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Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

Long Island, NY
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Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I've been going Ptown the past 6 years. Me and my other half spend 2-3 weeks there a year vacationing - 4 nights in October and usually a week in July and August. So I don't have 20 years experience to say how it's changed.

I've read this in a review of the Waterford:

"To be fair Provincetown has become a shadow of it's former self with every industry exploiting every crass opportunity to make a dollar from the hordes of day-trippers and unsuspecting visitors. With few exceptions, most of the restaurants have become abominably over-priced and mediocre. Afternoon tea dances now charge an entrance fee and very high drink prices stifling the spontaneity that used to be enjoyed.

What once made P'Town a unique, romantic,charming and enjoyable retreat for me, has regrettably all but disappeared, leaving me with little to "

Do you think this is true?

My own personal observations:

Ptown is extremely expensive. To walk in any bar there is a cover. That adds up especially if you frequent 2-3 bars a nights beginning at Tea. I definitely am bothered by the covers (and to be fair always have been no matter where I am). I can't fathom charging people to walk through the door.

The restaurants are expensive as well but I find it along the lines of what you'd pay at any fine dining. As for mediocre food - in my years I have been able to weed out what places I like and do not like. I find Ptown unique in the sense that there are SO MANY excellent choices in this small 2-3 mile area. I can't help but get excited about the food when I visit.

In a way, I am appreciative of the high cost of vacationing there. Otherwise the town would be flooded with 18-20something crowd. I definitely enjoy the older mature crowd.

Ptown is definitely a weekend destination for Boston. It's never bothered me.

I can't really say it's over industrialized. The only "chain" I can see is Marc Jacobs and, to me, it awkwardly sticks out as such. There is no charm in Marc Jacobs.

There is a noticeable turn over of shops and restaurants. Charm and adoration usually comes with time which the newer shops do not have.

I haven't been going long enough to say if Ptown has lost its charm and become a touristy place. As a gay male, I still find it a premier gay destination on the East Coast. And I have the privilege living next to both NYC and Fire Island (Live on Long Island). I infinitely enjoy myself and feel more comfortable at Ptown.

I am seeing more and more families and straight couples in Ptown. This doesn't bother me at all. I think it's wonderful how everyone accepts each other without issue.

I can do without the (often drunk and woohoo-ing) Bachelorette parties though that are on the rise. Unless they are lesbians that love and are getting married :-) In all seriousness, I understand the importance of bars to the gay culture. There was a time not too long ago where gay bars were the only place where we could be with each other and be ourselves. So I feel a little insulted and exploited when they barge in the door like its the "in thing to do". But to each his own.

Any thoughts to share how things have changed over the years.

Edited: 2:15 pm, August 29, 2011
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1. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I've been going for over 35 years. Yes it's changed a bit, slightly more commercial. May be that it's popularity has increased causing commercialization. Food in P Town never was that great, mostly in my opinion, is due to their limited season and lack of year round money that would bring in quality restaurants/chefs. Many of the buildings look just as they were years ago. In the 70's/80's there was a very young crowd there to party and people watch. The mix of gay and hetero seems to be the same mix, though evening crowd may be a largely more gay. Me and my wife/family have always enjoyed the diverse mix of people who visit P town. Like all good things they seem to change.

Cummington, MA
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2. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I love Ptown. As a lesbian couple it is a wonderful vacation destination us, though we actually stay in Truro and cook for ourselves and never tire of the wonderful seafood available. We never go to bars. I hate the tour busses, but the day trippers only go about a block from the pier.

The light in PTown is like nowhere else I have ever been.

Boston, MA
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3. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I've been vacationing in the area with my husband since the mid-80s. For the past 19 years we've had a standing rental in Truro for a long weekend in May and a week or two in August. I will say that over the year, WE changed. Our vacation activities changed dramatically after having our first child ... and now that the kids are old enough to be left alone while Mom and Dad go out for an evening ... we find things are EXTREMELY different.

I was never a bar-hopper, so I can't comment on that ....

I feel it has changed a quite a bit. Like other areas of the Northeast, rising real estate prices pushed out a lot of locals. People who grew up there and may have liked to stay, were priced out of the market. There used to be a lot of young kids around ... jumping off the pier while tourist threw money to be caught mid-air, processing into their prom at town hall, working on the charter boats, in local places.

There's not as many commercial fishing boats (draggers) as there once was. I remember standing their watching fish being unloaded and weighed.

There's fewer low cost hotels (the Meadows, Bill White's and out on 6A in N Truro ... the Coral Sands, the Buccaneer) and several cottage colonies that were motor-courts, not condos.

With the demise or condo-ization of what were motels, you get fewer 'visitors' and more regulars who are more likely to cook from time to time and not eat out nightly ... it seems that dinner is more and more elaborate -- and higher priced as mentioned since there's fewer customers ....

So, there's fewer sit-down restaurants both casual and more elaborate ... the Flagship --- spectacular building with good food and a spectacular looking bar .--- now privately owned. Also gone ... Stormy Harbor, Mario's Mediterranean, the Moors, Cafe Blase, Dancing Lobster, Clem and Ursie's, Dodie's Diner, Silva's. (I had dinner at The Patio a few weeks ago ... it was great ... but I miss having breakfast in that spot.) Speaking of breakfast ... there's a lot fewer places for that, although I'll concede that Chach's is a great addition.

The Crown and Anchor was different before it burned down. Obviously that wasn't planned and the new building is spectacular ... but not as funky as before.

The store turnover has always been there.

Arnold's used to have DOZENS of bikes outside to rent ...

I've shopped at Good Scents in three locations and actually purchased leather clogs from a store that previously occupied its current location.

At Marine Specialties ... you could actually buy marine supplies and army/navy surplus stuff. Now it's "fluff". I went in there a couple of weeks ago looking for a life jacket ... they don't even CARRY them. HUH?!?!?

As far as the bachelorette parties go; I've seen people asking about them here ... it never occured to me that they were the female half of hetero couples crashing gay bars. I think that's just plain rude and I had assumed that these partiers were same-sex couples. What I always liked was that Provincetown was a place where people could be themselves ... not a spectacle for others' entertainment.

The light in Provincetown that Bethany mentions STILL spectacular and I doubt that will ever change!!

SO ... are you sorry you asked?!?!

Edited: 10:35 pm, August 29, 2011
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4. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I've been going since '97, with at the very least a full week in August, and frequently a couple of long weekends off-season, every single year, and I've fortunately never missed a year. There have been changes galore in those fourteen years, but I see all but two of them as completely positive. The rennovations to the wharf, the library, and the Town Hall area are not only functional, but beautiful. The tragic fire that caused Whaler's Wharf and the Crown & Anchor to rebuild did not hurt either place, ultimately. The newer versions are safer, classier, and beautiful. When I first began going, the ages ranged from 18-70, for singles or couples, and the families were usually only on Commercial Street from 5pm to 10pm. As years progressed, the youngest ages I tend to see are mid 20s (unless someone's from out of the country or working as a houseboy for the season, most 20-somethings really cannot afford P-town, especially with several night minimums). The younger crowd is disappearing, but I think they were contributing the least to the economy. The second negative I've experienced is the condo effect, where affordable housing & lodging disappeared to make ay for tiny, over-priced condos, most of which are just rented out through the season, with no "owner" present.

There are several mediocre restaurants, but there are also a few truly great ones. The great ones have remained great season after season. I think the romance in P-town is still there, but it costs more than it used to, and several of the romantics are now more Yuppie than Hippie. Without change, a place cannot survive. While I loathe Marc Jacobs, his store is the only eyesore in town.

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5. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I just remembered... Where Saki & John Dough is now, there used to be live shows (drag/comedy/music), and there used to be Steve's Alibi, which housed several musicians, comedians & drag artists as well. The loss of both venues focused most of the entertainment into four places (Vixen, Crown & Anchor, ArtHouse, and Post Office Cabaret), which allowed all four to charge more, and it decreased the number of performers in town, and the variety as well. I also miss the grungy record store that used to be in the center of town. Unlike the place that really only sells House music, or the place near the Art House that caters to a more Classical/vocalist bent, the old record store catered to every genre, and sold movies & collector's items too. The ArtHouse is a great re-vamp of the musty old cinema, and moving that to Whaler's Wharf was a sound move. Not every closure is a great idea, but some are at the mercy of the consumers.

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6. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I haven't been to Marine Specialties for a long time and am sorry to hear how it has changed. When we were kids, that's the first place we wanted to go when the family went to Provincetown. We accumulated a lot of cool WWII leftovers, including canned water and dried bricks of cornflakes.

Long Island, NY
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7. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I completely overlooked the condos. Condos in general are never attractive to any town - they are large mass living quarters. They are definitely an eyesore compared to the beautiful capes placed all over town.

Change sometimes severs people's attachments to things. I was fortunate to go to Alibi's form a drink - ironically, it was the first place we went to once we checked in the very first time we went to Ptown.

I hope Ptown does not out price itself so much so that it becomes very unpractical to vacation there like I have seen it at other destinations namely Fire Island. 10 years ago, Cherry Grove was packed. There are weekends now where I've regretted going there becomes the scene has become tired and desolate there. Yet they are charging almost $500 a night for a weekend smelly room with a cot to sleep on. In Ptown the rooms at the inns seem to go up $10 per night every year. I look back at what a 5 night stay used to cost and those increases start to really add up.

Edited: 8:25 am, August 30, 2011
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8. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I love Ptown and always have. I'm not ancient (close maybe) but remember going there every summer with my parents on day trips and it was a fishing village. There were tuna hanging on the pier and it was pretty laid back, yet bohemian. I can guarantee that my father would not have taken us there in it's current form since it was the early - mid 60s and he was pretty traditional. That tells me it's changed dramatically even if my memory is faulty. Today, I love the quiet areas for relaxation as well as the liveliness of Commercial street. It's a great place to go especially for those of us who like to give up the car for a week.

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9. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

I think that this is a very interesting post - anybody who was been going to Provincetown for several years, has had questions about changes.

We got back from Provincetown last night (Monday),making a last minute decision to come over for a Labour Day weekend. We have been traveling since 1999, usually twice a year – once in season and once - off season, either October or New Year’s. We usually rent a condo in season and only the very first trip and this trip we stayed in a hotel (since it was a short trip ). In 1999 we stayed in Gifford House and got a simple, motel style room for $90 plus tax; this year we stayed there again and paid for the same room $ 104 (plus tax). As for the condo, we started with around $650.00-700.00 for a simple, studio style accommodation; now it is about $800.00 and up for the same ( for a week).

Now, the comments about the post (from the review of Waterford).

I think it is too harsh to say that Provincetown “ has become a shadow of it's former self”.

With all the negative changes, it is still a great place to visit. Though, as a local friend pointed out to us, we are the wrong persons to comment. Why? For us, when we visit Provincetown, nature comes first. So from this point of view, we still have the great beaches, amazing sunsets, awesome biking, yoga on the beach, kayak rentals, etc.

I cannot comment on the restaurant scene since we usually do only 2 restaurants during our visit in season – Ross Grill and something else (and this “something else” is usually a disappointment but this post is not about it).

Since we have kitchen in our unit and usually our condo is waterfront, it just does not make sense to go anywhere else. (But we do miss Martin House – we thought it was really good).

But I would not expect an extraordinary restaurant in a place that is so seasonal (unless the owner is willing to pay all the labour expenses in off season to make sure that the staff is back next season). The owners (not only the restaurants but the accommodation places as well) have to think about all the expenses, not just the ones they have in season. I foresee that more and more B&Bs and small motels will go out of business and turn condos, Marc Jacobs' stores or go “upscale” way, catering to very specific clients.

One of the biggest surprises last weekend? I have never seen so many foreigners in Provincetown: Russians, Koreans, Indians – which made me really curious, what exactly brought them to Provincetown? We went to a show every day and did not see them there (language barrier, probably).

Do they see Provincetown as a new Las Vegas? And how does Miss Richfield passing by on a moped fits into their picture?

And by the way, about the shows – that’s another great thing that is still there (though prices are definitely up). Where else (speaking of a small place, of course) would you find up to 20 shows a night in season? Where else would you find so many nice galleries? (I was very happy to see a new one on Bradford str., not far from the gym – it not an expected place for an art gallery).

No doubt, Provincetown has become really expensive. We have several local friends who have been living there for years. (One since 1987, the rest moved in in mid 90). When we met about 10 years ago, each of them had just one job. Now all of them do at least 2-3 jobs in order to make it.

We met our friends for drinks on Sunday, and there were 10 of us – 8 locals and 2 visitors. So, I read them the post and asked their opinion. While basically agreeing with the comments in essence, they added one very interesting observation about the seasonal migrant workers, not caring about the Provincetown values.

(This observation caught my attention: my interests are in the impact of the migrant workers on the cultural structure of small European countries. Without making comments, one thing can be said for sure – while the short term economic issues were resolved, the fabric of the cultural life has greatly changed, specially in small towns; though the big ones are not exception too - Brussels comes to mind right away – but in small towns it is more pronounced).

Here is my observation from the weekend: I noticed the cleaning lady at my hotel looking disapprovingly at the guys when they were hugging, sometimes shaking her head. I do understand that many values of Provincetown are absolutely unacceptable in their culture – be it Jamaica, or Romania, Bulgaria,a deeply catholic Poland, or another place where they come from. ( Couple years ago I had a heated argument about masculinity with students from Belarus)

But again it is totally understandable why the business owners are using this labour; and it is an issue not for a travel forum to resolve.

The fact that gay and straight people mix more is a great thing for me; I think it builds a new level of understanding. I hope it won’t make Provincetown less gay.( By the way, have you seen the article about a trip to Cape Cod in weekend Wall Street Journal, “Happy as a Clambake”? When speaking about Provincetown, the author talks about everything but not a single mentioning about the gay life or great drag shows. And pointing out the nice shopping side of Provincetown, only one store is mentioned by name – “the appropriately beachy Marc by Marc Jacobs”. ) Well, if that’s how Provincetown is now seen, then you make your conclusion.

As for the bachelorette parties - I did witnessed it over the weekend (and some things that I saw them doing cannot be described here). I am very curious, how exactly it started?

This is a new thing for us, very sad and unpleasant; because it is something that is more Las Vegas and has nothing to do with the values of Provincetown, the real charm of it, that makes us come back again and again.

Chicago Northshore
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10. Re: Discussion on how Ptown has changed over the years...

My wife and I have been going to P-town for over 40 years. What anchors the town is the beautiful, natural setting. The "backdrop" is an important component of the total package.

For us, the "vibe" is different, now. Not necessarily negative, but different. It's very difficult to put into words, really. We've also come to the realization that, over the last 40 years, we've changed, also.

Regardless of what has changed(and what hasn't over 4 decades?), we continue to enjoy our annual Truro/P-town vacations. We love the area and always will,


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