Things to Do in P-town in May
April 6, 2010 6:58 AM   Subscribe

What should we do on a long weekend in Provincetown?

My boyfriend and I would like to take a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, in mid-May as a long weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle of Boston. I'd like to spend between $500 and $700 for the trip, and this will be our first trip to the Cape.

Here's the tentative plan: Take the ferry out on a Friday morning, check into a hotel or B&B, and then explore the town until Monday afternoon, when we'd take the ferry back.

My questions for the hivemind:
  1. Should we shell out for fancy accommodations? Right now, I'm looking at the Watership Inn (as recommended on AskMe) and the Carpe Diem Guesthouse and Spa (because I can get gift certificates for 20 percent off).
  2. What should we do in P-town? The boyfriend is an avid naturalist, so birdwatching and bug-hunting would be right up his alley. I like books and taking photos, so send me to the cute bookstores and vistas. Any can't-miss restaurants? Spots for the New Englandest of souvenirs?
  3. Should we rent a car? We'd prefer not to have to worry about driving and parking, but maybe the area calls for it.
Thanks so much for your suggestions!
posted by kwaller to Travel & Transportation around Provincetown, MA (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've stayed at this place. They were extremely nice and bumped us to a nicer room without an extra charge (but this was in January, so quite slow). But 20% off sounds like a good deal, too.

Dinner at the Lobster Pot is touristy, but still worth it, I'd say (but don't spring for the white wine from Truro. Just don't -- trust me on that).

Unless you really want to see something that's not reachable by public transportation (which I think most things are -- and the bus that goes along the length of the Cape works well), I wouldn't think you'd need a car, but you would need to plan ahead a bit, as it doesn't go all that frequently.

Have fun!
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:16 AM on April 6, 2010

Maybe rent bikes? (no experience with that particular store, just experience with biking on the cape, which was fun!)
posted by aimedwander at 7:44 AM on April 6, 2010

Best answer: You don't need a car unless you want to go elsewhere on the Cape. The Watership is located in easy walking distance of everything (and while it isn't fancy, it's comfortable and has a nice common living room).

As to what you should do? Walk around a lot. P-Town is small but very dense, with tons of galleries and shops piled on top of each other and a decent museum. The beach and boardwalk (if you're on Commercial St., just go through one of the little alleyways and you'll see it) are very picturesque. The Army/Navy store is full of nautical stuff and Cape Cod souvenirs, without being too much of a generic beachy t-shirt store. I enjoy the Spotted Pig, which is a little, casual pub. The Pilgrim Monument is the most touristy tourist attraction, and while I haven't been, you might want to check that out. You can go up to the top and get a scenic view.

One thing I've always wanted to do is go explore the dunes. You can take a guided tour or go by yourselves. They look like another planet.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:45 AM on April 6, 2010

Make sure you nail down a place to stay asap. economy picking up and I have already run into problems getting lodgings for a week.
Dunes: you need to take the "authorized" dune buggies, in middle of town to get nice tour of dunes. Bikes, trails all fun. But walk the length of main street: one end (toward the tip) nice small lovely homes; other end, galleries; in between: touristy shops.
all tholse other goodies linked to in comments..
posted by Postroad at 8:03 AM on April 6, 2010

Can't speak for P-Town, but most of the cape is incredibly bike-friendly. Renting bikes sounds like a great option.
posted by schmod at 8:06 AM on April 6, 2010

DiscourseMarker and I rented bikes from Gale Force, and had a wonderful time. The trails did get a little too steep for us at some points, but we you are probably in better shape than us. We took the ferry as well, and were just as happy not to be driving a car through the cramped streets.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:06 AM on April 6, 2010

No need for a car. Last time I was there I rented a bike to leave P-town (I was staying in a Craigslist-found vacation rental in Truro, a few miles away) and I think that ran me all of $25 for two days.

Tons of cool places to shop and eat. There's a place whose name I forget, but it's on Commercial St, and they make Portuguese donuts (malasadas). They are worth getting for a snack.

They run whale watching tours out of the P-town. I really love those, because I was one of those kids who wanted to be a marine biologist, and even though they can be a little expensive they're super fun. The whales should all be on their way back up here in mid-May too, so I'm guessing it should be good viewing.

Spend some good time on the beach. I grew up in the Midwest and hadn't ever even seen the ocean till I was a teenager, and my parents were never beach-vacation types. My life changed when I realized, thanks to a couple of Cape trips, exactly *why* people like going to the beach. It's not the Bahamas and the water's chilly, but

I don't know about the accommodations. Both times I've gone I've been in vacation rentals, which have been nice (I like having a kitchen -- when you can buy cheap lobster off the boat nearby, why bother paying 2x markup in a restaurant?). But if this is for a relaxation weekend, personally, I'd spring for the spa.
posted by olinerd at 8:06 AM on April 6, 2010

Oops, didn't finish the beach sentence. But the sand is nice, the sun is nice, and it's better than the beaches up closer to Boston.
posted by olinerd at 8:08 AM on April 6, 2010

The Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and various trails are a treat. Unfortunately, public transit is pretty limited.

The Province Lands Bike Trail is beautiful, but can be trechrous with sand and sharp turns (so take your time and don't go fast).
posted by Consult The Oracle at 8:32 AM on April 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When not staying with friends in P-town I stay at Carpe Diem and have gotten to know Rainer and Jürgen over the years. They are great hosts. They also run Carpe Diem Stables (in nearby Truro).

There are two bookstores in P-town -- both on Commercial Street: Now Voyager Books and Provincetown Bookshop.

By all means rent bikes and ride through the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore on the Province Lands Bike Trail.

Consider a whale watching cruise. The different companies/fleets can all be found on MacMillan Wharf. Each day some of the cruises have active researchers who collect data, etc. They also provide great information on the whales you spot, etc.

I second the Lobster Pot. I suggest going upstairs and eating at the bar where locals tend to go. Also, I recommend Red Inn & Restaurant, Front Street and Patio. Also have lunch or dinner at the Mayflower Cafe. It's very low-key, traditional New England fare and a mix of tourists and locals.

Take in brunch at Bubala's and/or Cafe Edwige‎. And don't miss the traditional gathering at 1:00 a.m. (after the bars/clubs close) in front of Spiritus Pizza.

Note that the Boston Harbor Cruise P-town Ferry doesn't start-up until May 15. Bay State Cruise's Fast Ferry doesn't begin until May 27.
posted by ericb at 8:36 AM on April 6, 2010

*Bay State Cruise's Fast Ferry doesn't begin until May 21.*
posted by ericb at 8:38 AM on April 6, 2010

There's a place whose name I forget, but it's on Commercial St, and they make Portuguese donuts (malasadas).

Likely Provincetown Portuguese Bakery‎ (299 Commercial Street).
posted by ericb at 8:50 AM on April 6, 2010

I don't know about that early in the season but a lot of rentals are Saturday to Saturday so I Nth the idea of locking that down sooner rather than later.

No need to go crazy on a nice place to stay. Just make sure it's clean and has what you need. My experience of "really nice" to just "sort of nice" isn't a big swing for places in Ptown.

Do not rent a car. That's just a hassle you don't need. Walking or renting a bike are much better plans.

If you've ever wanted to get pierced check out The Bearded Lady for a great experience.

Bubala's is a very popular spot for outdoor dining. It tends to be very crowded, of course so you can expect a wait.

If Edwige is still open I highly recommend. It's small and can be a hotbox in the high season, but it's a wonderful meal and fantastic cocktails.
posted by FlamingBore at 11:56 AM on April 6, 2010

Response by poster: Fantastic answers, all. I marked a couple of the fuller responses as best answers, but all of your comments were helpful.

We've got a room at the Watership for the weekend, and I'm planning to reserve us some bikes soon. (Alas, the boyfriend nixed a tandem bike.) I'll get ferry tickets as soon as they're available through my employer's pre-sale.

I've made a list of all your suggestions, and I'll print out bike trail maps before we leave.

Thanks so much for your help!
posted by kwaller at 6:32 AM on April 12, 2010

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