Travel
4 min

Bear Week in Provincetown

Annual fur fest attracts 10,000 bears and admirers to P’town

What started out as a gathering of 200 members of the bear community in 2001 has grown to almost 10,000 men from over 40 states and more than a dozen countries — and it gets bigger every year. This year, Bear Week in Provincetown will take place July 11–19, 2015. But why wait until you get to P’town to start cruising bears?

During Bear Week, the ferries that run from Boston are chock full of handsome, hairy men looking to make friends. Stroll the deck, park yourself by the rail or belly up to the bar for a beer (yes, the ferry serves food and alcohol) for some pleasant conversation. Bears are notoriously friendly, so it will not be difficult to meet a new friend or two (or maybe even your afternoon trick) before you even hit P’town.

This is not Palm Springs or Fort Lauderdale, folks! Perhaps it is part of that old New England morality but, unfortunately, there are no clothing-optional inns in Provincetown (or I would have found them) — so keep your swim trunks on. I have heard of some smaller bed and breakfasts in town that have may have private areas for sunning nude, but check with the establishment before tossing off your Speedos. However, there are many wonderful clothing-mandatory inns in town (and you can always have a clothing-optional party in the privacy of your own room). Keep in mind that the inns burst at the seams during Bear Week; book early.

The place to be every afternoon from 4–7pm during Bear Week is the daily tea dance at The Boatslip. Mingle with the bears on the dance floor — remember that a bit of pawing is a bear’s way of making friends — or plan your evening with new friends over a vodka and cranberry or two around the Boatslip pool. And those interested in the mating habits of bears may catch a glimpse of some bear-on-bear action happening in the hotel rooms above the pool. I did.

Now picture scores of naked bears frolicking in the surf. The beach, with its crystal blue water and warm white sand, is Herring Cove Beach, an easy walk or bike ride from town. And though many choose to strip down for that all-over tan (myself included), the beach itself is on federal land and not legally a nude beach. Be aware that people can be fined or at least told to cover up if the park rangers happen to come by.

As for sex in the dunes at Herring Cove, I asked my 11-year Bear Week veteran pal who told me that sexual activity does occur (shocker!) but that police “tend to be quite loud when they are approaching.” Hopefully that gives one time to disengage and get back in your swim trunks. Still, play at your own risk. As well, there are lots of pesky bugs at Herring Cove (and they do bite), so take some bug spray along with the water, sunscreen and condoms. Have a thorough search for ticks (or have a friend help) at the end of the day.

And get ready to undo those pants for another reason! One restaurant owner told me that they loved Bear Week because it’s the only time gay men come to Provincetown and actually eat. And, luckily, there are a lot of places to unleash your inner bear and get your chow on in P’town. There is even a pancake breakfast event as part of Bear Week. Have you ever kissed a bear with syrup in his beard? You should.

Looking to work off those pancakes? How about a leisurely 2–3 hour bike ride along the bicycle trials of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Bears on Bikes is a 16-kilometre bike ride by Herring Cove Beach.  It’s a great way to get exercise — and to get a pair of those beefy thighs that drive us crazy.

What do you call a boat full of bears? Heaven. Set sail on the Bear Boat Sunset Cruise and watch the sun go down over the cape while you dance your hide off.  There is a bar on board for thirsty bears and, of course, more food. If you are planning to join the cruise, book before you leave since space is limited.

Pictured above is the notorious “Dick Dock” under the Boatslip. Though you rarely see any mention of it on the official Bear Week literature, everyone seems to know about it. I have never actually been under the Dick Dock, but I hear that sex can (and often does) occur at night under the Boatslip dock. However, one should be careful of high tide and be aware that local police do monitor the area. And if you are over 5’ 7” you need to watch your head or you may whack your head.

There are lots of bars to choose from in P’town. During Bear Week, two places bears to make a beeline — or bearline — for is Macho Bar (a “leather and levi” bar) above Atlantic House dance bar, and Vault, below the Crown and Anchor. Macho Bar is dark, sexy and cruisy — and often the last chance for a hookup. The Vault is a small bar within the large Crown and Anchor bar complex. It is also dark and intimate. Expect to get groped here. Perhaps by me.

For more information on Bear Week in Provincetown, visit ptownbears.org.

For the most up-to-date travel information on Gay Provincetown, see our City GuideListings GuideEvents Guide and Activities Guide.

For insider recommendations on P’town, performer Zöe Lewis offers her favourites for entertainment and David Tobin offeres a foodie’s guide to great places to eat.

Want a break from the hectic party scene of Commercial Street? Discover Provincetown’s easy east end.