Sponsored by the Provincetown Office of Tourism
Spring in New England can be a tricky affair. Longer days and warmer temps hint at better things to come, yet many destinations seem to take their sweet time in emerging from hibernation. Not so in Provincetown, perched at the tip of Cape Cod. Winter’s chill seems to vanish with record speed here, thanks in part to P-town’s coastal location but also to its famously warm welcome to all who have sought it out through the years — something that has made Provincetown a favorite destination for artists and writers as well as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
And while the sun-bathing, people-watching, and nonstop revelry of summer remain perennial lures in Provincetown, a springtime visit has its own kind of magic. Flowers are coming up, fresh air is blowing along streets lined with fine art galleries and restaurants, and scenic landscapes invite exploring after months spent inside. In short, there are many reasons to visit Provincetown during the shoulder season! Here are our top 5.
1. You Can Get Back to Nature
Unless you’re the polar bear type, swimming in the waters off Provincetown is still a few months away. But area beaches are a delight in and of themselves: For instance, Herring Cove Beach, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, offers the perfect backdrop for an easy, quiet stroll. According to the National Park Service, spring also is a great time to look for whales from shore, and rangers and staff members from the Center for Coastal Studies often give whale research talks at Herring Cove — for free.
Prefer hiking to strolling? Follow the splendidly scenic Hatches Harbor Trail, a moderate, 3.3-mile out-and-back hike to the historic Race Point Lighthouse, first established more than 200 years ago. Closer to town, the Beech ForestTrail is an easy 1-mile loop that’s ideal for springtime bird watching, since Provincetown hosts one of the most diverse arrays of migratory birds on the Eastern Seaboard. (At the Provincetown Conservation Trust’s Dwyer Family Woodlands, a whopping 130 bird species have been documented, including warblers, woodpeckers, wading birds, ducks, and a rare barred owl.)
For those who like to head outdoors on two wheels, good news: Provincetown was recently named the nation’s best small city for cycling. A favorite route for riders is the Province Lands Bike Trail, a roughly 5.5-mile loop within the Cape Cod National Seashore that takes you past pine forests, sandy dunes, and low-lying cranberry bogs, and offers spur trails to Herring Cove and Race Point beaches. And for P-town visitors who don’t have their own wheels, local outfitters are happy to remedy that, including the venerable Gale Force Bikes, which is located closest to the National Seashore bicycle trails.
2. You Can Stay and Play for Less
Provincetown lodging prices in March and April can be nearly half off summer rates, which is the case at the luxury-minded Lands End Inn, a historic mansion that offers sweeping views of Provincetown Harbor and 18 guest rooms rich in architectural flourishes and heirloom antiques. Another seasonal bargain is the White Porch Inn Art Hotel, where a springtime stay in the penthouse suite might be $100 to $200 less per night compared with summer — but beware, the fine artwork displayed through this inn may also inspire a small buying spree!
Booking specials abound as well, such as 15% off a four-night stay at the Crowne Pointe Hotel & Spa until May 26. This former residence of a 19th-century sea captain has been completely remodeled, offers an on-site restaurant and spa, and is located within walking distance to just about everything. Meanwhile, at the Carpe Diem Guesthouse, daily wine and cheese receptions and an on-site spa — complete with Turkish steam room and Finnish sauna — helps guests to rest, recharge, and save money, too (stays of at least three nights are 10% off until May 26).
A final perk of spring stays? More-flexible dates. At Pilgrim House, for instance, rooms that require weeklong stays in summer can be found now for quick two-night trips — still plenty of time to lounge on the Zen-like outdoor patio; enjoy a craft cocktail at The Landing Bistro & Bar; and start planning a return visit for Pilgrim House’s summer season of drag and comedy shows.
3. You Can See the Sights, Not the Crowds
Shoulder season equals elbow room in Provincetown, which can make for a more laid-back pace in exploring local attractions. Top of the list: the Provincetown Monument, the iconic 252-foot-high tower on High Point Hill commemorating the landing of the Mayflower in 1620, and the adjacent Provincetown Museum, which both open April 1. New this year is an inclined elevator that whisks visitors on a two-minute ride from Bradford Street to the hilltop site; plus, look for the new museum exhibit “Our Story: The Complicated Relationship of the Indigenous Wampanoag and the Mayflower Pilgrims.”
Also kicking off in April is whale-watching season at Dolphin Fleet: Founded in 1975, it’s said to be the originator of East Coast whale-watching and guarantees sightings on every outing (trips begin April 16). Another long-beloved attraction is Art’s Dune Tours, which embarks on its 75th season May 1 as it takes guests on an unforgettable ride into the Cape Cod National Seashore dunes. Finally, be one of the first to experience the new Shark Center Provincetown, whose grand opening is set for Memorial Day weekend. The second Cape Cod location for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, the center will brim with interactive exhibits, videos, and displays that provide visitors with an in-depth look at these denizens of the deep.
4. You Can Soak Up the Arts Scene
Recognized as America’s oldest continuous art colony, Provincetown has been attracting artists and art enthusiasts for more than a century. Many of the 40-plus art galleries here are located on the main drag, Commercial Street, which is decidedly less busy in the off-season — allowing you time to linger in places such as Room 68, a showcase of contemporary art and design, and the Bowersock Gallery, representing local and national artists alike in a variety of styles and media.
At the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, the permanent collection spans more than 3,000 works from some 700 artists, many of whom call Cape Cod home. A “don’t miss” alert: You have until May 1 to catch the stunning exhibit “Joel Meyerowitz Photographs from the Permanent Collection,” 80 works created on Cape Cod by the acclaimed street, portrait, and landscape photographer.
Other ways to get your art fix in Provincetown include Waters Edge Cinema, which screens gems by the likes of Jean Renoir and Jane Campion alongside new studio releases year-round; the Moby-Dick Reading Marathon, which runs from April 29 to May 1 at the Provincetown Public Library; and the Outer Cape Chorale, which will perform at Town Hall on May 20 and 21.
5. You Can Eat, Drink, and Be Merry — Even Before Summer Arrives!
Food and fun go hand in hand in Provincetown, where dining and nightlife options are as joyfully diverse as the town itself. And in spring, you can often snag a table without a reservation! Among the go-to spots for hungry locals are the Lobster Pot, serving up tasty seafood and more in two waterfront dining rooms; Tin Pan Alley, where you can nosh on seasonal New American cuisine with global influences while listening to nightly live entertainment from the piano lounge; and Liz’s Café, Anybody’s Bar, known for stellar breakfasts and refined three-course prix-fixe dinners, along with a creative cocktail menu.
For dance fans, the essential spring event is Spring Stomp: A Hoedown in P-Town, hosted by the LGBTQ+ country & western dance organization Gays for Patsy (as in, Patsy Cline). Set for April 29–May 1, it invites everyone to come kick up their heels at workshops and social dances. And if you’re planning to visit P-town just as springtime begins making way for summer, lucky you: Provincetown Pride comes back to town June 3–5 with an unforgettable weekend of events and Pride programming. Along with Womxn of Color Weekend (June 2–5), it offers a celebration of everything that makes Provincetown so special: art, awareness, empowerment, and diversity.