A West Coast Beach Snob in Ocean City, NJ

Before I moved to the east coast, I took “going to the beach” for granted. Really, when the beach is 20 minutes away and the weather is hospitable to shorts and a tank top 9 months of the year, it’s just a given. It becomes an indispensable part of your life, especially during the summer — I will forever associate the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day with the intoxicatingly clinical smell of sunscreen, briny salt water stains on your t-shirt, and the grainy feel of sand from the car seat in your nether regions.

Well, our nation’s capital is good at a lot of things, but being near a beach is not one of them. This summer, by the time August rolled around, I realized I’d had just one sunscreen/saltwater/sand fix, and that was only for two hours at Robert Moses State Beach before needing to catch a train from NY to DC. So, when Native Companion invited me to go with him and his family to Ocean City, NJ, I jumped at the chance.

A little background, for those who (like me, at first) harbor thoughts of “Ugh, Jersey”: Native Companion’s family, and thousands of others like them, have gone to Ocean City every summer for decades. Native Companion’s excitement over going back to his childhood vacation spot seriously trumped any of mine over getting my beach weekend fix. His 7-year-old self bubbled out each time he talked about it. Every story he told about nights on the boardwalk, junk food binges, and mini-golf marathons pumped up my anticipation – but also made me realize how different a beach experience this might be.

So with that, here’s a (mostly) illustrated guide to the main differences (and similarities) between a weekend in Ocean City, NJ, and any California beach town.

Getting there

Rather than devote too much space to it, heres’ a haiku summarizing the drive to the Jersey Shore from DC:

“Tolls, so many tolls/
Why is there so much traffic?
Can’t pump your own gas.”

But with Native Companion’s expert navigation, we made it there in just under 4 hours.

Accommodations

We stayed with Native Companion’s family and family friends on the first floor of a rented beach house with an admittedly bangin’ balcony. Like California beach house rentals, it was lovely and well-appointed in cheesy beach/nautical theme, but what really mattered was its proximity to bike rentals and, you know, beach. Beautiful, beautiful beach.

Flights-And-Feasts_Ocean-City_New-Jersey_001

Weather

New Jersey is simply prone to more of it (see Hurricane Sandy for details). And that means that some days will be nasty and humid and stormy, but that’ll break into glorious 75-degree sunshine. A lot of the activities on the boardwalk are covered or indoors, in the event of bad weather, which is another major difference from southern California – very few indoor activities are offered next to the beach. So, while southern California gets points for consistency, Ocean City gets points for variety  – if everything is perfect all the time, how can you really appreciate when things are good?

And you know what, since I don’t really have an image to offer, here’s a haiku to illustrate:

“Don’t like the weather?/
Wait 20 minutes, or just/
Go to the arcade.”

Food

Hooboy. Here’s our main difference between a day at Newport Beach, CA, and Ocean City, NJ. Because Ocean City is a dry town (meaning no alcohol sales; porch beers are fine), and because it bills itself as a “America’s Greatest Family Resort”, it’s basically the kid-oriented inversion of Atlantic City down the road. That’s right, it’s Vegas for people who have no concept of time, money, or calories, and can’t drink or gamble yet.

Ocean City, NJ is a place where pizza is the main meal of choice (and Manco & Manco reigns supreme).

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Ocean City, NJ is where county fair food lives and thrives beyond the midway.

Ocean City, NJ is a place where you try things like deep-fried Oreos, and can’t decide where to purchase boardwalk fries, because it’s really hard to choose when every one of them bills themselves as “best on the boardwalk.”

The healthiest thing you’ll be able to find on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk is a juice place in a food court that will give you carrot, celery, and apple juice, which you will need to wash down your crab quesadilla from the halfway decent Mexican place in said food court and feel sort of OK about yourself (sorry, NJ, you may have the superior east coast crabs and seafood, but CA does Mexican better).

And finally, Ocean City, NJ, is a place with deeply entrenched family-owned local food vendors with multiple outposts spread out over the entire 2.5 mile stretch of boardwalk, such as Johnson’s Popcorn and the wonderful, wonderful Kohr Bros. frozen custard. Your typical CA beach has Sharkeez and a whole lot of aggressively fit and tanned people who would definitely judge you for even looking at a large chocolate-dipped waffle cone of chocolate/peanut butter swirl. Advantage: New Jersey. I have to say, I loved the feeling of walking down the boardwalk with Native Companion, both of us inhaling our frozen custard judgement-free.

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Fancy an actual sit-down restaurant out of town? Don’t worry, there’s Smitty’s Clam Bar for the grown-ups in Somers Point, NJ, just across the bridge. Though the decor is what one might call “truck stop with seafood,” it’s BYOB, the prices are good, and the food is totally worth the 45-minute wait for a table (but you can drink some of that B you brought while you wait, since Somers Point is not a dry town). Plus, it’s a got a pretty nice view of the marina. And yes, that’s an innuendo on their logo.

Activities

Remember what I said about Ocean City being Vegas for kids? Yeah, instead of clubbing and gambling, this place has bike rentals, carnival rides, and mini-golf. Lots and lots of mini-golf.

By the way, bike rental places don’t just offer the standard beach cruisers – they’re all about the surreys. With the fringe on top. I had never ridden in one, because even though they have them at CA beaches, nobody rents them except tourists. But by God, I was a tourist now, so Native Companion and I rented one, and drove it up and down the designated surrey lane on the Ocean City boardwalk for an hour one morning, which was actually really fun.

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For carnival-type rides, your options are Gillian’s Wonderland Pier or Playland’s Castaway Cove. Tickets are fairly expensive and the rides are more county fair than Six Flags, but they’re still fun. Plus, the ridiculous themes of each park, combined with their age, give off something of a shabby charm.

And the mini-golf. Oh the mini-golf. It became clear as soon as we arrived in Ocean City that Native Companion’s inner 7-year-old wanted his mini-golf fix.

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There’s another huge difference: I can’t think of a single CA beach town with a mini-golf course in close proximity, let alone multiple mini-golf courses. You can’t swing your arms without hitting a mini-golf course on the Ocean City boardwalk. We hit Haunted Golf, Goofy Golf, and Tee Time Golf, each of which have their merits and drawbacks with regards to obstacle quality, theme, and price. Seriously, ask Native Companion, he’s a connoisseur.

All of those mini-golf courses really add a certain…something to Ocean City that’s missing from most of the CA beaches I grew up with. And by certain something, I mean a totally unabashed cheeseball ridiculous everything-you-simultaneously-hate-and-love-about-America tackiness that deserves to be spoken about on its own. Which brings me to…

The Kitsch

The sheer fascinating kitsch of Ocean City, NJ can only be described here with more photos, and of course, another haiku:

“Off-brand Mickey waves/
Wonderland, Playland light up/
Mini-golf graveyards*.”

*Someday, I want to write a book about the discarded, derelict mini-golf obstacles/obstacle pieces I saw lying off to the side throughout the various courses, like cast-off pieces of pop culture that everyone is either too sentimental or lazy to clear away.

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The Beach Itself

With all that kitsch and junk food, it probably seems like the beach is an afterthought at this point. But in the case of Ocean City, don’t let it be. It’s probably thanks to a lot of beach restoration that happened in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but the beaches themselves were pretty pristine compared to what I was expecting. The lifeguards, though, seem far more risk-averse and whistle-happy than their Californian counterparts  – they’ve got a pretty weird idea of what qualifies as “rough” surf, and they insist you stay within a ridiculously narrow swim area. Plus, they don’t always communicate the fact that said surf is “too rough” to allow boogie boards out to the guy who oversees boogie board rentals, so that’s annoying. It’s almost like they don’t actually want us to go into that big wet thing we just traveled to be near. See, where I’m from, in California, we call that big wet thing the ocean, and it’s meant to swim in as long as you’re capable of swimming – and most of us don’t consider waist-high waves “too rough.”

/end rant.

On a positive note, Ocean City is on the Atlantic ocean, which is much more pleasant and easy to get used to, since it’s warmer overall during the summer than the Pacific could ever hope to be. The sand is clean-ish, and there always seems to be someone making a sand sculpture. Sure, it’s no Laguna as far as pure dazzling natural scenery, and nothing will ever be as cool as hanging around a bonfire with your contraband booze in Newport Beach, but it’ll do. It’ll definitely do.

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Final Thoughts

Overall? As Native Companion made sure to point out, it’s a very kid-oriented place, and much of the action takes place on the boardwalk (we didn’t really want to know what was going on under it). However, it’s a great place to reconnect with your inner kid in a purely hedonistic, id-fueled way, which isn’t always the California beach experience – I don’t think I’d have gotten to see Native Companion grinning ear to ear as he went full 7-year-old at the shooting gallery or on the mini-golf courses at, say, Venice or Malibu.

I came back from the weekend with a sunburn that’ll make you want to stay indoors forever, and probably took years off of my life with all that boardwalk food – but it was relaxing. And fun. And isn’t that the point of any beach?

Information

Berkshire Hathaway | Home Services
817 Pennlyn Place
Ocean City, NJ

Manco and Manco Pizza
Ocean Heights Shopping Center
Somers Point, NJ 08244

Kohr Bros
12th Street
1140 Boardwalk
Ocean City, NJ 08226

Smitty’s Clam Bar
910 Bay Ave
Somers Point, NJ 08244

Words and photography by Sarah Flocken, for more from Sarah follow her on Twitter at @sflocken.

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Hurd Orchards in Holly, NY

Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY

Getting There

I’m gonna start this by saying that even though my mom is a little crazy, she’s the best mom. For real.

At the end of July, I was a bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding in Geneva, NY. The rehearsal was Friday evening in Rochester, and other than flying, taking public transportation to Rochester can be time consuming, expensive and inconvenient. So my mom, I repeat the best mom, offered to drive down to NY the Thursday before the wedding, and then drive back to Rochester with myself and my date after I finished work Thursday evening.

But then the question is, what do you do in Rochester when you have 8 unexpected hours free to play? You leave Rochester (yuk, yuk, yuk).

The first time I even heard about Hurd Orchards in Holly, NY, was when I worked with wedding photographer Tammy Swales, at Tammy Swales Studio, and got to see the final photos of a wedding shot there. It was probably one of the most beautiful and simple weddings I had ever laid eyes on, and one of the many, many reasons I chose to work with Tammy in the first place. But I had never been, and when my mom suggested the trip, I enthusiastically said “yes, please!”

Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY

Events at Hurd Orchards

We arrived too late to attend the “Blueberry Luncheon,” but Hurd has a variety of upcoming events that I desperately need to go to, and will travel to Rochester solely for, such as:

Peaches and Cream Luncheon – Wednesday, September 3rd – 12:30 p.m.
Bushels of amber and coral surround us in peach harvest. Warmth and bounty abound. The canning kitchen hums with activity and excitement as jar after jar of golden peaches is neatly packed, ready for winter enjoyment. The ice cream freezer turns slowly and rhythmically adding music to our anticipation of an afternoon picnic. There are fresh, ripe peaches to savor, juice running down our chins. Come join our celebration.

Hot Cider, Wild Honey and the Songbird Meadow – Friday, September 26th – 12:30 p.m.
As the honk of Canada geese is heard overhead and winged birds fly south – as we pull our sweaters tighter and sip a cup of hot cider, we are reminded of how we share our earth in step with those both great and small. A festival of autumn rituals and traditions with heartwarming fall fare – from sumptuous stew to crisps and cobblers. A meadow walk and talk will follow for those interested.

Pies, Pies, Pies! – Thursday, October 2nd – 12:30 p.m.
Of history and Americana – chicken pies, apple pies, meat pies, fruits pies, veggie pies, herb pies, plum pies, berry pies! Select from our festive farmland board of delectable, homemade pies – with some lovely salads and side dishes included. Come give a blue ribbon to your favorites.

Heirloom Apples and Robert Frost Luncheon – Wednesday, October 15th – 12:30 p.m.
One of our favorite poems of all times is Robert Frost’s ‘After Apple Picking’. So many of his words speak of our world, a country world of pruning and picking, orchard lanes and farming ways, yet a world more profound, more simple and more sophisticated than often meets the eye. Some of our ancient trees, with great and turned trunks and limbs, through our care still yield the fruits of long ago, fruits telling stories, and watching the same world, through the same lens as Mr. Frost’s.

Pumpkin Gourmet Luncheon – Thursday, October 30th – 12:30 p.m.
Pumpkin everything! The fields are full of round orange jack-o-lanterns, flat grey-green pumpkins, golden squashes, deep paprika bumpy pumpkins and tiny little mini pumpkins Enjoy this creative luncheon -eat pumpkin soup, old fashioned pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin cake, even pumpkin seeds – they are delicious, believe me, I’ve tried them!

As an autumn lover, I cannot express the extent of my desire to set up a tent at Hurd Orchards and live there exclusively through November.

Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY
Hurd Orchards in Holley, NY

Information

Hurd Orchards
17260 Ridge Rd
Holley, NY 14470
(585) 638-8838

Tammy Swales Studio
51 Russell St
Rochester, NY 14607
(585) 203-1441
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Photography and words by Diana Eastman
For more from Diana, follow her on Instagram at @thedianaeastman

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Date Night in Glasgow, Scotland

Hyndland Fox in Glasgow, Scotland
The West End of Glasgow is slowly turning into the hipster’s paradise I’ve always dreamed it could be. Artisan coffee, craft beer, and art museums; what is this, Portland?

But genuinely, the hipster generation, for all their pretentiousness, has an appreciation of local quality that was lost in the popular culture of the 80s and 00s. Words that you’ve heard in Ithaca, NY, Portland, OR, or Brooklyn, NY for years, like “organic,” “community,” “local,” are becoming part of the general vernacular of communities all over the world. Who wouldn’t want to experience the best of what each neighbourhood could offer?

Our mini-hipster date began at The Hyndland Fox. There is literally no way of knowing what type of service the Hyndland Fox offers without researching, a standard hipster business naming practice. My favorite part of The Hyndland Fox, other than the fact that The Hyndland Fox employs servers who wear flower garlands in their hair and offer toasted marshmallow milkshakes, is their weekly “Gatherings;” or rather little weekly events that specialise in a certain delicious food or drink. There’s nothing I love better than eating hipster food.

Later, we wandered over to Brew Dog, across from the Kelvingrove Gallery & Museum. I’ve never been the hugest fan of beer, which has always been fine in the UK since every bar always has a tasty cider for me on tap. Or gin for a wee gin and tonic. I’ve been assured, however, that the beer at Brew Dog is superb, and luckily for me and my slightly upset stomach, they even had root beer. British people seem to have an inherent disdain for root beer, similar to my feelings toward Irn Bru.

I love seeing craft breweries in the UK; it reminds me of the craft brewery movement of the 90s in the states that launched the success of Brooklyn Brewery (tour coming soon!). America, making the world a more delicious place. Our gift to the world may have been jazz, but Britain’s gift to the world was definitely America.

** Not pictured: Our actual dinner at Crabshakk, for several reasons, but mostly because it didn’t last long enough for us to photograph.

Hyndland Fox in Glasgow, Scotland
Hyndland Fox in Glasgow, Scotland
Hyndland Fox in Glasgow, Scotland
Hyndland Fox in Glasgow, Scotland
Hyndland Fox in Glasgow, Scotland
Hyndland Fox in Glasgow, Scotland
Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, Scotland
Brew Dog in Glasgow, Scotland
Brew Dog in Glasgow, Scotland
Brew Dog in Glasgow, Scotland
Brew Dog in Glasgow, Scotland
Brew Dog in Glasgow, Scotland
Brew Dog in Glasgow, Scotland
Brew Dog in Glasgow, Scotland

Locations

The Hyndland Fox
43 Clarence Dr
Glasgow G12 9QN
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 141 341 6671

Brew Dog
1397 Argyle Street
Glasgow G3 8AN
United Kingdom
glasgowbar@brewdog.com

Kelvingrove Gallery & Museum
Argyle Street
Glasgow G3 8AG
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 141 276 9599

Crabshakk
1114 Argyle St
Glasgow G3 8TD
United Kingdom
+44 (0) 141 334 6127

Photography and words by Diana Eastman
For more from Diana, follow her on Instagram at @thedianaeastman

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