JANUARY in Provincetown can’t promise the carnival sizzle of summertime. But with the population whittled to around 1,000, and only 20 or so restaurants and bars open, the tip of Cape Cod offers, instead, “a wonderful, quiet romance,” says David Drake, artistic director of the Provincetown Theater—and no need to cope with the Commercial Street throng.

The natural drama of the ocean and the historic heart of the town are on full, bare-bones display. If the wind isn’t threatening to blow you down, it’s wonderful to bundle up and walk on the jetty and the beaches, or take some of the trails in and around the Cape Cod National Seashore. “You could be the only ones enjoying some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world,” says year-round resident Mike Miller, founder and publisher of the community media hub ptownie. There’s “a running joke in town that ‘Hey, I’ll see you at the Stop & Shop with your pajamas and slippers on.’ And I hate to say it—but it’s true!” he adds, laughing. “The supermarket is a very social place in January and February.”

Stopping to chat in the frozen-food aisle, in a community with so many creative people, can prove surprisingly illuminating. But, he assures, there are other, more formal activities and “just enough going on to keep you fully engaged—if you want to be.”

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