P-Town Getaway

by Lisa Lombardi in

This summer's been go, go, go — which has been great for satisfying my restlessness, but not so great for catching up on blogging. Whoops. Let's see if I can remedy that in a whirlwind of updates, shall we?

Sometime during the recent endless replay of dating app intros, it hit me that I've lived in Boston for half a decade. I haven't stayed in one place that long since, well, I was underage and legally had to. And with that realization came this accompanying reality: there's still so much I haven't seen or experienced yet, especially in the greater New England area.

My Maine road trip was a big check off my list, and a few weeks ago, I crossed off another must-experience destination: Provincetown. Situated on the very tip of Cape Cod, P-Town is known for its beautiful beaches, great food, thriving art scene, and gay-friendly community. I've barely even approached the Cape in all my time in Massachusetts, so I was ready to dive in headfirst with a weekend trip to Provincetown.

My partner in crime this time was my buddy, Jamie — someone with a love for planning that almost matches my own, but paired with an easygoing demeanor that's key for travel. Plus, she's goofy and curious and adventurous, so... any outing with her is pretty much guaranteed to be interesting, hilarious, or both.

After much debate, lengthy pro/con lists, and an email chain that may have broken from its own sheer weight at some point, we finalized our strategy:

 Warning: The ferry gets pretty windy.

Warning: The ferry gets pretty windy.

METHOD OF TRANSPORTATION: Bay State Cruise Company Fast Ferry ($90 roundtrip + $14 with bike)

Popular topics of conversation in Boston include: the Patriots and/or Tom Brady; now what's wrong with the T?; and traffic. Most often: Cape traffic. I've heard enough wailing about the drive from the city to the Cape to make me pretty much never want to do it, ever. Especially on a weekend in the middle of summer. Plus, isn't there something romantic about traveling by sea? It's like being on the Titanic, only minus the classism and, hopefully, sinking.

Jamie was equally entranced, and we figured Heywe're not going to make a habit of this, so we splurged and ferried our way out Friday evening after work. Pros are, obviously, the coolness factor, but also convenience: the ride was an almost-exact 90 minutes, and delivered us straight to the center of town.

ACCOMMODATIONS: The Outermost Hostel ($40 per person, per night)

Confession: We had originally planned on camping, but hemmed and hawed too long in our decision-making to secure a site for the weekend we wanted. For a hot second, it looked like our P-Town dreams were ruined, but we stumbled upon the second-rate website of what is literally the only hostel in Provincetown, and made it our hail Mary play.

Jamie did the heavy lifting and made numerous calls to the hostel, leaving messages for the owner and praying we'd get a call back. When she finally got a response, she was told that we'd need to provide a credit card number to secure a reservation, but would need to ultimately pay in cash when we arrived. All in all, slightly shady but not terrible.

The night before, I was doing my typical pre-packing obsessing, and tried to look up the hostel so I could see if I needed to bring a towel or not. When I did, I discovered a slew of abysmal guest ratings along with it.

Having now stayed at the Outermost Hostel, here's what I can say about it: the guest complaints I read were all fairly valid, but I think your stay all depends on your expectations. I've stayed in some really nice hostels (in Europe) and some really shit hostels (also, coincidentally, in Europe). We were planning on camping initially, so really, pretty much anything with a bathroom attached was a bit of an upgrade. If you go, just know that you're in for some bare bones accommodations — bare bones, but still very much providing of all the necessities, and with a location (right by the Pilgrim Monument) that really can't be beat for the price. Seriously. If we had camped, we would have wasted so much time walking or riding bikes from the site to town that we definitely would have missed our ferry going home instead of just almost missing our ferry going home. (Blame it on the frosé.)

Note: You don't need to bring a towel! Or sheets or a sleeping bag, for that matter. But you might want to, depending on your germaphobia or thread-count standards. I'd still go back.


The Canteen:
We started and ended our trip here, and if we had just eaten here for every meal in between, I think I would have been fine with that. A varied menu with interesting takes on the basics (I got to have another bahn mi hot dog! Let's continue this trend.) and a sick back "patio" (you're literally on the beach) make this the perfect chill P-Town grub spot.

Happy Camper:
The Canteen's sister spot, Happy Camper serves coffee, ice cream, and donuts — along with a variety of vintage-inspired merch that'll have you wanting to rewatch Camp Nowhere and Heavy Weights just to keep the camp nostalgia going. We actually discovered this spot via the local farmer's market, where they had a booth set up on Saturday morning, but also visited the brick & mortar shop several times after during our stay.

Mama Matcha Green Bar:
Too often, I find myself eating nothing but overindulgent crap when I'm traveling (see: hot dogs, donuts, endless servings of ice cream. Thanks, Maine.), so I was overjoyed to start our mornings by sampling from two trendy, healthy spots. Mama Matcha served up the prettiest avocado toast I've ever seen, and it was seriously tasty (it includes chopped tomatoes, sprouts, sunflower seeds, and crumbled goat cheese). Think I've officially earned my Millennial Card now.

This place was on no one's recommendations list, and we probably would have walked right past had it not been for the fact that (1) it was our dear friend Scott's birthday that weekend, and (2) he and his wife had honeymooned in Provincetown. We simply couldn't resist picking up a t-shirt for him and, well, if they wanted to throw in a free cupcake, we certainly weren't gonna turn that down. Scottcakes serves exactly one type of cupcake, varying only the size (regular or mini); each is plain vanilla with gloopy pink frosting, and each is crazy delicious. If you're like me and your preferred type of birthday cake is boxed funfetti from the grocery store, you'll love ScottCakes.

Grab 'n Go Health Bar:
Had my first-ever acai bowl. Felt super hipster, and then felt super full because those things are huge. Next time, I'll be splitting mine with someone.

Super cool graphic designs representing a variety of major cities, all for sale as prints, t-shirts, tanks, tote bags, and more. I was seriously tempted to get a Boston or Provincetown one, but in the end, my overflowing t-shirt drawer at home made me decide against shelling out for another. But you should!

Marine Specialities:
It's hard to describe this store, which is nothing like the many boutique shops that also line Commercial Street. Need an irregular top from Urban Outfitters that has just slightly crooked seams? How about random vintage army patches? Camping gear from brands you've never heard of? It's all here, crammed into every available nook and cranny. I could have wandered this place for hours, but it gets crowded easily due to, well, all the stuff.

Post Office Cabaret:
I got the impression that no visit to P-Town was complete without seeing a drag show, and we were enticed by the offer of priority seating at the Caberet since we had grabbed a late lunch there. It's a tiny theater, with short rows of seats that extend waaaaay back... but we were plopped in the very first seats, and didn't need to wait in any line. Thanks, soup & sandwich! We saw Raja: Gawdess, starring one of the winners of RuPaul's Drag Race. I'd probably go for a more traditionally campy show next time, but it was an interesting and entertaining experience, for sure. (Raja's boyfriend in the audience may have been my favorite part.)

Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch:
Our whale watching experience was 100% the highlight of the trip for me, and would be my number-one reason to encourage anyone to visit Provincetown. The Stellwagon Bank National Marine Sanctuary is right off the coast of Provincetown, meaning it's only a short twenty-minute ride to get you to prime whale-viewing territory. In other words, we spent nearly the entire four-hour trip seeing whales, including the famous humpback Salt, who was first spotted in the 1970s and has been a staple in the area since. We were lucky enough to be the first to see her this season, along with a mother and calf that literally swam under our boat and just hung around, playing, for a solid half hour or so. It was the coolest thing I've seen in a long time, and I can't recommend the experience enough.

Race Point Beach & Herring Cove Beach:
Our last day, we finally put our bikes to use and rode out to first Race Point Beach and, later, when we were ready for lunch, Herring Cove Beach. Race Point was the nicer of the two, but Herring Cove had the benefit of a snack bar so... there you go. Neither was particularly crowded, but if you're looking for a more kids-free (yes, please) experience, go with Race Point.

Provincetown, I finally get what all the hype is about.