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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Howley

Provincetown 2018: Vacationing in a Safe Space

Most people refer to their usual vacation spot as their happy place – in my case our usual vacation spot is not only my happy place but one of my safe spaces. This isn’t something I realized until this past June when we spent a week with friends in Provincetown (Ptown), Massachusetts. It makes all the sense in the world when I look back and reflect on the years of history I have with the town – nevermind the town’s own long and extensive history of inclusion.

This is the place we vacationed when I was a child – camping on Race Point.

This is the place I was first tattooed – and continue to be tattooed – thank you Coastline Tattoo!

This was also the place I became engaged to, and later on, married to my husband.

This is also the place where I’ve vacationed with friends for years and felt like part of the majority instead of part of the minority – and with that, felt safe to simply hold my husband’s hand while walking down the street. This simple act was thoughtless in Ptown, which is what makes it a safe space for me. I didn’t need to think if I should or shouldn’t hold his hand. We acted without reservation – which in itself was an absolute vacation from the reality of the constant act of filtering my brain does in other public spaces.

This is not to say our lives are lived quietly – we are both out and extremely proud gay men – but for me, there is a steady stream of thoughts and actions that pass through a mental firewall. Life is sometimes lived curated – a learned behavior of editing one’s actions in an effort to be comfortable and make those around you comfortable – or at least to be unassuming out of an ingrained sense of self-preservation. And the break from this almost involuntary (yet draining) task is one of the best vacations we take each year. The energy I have during this week to funnel into other things – conversations, exploring, photography – reminds me that while we have come so far, we still have so far to go.

Provincetown is not only a vacation and a safe space for me – it is also a place where I can see possibilities – possibilities for myself and for the world around me. Where the vast tapestry of people in the world can come together and coexist in a place that blends art, life, leisure, work, and passion (not to mention great food, great drinks, great shopping, and some bumpin tunes).

This very dramatically framed realization aside – our time in Ptown was yet another amazing 7 days of rest, relaxation, reconnecting, and rejuvenation (ask for Kevin Ptown Massage + Body!) If you ever find yourself at the outermost part of Cape Cod I’d make the following recommendations:


Patio holds a near and dear spot in my heart, as it was one of the first places I ever ate when I started visiting Ptown as an adult. Since that first dining experience 7 years ago it has become a staple in each and every trip – most notably our rehearsal dinner. We usually have our first and last dinner of the trip here – when the food and drink is this good you keep the tradition alive.

A beautiful copper-clad bar helps set the tone for craft cocktails and delicious bites and entrees. As always, I recommend the Manhattan.


Date night was brought to us by The Mews and my mother- and father-in-law who wanted us to enjoy an amazing vacation dinner. The view was perfect (a half-moon table right against the floor to ceiling windows so we both looked straight out into the bay at night), the wine was on point, and the beet and pesto buratta was to die for.

To satisfy all of your hippie, earthy, crunchy, healthy needs there is Mama Macha to the rescue. This quickly became an expensive but delicious habit over the course of the week. Favorites include the matcha latte, lox sandwich, and matcha protein balls.

Frosé, buddha bowls, and lobster rolls – Need I say more?

We’ve been to a lot of burger restaurants in our time, but Local has and always will take the cake on this category. Whether you want a straight up burger, turkey, veggie – they’ve got you covered. The nicest waitstaff around and the best apps (fried pickles, yes please) and meals. Go.

Amazing brunch and amazing art on the walls.

Drinking (+ Coffee)

Where I recently learned of my love for Aperol Spritz – the view and the comfortable atmosphere can’t be beat – especially if you catch it on a quieter afternoon.

An awesome two-story restaurant and bar – great atmosphere, great drinks, and even better rosé. If you can eat here you’ll find a blend of French and Italian coming from their kitchen – at the very least I recommend charcuterie so you have a delicious base to go with your beverages.


During the later part of the week (specifically), I’d point you in the direction of the Crown & Anchor’s Dive Bar so you can catch Bobby Wetherbee at the piano (Thursday-Sunday). Several glasses of Rosé and some ballads later we called it a very good night – and you should too.

Dive Bar Rose

Solid americanos and even better baked goods.

California vibe right on the beach.

Shopping & Art

The number of unique shops and galleries that line Commercial Street in Ptown are more than I could possibly list here – but a few of our favorites are below:

Tattoos (and aftermath)

2018 Tattoo

Fantastical Creatures & Icelandic Staves

So every year that I have gone to Provincetown I have had a new tattoo added – and it has always been done at the same shop in town – Coastline Tattoo. We start by scheduling our appointments and talking to the artists on Monday and end up getting our work done on Friday afternoon. I’m still working my way through collecting all of the artists in the shop – and I’ve only ever strayed once when I had my DC tattoo done…in DC. Appropriate, right? The collection of art I have assembled on my body is pretty amazing in my own personal, humble opinion. I have and will continue to recommend Coastline to anyone and everyone who’s in the area.

Afterward, tradition dictates we head to Tin Pan Alley and connect with the rest of our group to (against professional advice) numb our pain receptors with an adult beverage and pre-dinner apps. The bartenders are engaging and make a pretty damn good cocktail. If you hit this place in the evening hours you can usually luck out and catch some live music (piano bar!).

Other To-Dos (i.e. DESSERT)

This is all you need to know – homemade ice cream sandwiches on freshly baked cookies. Go. Now. Don’t walk – RUN.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten many great places, as there are just far too many to list – and it’s even more impossible to order them in terms of amazingness. We haven’t even touched on the beaches and National Seashore! The love I have for Provincetown is infinite as I have had so many eye-opening, life-changing, and heart-warming experiences within the small boundaries of its township. If you have the chance to visit this place take the time to observe the intermingling of people, personalities, and beliefs and see the inherent safety and love it provides its visitors.

It’s an altering experience. 

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