WANDERWEST NORTHEAST US
Concord, MA - Classic New England, it's an affluent and beautiful area at the center of the United States' story. That bridge where the first shots of the revolution was fired is called North Bridge, which is surrounded by a nice park and other historical endeavors including The Old Manse. Downtown Concord is quaint and cultured. I've had lunch a couple times at Main Streets Market and Cafe and was both times met with a remarkably friendly staff and atmosphere. Walden Pond is just a short drive from the center of town, and, as I say in the episode, it's one of many lakes and forested areas in New England. This one is special because of its historical value. American writer, renegade and naturalist Henry David Thoreau lived all alone in a cabin here when it was a far more rural place. The sculpture park where I was trudging through the snow is The deCordova Sculpture Park, about a ten minute drive from downtown Concord. There is also a museum, but I didn't get a chance to go in (they have limited hours during off-peak seasons). The park itself was worth the visit.
Appleton Farm, MA - There is a lot of agritourism available in New England. I've been to a handful in Massachusetts with the Francis family including Smolak Farms, Nashoba Valley Winery, Honeypot Hill, Brooksby Farm and Connors Farm. What makes Appleton special is that it is the oldest continuously operating farm in the US. It is run by an organization called The Trustees, a good place to start if you're on the hunt for New England agritourism and culture in general. Overall, there is a wide variety of seasonal activities available, from apple picking to corn mazes to wine tastings.
Boston, MA - This has to be one of the most underrated cities in the US. Or maybe it's just the fact that it blew me away. Boston Proper is actually very small, only 48 square miles (compared to New York City - 469 square miles), and yet, population wise, it is the biggest city in New England. Greater Boston (where the Francis family live) is much bigger and has a wealth of small towns including Cambridge (home of MIT and Harvard). Boston has a bunch of distinct neighborhoods worth exploring and they are all easily accessible by public transit. My personal recommendations are the Back Bay area, which is a posh area containing the Boston Common, good shopping and dinning, and the Skywalk Boston at the top of the Prudential building (where we were in the episode) and the Downtown area, which contains The Union Oyster House (the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the US visited in the episode), a collection of old pubs, the Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall Marketplace. It's also a good idea to take a walk along the riverfront. Massachusetts has a large sailing culture and on nice days there will be a lot of activity in the water (like the pictures in the episode). Overall, central Boston is very doable on foot and, though I don't often recommend touristy activities, I can recommend the Freedom Trail, a walk through historical Boston that hits many of the major areas.
Providence, RI - This city's artsy, hip reputation preceded it with my knowledge of The Rhode Island School of Design and conversations I've had with friends. I only spent an afternoon in the Fox Point and College Hill neighboorhoods (where the aforementioned design school and ivy league school, Brown University, are located), but the reputation was confirmed - plenty of vintage shops and that discovery of The Duck and Bunny, a delicious eatery that screams the good kind of hipster. India Point Park is where Holtie got his swan in the episode, which is a few blocks from walk-worthy Wickneden Street where The Duck and Bunny, vintage shops and Olympic Records (where we went in the episode) sit.
Plymouth, MA - Holtie and I only stopped briefly on our way to Newport, but I'd been to Plymouth before. It was summertime then and bustling far more than it was on that dreary day in early spring. The history of this place, arguably the birthplace of American democracy and certainly New England, makes this a popular destination... not to mention it sits right on Cape Cod Bay. Like most small, tourist towns this one has a main drag full of localized artisan shops and seasonal festivities. What makes Plymouth special is Plymouth Rock, where the Pilgrims disembarked and set up one of the first North American colonies. On the current site sits a replica of the original ship which acts as a museum.
Newport, RI - Once again, I only got a small taste of this city, but I can see that this would be a great place to be in favorable weather. Even in the drizzly, overcast, coldish day that I was there the Cliff Walk was still pretty cool. In fact, it might be madness in the middle of a summer weekend. As said in the episode, there are huge mansions now open to the public on one side and the rocky coast on the other. Ruggles is a major surf destination right on the Cliff Walk.
Washington DC - Everyone knows DC for its museum and monument tourism, but not everyone knows DC is a banging party town with an exploding foodie scene. I'll never forget going out on U Street and being blown away by the sea of people looking to get smashed. It was a regular Friday night and it looked like a festival was happening. 14th Street, where Megan and I went to brunch at Le Diplomate, has opened nearly two hundred restaurants in the last five years. This sort of thing happening all over The District (what locals call it, but Megan tells my a lot of people call it the DMV). Some of my other favorite places to eat and drink are Ted's Bulletin, a DC staple with southern comfort food and homemade poptarts, Birch and Barley, where you can do beer tastings and be hammered before you know it while chowing on delicious meats. Another little known fact about DC is that it is absolutely spellbinding in the spring. The north meets south architecture mixed with the foliage and flowers sprouting up everywhere makes strolling through DC's neighborhoods a delight. Mount Pleasant is Megan's area that boarders the giant park the pup and I were trouncing around in, Rock Creek Park. It's more of a mini forest than a public park. Next to Mount Pleasant is Columbia Heights, the trendy neighborhood where we went to have drinks and smoke hookah at Zeba. The Navy Yard is an up and coming neighborhood with a different feel from the rest of DC with its modern housing developments and waterfront parks. It's also where the Nationals play baseball, America's pastime. Here's a little known fun fact about DC - weed is now legal. It's officially not legal to sell (yeah, figure that one out), but it's probably only a matter of time. This suggests DC's progressive politics and youthful nature, which is often lost in its big brother touristy-ness. But I won't knock the typical DC experience. The mall, museums and monuments are stunning and well worth a day or two of time. If you go on high traffic times you will have to deal with a lot of people and lines, but off-peak trips can be the opposite. And here's a nice feature - it's all free! Here's a link to the collection of museums, run by the Smithsonian Institute. If you're the gaming type I created a game around these monuments. Check it out and get a small tour around DC's biggest tourism trap.
New York, NY - The mother of all urban jungles, New York City, deserves that moniker given to it by the musical Rent, the Center of the Universe. It does seem like you can find anything and everything there and you'd be hard pressed to find any culture of people that haven't left their mark on New York City. After living in NYC for nine years it's nearly impossible for me to break it down into paragraph, but I'll try to give some highlights. My two favorite cheap options for food are the local chains Lenny's (a delicious sandwich shop) and San Loco (a kind of boutique Taco Bell). Of course, the hot dog is a New York institution and if you're looking for something more than street meat style (the carts on the street) check out Crif Dogs for their designer hot dogs. And it happens to be connected to a speak easy style bar you enter through an old school phone booth, PDT. In that speak easy style is the more upscale Beauty and Essex which serves a wide variety of shareable plates a la tapas, but not specifically Spanish. The restaurant is in the back of a pawn shop. Can't talk about NYC food without bringing up diners. They were invented here. My personal favorite is Market Diner, which I used to frequent when I lived across the street. Best pancakes ever. It's also right near Peir 83 and 86 which is a pretty nice hangout most don't know about and houses the Intrepid Museum and Circle Line water tours. If you head into Williamsburg to check out some live independent music at Brooklyn Bowl or any of the other widely varied venues, there's a delicious crepes spot called Maison des Crepes or a Middle Eastern spot I like called 12 Chairs, which is two blocks away from the urban garden party spot, North Brooklyn Farms. I could go on and on about NYC, but I'll continue this conversation via my stay trip in the city. Check it out here.
Breakneck Ridge, NY - I definitely did not see this hike coming. It was a beast of a quick day hike. In fact, the first half of the hike is more like straight bouldering with various difficulties depending on the route you take. It definitely goes into my list of great, short hikes... with a little danger.
The Francis Family - I met Shelby Francis when we were nine years old, but it wasn't until college that he and I became good friends and started a band. It was at Baylor University that I introduced him to Jenna, his wife. Now, I'm godfather to both of their children.
DJ Holtie - Tavis, my PushMethod co-founder, found Holtie on Craigslist when we were looking for a DJ. He's been loosely involved with PushMethod ever since and become a good friend... and probably one of the best party DJs on the planet.
Megan Bolado - She was my roommate in Astoria, NY for a little less that a year, but in that short time became like a sister to me. Originally from Atlanta, GA where she grew up in a commune, she now is an organizer for a financial non-profit in DC and part-time foodie.
Tavis Sage Eaton - We started PushMethod together. He's a New Yorker to the bone and been in the city most his life. He's also a veteran of the United States Marines.
Dan Hymson - Bass player and designer for PushMethod. He's also my original surf buddy. He grew up surfing on Long Island and it was the month I spent crashing his couch in Long Beach that allowed me to really learn.