About Provincetown

About Provincetown

Ever since Native American tribes first canoed their way to the spiraling tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown has been a place of magic and escape. Here, at the end of the world, life is lived on the edge. Provincetown’s spirit still calls to the young and the young at heart.

While these days the rest of the country might seem increasingly unwelcome to gay men and lesbians, here in Provincetown you’ll find a warm embrace.

Provincetown has always been many things to many people. A charming New England fishing village, with piers jutting out into the harbor. A bustling art colony of revelry and romance. Here individualism has long been prized. Provincetown has always danced to its own rhythm, and today its music is louder and prouder than ever before.

Here you’ll find young sweethearts discovering love for the first time and more seasoned couples marking thirty, forty or fifty years. Two moms or two dads might push by with their strollers. Leathermen, bears, dykes on bikes, transgendered folk, and lots of shirtless hunky boys—you’ll spy them all moving easily in the mix. No matter what scene you’re looking for, you can find it.

Lie in the sun on awesome beaches. Bike or hike along exquisite nature trails. Shop 'til you drop at lively boutiques. Buy art or catch a play. Dance to music spun by DJs from New York, Miami, and beyond. Make new friends.

Provincetown History


The first recorded visit to Cape Cod was by European explorer Bartholomew Gosnold. Provincetown’s well-protected harbor offered excellent shelter from storms and, as a result, was a common stop for explorers who landed to rest and repair their vessels.


Pilgrims arrive on the Mayflower and make the first landing in the New World in Provincetown Harbor. The Pilgrims stay in Provincetown for five weeks, where they create and sign the Mayflower Compact. They then continue on to their ultimate destination of Plymouth.


The first permanent settlement in Provincetown was established with fishing being the primary draw for settlers.


Provincetown’s population swelled by the middle of the 19th century. It had developed as the prime maritime, fishing, and commercial center of Cape Cod. Portuguese sailors, who joined American ships in the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, moved to Provincetown by the 19th century to continue working on whaling and fishing boats. The Portuguese became an integral part of the community, bringing their families and traditions to the New World. A strong Portuguese community in Provincetown began to flourish.


Provincetown became the state’s most populated harbor, boasting 25 coastal and 36 ocean vessels, which was more than any other port in Massachusetts


The Portland Gale swept away half of the Town’s wharfs and decimated the fishing industry. Provincetown embarked on a tourism campaign to fill the economic gap. Artists and bohemians were among the earliest visitors. They were attracted to the incredible Cape Cod light, natural beauty, eclectic population, and sense of acceptance found in Provincetown.


Painter Charles Webster Hawthorne arrived in Provincetown. Shortly thereafter, he founded and taught painting at the Cape Cod School of Art for the following 30 summers. Prominent art students and teachers followed Hawthorne to Provincetown and established their own schools. New art schools were spawned, which eventually led to a year-round art community of young, aspiring artists working under the watchful eyes of established mentors and teachers.


The Pilgrim Monument was dedicated by President Taft which commemorated the Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown.


Eugene O’Neill, considered the father of modern American theater, mounted his first play on an East End Provincetown wharf, and thus established Provincetown as the birthplace of modern American theater.


Provincetown’s place as an active art colony was cemented when The Boston Globe ran a front-page story titled, “Biggest Art Colony in the World in Provincetown.” Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Blanche Lazzell, Milton Avery, Jack Tworkov, and Edward Hopper are some of the other artists who have ties to Provincetown.


Provincetown’s art and theater productions were creating an international reputation. The abandoned sites of maritime businesses became the new homes of the seasonal visitor and warehouses and barns became studios, galleries, and shops. The gay and lesbian presence flourished as contingents of artists, writers, playwrights, poets, novelists, and journalists begin to summer in Provincetown. They were instrumental in developing and growing Provincetown’s famous art colony


The U.S. Congress created the Cape Cod National Seashore.


This decade in particular marked Provincetown’s rise as the gay and lesbian mecca that it is widely considered today.


The U.S. Congress created the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary.


Gay marriage became legalized in Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter, Provincetown became the place to get married with over 1,400 marriage licenses issued to date.


Provincetown is a haven for artists in every medium – painting, sculpting, theater, writing, and music. The vibrant arts community, atmosphere of experimentation, vast teaching and learning opportunities, and palpable energy draw artists year after year to share and deepen their talents.