England Exploration: Going to Local Events as a "Tourist"

One thing I like to do when planning a trip is look for what events are happening while I’ll be in a city. I’ve found that attending local events during my trips is a nice way to get a real sense of what living in that place is like. There are always all sorts of events happening if you’re going to another city. The events I tend to look for range from live music, street festivals, live performances, sporting events, tours - some free and some with a small cost.

Wimbledon, June/2014

On my last trip to England it was summer and the trip happened to line up nicely with a few international sporting events. For this next trip, however, I am looking more at what bands are playing in the different spots I’ll be in. Maybe I’ll come across a street festival somewhere too but I don’t think I’ll stumble into any internationally known and attending events this time. I try to look things up during my planning before my trip too. This way I at least have a feel for what will be going on while I’m there even if I don’t decide what I’m actually going to or not until later.

An easy way of finding local events is just by following the local news/media publications online. Every city has something that is geared towards tourists but also used to share events and news with the locals; Time Out is a big one that has a publication for many places in North America as well as the U.K. and Europe and Asia. There are sites that more specific to individual cities too, such as Visit Philly in Philadelphia and the Londonist in London. Another site I like to look at also is Culture Trip; it has articles and lists of places to go and see that are typically written by locals from whichever city you are looking at.

I already have a few things penciled in to my itinerary for this upcoming trip, but check out some of the cool events I experienced during my last trip to England.

Check out some of my favorite events that I found while in England back in 2014!

Street Festival in Southbank Centre, London

Outdoor Film & Event screenings

Sporting Events

I actually was in Wimbledon twice during this trip- we went before it started to just take a stadium tour and see the grounds. I was not expecting at that point that I’d end up actually at the tournament later on! I knew Wimbledon would be going on while I was studying in London but it honestly never occurred to me to try and go until a couple new friends also studying abroad said they were going.

Seeing Le Tour de France in Cambridge, UK was a different experience from watching an event of this scale in any big city like London or Philadelphia. We went out early that day to stake out our viewing spot along the course only to get there and find the locals going about the morning normally with no one worried about staking out a prime viewing spot (yet). It wasn’t until maybe 30mins ahead of start time when the “crowds” began filling either side of the street to see the race go by. We were out there maybe and hour or two before start time because that’s what you would need to in a city like Philadelphia. We did have a great view of the race though!

Henley. I still think about how cool it is that I’ve been there. While I was there a spectator not a racer I genuinely enjoyed observing the regatta. Seeing people with the picnic baskets, people having their morning teatime (complete with Champagne) while watching the morning races go by. I took the train from Paddington station and I admit I didn’t fully know where I was going. However I knew instantly after getting on that first train that I wouldn’t be alone. The train was packed with people in their best rowing blazers.

England Exploration: A Flashback to my Favorite Moments Abroad

England Exploration: A Flashback to my Favorite Moments Abroad

We’re less than 6 weeks out from my next British adventure, and I’m having a look back on some of my favorite things during past trips to the U.K! It’s hard to believe that it’s already been nearly five years since I spent the summer studying and exploring London. That summer I had the chance to attend some awesome sporting events: Henley Royal Regatta, Wimbledon, and Le Tour de France. I had the opportunity to row several times out of Quintin boat club (in Chiswick, London). I was also able to travel to other parts of England both during my summer course at University of Westminster and separate from my course. I visited Oxford, Wales, Bath, Stonehenge, Brighton, and Cambridge.

First moments in London

Our first full day in London back in 2016 consisted of us walking along the Thames (in Southbank). We walked through Borough market (which I did loads of times because it’s a great market). And of course we stopped at a pub for a pint. It was a lovely summer day and a wonderful start to my six weeks abroad. Keep reading below to see my photos of some of my favorite and memorable foods & drinks from London that summer!

The first cider I drank during my 2016 trip in London, at a pub in South London.

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Day Trip to the Beach: A Jersey Shore Roadtrip

Labor Day weekend is always a huge weekend for beach trips. For many people it is one last chance to relax and play down at the Jersey shore before school and work picks up again. If I go to the shore during the summer it’s probably only a day trip to Ocean City, NJ - where I’ll sit on beach a bit, take a walk on the boardwalk, and definitely enjoy some tasty summer beach foods. This year though my first opportunity for a beach day wasn’t until Labor Day weekend. So I went with my dad and sister for a day, but rather than going and sitting on the beach all day we opted to turn that beach day into a little Jersey Shore roadtrip!

The road trip began in Atlantic City and took us all the way down to Cape May. While we had a few things in mind to stop for the majority of this trip was unplanned. I took my camera along for the ride (of course) and tried to take at least one photo in each town we passed through.

First Up: Penny Collector Machines of the Jersey Shore

One souvenir I will always try to get everywhere I go is a “collectable penny”. While there really aren’t a huge amount of places that still have penny machines there are still loads of cool pennies you get during your travels. They’re similar to buying post cards but more unique sort of. Plus it is fun to turn the wheel and watch you penny get squished!

Before the trip we printed the list of all the penny machines left in New Jersey (found on and so as we made away down the jersey shore we stopped got a penny from all the machines we found, or were interested in at least.

The road trip begins… in Atlantic City, NJ

Atlantic City, NJ

Atlantic City, NJ

As we drove through Atlantic City, passing all the casinos, we saw a little lighthouse. At first we weren’t sure if it was actually open or if was an abandoned lighthouse, but then we realized it was the Absecon lighthouse and also realized that they supposedly had a penny machine! So after we parked and looked at the beach for a moment we climbed the stairs to the top the lighthouse.

If you’re into lighthouses, or even just cool views, I’d recommend checking out this one. It doesn’t necessarily look super tall from the outside but after climbing

Absecon Lighthouse

Quick stop in Margate

Our first stop after Atlantic City was to see Lucy the Elephant in Margate. We had this one planned since before we left home too. While we did not take the tour of Lucy we did get a squished penny and walked underneath her & around the grounds.

However, you may pay to take the guided tour of Lucy to enjoy a more detailed visit.

Lucy the Elephant

Ocean City, NJ

Roma pizza has been my boardwalk pizza of choice since a very young age. As a kid I remember taking a break from boogie boarding to get a slice and birch beer at Roma. Today we made a quick stop in Ocean City to eat a slice or two on the boardwalk while looking over out over the ocean. Tip: the buffalo chicken pizza is super delicious and their white veggie pizzas always a good go-to choice.

Roma Pizza, OCNJ Boardwalk

Buffalo Chicken Pizza at Roma Pizza, Ocean City, NJ

Ads are always flying by above you while sitting on the beach, but while we ate our pizza we happened to notice the ad flying by at that moment was for Hank Sauce - which happens to be one my favorite hot sauces!

Classic beach ads

Middle of the Journey

After enjoying our lunch in Ocean City the journey took us through Sea Isle, Avalon, and Stone Harbor. While we did not stop in any of these towns during this trip they are all nice places to to spend a beach day.

If you are looking for some food while in Sea Isle then head over to the Hank’s Sauce restaurant. They serve food and also sell bottles of their hot sauce to take home with you.

Our next stop on the road trip was in Wildwood, NJ. We first stopped at the boardwalk to find a penny machine listed as being at Ed’s Funcade.

Note: there are multiple of these arcades so be sure you have the correct location because only one has the penny machine!

Wildwood, NJ

Wildwood, NJ

We stopped for some ice cream at Sea Shell Ice Cream. I recommend the Black Raspberry flavor - tasty and refreshing - but be prepared for large servings!

Black Raspberry ice cream / Wildwood, NJ

Black Raspberry ice cream / Wildwood, NJ

Next Up: Cape May!

Cape May, September 2018

Cape May, September 2018

Before this road trip the only times in recent years I remember coming to Cape May have been to film weddings at Congress Hall. While Congress Hall is a very nice hotel and venue, and the beach does look nice I never have come to just explore and see what’s here. Today as we entered Cape May we knew there was a lighthouse so we continued driving south until we found it. We figured since we began in Atlantic City with a lighthouse we should continue the theme and end with one too!

At last we arrived at the Cape May lighthouse - which is located just inside a state park. The first thing we did upon arriving was get our last collectible pennies of the trip. Then we proceeded to climb the stairs to the top. The view from this lighthouse was really nice and different from the Absecon lighthouse. While both had nice views of their beaches down below, the Cape May lighthouse doesn’t have the city feeling that the the Absecon lighthouse could give you a bit of.

Cape May Lighthouse

Cape May Lighthouse shadow

As we left Cape May Lighthouse we were pulling up Google Maps to navigate home and opted to take local roads (rather than the main highways). If you have the extra time and don’t mind a little bit longer drive it can be super fun to take back roads! You’ll get to see little towns you bypass by taking the highway and you never know what you may happen upon during the trip.

Winter Adventure: A Weekend in Chicago

Every now and then I get anxious to travel and explore a city other than Philadelphia. When planning my next trip during this past fall I decided to check out Chicago for my first time. This seemed like a perfect destination too since I could visit a friend and I new nothing about the city except for Wrigley field, the bean, and they had good hotdogs! So, on the second Thursday of December I left with my backpack and small suitcase to take the mega bus to New York where I would then transfer to a different mega bus going to Chicago. With a three hour layover in New York City I had just enough time to see the Christmas sights that I always enjoy; including the Bryant Park Christmas market and Tree, Radio City Music Hall, the Macy's Christmas window displays, and the Rockefeller Christmas tree. Then just before 2:30PM I enjoyed a tasty Buffalo Chicken sandwich (on a baguette) and a perfect cup of tea from Pret, gathered my bus snacks (more food from Pret) and heading over the the mega bus pick up area.

*Fast forward 18 hours*

Mobile photo of my bus to Chicago, Illinois


When I first stepped off of the bus in Chicago I bundled up, made sure I had all of my things, and headed took the 'L' train to my friends apartment. After I regrouped, cleaned up, and did about an hour or so of work I was ready to begin my exploring! I began by exploring the neighborhood I was in and found a coffee shop to begin at, Kitchen Sink. I then walked around the neighborhood a bit and saw some cute houses before finding a second coffee shop, The Chicago Grind. Since I really had not eaten much in the last 24 hours and my last cup of tea was back in New York at Pret I went in to try my second Chicago latte. It was very good. Once I was sufficiently warmed up I ventured outside and went over to Lake Michigan to walk along there a bit; it got a colder the more time I spent by the lake as the sun was setting. After looking at the sun setting next to the lake and petting a wheaten terrier who was out for a walk I went back to warm up and charge up before going downtown with my friend that night. Being downtown at night was cool (and not just temperature-wise either)! We went to millennium park to see the Chicago Christmas tree lit up and saw the bean sculpture; which had a neat reflection of the skyline at night. We walked through the Christmas market and drank hot cider to warm up and then took the bus back out of downtown to eat Indian food, at a place called Annapurna. It was very tasty and a good first meal in Chicago!

Day two in Chicago was my tourist day. I spent the day walking downtown with my friend beginning at the river walk. I wasn't quite as cold as the first night either because I bundled up better. We admired the buildings lining the river walk, especially the design of the Trump hotel (although we both wished it did not have "TRUMP" written so boldly on it). We walked from the river walk over to the Navy Pier which is a neat place to walk around with a great view of the city skyline! We walked back to the millennium park area to see the bean in the daylight and then warm up with a cup of coffee and tea at Intelligentsia Coffee. After we sat in the coffee shop for a bit and felt that we stored up enough heat to venture outside, we took the bus up to Lincoln Park Zoo. It was dark by now and snowing, but a perfect time to see all their Christmas Lights display. They had tons of different animals made out of holiday lights all of over the zoo and even one area where they made a little lights show having the lights change with the Christmas song playing. This was a full day of being a tourist so when we finished at the zoo we got the bus back to the apartment to eat and relax.

That brings us to day three, and I was exploring the city some more on my own today. Sometime overnight I remembered that I needed to see Wrigley Field and the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). Therefore, after some brief research on Google Maps before heading up I decided to do Wrigley Field second and then spend the afternoon walking around surrounding area of the stadium. I only admired the Willis Tower from the outside as it is not free to go up to the observation deck. After getting a few photos i hopped the bus again and headed to Wrigley Field. I, once again, only admired the stadium from the outside as it is December and not baseball season. It was very neat being outside of Wrigley Field. Once I was finished admiring and squished a couple pennies in the store across the street I walked down N. Broadway hunting for a coffee shop. I eventually came across a little place called Dollop Coffee Co and it seemed like the perfect place for me to warm up and charge up. It was while I was sitting here that I decided where to get my real Chicago hot dog.

Once I was finished my latte and warmed up I hit up Murphy's Red Hots for my hotdog! It was very tasty. i then felt I had the fuel to continue my snowy walk around the Lake View East section. I stumbled upon a vintage store with loads of "Christmas sweaters" and then went into a cool comic book store where I bought myself a couple new Archie Comic books before checking out the Dry Hops Brewpub across the street. I tried a Pistachio Milk Stout at Dry Hops and it was actually really good! By this time it was getting close to dinner time so I went back across the street to look in a cool record store, before heading back to the apartment to eat and relax.

Monday was the day I flew back to Philadelphia but I managed to try out one last coffee shop, Bow Truss, before taking the 'L' to Midway airport. I have been calling this trip my table of contents tour of Chicago. When I got to Chicago I hardly knew anything about the city, I did not even know what the layout of the city was like. During my three full days there I was able to learn the layout, learn the public transportation, and find out more about what there is in the city! This way my next time in Chicago I will be able to go more in depth than the basic tourist spots and maybe even catch a jazz show or two.

Check out all of my photos below!