Provincetown is a summer mecca for LGBTQ travelers, but not a lot of people know how this tiny town on the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, got an international reputation for inclusion and celebration.

In 1890, while the port town was booming, it became home to many resident artists and writers. After a massive storm called the Portland Gale, many buildings were abandoned and the artist community eventually took them over. “The town became home for experimental theater and the launch pad for the Provincetown Players. While Provincetown has always been a haven for the LGBTQ community, it grew exponentially in the 1970s, especially with the launch of the Provincetown Business Guild, which promoted LGTBQ businesses and tourism,” says Thomas Masters, General Manager at AWOL, a boutique hotel in Provincetown.

The town’s biggest event is Carnival, which tends to run the third week of August and culminates every year with a huge parade. “It is a seven-day celebration of all that is Provincetown,” says Masters. Most people arrive in full costume to spend the entire day reveling at the parade. Parties last all night and all week. Consider it Mardi Gras by the sea.

Most people arrive in full costume to spend the entire day reveling at the parade.

Where to stay

Choose from hostels, men’s only guest houses, mid-range stays, weekly rentals, and luxury hotels.

The Crown & Anchor Inn: Within this complex you’ll find The Central House restaurant, two clubs and event space with entertainment and live shows. With direct beach access, you might not leave the property once you arrive.

Roux Provincetown: This spot features full breakfast with fresh, seasonal and local ingredients, as well as a complimentary happy hour with hearty snacks and wine.

The Gas Lamp: A Victorian-style, boutique bed and breakfast gives travelers a cozy option that appeals to established couples.

The Brass Key Guesthouse: Just minutes from Commercial Street, this B&B features a daily wine social, nine historically detailed buildings, and English gardens.

Carpe Diem Guesthouse and Spa: This peaceful spot in the center of town offers fresh coffee and homemade breads and cakes each morning, as well as a spa with steam room, sauna and hot tub.

Fun in the sun

Two popular beaches are Herring Cove Beach and Race Point Beach. Herring Cove has a section known as “boy beach,” and has great views and beautiful dunes. Both beaches are part of the National Park System.

A summer survival activity for visitors or locals in Provincetown is spending a day on a boat. You don’t have to be a boat owner, be friends with a boat owner, or belong to an expensive boat club to get out on the water and enjoy a summer day. From luxury motor yachts to budget kayak rentals, there’s options for visitors and locals alike. You can also book incredible experiences like whale-watching tours and windsurfing lessons.

Good eats 

For days spent at Herring Cove Beach, pop by Relish to grab snacks and sandwiches. For dinner try Mac’s Seafood, which has lots of kid-friendly and non-seafood options. Sal’s Place serves Italian food on the water with a healthy bent and Saki offers sushi and a full Thai menu as well.

For romantic dinners there’s The Red Inn next to the Provincetown Inn, which dates to the early 1800s. Look into their happy hour painting classes. And Strangers and Saints serves Mediterranean favorites.

After the pool or beach, head to Victor’s for a great seafood happy hour. Another happy hour option is Tea Dance at the Boatslip. It’s 21+ and worth the cover.

See a show

Witness Provincetown at its very best after dark when the curtain goes up. See some of Broadway’s biggest stars at venues that seat only 100 or so people. And at the bars catch some of the best drag shows you’ve ever seen.

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