As you cross into Provincetown, where high dunes drift onto Route 6, you begin to sense that this is a different place. This outpost on the tip of Cape Cod, where glaciers deposited their last grains of sand, attracts a varied population. Whether seeking solitude or freedom of expression in the company of like-minded souls, visitors relish Provincetown’s fringe status.
P-town, as it’s often referred to by non-locals but not by locals, is perhaps best known as a community of tolerant individuals. The L.G.B.T. community, Portuguese fishermen and families, artists and writers – they all call it home and welcome those who are equally tolerant.
Commercial Street has a carnival-like atmosphere, especially in July and August (and during Carnival), testing the limits of acceptability. People-watching is a prime activity. From cross-dressers, leather-clad motorcyclists, barely clad in-line skaters, and tourists from “Anytown, USA.” Some can’t figure out what they’ve stumbled into; some have come to soak in the alternative scene. Settle into a bench in front of Town Hall for the rainbow parade.
History and natural beauty doesn’t change in Provincetown. But the town itself is changing – like the rest of the U.S. As gays move into the mainstream and gay marriage is now legal, it’s no longer quite the gay destination it was. When Queer Eye brings its aesthetic into everyone’s households, when Ellen and Portia’s wedding makes the cover of People magazine and when ‘Transparent’ wins Emmy awards, it’s much easier for gays and queers to vacation anywhere. Even though this is still one of the gayest destinations in North America, it’s also more straight than ever.
Nightlife isn’t quite as vibrant as it once was; more lesbians and gay men stay in, have dinner parties at their condos, and nest with their children. You know, like everyone does. It’s more expensive than ever for a new generation of gay youth. And the older generation is getting, well, older. Speaking of longevity, the Provincetown Business Guild has supported gay-owned businesses since 1978.
Provincetown’s after-dark scene can get as spicy as you sprinkle it on. There’s something for everyone along the spectrum, whether gay, cisgenered, transgendered or undeclared. Stop in at the Atlantic House for a dose of year-round leather, the Boatslip Beach Club for the best dance parties in town, the Pied, the town’s oldest waterfront bar and the place for women’s weekend dancing. For au natural cruising (technically illegal on the Cape Cod National Seashore), head out towards Herring Cove Beach from Bradford Street; look for the pile of rented bikes. Follow the footsteps over the dunes.
Although all guesthouses welcome folks of any stripe, some, like the luxurious Brass Key, attract a predominately gay clientele. Women Innkeepers support women-owned guesthouses. And although certainly anyone can enjoy Sunday brunch or sunset cocktails at The Red Inn you will notice an above average amount of Tinder swiping, diverted glances and not-so-furtive flirting. Oh, and a glorious camaraderie born of seasonal village life and shared tribes.
For a full palette of things to see and do, places to shop and more, see more in Provincetown.
Any must-see spots on your list? If so, add your comments below to share them with other travelers.