An Off Season Visit to Provincetown, MA

Art by the Sea Provincetown Off Season

I wanted to get in a pre-season trip to my favorite town on Cape Cod: Provincetown.  In the summer it is teeming with people so my Mother and I were curious to see the town before the throngs of people arrive (no judgement, I’ll be leading said throng when I come back in the summer).

Provincetown is a popular tourist destination located at the very tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It is known for its artists and LGBTQ community. Additionally, it’s where the Pilgrims first landed.  They hung around for five weeks for, I assume, the boutique galleries and cold-brew coffee, before setting off for Plymouth Rock.  Valuing “arable farm land” over the best beaches in Massachusetts worked out for them, but in my opinion they really missed out.

Kite 2


We arrived in Provincetown around 11:45 a.m. Typically in the summer if you arrive around 11:45 a.m. you would pay $20 to park and a young gate attendant would pleasantly ask you to cram your car in a microscopic opening between an Escalade and a fir tree because that’s all that is left.

At this point you would freak out about your ability to park and your mother who was raised in the city would look quietly up, gently grab your hand and say “do you want me to do it?”  And you would let her as you, a suburban raised, motor skill lacking simpleton, watched on.   Hypothetically speaking of course.

However being pre-season at 11:45 we could park in the lot right down town. Destroying the stereotypes of all parking related employees in Massachusetts, the attendant actually recommended we park somewhere else for cheaper if we were going to stay all day.

Commercial Street

Still trying to process a friendly public parking attendant, my mother and I hit Commercial St, which is Provincetown’s most popular thoroughfare lined with restaurants, eclectic shops and art galleries.

It became apparent while I was photographing the buildings on Commercial St, if you waited a few minutes you could get a photograph with no people in it.  This is unheard of, cheers one for pre-season! Behold Provincetown’s artsy exterior:

Whale Mural

View of Commercial Street

Shop Therapy

Walking along Commercial Street my mother and I did that thing all families do while traveling together–try and suss out what the other one wants to do before you snap and scream “pick a goddamn store!”  In this case I was the dilly-dally-er and my mom the polite one as she finally asked “what exactly are you looking for?”

“I don’t know, I think, like, coffee and a baked good?”

She then gracefully pointed across from where we were standing and said:

“that place has a sign that says ‘Coffee’ and ‘baked goods'”

And they did! Such logic could not be argued with so we went there.

Happy Camper Coffee Shop

Happy Camper turned out to be a lovely little coffee shop sporting Stumptown Coffee and offerings such as a Hibiscus donut.  Since it’s hard for me to choose any flavor over chocolate I selected a Boston Cream Donut while my mom opted for apple pie.

Protected by Batman

Do not steal from Happy Camper

Food from Happy Camper

The cream in the donut tasted like homemade fresh whipped filling and not the heavy Bavarian style cream it usually is: delicious! Also you can’t beat this plate:

Donut Up Close

After Happy Camper it was on to:

The Pilgrim Monument

After the Pilgrims went to Plymouth they employed a high-level Hollywood PR Team to promote that as the landing spot, not one to take things lightly* Provincetown countered by building a 272 ft tower to commemorate the Pilgrim’s first landing here.

*this may not be entirely true

Pilgrim Monument

The Pilgrim Monument is accessible only through a museum chronicling the Pilgrims journey and time in Provincetown.  It costs $12, but includes entrance to the museum exhibits, to climb the monument and most importantly, access to a bathroom.  {Note: Provincetown does have public bathrooms on Commercial street, but knowing the location to multiple bathrooms cannot be underestimated}

Despite having been to Provincetown many times before I had never actually climbed the monument.  I think this is because climbing a compact granite structure in 80 degree heat and flip flops never appealed to me, but now it was a balmy 60 and I was wearing Nikes.

Fun facts about the tower

    • Finished in 1910 President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone on August 20, 1907
    • The Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum is Cape Cod’s oldest non-profit and cultural institution.
    • The tower is based on a design of the tower from Siena, Italy and had some criticism for not exactly having anything to do with the Pilgrims themselves; (they must have vetoed a 270ft buckle hat) however, in 1907 the Boston Globe quoted an Old Sea Captain as saying:

I don’t sympathize with all the kicking about the monument. It’s good enough, and it has        this in its favor, that it resembles many lighthouses on the coast of Portugal and on Portuguese Islands, and Provincetown, you know, is full of Portuguese.

The Old Sea Captain has spoken! Commence with the monument!

I began climbing and for a lazy person, it wasn’t that bad.  It was quite cool and shady inside the tower and the bulk of the journey is made up of ramps, not stairs which helps.  However, I was glad it wasn’t peak season because there is only one set of ramps in the monument so it would be close quarters if there were a lot of people inside.

While climbing you can see the name of towns who donated to help complete the monument.  I began looking for my hometown Winchester, but apparently they were too stingy to donate because I think every single town in Massachusetts was represented except for them.  Maybe it just seemed that way, but even our old “waiting for the alphabetical scroll, do we have a snow day? omgyes,waitnooooo” rival Winchendon was represented.*

Towns in Monument

I also learned there is a place called Little Compton, RI and even they donated.  Tsk-tsk Winchester.

*Winchendon always had a snow day. I’m not bitter.

Seflies Monument

Left: View from the bottom, looking up

Right: View from the top, looking down-I tried leaning over the edge for a selfie from the top and realized why 12 Americans a year die of attempted selfies, so please enjoy this collage instead.

Another view from the Top(the window has plexiglass)

View from Top

Upon descent my mother and I used our $12 bathroom one more time and headed to the Waterfront near the center of town.


Me on Buoy Bench

Since there weren’t enough people to ask anyone to take our pictures, and a selfie couldn’t capture this awesome bench, my mom and I had to pose separately on it.  Luckily I crudely edited us together.

Now it just looks like we’re awkwardly spaced apart on one giant bench with two different lighting schemes. Mother-Daughter bonding!

Me and Mom on Buoy Bench

The End of Cape Cod

On the way home we decided to see how far down Cape Cod you could drive before the highway just poured out into the ocean.  I was hoping it ended with a cool sign and you could take a bucket list-esque photo.  Instead, in the most Massachusetts thing ever, it ends in a rotary.   There is another plaque showing this is actually, for real where the Pilgrims landed.

End of Road

My car parked in the rotary

On the way out of town we stopped at Herring Cove Beach.  It was beautiful and a little pre-cursor of how amazing it will be when it’s warm enough to swim. Can’t wait to see your face again in the summer Provincetown!

Herring Cove Beach

A Trip to Provincetown, MA PIN


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