Provincetown’s reputation as a modern-day destination for the LGBTQ+ community began in 1899. That year, Charles Hawthorne came to town and founded the Cape Cod School of Art. Having just been devastated by the great Portland Gale of 1898, Provincetown was in ruins. And with its fishing fleet sunk, the town’s economy was in shambles.
Little did Hawthorne know at the time, but his art school would open a pipeline between Provincetown and New York City. Thousands of artists, writers, actors, and left-wing political radicals flocked to Provincetown. And with them came new ideas on gender and racial equality, artistic expression, and sexuality that would transform this bucolic seaside community.
Word spread underground throughout the LGBTQ+ community nationwide, and by the 1920s, Provincetown was a place of relative freedom and acceptance. This sparked an influx of visitors and vacationers — and an exponential growth in the town’s gay population. That growth continues to this day.
During the peak of summer in particular, the LGBTQ+ community flocks to the shores of Provincetown to cool off on the beaches, frolic in the dunes at Boy Beach, and play pickleball on its courts. With August comes the arrival of Carnival, the Provincetown Business Guild’s signature event that helped to catapult Provincetown into a beloved queer haven.
Mark your calendars with these must-see events and happenings in Provincetown. Learn more by visiting ptown.org or following the Provincetown Business Guild on social media at @visitptown.
The Third Annual Bearded Mistress Pageant, August 5
The Provincetown Brewing Co. hosts its third annual contest to determine the next bearded beauty who will be featured on their iconic beer cans. Hosted by TaDonna and Miss Local Honey.
Carnival: Land of Toys, August 12-19
Created by the Provincetown Business Guild in 1978, Carnival is Provincetown’s original summer celebration of community, expression, and creativity. The weeklong festival attracts tens of thousands of guests from all over the world to enjoy parties, events, costume contests, and the celebrated Carnival parade down Commercial Street.
Feet Over Front 5K Street, August 13
During Carnival, join hundreds of your LGBTQ+ community members for a rainbow-colored 5K run or walk through Provincetown to start the week of festivities. Proceeds benefit the Provincetown Business Guild and help to support the production of Carnival.
Toy Chest Opening Party, August 13
The legendary Crown & Anchor hosts some of the largest parties during Carnival Week. Come dressed as your favorite “toy” to celebrate the theme for 2023 and compete for some big cash prizes.
Provincetown Carnival Cruise, August 13
Join more than 800 other partygoers on Provincetown Harbor when the 45th Annual Carnival officially kicks off with three hours of joyful sunshine-spinning from our DJs: Andrew Haig and Lina Bradford, a NYC golden-era icon and Black trans advocate.
Malibu: The Brass Key Pool Party, August 14
Over 1,000 “Kens” gather around the pool at the legendary Brass Key Guest House to play during Carnival Week’s sexiest party. Featuring DJ Edil Hernandez.
Alyssa Edwards at Town Hall, August 16
This special one-night-only show features the hysterical antics, sharp humor, and tongue clacks of RuPaul’s Drag Race fan favorite Alyssa Edwards.
Land of Toys Parade Carnival 2023, August 17
Cape Cod’s largest event returns. More than 100,000 visitors pack into Provincetown for the largest celebration of summer. It all starts at 3 p.m. sharp, so be sure to grab your spot along Commercial Street early.
Nina West at Town Hall, August 27
The RuPaul’s Drag Race alum and star of Hairspray comes to Provincetown with Sirius XM host Seth Rudetsky as pianist and host.
Jockstrap Bike Ride, September 1
Strap on your queer gear, and join the boys for a beer at the Provincetown Brewing Co., before taking your bike (and your jock) for a spin down Commercial Street (also affectionately known as “Hey Girl Avenue”)!
Swim for Life, September 9
This quintessential Provincetown event and fundraiser has raised $6 million since 1988 for HIV causes, women’s health, and the community. Join swimmers, volunteers, kayakers, and cheerleaders from across the country for a high-spirited weekend. Take the plunge and learn more at Swim4Life.org.
International Women’s Flag Football Tournament, September 15-18
Local women and traveling teams from across the country travel to Provincetown to compete in the annual IWFFA-Ptown Classic Women Flag Football Tournament. Learn more at IWFFA.com.
Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, September 21-24
Adventure-seeking audiences voyaging to Provincetown will thrill to performances of plays and dramatic short stories by Williams that feature spaceships, aliens, vampires, ghosts, and bizarre imaginary worlds.
Annual Pet Tea, September 23
Happening as part of CASAS Animal Shelter Pet Appreciation Week, which runs September 17 to 23, this Annual Pet Tea is your chance to take your favorite furry, feathered, or scaled buddy to the Boatslip Resort to enjoy a libation as the summer winds down.
Mates Leather Weekend, September 28 - October 2
Kick back, have a good time, meet some hot new friends, socialize, relax, and party with other like-minded people in leather, uniforms, and rubber.
There are far more opportunities to visit Provincetown beyond summer.
The cooler months can bring the heat as well. Watch for events like the Washashore Music Festival, Women’s Week, TransWeek, and Spooky Bear in October; Provincetown Food & Wine Festival, Mr. New England Leather, Pink Friday, and Thanksgiving weekend in November; followed by Holly Folly and First Light over the holiday season.