Image by: Andrew Collins
There’s nothing quite like late spring in Provincetown, when seasonal businesses have all completed their refurbishments and new paint jobs, and the loyal fans of this idyllic gay resort town at the tip of Cape Cod have begun filtering back, predominantly over long weekends in May and June, and then in significant numbers of every day of the week throughout summer.
If you’re more about quiet beach strolls, saving a little money, and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow travelers without overpowering crowds, plan a trip here in spring, or wait until the beautiful autumn months of September and October. If you’re more about partying and hobnobbing, head here in summer - just keep in mind that rates are at their highest then, as are waits for tables at top restaurants. And many hotels and inns require minimum stays of three to as many as seven nights during this period. Be aware, too, that Provincetown has a number of very fun yearly events that draw big crowds, from Carnival to Holly Folly to Cabaret Fest - you can view the full rundown at the excellent website produced by the GLBT Provincetown Business Guild (www.ptown.org), which also gives comprehensive lists of attractions, lodgings, bars, restaurants, shops, galleries, and more.
At whatever time you come, here are some key Provincetown (ptownchamber.com) recommendations on where to sample delicious food, mingle with friends at bars, and snuggle up in bed for the night:
A couple of terrific restaurants opened in Provincetown last season and immediately began earning raves. In an elegant Victorian mansion, Dalla Cucina serves artfully plated fine Italian fare - it was named "Best Italian Restaurant in New England" in 2011 by Yankee Magazine. The other newish notable is Ten Tables, which has earlier-established branches in Cambridge and Boston’s LGBT-popular Jamaica Plain neighborhood. This intimate, romantic eatery sources ingredients from local fishermen and the restaurant’s own garden. Chef-owner Krista Kranyak dazzles diners with creative dishes like braised pork shank with grilled romaine, sunchokes, and orange.
Long-running P-town favorites are still turning out terrific food, including the uber-romantic, rather fancy Red Inn, which occupies beautiful early-19th-century house in the West End and serves first-rate coastal New England fare, and the informally elegant Mews, which offers great live entertainment as well as tasty food. The casual upstairs bistro has lighter fare (burgers, salads, etc.), and the downstairs dining room more elaborate options, like lobster risotto with roasted-butternut squash. In light and airy yellow house in the West End, Victor’s serves deftly prepared modern American cuisine, including some of the best breakfast fare in town. Cute and inviting Devon’s is another great option both for breakfast and dinner, serving such internationally inspired victuals as lemon-chicken tagine with almond-apricot-green-olive couscous in the evening, and hearty Portuguese omelets to start the day.
In an intimate second-floor space with stunning harbor views, Ross’s Grill earns kudos for its well-chosen wine list, tantalizing raw bar, and inventive American cuisine. For authentic Mexican food, head to Lorraine’s, where crab enchiladas and roasted duck star on the menu. Right on the water in the East End, Fanizzi offers up fresh bountiful dinner salads, seafood pastas, and other casual but well-executed meals (at reasonable prices) - it’s a favorite with locals.
For lighter noshing, Aquarium Markeplace is home to several fun take-out spots, including Big Daddy’s Burritos, Batata (which serves Belgian-inspired treats like super-crisp fries with unusual dipping sauces, and addictively good short-rib sliders), and the fabulous Aqua Bar, which has seating overlooking Provincetown Harbor and serves exceptional seafood and cocktails. Frappo 66, beside Art House Cinema, serves healthy, world-beat cuisine, including seared tuna tataki, and warm and welcoming Cafe Heaven is a top spot for decadent breakfast fare. For late-night post-bar noshing, head for Spiritus Pizza, a longtime tradition for people-watching. You and check your e-mail and perk up with a cup of potent java at Wired Puppy coffeehouse. And be sure to stop by the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery to sample the delicious meat pies, pastries, rolls, and breads.
When it comes time to trade in your knife and fork for a mug of beer or an icy cocktail, head for historic Atlantic House (aka A-House), which contains both a hopping gay bar and a disco. The other big player in town, noted for its pulsing weekend circuit parties, is the Crown & Anchor resort, which also has a festive video lounge and a cruisy leather bar. The Gifford House hotel is home to Purgatory, a small, sexually charged basement dance club. In the East End, check out the lesbian-oriented Vixen, an attractive bar and dance floor with live shows on many nights.
All summer long, poseurs and party creatures mingle and cruise during the Boatslip’s legendary tea dances. The crowd usually moves on to the Pied Piper, which has a small but fun dance floor, off of which is one of the loveliest decks in town, a great spot to watch the sun sink over the bay. Bayside Betsy’s is a wonderfully dishy spot for early-evening cocktails, and Monkey Bar is an enjoyable place to sip martinis and watch the world go by. Fans of the grape should check out Joonbar, a natty wine boite with a mixed clientele, while Nor’East Beer Garden is a cool open-air hangout with an exceptional selection of interesting ales.
Provincetown has more than 70 inns and guest houses with a gay following, most of them welcoming a mix of men and women, gay and straight (the exact breakdown of clientele typically varies throughout the year). Arguably the town’s premier accommodation, the superbly sumptuous 40-room Crowne Pointe (crownepointe.com) occupies a regal setting on a bluff in the center of town. Cushy in-room amenities abound - pima-cotton bathrobes, gas fireplaces, whirlpool tubs, TVs with DVD players. The inn’s stunning Shui Spa is a top-notch facility with a professional yet low-keyed staff, and the inn’s restaurant serves tantalizingly good contemporary American fare.
The team behind Crowne Pointe also runs the exceptional Brass Key (brasskey.com) which was the first Provincetown guest house to offer a level of service and amenities comparable to a world-class luxury hotel, and this splendid resort still excels in every category. The staff at hip and cozy Somerset House Inn (somersethouseinn.com) has set the standard in Provincetown when it comes to hospitality, capturing the chic ambience of an urbane boutique hotel, with its mod furnishings, L’Occitane bath amenities, and plush beds with luxuriant linens. The lesbian-owned Inn at Cook Street (innatcookstreet.com) is handsome, smartly furnished Greek Revival house and two cottages on a quiet block on the East End - it’s ideal for a peaceful getaway.
One of the best addresses for gay guesthouses is Johnson Street, home to the reasonably priced, attractively furnished Christopher’s by the Bay, which occupies a towering Victorian house with a lush and cheerful patio in back - proprietors Dave and Jim are two of the nicest and most helpful innkeepers in town. Across the street, the sleek and stylish White Porch Inn (whiteporchinn.com) contains nine natty guestrooms named for Cape Cod lighthouses - each unit has a flat-screen TV with DVD player and an MP3 dock, and quite a few have deep tubs and fireplaces. Just a few doors down, the similarly romantic Carpe Diem (carpediemguesthouse.com) is sophisticated yet quite social, with rooms named for famous poets and writers (from Rilke to Cocteau).
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll find countless other great properties around town - the cheap and cheerful Heritage House (heritageh.com), ideal if you don’t mind shared baths; the sumptuous Benchmark Inn (benchmarkinn.com), a Greek Revival beauty with sun-filled rooms; the friendly and moderately priced Ampersand Guesthouse (ampersandguesthouse.com), nestled in the quiet West End; and the tranquil Secret Garden Inn (secretgardenptown.com), set down a narrow alley off of Commercial Street and surrounded by fragrant gardens and redbrick patios.
Andrew Collins covers gay travel for the New York Times-owned website GayTravel.About.com and is the author of Fodor’s Gay Guide to the USA.
Ten Tables, which opened in 2011, has quickly become one of Provincetown’s hottest culinary destinations