The Cape Cod National Seashore is a national treasure. Henry David Thoreau once said of this place: "A man may stand there and put all America behind him."
Herring Cove. Gay boys most often bicycle to this beach, bringing little more than a towel and a bottle of water. They lock their bikes to a fence and wade across a tidal pool to get to the dunes. There’s also a parking lot, newly patched up in 2012, but it’s farther away from the action --the end of the beach is where men tend to go au natural. National Park Rangers occasionally enforce nudity bans, but will often skip writing a ticket for those who comply with a request to cover up. Local naturalists suggest carrying folded speedos under a hat if going for a walk. The SoManyMen website has a good map. It dates from 2002, but not much has changed except the parking rates, which rose from $7 then, to $15 now. After Labor Day until mid-June there is no parking fee. Race Point, a bit farther from town, gets far fewer people. It has a gorgeous stretch of sand, bike trails, and a gleaming white lighthouse.
Ballston/ Newcomb Hollow. This nearby beach is considered by some to be the finest local stretch of sand. Pounded by rough surf, beneath high dunes, it extends along the Atlantic coastline at Truro and Wellfleet. Summer parking is reserved for residents, so hike to it, bike to it, or take a local hotel where they can give you a day permit. For as long as people had come to walk, swim, and sun here, little thought was given to the issue of nudity on these remote stretches. But in the 1970's this became one of America's largest "free beaches" with thousands coming to play naked here every summer weekend --especially on holidays like July 4th. Citing complaints by local residents who disliked the crowd, using public nudity (and sex) as leverage, federal legislators during the Nixon administration shut it down. The Cape Cod National Seashore is now one of only two federal parks where nudity is specifically forbidden by law - Hawaii has the other. Attempts to challenge the law have led nowhere, so things are quieter now, with only a few who still strip off in deserted areas between parking lots, then need to watch for Park Ranger patrol buggies. During off-season the parking rules relax, so this magical place is more accessible, and even less frequented. See a recent Provincetown Magazine article on the history of public nudity here and in town.
Dominating the town is the Pilgrim Monument (High Pole Hill Rd), copied from a tower in the Italian city of Florence. (Yes, it does seem oddly out of place in Cape Cod.) Climb the 116 steps for an eye-popping view.
The Provincetown Public Library (356 Commercial St), whose towering steeple can be seen for miles, houses a half-scale replica of an early 1900s fishing schooner on its second floor. It’s a great place to learn about the region’s history.
A group of writers and artists, vacationing in Provincetown, first presented plays in July 15, 1915, on the veranda of a rented ocean-view cottage. They became the Provincetown Players, who founded the Greenwich Village Provincetown Playhouse in New York, one of the most significant theatres in the development of modern drama in America. Productions included plays by Eugene O'Neill and works by Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Carlos Williams, e. e. cummings, Edmund Wilson and Djuna Barnes, until they disbanded in 1929. Tennessee Williams was among other playwrights, actors and directors who later developed their talents at this outermost tip of Cape Cod.
The Provincetown Theater, formed from the merger of two companies in 2005, now combines the best elements of professional and community theater for its current and future seasons. Fall festivals include: Ten Minute and One Act Plays -running times of no longer than 45 minutes; a Tennessee Williams Theater Festival; and a Dance Festival.