Travel Guide - Provincetown, MA
Here's the thing: Provincetown is banana's awesome. If you've never been, you need to go. If you've never even considered adding it to your travel bucket list, you're a fool.
A little backstory: the Cape has always been a dream destination for me. I mean, who didn't grown up with an idolized opinion about this idillic summer destination. Even Jaws -- a movie that depicts death and fear at the hands of a blood thirsty shark -- doesn't ding the pristine reputation that the Cape holds. But growing up in Maryland and going to college in Pennsylvania, the Cape has never been a vacation destination for my family or my friends. But Greg, good ol' Greg, he grew up near the Cape. Hell, he spent a summer working on the ferry that shuttled people back and forth from Plymouth to Provincetown.
Something to know about the Cape is that its actually pretty big and is made up of a lot of unique towns. Martha's Vinyard and Nantucket are the islands you typically think of when you think of summering in the Cape. But Orleans, Dennis and Provincetown are also well known and well loved areas of the Cape. Now, I've only ever been to Provincetown, so I may be biased, but it is both mine and Greg's personal opinion that Provincetown (or Ptown as it's commonly referred) is where its at. In fact, whenever we talk about winning the lottery (which would require us to actually PLAY the lottery, but that is neither here nor there), Greg always speaks of his dream to own homes in his three favorite cities: NOLA, New York and Provincetown.
We finally made it a priority to visit Ptown last summer and since I ended up loving it as much as Greg does, when friends of ours suggested a vacation to Ptown for Labor Day this year, we threw caution to the wind (screw the fact that we just spend a fuck ton on a wedding and a honeymoon and the fact that our attendance at work has been a revolving door since the 4th of July) and jumped at the chance. Given that Greg spent a summer exploring Ptown as a teenager, and had since been back to visit may times, he knew the best place to stay and all the best things to do. And what kind of internet friend would I be if I didn't share them with you?
I apologize in advance for the length of this post but if you've been there you know: there is a crap ton of things to do, see and eat. If you have any recommendations we may have missed, let us know in the comments so we can be sure to check them out on our next trip! And if you've visited any of the places below, let us know your thoughts!
Places to Stay:
Gifford House Inn & Dance Club is a B&B that also serves as a piano bar, dance club and porch bar. Its located right off central Commercial Street, making it easy to drop off your shopping in the middle of the day or to run back and grab a sweatshirt at sundown (trust me, it will be 80 degrees during the day and freezing as soon as the sun goes down). They serve a modest breakfast and you have the option to forgo a TV and/or air conditioner for a cheaper rate (we've done this both years and haven't regretted it. You're too busy exploring to miss the TV and it gets cold enough at night that the air conditioning isn't necessary). It can get loud at night with the dance club and piano bar, but we've never minded.
Things to Do:
Gale Force Bikes has the option to rent bikes for 2 hours, half day (4 hours), full day (8 hours), 24 hours or a week. They also have an on site deli, making it easy to grab a sandwich before hitting the beach or the bike paths.
Bike to Herring Cove and park your bike along the fence. You have to walk about half a mile through the sand dunes during low tide and wade through a foot or two of water during high tide to reach the beach, but man oh man is it worth it (from the pictures below, the ocean is on the right of the first one and the tide is coming in on the left. You can see some people walking in the tide in the second photo). You can tell you're at the right place by the number of bikes off the side of Route 6. If you bike to Herring Cove, there is no fee. However there is the option to drive to Herring Cove, which can run you about $20 a day to park. There is no snack bar, so be sure to plan ahead.
Bike the Sand Dunes around Race Point Beach and Beech Forest. There are about 6+ miles of paved paths around Race Point Beach that start at Herring Cove. There are some very steep hills (we had to walk up a few of them), but what goes up must come down and trust me, you FLY. The boys had a blast on the dunes and its something Greg tries to do every time he visits. Its a workout, so brace yourself to be sore the next morning.
Climb to the top of the Pilgrim Monument and take in the aerial views of the harbor, the town and the beach. If you look at the horizon the picture below, you can see the line of sand dunes off in the distance. This summer half of our group took a ferry out to Long Point Lighthouse to chill on the beach while the other half of us walked the jetty to Herring Cove beach. Fun fact: the monument is the tallest all-garnet structure in the United States.
Visit the Provincetown Library and check out the giant boat taking up the majority of the second floor. I've never seen anything like it!
Go to a Drag Show at Crown and Anchor or check out Drag Karoke at Governor Bradford if you're looking for some post-dinner entertainment. I have yet to see a Drag Show in Ptown, but I've heard amazing things about Dina Martina's show. I've have been to Governor Bradford's a number of times. Last year I lost my Ray Bands there (this is why I can't have nice things) and this year we saw a couple get engaged.
Places to Eat:
The Canteen is a newer restaurant, from what we're told by locals or frequent visitors. Greg and I aren't known to repeat restaurants on vacation, but we could not stop going her last summer. Even with our friends this summer we went multiple times. The restaurant may seem small, but be sure to head out back to enjoy our dinner and drinks on the beach. There is an outdoor bar out back if you find yourself sticking around past dinner. My personal recommendation include the lobster roll (hot with butter), the Brussel Sprouts and the cod Bahn Mi. And yes, I have been known to get tispy off a measly two Frose's.
Sal's Place was new to Greg and I on this trip and holy shit balls is it good! Seriously. So good. GO HERE! Their menu changes often and its cash only. Our friends Sarah and Bob went here twice on this trip - once with Sarah's best friend from college that owns a house in Ptown and once with us when we thought we would be missing out if we didn't get to go.
Cafe Heaven had a banging breakfast menu and a solid Bloody Mary. Last summer we ate every breakfast at our hotel but this year we felt it necessary to do a group brunch on our second to last day. This place came highly recommended by locals and did not disappoint.
JD's isn't anything to write home about BUT they have $1 oyster's on their happy hour menu and wasn't overly crowded. Red Inn has $1.25 oysters and a better view, but they were super crowded during happy hour, so we went to JD's. I'd gone last summer and thought it was a fine backup plan.
Ptown Scoop was life changing. Graham Central Station is without a doubt my favorite ice cream. Not just in Ptown, but in life. Greg and I split a scoop every night last summer, despite the freezing temperatures and my already chattering teeth but this year we we were too greedy to split a cone and instead each got our own.
Local 186 had always been a favorite of Greg's. I've never known Greg to lose his mind over a tuna steak but the tuna burger at Local 186 was all he could talk about. Sadly this year they removed it from their menu, but I can attest to the fact that they make a solid burger. And the El Diablo Margarita was a favorite of the weekend for not only myself but our friend Liz too.
Cabot's Candy doesn't really count as "places to eat" but they have hands down the best taffy I've ever had. And I've had A LOT of taffy in my lifetime. They add grains of salt to the taffy before packaging it up and I'd be lying if I told you it didn't make all the difference. Fair warning, there is a taffy place right across the street. Do not be distracted, you must get your taffy from Cabot's. Added bonus: they offer a free water bottle, no purchase necessary (but you should probably not be a monster and actually buy something if you're going to take a water).
Mayflower Cafe has a great deal on steamers and Greg is a huge fan. Who doesn't love a bucket full of clams and butter for a steal?
The Provincetown Portuguese Bakery is known for their malasada, which is delicious and fresh friend dough. Provincetown's history has strong Portuguese roots, so you trust this bakery is authentic.
Seeing as Provincetown has now been added to our "must visit often" lists, please let us know of any must-see places you love in Ptown for our next trip in the comments below! And if you use any of our suggests, let me know your thoughts!