Provincetown Beckons Gay Travelers to Cape Cod
As the weather starts to heat up in 2011, the New England gay community is gearing up to participate in one of its biggest rites of passage: a pilgrimage to Provincetown.
Set against a backdrop of rustic New England beauty and located at the tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, Ptown, as it’s commonly referred to, has become a haven for the gay community thanks to a wide range of clubs, hotels, special events and beaches. Not to mention the many annual drag shows and afternoon tea parties.
Between its seaside location and influx of sexy visitors during the summer, Ptown has become one of the hottest destinations for LGBT travelers in the world.
The area has been popular with the LGBT community since the 1950s when the Beatnik poets came here to party. It has a deeper historical value, however, as the Pilgrims first landed here in the 17th century when they crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower. A tower just north of Ptown’s commercial center commemorates the group’s arrival.
While partying is a major part of life here, it’s not the only facet. Ptown prides itself on being a family-friendly destination set a world apart from the rest of the Cape, thanks to the local art galleries, boutiques and restaurants that offer a unique flair in this area.
The town has an atmosphere that is friendly, funky and fabulous. From the drag queens that wander the streets passing out fliers to their shows to the same-sex couples walking hand-in-hand with a baby in tow, Provincetown is a mecca for alternative travelers.
Ptown is centered on Commercial Street, a mile (or two)-long stretch of road that parallels the town’s inner harbor. This is where travelers can find a wide range of gay-oriented hotels, bars and other services.
On the other side of town is the Cape Cod National Seashore, a federal protected stretch of sand preserved for its natural beauty. There are beaches closer to town, but the National Seashore is where all the picture-perfect postcards of the coast come from.
Organizing a trip here is very easy. Many hotels have their own websites where travelers can book rooms, and people can arrive in Ptown by auto, ferry or plane. Travel agents also provide vacation packages to the destination with finesse and will customize it to visitor’s needs.
Because of its popularity, visitors won’t have any problems with cell phone service or finding Wi-Fi unless they’re on the beach. And who wants to use technology there, anyway?
No matter who visits Ptown, travelers are sure to have a great time thanks to the destinations wide range of fun activities and vibrant nightlife.
Provincetown is located at the tip of Cape Cod, which means there’s only one main road in and one road out. From New York and points south, take Interstate 95 to Providence, Rhode Island, and continue onto Interstate 195. This highway takes drivers to the start of the Cape and connects them with Route 6, the main road in and out of Provincetown. From New York City, it’s a 5-and-a-half hour drive.
To experience the ferry, take the Amtrak to Boston’s South Station. From Boston Harbor, travelers can use
Boston Harbor Cruises or the Bay State Cruise Company. From Beantown the ride is about 90 minutes.
Cape Air offers daily flights to Provincetown’s Airport from Logan International Airport in Boston. The flight is only 20 minutes and a taxi ride to the center of P-town from the airport costs about $7.
New Yorkers can also take a Plymouth & Brockton Street Railway Company, a bus to Hyannis that connects with a local Cape bus to Ptown.
The Cape Code Regional Transit Authority runs a shuttle bus between Ptown and the neighboring town of Truro. There are several pick-up/drop-off points along the route, but passengers can flag the bus down anywhere they see the shuttle. Buses run every 30 minutes during the summer season until 12:45 a.m., seven days a week (weekends only until June 17, 2011).
Besides the local shuttle service, there are three main taxi companies: Mercedes Cab, 508-487-TAXI or 508-487-3333); Black & White Taxi, 508-487-7800; and Cape Cab Taxi, 508-487-2222. They all offer friendly drivers and great rates.
For something a little more unique, consider hailing the Funk Mobile, 508-487-0111, a karaoke cabbie that drives around Ptown. Rates are a little higher, but all of the company’s fleet have superior sound systems and passengers can choose what they want to listen to (and sing to) during their ride.
The best way to get around, however, is by bike. Being a seacoast town the topography is fairly even, and most hills in the central town are doable. It’s very easy to get to the beach. And you don’t have to worry about finding a parking space. Check online for one of the several local bike rental shops.
Where to Stay
Whether it’s a quaint bed & breakfast, a modern boutique hotel or a waterfront seaside cottage vacation rental, Provincetown has several options for accommodations. Make sure to book a room in advance during the height of summer, as many hotels fill up fast, especially during the holidays.
Prices are comparable between hotel rooms and vacation rentals on the weekend, but a weeklong stay at a house is likely to be cheaper than a weeklong stay at a downtown motel.
This female-owned B&B is one of the most raved-about guesthouses in Provincetown. With a secluded hot tub in the backyard and a patio that’s great for people watching on Commercial Street, there’s something for everyone here. Travelers who arrive via ferry or plane can arrange free pick-up and drop-off transportation to the property.
Home of Ptown’s famous afternoon tea dance, the Boatslip is one of the most popular destinations for gay travelers. Many of the rooms face the water and guests get complimentary entry to the tea dances, held daily. Don’t forget that skimpy bathing suit, which is sure to draw attention from the predominately gay clientele.
The Brass Key Guesthouse
These accommodations define luxury in Provincetown, providing guests with free Wi-Fi, complimentary poolside drinks, an award-winning infinity pool and a romantic atmosphere. Set among nine guesthouses, the property breathtaking and relaxing. It’s perfect for couples who have the extra money to spend on a lavish getaway.
Crown & Anchor Inn
If you want to step outside into a party full of hot men, this is the place. Located smack dab in the heart of town, there’s always something going on.
The Outermost Hostel
Since Ptown is an all-inclusive destination, accommodations are available for any wallet size. This quaint dormitory-style property is just north of Commercial Street and offers rooms for as low as $35.00 per night. Prepare to party with other travelers, as the environment encourages mingling (and hooking up).
The Ranch Guesthouse
This men-only guesthouse has some of the rowdiest accommodations thanks to its prime real estate in the midst of Ptown’s nightlife scene. In fact, it’s only two doors down from Spiros, Provincetown’s after-party hotspot. Rooms don’t have a bathroom - guests have to share, but that’s all part of the soapy fun.
The White Porch Inn
This gay-friendly B&B is located downtown and offers nine beautiful guestrooms from which to choose. The design aesthetic is contemporary but never lets travelers forget they’re on a beach vacation. Many of the rooms have their own fireplaces, hot tubs and water views of the harbor.
The best way to find a vacation home is online or through a real estate agent. Nowadays, many homeowners put listings on craigslist or websites like that of the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce.
The listings above are only a small sampling of the accommodations available in Ptown. For a comprehensive list, visit the local Chamber of Commerce, which also lists last-minute availabilities.
Where to Party
Commercial Street and the surrounding side alleys are where Ptown’s nightlife can be found. There’s no direct cruising scene, but with so many bars and clubs in such a small space, it’s nearly impossible to go home empty-handed.
The A-House: This club might be small, but it’s always packed and playing the hottest hits of the summer. Resident DJ David LaSalle has become a household institution here thanks to his ability to get partiers up and dancing late into the night. An outside patio area is great for cruising or getting some fresh air. There’s a leather/daddy bar upstairs, as well.
Boatslip Resort: Held every day from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., the "World Famous Tea Dance" is one of Provincetown’s most popular parties. It’s not hard to see why - hot guys with washboard abs, a steady flow of alcohol and sunshine make this a great way to start the night a little early.
Paramount: Here, guests will encounter Ptown’s biggest dance floor. City dwellers will feel right at home thanks to the thumping bass and laser show that takes place as they get their groove on.
The Wave Video Bar: This nightclub offers a more intimate (and comedic) atmosphere than clubs like A-House and Paramount. The best time to visit is during Hump Day karaoke, a sexy and outrageous singing event.
The Vault: Provincetown’s most popular leather, uniform and bear bar, which overflows during Bear Week in the middle of summer.
The Central House Piano Bar (and Cabaret Lounge): These two bars at the Crown & Anchor Inn offer nightly live entertainment that is a bit more refined than the backrooms of most gay clubs... but only a little.
Shipwreck Lounge: Connected to the Brass Key Guest House property, this lively bar is always filled with customers looking to relax with a drink before heading out to the clubs. Sunset is a great time to sip throw back a cocktail, or two or three...
Vixen Nightclub: This is Ptown’s most popular club for the ladies. Wednesdays are popular with a throw back to 70s and 80s music, but women can find a hottie to grind with every night of the week.
Pied Bar: Another place popular with the ladies, this is one of the best places to keep the party going after the Tea Dance at Boatslip.
(Note: there are several more gay bars and clubs that are worth checking out; just wander around Commercial Street and you’ll find them.)
Shopping & Services
Commercial Street is full of art galleries and boutique clothing stores, but there are also some really great specialty shops that sell souvenirs. Skip the tacky t-shirts and grab something really memorable, like a lighthouse keepsake (or a new boyfriend).
Mussel Beach & Provincetown Gym offer travelers the chance to stay in shape with yoga classes, cardio equipment and other fitness programming.
For a break from all the partying, consider a whale watch cruise or renting a bike. Cape Cod Whale Watch offers great tours of the feeding grounds just off Ptown’s coast line. Ptown Bikes (508-487-8735) has expert staff and great rates for daily rentals. The best places to bike are the trails that wind along the seaside.
In addition, there are several attractions worth visiting including the
Provincetown Museum and the Province Lands Visitors Center, run by the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Sun, Sex, Sustenance, Sand, Special Events
The best beaches in Provincetown area are designated as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Race Point is great for body surfing and natural beauty, while Herring Cove is a strip of sand often dominated by the LGBT community.
Travelers who have a car should consider a day trip to Wellfleet, which has some of the best beaches on the East Coast. It takes about 20 minutes to get there from Ptown.
The best restaurants can be found on Commercial Street, and no trip to Provincetown is complete without a bowl of clam chowder and a lobster dinner. There are many food shacks worth sampling, but be wary of prices - if it sounds expensive, it’s probably not worth it. New Englanders know when their stuff is good so they don’t overcharge travelers.
Fine dining restaurants like the Bistro at Crowne Point, the Mews and Napi’s offer unique New England cuisine.
Cruising in Provincetown is a bit difficult, as there’s such a big nightlife scene... but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of places to look. The Pilgrim’s First Landing Park is considered a hot spot for hook-ups, along with the aptly named Dick Dock, located under the Boatslip Resort’s boardwalk. In addition, the benches near Town Hall and of course, the sand dunes are also popular.
Private parties are another alternative to partying at Ptown’s nightlife scene, so ask around and see what’s happening. Don’t be afraid to throw your own party, people will come as long as you advertise hot guys and free booze.
Provincetown is popular throughout the summer, but the gays really descend upon Cape Cod during the holiday weekends, Bear Week (July 9th-17th), Pride Week (July 30th-August 6th) and Carnival (August 14th-19th). For more events listings visit the Chamber of Commerce Website mentioned above.
The big weekend of the summer is July 4th. Promoter David Flowers’ "Summer Camp" brings in party boys from around the world for cruises and other dance venues featuring world-class DJs.
This article is part of our "Summer 2011" series. Want to read more?
Here's the full list»