Pop quiz: Where did the Pilgrims first land in America?
Plymouth, you say? No, actually –Plymouth may have the rock, but Provincetown, Massachusetts, is actually where the Mayflower first dropped anchor. In fact, Provincetown is the site where the Mayflower Compact, considered the first democratic document ever written in America, was drawn up and signed in 1620.
Located at the very tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown has been attracting travelers long before there was ever a tourism industry. Besides the Pilgrims, some early visitors included Vikings, English explorers, pirates, and native Americans. In fact, ancient artifacts found at archaeological sites indicate human presence along Cape Cod as early as 10,000 years ago.
Today, Provincetown is a tourist Mecca famous for its beaches, vibrant arts scene, and large gay community. It’s an “eclectic small city and a fishing village,” says Candice Collins-Boden, executive director of the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce. Visitors can spend a day sunning themselves at Herring Cove or touring the town’s five museums – including one housing an actual pirate ship. (The Whydah, which went down in a storm in 1717, is the only pirate vessel ever found off the Cape. It was discovered in 1984, complete with sunken treasure.)
Provincetown is home to both America's first town meeting – the famed form of local government still vital in New England today – and the oldest operating arts colony in the United States.