AmsterDAM.

In order to severely worry my parents and all of my loved ones, I decided to take a solo-trip to Amsterdam this past Monday and Tuesday. As I have mentioned before, I cannot resist a cheap flight ticket and quickly booked the 60 pound ticket approximately 2 days before leaving.

I will not lie, I was extremely nervous about doing this trip alone. Before abroad, Blair and I made “Study Abroad Bucket List” and one of the items was to take a solo trip, so I decided to bypass the nerves and do it anyway.

I went into vicious planning mode so that I would be too busy to worry while I was there and was on a flight out of London Luton Airport at 8:30 AM that Monday morning.

Let me just start by saying this, Amsterdam is so much more than the Red Light District and legal weed, although they are both fascinating to see. Many tourists have marked Amsterdam as a place to go for partying without consequence, but the city is charming in such a different respect.

Stepping out of the bus at Amsterdam Centraal, I was welcomed by a view of the expansive canal and beautifully crafted buildings. In order to get a lay of the land, I joined a “Hop-on, Hop-off” Canal Cruise that navigated through the city, giving history and fun facts along the way.

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Just all of my best friends and me enjoying a romantic canal cruise.

Starting at the main harbor, we passed first through the Jordaan, one of Amsterdam’s most popular residential neighborhoods, and cruised all throughout the city.

The canal is lined with houses and houseboats, which people rent and reside in all- year round. The houseboats are especially adorable and similar to a one floor studio apartment that you could find in the large cities of America. Most were decorated with flowers and, glimpsing their insides, had a minimalist and modern interior design.

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Shout out to that swan for posing so professionally for this photo.

After becoming an expert on the Amsterdam landscape (just kidding, I got lost about 8 times over the course of this trip), I set out to accomplish all that was on my check-list, starting with the Albert Cuyp Market for some food and shopping. Right next to the Heineken Brewery, this market encompasses about 5 blocks and contains all sorts of merchants and food vendors, though not as much food as you would imagine, but I quickly was able to find a stroopwafel.

The market is conveniently located near the Museum Quarter, where you can find the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and the Moco Museum. I hustled straight to the Moco Museum, where the work of London’s most famous street artist, Banksy, was being displayed and revered. Banksy is a famous Bristol-based graffiti artist that questions the status quo and uses his work as a political commentary on modern day society.

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If you were ever wondering who created this iconic piece of art…

This museum also displayed the work of American pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Providing a stark, and brilliantly colorful contrast, to Banksey, Lichtenstein’s work was a joy to explore. They even had an interactive room where you could sit on the art and pretend you were apart of a comic

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I had to hunt down a couple and awkwardly ask them to take this.

The Netherlands was home to famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, therefore a large collection of his work is fittingly displayed at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. It is hard to believe that one artist could have produced enough work to fill a 3 story museum, but Van Gogh achieved this feat with paintings to spare for other museums. Some of his most famous work resides here, including “The Potato Eaters”, “Sunflowers”, and “Self-Portrait”, which were all incredible to see in person.

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It is also hard to believe that he literally cut his ear off and gave it to someone as a gift.

With my artsy side satiated, i ventured out to see some of the most famous things that Amsterdam boasts of, including Vondelpark, the Red Light District (WHOA), and shopping along the Jordaan.

My favorite thing about this entire trip was the Anne Frank House. I was required to read The Diary of Anne Frank during elementary school, and this introduced me to the hardship and severity the Jews experienced during Hitler’s regime at a very young age. Her emotional and thorough diary instilled in me the realities of the war that no history book ever was able to teach and I made it a priority to see where she experienced it all when I visited Amsterdam.

Maneuvering through the narrow hallways and hidden bookshelf passageway of the “Secret Annex” that protected the Frank family for several years forced me to reflect on how lucky I am to have the freedom to think, and express, my beliefs without fear of persecution. Anne Frank acts an inspiration for those to speak their voice and not hide from the harsh realities of life. I cannot imagine what she would think if she knew about the expansive critical acclaim and widespread audience her book has reached, but I would like to think that she would be proud and satisfied at how much of an impact it has made.

Amsterdam is one of the most walkable cities that I have visited so far, so the bulk of the rest of my trip was spent wandering along the streets and avoiding being hit by bikes when I unknowingly stumbled in the bike lane.

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They were also starting to put up Christmas decorations so naturally I dedicated about two hours to looking at that.

At the end of my solitary trip, I could not help but give myself a little pat on the back and acknowledge how much study abroad helps with personal growth and confidence.

It is hard to describe a city in just one word, but…

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*DAMN.

The World’s Longest Art Gallery: Stockholm

My newest, and probably most spontaneous, trip recently has been a 2 day jaunt through Stockholm, Sweden. When Blair showed how cheap the tickets were and how picturesque the skyline was, it was hard to say no and we booked it right away. A couple days later we were on a Ryanair plane and awaiting arrival at the tiny Skavsta Airport (which we realized post-landing was 2 hours away from Stockholm).

After a bit of an adventure and directions from a very kind couple, I made it safe and sound to my hostel and quickly fell under the spell of Sweden.

Stockholm is often referred to as “the world’s longest art gallery,” and I found that to be a lovely and accurate description. This city supremely respects the practice of finding beauty in everyday things. Whether that simply be a funky straw put into a mason jar for my bottle of Coke or the many artistic and colorful storefronts that decorate the alleys of Sofo , Stockholm knows what it means to take a step back and search for ways to make life just a little bit more elegant.

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Look at how much pizzazz that straw adds to my adorable Coke.

The most clear and breathtaking example of this was the metro.

Do not get me wrong, the London tube is one of my best friends and holds a very special place in my heart, but it can be a bit dirty. And loud. And I begrudgingly had to share one of the platforms with two literal rats this week.

Entering the metro of Stockholm is like entering the inside of an artist’s mind. Over 90 of the 100 stops were redesigned and transformed by many Swedish artists, not just to enhance a businessman’s daily commute to work, but to challenge some of the political and environmental movements of the time.

Blair and I dedicated two hours underground to finding all of the most eccentric and unique stops scattered about Stockholm. If you ever find yourself in Stockholm, set aside a large amount of time to participate in this impromptu scavenger hunt of sorts, in which the prize is one $500!!! Just kidding. The prize is the chance to change your view of public transportation, which is obviously much better.

To prevent future riders the time commitment of combing through several lines of the metro and to show off my mediocre photography skills, I will share the absolute best stops along each line of the Metro:

Kungsträdgården

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Blue Line

Disclaimer: this is not a photo of a Roman art museum, it is just a casual Metro stop

Solna Centrum

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Blue Line

Tensta

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Blue Line

Tekniska Högskolan

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Red Line

Stadion

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Red Line

And my personal favorite…

T-Centralen

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Blue Line

Seeing as I did not spend my entire time in the Stockholm underground like some sort of mole person, I found lots to do in this pretty city.

The food, often a highlight of any trip, was incredible. If you are looking for traditional Swedish meatballs, head on over to Meatballs for the People. I mostly chose this restaurant because the name sounded really straightforward (which seemed the case for many people considering we ended up waiting in line for about 45 minutes), but my laziness ended up being a blessing in disguise.

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My single complaint is that they only gave me 6 meatballs rather than unlimited.

Hands-down, the best meatballs I have ever had the pleasure of eating. This means a lot coming from me considering that half of my diet during high school volleyball seasons consisted of meatballs. They offered meatballs made of all different types of meat including reindeer, which was simply too disturbing to me, and included a side of lingonberry to satisfy all my Swedish needs.

The Swedish population also does this really interesting thing called “Fika” about twice a day which consists of a cup of coffee, a pastry, and a small break from stress. I am not the biggest fan of coffee, so I substituted this with Coke, but the pastries were still dynamite (try Kanel if you like cinnamon rolls). Fika breaks are just another way that the Swedish lifestyle forces you to slow down and appreciate life and, more specifically, a really good cinnamon roll.

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My greatest accomplishment was the fact that I only ate two of these over the trip, rather than 80.

For other activities, we checked out the Fotografiska photography museum and went on a peaceful mini-hike through the Bergianska trädgården.

Sometimes a little spontaneity can pay off. Thank you to Sweden for reminding me how gorgeous the world can be.

Surviving and Thriving: Oktoberfest

Munich, Germany is known for many things. It is one of the gay bar capitals of the world, has really famous and delicious Weisswurst, and is the third largest city in Germany.

Okay let’s be honest, though, the only thing Munich is actually supremely famous for is being home to the largest beer festival in the world known as “Oktoberfest.”

Dating back to 1810, Oktoberfest is one of the most celebrated Bavarian traditions that offers steins filled with 2 pints worth of authentic German beers, pretzels as big as your head, and a Bratwurst around every corner.

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For size reference, please compare my head and these very larger beers.

Each year over 6 million people attend Oktoberfest, and approximately 220 of those people are Wake Forest University students. I have had this trip planned for months because it is somewhat of an unspoken tradition for people from Wake to meet up from their respective countries.

Arriving at the Munich airport, I quickly met up with a friend and we encountered the tricky task of figuring out the German underground. Deciphering the underground in a foreign country is difficult, but when every single station name is something like “Wettersteinplatz” or “Garching-Forschungszentrum,” it adds a fun new layer to reaching your destination.

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Simple, right?

After getting on two of the wrong trains, we realized that the trick to getting anywhere near Oktoberfest, and subsequently our Airbnb, was to get to Halpenhoff Station. Halpenhoff is one of the most important stations in Munich, so if you ask anyone where it is they will most likely know.

My pal and I decided that the best course of action for our Thursday in Munich would be to scope out the festival before all of our friends arrived so that we would have a good grasp of what was to come that weekend.

My first sight of Oktoberfest brought me back to my childhood; 10 years old again, on my way to an amusement park in New Jersey with my dad. This was not exactly the case considering that the entirety of this festival centers around getting drunk off of beer and almost everyone is smoking cigarettes, but you get the gist of my comparison.

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Just some casual beers with a couple of friends, nothing too crazy.

There were massive carnival rides, a countless number of aromatic food stands selling candied nuts and foot long sausages, and everyone was decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls.

The Hofbräu tent is typically frequented the most by students from Wake Forest, so we took a peek inside and were not disappointed. The ‘tent,’ which is more of a moderately sized building, contains hundreds of long picnic tables where people can drink their steins and have good times all day long.

With excitement for the next day mounting, but exhaustion from a day of travel setting in, we went in search for a late night dinner and were pleased to find a magnificent Burger King. After chowing down on our healthy and authentic German meals (I am entirely kidding, we both got double cheeseburgers and fries), we settled in for a short night of rest before a 5:30 am wake up.

Oktoberfest Tip: Do the 5:30 am wake up.

It will be miserable peeling yourself out of a warm bed and rising before the sun has had a chance to even peek up through the sky, but just grit your teeth, put on your dirndl, take a shot, and get your ass in line.

By the time we got into line at 7:30 am, there were already about 200 people in front of us. We waited patiently until all of a sudden, an official-looking man blew a whistle and started beckoning for us to enter.

You would’ve thought there were free bags full of money and puppies and everything good in the world inside by the speed at which every young adult around me was running. Fueled by pure adrenaline, I managed to keep up with my peers and be one of the first to reach the Hofbräu tent, pushed and elbowed by other people claiming that their friends were lost and alone at the front. That is one of the oldest tricks in the book and should not fool you for one second so stand your ground.

At 10 AM, the doors opened and all hell broke lose. College students were hurdling tables and using their bodies as human placeholders to save spots for their cohorts. Beer began sloshing and it only took about 2 minutes for someone to stand on a table and chug their entire stein.

Overwhelmed, but exhilarated, I ordered my first stein and went to work saying hi to every one of my peers that had been jet-setting the world for the past month. It was wonderful to see everyone, but it also felt as if I were at a more upscale, more expensive fraternity. At the end of the two days, I can honestly say that Oktoberfest was one of the best times of my life.

After this draining and unique experience, there are several tips that I feel obligated to tell any future festers:

1. Only bring a little bit of money.

If you are like me and get caught up in the hype of any kind of exciting event, Oktoberfest can be dangerous territory for your wallet. I would recommend only bringing about 30 euros each day because a stein is 11 euros and most of the food is 5-6 euros, so this leaves you with the opportunity to get two steins, a hearty lunch, and maybe even a water bottle.

2. Wear the authentic German clothing.

You may think that dirndls and lederhosen are weird, but in this case YOU will be the weird one if you are not wearing one. Plus, it is very fun and oddly flattering.

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See? Look how happy these two random people are as they run through a meadow in their dirndl and lederhosen!

3. Ride at least one ride

All of the rides at Oktoberfest are ridiculously expensive and typically I would say to avoid them altogether, but I went on the swings and, I won’t deny it, they were incredible. Going up on the swings gave me the opportunity to see all of Munich, which I had not gotten the chance to do considering most of my 3 days there were spent inside the tent or napping at my Airbnb.

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If you look realllllllly closely and squint really hard, you might be able to see me screaming in joy.

4. Keep your phone on airplane mode as much as possible

Unless you are expecting a very important text or trying to meet up with someone, the best move is to keep your phone on airplane mode. When your phone is not on airplane mode and you have Wifi turned on, your phone will constantly be searching for Wifi to connect to and that drains its battery. With so many people in one place, your phone will be working so hard to connect that it will dead by 1 pm.

5. Wear really comfortable shoes (that you are okay with getting dirty)

The most outrageous thing that I saw at Oktoberfest was not the man passed out on the ground with a half-eaten bratwurst or the entirely legal cocaine looking powder being sold everywhere (called Wiesn koks). The most outrageous thing was a girl wearing 5-inch heels proudly walking into the slippery tent, who would inevitably be standing for the next four hours. Please, do yourself a favor and wear a pair of sneakers or converse so that you can enjoy the festival without thinking about how bad your feet hurt.

How to Not Have a Panic Attack When Your Flight is Cancelled

Last night, as I was eating my delicious Five Guys burger at the Raleigh Durham Airport I received the message that no traveler wants to receive.

“Your flight has been cancelled.”

Thinking this was some kind of sick joke considering my adventure had just started, I ran to my gate to straighten things out, but instead encountered a mass of people with panicked faces and a massive line to the kiosk of gate 23.

After my brief bout with denial, I hopped into action using a very scientific, step-by-step approach.

Step 1- Call someone who will make you feel better

In order to calm down, the first step is to call your anchor, someone who will listen when you tell them how unfair your life is and will take your dramatic complaints in stride. My first call was to my mom and dad. Then, I called in the experts AKA just my sister. She has been the most frequent flyer in our family and quickly told me that it would be alright and that she had already looked up a flight out of Raleigh the next day.

Step 2- Don’t just wait in the line.

You should immediately get in the line that grows around the information desk of the gate, but waiting should not be the only thing that you do in line. Call the airline. I cannot stress this enough, because inevitably there will only be about 3-5 airline workers dealing with about 30-50 different people with only a limited amount of space on flights. Be a little selfish and get ahead of the game by giving the airline a call and being aggressive. Tell them you need the earliest flight out and when they try to suggest a later one, tell them you saw one online already that was earlier. They will get you all squared away with just a couple of clicks.

Step 3- Finish waiting in the kiosk line but be vigilant.

This is the hard part. The waiting. After already being frustrated with your plans being wrecked, everything starts to feel personal. That guy who just got called to the front of the line at another station? Biggest jerk of all time. The girl who got out of line to go to the bathroom and then assumed she could just get right back in her spot? A cheater and a fraud. Whenever a spot opens up in line, you need to be aggressive and hop in because anyone else is going to do the same.

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Alone and thriving in my hotel room in Raleigh, about to get a wonderful 2 hours of sleep before the next flight

Step 4- Be nice to literally everyone.

Do not let your frustration get the better of you. Rather than taking your anger out on the innocents, be kind. In my wait, I met an au pair that was on her way back to Germany and it was really interesting to hear about her life and made the time go just a little bit faster. What I mostly mean for this step is be nice to the employees. Not only are they working their butts off to get you to where you need to go, they are stuck in the airport just like the rest of you. The other side to being nice to employees is that they will help you. I don’t just mean help you get your flight, they will help you have the nicest experience possible in the situation. In my case, showing a little kindness helped me get a window seat on my new flight to London, one of the better hotels on the list, and then an upgrade as soon as I got to the hotel. In almost all situations, kindness goes a looooooong way.

Step 5- Just get it done

You can throw a pity party and a tantrum and cry some tears and complain a lot, but only after you have figured everything out. A breakdown will not help anybody, especially not you. These trying times of travel will show your truest colors and teach you how to be a self-functioning adult (a wild and ridiculous concept, I know). It will also prove that you can do just about anything with the right amount of motivation, such as getting to London in time to reunite with one of your best friends.

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Good luck with your trip and let me know if you have any questions when you are in a pickle!

Getting My Ducks in a Row

I am leaving for Europe in one week.

Maybe if I say or write that enough I will finally start to believe it.

Exactly seven days until I start my brief affair with Europe for approximately 4 months. I will be studying abroad at Queen Mary University located in East London and living in a tiny student flat with five other people, all from different places and walks of life.

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Queen Mary University, my home to be. I am swooning already.

Before starting my school year in the UK, I will be backpacking through Italy with one of my best friends, Blair. Blair and I lived together freshman year and she is one of those rare people in life that cannot annoy me no matter how much time I spend with her.

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Blair and my “Megabed” for the last night in our freshman year room. 

Blair and I will be dropping our massive bundle of luggage off in London next Sunday morning, and hopping right back on a plane headed to Venice with a single backpack and a lot of jet-lag.

Before starting my adventure, I have been frantically getting all of my ducks in a row. I have managed to: have a doctor’s appointment to check my heart (which is fine btw), get my wisdom teeth out, finish the entirety of the Great British Baking Show on Netflix, and finally buy a jumpsuit that does not make me look weird (thanks Lulus!).

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This show has caused me so much joy and anxiety over the last few weeks.

Now that I only have one week left until I head out, my worry-prone personality has kicked into high gear, as has my excitement.

I plan on spending my week trying to fit every piece of my wardrobe into two suitcases, so if anyone has any hot tips on strategic packing please send them my way. Other than that, I am simply going to dedicate my week to all my favorite things: family, food, and sleep.

See you soon, Europe.

A Guide to the Perfect Weekend Down the Shore (Ocean City, NJ)

I am just going to start by saying I am a very lucky girl. Ocean City, New Jersey has been my summer home for my entire life and is the ideal refuge from everyday life.  My summers are typically spent getting tan (or sunburnt) on the beach, working on a “pizza only” diet, and sleeping in with the sun as my only alarm.

A lot of people do not have the opportunity to live at the beach and be able to leisurely explore every nook and cranny of OCNJ, so I have tried to compile the best activities to do if you are down for the weekend.

Friday

After a 2+ hour family drive to the shore, tensions can be pretty high. To prevent this hostile group dynamic from diffusing into the rest of the trip, your first stop should be pizza. There are countless places to grab an incredible slice of pizza in OCNJ:

  • Express Pizza
    • Where: 719 Battersea Rd
    • What: This pizza place is about 3 blocks away from the beach and is where a lot of the locals head to eat. The slices are moderately sized, with bread crumbs covering the bottom for an extra crunch, and there is a deal, my family calls it the “meal deal,” which serves up two slices and a large soda for $6.
  • 3 Brothers Pizza
    • Where: 944 Boardwalk
    • What: 3 Brothers Pizza’s claim to fame is “The World’s Largest Pizza,” and they are not kidding around. One slice of pizza from here is the equivalent of three slices of pizza from any other place, which means you get a lot of bang for your buck. PLUS the pizza is delicious.
  • Manco and Manco’s Pizza
    • Where: literally every 5 seconds on the boardwalk
    • What: Manco and Manco’s, formerly Mac and Manco’s, is Ocean City’s most famous pizza place. The pizza is delicious, however it is fairly expensive and the slices are not very large.

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Notice Manco and Manco’s genius strategy of layering sauce then cheese, therefore the taste-buds are not overwhelmed by one flavor.

It will probably be pretty late by the time you finish your pizza, so the best move after that is to take a late-night beach walk. There are curfews on most beaches which are only strongly enforced on the beaches next to the boardwalk, so a beach walk on the streets before the boardwalk is the move.

Saturday

The most obvious activity to do on a Saturday morning down the shore is sleep in. The beach is about all things relaxing, which includes taking a break from the screeching blare of an alarm at 8 AM.

After a great night’s sleep, it is time to head out to breakfast.

Breakfast

Ocean City has about as many breakfast places as pizza places, but the best are as follows:

  • Brown’s Restaurant
    • Where: 110 Boardwalk
    • What: Brown’s has some of the best donuts you will ever taste. They cook them directly in front of you and there are several options of flavors, including cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, and honey. The line can get pretty long so be ready for a wait unless you go super early. My favorite flavor is vanilla, dipped in the cinnamon that fell off another one of my donuts.browns
  • OC Surf Cafe
    • Where: 715 E 8th Street
    • What: This adorable cafe has a surfer theme and a wide variety of freshly-made breakfast dishes, with many seafood options. I would recommend the pancakes or the Eggs Benedict, which comes with crispy home fries that are the best part of the meal. They also have a very evenly distributed fruit cup with blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, and watermelon (a highly underrated side dish).oc surf
  • Ready’s Coffee Shop and Restaurant
    • Where: 415 E 8th Street
    • What: Ready’s is a quaint breakfast spot that is by far Mama Price’s favorite and she has been going to OC for over 30 years. They offer the quintessential breakfast foods, like pancakes and omelettes, but their milkshakes are the best. readys

#makebreakfastmilkshakesathing

Beach

After eating a hardy breakfast, it is crucial to head right to the beach in order to make the most of your day in the sun. Ocean City technically requires beach tags, which are sold on the boardwalk for a $10 weekly tag and $5 daily tag. A little beach checklist should include:

  • towels and chairs
  • sunscreen
  • water bottles with ice
  •  Coca-Cola (nothing better than an ice cold Coke on the beach)
  • toys or games like paddle ball, Kanjam, Spikeball, etc.
  • sunglasses or a hat

Once you arrive on the beach, make sure to angle towards the sun to get the best tan possible, but also check the UV index to avoid burning to a crisp and judge how often you should reapply lotion.

Even after eating a big breakfast, your stomach will start grumbling at about 2:30 PM, which means it is time for lunch.

Lunch

Some groups may want to do a DIY lunch, and if that is case for you there is an ACME Grocery store (800 West Ave) with a wide selection of foods and deli meats.

If that is not the case and you would rather keep ballin’ out with delicious OC food, I would highly recommend getting a sub from Voltaco’s Italian Foods. Normally, I get meatball or sausage subs, but my mother and aunts who worked there as teenagers would always eat turkey and Italian.

After lunch and any remaining beach time, the post-beach nap is a must. I don’t know what it is about falling asleep next to the ocean with salty hair and sandy feet, but I always feel more refreshed than any nap I take in my bed at home.

After your siesta, it is time to get kickin’ for a night out.

Dinner

You have more than a few options for dinner. There is always the strategy of waiting to get food until the boardwalk, but most of your choices there will be pizza, pizza, and more pizza.

If you would like to go out for dinner or pick up something yummy, a couple options include:

  • The Island Grill
    • Where: 100 Atlantic Ave
    • What: This restaurant is mostly seafood, but if that is not up your alley it also offer steaks, pasta, and burgers. There is outdoor seating so that you can watch the sunset while eating some delightful food.island grill.jpg
  • Charlie’s Bar
    • Where: 800 Shore Road, Somers Point, NJ
    • What: This place may be in Somers Point, but I couldn’t resist putting it on the list because it makes the best wings I have ever had. The ideal meal from Charlie’s is an order of wings and potato skins.charlies wings.jpg
  • Cousin’s Restaurant
    • Where: 104 Asbury Ave
    • What: Cousin’s is a small sit-down restaurant that serves Italian food and is a little bit cheaper, therefore a good spot to take a big family.cousins.jpg
  • Rojo’s Tacos
    • Where: 601 Ocean Ave
    • What: Rojo’s Tacos is an authentic Mexican restaurant right off the boardwalk. If you are are Mexican food connoisseur like myself, this place will be your saving grace on an island with no Chipotle.rojos.jpg

The Boardwalk

A big part of Ocean City’s fame comes from its boardwalk: a 2.45 mile long stretch, jam-packed with activities, food, and a great view of the beach.

At this point, you can find just about anything to do on the boardwalk. There are now escape rooms, surf malls, amusement parks, and a music pier. For an ideal night on the boards, I would highly recommend starting with a game of semi-competitive mini-golf.

My favorite mini-golf courses include:

  • Seaport Village Golf
    • Where: 936 Boardwalk
    • What: This spot has a nautical theme and is one of my favorite courses of all times. At the end, there is a free game hole where, if you make it, a giant shark will pop out.
  • Tee Time
    • Where: 7th and boardwalk
    • What: This course is an Ocean City classic and also the cheapest available on the boardwalk. Be warned: the holes can be very frustrating for the impatient soul. When I was younger, I felt so personally offended by a hole that I smashed my club into it (don’t worry, my weak arm strength prevented any real damage).
  • Golden Galleon
    • Where: 1124 Boardwalk
    • What: A pirate-themed course with two options of rounds, each one similar in difficulty. A pretty run-of-the-mill mini-golf course.

If mini-golf isn’t really your thing, or you know that it will likely cause a rift between your family, I would recommend go-karting. If spending money isn’t your thing, a nice walk on the boardwalk with family and friends can be just as fun as anything else (and there will be lots of free samples of fudge.)

Sunday

Your final day at the shore can be bittersweet, but you still have a couple choices.

You can choose to go to the beach once more, which is a wonderful option, or you can head down to “the Avenue,” Ocean City’s version of Rodeo Drive. The Avenue has all sorts of quaint home decor shops and surfer clothing shops that are hard to resist.

Shopping

Most of my shopping time on the Avenue is spent at…

  • Heritage
    • Where: 744 West Ave
    • What: Heritage is the quintessential surf shop of Ocean City and has clothes, surfboards, shoes, sunglasses, and more for both girls and boys. Every year towards the end of the summer they host a giant sale before their fall shipment, so be on the lookout for that.
  • 7th Street Surf Shop
    • Where: 720 Asbury Ave
    • What: Another trendy surf shop with a wide range of gear. Brands include: Free People, OBEY, Hurley, and more. They have a lot of accessories that are pretty cheap, as well.
  • Stainton’s
    • Where: 810 Asbury Ave
    • What: This mega-store has anything and everything you could ever need. It is broken up into little sections with work from different artists, interior designers, jewelers, and more. One time, I even went to a drama camp in the upper-levels of Stainton’s.

These are just a few of my favorite spots on the Avenue, but you will find yourself wanting to stop and look at every store. If you forgot beach toys, the Avenue has a shop for that, as well (Hoy’s Toys).

There are endless things to do in Ocean City, New Jersey, which I am not even going to try to cram into just one weekend. One of the most important things I am going to remind you to do while you are there is to relax. The shore is such an amazing place to escape the stress and anxiety that is rooted in everyday life, and OCNJ will give the gift of a quiet environment to listen to the waves and lift your head away from your phone for a beat. Enjoy!

For all you beach-goers, did I miss any of the best spots or activities? Do you have a favorite beach trip you have been on? Comment below.

 

Music Festivals: A List of Things No One Tells You

Music is a constant in my life. Whether I am blasting the radio on my way to work, playing something fun to wake up in the morning, or just singing to myself, music is everywhere. It has gotten to the point where my heartbeat and the way I walk match the rhythm from my headphones.

With this need for a nonstop stream of melody, it is no surprise that I fell hard for the music festival scene. As a 4-year veteran of Firefly Music Festival and long-time concert go-er, I can confidently say that everyone, no matter what age, should give it a try.

There is something so satisfying about witnessing the musicians that are trapped in your radio come to life with insane performances, showcasing their talent and showmanship in the form of a 4 day series of concerts. Not only is the music at these festivals a reason to attend. The camping experience of a festival is not for the feint of heart, but if you do it right, it can be one of the best times of your life.

As a self-proclaimed festival professional, I made a list of things I wish people had told me before going to a music festival.

1. There is a lot of dirt. A lot.

Now, I promise I am not an idiot and I did realize that camping outside meant that there would be dirt. The extent to which the dirt would invade every inch of my body, my clothes, and everything I have ever known and loved was, however, highly underestimated on my part. Dirt is not a gross thing to me, but the level of dirt that attached itself to my skin was a little nasty, I will be honest.

tanline no dirt

Is this a photo of an intense sock tan after a day of sunny concerts or a definitive line of dirt circling my ankle? The answer is always dirt.

Over the years, I figured out some hacks that kept the dirt from swallowing me whole. Baby wipes or make up wipes are dirt’s kryptonite, so it is always essential to bring at least a 50 pack of those. Bring eyedrops as well because your eyes will inevitably take some of the brunt in a dirt storm, especially if you wear contact lenses. My other solution is simply to give up the fight, embrace the filth, and just enjoy everything that comes along with the experience. A little dirt won’t kill you.

2. An unspoken system of trade will be available in most situations

Similar to the bartering system set up in Ancient Mesopotamia, you will find that people are willing to trade a lot. At my first festival ever, my cousin’s friend managed to trade a shot of Maker’s Mark whiskey for a 30 minute rinse in a neighbor’s homemade shower. Other trades I have made:

  • A hot dog for a two slices of white bread
  • A band-aid for some supplies from Wawa
  • I let someone wear my sunglasses for five minutes and they gave me a full phone charge from their portable battery

If you forget something, do not fret. People at festivals are generally extremely kind and  happy to give to those in need.

3. Everyone wakes up at 6 AM.

In my opinion, this is one of the weirdest and worst parts of festival camping. As soon as the sun comes up in the morning, people decide that it is time to crank up the music, fire up the grill for some breakfast hot dogs, and take 5-10 shots of flavored vodka. You can try to sleep through it, but no matter how valiant your effort is, the unbearable heat of the tent and the gossip filtering in from your neighbor’s conversations about their wild nights will force you to get up and get moving. Typically, the best acts do not start to come on until about 3-5 PM, so you need to find something to do in the early hours of the morning. I recommend using this time to charge phones at charging stations, hustle to the showers, read a book, or play a rowdy game of cards.

4. You will be surprised by how many songs you know (or don’t know)

Your brain has limitless powers of comprehension, often when you do not even know you are absorbing information. You will realize this when you are at one of the more obscure concerts your friend drags you to and the chords and rhythms start to sound familiar. Soon, your body will be moving to the beat and you will be singing songs you didn’t even know you knew the words to.

The reverse of this can happen, as well. Throw it back to 2015, when a much younger, more naive Kiley insisted she knew the words to every Killers song ever written. The Killers set started with “Mr. Brightside” and I nailed every word. Easy, next song, bring it on. Then, they played “Somebody Told Me,” in which I managed to confidently sing the lyrics “you had a girlfriend who looked my best friend,” before being informed that those were not the correct words. That’s alright, Ki, shake it off, redeem yourself at the next song. Before long, I was hiding my face in shame at my lack of Killers lyrical knowledge and giving the excuse that I was tired and it had been a long day, not that anyone believed me.

me me me

A photo I accidentally took after insisting I knew how to work a selfie stick and also all the lyrics to the song “How Low” by Ludacris

5. People will battle to the death for even a percentage of phone battery

There really are things you can’t appreciate until they are gone: a sunny day when it is the dead of winter, a clear breathing canal when your nose is stuffed, and an electrical outlet when you have no way to charge your phone. If you have seen the instagram account of someone who goes to a festival, you will see that it is really fun to take pictures and you will end up taking a lot.

Taking pictures and videos is a really easy way to drain phone battery, especially when those pictures are taken on snapchat. Mix snapchat, texting, instagram, and  your phone constantly in search of wifi and your battery will be dead before the second act of the day.

Luckily, there are several charging stations often scattered throughout the camping and festival ground, but they require you to bring your own charger. Which leads me to my first piece of advice: Bring your charger everywhere. You never know when there will be a quick break to sit down and charge your phone in between concerts or when you lose your friends.

Portable chargers are also a genius invention that will help in a crunch. The best course of action is to go to the charging station as soon as you wake up in the morning to get to full battery while simaltaneously filling up the juice on your portable charger, charge during breaks throughout the day, and use your portable charger battery overnight.

6. You will eat very tasty food that is extremely unhealthy

Food trucks have a mission. Their mission is to peddle food that will change your life and create delicious things that you could never think of putting together. A mac and cheesesteak? Revolutionary. Fried balls stuffed with pizza ingredients? A game-changer. The best fried chicken I have ever had in my entire life came from a little food truck called Silo at Okeechobee Music Festival and, after looking it up just now, I am thinking about heading to its base in Ovid, New York just so my taste-buds can experience that chicken once again.

Throughout life, I have learned that a lot of the best things have a catch. Food truck food is supremely unhealthy and will cost about double of what it probably costs to make. So, my advice here is to ration how often you eat from the food trucks or food stands  because they can make you feel fairly pudgy and guilty about spending so much money. My rule was once a day (but I often broke it).

7. You need to have landmarks to find things

At the camping grounds of a music festival, scenery starts to blur together. You can spend days lost in a maze of dingy cars and ramshackle tents without being able to find your home-base. An easy way to avoid this is to have a landmark or something distinguishing on or by your tent. At the end of the row there are numbers, which will tell you which row is yours at least, but those rows are typically about 50-60 cars long on both sides. A lot of people bring flags with funny phrases or pictures to mark their campsite, but if you do not feel like buying one of those then just mooch off of someone else’s like I did this year.

shrimp

“Oh yeah, we are right next to the shrimp flag, you can’t miss it.”

It is much easier to get lost in the crowd of a concert, so people have created movable landmarks in the form of a totem pole. These totems have become a creative way to express yourself and make pop culture references, such as the Avo”kanye” totem seen below.

avokanye

And I love you like avoKanye loves avoKanye.

8. Ice makes all the difference

At a music festival, money really adds up. Typically, I steer away from the $5 water bottles inside the festival and paying $16 to stand in an air-conditioned room. This year, when my friends asked if we should get ice for our cooler, I was wary and skeptical because the bags costed $5 each. They finally managed to convince me that we should get a couple bags and, let me tell you, that ice just about changed my life. I put it in everything: a cup of water, juice, directly down my shirt.

A simple bag of ice flipped the course for the entire day, shifting moods of everyone at the campsite from somber and hot to exhilarated and ready to party. Moral of the story: ice is something that you should splurge on.

9. Sleep with layers

Summer nights can notoriously get pretty chilly and nothing feels better than cuddling up in a cozy sweatshirt and sweatpants with a blanket up to your chin. However, nothing feels worse than waking up in a dead-sweat, hair plastered to your forehead, with blankets tangled around your body in an inescapable vice grip. Tents have this magical ability to trap heat, therefore transforming into a sweat lodge in the early hours of the morning.

The easiest way to avoid death by overheating is to layer up. Start your night with a sweatshirt and sweatpants over shorts and a tank top, then slowly strip throughout the night until you are comfortable.

10. Music brings people together

32 million people go to at least one music festival a year. Over 123,000 people attended Coachella, alone. I do not know of many peaceful things that can garner a crowd of this size together without any other motive than to listen to music. A music festival is the place to go to experience music without judgement or hate or entitlement, so you should give it a try at least once in your life.

 

For those of you who are music festival experts, am I missing any? Any funny stories that have happened to you? Let me know in the comments!