For three months out of the year, known as “high season,” Provincetown, Massachusetts, transforms from a sleepy fishing hamlet into one of the world’s premier gay resorts. Its population multiplies by ten, its beaches by at least that number crowded. The many guesthouses — sprawling Victorians perched on the bluffs overlooking the town — welcome from near (Boston) and far (everywhere else).
And that’s just during the day. At night, the many day trippers return to the Lower Cape and points beyond, leaving the town to what the U.S. Census counted as the largest per capita population of same-sex couples in the country — not that there isn’t plenty to do if you’re unhitched. There’s a palpable sense that, for us, this is our home, a place of freedom, expression and fantasy. If Walt Disney were gay, he would have developed Ptown (the popular name for it) as our own Magic Kingdom.
That feeling of acceptance is part of the reason why Ptown is so special. Add to that its stunning physical beauty. Sitting at the end of Cape Cod, it feels like the last stand of terrain against the Atlantic, which surrounds it on three sides. Essentially, it is, which is why the Pilgrims landed here first, in 1602. The beaches are among the most beautiful in the entire Northeast. Herring Cove, which faces west, allows an unparalleled view of the sun setting into Cape Cod Bay.
Acting as its beacon, and most recognizable landmark, is the Pilgrim Monument, a tower that would look right at home in Tuscany. Here it feels both utterly incongruous and absolutely right — a fitting symbol for Ptown’s multiple personalities. Listen to the haunting foghorns; gaze into the gathering evening mist; experience the bustle of the Crown & Anchor at midnight; and relish the serenity of a walk through the dunes. Ptown is a place to have one’s heart broken, as did a famous pioneering gay resident, Tennessee Williams, in the 1940s. Or to get married; since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, it’s become hugely popular for gay weddings.
During the height of the summer, every type in our glorious gay mosaic shows up here one weekend or another: bears, gay families, lesbians, and Circuit boyz — all summer long, but especially during the humongous party week around the Fourth of July. Carnival Week, the annual August event that culminates in one of the biggest street celebrations anywhere, belongs to everybody.
Ptown’s real estate long ago evolved from a haven for blue-collar Portuguese fisherman into some of the most expensive homes in the country. That, and its isolation from the mainland, has made it one of the most elite of resorts. Visiting Ptown is not for the frugal vacationer. Lodging can be expensive — and hard to find. Many guesthouses demand a five-day minimum. Book early. Restaurants run the gamut from clam shacks and sidewalk cafes to elegant, white-cloth dining.
The weather is New England at its heartiest. June can be iffy: rainy and cool for days on end. July and August, the days have more sustained warmth (but not scorching) and pleasantly cool nights. Don’t rule out the weeks after Labor Day. In fact, September is an ideal time to visit, with warm weather, thinning crowds and downward-adjusted room rates. Unlike Fire Island, down the coast, the season doesn’t end there. Halloween has grown to becoming a major weekend. During New Year’s, Commercial Street is jammed again, only with parkas replacing wife beaters.
Parking a car can be difficult, and traffic is often a nightmare. The easiest way to get around is to leave the car and rent a bike, available from several rental companies.