Family-friendly activities in Provincetown

Originally posted at – October 5, 2010
I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Provincetown. We chose the city as the base for our Cape Cod adventure simply because it is one of the largest on the Cape. Aside from that, all I knew prior to departure is that Provincetown is extremely vibrant and colorful, and there is a thriving gay & lesbian contingent. When we arrived in Provincetown, I was immediately captivated by the centuries-old homes and buildings, and by the narrow streets with no sidewalks that had to accommodate both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, for the city was planned and laid out long before automobiles were invented. Yet, this does not seemingly impede the flow of visitors and residents within Provincetown. Commercial Street, the center of it all, is always moving and buzzing; there is constant action. It’s surprising how well the historic, old Provincetown meshes with the modern, new Provincetown, the latter being defined by gourmet eateries and by bars hosting drag queen karaoke. I loved it. The cedar shingle-sided, compact domiciles delighted the history and architecture geek in me, while the city girl in me marveled at the constant activity and vivacity of this seaside town.

The walking and people-watching opportunities are endless in Provincetown, and it is quite family-friendly. Here is my list of the top 4 highlights:

1 – Commercial Street. I mentioned it before, and it deserves mentioning again. This main drag is lined with shops, restaurants, galleries, ice cream parlors – you name it! We spent our first full day in Provincetown on Commercial Street and we still didn’t see it all. It required two or three more trips just to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Lucia got to see it all from the comfort of her stroller. A stay in Provincetown of any amount of time will definitely result in at least one jaunt to Commercial Street; take it all in and enjoy.

2 – The Lobster Pot. This restaurant has been a mainstay in Provincetown for decades. I’d read the online reviews before we got there and plenty of people complained that it’s a tourist trap, that the quality of the food is sub par, etc. Knowing that everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, we gave it a go so we could decide for ourselves. If I say that we went back for dinner a second time, do I have to tell you much more? We enjoyed two solid meals at The Lobster Pot with absolutely no complaints. Service was friendly and efficient, and the seafood was as fresh as can be. The staff was also very accommodating, allowing us to store Lucia’s stroller in a private room, and catering to her throughout both our dining experiences. On our first visit, my entrée was Portuguese fish (the Portuguese have a long history in Provincetown and their influence is still evident today): linguiça (Portuguese sausage) encrusted cod, served over The Lobster Pot’s original seafood stuffing, served with a side of orzo. It was mouthwateringly delicious, and the portion so huge that I had the leftovers for dinner the following night. The Lobster Pot does offer a children’s menu. Lucia was quite fond of their spaghetti!

3 – MacMillan Pier. The sightseeing, whale-watching, and fishing boats depart from MacMillan Pier, so if you’re taking part in any of those activities, you will inevitably find yourself there. But if not, it’s still worth a visit. Lucia and I walked from the entrance just off Commercial Street, all the way to the end, where the fast ferry to/from Boston arrives and departs. The pier is lined with kiosks, their occupants selling everything from kitschy souvenirs to original works of art, and by commercial fishing boats. At any given time you can find a handful of folks fishing off the side of the pier, too. Lucia loved watching the fishing boats coming in and sailing out, and the sailboats and other watercraft floatin’ on by.

4 – The beaches. The majority of Cape Cod is part of the federally protected Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS). We visited two beaches near Provincetown that are part of the CCNS unit: Herring Cove and Race Point. It would be a long, difficult walk to reach either beach from the center of Provincetown; it’s doable by bicycle and extremely easy to reach by car. We had a rental car so we drove first to Herring Cove Beach where we found plenty of convenient parking. I imagine that would not be the case were it the height of summer (keep in mind that we visited on a weekday during the off-season). Also, be sure to check the CCNS website, run by the National Park Service (NPS), for applicable fees. Normally there is a parking fee at the beaches but we avoided that since, again, we were there on a weekday in the off-season. One NPS employee I spoke with advised that at this time of year, visitors must pay to park only on the weekends. Herring Cove Beach is long but not very wide. It is only about twenty feet from the parking area to the ocean (fine with me as I’m not a fan of trudging through sand). The views are amazing! Our visit was cut short, though, due to the ferocious winds. It was a bright, sunny, blue-sky kind of day, but Herring Cove is completely unsheltered; there is nothing to protect beachgoers from the wind. We packed it up and headed over to Race Point Beach where, again, we were met by oodles of parking. The access to the beach, however, was a walk straight downhill – in the sand. Going down to the water wasn’t so bad, but I knew the walk back up would not be fun. It’s worth it, though. Race Point Beach is expansive, in both length and width, and there were a lot more people there than at Herring Cove. Even still, we had plenty of room to spread out our stuff, and set up our cooler and enjoy a family picnic on the beach. I enjoyed watching some fishermen cast their lines right from the shore. I saw one angler reel in a nice bluefish (and subsequently release, thank you). Another fishermen wasn’t so lucky: he hooked a fish and fought to get it ashore, only to have a seal come up from the water and steal it off his line. I’d never seen a real, live seal before (except for at the stupid zoo). It was like watching something on Animal Planet, I swear!

For the older, of-age, adults in the family, the nightlife undoubtedly would have made my list as highlight #5. But since I was visiting Provincetown as a “single parent” with my toddler daughter, I didn’t get a chance to experience any of it. Reason for a return trip?

All photos in this post and on this blog are mine, unless otherwise stated, and may not be used or reproduced without my permission.

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3 Responses to Family-friendly activities in Provincetown

  1. Jolanta aka Casual Traveler January 8, 2015 at 7:24 am #

    You know, you’d think that having lived in MA for over twenty years now, we’d have visited Provincetown by now, but we actually haven’t. The last time I’ve been to the cape was in the B.C. (before children) days. If we go to the beach, we go to the North Shore. But I’ve been wanting to go to Provincetown for a while, so I’m pinning this to my “Massachusetts” board. Thanks for sharing your experience!
    Jolanta aka Casual Traveler recently posted…Period Clothing at the Victoria & Albert Museum in LondonMy Profile

  2. Cheryl Jay January 27, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    My husband and I took a Tour by bus of Cape Cod in October of 2015. We were allowed one afternoon to explore Provincetown! It was not nearly enough time to see and experience the charm of this little seaside town. I must agree with you about the Lobster Pot. It was a real hit with our whole party. We were seated by a window looking out over the bay….the food was incredible, the service was exceptional! Our server allowed me to go out on the patio right outside so I could get some unobstructed photos of the view! Definitely a return trip is in order!

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