When is the Best Time to Visit P-Town?
Note to self: If you’ve only visited a destination during its high season, you’re missing out! Thus was the lesson of my recent weekend getaway to the Cape’s Provincetown, MA in late March: the quiet “shoulder season.”
Summer is HIGH Season
Provincetown, located at the very tip of Cape Cod, a 2.5-hour drive from Boston, is a complete and total zoo during the high season of summer. Yes, it’s super fun — but you also can barely move down the sidewalk due to the throngs of visitors.
P-Town in March and April
In contrast, Provincetown in March and April — the “shoulder season” of early spring — is an absolute delight of friendly tranquility, ideal for a romantic New England getaway. Granted, the famed beaches are blustery, and half of the shops are closed… but the colors and joy remain! P-town has a special spirit found in few other places: a welcoming, exuberant, free spirit perfectly exemplified by the photo below.
The Perk of NO P-Town Ferry
Part of the reason there are so many fewer crowds (is that even grammatically correct?) during the off-season is that the Provincetown ferry between Boston and P-Town doesn’t start running again until May. This means that the only souls there in the months before that are the brave ones who managed to beat the traffic and drive. (My mid-day — between 10am and 2pm — timing was perfect to keep the trip under 3 hours.)
Since my last visit to P-Town was in 2016, I was thrilled to discover that, while some favorites remained (including Provincetown food gem “The Canteen” and a certain dumpling place), a bevy of new-to-me delights also emerged. Below, ogle our brunch at Liz’s Cafe, Anybody’s Bar: an institution which dates back to the 1940s.
Liz’s Cafe Food
Liz’s has roots in the Portuguese-speaking island of the Azores, so the center dish pictured above is “Flippers” — Portuguese fried dough! Also pictured are the Lox and Bagel Plate, Eggs Benedict with Corned Beef Hash (so good, and sooo filling), and the California Omelet — replete with goat cheese and avocado. The hash browns were so big and crispy, they almost reminded me of the ones at Dutch’s in Portland, Maine.
Jimmy’s Hideaway in P-Town
For dinner, we adored Jimmy’s Hideaway: a cozy, romantic restaurant whose titular “Jimmy” was tending bar the night we dined in. Now, as an artist, I find many people beautiful, but let me tell you something: this sir Jimmy is one of the most handsome and charismatic humans I’ve ever shared a dining establishment with.
At almost the same time as me, my traveling friend exclaimed, “That bartender looks like a movie star!” If you’ve had the honor of seeing Jimmy of Jimmy’s Hideaway in person, let me know in the comment section if you agree that he’s supernaturally amazing.
Bob Gasoi Art Alley
Moving on from beautiful people to beautiful public art, you can imagine my bright-color-obsessed self’s ecstasy upon learning that since I’d last visited, an entire alleyway next to the Shop Therapy store in central Provincetown has been transformed in the Bob Gasoi Memorial Art Alley, pictured above and below!
The Provincetown Pier
Just as I was drawn to the Folly Beach Pier in South Carolina during my momcation there, the long dock in Provincetown drew my feet and soul. I hadn’t planned to take any photos since I’d already written three articles about P-Town… but listen — the allure of that famed Cape Cod light glinting between the boats and bay was too much for my itchy camera shutter fingers. Snap, snap, snap went my phone photo button…
Boats of P-Town
I could have photographed those P-Town boats all day, but the Golden Hour light soon faded and our dinner reservations beckoned. My self-loving tastes cannot help but smile, however, at this duo of Lillie-related vessels…
P-Town Beaches in March
The next morning, we took a chilly but gorgeous walk along both Race Point Beach and Herring Cove Beach: both just a short drive from the center of town, and the Provincetown hotel I’d come to review eight years earlier. Are P-Town’s beaches worth it in winter and early spring? As long as you bundle up and don’t plan to stay crazy long, the wintry walk along them yields glorious views… like this.
Shoulder Season Travel, in Sum
In conclusion, I’m a shoulder season travel convert! Give me Vermont in April — mud, sticks, and all! Give me low-season Martha’s Vineyard, chilly llamas and all! Give me icy Rockport, MA, slippery rocks and all! Give me Portsmouth, NH, wind-swept bridges and all! If it means a super-short line to stuff my face with delicious brunch, plus some serious room to breathe, the trade-off is well worth it.
Thank You, Early Spring Provincetown!
So what about you? Have you visited Provincetown in the off-season, or in the high season? What was the experience like for you? What are your favorite places to eat and stay in P-Town, and what activities do you like to do in this Cape Cod gem? Do share!
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!