If you, like me, have had to cancel vacation upon vacation this year, you’re probably feeling pretty damn defeated. Half the fun of booking a vacation is having something to look forward to, and I think we can all agree we could all use something fun on the horizon considering the light(bulb) at the end of the tunnel needs to be replaced. Just because we’re essentially banned from leaving the country, and more than half the states in the U.S. require a 14-day quarantine upon coming home, doesn’t mean all hope of traveling is dead—you just have to get a little more creative and embrace road tripping. If the New York tri-state area is your point of origin, here are a few places for socially distant travel this summer and fall.
Provincetown/Cape Cod, Massachusetts
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This spot is at the top of the list because Provincetown has got to be the safest town I’ve seen in response to COVID. Upon entering, you’ll notice signs enforcing a mask mandate are posted all over. Unlike other places, where people are only wearing masks to enter a public place, *cough, Florida*, masks are required when you’re walking anywhere around town. And if you do happen to forget your mask, there are locals who walk around handing them out. Each restaurant took spacing out tables and adding dividers very seriously, in both their indoor and outdoor seating.
Coming from NYC, the drive out to Provincetown is a long one, or as locals kept telling us, it’s at the end of the world. Stopping in other areas of Cape Cod on the way helps to break it up, and there are so many different places to go. We stopped for lunch at Chatham Bars Inn to eat facing the beach, a place I have dubbed the Gurney’s of Cape Cod, but way more chill. The food was delicious and the view was unbeatable. If you’re vegan or not, ice cream spot Izzy is another must on your way out. The little stand is right next to the trampoline park that has been there for over 60 years. Beachcomber in Wellfleet was another highly recommended spot, but I didn’t have a chance to experience it for myself.
Provincetown itself is an extremely walkable town, and we didn’t need to take a car anywhere once we arrived. All the action can be found on Commercial Street, a vibrant and easily walkable strip that serves as the town’s main street where you’ll find tons of stores, restaurants, and hotels. Restaurants highlights are Strangers & Saints, The Canteen, Aqua Bar, Spindler’s, and The Red Inn. And you definitely need to check out the pool at Boatslip Beach Club, Provincetown’s most famous LGBTQ destination for over 50 years and home to the iconic tea dance, aka wild happy hour every day at four. Because of the pandemic, this is indefinitely postponed, but it was still a great place to spend the day.
Where to stay: I couldn’t recommend Eben House enough—it was a two-minute walk to town and felt very homey since each room is in its individual building as opposed to a hotel. This bed-and-breakfast is on Bradford Street, so we were close to the action on Commercial Street, but also got a good night’s sleep. The grounds have great communal spaces, like a porch with a hammock and a nautical-themed saltwater pool area.
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Boston wasn’t at the top of my travel list, but when road trips became the only option, I figured there was no better time to go. Coming from NY, we were exempt from any travel restrictions, so keep this in mind since your ability to travel here is dependent on where you’re coming from. Massachusetts seems like it would be really far away, but it’s actually not a terrible drive from NYC at three and a half hours (without traffic). As with most things these days, we went to Boston will few expectations, and were completely blown away by the city and the food.
If you’re a fan of Mexican food, you can’t miss eating at Lolita Fort Point. This was the restaurant highlight of our trip and the first time we ate indoors since February, which was a little surreal, but all safety measures were taken with tables being six feet apart and surrounded by plastic barriers. With Boston being surrounded by water, you can guarantee that any seafood restaurant is going to be amazing, but our favorites included B&G Oysters and Pier 6. We also had brunch at The Beehive, which is usually famous for its lively Sunday brunch with live music and bottomless drinks. Unfortunately due to COVID, that wasn’t the case this time, but the outdoor brunch tasted just as good. Rooftop drinks at Lookout Rooftop and Bar at the Envoy Hotel and Rooftop @ Revere at the Revere Hotel Boston Common are also a must. Other restaurants that were on our list that we didn’t make it to were Legal Harborside, ReelHouse, Coppa, Barcelona Wine Bar, and Tia’s.
Where to stay: We obviously had to bring our quarantine pup with us because we don’t leave home without him (I don’t know who has worse separation anxiety, us or him). Finding a dog-friendly hotel is always the first thing we look for, which is how we found The Whitney Hotel Boston, a new boutique hotel in Beacon Hill. The hotel was within walking distance from everything we wanted to see in the city—Charles River Esplanade, a ton of restaurants, Boston Public Garden, and of course, shopping on Newbury Street. The hotel adhered to all sanitation rules and even went as far as to create their own 5-point program to keep both staff and guests at ease.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
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Asbury Park is a trip you never knew you needed to take this summer. It takes less than an hour and a half to get there, which is something you can’t say for most trips outside of NYC. You’ll immediately feel that laid-back, beach-town vibe as soon as you get off the highway. It’s a great place to people-watch since the area attracts all different types of personalities. There are tons of different restaurants, all with surprisingly delicious food and drinks. Some of our favorite spots include Taka for sushi, Asbury Ale House Sports Bar & Grille, Barrio Costero (order the Jalisco is Burning cocktail), Toast for brunch, Porta, happy hour at The Wonder Bar (aka dog happy hour), and Watermark for drinks. Reservations are highly recommended for everywhere you want to go as things book up really quick, walk-ins are limited, and capacities are lowered because of social distancing.
Where to stay: Recently opened back up at the end of June, and the town’s first new hotel to open in more than 50 years, The Asbury Hotel epitomizes the area with its pet-friendly, funky, laid back, rock-n-roll vibe. Like most hotels, what is open and not open at the hotel has been dictated by COVID, but that isn’t stopping anyone from enjoying their huge pool space, doing yoga, watching a movie on the roof, or grabbing drinks at the Salvation rooftop bar. Social distancing rules are strictly enforced, masks are required in all areas of the hotel (minus your room, obv), and floor markers are all over the main lobby area so no one accidentally bumps into you. Cleaning service is also suspended during your stay, but a deep clean is given in-between guests, so yes, this does mean you need to make your own bed when you wake up. There are 100 guest rooms in a bunch of different sizes, from queen and king rooms to family rooms and suites, to bunk bedrooms that can sleep up to eight people (although right now, rooms are limited to two people). The most convenient part of the hotel is that it’s walking distance from the boardwalk and main strip of outdoor restaurants, coming in clutch as the Uber prices are beyond surging out there.
Woodstock, New York
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You only have to drive two hours north of the city to feel like you’ve traveled back in time. If you have any idea of what Woodstock is in your mind, you’re probably right. This quaint town has a chill, outdoorsy, hippie vibe oozing out of it everywhere you go. Dinner at Silvia is a must, especially with their expanded, socially distanced outdoor dining. Make a reservation in advance, because this place will book up quickly. Unlike most travel destinations you can really just wander the town without a strict plan in mind since everything is very central. Local food spots to keep in mind are Cucina, Bread Alone, and The Mud Club. Bars to check out include A & P Bar, Early Terrible, and Tinker Bar. And if you’re in the mood to shop, pop into stores like Candlestock and Castaways.
Other destinations worth hitting up that are a driving distance from town are the famous Phoenicia Diner, Kaaterskill falls, El Paso Winery, North-South Lake campground, and Big Deep. It’s also worth stopping in New Paltz on the way home just to walk around the town. We would def recommend a trip to Woodstock, especially during the summer, but highly advise going any day between Thursday-Sunday since a significant amount of restaurants, bars, and smaller food shops were closed either on Tuesday, Wednesday, or both.
Where to stay: Technically speaking, Woodstock Way Hotel is a hotel, but it doesn’t feel like one at all. There are 13 spaces on the property, running from different types of suites to full-out authentic cabins. Some rooms are pet-friendly, but not all, so make sure to look into that ahead of time. In the time of COVID, all sanitary and social distancing measures were taken, including being able to virtually check-in through email using a lockbox outside of your cabin. Wearing a mask is strictly enforced if you choose to enter The Tannery lobby or get a coffee from the outside window. Mask wearing wasn’t only strictly enforced at the hotel, but rightfully so in the town as well.
You couldn’t get a better location if you tried, considering the hotel is literally in the center of the town. Bars, restaurants, and shopping are all minutes away, plus if you need your car, your room comes with its own designated parking spot.
Avalon, New Jersey
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As someone who grew up going to the beaches on Long Island, I had no idea Avalon existed until my husband, who’s from Philly, took me here when we first started dating. I quickly became obsessed with it, with the number one reason being that the town is a firm believer in the no-shower happy hour. Pre-COVID, our favorite spot in the area was Whitebrier Restaurant, where there is essentially a day rager going on, but you can also order bomb sushi at an outdoor table—really, the best of both worlds. Now we would still recommend going there, but just for dining at an outdoor table (still get the sushi). Restaurants you can’t miss out on are Polpo (BYOB, amazing food and lots of outdoor seating), Water Star Grille (at The Reeds at Shelter Haven), The Diving Horse, Summer Salt at Isabel’s (open Friday-Sunday), Cafe Loren (open every day but Monday), and Avalon Brew Pub – Restaurant & Microbrewery in the Icona Avalon hotel.
Where to stay: If you can find enough people to rent a house, that is def the most fun option, especially if you can get a spot on the water. There are only a few hotels and they aren’t super conveniently located to any of the bars or restaurants (you’ll have to take a ~10-minute Uber).
If you’re opting for a hotel, we suggest the Icona Avalon, since their room rates are the most reasonable and they have great onsite restaurants including the aforementioned Avalon Brew Pub, Shimmers Bistro, and The Sandbar Village Beach Bar & Lounge (equipped with fire pits). Other hotels in the area are The Reeds at Shelter Haven and the recently reopened Windrift Hotel Resort.
Images: Tasty Trips / Shutterstock; betchestravel, iconaavalon / Instagram
We may be living through a pandemic, but we’re still feeling the urge to travel (safely). After canceling trips that had been planned pre-pandemic, booking new trips we assured ourselves would be “totally fine” by the time they came around, and then having to cancel those, too, we’ve all come to accept that the pandemic has changed the travel game in 2020. Luckily, there are plenty of local places to safely explore that will give you just as much fun and relaxation as traveling abroad to somewhere dreamy, like St. Tropez. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit—but to be honest, I did get a genuine feeling of being a world away when I traveled to Provincetown, a seaside town on Cape Cod.
There’s always something happening in Provincetown (which often goes by the nickname “P-Town”), even during a COVID-19 summer. If you Google “Provincetown”, you’ll instantly find all the historic info about it, like how it’s home to where the Mayflower landed in 1620. But what really makes this coastal town feel different from the rest is its free spirit and high energy. It’s a top LGBTQ+ destination, a haven for artists of all kinds, and it’s f*cking fun. Storefronts down the main street are decorated with signs that solidify the town’s strong message of love and acceptance. Commercial Street is a vibrant and easily walkable strip that serves as the town’s main street where you’ll find tons of stores, restaurants, and hotels.
One of the greatest benefits of traveling to P-Town during the pandemic is its mandatory safety measures. Social distancing is practiced at every establishment, with tables six feet apart at all restaurants and stores only permitting specified capacities. And mask enforcement is no joke here. You can’t walk around Commercial Street without a mask on. There are signs deeming it a “mandatory mask zone”.
It might sound like walking around a summer town with a mask on is a drag, but TBH, it really made me feel safe and put my mind at ease. And FYI, as of August 4, 2020, Massachusetts requires out-of-state travelers to quarantine for 14 days or show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test, excluding New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Hawaii.
How To Get There
Except for Hawaii, all exempt states whose travelers can visit Provincetown without quarantining are a manageable distance away by car. We drove from New York and clocked in a five-and-a-half-hour road trip there, but it was an enjoyable drive with almost no traffic. If you want to ball out, you can also get there by boat. If you don’t have a casual private yacht at your disposal, you can hop on a Boston Harbor Cruise (which leaves out of Boston, duh). The ride is 90 minutes each way, and round-trip tickets cost $94.
Pro tip: If you’re driving to P-Town, you *must* make a pit stop in Northwest Harwich to grab ice cream at a glorious place called Sweet Izzy. It’s pretty much on your way there and only 50 minutes outside of P-Town. It’s a full vegan ice cream shop, and all of its products are made in-house with only organic ingredients. We loved it so much we stopped once on the way there, and once on the way home (calories don’t count on vacation, right?). It’s also located directly next to a trampoline park, a local staple that’s been around for over 60 years. Definitely pay them a visit too (tickets cost $8 for 10 minutes), but remember to jump first and enjoy your ice cream second.
Where To Stay
Provincetown is a compact, small town, so here’s an easy rule of thumb for finding a hotel: if you want to stay on the main strip of town (which could be loud), look for hotels on or right off of Commercial Street. This street is adjacent to the water, so many establishments have water views or are waterfront hotels. If you want to be somewhere with a little less noise, but a short walking distance away from town, look for hotels on Bradford Street.
We opted for Eben House, a bed-and-breakfast on Bradford Street, so we were close to the action but also got a quiet night’s sleep. The grounds have great communal spaces, like a porch with an Insta-worthy hammock and a nautical-themed saltwater pool area. It’s also a 60-second walk to town, making it super convenient.
Other options are Pilgrim House, a “centrally-located, year-round” luxury hotel that is also home to The Landing Bistro and Bar; there’s also Salt House Inn, a fully renovated bed-and-breakfast located right in the center of town known for its signature house-made rustic breakfast.
Pro tip: Upon booking your reservations, ask your hotel what safety measures are in place. It’s nice to get away, but what good is a vacation without peace of mind?
How To Get Around
One of the many things that make P-town so great is that everything is pretty much walkable. The furthest distance we ever walked during our stay was 12 minutes, and it was a fun stroll through town. Having said that, if you need a taxi or Uber for any reason, they’re available.
Where To Eat
No matter where you choose to eat, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a fun and safe experience in Provincetown. Restaurants and cafes cater to all cuisines, but given that it’s a coastal town, you can’t miss out on the fresh seafood.
Our favorite restaurant was Strangers and Saints, an innovative eatery in the art gallery area of town. The cocktails are top-notch, and each dish was better than the next. There are even three different outdoor areas to choose from upon making a reservation. We picked the front patio (which we loved), but the herb garden and back patio looked equally impressive.
You won’t be able to miss The Patio when walking through town. The outdoor deck is decorated with huge blue-striped umbrellas and string lights. The vibes are better than the food here, but it’s worth a visit, although it’s on the expensive side. Reservations are required with a credit card, and there’s a table limit of one hour and 45 minutes.
The historic Red Inn restaurant is “all about old-world charm and new-world pleasure”. It’s the town’s classiest place to eat and has a raw bar and cocktail happy hour from 2:30pm to 5:00pm daily.
For true P-town beach vibes, you need to hit up Canteen for drinks and lobster rolls. This beach shack is filled with tables painted with seafood puns like “Oh My Cod” and serves excellent pre-mixed cocktails and quick bites. There’s also access to the beach, making for a great photo backdrop after a few cocktails.
Pro tip: Since social distancing is practiced everywhere, reservations are a necessity during dinner hours. Aim to make your dinner reservations as late as possible, since most things shut down by 11 pm. Because you can’t go out to bars during this time, a late reservation will allow you to enjoy your day to the fullest and give you a table to enjoy cocktails later in the evening over dinner. Be sure to call ahead and ask if there’s a time limit for your table reservation.
What To Do
It was crowded during our weekday stay in town, but given it was the week of Carnival (P-town’s biggest celebration of the year), we heard it was actually pretty empty compared to a normal year. Since the parade was canceled, this was to be expected, but there were still people out and about. No matter when you choose to visit, manage your expectations knowing that you won’t get a 100% genuine experience in any town you travel to during COVID (for obvious reasons). I personally thought we wouldn’t be allowed out of our houses until 2021, so I’m just grateful to be able to travel at all, even locally.
Enjoy a day poolside and let your rainbow flag fly at the Boatslip waterfront resort. Their bread and butter is their famous “tea dance” happy hour, but it’s unfortunately canceled for the 2020 season due to COVID safety restrictions. There’s a $12 cover charge that gets you a lounge chair and towel (cash only), and be sure to get there early as it’s first come, first served. They’re famous for their Planter’s Punch cocktails, and after getting lit from just two of them, I can certainly see why.
There’s an abundance of ice cream shops and candy stores in town. ScottCakes, Provincetown Fudge Factory, Cabot’s Candy Factory, and Ptown Scoop are some of the best spots to indulge.
Rent bikes from Provincetown Bike Rentals and put in that cardio work on one of the many bike trails throughout the area. Given that it’s a coastal town at the cape’s tip, the beach options are endless. Pack a beach bag, and don’t forget the SPF.
Weed is legal in the glorious state of Massachusetts. All you need to score some goodies is a valid ID showing you’re over 18 years old. The lines can seem long at the town’s only dispensary, Curaleaf, but they move pretty fast. Also, make sure you have cash or a debit card on you, because they don’t accept credit cards.
☆ Make an ice cream pitstop at Sweet Izzy
☆ Check into hotel
☆ Explore Provincetown
☆ Pre-dinner drinks at The Canteen (Note: they do not take reservations, but you should be fine without them)
☆ Sunset dinner at The Patio (the reservation table limit is 1 hour 45 minutes and a credit card is required for reservations)
☆ Spend the day lounging poolside at The Boatslip
☆ $12 cover charge with lounge chair and towel (cash only)
☆ Come early (first come, first served. No reservations)
☆ Open 10am-4pm
☆ Pre-dinner drinks at Aquabar
☆ 9pm dinner reservation at Strangers & Saints
☆ Check out of hotel
☆ Grab coffee and treats to-go at the famous Provincetown Portuguese Bakery
☆ GTFO of P-Town and head home
Images: Joana Mascioli; James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com