Provincetown, Massachusetts, is a beautiful year-round vacation destination, home to sandy beaches, lighthouses, a vibrant downtown, wedding venues, hotels, unique museums and restaurants. A popular weekend getaway or day trip from Boston and New York City, this picturesque New England town is located at the tip of Cape Cod, MA.
1.Race Point Beach & Lighthouse
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Race Point Beach is a large beach and part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. It gets its name from the fast rip tides that come in to the point of the cape. The undertow is strong, but good swimmers can still swim here. People also visit for the sun and to watch for whales and passing ships.
Just a short walk from the beach is the Race Point Lighthouse. Built in 1816, it is a historic lighthouse that was restored by the American Lighthouse Foundation and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the first lighthouses on Cape Cod to use a rotating beacon. Things to Do on Cape Cod
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Commercial Street is a popular shopping street in Provincetown. In addition to its many shops and restaurants, there are beautiful gardens and houses, some of which are guest houses, so strolling on Commercial Street is an entertaining and enjoyable thing to do.
There is quite a large variety of shops on Commercial Street, including books, souvenirs and sundries. Souvenir shops sell items like T-shirts, art, glassware, furniture, and other home-related items that will remind you of your time spent in Provincetown and on Cape Cod. Popular themes of some of the items found in souvenir shops include lighthouses, lobsters, seashells, and starfish. If you are wondering what to do in Provincetown today, this is a great place to start exploring.
3.Herring Cove Beach
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Located on Province Lands Road, Herring Cove Beach is the most popular beach in Provincetown. One of the reasons that this beach is so popular is its location: it lies on the bay and so the water is calm and perfect for swimming even for children. Unlike Race Point Beach, there is no undertow and the water is warmer at Herring Cove Beach.
Managed by the Cape Cod National Seashore, the beach has several facilities such as a concession stand, lifeguards, showers, and restrooms. People also enjoy coming to this beach to see the seals relaxing in the sun and the whales breaching out at sea. The sunsets are particularly beautiful here.
4.Cape Cod Provincelands Trail
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The Cape Cod Provincelands Trail is a 5.25 mile long bicycle and walking trail that begins at the Province Lands Visitor Center on Race Point Road. It is a hilly loop and connects to several other trails such as Bennett Pond, Herring Cove Beach, and Race Point Beach.
By visiting these trails you can add another two miles to the total distance of your trip. This 4,000 acre area is mostly covered in dunes, but there is tree cover at Beech Forest as well as saltwater kettle ponds, marshlands, and cranberry bogs. The Visitor Center provides information about the ecosystem and the history of the area.
5.Long Point Lighthouse
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The Long Point Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on Cape National Seashore. Built in 1875, it is maintained by the American Lighthouse Foundation which is also the caretaker for Cape’s Wood End Lighthouse and Race Point Lighthouse. Standing at a height of 38 feet, the Long Point Lighthouse is a square structure rather than the usual cylindrical shape of a typical lighthouse.
Automated in 1952, it emits a green light every four seconds; it also has a foghorn that emits a blast every 15 seconds. Although the lighthouse is not open to the public, the grounds are a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, so visitors are permitted to walk around the area.
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Beech Forest is located on Race Point Road in Provincetown. There is a parking area and trail that leads visitors to this shady area of trees, a landscape that is quite a contrast from the vast dune system of the surrounding area. Before European settlement, beech tree forests were common; but today this is one of the few remaining beech forests in the area.
In addition to the beech trees, there are other plants such as mayflower, red maple, spotted wintergreen, starflower, and many more. There are also animals that can be seen in the forest. These include 250 bird species like chickadee, nuthatch, and tufted titmouse, as well as foxes and turtles.
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The MacMillan Pier is the pier for the city of Provincetown. Named after the arctic explorer Donald B. MacMillan who was born in Provincetown, the pier is the city’s main marine transportation hub bringing in tourists from Boston and Plymouth by ferry and speedboats. It also serves as the starting point for a variety of sea excursions to explore the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary, and the Harbor of Provincetown.
On the pier there are art shacks, a museum, the harbormaster’s office, and other facilities. From the harbor you can see all of Provincetown and the three lighthouses on the Cape Cod National Seashore.
8.Provincetown Art Association and Museum
© Provincetown Art Association and Museum
Located on Commercial Street, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum is the most popular museum on Cape Cod. The museum has a permanent collection of over 2,500 objects and presents about 40 exhibits each year, making the museum an important cultural and educational institution in Provincetown and the surrounding Cape Cod area.
Established in 1914, the museum originally focused on works by local artists but has expanded its collection over the years to include works by non-local artists.
Educational outreach programs include classes, demonstrations, lectures, and workshops for adults as well as for children. The museum also hosts events including dance, music, and spoken word performances.
460 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-1750
9. Art's Dune Tours
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Even the Kennedys went on Art’s Dune Tours. Visiting Cape Cod Dunes, a part of the Cape Cod Seashore National Park, when you are in Provincetown is an important part of the Cape Cod experience, and nobody does it like Art’s. Art has remained a legendary figure in town, even after his death.
He started the dune tours in 1946, driving tourists in his old station wagon and regaling them with the local history and lore. His son continues to take guests on one hour tours of the timeless expanse of sand dunes around Provincetown, showing them magnificent nature scenes along miles of sand - dry beach grasses, pine trees and dark red plums growing in dune hollows, silhouetted against the enormous expanse of blue sky.
You will also see the “dune shacks” where Eugene O’Neill and other artists looked for inspiration for their art, and you will pass by the wrecks of the Peaked Hill Life Saving Station, from which brave souls attempted to save thousands of shipwrecked mariners. The tour is conducted in comfortable air-conditioned trucks, in full comfort, and no walking is necessary. Read more
4 Standish St., Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-1950
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Located on Bradford Street, the Provincetown Theater is a year-round theater originally known as the Provincetown Theatre Workshop. Founded in 1963, its first production took place in the Parish House of St. Mary’s of the Harbor in Provincetown.
After changing locations several times, the company moved into its current facility in 2004. The theater presents plays, dance performances, and staged readings and is known for championing new plays written by great American writers. The theater hosts several festivals such as the Playwrights’ Festival, the 24 Hour Theater Festival, and the Four Squared Festival. It also hosts writing workshops for children and for adults.
238 Bradford Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-7487
11.Charles-Baltivik Gallery and Sculpture Garden
© Charles-Baltivik Gallery and Sculpture Garden
The Charles-Baltivik Gallery and Sculpture Garden is an art gallery located on Kiley Court on Commercial Street in Provincetown. Founded in 1995, the gallery features works of art by artists who live in the city. Some of the artists represented by the gallery include Katherine Baltivik, Joanne Bartone, Al Cave, Tim Campbell, Michael Marrinan, Timmer Naylor, and Andrea Sawyer. The works are unique, such as the oil on copper pieces by Katherine Baltivik.
Other art media used by the local artists include acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and others. Themes of the art work focus on things in our around Provincetown such as beaches, lighthouses, and more.
432 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-3611
12.Cabot's Candy of Cape Cod
© Cabot's Candy of Cape Cod
Cabot's Candy has been hand-pulling saltwater taffy since 1927. As the popularity of this delightful seashore treat grew, the Cabot family had to open a factory in Provincetown to satisfy all their hungry customers.
They still operate from the same premises, delighting kids both big and small with taffy and a range of other sweet delights such as sinful fudge, fabulous peanut brittle, and flavored popcorn. They also sell other type of sweets like gummies, chocolate covered sweets, penny candy, luxurious truffles, chocolate bars, maple candy, caramels, and much more.
It is possible to spend hours in their spacious, colorful shop sampling the goodies and loading up your basket for later.
276 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-3550
13.Adam Peck Gallery
© Adam Peck Gallery
As you stroll through Commercial Street and come to the Harbor, you will find yourself in the Gallery District, where many artists live and create, seeking inspiration from Cape Cod and the sea, dunes, surrounding nature, and compelling history of the area.
In a delightful typical historic Cape Cod cottage, you will find Adam Peck Gallery, a gallery of the architect, sculptor, and painter Adam Peck. The little white house is not only his home and gallery but also one of his main inspirations – the gallery contains a number of little house sculptures, prints, and paintings.
His other inspirations are other symbols of the area – lighthouses, sailboats, dunes, and beaches. Peck’s stark, precise paintings make wonderful and far from typical gifts or souvenirs from Provincetown.
142 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-274-8298
14.Impulse Art Gallery
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There is no better souvenir from your trip to Provincetown than a work of art created by a local artist or inspired by the timeless landscape of Cape Cod. Impulse Art Gallery, located in the heart of Commercial Street, has been a Provincetown icon since 1984. It made its name by offering unique, original artworks of established as well as up-and-coming local, American, and international artists.
Impulse has a large selection of paintings created by artists who belong to the Cape Cod School of Art, the oldest American art school. The gallery also carries wonderful, unique glass creations, ceramics, and jewelry, as well as large collection of kaleidoscopes and glass marbles.
188 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-1154
Dining at Victor’s is certainly an elegant affair; the restaurant features a beautiful dining room in a stately house, a fireplace, cathedral ceilings, high quality furniture, and lovely table settings. Victor’s is an upscale establishment, but it is also inviting and comfortable, ensuring you will enjoy a very special evening. If you are looking for romantic date ideas in Provincetown, Victor's is a great place to try.
Executive Chef Christina Spencer takes advantage of local, fresh, and seasonal produce and fresh daily caught fish and seafood to produce outstanding cuisine. Her specialties are small plates, which are perfect for sharing and sampling all that Victor’s has to offer. Everything is so delicious that you simply have to share a bit with your companions.
There are many dishes to choose from, but some delicious morsels stand out, such as the shrimp with tequila and blood orange, served with jicama slaw and sherry lime vinaigrette. Victor’s is also known for their specialty cocktails and excellent wine list. Read more
175 Bradford Street Ext., Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-1777
© The Canteen
One of the greatest pleasures of eating at The Canteen is the excellent view of downtown Provincetown. While dining on local fresh seafood in this quaint 200 year-old building, you can watch locals going about their daily business and tourists enjoying a stroll through the charming city streets.
Once the food arrives, however, you will forget the view. Naturally, the restaurant focuses on local fish and seafood, and the offerings are fresh and caught daily. Breads come from the local bakeries Iggy’s and Pain D'Avignon. The menu is rich in classic favorites such as lobster rolls and New England clam chowder, as well as a few delectable surprises like crispy brussels sprouts in fish sauce.
They have a nice selection of local craft beers, and the carefully-selected wine list includes wines from both new and old world.
225 Commercial Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-3800
17.Old Harbor Life-saving Station
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The Old Harbor Life-saving Station is a historic structure located at the end of Race Point Road in Provincetown. Built in 1897, it was originally located at Nauset Beach near the entrance to Chatham Harbor in Chatham, MA. Operated by the U.S. Coast Guard starting in 1915, it was decommissioned in 1944.
When the building was threatened by erosion, it was purchased by the National Park Service in 1973 and moved by barge from Chatham to its current location in Provincetown in 1977. The station is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. During the summer, life-saving re-enactments in the style of the early 20th century are conducted.
18.The Purple Feather
© The Purple Feather
The Purple Feather is not just an eatery – it is a treatery. They offer typical lunch dishes like delicious lobster sandwiches, Panini, soups, and other fare. But nobody else sells the kind of treats they do, all of which are made fresh on the premises. They even make their own chocolate. So indulge and eat your dessert first.
There are many options to choose from, including carrot cake with pineapple, donuts with raspberry preserve and whipped cream, and molten lava cake with oozing chocolate ganache. All you need with your dessert is a cup of their organic tea or delicious coffee. They also sell their gourmet homemade chocolates and truffles online in case you get a craving later.
334 Commercial St., Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-9100
19.Dog Gone Sailing Charters
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Watching magnificent boats sailing in the distance from a cozy seaside restaurant in Provincetown is a beautiful experience. It is even nicer to see Provincetown from one of those sailboats while enjoying a leisurely trip around the bay. Dog Gone Sailing Charters offer several tours, depending on your interests and the amount of time you want to spend on the water.
The tours range from quick trips to Truro or around the bay, half-day sails to Herring Cove, or a full day sail to Stellwagon Bank, Wellfleet, or the Cape Cod Canal. You can even combine one-day tours with whale watching. For those with a romantic streak, the sunrise and sunset tours will be particularly appealing. You will be sailing on Moondance II, a classic 30’ Island Packet fiberglass cutter rigged cruiser.
MacMillan Pier, Slip #8, In front of Kiosk #8, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-566-0410
© The Mews
The Mews Restaurant and Cafe is a very popular beachfront restaurant and lounge famous for its views, food, atmosphere, and the 300 kinds of vodka it offers. This lovely establishment has a pleasant downstairs bistro-style restaurant and a cozy upstairs lounge with a bar and coffee shop, where every Monday an open mike attracts large crowds of locals and tourists alike.
The food is contemporary American in the downstairs restaurant and upscale bar food in the upstairs lounge. You can find some delightful starters such as lobster dumplings in miso broth or crab and avocado terrine. The food served at the lounge is equally delicious, and the menu features several outstanding burgers.
The Mews is a place where you can sometimes bump into celebrities vacationing in Cape Cod, who are, just like you, on the lookout for great food.
429 Commercial St, Provincetown, Massachusetts, Phone: 508-487-1500
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SeaSalt Charters is a tour company that offers private fishing trips and whale watching tours. Founded in the early 1970s, SeaSalt Charters is owned and operated by the Avellar family. There are morning, afternoon, and sunset whale watching tours which leave from the Dolphin Fleet Dock on Provincetown’s MacMillan Pier.
Lasting three to four hours, the tours take guests to Stellwagen Bank, just north of Provincetown. This is an area where whales feed and nurse their young. Fishing charter tours include bait, rods, reels, and tackle, and fishermen typically catch blue fin tuna, bluefish, codfish, fluke, and striped bass. (508-444-2732)
25 Best Things to Do in Provincetown, Massachusetts
- Race Point Beach & Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of Christian Delbert - Fotolia.com
- Commercial Street, Photo: Courtesy of missgrace - Fotolia.com
- Herring Cove Beach, Photo: Courtesy of lunamarina - Fotolia.com
- Cape Cod Provincelands Trail, Photo: Courtesy of Chee-Onn Leong - Fotolia.com
- Long Point Lighthouse, Photo: Courtesy of alwoodphoto - Fotolia.com
- Beech Forest, Photo: Courtesy of rck - Fotolia.com
- MacMillan Pier, Photo: Courtesy of Big D - Fotolia.com
- Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Photo: Provincetown Art Association and Museum
- Art's Dune Tours, Photo: Courtesy of cindygoff - Fotolia.com
- Provincetown Theater, Photo: Courtesy of antoinemonat - Fotolia.com
- Charles-Baltivik Gallery and Sculpture Garden, Photo: Charles-Baltivik Gallery and Sculpture Garden
- Cabot's Candy of Cape Cod, Photo: Cabot's Candy of Cape Cod
- Adam Peck Gallery, Photo: Adam Peck Gallery
- Impulse Art Gallery, Photo: Courtesy of rolf_52 - Fotolia.com
- Victor's, Photo: Victor's
- The Canteen, Photo: The Canteen
- Old Harbor Life-saving Station, Photo: Courtesy of dbvirago - Fotolia.com
- The Purple Feather, Photo: The Purple Feather
- Dog Gone Sailing Charters, Photo: Courtesy of ssviluppo - Fotolia.com
- The Mews, Photo: The Mews
- SeaSalt Charters, Photo: Courtesy of antoinemonat - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of missgrace - Fotolia.com