I’m a Jersey Shore guy. Vacationed in Sea Isle City from childhood to 2004, now it’s Mays Landing every summer dating back to 2012. These days I’m splashing around in the Great Egg Harbor River or rolling down 559 to Smitty’s Clam Bar and/or The Surf Mall, where you can still get that Rage Against the Machine “Evil Empire” poster for $7.99.
You probably know a lot of people like me. They’ve been going to a place like Wildwood for 40 straight years, but there’s no real explanation for it. They just go to Wildwood because they always go to Wildwood. And it’s not necessarily because Cape May sucks, it’s just because Wildwood is their spot.
That’s what we are as Delaware Valley natives – fiercely parochial. It’s simultaneously our best trait and our worst trait, because while we’re certainly loyal we aren’t exactly the most cultured or well-traveled people in the United States. Ask your neighbors to point to Africa on a map, or Harrisburg, and it’s probably not gonna go well.
We need to fix this. When the furthest people will travel is the next Eagles road game, then you know we’ve got a problem. It’s a big world out there, and life is too short to spend every summer living as a shoobie motherfucker. Even if you want to spend 11 summer weekends getting flesh-eating bacteria at the Windrift, use that 12th weekend to do something different. Something unique. Something liberating.
Problem with Philly is that we like familiarity. We eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores, watch the same TV shows, and do the same shitty recreational activities. We find comfort doing things we’ve always done, because you’re not gonna be thrown for a loop when stopping into the South Philly Ikea. You pretty much know what you’re gonna get, which is the Hjallarmsdottir bedroom set. But that’s also boring, and it’s why we need to branch out and try new and exciting things.
There are a lot of places worth visiting in this area alone. We are blessed to live on the eastern seaboard, as opposed to some place like Chadron, Nebraska, where the air quality and tax situation is probably 5,000 times better but there ain’t jack shit to do. No offense to Chadron natives, but they don’t have the options we do, some of which are:
The Poconos do not suck. You can rent a house up there or do all kinds of recreational water stuff for the same cost or less than what it requires to rent a house for the week in Stone Harbor.
Lake Wallenpaupack is “my shit,” as Gwen Stefani once said.
I took my wife on this five-day trip about five years ago:
Fun ride. We spent a night in Dewey, then stopped in Ocean City and Chincoteague on day two. Didn’t see any horses though, which was lame. Then we went over the crazy long bridge from the peninsula into Virginia Beach, spent two nights there, then made a pit stop in Baltimore on the way home, for crabcakes and football.
This didn’t break the bank at all, just a short loop down and back.
The other side of Pennsylvania
Some people have done the trip out to Pittsburgh to see the Phillies or Flyers play, but there’s other stuff to do out there. Go check out Falling Water, then spend a weekend at Nemacolin Woodland Resort near Uniontown.
Or go north and slightly west, see some of the state forest land in and around Happy Valley, hit up the Ricketts Glen waterfall trail. Pennsylvania is a lot bigger than Philadelphia, so go see it.
Go to Canada (or Maine)
Montreal and Toronto are both about eight hours from Philly. The drives really are not bad at all. Actually Toronto is a very nice trek, because you’re going up the Northeast Extension, then taking 80 through Wiliamsport and up into New York. It’s a really scenic ride. Montreal is a straight shot up 87 through equally pretty upstate New York:
Another trip I recommend is Maine, which features the very underrated city of Portland. Upper New England also has a very good craft beer scene, with Smuttynose right off of I-95 in New Hampshire and then places like Shipyard in Portland proper. If you have a few extra days, go a few more hours up and check out Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park.
These places are not far away:
Here’s how far we are from –
- New York: two hours
- Boston: six hours
- Baltimore: two hours
- Washington: a little under three hours
- Outer Banks: seven hours
You can make a weekend or more out of all five of those places. Maybe not Baltimore though… you can do B-more in 24 hours.
Right, so anyway…
I could keep throwing ideas at you here, but then I’d be a travel agent.
The point is this:
It’s a big country and a big world. Do you really wanna be sitting there at Manco and Manco when you’re 65 years old, eating another slice of boardwalk pizza, and thinking to yourself, ‘man, I wish I really went somewhere else in my youth.‘? No, you don’t want that to happen. I already have regrets at age 34, because I was lugging a camera around Morgantown, West Virginia while other college students were “studying” abroad in places like Rome, London, and Madrid. The most exotic place I visited in college was Cleveland.
So anyway, go do something different. Branch out. Step outside of your comfort zone and your parochial Philadelphia bubble. Expand the horizons. Nobody’s sitting here saying the Jersey Shore is a bad place, because it’s not, but there’s a lot more to do and see out there. Life’s too short to spend every weekend at La Costa.