutiques, several more art galleries, and B&B’s on the West End; and a cacophony of tourists, restaurants, and souvenir shops in the middle.

On its quieter sides, Commercial St. buskers tend to be of the heartfelt Opera Singer or sole sax player variety, a counterpoint to the deliriously outrageous drag shows we’ve come to cherish in the center of town. You could spend a lifetime people-watching here though if you have any qualms about alternative lifestyles, be forewarned.  Divas reign where it’s Raining Men.

Caution sign warn of steep grade and oncoming traffic on sand dunes

TOUR: Art’s Dune Tours

The Cape Cod National Seashore, a National Park established by President John F. Kennedy, takes up nearly 75% of the whole of Cape Cod. Most of it consists of sand dunes. If you just have one afternoon to spend in Provincetown, take a one-hour off-road tour through Art’s Dune Tours for a unique perspective of Cape Cod history and landscape.

Art’s owner, Rob Costa, and his guides, point out the tenacious plants that cling to life in this punishing environment – the rosehips, beach plums and cranberries that thrive in fresh-water pools found throughout the dunes.

Art's Dune Tours
Art’s Dune Tours

You’ll discover that Marlon Brando crawled across these sandy hills when he was rehearsing for A Streetcar Named Desire.  And that poets, painters and writers (Eugene O’Neil, Thoreau, Jackson Pollock, and others) stayed in squatters shacks originally built in the 1850’s as temporary shelters for heroic “Surfmen” who risked their lives to save victims of the many shipwrecks right offshore.  

In the 1950’s, the US Government removed all but 19 of these primitive dwellings. Now, a few are available to Artists In Residence willing to live without electricity, fresh water or plumbing (but with one of the most exquisite vistas on the planet) for a few weeks at a time. Check website for tour times and rates.

Old Lifesaving Museum, Provincetown MA
Old Lifesaving Museum, Provincetown MA

VISIT: Province Lands Visitors Center, Race Point Lighthouse and Beach

On the 20-minute drive out to the Province Lands from town, dunes surround you like mountains. Part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, it’s worth the drive or bike trip to get a 360 degree view of the dunes and shacks from the new Visitor’s Center (open seasonally).  From here, rangers will guide you to the Race Point Lighthouse or customize a day of exploration based on your interests. 

From the Visitor’s Center, it’s a one-mile bike ride to the beach, where you’ll find the 1902 Old Harbor Life-Saving Station, interpreting the role of the Life-Saving Service (precursor to the Coast Guard) in performing rescues off the Outer Cape. Check website for opening hours.

Provincetown MA Sunset
Provincetown MA Sunset

DO: See Whales By Land And Sea

Sure, you can jump on a commercial cruise like one of the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch ships that shove off from jumpin’ Macmillan Pier. Most are large, crowded with families, and not the most optimal for a romantic few hours – unless said whales come close to the boat. Then, all bets are off.

It is possible to see whales from land. And the best place to do so on Cape Cod is from Race Point Beach. It’s a much better option for duos who’d like to be as alone as much as possible. To increase your odds of getting really close to these regal sea creatures, and you’re amenable, hike out to Race Point Lighthouse (4 mile round trip).

BIKE: Province Lands Bike Trail

Just FYI – the Province Lands 5.45 mile loop trail is considered challenging: with sharp turns, steep inclines, and tunnels. The payoff is terrific however. You’ll pass through pine forests, sandy dunes, and low-lying cranberry bogs, with connections to both Herring Cove Beach and Race Point Beach.

THEATER/NIGHTLIFE: Performing Arts and Drag

Provincetown Theater

From Story Slams to Angels in America – and, of course, Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Provincetown Theater offers theater buffs performances both provoking and fun.

Crown and Anchor

There are “gender-bending” shows aplenty at the boisterous Crown and Anchor, first built in the mid-1800’s as a performance hall, saloon, and bowling alley. You’ll most likely meet drag queens in full regalia (read: lots of eye glitter) outside during the day, promoting their evening Cabaret show.

Post Office Cafe & Cabaret

The food is great, and the intimate setting upstairs allows for plenty of drag-fun antics. Come for a Drag Brunch, Cocktail Variety Hour, or a smashing evening performance.

East End Books Interior
East End Books

SHOP: East End Books

Owner Jeff Peters moved to Provincetown from Florida in 2016 to open the small but intriguing East End Books store. Peters, Board President of Anhinga Press – one of the oldest poetry publishers in the country – has been coming to P’Town every year for the Film Festival and decided to stay.

Of course, East End Books features a decent Poetry Section. But you’ll also find shelves of carefully curated selections within each genre. “At the front of the store, there’s a mix of categories,” says Peters, who aims to jog people out of their comfort zones with varying viewpoints or titles that might catch someone’s eye. 

East End Books has evolved beyond merely selling books. At any given time, the small space turns into an impromptu salon, where strangers, and sometimes notables like neighbor John Waters, discuss matters of the day.

Peters hosts dozens of author events every year. With patrons spilling out onto the street, the store can accommodate 100 people. But the bookstore also live streams to a much wider audience, and can order any book that isn’t in stock. “It’s better than Amazon getting the money,” Peters states.

East End Commercial St. Provincetown MA
East End Commercial St. Provincetown MA

Friday nights are gallery nights in Provincetown. Of course, you can visit these local artist shops anytime. But in season, the Friday Night Gallery Stroll brings out culture-vultures in droves.

SHOP: East End of Commercial St.

Find art, crafts, home-wares, and gift items you won’t find anywhere else. My favorites listed here.

Adam's Nest Display
Adam’s Nest

Adam’s Nest 

For naughty, wily, politically charged t-shirts.

Room 68 Interior
Room 68

Room 68 

This is the 2nd iteration of Room for Eric Portnoy and Brent Refsland (first in Jamaica Plain), dubbed “Mod Squad” by Boston Magazine. You’ll find the best one of a kind furniture, jewelry, home goods, and fine art in this Mad Men meets Mad Hatter contemporary design gallery.

Utilities store exterior


Everything house-wares. One stop shopping for host/hostess gifts. And the best refrigerator magnet selection I’ve ever seen.

Restaurants In Provincetown MA

The Canteen Restaurant
The Canteen

EAT: The Canteen

When Canteen, a surfer-dude clam-shack fast-slow-food spot first opened in 2013, “we had 5 employees,” says owner Rob Anderson. “Now we have 80. And we serve 500 lobster rolls a day in high season.” Canteen has expanded so quickly in fact, kitchen prep is done a mile away in another facility and seating expanded for over 100 on the patio and sandy property out back that extends almost to the waterfront.

Back yard, The Canteen
Back yard at The Canteen

Anderson grew up in the non-sea-faring city of Detroit and went to college at Georgetown in DC. In his past life, he was a journalist for the Washington Post and Boston Globe. “But it got to the point where I wanted to DO something, not just write about it.” And so, he came to Provincetown, met his life partner, Loic Rossignon (who had been a banker in France), went to culinary school, and opened a modernized clam shack.

In line at The Canteen
In line at The Canteen

He couldn’t be happier. “It hits all the notes that a seafood shack would have, but we tweak it.” Though lobster rolls sell well, the most popular item on the menu is the Cod Banh Mi ($9.99), but my money is on the Mixed Mushrooms and Chips, a vegan version of fried fish and chips, and the Crispy Brussels Sprouts in Fish Sauce. Oh – and of course the frozen rose wine slushy; the Frose.

Red Inn Garden Trellis
Red Inn

EAT: Red Inn

One of the only Provincetown restaurants directly on the water, the atmospheric Red Inn, an alluring “Grandma’s house” of a cottage, is a local favorite. Dine on Pan Roasted Local Cod, Fresh Local Scallops, Free Range Chicken, and other well-prepared traditional fare in a hushed candlelit room.

EAT: The Mews at The Waterford (Pop Up While Under Construction)

For those seeking a meal several steps up and much more sophisticated than lobster rolls on paper plates, locals steer visitors to “the standout” Mews. This place is so beloved and popular, you must make reservations far in advance.

Lobster Pot Exterior

EAT: Lobster Pot Restaurant

The Lobster Pot restaurant may look like your typical tourist trap, with its old fashioned neon signs, beachfront setting, and gobs of out-of-towners, but that would be far from the truth.

A Provincetown tradition, lines form early in season for this inconspicuous dive with a foodie bent.  Inching through the long, narrow space, pass by a bustling open kitchen before entering the waterfront dining room where green Formica tables and beat-up bistro chairs belie the elevated lobster-shack cuisine.

For starters, in place of shrink-wrapped Melba toast and stale rolls, you’ll enjoy fresh pumpkin bread and warm crusty baguettes.  Priced to Market – a “Clam Bake” with 1 1/4 lb lobster, soup, bread, mussels, corn, and potato starts at just below $50pp, but there’s so much more on the menu – fans have been known to try signature dishes every day while in town.

SNACK/LUNCH: Provincetown Portuguese Bakery

Provincetown Portuguese Bakery has been dishing out warm Portuguese breads, pastries and biscuit sandwiches since 1936. Like the Lobster Pot, this iconic bakery stood the test of time, and remains a local favorite.

Hotels In Provincetown MA

Crowne Pointe Inn Pool Provincetown MA

STAY: Crowne Pointe Hotel and Spa

Though the “E’s” at the end of Crown and Point might lead you to believe it’s pretentious or hokey, but the Crowne Pointe Hotel and Spa is anything but. Former NYC Fireman, David Sanford and his partner Thomas Walter, purchased this 1700’s whaling captain’s home on the hill in 1998.

They sunk a bunch of bucks and wit into its renovation. And, voilà – a charming, quiet, welcoming inn just one block off funky Commercial St. 

Purchased by the Linchris Hotel Corp in 2021, rooms, which ring a small kitschy pool, have been updated and vary in size. A gourmet, made-to-order breakfast comes complementary with the room.

STAY: Other Lodgings in Provincetown

Top picks in Provincetown tend to be small and intimate. Breakwater Hotel, on the Provincetown tidal flats; 8 Dyer B&B in the gallery district; and the Brass Key Guesthouse all win high marks from fans.

Weekend Getaways In Cape Cod (And Nearby)


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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4 thoughts on “21 Wild Things to Do In Provincetown MA: At The Edge of the World”

  1. There so many options for dining and I understand you can’t mention them all but in future articles please check out Helltown located on Commercial Street. Best lobster risotto and a great staff.

  2. A must place to have a dinner is the Whitman House in North Truro on Route 6. The food is fantastic and well worth the price. Very busy in season so try to make a reservation. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

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