The news had invited a chorus of "you're crazy"'s out of the mouths of friends.
Sure, the idea of me being crazy isn’t far-fetched, but I had at least expected news that I was traveling to Provincetown in the late-season to be met with open minds. My Manhattan friends, who in July of the previous year had overwhelmingly supported a peak-season trip to Provincetown, greeted the announcement with confusion.
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[Click above to launch our Provincetown slideshow gallery]
“But Bear Week was two weeks ago! Provincetown is over for the year, honey," they’d say, their judgmental side-eyes weaponized.
The verdict didn’t exactly fall upon defensive (and gorgeous, might I add) ears. Provincetown Carnival, P-Town’s most popular-themed week (of the many throughout summer) that takes place annually in mid-August unofficially, I had thought, declared the end of the vacation spot’s, well, vacation-spotting season. With Labor Day shortly following Carnival, didn't us outsiders assume that, like Fire Island, the bustling business of P-Town were preparing to shutter until the following spring?
Determined to find out which P-town party-going segment (the summer boys or late-season boys) exploited the winning argument, my boyfriend and I set out on the road from New York City for an epic experiment.
On Art's Dune Tours
Sure, it might be easiest to arrive in Provincetown, which sits at the northern (and therefore further-most) tip of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod by air or water. However, considering the timing and the availability of a 2012 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid rental which we’ve had our eyes on, my boyfriend and I decided to make it a quick road trip.
Unfortunately, it seems anytime of year that is not wintertime means one might encounter a bit of traffic heading north toward America's gayest city. But, with the MKZ Hybrid’s 3-D-like sound-system and a stop at the best pizza joint in the Northeast (Pepe’s Pizza), we weren’t too concerned with the delay. However, we worried the folks waiting for us at our first (and quickly approaching) Provincetown appointment with Art’s Dune Tours wouldn’t be as nonchalant about our running late.
After finding parking (an affair made only slightly less panic-worthy in P-Town’s off-season), we bolted to the meeting point for the dune tours. Panting, we worried we had missed the departure and offended our hosts. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The staff at Art’s Dune Tours welcomed us with warmth, smiles and, perhaps most importantly, water. After a quick moment of decompression, we were off to tour the nearby sand dunes for a sunset tour that included a clambake dinner (featuring lobster, clam chowder, vino and more). Within moments of Art’s convivial associates spreading our picnic blanket on a secluded Cape Cod beach, we understood why artists have long considered the area a muse. The stirring light, big sky and peaceful waters all conspired to paint a picture worth at least a million words. Kicking off any trip to Provincetown with one of Art’s Dune Tours (which operates through fall) is highly recommended, and to truly infuse the Cape Cod mood, upgrade to the clambake option. You won’t regret it.
Encumbered by bellies as satisfied as our sunset-stroked minds, we lethargically made our way to our lodgings for the weekend, Land’s End Inn. A bit of research on the Inn’s website ahead of the trip allowed us to anticipate the grandeur of the hilltop getaway, but with the real-world lavish accommodations finally spread out before us, we had no choice but to drop our jaws at the sight of our homobase for the weekend.
It’s with no exaggeration that I say we could have easily spent our entire late-season trip to Provincetown comfortably tucked away within the widespread confines of Land’s End Inn.
Its West End location (though all of PTown is gay, the city’s West End is arguably gay-er) promised easy access to all of the hot-spots along nearby Commercial Street, but the welcoming grounds outdoors and the sumptuous appointments that greeted us inside beckoned for our loyalty. Owner Michael MacIntyre has successfully created a vibrant oasis, complete with multiple patios overlooking the Provincetown Harbor, ample parking and secret outdoor hideaways perfect for late-night starry-eyed cuddling—and that’s just the outside! The heart of Land’s End undoubtedly beats with its opulent interior, a labyrinth of rooms, each more regal than its predecessor. Within seconds of walking through the entryway we felt like princes (err, queens).
For our stay we scored the “Moroccan Room," quarters that perched us high on the hill and afforded us (thanks to its panoramic glass windows), sweeping views of the entire area. We could only imagine the breath-taking view that a mid-autumn stay painted with New England’s fall foilage would provide. We’ll be booking the room again later this year for that reason alone. (Land’s End Inn is open year-round.)
It took us some time, but once we re-hinged our lower jaws and unearthed the will-power to peel ourselves away from the vista, we made the quick walk from Land’s End Inn to Provincetown’s main strip, Commercial Street. Even in late-season, the gayborhood’s thoroughfare was buzzing with infectious energy.
Our senses were subdued at the halfway point of our walk to legendary club Crown & Anchor; the scent of fudge pouring out of Puzzle Me This was too commanding to avoid. We popped in, possibly annoyed the clerks with requests to taste-test a few flavors, and walked out with more than we had bargained for. My advice: definitely check out Puzzle Me This (fresh-fudge during fall is about the most comforting thing you can touch to your tongue), but perhaps wait until after a night out at the club to do so. (Caveat: ordering fudge with one or several drinks imbibed might prove disastrous.)
Sweet tooth? Check. Finally, it was time to dance off the extra calories.
The Crown & Anchor, as its reputation promised, provided ample dance room, both indoors and out on its stunningly-large patio. Whenever we needed a break from the cardio the world-class DJ provided (this night was Tony Moran), we’d step next door into Crown & Anchor’s video-bar room to slow things down a bit. All in all, the world-class venue provided the ear, eye and cocktail candy necessary that completes any trip to one of the globe’s great gay destinations.
I have a confession to make. California's Intelligentsia Coffee has been dethroned as my favorite coffeehouse. The hangover my body encountered the following morning would have rendered me incapacitated for the entire a.m. were it not for the spectacular brew wafting up to the heavens that was our Moroccan suite, courtesy of Provincetown’s own Joe Coffee & Cafe. Seems the java makers have a deal with Land’s End that not only supplied us with easy-access to one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, but also introduced me to the only competition worthy of Intelligentsia my caffeine-craving nerves have ever encountered.
We, well my boyfriend (the bed was too comfortable and my whining especially potent in the morning), ran downstairs to grab a couple cups and glean information of the coffee’s origins. (On our way out of town we stopped at Joe Coffee & Cafe to buy a bag of the company’s beans. It lasted two days.)
Appropriately caffeinated, we once again tore ourselves from our gorgeous lodgings to check out Sunday drag brunch at Victor’s. Immediately upon entering I noticed not only the gorgeous cathedral ceilings that helped the din of the room resonate but a pinch of my butt courtesy of Provincetown’s infamous Shady Pines, host of Victor’s Drag Queen Brunch. She knows exactly how I like to be greeted. The entertainment was side-splitting, the food was delicious (he had a lobster eggs benedict that I preferred to my chicken enchiladas), and after all was said and done it's safe to recommend Victor's for anyone looking to get Sunday Funday started on the right foot.
Though a typical late-summer rain was welling in the clouds above and periodically manifesting itself as sprinkles, we noticed plenty of guys hoping to keep the gay going heading to P-Town’s biggest tea dance at the Boat Slip. Even in the off-season the Sunday party boasts crowds that swell to huge sizes, sun or no sun, and is a must for any gay Provincetown visitor.
After dancing against a gorgeous backdrop of the Provincetown Harbor, (more) food was in order. Folks wanting the energetic atmosphere of tea dance to spill over into their dinner plans should head eastward on Commercial Street to soak in the festive ambiance of Patio. Here we didn’t stray from our seafood-foraging ways (When in Cape Cod...), and found our palates buzzing along with the dance music to the pitch-perfect tune of Patio’s crab cake and scallop entrees. Even with a fall breeze, Patio’s namesake (a large portion of outdoor seating that reminded me of West Hollywood’s The Abbey) is a people-watching magnet.
Dinner might have been busy digesting, but we weren’t through with people-watching just yet. Sure, a stroll down Commercial Street satisfies most people-watching needs alone, but, aching for the desperate need for attention only drag queens exude, we decided to check out whichever drag show was on stage at Provincetown Theater for a nightcap. (Provincetown Theater’s current season extends through mid-December.)
Our final mourning in Provincetown (not a typo—we were seriously in mourning) was filled with reluctant, angry packing and epic proportions of procrastination. We simply did not want to leave the little slice of gay paradise, whether our palatial lodgings or the year-round inclusiveness at the heart of Provincetown were to blame. After three trips a single trip to Land’s End’s breakfast bar, a goodbye to our new favorite cafe, Joe Coffee & Cafe, and a quick impulse spree at nearby men’s boutique Rogue’s Gallery, we were back in the MKZ on Route 6, with an answer finally materialized before, well, sadly, behind us: yes, Provincetown is just as worthy of a getaway in the late-season, fall and winter as it is during the sweltering heights of summer. But perhaps we should’ve kept the results of this experiment as our little secret...
(Image credit, except picture #6: Andrew Huebscher)
Land’s End Inn
Puzzle Me This
Joe Coffee & Cafe
Play & Be Mary
Art’s Dune Tours
Crown and Anchor
Fall & Winter Provincetown attractions and events
Provincetown Halloween 2011
Provincetown Holly Folly Events throughout December
Special thanks to Lincoln