My love affair with Provincetown, a sliver of land perched precariously at the very tip of Cape Cod, began four years ago when my uncle and his longtime partner bought a condo in the quaint New England town. With a year-round population of about 3,000 that draws up to 60,000 visitors during the warmer months of summer, Provincetown is also home to the highest number of same-sex couples in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
I’m so grateful to my uncle for introducing me to this gorgeous, welcoming town, which I’ve come to appreciate as a gay artistic utopia. Okay, that may sound over-the-top, perhaps, but it’s supported by the facts and by my experience. There’s something magical about this tiny town, something that goes way beyond its plentiful restaurants (serving scrumptious clam chowder, fresh local fish, comfort food and hearty American fare), numerous art galleries, and campy shops selling tourist wares and rainbow flag-bedecked everything.
I think the creative energy is palpable. I attribute some of it to the town’s rich history of being the home of writers and creative types of every color and stripe for many years. Just a sampling: the writers Tennessee Williams, Michael Cunningham and Stanley Kunitz; comedian Kate Clinton; journalist Andrew Sullivan; visual artists Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.
As a writer, my time there is typically filled with lots of journaling, reading and people watching. There’s no shortage of inspiration here and, generally, everyone is friendly in ways that can be unexpected for those who visit from large cities.
The most popular months to visit tend to be July and August: I love the energy over the week of July Fourth, when it’s busy in town but not overwhelmingly so. Last year, I tried something different and visited in late September. Although less crowded, the trip was still a great way to clear my head and get reenergized from a creative perspective. The weather, sunny with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s, was perfect. I also enjoyed the annual Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have friends or relatives to stay with, the town has a number of vacation rentals, B&Bs and guesthouses that vary in terms of amenities and price. The best advice is to start your research and phone calls in early spring and book your rooms on the earlier side. For traveling, I usually fly up to Boston and then take what’s known as the “fast ferry” (the trip across the water clocks in at 90 minutes and there is a full bar on the boat) from Boston Harbor to P-town.
Some of my favorite restaurants—and a reservation is a good idea if you’re visiting during the high season in July/August or dining on a Friday or Saturday night—include the creative and delicious Italian at Front Street, the fresh seafood and killer water- front views at The Red Inn, the seasonal offerings and gorgeous presentation at The Mews and the cosmopolitan vibe and drag brunch at Victor’s.
All the bars in P-town, ranging from cabaret and piano spots to grungy leather dives and dance clubs, close at 1 a.m. and everyone tends to gather outside of Spiritus Pizza when they do. The pizza’s average but the camaraderie, cruising and conversation make up for the truncated nightlife.
My absolute favorite place to hang out is Joe Coffee and Café. Situated on Commercial Street, the town’s main street, the café offers
yummy soups and sandwiches, espresso, and sweet treats—plus free wifi. You’re as likely to see that cutie you spotted at the beach as you are to run into author and activist Michelangelo Signorile (I saw him last fall).
What’s wonderful about P-town is that it’s one of the rare vacation spots that attracts gay men and lesbians in a mixed, social setting. That type of interaction within our larger LGBT community is always something to be applauded. Flip to L Retreat on page 21 for Lynn Yeldell’s take on the town.