By Kohleun Adamson, on August 5, 2019

Everything You Need to Know About Carnival in Provincetown

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

Sunset colors yellow, orange, and purple reflect off the water at sunset in Provincetown.
Via TanyaBird/
When is Carnival in Provincetown?

It occurs on various times throughout August 17-25, 2019. The date varies each year, but Ptown usually celebrates Carnival for a full week in August.

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.

How is the weather?

Weather in Provincetown during the month of August is warm and balmy. Temperatures range between the mid-70s and low 80s Fahrenheit, with lows in the 60s. So, how do you pack for that? Bring your beachwear and your finery for the Enchanted Creatures Fantasy Ball.

What are the ticket details?

Tickets for each event and party are sold separately by the host organization. This year, many events benefit the Provincetown Business Guild and Provincetown LGBTQ Welcome Center. Book ahead, as most tickets sell out early every year. Throughout the week, several sponsored parties have a small cover charge of $10.

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.

Are there food and drinks?

Nautical ropes decorate the balcony at The Canteen, a great place to eat during Provincetown Carnival.
Via Michelle D./
You won’t have to look far to find a refreshing drink at Carnival. After all, Tito’s Handmade Vodka is one of the venue sponsors. Enjoy sips and small plates during the Gallery Stroll as well.

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.


What are the closest airports to Provincetown?

Flights to Provincetown arrive at Provincetown Municipal Airport (aka Provincetown Muni), a 3-mile drive to downtown. Daily flights from Boston will connect you with all the fun and entertainment that comes with Carnival.

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.

What is driving and parking like?

When you aren’t bar hopping, driving is a convenient and cost-effective way to get around Provincetown. Here are some tips to keep in mind while on the road:

  • 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.

How is the public transportation?

Between the last week of June and the first week of September, The Shuttle stops along a Provincetown route every 30 minutes. Service is available seven days a week between 9:00 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. and picks up anywhere along the route.

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.

Are there ride shares & taxis?

Provincetown is serviced by Lyft, Uber, and several local taxi companies, including Pride Taxi, Cape Cab, and P-Town Taxi Service. Rideshare fare from Provincetown Muni to downtown averages $12-15. Taxi fare for the same ride averages $13-16.

Visiting Provincetown

Where to stay?

Rainbow Pride banners decorate the historical Queen Vic Guest House for Carnival in Provincetown.
Via Barbara K./
Provincetown is a small seaside community brimming with food, fun, and good people. Provincetown hotels and resorts line the waterfront, providing visitors with views of Cape Cod Bay, and are within easy walking and driving distance to Carnival event venues and local bars and restaurants. Here are some top picks:

  • 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?

The golden sand and bright blue sea and sky at Herring Cove Beach, a scenic spot during Provincetown Carnival.
Via lunamarina/
Whether you’re a history buff or beach bum, there’s always something to do in Provincetown. While you’re visiting for Carnival, add these Provincetown activities to your itinerary:

  • 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.

Are there any other Cape Cod events?

The Cape is bustling with themes and community, especially during the summer and autumn, so you’re never far from a celebration. Check out this guide to Cape Cod’s scenic communities, and plan around these annual highlights:

  • 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/