Think You Can’t Afford Provincetown? Think Again!
Provincetown is super-exciting as a destination for women, whether you’re coming to get married, for a romantic getaway, to meet up with friends, hang out with your kids, or just get a little beach time in. But…wait…isn’t it too expensive?
While it’s true that a visit to Ptown can wipe out anyone’s savings, it doesn’t have to, and we’re here to tell you that anyone—and that means you—can come here without spending your next three rent checks. Let’s be honest. A lot of the expensive venues and activities are aimed at male visitors, and women are generally really good at deciding exactly where it’s worth spending the money.
And that’s the key to Ptown: deciding where you want to spend your money, and finding alternatives for the rest. Maybe you don’t really care where you stay, but you want a couple of fabulous meals. Or maybe you’d prefer to cook for yourself and dance the nights away at a club or buy some art to take home. It’s all about choices, and we’re here to help you make them!
Where should I stay?
Staying here is probably the most expensive part of…staying here! But you don’t have to stay at the most high-end inns or B&Bs, no matter how delightful they may be. If you want to save money where you sleep, you have some options.
The first one is camping. Rent a tent or a trailer, and reserve a spot at one of Provincetown’s two campgrounds, Coastal Acres or Dune’s Edge Campground. If you don’t mind roughing it, camping gives you a whole lot of advantages: it’s easier to meet people, you can buy and cook your own food, and if you have kids and/or pets it’s friendlier than a lot of places in town. On the other hand, if you’re coming alone and don’t mind sharing, Provincetown has a hostel (with small shared cottages rather than dormitory-style rooms) on Winslow Street called the Outermost Hostel. This fills up quickly so you’ll want to get your reservations in early.
If you don’t mind spending a little more money and you’re coming with friends and/or family, then consider renting a house or a condo. They come with steep price tags, but if you have a group of women pitching in, they can suddenly become more affordable. Remember that with this option you’re also saving money on food and alcohol, as you can cook your own meals and visit the liquor store rather than going to a bar.
Maybe you can’t bring enough people to make renting a condo make sense but the high-end prices still have you cringing. In that case, there is a moderate option: places like the Provincetown Inn and the Surfside Hotel provide clean rooms, private outdoor swimming pools, and value for your money.
And finally, if your dream has always been to stay in a beautiful place and you’re willing to allocate your budget accordingly, there are high-end inns that provide pampering, luxury, friendly and interesting hosts, and more. Our favorites? We recommend 8 Dyer , AWOL, and Land’s End Inn.
I want to play…
There’s so much to do here that it’s hard to know where to begin! Whether you’re a first-time visitor or an old hand at Provincetown, start at the library. It’s a great introduction to the town, especially if you’re interested in history: once upon a time the great Massachusetts fishing fleets raced against each other, and the result is the Lipton Cup on the library’s first floor…and the three-quarters model of the winning boat on the second. Stop by the room that’s right at the boat’s bow for every book that’s ever been written about Ptown and the Outer Cape and read up on some of the amazing women who’ve lived here. Then take a break on the third floor to sit looking at a stunning view of Commercial Street and the harbor.
But it doesn’t stop there: the library offers lots of great activities for you (and your children, should they be with you), including walks, workshops, films, and more, and most of them are free or low-cost. Just check out the library’s online calendar for specifics.
For a fascinating overview of the town and the National Seashore, take a trolley ride. The Mayflower Trolley is $20 for adults and $10 for kids and is a great tour (as well as a chance to rest your feet!). Check it out at MacMillan Pier and Standish Street.
Ptown’s vibe is nautical, as you’ll soon discover. Be sure to check out the beautiful portraits of Portuguese women (in an art installation called They Also Faced the Sea) that you can view from the end of MacMillan Pier, and hang out to watch the boats come in while you’re there. The town beaches are all free, and great places to walk your dog on-leash if you brought her along (she can make friends at the Pilgrim Bark Park, too, which is also free).
Speaking of the beach, you can drive out to any of the beaches owned by the National Seashore, and if you can show them that you’re 62 or older, you can get a sticker for free admission for the rest of your life (and good at any national park in the US) for under $20. If you’re not yet 62 or don’t have a car, then cycle out to Herring Cove or Race Point anyway; admission is free for everyone after 5:00, leaving you lots of time to watch the sunset.
Here with friends? You might want to get a permit for a beach bonfire. Permits are free, but only a limited number are issued, so you’ll need to be at the Visitor Center when it opens in the morning to stake your claim. Another evening option is Wednesdays and Fridays at Herring Cove beach when there’s a free outdoor concert and affordable munchies from Far Land.
If you want to explore the harbor, you can rent a boat—power or sail—at Flyer’s for a half or full day (not too expensive if several people pitch in) or else take Flyer’s water taxi out to Long Point for the day for a less crowded beach experience. You can also get out to Long Point for free by hiking out via the breakwater—just be sure to bring water with you for hydration!
Water is in abundance, actually. If you don’t enjoy swimming in the harbor or ocean, there are two pools at opposite ends of town with free admission: one at the Harbor Hotel (probably the best bet if you’re here with kids) and the other at the Provincetown Inn. Sure, you can order pricey food and drinks, but you’re never pressured to do so.
Thinking about how to get around? Bring a bicycle, or rent one here. It’s the best and cheapest way to get around town, and everyone does it. You’ll get used to Commercial Street (two-way traffic for bikes) before you know it. Just be sure to lock it up; our biggest crime-wave seems to be folks “borrowing” others’ bicycles! You can choose to tool around town, or follow the fairly demanding bike path through the National Seashore.
Strolling is fine, too. In fact, strolling is an art form here! Commercial Street people-watching is free, and drop in on a gallery or two while you’re at it. Chances are good that the person you’ll meet there is one of the artists. Art is featured on Friday nights with the popular and free Gallery Stroll, when galleries often offer tidbits to eat and drink, and even the Provincetown Art Association and Museum offers free admission.
Speaking of museums, you can spend an entire day up at the Provincetown Museum and Pilgrim Monument for the cost of parking and admission (or just admission if you don’t use their parking facilities). It’s a terrific museum, and the climb up the monument isn’t as difficult as it looks (instead of stairs, the tower uses ramps). Bring something to eat with you, or buy something fresh at the café, and hang out on the lawn for an hour or so enjoying the view.
Like shopping? A good buy is something from local artisans at Womencrafts or Blue Gallery Pottery. For the funky and unexpected (and great for kids), head over to Marine Specialties, where you’ll find—well, just about anything. Provincetown has not one but three independent booksellers, and they’re all well worth a visit. And we also have two hat shops…!
And, finally, take a listen to Cape Cod’s community radio station, WOMR, Outermost Radio. Listening is free and you’ll hear local voices talking about everything from when you can go clamming to what’s playing at the cinema.
Now I’m hungry…
Yes, you can spend a lot of cash for an elegant dinner at Ross’ Grill, The Mews, the Red Inn, or Front Street, and you might want to consider splurging one night and doing just that. But you can also eat a lot of really terrific food without spending too much money; it’s still all about choices.
Breakfast out is always fun (especially if you overdid it the night before!), and you can get something hearty and filling at Chach’s, our local diner. Or spend a little more and try the banana pancakes at Café Heaven while you people-watch. A lot of informal eateries offer reasonably priced breakfasts, including Far Land Provisions, the East End Marketplace, the Coffee Pot, and The Canteen, but one of our favorites is the Portuguese Bakery where you can get a breakfast made to order (and follow it up with something sweet if you’re so inclined!). We like to get a breakfast sandwich and coffee and take them out to the pier where we sit in the sun and let the morning work its magic.
Lunch offers a plethora of choices! Getting food to go is usually the least expensive alternative—after all, you can even have a sandwich made at the deli counter at Stop & Shop—so pack something up and head out via bicycle or boat to explore the day. Want to stay in town? The Brewhouse offers filling sandwiches along with an impressive selection of beers, and Bayside Betsy’s has great food that won’t break the bank and a deck overlooking the harbor. Or you can get a lobster roll or hot dog with onion rings at John’s Foot-Long in Lopes Square for a classic summer treat. On the other hand, if you really have a hankering for a more expensive meal, lunch menus are generally less costly than dinner ones, and you’ll enjoy the same ingredients and often the same dishes—for less. As you stroll down Commercial Street, read the menus posted outside all the restaurants to better make your choices.
Dinner is where it’s easy to spend money, but much of it can be spent wisely. You really should have seafood while you’re here, and Mac’s Fish House is probably the number-one choice. If you like sushi, this is the best on the Cape; and from three to five every day, Mac’s “happy hour” gives you half-price appetizers, easily one of the best deals in town. (If you’re staying at the campground or renting a condo, there’s a market right next to the restaurant with the freshest fish imaginable for you to cook yourself.) We love picking up something at the Aquarium Mall and heading on out to the Aqua Bar to complement it with a cocktail and then sit watching the changing evening light over the harbor.
And then it’s time to party…
Well, okay. If you want to take in a show, you’ll feel it in your pocketbook; no way around that. But there are a lot of things you can do without spending too much money—and without feeling deprived of Ptown’s nightlife!
Theater is a good bet, as the local companies try to keep prices down (and often have one pay-what-you-can night). Check out the Provincetown Theater and the Peregrine Theatre Company, or travel down the road to Truro for the Payomet Center for the Performing Arts and to Wellfleet for the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and the Harbor Stage Company. Some of these companies have special summer workshops and performances for kids, too.
There’s some excellent music nightly at Tin Pan Alley, and you can enjoy it for the price of a drink and a tip. In fact, for that same drink and tip, there’s the piano bar at the Crown & Anchor, where you too can belt out show tunes along with Bobby Wetherbee; the Crown also offers cover-free dance parties. And (sensing a theme here?) for the drink-and-tip combination, you can try your hand—and voice—at drag karaoke at the Governor Bradford.
Every night ends with a Provincetown tradition: a slice of late-night pizza at Spiritus. Eat your slice and enjoy the view: the later it gets, the more outrageous the scenery becomes. You’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.
So what’s a typical low-cost day look like?
Okay, this is really our all-time favorite thing to do: help people have a tailor-made good time in Ptown. So here’s the kind of itinerary you might want to follow: Sleep in, because no one has to go to work today. Head over to one of the gyms for a yoga class (they’re reasonably priced) and then grab a bite of breakfast or maybe just splurge on indecently delicious coffee at Kohi. Take a morning walk around town: go “down the pier,” have a stroll on the town beaches, explore the East End. Have lunch at a nice restaurant and then take a snooze if you’re so inclined. Spend the afternoon hiking around Beech Forest or shopping in town, whichever your inner voice calls you to. Pack up something for dinner and eat it at Herring Cove (or take advantage of Far Land on the Beach!) as you watch the sun set into the water. Then come on back to town for a long stroll down Commercial Street, a special cocktail and music, maybe moonrise over at the Aqua Bar. Pizza to round off the evening. Perfect—and your bank account won’t suffer unduly!