Provincetown (Cape Cod), Massachusetts
Provincetown is the farthest town out on the tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. A vacation destination for many years, the town is known for its vibrant arts scene and friendliness to the LGBT community. The Main Street of Provincetown is Commercial Street. But when you're not shopping, dining or visiting one of the town's galleries or cabarets, you can take a whale watching excursion or visit the nearby beaches, including Race Point Beach and Herring Cove Beach.
About 120 miles away from Boston by car, you can also reach the town by ferry either from Boston or Plymouth. Provincetown is located in Barnstable County, which mostly consists of Cape Cod. Provincetown is located in the section of Cape Cod known as the Outer Cape. Other towns worth visiting on Cape Cod include Falmouth, Hyannis, and Chatham.
We started our trip to Provincetown with an early morning whale watching excursion. A popular activity in Provincetown as the area is located on the tip of Cape Cod and surrounded by waters populated with whales.
Here's a view of the Provincetown skyline as we headed back to land. The large campanile is the Pilgrim's Monument, commemorating the first landing place of the Pilgrims before they continued on to Plymouth. It's also the tallest all granite structure in the U.S.
Large black and white photos adorn an otherwise nondescript fishing shed. Coming in by sea, it's your first clue that this town isn't just full of history but is also an artist's colony as well.
Once off the boat, we walk down the pier and head towards shore. Numerous shanties are lined up along the pier, selling art, gifts, and other merchandise.
On land, we make it to Ryder Street and find more shops and restaurants. Notice the cedar siding on this building typical of the New England coastal architecture so common in the area.
We reach Commercial Street, which is Provincetown's Main Street. This Queen Anne style building sells Sea Shells and Salt Water Taffy. You know you're close to the beach. Also notice the Pilgrim's Monument rising in the background.
Now let's jump over to the far western edge of Provincetown's Commercial Street district. From this point we'll head east on Commercial Street. This is the 100 block of Commercial Street. It's far quieter here than in the center of town. Many of the buildings are hotels or bed and breakfasts where visitors can stay.
Although we're heading east, we turn around to take a look at this sign advertising more businesses if we continue to head west. This is true but the businesses themselves grow more sparse as you continue west. You'll find more activity if you head east.
What appears to be an old hardware store has been converted into a shop selling home decor and gifts and another shop selling dance music.
With visitors in mind, the town now provides public bathrooms in what was once a fire house. Notice the gay pride flag. Provincetown is very popular with the LGBT community.
Commercial Street is a very narrow thoroughfare. And the sidewalks are narrow too. Visitors think nothing of walking right down the middle of the street. Fortunately, the cars driving through usually drive slow.
More restaurants and art galleries. One thing you'll find along Commercial Street are lots of artist studios and galleries.
A beach house that otherwise would blend in with the historic neighborhood is covered with a funky and ultramodern storefront. On the left of this photo is a patio with outdoor seating. There are quite a few places to eat outdoors in Provincetown even if you won't find too many sidewalk cafes.
Today, the Aquarium Marketplace is full of shops, eateries and other businesses. But yes, at one time it was in fact an aquarium. And before that it was a garage, hence the style of the building.
A view looking east into the distance along Commercial Street with three towers rising in the background, including the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House and the Provincetown Town Hall.
This structure along the 200 block of Commercial Street contains multiple retail tenants and also the Art House theatre.
More retail abounds through this stretch of Commercial Street. Notice the sign and the symbol above the store. King Hiram's Lodge is a Freemason Lodge that received its charter from Paul Revere in 1795 and is still operating today.
That bright red building sure stands out. It's The Little Store and sells magazines and other assorted sundries you'd find in a convenience store.
Originally, built as a house, this Second Empire structure now features shops and galleries in a front section that once served as a restaurant.
In this one building you can find a spa, a massage parlor, a clothing store, and even a psychic.
Here's an interior shot of Whale's Wharf, a multi-level structure featuring festival-style shopping and businesses. The current structure replaced the original building which burnt down in 1998.
Visitors stroll along Commercial Street. Literally. Pedestrians have no choice but to share the road with cars as there is hardly any sidewalk at all along this stretch.
Although the sidewalk returns here as we continue heading east, notice that it is still very narrow. Also, as you can see in the upper left-hand corner, many of the shops in Provincetown use the second stories to show off their merchandise.
The Victorian style Provincetown Town Hall has recently undergone a major renovation. You'll find public bathrooms inside.
Doughboy was erected in Portuguese Square to honor those who had fallen in The Great World War. The Pilgrim's Monument rises in the background.
We're back in the heart of town again close to where we first entered Commercial Street from Ryder Street. This stretch was very busy and full of activity. Notice the shoppers walking down the middle of the road.
Here we look back at the Provincetown Town Hall and the Doughboy Memorial in Portuguese Square. Oh yeah, and The Shell Shop is right around the corner.
It's hard to miss the outlandish designs on some of the historic storefronts. Also, the second story window shows off Provincetown's counter-culture side.
What's a day at the beach without pizza or a giant ice cream cone? You can find a wide assortment of cuisines in Provincetown.
A tour bus squeezes its way down narrow Commercial Street. Notice the Cabaret on the left side of the picture. It's right across the street from the Mayflower Family Restaurant. Definitely a reflection of two different influences you'll find in Provincetown.
Again no one thinks twice about walking right down the street. We saw quite a few people hauling luggage through town as well. Also in the distance you can see someone driving a pedi-cab along Commercial Street.
Here's a view of the intersection of Commercial Street and Lopes Square looking south out towards the beach.
Another view of Lopes Square. The wide median provides plenty of benches and trees between the two way vehicular traffic. Definitely a change of pace from the more crowded Commercial Street.
At the intersection of Commercial Street and Lopes Square, you can buy tickets for Whale Watching, Tour Buses, or even a ferry to Boston. That last one might explain the folks we were seeing walking around with luggage.
A view of the 300 block of Commercial Street as seen from its intersection with Standish Street. The A-Frame structure in the middle is pretty interesting with its floor to ceiling windows, showing off the store's merchandise.
Here's another look at the clash of styles in Provincetown. You have the Governor Bradford Restaurant, which harkens back to Massachusetts' Colonial roots and then you have a banner across Commercial Street that, well, says it all. Hey look, in the distance, there's someone else dragging a suitcase.
Pedestrians, bikes, and cars of all styles, share the road as seen here at the intersection of Commercial Street and Standish Street.
There are places to shop, eat, and even get ice cream along this stretch of the 300 block of Commercial Street. There's even some room for outdoor dining just in front of some of these houses.
This historic building could probably use a little fixing up, but at least the stairs are colorful.
A street performer sets up in front of the Provincetown Tourism Office, which is located at the corner of Commercial Street and Freeman Street.
More historic buildings with that splash of color. The Purple Feather is a restaurant that also sells candy including x-rated chocolates. They also have a fun bear in the front!
A small alleyway provides an entry to more shops, cafes, and other businesses, while the walkway above connects the two buildings.
Designer's Dock is home to many of Provincetown's art galleries and also condos you can rent when staying near the beach.
Here's another view the Designer's Dock collection of shops and galleries. It's hard to see here, but just on the other side of this view is the beach.
As we continue to head east on Commercial Street, we come across more of the art galleries the area is famous for. The stonework on the front of this building is interesting.
More shops and galleries occupy these buildings on Commercial Street. There's even pirates walking the streets. Talk about a blast from the past!
Not only do you find art galleries, but there's even an artist setting up his easel to work.
Tourists pass by the Provincetown Public Library. If it looks like a church, that's because it once was. In 1860, it was built as the Center Methodist Episcopal Church.
Speaking of tourists, check out this art installation in front of the Public Library. It's actually called Tourists.
Remember those signs we saw a while back on the West End? Well, they got them on this side of town as well. Commercial Street goes a long ways in both directions past the heart of Provincetown so this is the town's way to draw more business further east and west.
Historic houses with that Cape Cod and New England feel have been converted into shops and art galleries.
You'll find more businesses and vacation lodging as you continue heading through the East End of town.
Even as you head further from the heart of Provincetown's downtown, you'll still find stretches where the sidewalks practically disappear. Notice the blue sign on the telephone pole? It says Make Levees Not War. A testament to the political leanings of folks in the area.
Here's a shot looking westward back down Commercial Street the way we came. You can see the towers of the Provincetown Public Library and the Pilgrim's Memorial in the distance. The sign in the bottom left-hand corner lets you know it's only a five minute walk to the Town Center from the parking lot.
The businesses grow more sparse as you head further east, but you'll still find some restaurants thrown in the mix. This restaurant has quite a bit of landscaping in the front.
We end our tour here at the intersection of Commercial Street and Kiley Court. This is about where we turned around and headed back to the center of town. If you continue to head down Commercial Street you'll still find some galleries and shops, but many of the buildings are strictly residential.
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