Each summer Pride events take place all over the world. None of them are quite like the weeklong party that takes over Cape Cod every August: the one and only Provincetown Carnival. In 2019, Ptown Carnival turns 41 and, like all queens, it just gets better with age. Drag bingo! Pool parties! Tea dances at sea! Whether you join the celebration every year or this is your first time—cue Madonna—consider this your Provincetown guide.
We’ve scouted out everything you need to know about going to Carnival—from this year’s Ptown Carnival themes to the best place to stay when you visit Provincetown. Slather on some self-tanner and keep reading, henny.
Important things to know
Provincetown Carnival themes change each year, and for 2019 you’ll need to channel your inner woodland nymph or sexy centaur to dress for the Enchanted Forest theme. Work your whimsy!
The week is full of individual Provincetown events. Highlights include the Pre-Carnival Ceremony the morning of August 15, when portions of the original Gilbert Baker Rainbow25 Sea to Sea Flag arrive in Provincetown. Other events include the Enchanted Sunset Cruise on August 18, the official Carnival pool party on August 19, and the Carnival Parade on August 22.
Free events during Carnival week in Provincetown include the official flag-raising ceremony, Carnival Gallery Stroll, Carnival Parade, and the Enchanted Yappy Hour Welcome to Town with Tito’s at Crown & Anchor. Bring your pup to join the fun.
When you want to order drinks with friends or step away from the parties for a delicious meal, check out these restaurants and bars:
- The Canteen: With casual patio seating and fresh fusion food, The Canteen is a great place to experience New England seafood with global influences.
- Chach: If you don’t rally yourself for a hearty brunch after a very late night, have you really been to Carnival? French toast at Chach should hit the spot.
- Shipwreck Lounge: Shipwreck is a chill gay bar with a house party vibe, including a fire-top table for roasting marshmallows with friends.
- Bubalas by the Bay: When you want your cocktails spiked with sass, this is the place to be. Order the Queen B to feel like royalty, or wear your biggest sunglasses and sip the sparkling Jackie O.
- A-House: Known officially as The Atlantic House, this renovated home includes three venues: a cruise bar with a jukebox, a leather and Levi’s bar, and a dance club.
- Angel Food: Pack a picnic for a day at the beach with sandwiches and deli delights from Angel Food.
If you plan to explore more of the area, you may want to arrive at Boston-Logan International Airport or TF Green Airport in Providence and rent a car. Both airports are located about 120 miles from Provincetown. Driving the length of Cape Cod offers beautiful waterfront views and the perfect opportunity to belt out some Carnival carpool karaoke.
- If you’re driving to Cape Cod from Boston or Providence, use Bourne Bridge, which tends to have less traffic than the alternative, Sagamore Bridge.
- Provincetown is a historical city with narrow roads and limited street parting. Make sure you know where to find the city’s main parking lots. These lots include MacMillan Pier Parking Lot by Lopez Square and Grace Hall Parking Lot at Prince Street and Bradford Street.
- There are several smaller lots located around town, but when in doubt you can carpool or walk.
Standard day passes cost $6 and passes for people over 60 and individuals with disabilities cost $3. The Shuttle is operated by Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority, and they are wheelchair accessible.
- AWOL: The aesthetic is natural and soothing, and the location is peaceful. AWOL actively supports the LGBTQ community. They donated a portion of the proceeds from their 2018 season to nonprofits like the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod.
- Surfside Hotel and Suites: Situated right on the beach and right in the heart of downtown, Surfside is the perfect choice if you plan to spend as much time as possible on the water or meeting up with friends.
- Crowne Pointe Historic Inn & Spa: When you want to treat yourself to a getaway filled with indulgence and luxury, stay here. The Crowne Pointe is for adults only, so it’s guaranteed no kids will be splashing you by the pool.
- Queen Vic Guest House: Meet and mingle in the charming parlor and patio at Queen Vic. No two rooms look alike, and vintage details like a four-poster bed or leather sofa will charm you.
What are some things to do in Provincetown?
- Herring Cove Beach is a popular stretch of sand located in Ptown’s scenic West End. The water is ideal for swimming and parking is available.
- Race Point Light Station has guided sailors to Cape Cod since it was first lit in 1816. You can visit the light or join one of the monthly tours (often scheduled for the week of Carnival).
- Cape Cod Provincelands Trail is a peaceful respite from the parties at Carnival. Walk, run, or bike the paved trail. Parking is available, and you can rent bikes from nearby shops if you haven’t brought your own.
- Provincetown Art Association and Museum showcases the works of local and international artists, often reflecting on gender identities and sexuality, landscapes, and contemporary themes. Exhibitions change regularly and bring new perspectives to the museum.
- Pilgrim Monument stands as a memorial to the first American pilgrims. They drafted the Mayflower Compact right here in Provincetown.
- Enchanted Forest isn’t a farfetched theme: Cape Cod is home to unmatched natural beauty. Every July, the Cape Cod Hydrangea Festival provides visitors with free demonstrations, guided walks, and museum admission.
- Also in August, Cape Cod Food Truck & Craft Beer Festival is a favorite among casual foodies. It’s one day only and falls on August 10 this year, so get your fill of creative eats and craft brews in East Falmouth.
- While women and femmes are welcome at Carnival, Women’s Week is all about femme identity, experience, and community. The celebration turns 35 this year, so mark your calendar for October 14-20, 2019.
Year round, Provincetown is home to LGBTQIA+ families, businesses, and events that embrace being out, proud, and accepting, but nothing compares with Carnival when the community pulls out all the stops to celebrate. Come to Provincetown Carnival single and ready to mingle, or party with your partner in the Enchanted Forest. It’s sure to be a magical week!
Header image via Ted Eytan/Flicker.com