A tiny little Massachusetts hamlet, three blocks wide and maybe
20 long, perched on the very tip of Cape Cod, with the Atlantic
Ocean on one side and Cape Cod Bay on the other. Almost 400 years
ago the Pilgrims first spent a winter here, before heading over
to Plymouth to establish the first permanent European presence in
the New World.
lot has happened since then.
this quiet fishing village plays host to nearly a million visitors
a year - and most of them are gay.
week in summer thousands of beautiful men flood the town, to bask
on the beaches and party in the clubs for a day, a week, a month.
They fill the shops that line Commercial Street, bike along the
over 20 km of nature trails that meander through the Provincelands
National Seashore Park, then dance till they drop in one of the
dozens of gay bars.
queens, leather daddies, gym bunnies and young couples share the
streets with straight daytrippers from Boston, creating an eclectic
but ultimately relaxing atmosphere.
most of the visitors are drawn from the Eastern Seaboard, people
do come from all over the country, in fact, all over the world.
You'll hear French, both from France and especially Quebec, German,
Italian, Japanese and more while wandering about.
has been a refuge for artists, writers and bohemians since the turn
of the century, all of which groups contain plenty of gay men and
lesbians. Some of the major names in painting, sculpture, literature
and the theatre have gotten their starts while living here. Summertimes
always attracted a diverse crowd, and WWII only accelerated the
trend. During the 40's and 50's that crowd became more and more
gay, and today's Provincetown may well have the highest percentage
of gay men and lesbians of any city in the world. Public displays
of affection between same-sex couples are so common as to be unnoticeable,
though tourists from the hinterlands still gawk and take pictures
of the more flamboyant drag-queens.
temperatures range from warm to roasting during the day, but the
nights can get fairly chilly, so bring a sweatshirt or two. Dress
is aggressively casual; beachwear, shorts, tank tops (or no shirt
at all) and sandals are perfectly acceptable almost anywhere in
is unique as a vacation spot because whatever you're in the mood
for, you can find it here. If your pleasure is lazy days lying around
soaking up the sun like a lizard, you can do it. If you're a nature
boy and favor hiking, biking, kayaking and sailing, you can do it.
And if you're a party queen, looking for the best in drinks, drugs,
dancing and dick, you can surely find them all... Or mix and match,
collect some shells at low tide, study a horseshoe crab, have a
light meal in the afternoon, then sometime deep into the evening,
look across a rough hewn bar at a sexy bloke (or two or three),
lit by candlelight. It's all there.
prepared to pay for your pleasures, though, as this ain't no charity
ball. Due to the extreme seasonal nature of the economy, the merchants
and restaurateurs are trying to make the bulk of their year's income
in 12 weeks, and it shows. Most dance clubs have cover charges,
ranging from $5 to $25, and a middling-to-decent meal for two can
run you $50 (or lots more, if you're drinking alcohol).
stuff is free. The main beaches, Herring Cove on the bay
side, and Race Point on the Atlantic side, are both National
Parks, so walking in is free, and parking a reasonable $7 a day.
There's a shuttle bus that runs from the center of town out to the
beaches, and will only clip you $1.50. Seasonal beach passes are
only $20, which is worth it if you stay the week and go to the beach
every day. If you get out at the main parking lot for Herring Cove,
head to the left (as you face the ocean) for the gay section. The
further down you go, the less the guys wear... In contrast, Race
Point is more hetero-oriented, but there are still plenty of queerboys.
best way to get around town is by foot, or renting a bike. Just
about everything is within a 20 minute walk, and a bike can be had
for about $25 a week. Watch out for the pedestrian traffic though;
Provincetown has a decided lack of sidewalks, and most people just
wander down the middle of the street without bothering to look either
way. And do get a lock, since bicycle theft is the only major crime
in town. Of the two major places in town to rent, try P'town
Bikes [42 Bradford Street] first, their stock tends to be a
little better cared for and the owners are really nice guys.
all this twisted little town, my favorite spot to perch is the Marigold
Café [214 Commercial Street]. Directly across the street
from the US Post Office, if you're lucky enough to grab one of the
sidewalk tables, you can sip espresso and watch the world go by.
Sooner or later everyone you know in town (and a few surprise visitors
you didn't expect) will wander past and stop to chat.
the best breakfast, try Cafe Edwidge [333 Commercial Street],
across the street from the library. Beautiful presentation, imaginative
(but not too weird) menu, and a full bar (though due to antiquated
liquor laws you can't order booze before noon on Sundays). Also
excellent, though somewhat more crowded, is Cafe Heaven [199
Commercial Street]. They make their own breads, and the soups are
out of this world. If you want to people watch while dining (breakfast,
lunch or dinner), try Bubala's [183 Commercial Street]. A
pretty basic menu, though the tuna sandwich and burritos are well
above average. The Provincetown Cheese Shop [225B Commercial
Street] does really good sandwiches, deli stuff, bagels, etc., which
you can then take with you to eat on the beach or the benches in
front of Town Hall.
dinner, if you're looking for good, fresh seafood, you've come to
the right place. Just about every restaurant in town does lobster
in one form or another, and when they say 'It was caught this morning'
they're telling the truth.
and shoulders above the rest are Cafe Edwidge (see above),
Front Street [230 Commercial Street], and Martin House
[157 Commercial Street].
Edwidge does really amazing things with fresh fish, from sea
bass and tuna to cod or salmon. Not to mention the truly sinful
Molten Chocolate Cake and deceptively mild Strawberry Cosmos (made
with house infused Skyy vodka, fresh squeezed lime juice and garnished
with a nasturtium. Don't miss this place if you care at all about
Street's chef has discovered the secret to perfect Tea Smoked
Duck, and isn't telling how she does it. The rest of the menu is
every bit as well done, and you won't regret the expense.
House is probably the closest you'll get to 'formal' dining
in Provincetown. But with a menu that includes duck, venison, and
rabbit, it's worth dressing up for (and 'dressing up' in this town
means putting long pants on over your swimsuit...).
plain, simple seafood, try Post Office Cafe [303 Commercial
Street]. Cute waiters, a full bar, and a wide range of dishes on
the menu means everyone in your party should be able to find something
to please them.
afternoon partying, the Boatslip's [161 Commercial Street]
daily Tea Dance is a great place to begin. From 3:30 - 6:30 p.m.
the huge waterfront deck and hundreds of gorgeous men dancing shirtless
will give you plenty to look at.
can skip 'After-Tea' at the Pied, however. The door charge
is the highest in town, the drinks are overpriced, and you've already
seen all the men.
evenings, you've got a couple of choices, depending on what you're
looking for. You can take in a show, such as Beauty and the Beehive
at The Union (see below), featuring Miss Q and Jackie Collins.
Or A Pair of Queens at Stormy Harbor [277 Commercial
Street] with Gingervitas and Pearlene. There's also Khris Francis
at Steve's Alibi [291 Commercial Street], though he's not
for the faint-of-heart or thin-of-skin. Most shows cost $10 - $15,
and run 60 - 90 minutes. Those listed here are all live, no sissy
lip-syncing or bad Cher impersonations.
Atlantic House (locally referred to as the 'A-House' or 'A-Hole')
[4 Masonic Place] is your best bet if your taste runs to really
loud music, really packed dance floor and really strong drinks.
The patio is less crowded, and wonderfully pleasant on warm nights.
And the Macho Room upstairs is pretty lively for a non-dancing
crowd... bartender Terry is sufficiently slutty to see to that.
Union [9 Carver Street] at Gifford House is a cavernous
space with three bars, an excellent dance floor, and theme nights
throughout the week, including Bound
on Sunday, Provincetown's only leather dance night, which is usually
[258 Commercial Street] draws a crowd that's more interested in
dancing (and illicit substances) than drinking or talking, but it's
the closest you'll come to raving in Provincetown.
the fact that the bars close at l:00 am, most people don't head
for the dance clubs until 10:30 or even 11:00, so don't be surprised
if you show up and they look deserted.
the clubs close, the crowds all head for Spiritus Pizza [190
Commercial Street] for a slice, a cone, or a cuppa and some last
minute cruising. Check out their live
webcam. Somehow, even though the pizza stinks, it's still the
most popular after-hours spot. Maybe that's because it's really
the only after-hours spot...
you count dick dock... though there aren't really any set
hours for that. Just head down the beach after dark, and you'll
find, well, just about anything your little "heart" desires. Do
bring your safe sex supplies, and keep an eye out for the police.
more information about the various restaurants, night spots, shopping
and accommodations in and around Provincetown, check out provincetown.com,
provincetown.net or visitprovincetown.com.
here is pretty easy. The nearest international airport is in Boston,
but from there you have a choice for the final stage of your journey.
The Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway
bus, which you can get from the airport, is the cheapest - $48 roundtrip
- but it takes about 4 hours each way. Bay
State Ferries runs a high-speed boat ($70 roundtrip, 1.5 hours,
depending on the weather) and a slower one ($55 roundtrip, 3 hours,
depending on the weather). Cape
Air can get you here in 20 minutes, but it's $120 roundtrip,
though the view alone makes it worthwhile. If you're driving yourself,
try to get on the road as early in the day as possible, as Route
6, the main road traveling up the Cape, only has one lane in each
direction for most of it's length, and holiday weekends especially
can turn it into a 35-mile long parking lot. For more information,
here for a vacation, whether for a day, a week, or a month, can
be a wonderful experience. You'll meet friendly people, see some
of the most beautiful scenery on the face of the planet (both landscape
and human), and get yourself away from the cares of the world for
a while. But if you, like so many others, plan to settle here for
a season or a lifetime, be forewarned about the nature of the local
is a seasonal tourist town. From Memorial Day (late May) to Labour
Day (mid-September) the whole town revolves around how many visitors
are in, and how to get the most out of them. Most of us work more
than one job, often putting in 80 - 100 hours a week. From late
September into the Fall it tapers off, until just after New Year's,
when it totally dies. You can walk all the way down Commercial Street
and not see a single person. The cinema runs only during the summer,
there's only one grocery store, and most of the bars, restaurants,
and shops shut their doors for the rest of the winter. Many residents
take off for warmer climes, and unless you're good at amusing yourself
you can get mighty lonely. The population drops from a summer high
of around 50,000 to 3,500.
rentals (May 15 - Sept 15) can set you back anywhere from $3000
to $8000, and some of the lower end ones aren't really fit for habitation.
Population density is incredibly high, as most land owners try to
squeeze out every possible inch of living space. Very few jobs come
with housing, and most employers won't even talk to you until you've
got a place to stay. Though that is changing, as rental prices have
driven out most of the college students who formerly filled the
local staffing requirements.
you've found a job, expect to be asked to do extra; extra hours,
extra duties, extra shifts. Because the cost of living is so high,
most employers are desperate for help, but unless you're working
around the clock, you can't afford to live here.
are compensations, though. Being such a small town, we all know
one another. There's a real feeling of community, of common cause
and common problems. Private parties, beach cookouts, and shared
gossip hold the townies together in a close knit web of relationships.
also something magical and romantic about the sea, some comforting
and primal quality of the stones on the beach, a haunting stillness
on certain parts of the bike trails...you can be utterly alone for
a long time, then a few hours later dive into the communal frenzy
of sheer maleness, all smelling of sand and salt and soap. Everybody
seems cleaner and sexier because there's no need to "dress up."
The houses are, for the most part, neat and well kept, with charming
and lush cottage gardens, reminiscent of a period in America before
front lawns became an icon of sterile suburbia.
way or another, as a visitor or a settler, you'll never forget your
time in Provincetown.
Carriage House Hotel Cape Cod Provincetown
just twelve luxurious guest rooms, The Carriage House is the
perfect blend of luxury space, amenities, privacy and of course,
location, all amidst an 1800's house. Guests enjoy a wonderful
courtyard, enclosed colonial porch, guest office with Internet
access, sunny decks and outdoor hot tub. Rooms have every amenity
in every room.
7 Central Street, Provincetown, Massachusetts 02657, United
Tel: 00 1 508 487 3387/8855, Fax:
the Author: Stuart Carroll is a full-time resident of Provincetown,
where he designs websites.