By Vic Gerami
Being in Provincetown (P-Town), Massachusetts, is like being inside a beautifully colorful painting of a charming village that only exists in fantasy. It’s hard to believe that this charming Cape Cod town exists while walking down Commercial Street, passing historic buildings, quaint shops, and stunning views. P-Town is that place over the rainbow Dorothy sang about, where bluebirds fly, trouble melts like lemon drops and dreams come true.
Just ninety minutes away from Boston is a tiny seaside town on the tip of Cape Cod that has as much history as it does LGBT culture. While many remember from history class that Plymouth Rock was where the Pilgrims settled in 1620, it was, in fact, Provincetown where the Pilgrims first landed before passing onto Plymouth and settling what would soon become the US. But American history aside, P-Town, like many popular, small queer getaways, has been a haven for the LGBT community for decades. With a population of about 3,000, the small New England getaway boasts 40+ queer guesthouses, 10+ bars and clubs, 2 beaches while also hosting a dozen or more LGBT events throughout the year.
LGBT HISTORY OF PROVINCETOWN
It is no coincidence that for more than fifty years, the LGBT community returns every summer to Provincetown. The recent development/tourism development of Provincetown owes much to this community here where one can find a place to feel at home.
The town started to promote itself as a tourist destination to aid the economy after the storm of 1898, which adversely affected the fishing community. Artists, with their bohemian style, were some of the first visitors of Provincetown. Residents and visitors alike are attracted by the incredible natural beauty and the particular light or “aura”. Little by little this has become an eclectic population who are the more and more numerous to visit this community.
The 1920s and ’30s were when the presence of LGBT increased over that of artists, writers, dramatists, poets, romantics, and journalists. These new arrivers found inspiration in the beauty of this town with its avant-garde freedom. They played a role in the development of the artistic colony here, and they participated in the development of modern American theater. The ability to experiment with various art forms without fear of judgment begot an artistic environment, prosperous, after a city that saw the birth of the first school of American art and modern American theater. Several artists had gay friends. It was a feeling of acceptance in this booming art colony that attracted more and more tourists curious to visit this unconventional town at the tip of Cape Cod. It was not a long time before Provincetown became an ideal space to pass the months of summer for gays and lesbians, completely seduced by the feeling of acceptance and artistic energy. Gradually the habitats become “year-rounders”, investing in buying Inns and “Bed and Breakfasts”, creating local businesses and now being an integral part of the local economic fabric.
Provincetown, a seaside city in the northern tip of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, has long been a great hub of Bohemia and queer culture.
Crowne Pointe Inn & Spa located in the very heart of Provincetown MA is a beautifully restored, Cape Cod Sea Captain’s Estate.
Comprised of six beautifully restored historic buildings with the main mansion, award-winning fine dining at The Pointe Restaurant, the Inn features spacious guest rooms and luxury suites wrapped around a beautifully landscaped courtyard and a full-service in-house spa.
HARBORFRONT LANDING PENTHOUSE
If you are planning to visit Provincetown and looking for the perfect rental property, then you are in for a treat as the penthouse in which I stayed will check all your boxes. It includes great amenities, luxurious comfort, stunning bay views and just steps away from the city center.
You can bask in the serenity and tranquility of the one bedroom penthouse, and when you decide to venture out, be a quick walk from the fun of Commercial Street’s shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants.
Built in 2012, this complex offers modern amenities and conveniences amidst the timeless charm of Provincetown tradition. This bright and airy space includes an open living space with a gourmet kitchen & appliances, one bedroom with queen bed, central air-conditioning and heating, in-unit washer & dryer, bay-facing exclusive use balcony, and other creature comforts to enhance your stay. Book the Penthouse HERE.
Whether you need a cup of coffee to accompany an early morning stroll, or you’d like to linger over a candlelit dinner for two, you will find the best restaurants in Provincetown on Commercial Street. Commercial Street has both casual and fine dining options at a number of indoor and outdoor restaurants. But, for a truly unique treat, make a stop at the Provincetown Portuguese Bakery.
LOBSTER POT RESTAURANT
Overlooking historic Provincetown harbor, the Lobster Pot is an institution like no other and part of a tradition that makes Provincetown such a special place. You can dine in either of our two waterfront dining rooms and choose from a menu that features the finest and freshest in seafood, Portuguese specialties, steaks, poultry, vegetarian and light fare.
The Lobster Pot and the McNulty Family is celebrating 40 years of service to our guests this season! We are grateful for the dedication and loyalty of our customers. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you in the Dining Rooms and at the Top of the Pot in 2019!
TIN PAN ALLEY
The cuisine could best be described as seasonal new American with global fusion influences. They use locally sourced meat, fish and produce whenever possible and only use fresh ingredients. Most of what they serve is made in-house including their sauces, dressings, bread, and desserts. The menu changes with the seasons and celebrates the freshest ingredients from each of those seasons. Their philosophy is to provide simple, healthy and delicious food at a fair price.
With a piano bar in the front, Tin Pan Alley offers nightly entertainment during high season and about four nights per week during the quiet season. They feature a variety of local talent as well as guest performers from Boston, New York, and Los Angeles.
The owners support local artists by using the walls as gallery space without charging them a commission. They are also known as one of the most benevolent business owners in town.
CIRO & SAL’S
Taste the best that Italy has to offer, in a cozy wine cellar that has radiated charm and atmosphere for decades. At Ciro & Sal’s, inspiration is born from the simple homegrown flavors and traditions of the Northern Italian cuisine. Enjoy the aroma of garlic and herbs, combined with the freshest local ingredients while dining in a dimly lit brick wine cellar. Be seated at an intimate table and settle in for an evening of extraordinary taste sensations.
One of the most popular things to shop for on Commercial Street in Provincetown is local artwork. The influence of Provincetown’s rich artistic history is evident on Commercial Street. The area has a large number of art galleries and stores that sell local art in a great variety of styles.
Between stops at delicious restaurants, cafes, and ice cream parlors, there is ample opportunity for shopping on Commercial Street. In fact, most of the street has small, local shops that sell everything from used books, jewelry, and handmade gifts, to furniture and Cape Cod souvenirs. On Commercial Street, you won’t find mass-produced goods from chain stores. Instead, you will delight in the unique collection of locally-owned boutiques that line the sidewalks.
Lesbian owned and operated since 1976, with a mission to promote the work of female artisans, authors, and musicians, Womencrafts is one of Provincetown’s oldest shops and one of only thirteen remaining feminist bookstores in the country. The shop currently showcases over 100 female artists, 1,000 books, and finds its mission as politically and culturally necessary today as it was when it first opened in 1976.
Womencrafts is the first place many women proclaimed out loud that they are lesbians. Kids bring their parents to the shop to buy books about being transgender.
This shop has survived internet shopping, mp3s, and digital books because it is much more than a store: it is a physical and interpersonal space. The internet has connected members of the LGBTQI community in ways that are lifesaving and innumerable, but nothing compares to the experience of walking into a shop where all the books are written by women, where queer and gender studies aren’t relegated to a niche section hidden in the corner but comprise the entirety of the inventory. Women’s words need to be preserved, displayed, and shared. They also offer a variety of twelve-step items, including recovery books, anniversary medallions, and resource materials. The owner, Michelle, is as friendly, welcoming and hospitable as her store.
Botanica is a unique gift shop and art gallery with goods for the home and garden. They have a wide selection of gifts for the home, including vintage items, one-of-a-kind souvenirs, variety of accessories and much more. Anything from Botanica will forever remind you of P-Town.
The store is owned by a charming gay couple, Robert and Mark.
You can’t take a trip to Provincetown without exploring its most charming street. Commercial Street in Provincetown, MA is three-mile stretch along Cape Cod filled with exciting attractions, historic sites, places to shop, and more! This narrow street is always abuzz with activity and is a popular place to go for a walk during the summer. When you visit Commercial Street in Provincetown, make sure to grab an ice cream cone, find a shady spot to sit, and watch the diverse flow of people pass you by. You will quickly see all that there is to love about Commercial Street in Provincetown, MA.
If you plan to spend an afternoon on the water, Commercial Street is your gateway to the best waterfront activities in Provincetown. MacMillan Pier and the Provincetown Causeway, two of the major waterfront attractions in Provincetown, start on Commercial Street. From Commercial Street, it is easy to walk along the causeway, fish off the pier, go whale watching, or rent a boat of your own!
Another reason you’ll love Commercial Street is that it is so close to all of Provincetown’s best landmarks. In fact, the Provincetown Library, which offers some of the best views of the water, and the Provincetown Art Association and Museum are right on Commercial Street! Other important landmarks nearby include the Provincetown Town Hall, Provincetown Theater, Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum.
The Pilgrim Monument was founded in 1892 as the Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association—Cape Cod’s oldest not-for-profit organization. Its purpose is to commemorate the Mayflower Pilgrims’ first landing in the New World in Provincetown, in November 1620. Here the Pilgrims spent five-weeks exploring the tip of Cape Cod before they sailed on to Plymouth. They also drew up and signed the Mayflower Compact, which established the rule of law for the new land.
The Cape Cod Pilgrim Memorial Association built the Pilgrim Monument to honor the Pilgrims’ first landing in Provincetown. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1907. In 1910, President William Howard Taft dedicated the finished 252-foot tower. In 1910, the Cape’s first building built to house a museum opened at the base of the monument, to educate the public about Provincetown’s role in Pilgrim history and American history.
Do you think your day on Commercial Street is over after you’ve explored the shops, tasted the food and enjoyed the historic sites? Think again. As the sun sets and the night begins, Commercial Street comes alive. With a large variety of bars and clubs, Commercial Street offers a diverse nightlife for every taste!
THE ATLANTIC HOUSE
The Atlantic House (A-House), also known as the A-House, is Provincetown’s only year-round dance club and has been in continuous operation on the tip of Cape Cod for two centuries. Having been an openly gay-friendly establishment for half a century and discreetly so for perhaps twice that long, the Atlantic House is a contender for the oldest gay bar in the United States.
This complex consists of the Little Bar, The Macho Bar, and the Big Room. The oldest part of the building (now the left wing) was constructed in 1798 by Daniel Pease, Provincetown’s first postmaster. Pease operated the building as a tavern although the name of the establishment at this time if it had one, is uncertain. After Pease’s death from cholera in 1834, the business was purchased by Benjamin Allstrum and became known as the Allstrum House. It served as the last stagecoach stop of the Orleans to Provincetown route until the arrival of the train in 1873.
When Allstrum died in 1871, Frank Perry Smith, a Portuguese sailor who had arrived in town by the sea at the age of eighteen, bought the Allstrum House. At some point, the original structure was joined with a much larger adjacent structure that was fitted with guest rooms. Smith renamed the business “Atlantic House Hotel” and it has been called the Atlantic House since.
P-Town is highly anticipating the opening of ‘Orange is the New Black’ comedian and actress, Lea DeLaria’s new jazz club and restaurant, The Club. DeLaria took over Pied Bar, a lesbian bar, established in 1971 and is on the waterfront in Provincetown. She has teamed up with Frank Christopher, owner of Manhattan’s Smoke Jazz and Supper Club, to create a space that is intimate, authentically P-Town and thoroughly Lea.
The location is noted as “a social center for lesbian life since the early 1950’s” by David Dunlap, creator of the “Building Provincetown” online archives and book. The menu will offer specialty cocktails to “Lea’s Backyard Grill”, $10 hot dog plate to a lavish seafood tower.
The Club is slated to open for Memorial Day Weekend 2019. Look for my interview with Lea for ’10 Questions with Vic’ and check the web for the launch of The Club’s website soon.
MEMORIAL DAY WOMEN’S WEEKEND May 23-26
Every year thousands of women from all over the globe migrate to Provincetown MA (Ptown) to kick off the summer season for the Annual Memorial Day Weekend Women’s Celebration. This year will be no different. In addition to many stores, restaurants, and beach activities Provincetown has to off on and off the main street, Lesbian Night Life and Provincetown For Women have put together 4 days of exciting events for our Annual Memorial Day Weekend Festival.
PRIDE May 31-June 2
In 2019 Provincetown will hold their 2nd Annual Pride Celebration from May 30th through June 2nd. Provincetown is rich in love and steeped in LGBTQ+ history dating all the way back to 1798.
The weekend will kick off with the Official Pride Ferry from Boston to Provincetown on May 30th from 200 Seaport District, featuring a live DJ and specialty cocktails!
The rest of the weekend will feature activities, including Pride dance parties, Brunch with Drag Poppin’s and the Flag Raising Ceremony at the LGBTQ Shack, 115 Bradford Street.
The celebrations will draw to a close on Sunday, June 2nd with the Pride Pants and Panties Benefit Closing Party from 10PM to 1AM.
The centerpiece of Provincetown Pride will be the Global Rainbow, an ongoing public artwork by artist Yvette Mattern commissioned by Provincetown Business Guild. Colored rays of laser light are projected toward the sky, simulating a natural rainbow arc. The rainbow light will be visible for up to 20 miles. Mattern has installed the Global Rainbow in select cities across the globe. The Global Rainbow will shine above Commercial Street on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
PORTUGUESE FESTIVAL June 27-30
The four-day event welcomes people from around the world who come to Provincetown to celebrate Portuguese heritage & culture. There’s live music, dancing, parades, food and much more.
The Blessing Of The Fleet includes a procession to MacMillan Wharf where Portuguese Dancers entertain the crowd before the colorful ceremony. Boats decked out in their finest line up to receive the blessing for a safe & prosperous year. With over thirty mostly free activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy!
This year will mark the 22nd Anniversary of the Portuguese Festival which evolved from the Blessing Of The Fleet. This year will be the 72nd anniversary of the entire event.
INDEPENDENCE WEEK June 28-July 5
This is a huge celebration in P-Town, with an Independence Day parade that begins at the Harbor Hotel at 11AM and proceeds down Commercial Street as far as Franklin Street, with awards for the best float in various categories. A spectacular fireworks display starts just as darkness falls, usually around 9PM, and can be seen from any of the town beaches as well as from the Pilgrim Monument on High Pole Hill. The Dolphin Fleet offers both whale-watches with fireworks and fireworks-only cruises. The week represents an annual pilgrimage to town for many people, and the town often feels like one big party!
BEAR WEEK July 13-21
Provincetown Bears hosts nine-days and nights of pool parties, beach outings, dance parties, and leather events. They work with local club managers to program different music and an atmosphere for a week of parties. Their events leave plenty of free time to enjoy the town, restaurants, cabaret shows, National Seashore Park, beaches, and the daily gatherings at hotel pool decks.
CARNIVAL WEEK August 15-25
Provincetown Carnival 2019 is a weeklong celebration of LGBTQ life–parties, art fairs, a costume ball, and more–and culminates in the Carnival Parade on Thursday, August 22nd. While the year-round population of Provincetown tops out at 3,000 people, the Carnival Parade attracts nearly 90,000 visitors annually.
WHITE PARTY August 31
Starting out in 1981 as a private cocktail party and croquet tournament, the White Party has evolved into a popular fundraiser for the Outer Cape Health Services. It’s the perfect Labor Day Weekend party: a celebration of the summer just past, the last hurrah for wearing summer white and have a good time.
PROVINCETOWN BUSINESS GUILD (PBG)
The Provincetown Business Guild is a non-profit organization that helps to promote Provincetown to the LGBT market worldwide.
PBG has a new retail storefront on Commercial Street to promote celebrations related to the LGBTQ community. The P-Town LGBTQ Welcome & Resource Center will be open in May during Pride Weekend with a series of programs titled “Zero to Equal,” honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Provincetown Chamber of Commerce is another great resource and directory for visitors or those planning to live or open a business in P-Town. Parents and pet owners will especially like the Chamber’s listings, in addition to their comprehensive and diverse offerings.
P-TOWN HACKS by TOWLEROAD
Provincetown’s Ultimate LGBT Guide
Annual guide to getting the most out of LGBT Provincetown. From touring the dunes to food, gay bars, shows, accommodations, nature and parking.