Provincetown's October sales are to die for. Discounts often range from 50% to 70% as merchants clear the shelves before closing for the winter. And remember, Provincetown is not just tacky T-shirt stores. There are excellent men's and women's clothing stores, as well as an abundance of fancy home-accessories stores.
Showing the work of Provincetown's past and current luminaries, Albert Merola Gallery, 424 Commercial St., in the East End (tel. 508/487-4424; www.albertmerolagallery.com), is simply one of the best galleries in town. Each summer, such respected figures as Michael Mazur (Dante's Inferno) and Helen Miranda Wilson deliver their latest musings. Closed mid-October to March.
Berta Walker is a force to be reckoned with, having nurtured many top artists through her association with the Fine Arts Work Center before opening her own gallery in 1990. At Berta Walker Gallery, 208 Bradford St., in the East End (tel. 508/487-6411; www.bertawalker.com), the historic holdings span Charles Hawthorne, Milton Avery, and Robert Motherwell. Whoever has Berta's current attention, such as figurative sculptor Romolo Del Deo, warrants watching. Closed late October to late May.
Founded in 1994 by artist and publishing scion Nick Lawrence, DNA (Definitive New Art) Gallery, 288 Bradford St., above the Provincetown Tennis Club, in the East End (tel. 508/487-7700), has risen to the top tier. It has attracted such talents as photographer Joel Meyerowitz, Provincetown's favorite portraitist, known for such tomes as Cape Light; sculptor Conrad Malicoat, whose free-form brick chimneys and hearths can be seen and admired about town; and painter Tabitha Vevers, who devises woman-centered shrines and "shields" out of goatskin vellum and gold leaf. Another contributor is local conceptualist/provocateur Jay Critchley. It's a very lively bunch, appropriately grouped under the rubric "definitive new art," and readings by cutting-edge authors add to the buzz. Closed mid-October to late May.
The Fine Arts Works Center displays weekly shows that are always worth checking out in its Hudson D. Walker Gallery, 24 Pearl St., in the center of town (tel. 508/487-9960; www.fawc.org). The center is the heart of creativity in town, as it supports a crew of creative artists and writers on fellowships in residence every year.
Ehva Gallery, 74 Shank Painter Rd., in the west end between Bradford St. and Rte. 6 (tel. 508/487-0011; www.galleryehva.com), is way off the beaten track but worth a visit. Representing several dozen important Provincetown artists, the gallery is always on the cutting edge. The sculpture garden is also a treat. Closed January to mid-February.
Julie Heller started collecting early P-town paintings as a child -- and a tourist at that. She chose so incredibly well, her roster at Julie Heller Gallery, 2 Gosnold St., on the beach in the center of town (tel. 508/487-2166), and at 465 Commercial St., across from the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (tel. 508/487-2169; www.juliehellergallery.com), reads like a who's who of local art. Hawthorne, Avery, Hofmann, Lazzell, Hensche -- all the big names from Provincetown's past are here, as well as some contemporary artists. Closed weekdays January to April. Open winter weekends by chance or appointment.
The work of Anne Packard is displayed in the Packard Gallery, 418 Commercial St., in the East End (tel. 508/487-4690; www.packardgallery.com), a majestic former church. Anne Packard's large canvases tend to depict emotive land- and seascapes, with the horizon as a focus. Closed mid-October to mid-June. Cynthia's colorful figurative work, which has Fauvist elements, can be viewed at Cynthia Packard Gallery, a true studio/gallery, at 96 Bradford St., behind town hall (tel. 508/487-9696). Hours vary but tend to be 11am to 5pm in season.
At Rice/Polak Gallery, 430 Commercial St., in the East End (tel. 508/487-1052; www.ricepolakgallery.com), you'll find art with a decorative bent, which is not to say that it will match anyone's sofa, only that it has a certain stylish snap. Several gallery artists have fun with dimensions -- such as painter Tom Seghi with his mammoth pears, and sculptor Larry Calkins with his assemblages of undersize, antique-looking dresses. Peter Plamondon's oil paintings capture still lifes with exquisite clarity. Closed December to April.
At the far east end of town at the corner of Howland Street is a former church building that houses two galleries. Schoolhouse Gallery, 494 Commercial St. (tel. 508/487-4800; www.schoolhouseprovincetown.com), specializes in modern and contemporary painting, photography, and printmaking. The ArtStrand Gallery (tel. 508/487-1153; www.artstrand.com), in the back of the building, shows the work of nine of the town's most prominent artists.
Now Voyager, 357 Commercial St., in the East End (tel. 508/487-0848; www.nowvoyagerbooks.com), offers both new and collectible gay and lesbian books and serves as an informal social center. There is also a large section of mystery and suspense books.
Provincetown Bookshop, 246 Commercial St. (tel. 508/487-0964), has the most complete selection in town. You'll find all the bestsellers, as well as books about the region and local lore.
Marine Specialties, 235 Commercial St., in the center of town (tel. 508/487-1730; www.marspec.net), is packed to the rafters with useful stuff, from discounted Doc Martens to Swiss Army knives and all sorts of odd nautical surplus whose uses will suggest themselves to you eventually. Be sure to look up: Hanging from the ceiling are some real antiques, including several carillons' worth of ships' bells.
Shop Therapy, 346 Commercial St. (tel. 508/487-9387; www.shoptherapy.com), is a store with wild murals (or is it graffiti?), filled with all manner of erotica. You'll want to wander in just for the sheer outrageousness of it all. Tall people, beware: There's stuff hanging from the low ceiling that you might not want near your face.
Giardelli/Antonelli Studio Showroom, 417 Commercial St., in the East End (tel. 508/487-3016), is filled with Jerry Giardelli's unstructured clothing elements -- shells, shifts, and palazzo pants -- in vibrant colors and inviting textures. They demand to be mixed, matched, and perhaps offset by Diana Antonelli's statement jewelry.
Want to try on new identities? Mad as a Hatter, 360 Commercial St. (tel. 508/487-4063), may be your best bet, with hats to suit every style and inclination, from folksy to downright divaesque. Closed January to mid-February.
Silk & Feathers, 377 Commercial St., in the East End (tel. 508/487-2057; www.silkandfeathers.com), has seasonal styles, and the lingerie they sell is almost too pretty to cover up. Other indulgences include seaweed soaps and statement jewelry.
A lovely place to buy perfumes, soaps, and lotions is Good Scents for the Body, 351 Commercial St., in the center of town (tel. 508/487-3393; www.goodscentsptown.com), which also specializes in custom mixed fragrances and lotions.
A breath of fresh contemporary design, Utilities, 393 Commercial St., in the center of town (tel. 508/487-6800; www.utilitieshome.com), is a kitchenware/tabletop shop that features sleek and colorful essentials.
A study in beiges and blacks, Wa, 220 Commercial St., in the West End (tel. 508/487-6355; www.waharmony.com) -- its name means "harmony" in Japanese -- specializes in decorative home accessories that embrace a Zen aesthetic. This might mean a trickling stone fountain or Chinese calligraphy stones.
Take advantage of the Cape's strong winds and wide-open beaches by shopping at Outer Cape Kites, 277A Commercial St., at Ryder Street Extension, near MacMillan Wharf (tel. 508/487-6133). Closed mid-October to March.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.