Provincetown Museums — Explore, Learn, and Discover
From Native American and Pilgrim history to exquisite art collections and hands-on marine education, Provincetown museums enrich the cultural landscape of our charming town at the end of Cape Cod. All these museums are near the friendliest year-round hotel in Provincetown, making them convenient to add to your itinerary – two are right next door, one is just around the block near the marina, and the other two (PAAM and the Old Harbor Life-Saving Station) are a quick bike ride away. Whether a dedicated museum lover or a casual visitor, you’ll leave with a deeper appreciation for Provincetown’s unique history and heritage.
Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum – When you arrive in Provincetown by car or ferry, you’ll first see the impressive Pilgrim Monument from afar, which towers over the town at 252 feet high. In addition to having extraordinary views of the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean, the tower’s base is where you’ll find the Provincetown Museum, the first museum on Cape Cod, built over a century ago. The permanent exhibit Our Story is a fantastic introduction to early Cape Cod history – it highlights the nuanced and complicated relationship between the Wampanoag tribe (native to Cape Cod) and the Mayflower pilgrims. Through interactive kiosks, rare artifacts, and video, the museum aims to tell the “whole story,” including from the Native American perspective, a viewpoint often left out of the history books. The museum’s annual juried art exhibition runs through the spring/summer and showcases the best of local artists every year, kicking off with an opening celebration on April 1st from 4-6 pm. The monument and museum open for the season on April 1st, and each admission ticket includes entry to the museum, the monument tower, and the outdoor incline elevator (which is a thrill to ride and starts right next door to our Provincetown lodging, on Bradford St).
Provincetown Town Hall – Although a working town government building, Town Hall (conveniently located across the street from us) is a “museum” in more ways than one. The architecture is an old-world relic of Provincetown’s early days, dating back to 1885, with engraved wood throughout the interior floors. The building is also home to over 30 pieces of art from well-known Provincetown-based painters like Charles W. Hawthorne, who founded the Cape Cod School of Art in the early 20th century. Tour the main floor, where you can see huge murals depicting Portuguese fishermen bringing in their catch and scenes of the harbor from the 19th century. And conveniently, the first-floor town offices are also where you can pick up a shellfishing license (see our blog about shellfishing in town for more details). Check the Payomet events calendar for concerts in Town Hall’s ornate and historic auditorium – upcoming springtime shows include reggae, Rufus Wainwright, and Shawn Colvin.
Provincetown Art Association and Museum – PAAM is a must-visit during your stay, as it epitomizes the deeply-engrained artistic bent of Provincetown, supporting the visual arts for over 100 years. Their five galleries feature over 3,000 works, ranging from classic to modern, including a vast collection of pieces from artists who have created art while spending time in Cape Cod (Provincetown is famously the oldest continuously-operating art colony in the world). Check their collection online to get a sense of the various artistic styles featured, ranging from iconic paintings of the dunes near Provincetown to abstract impressionism. Current hours are Thursday through Sunday from 12-5 pm, and after touring the galleries, be sure to browse their museum store for a special art-themed gift or keepsake to bring home from your trip.
Sea Space Marine Discovery Center – Located right around the block from us in Whaler’s Wharf on Commercial Street, this is one of the more unique Provincetown museums, as their focus is hands-on education about all aspects of marine life. Run by the local non-profit Center for Coastal Studies, their events, lectures, and workshops are mostly free, but you can support their conservation efforts by purchasing a whale-themed hat or shirt from their store. Everyone, especially kids, will love their “Get to the Bottom of It” workshop, where guides lead groups to local tide pools and teach about shellfish and sea biology, including looking at micro-organisms under a microscope. Join one of their 1-2 mile guided hikes to check out gray seals gathering in their natural habitat, or catch a screening during their Earth Day Film Series, which runs from April 21-23 this year. Lastly, be sure to visit their Spinnaker exhibition, where you’ll have the rare opportunity to see a fully-preserved and massive humpback whale up close.
Old Harbor Life-Saving Station – After an afternoon spent enjoying Race Point Beach – one of the best places to catch some sun and waves at the Cape Cod National Seashore – plan to visit this 125-year-old boat rescue station, located right on the dunes near the Race Point parking area. After being purchased by the National Park Service and relocated from Chatham in the 1970s, the multi-story wooden structure is now a “living” museum, preserved with period-appropriate items and furniture from its active use in the early 1900s. Tour the two floors and see how this brave band of sea rescuers lived, and don’t miss climbing up the third-story watchtower, where the Atlantic Ocean views are spectacular. During July and August, visit on a Thursday evening and catch their live reenactments of the “breeches buoy” rescue method used to bring stranded crews from wrecked ships to shore safely.
Book your room with us and explore the multitude of museums in Provincetown!