This guide was updated on November 30, 2019.
Just 90 minutes away from Boston is a tiny seaside town on the tip of Cape Cod that has as much history as it does gay culture. While many remember from history class that Plymouth Rock was where the Pilgrims settled in 1620, it was in fact Provincetown where the Pilgrims first landed before passing onto Plymouth and settling what would soon become the US. But American history aside, P-Town, like many popular, small gay getaways, has been completely taken over by the LGBT community. With a population of about 3,000, the small New England getaway boasts 40+ gay guesthouses, 10+ gay bars and clubs, 2 gay beaches while also hosting a dozen or more LGBT events throughout the year.
Practical Tips for P-Town
P-Town is a summer resort destination and its peak season lasts from the middle of June through September. The shoulder season would be considered starting in May and lasting until October but it’s the three summer months where you’ll find the streets packed with visitors from all over the east coast, the country and even a sprinkling of international visitors.
Given the geography of Cape Cod with P-Town at the tip, your options of getting in are limited. There is one highway leading into and out of the city along with a ferry terminal and small airport. Flights are expensive, and driving can be long and stressful, particularly in the summer months during peak traffic. As most people will come in and out of Boston, the most enjoyable and practical route is to take the 90-minute fast ferry for around $60 roundtrip. The Bay State Cruise Company offers several daily trips to and from P-Town along with spacious seating and a bar. Because why wouldn’t you want to start your trip out right, with a few drinks to enjoy the ride in route to this charming and incredibly gay New England town.
Getting Around P-Town
Like many gay resort destinations, P-Town is a compact and mostly walkable city so if you stay in the center of town, you won’t need a car and probably won’t want one either. If you’re staying out of the center, you should consider renting a bike as the town is very bike-friendly and there are great bike paths just outside of the city that lead to the local beaches and hiking trails.
Parties & Nightlife in P-Town
No trip to P-Town is complete without enjoying an afternoon tea dance at the Boat Slip. From 4-7pm, crowds pack the beachside hotel and outdoor space to start the evening off among friends with drinks, music and dancing. The tea dance is a ritual in P-Town and is a great start to your night. Enjoy the outdoors and make new friends in a friendly environment. It’s also worth pointing out that at nighttime, under the Boat Slip is called the “Dick Dock.” This area has historically been an active nighttime cruising ground during the summer, though popularity of this attraction has decreased over the years with the presence of dating apps. Still, if this is your type of activity, you might still find what you’re looking for late at night during the warmest months.
P-Town is your quintessential gay getaway resort town full of gay bars, drag performances and themed parties. During the peak of summer season, most bars and clubs will be busy throughout the week. During the months of May and October, busy periods occur during the weekends. Nightlife in P-Town starts and ends early, which is not necessarily a bad thing, allowing you to get plenty of sleep to enjoy the following day. Bars and clubs will start to get busy around 10pm and close at 1am.
If you’re on the hunt for a bite to eat after leaving the club, your options are limited since most places close early in the night. But fear not – one place, Spiritus Pizza is sure to be open. In fact, grabbing a slice of pizza to end the night is almost a ritual in P-Town. In the height of the season the place with be packed both inside and out with loads of people getting their drunk muchie fix before heading in for the night.
Be sure to also check out some local favorites bars and lounges like Harbor Lounge, Shipwreck Lounge or Wave Bar for a casual drink with friends. Later, clubs like The Crown & Anchor, Atlantic House or Club Purgatory offer great music and dancing until 1am. Club Purgatory is known for their themed nights like Underwear or Leather nights. Of course, asking a local what the best option is for the night is always the best approach.
Where to Stay in P-Town
When booking your trip to P-Town, you’ll find no shortage of gay and gay-friendly accommodation options ranging from hotels, guesthouses, apartments and campgrounds. You’ll quickly realize that it is the gay guest house or B&B that P-Town is known for and you’ll find more than 40 different places to choose from. Here’s a quick highlight of several different property types you’ll find in town.
The Brass Key – located in the center of town, The Brass Key feels more like a large gay guest houses than a hotel, with a large interior courtyard, heated pool and hot tub making for great evenings sipping drinks with friends either before or after heading out for the night. If you’re looking for a luxurious stay and a fun social environment, The Brass Key should be at the top of your list. With 43 rooms, you’ll easily make new friends at this gay hotspot, particularly during the afternoon wine and cheese gatherings that take place daily.
Boatslip Resort – an internationally renowned destination for LGBTQ travelers, boasting a premier West End location, stunning waterfront views, and home to world famous Tea Dance. They’re are located on Commercial Street just steps away from shops, cafes, art galleries and historic Provincetown Harbor. The Boatslip Resort’s high energy atmosphere welcomes everyone who wants to escape. Come and experience the freedom, camaraderie and uninhibited fun a stay at the Boatslip Resort offers.
The Harbor Hotel – the Harbor hotel is one of the larger properties you’ll find in P-Town and it is just outside the town center. If you have a bike, the ride into town is a quick 10 minutes or you can take the town shuttle, which runs every 30 minutes or just catch an Uber for about $8. The property is a mid-century hotel that has been renovated with a modern and sleek décor. It’s located right on the water, so you can literally cross the street and be at the small stretch of beach in about 30 seconds. This is a good option if you don’t necessarily want a gay-only property or if you enjoy a bit more peace and quiet rather than being in the busy and sometimes noisy town center.
Secret Garden Inn – located right off Commercial Street, the main commercial strip of P-Town, is one of many gay-owned guesthouses in town. This B&B appropriately has a quaint garden in front of the house and is tucked away behind several buildings, giving it a hidden feeling, while still being in the middle of all the action. The couple who own the property are incredibly friendly and hospitable. Besides a nice breakfast each morning, you can enjoy freshly prepared baked goods in the mornings and afternoons along with a casual conversation with other guests. The house has just seven rooms, so you’ll have a more intimate and cozy stay compared to a larger property or a more traditional hotel.
There are many sites for apartment rentals in P-Town, with AirBnB probably being one of the most popular. Prices are generally comparable to budget hotels, especially if you’re willing to get a room in a shared apartment.
There are even a few LGBT-oriented booking sites like misterb&b with listings from gay hosts for gay guests where you can either rent a whole apartment or a private room in a shared apartment. Understanding P-Town’s gay scene is much more easily done with the help of a local and apartment sharing is one of the best ways to meet someone living in the city who knows how things work, where and when are the best nights to go out, and what places to eat at and which to avoid.
For a complete list of LGBT owned hotels, B&B’s and guesthouses visit the Provincetown Business Guild website here.
What to See & Things to Do in P-Town
Hit the Beach
Provincetown has a handful of different beaches to check out during your visit. Right off the town center, you’ll find a small beach, which is the most convenient, but is not the most popular. It’s great for a quick stop if you don’t want to make a long trek, but if you’re looking for a bit more adventure, you’ll find better quality and perhaps a more enjoyable experience a bit farther out from town. Herring Cove and Race Point are both popular beaches and both have a gay section if you walk far enough along the sand past the crowds.
Tour the Dunes
If you don’t venture outside of the town center, you’d never realize that this tip of Cape Cod has a huge landmass of sand dunes lining the coast. The result of centuries of logging has left the land partially barren and it’s only been in the past half century that the former forest and now dunes area has started to recover thanks to federal protection. The tour is a surprisingly interesting and a very enjoyable experience that can be combined with several other activities. One of the best options is to take a sunset tour which includes an hour-long drive through the dunes followed by dinner on the beach during the sunset. For tour bookings, check out Art’s Dune Tours which run daily from May through October.
Hit the Bike Trail
The surrounding area of P-Town has a great system of biking trails that make their way through the nearby forest and dunes. There are a few different bike paths with one main loop that covers 8 miles and takes roughly 2 hours to complete. Head out from the trail and lock up your bike to enjoy great views, find interesting hiking trails and make your way to one of the nearby beaches. Visit P-Town Bikes for a rental and keep the bike for a day or your entire trip. Bikes come with a lock, helmet and optional basket.
Book a Guided Bike Tour
On the Discover P-Town tour you’ll get a year-rounder’s perspective on the history and culture of Provincetown. You’ll see the history of town from the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 through to the modern day LGBTQ summer scene.
Experience the History
The history of Provincetown dates back 400 years from the first landing of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower compact, which was the document the Pilgrims signed setting the stage for self-governance in the new world. From just about anywhere in town, you can look up and see the Pilgrim Monument which was finished in 1910 and commemorates the history and significance of the town. Included with your entrance to the monument, which has amazing views towering over P-Town, is the Provincetown History Museum, which is well worth an hour visit to add a bit of history and culture to your trip.
Dining in P-Town
You’ll find countless restaurants, cafes and food options in P-Town. If you’re a fan of seafood, then you’ll be in heaven with favorites served here including lobster rolls or New England style clam chowder. A few notable spots with checking out include Relish, Saki, Ross’s Grill, The Canteen and Red Inn. Of course, you can’t miss Spiritus Pizza, which is an institution after the bars close and also great for a quick lunch or snack in between meals. For more information on dining in Provincetown visit the P-Town dining guide, which includes casual, fine dining, take out and more.
Gay Events in P-Town
Almost every week during the summer P-Town has themes and you can experience a variety of different LGBT events suited for different tastes. Pick your weekend based your flavor with just a sample of the events including Cabaret Fest, Provincetown Pride, 4th of July, Bear Week, Family Week or Carnival. You can visit the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce website for a full listing of LGBT events throughout the summer and even some during other parts of the year.
Provincetown offers the perfect balance for a gaycation resort town in the United States. Great restaurants and nightlife, awesome shops and art galleries, amazing nature and beaches, plus a diverse mix of LGBT culture and American history, all packed into one tiny, seaside town. Be sure to take advantage of all P-Town has to offer – explore a bit of everything, enjoy the party, experience the art galleries and shops and most of all, just have fun and be yourself. For more info on Provincetown, visit the LGBT section on the P-Town tourism website.