5 things to do when visiting Provincetown

From art galleries to seaside restaurants to gorgeous beaches.

Race Point Beach in Provincetown. Flickr / Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Emmett Catanese, former Provincetown clerk, said the seaside town on the northern tip of Cape Cod is “like nowhere else.”

“I think what makes Provincetown special and the reason why people want to visit and people want to live here is because we welcome everyone,” said Catanese, who served as a police officer for eight years before he became town clerk.

Expedia travelers named Provincetown, often called P-town, among the 10 friendliest towns in America and Travel + Leisure called it one of the best beach towns in America.

The destination is known for its restaurants, art galleries, nightlife, and LGBTQ community (one of 7 beloved LGBTQ destinations in America, says Conde Nast Traveler). But there are many opportunities for stunning experiences in nature, which are sometimes overlooked, Catanese said.


“There’s so much to do in town,” Catanese said. “You have to walk up and down Commercial Street, absolutely. But when you’re done shopping and eating, go out and experience the beauty we have here in addition to our culture. Go out and experience the nature that is Provincetown.”

Race Point Beach, one of six Cape Cod National Seashore beaches, was named among the best beaches in New England by AAA. It’s considered one of the best beaches in the U.S. by Tripavisor.

Ahead, Catanese shares some of his favorite things to do in Provincetown.

Climb to the top of the 252-foot tall Pilgrim Monument (and explore the museum):

When family and friends visit from out of town, Catanese always recommends they check out the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.

“It’s this really cool, hidden museum,” he said. “It’s pretty neat. I don’t think people expect it to be there.”

The museum is full of information about the town’s history, such as the story of the Wampanoag Nation and the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620. An inclined elevator shuttles visitors between Provincetown Center and High Pole Hill, where the monument is located.

The 116-step climb to the top is worth it, he said.

“On a clear day, you can definitely see Boston,” he said.

A lobster roll from The Lobster Pot in Provincetown. – Courtesy of The Lobster Pot

Eat at The Lobster Pot:

For food that never disappoints, head to The Lobster Pot on Commercial Street, Catanese said.


“Some people see The Lobster Pot in the center of town, and people are like, ‘Oh it looks kind of touristy, is it really a good place?'” said Catanese. “It is delicious.”

The restaurant, established in 1979, offers two waterfront dining rooms and a menu full of seafood, Portuguese specialties, and more.

“They are very consistent in what they do,” he said. “You can get some great local Portuguese dishes. And they make a great Bloody Mary.”

His favorite dish? Lobster, of course.

“When in New England …” he said with a laugh.

For take-out and delivery, Catanese’s go-to is Provincetown House of Pizza.

“I’m from outside of Philly, and I think they make a great … ‘Steak Bomb,'” he said. “It’s delicious. And they make an excellent pizza.”

Provincetown has the oldest continuous art colony in America, and offers dozens of art galleries and organized gallery strolls between May and September. The Provincetown Art Association and Museum also hosts workshops and programs throughout the year.

“We have over 50 art galleries,” Catanese said. “Friday nights, you can do an art stroll. It’s free. You walk down the street, a lot of our galleries are situated in the East End, but they do span Commercial Street. You walk in and you just check out the art. The amount of galleries that we have, I don’t know where else you can go and get that many.”


Or you can simply sit on a bench, Catanese said.

“If you have a moment to just sit in front of town hall on the benches and just watch the people go by, it’s just, it’s the perfect viewing spot,” he said. “It’s so artful. You will see international tourists, you will have people in costume walking up and down the street.”

Those in costume are often performers advertising shows, he said.

“We have a lot of drag performances, so you’ll have a lot of drag performers walking down the street,” Catanese said.

Long Point Lighthouse sunset
Sunset near Long Point Lighthouse in Provincetown on July 24, 2020. – Eric Levin

Enjoy nature:

When Catanese wants to relax, he heads to MacMillan Pier, where the sunrise is gorgeous if you don’t mind arriving early.

“At the end there’s this little covered pavilion,” he said. “It’s out of the sun. And you can just go and sit there and you can watch all the boats come in. It’s a nice place to relax. It’s not super busy. You sit by the water and you have kind of like a little spot to yourself.”

The picturesque Beech Forest Trail is worth checking out for its walking and biking opportunities, he said. There’s free parking and a mile-long loop that’s great for all ages, he said.

“There are so many birds, and it kind of goes around this little pond,” he said.

Provincetown was named the most bikable small city in America. There are so many wonderful biking opportunities, Catanese said.

He recommended hopping on the Province Lands Bike Trail from the Beech Forest Trail parking lot. From the trail, visitors can bike to Herring Cove Beach and Race Point Beach, he said.


“You don’t realize how extensive our beaches are,” he said. “We have such a beautiful, beautiful series of beaches. I mean, expanses of sand that — it’s unrivaled. It really is.”

He likes to meet friends at the Herring Cove Beach pavilion and relax on a bench there.

“Sometimes you can see the whales from that spot,” he said. “You can watch the whale spouts, so bring your binoculars. You can see them with the plain eye, too. Sometimes you can see the tail, but you mostly see the spouts. I can’t think of anything cooler than that.”

A sunrise at Provincetown’s MacMillan Pier. — Emmett Catanese

Readers recommend the following restaurants:

And the following businesses:

As for things to do, readers had these favorite activities:

What readers say they love about Provincetown:

“The air, the bike paths, the shops, the restaurants, the people watching, the whale watching….. the list goes on” — @bgconrad

“What’s NOT to love? The people, the water, the food, the art, the pier portraits, great views and quaint B&B’s” — @ntevanko

“The small businesses in the area are all amazing!! The food is fantastic and the shops have some really cool stuff. Every time I go I never want to leave.” — @meristemma.gil

“The people, the food, the atmosphere, basically everything” — @samvukelich

“Architecture is beautiful and the people are friendly and fun” — @bendingbranchesmusic

“Love all the pride flags!” —@photograph.thepisces

“Best whale watch of my life!” — @ceroush

“I love everything about ptown!” — @iloveben3

“To know that no matter who you are, you’re welcome” — @bry.hill


“Diversity” — @ric.lish

“The small town feel It’s rare and disappearing quickly. Love walking the streets.” — @sbriggs828

“The beaches, the food, EVERYTHING” — @stadue

“It’s peaceful and welcoming and all of the arts and crafts are beautiful. It’s pretty much my favorite place!” — @leahdhemmingsen

“It’s home. PHS Class of 1995. Best place to grow up.” — @sarah.white.smith

Finally, @shehows shared the following itinerary: “Renting bikes and riding the bike trails for 2-3 hours in the morning, then a nice lunch and a few beers. Then shopping , walking a while, ending with dinner at the Mews!”

Some responses have been lightly edited for clarity.


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