Provincetown, a nearly year-round gay resort located at the curly-cue tip of Cape Cod, Mass., has been luring artists, writers, tourists and queers for over a century, thanks to a magical alchemy that blends beautiful light, charming architecture, fresh ship-to-table seafood and a delightfully unironic quirkiness among its residents, visitors and entertainers.
There are accommodations for every budget in Provincetown, from campgrounds to exclusive guesthouses with top-notch spas and gourmet restaurants attached, and everything in between. Most offer breakfast (from barebones to sumptuous) and free WiFi. If price is no object, luxe awaits at such fine guesthouses as the upscale and traditional Red Inn
); Land’s End
), perched atop a hill in the scenic far West End; or the Brass Key
) with its expansive pool deck area.
A newer option is the White Porch Inn
), located in the East End. It was an uninteresting hulk of a building before the current owner gut-renovated it. Elegant, contemporary and super friendly, the White Porch attracts both gay and straight guests with its beautifully appointed, quiet guestrooms, top-notch service and daily wine hour.
Aerie House and Beach Club
) is a light-filled property located in the far East End, with amazing harbor views and contemporary, airy interiors. The large two-bedroom suite on the third floor features breathtaking views and a fireplace—great for a romantic off-season stay. Workout in the small gym, then relax in the 24-hour hot tub, complete with a view of the bay.
Provincetown is a shopper’s paradise where you’ll of course find tourist kitsch—like any self-respecting beach community must offer—but you’ll also find unique art objects, crafts, clothing designed and made locally, boutiques with finds from the world over and much more.
) offers clothing for men—refined, masculine and high-quality—designed and sewn locally. The Marc Jacobs
store, with its emphasis on stylish accessories, has gotten a lot of buzz. MAP
has an edgier aesthetic than many other stores in town. American Boy
is a favorite stop for urban gay men seeking a contemporary yet masculine style.
Silk and Feathers
) is a women’s clothing store with many garments designed and sewn at a workshop in town, where you’ll find gorgeous quality and fabrics, a bit pricey but still a terrific value.
Books are still revered in Provincetown, home to several fabulous emporiums to the printed word. Now Voyager
) is a great place to pick up a current bestseller or obscure LGBT work.
Dining out in Provincetown is a real treat. Some of the venues can be quite expensive, but the ones listed here offer great value. Be sure to reserve.
The newest sensation in town in 2010 is Dalla Cucina
), an Italian restaurant in the East End offering contemporary takes on classic items, with every dish made to perfection. The fried artichoke starter is both delicate and crunchy, and the gnocchi are tender and flavorful.
) has been garnering justifiably rave reviews since it opened in 2008, with its eclectic menu, usually excellent service and reasonable prices (for Provincetown). The Raw Bar Happy Hour (3-6 p.m.) offers terrific value, and the Sunday Drag Brunch (9 a.m.-2 p.m.), is a fun, tasty way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
If you’re alone or just looking for a cozy, out-of-the-way spot, Jimmy’s Hideaway
) is popular with locals and in-the-know visitors. Sidle up to the wide bar for dinner; chat with the friendly bartender or just take in the romantic, amiable atmosphere. Everything’s good here, but they really know how to do soups, crab cakes and oysters. They also serve one of the best (and best value) burgers in town.
If you’re craving lobster dinner on a corn chowder budget, head to Townsend Lobster and Seafood
) for some of the best and least expensive seafood in town, which is really saying something in this lobster-and-fish-oriented resort. What you gain in value, you sacrifice in style. This is a barebones kind of place, but who cares? Order up a 10-pound lobster and go crazy with a
Tea Dance at the Boat Slip
), which goes from 4 p.m. till 7 p.m. sharp every day in high season, is how a huge number of visitors kick off their evening of socializing as well as scope out prospective dates.
After Tea Dance, many visitors go back to their guesthouse to shower and change for dinner, but if you want to keep the party going, there are a few fun little bars strung out along Commercial, including Monkey Bar
in the West End, known for its martinis, and the friendly, fun bar at Bayside Betsy’s
). A destination night spot—new in 2010—serving drinks till 10 p.m. is Harbor Lounge
in the East End. Lesbian-owned-and-run, the Harbor features an expansive bar facing floor-to-ceiling glass walls open to the beach and harbor. There’s even a pier jutting from the lounge to the ocean. It’s a gorgeous place to enjoy cocktails with friends at sunset.
Before or after dinner, impress your loved one or friends with the superb wine selection available at Joon Bar
). Say hi to Audrey, the lovely owner and manager, and allow her to guide your wine selections for the evening. Audrey sometimes schedules live music. She serves artisinal cheese selections and a few beers and spirits, but otherwise this really is all about le vin.
The Shipwreck Lounge
) is a classy neighborhood lounge located in the lovely Brass Key Guesthouse. It’s friendly and casual but a little more upscale than some of the other bars.
Most visitors end up hitting one of the many venues at the Crown and Anchor complex, including the Vault
(leather); the Wave
(video bar with poolside lounge); and Paramount
(cover in season; sophisticated night club). The other venue open pretty much year-round is the Atlantic House
, or A-House to its friends. In season, the backyard is a convivial spot where crowds gather. The dancefloor gets pretty packed, even in the dead of winter. Sunday nights at Purgatory
) at the Gifford House are packed with hot leathermen, bears and their admirers.Do
There are as many ways to enjoy Provincetown as there are visitors, which can reach 50,000 in a day at the height of summer. With miles and miles of beaches of all descriptions from cruisy to quiet and from all-lesbian to all-nude, a trip to Herring Cove Beach or Race Point is a must in any season.
Beyond beaches, booze and boys, here are a few of the countless ways you can have your own unique Provincetown experience:
• Get a campfire permit from the National Park Service (nps.gov/caco/planyourvisit/permits.htm
) in person or over the phone at (508) 487-1256, but hurry—permits are strictly limited.
• Get tickets for some of the amazing entertainment from Kate Clinton to Margaret Cho to Ryan Landry to Miss Richfield 1981. Reserve early as some of the most popular shows sell out quickly.
• Play tennis at one of two clubs: the Herring Cove Tennis Club (bissellstennis.com
) or Provincetown Tennis Club (provincetowntennis.com
• Hike the Breakwater at the far West End of Provincetown. It’s harder than it looks.
• Climb the Pilgrim Monument (pilgrim-monument.org
), which celebrated its centennial Aug. 5, 2010.
• Hit the extensive bike trails.
• Kayak in the harbor.
• Patronize the arts at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (paam.org
) in its spiffy new space in the East End.
• Gallery hop from one end of Commercial Street, Provincetown’s main commercial drag, to the other. There’s a heavy concentration of unique art galleries in the East End.
Now in its 26th year, this popular event includes art openings, live musical performances, comedy acts, parties, drag shows, sporting events and much more.Fantasia Fairfantasiafair.org
Express whatever gender you are at this annual event, which attracts cross-dressers (toting their latest handbag as well as their wife) and transgender individuals from throughout the U.S. and countries beyond.Halloweenptown.org/halloween.asp
Haunted attractions (ptownhalloween.com
), costume competitions, parties and more designed to scare the bejezus out of you.Thanksgivingptown.org/thanksgiving.asp
Reserve at a charming fireplace guesthouse and at one of P-Town’s restaurants for a traditional Turkey dinner. Events are planned throughout the weekend.Holly Follyptown.org/HollyFolly.asp
The town sparkles beneath copious strands of Christmas lights, while fireplaces blaze and stores and galleries offer unique items just in time for your final holiday shopping.New Year’s Eve
Dec. 30-Jan. 1, 2011
New Year’s is one of the most popular times to visit Provincetown apart from the peak season in July and August. Make your reservations (lodging and dining) early.