Wag: Tinder for Dogs

The hardest thing for me about moving to college was not leaving my friends, family, own room, or even free food… It was leaving my dog. Sophie was everything to me, and still is. She was, in internet terms, a perfect floofer that I had the liberty of cuddling with when I was having a bad day, or when I just wanted some lovin’. My first week of Boston, I had somes serious pupper withdrawals; symptoms include: waking up in the middle of the night petting your pillow, having every background picture on your devices a picture of your pupper, and calling home and asking to speak with said pupper.

I knew this could not continue, so when I heard about doggo Tinder, (Wag), I signed up immediately. The sign-up process and background check took about two weeks, and after that I was in! I began to get notifications from ever floofer, woofer, and pupper in a 2 mile radius. I could not believe my eyes as countless pictures flooded my phone of dogs who wanted to be walked by me, me! I accepted the first walk that was two miles away in South Boston, (mistake). It took me an hour to get there and I crossed two bridges, a major highway, and traversed through questionable neighborhoods. Nevertheless, I was thrilled about my first walk and was overjoyed to meet Sam, a pitbull mix. I continued to do Wag walks for the next few months, sometimes three times a day.

Wag is easy to sign up for, and it pays pretty well. Wag takes a little under half of what they charge, but it is not bad because you still make $12-$14 for 30 minute walks and $16-$18 for 60 minute walks. Wag also gives you more money if you are walking more than one dog for the owner, and you get to keep all your tips. I get tips 80% of the time, usually $4 or more! One owner always tipped me $4.20. Every. Time. The only drawback of Wag is that the app sucks all the life out of your phone battery, so I got into the habit of bringing a backup battery when I take longer walks. Also, the Wag support line is always busy, so it is hard to get in contact with them if you need help or need to cancel a walk. I would just make sure that when you accept a walk, you are committing to that walk 100% to avoid any miscommunication.

I have gotten to meet the cutest dogs through Wag, and I got to explore parts of Boston that I would have never explored without the draw of a cute fluffer. I needed a place to share the cuteness of these doggos, so I created an Instagram called @emma.walks.dogs, where I post funny pictures and videos of all their furry faces. One memorable pupper I walked was called Savash, who I walked probably 15 times in a period of two months. Savash is a Siberian husky puppy who you bet got ALL the pets from passersby. I once walked two dogs with my boyfriend; a German shepherd mixed with a husky and a purebred husky. These wolfers looked like they were Dire wolves right out of Game of Thrones. I would not have been able to walk them by myself, as they were as tall as my belly button and weighed around 70-80 pounds! Needless to say, Wag is the best experience and definitely something to get involved in if you miss your pupper from home or just want some furry cuddles from a friendly face.

Wag is definitely worth it, especially if your want to make some extra cash by hanging with adorable puppies… What isn’t there to love?

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Boston Bucket List

As the end of the of the first semester is coming to an end, there is still so much of Boston that my friends and I have been wanting to explore. My friend group consists of people from all over: two from California, one from Delaware, two from Texas (including me), two from New York, one all the way from London, and one from Boston. So we discussed with our Bostonian friend some of the things he wanted to do and he replied with “done that” multiple times, but he also sometimes replied, “I haven’t done that.” In a group meeting, we all brainstormed the places in Boston we wanted to go to and we decided to make a “Boston Bucket List” that we are determined to finish by the end of freshman year.

Ice Skating in the Frog Pond 

Now that the Frog Pond has opened into an ice skating rink. What better way to celebrate the holiday season than to go ice skating in the Boston Common. They offer student discounts for ice skating admission, but keep in mind there are skate rental prices and if needed locker rentals.

Follow the Freedom Trail

While exploring Boston, at times we have come across the Freedom Trail. So now we are determined to follow the trail. The trail is 2.5 miles long and passes through 16 significant history locations. On the trail, the history of the American Revolution is told through the trail. After learning about the American Revolution in history class, it’ll be fascinating to see some of the sites in person.

Go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

We’ve heard so many good things about the Isabella Stewart Gardner, and as Emerson students, we get free admission. Located in Fenway, this museum offers many art collections and interactive experiences. This museum was created by the vision of Isabella Stewart Gardner and offers a homey yet regal feel. On the website, there is a multitude of special events throughout the months that are perfect for groups of people.

Eat at Wahlburgers

 If you’re like me my friends and me, you love a good burger. After seeing the TV show Wahlburgers and numerous Mark Wahlberg movies, I decided that I must go to Wahlburgers while in Boston. Wahlburgers is located all over Massachusetts, but the location closest to Emerson is in the Fenway area.

Go to the beach

Growing up in Texas, I have experienced Texas beaches. Now I want to see what East Coast beaches. When it gets warmer, my friends and I are planning to head to Carson Beach which is located in South Boston. We chose this beach because of the location and because my friend from Massachusetts recommended it. So I guess I will see if the Massachusetts beach beats Texas beaches (which should not be too hard).

Eat a cannoli at Mike’s Pastries

I have always wanted to try Mike’s Pastries, but I have always been too impatient to stand in the long line. Once I am ready to face the line, I am so excited to try one of the famous cannolis.

Go to a fancy dinner at the Four Seasons

Don’t get me wrong, we love eating at the dining hall every day, but every once in awhile it’s nice to eat out. My friends and I have devised a plan to dress up fancy and indulge in a dinner at the Four Seasons for the night.

Go to a Celtics, Bruins, and/or Red Sox game

After living in Boston, I have definitely hopped on the Boston fandom bandwagon (I even got a Red Sox hat and a Patriots shirt). With some of the greatest teams in the leagues, it would be silly to not take advantage of seeing them play live. My friends and I are planning on attending a Celtics game soon even though we will probably be in the nosebleed section… But hey, it’s all about the experience, right?

Here are just a few items on a list that continues to grow. While we are in college in this amazing city, we need to take advantage of all the city has to offer. It’s still crazy to me that we get to go to school in such an amazing city! I hope that you and your friends can enjoy some of the same adventures that my friends and I plan on going on. For more Boston bucket list ideas, I linked some below. Happy exploring!

Links:

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/boston/things-to-do-in-boston-bucket-list

https://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2017/05/04/bucket-list-things-boston/Uwe9zM7Kad0nsBvASycc4O/story.html

https://passionsandplaces.com/2016/11/08/the-ultimate-boston-bucket-list/

 

Boston Common Dogs: An Investigation

I walk through the Boston Common bare minimum twice a day. For better or worse, I spend a significant portion of my life traversing the paths of the oldest city park in the United States.

Today, we’re focusing on the better, and that better has a name. Dogs.

I may not love walking through the Common all the time, but something I do love is that it is constantly filled with dogs. Small dogs and big dogs and puppies and the dog-elderly, most of them off leashes, all of them having a full-on blast.

But I have had a lingering question on these walks, a question of such deep significance it refuses to leave my mind for longer than moments at a time:

Are these planned dog playdates? Or spontaneous friendships forming between dog-strangers?

Despite my inherent reluctance to speak to the glamorous dog owners of Beacon Hill, it was time to investigate.

Thankfully, we live in the age of the Internet, and I was able to conduct an exhaustive investigation using only my laptop and the need to know whether there was an online dog-owner community I could stalk in order to be aware and later take advantage of the most dog-heavy hours.

My research began with the extensive and pretentiously-written Parks Rules and Regulations of the city of Boston. Immediately, I was given the shock of my life; Section 5 includes the statement, “No person shall, in any public park […] have or allow any animal, except a dog on a leash no longer than eight feet.”

It was a concept I had never considered. Were these dogs committing acts designated as illegal by Boston Parks and Recreation? Am I witnessing the cutest, fluffiest residents of Boston break the law on a daily basis? I had to find out more.

I delved into Google, finding only a Yahoo group called “Boston Common Dogs,” the last post of which was seven years ago—a user called CoOlBoY writing about parrots, for some reason. It was a dead end.

My first real clue came from an elegantly-designed website called Bring Fido, dedicated to giving tips to dog owners on ideal locations. Information on the Common was extraordinarily limited: a single review, a single photo, and a single sentence description. Although the photo is full-on amazing (see above), I had eyes for only one thing: the answers and new questions contained within that one statement of description.

“There are dedicated hours where dogs may play off-leash, but they are welcome leashed at all times.”

It was a lead if I’d ever seen one (which, in my limited investigative experience, I had not). If I were to find these off-leash hours, would they correspond to the heavenly times when hordes of dogs frolicked together, free in the oldest city park in America?

This question led me to the site Fido Loves, essentially a more long-winded, less well-designed version of Bring Fido with a very similar but more fragmented name.

The revelations contained within the essay-length entry on the Common were twofold.

First, the reveal of a private Facebook group: The Common Canine. It’s uber-exclusive at only 648 members, and Fido Loves cautioned, “It is a group open only to local dog owners in order to keep discussions focused on the needs of Boston dogs.” As I sent my request to join, I was overcome by thoughts of how to slip in unnoticed. Perhaps I had a picture with a dog I could change my profile to . . . Maybe a quick post stating, “Wow, I love taking my dog, who I definitely own and who definitely exists in the city of Boston, to play in the delineated areas allowed by Boston Parks and Rec.”

Deep within this train of thought, I received a notification. After 15 seconds (presumably dedicated to an intensive examination of my Facebook profile) I was admitted into the Common Canine.

A scan of the last few months of posts revealed four equally important facts.

  1. No concrete meetup time planning occurred.
  2. There was still a sense of community within the dog owners of Boston Common that could only be created by regular dog/human bonding.
  3. Every time a new member was added, a post was made greeting both the two- and four-legged, and I needed to get the dickens out of this group before I was discovered.
  4. The excellence of the dog pictures and the rigor with which dog-related events were shared convinced me there was no way I could leave this group.

I had never felt more undercover detective-y (and therefore cool) in my entire human existence.

But Fido Loves’ Bible-length posting contained another revelation within its millions of words: “Dogs are allowed off-leash during the morning hours between 5 am and 10 am, and then again in the evening between 4 pm and 9 pm.”

The investigation was complete. There was only one thing left to do: Trawl Boston Common at optimized hours for dogs to pet—now equipped with the knowledge only the Common Canine could grant me.

The Unqualified Winter Survival Guide

With the changing leaves, the brisk weather and the changing time, it can only mean one thing: winter is coming. Though it might be a normal occurrence for some, those who grew up in warmer climates, like myself, might see the actual winter as an intimidating venture. Helming from Southern California, I never had to put salt on my porch or scrape my windshield before driving to school, so, coming to Boston for the first time last year, I was fairly helpless in figuring out the whole winter thing. Over the course of a couple of months, however, I was able to figure out some key elements to surviving the ominous winter, at least, for those who never experienced it like me. So, keeping each part of your body in mind, here are some tips to surviving your first winter, just from an unqualified source.

Head

A hat is probably one of the simplest ways to keep warm in the winter. You’d be surprised how cold your ears can get when the wind is especially heavy. I never expected to want to wear my beanie every day, but it proved to be something I made sure to bring whenever I went out for the day. If you like listening to music, try investing in some over-ear headphones too. Those keep your ears extra warm and can make your music sound even better.

Torso

I have to admit, I hated the idea of wearing layers. It seemed uncomfortable and cumbersome, especially since it takes time out of your morning to put it all on. Despite this, layering is absolutely essential for surviving the coldest of days. Your body won’t regret it, especially since sometimes even a heavy jacket won’t cut it. I’d recommend buying as many flannels as you want because those are great tools for layering. I bought mine from Duluth – since they make actual flannels as compared to other stores where they make sheer ones – but there are, of course, many other brands to choose from. I also put tank tops underneath to layer it up, as the top layer can easily cover them, but they at least give a slight layer to warm you up. On a side note though, I’d recommend buying a longer winter jacket, so that it covers more than just your torso. I bought mine from Eddie Bauer, but others are available. This is just a precaution to make you more comfortable and so that it allows a little more coverage on your body.

Hands

I hate to say it, but gloves are a must. Like layering, I hated the idea of wearing gloves. Even before coming to Boston last year, I hated wearing them and thought they were a pain, especially if I wanted to do anything with them. But, alas, you have to protect those hands. Without them, your hands can dry up very quickly and they can even get numb with how cold it is outside. It’s better safe than sorry to protect your hands, so gloves are your best bet.

I also learned something that is extremely important: lotion. At this point, I try to remember to put it on every day because it never occurred to me just how dry the winter is. Because of the drastic change of weather, your skin, especially your hands, is susceptible to drying and cracking, which can also be terribly painful. How you can get around this is to try and use lotion to mend your hands, because even gloves aren’t 100% impenetrable. Trust me, your hands will thank you for it. I use Lush’s Charity Pot every night – or, at least, whenever I remember, because I’m still learning with this one. A little goes a long way, so even buying the smaller version can last you a long time. While a little on the oilier side, it helps quickly and can smooth out your hands right away.

Legs

The annoying thing about the legs area is that it is not much you can do about keeping them warm. You can, of course, wear thermal gear to keep warm. The best tip to give is to stay away from denim because as soon as it gets wet, it stays wet and cold for the rest of the day. Also, that longer coat that I covered earlier could be really beneficial. While it won’t cover all of the legs, it will partially cover them, making the cold at least a little more bearable.

Shoes

I never realized just how wet snow was until I came back to my dorm drenched in snow. For those like me who like to take their shoes off once they get inside, try to take off your boots immediately, as stepping in that cold water on accident is not a fun thing to do. Have an area set up to store your winter clothes once they get wet from the snow, that way, nothing else gets wet while they’re drying for your next use.

Don’t ask me how or why salt helps during the winter, but you’ll soon find out that salt gets everywhere during the winter. You’ll be able to see giant bags of salt by entrances of buildings, ready to be used for the next snowfall. The bad part about this is that salt can be harmful to your clothes. You can especially see this on some cars, where the salt has damaged the outside of the car. Because of this, be mindful of what you’re wearing, with shoes being the priority, since they’ll be directly touching the salt.

With All of These Recommendations, Buy the Essentials Early

The last thing you want to be is unprepared for winter. So, be sure to have everything bought and ready to go long before the season really sets in, especially because things can sell out easily. Also, look out for those sales, as winter is not a cheap holiday. Some of the major essentials might be a winter coat, winter boots, gloves, a hat, and thermal sheets for your bed.

Winter was such a new experience for me that every day was a new adventure. Though there were definitely times where I was missing home with its 70-degree winter, I was happy to be able to be a part of a snow-filled winter. It might be expensive, but definitely worth it.

Student Saving Secrets

I have hit that point in the semester where I am desperate to save as much money as I can. I have thoroughly researched student discounts in three categories- Fashion, Food, and Entertainment and Travel- to take advantage of every possible discount as I can as a college student. Here are my many student savings secrets…

Fashion: When it comes to buying clothes on a college budget, it can be rough. My personal favorite store for trendy clothes for an affordable price is Boohoo. For great shoes that may not be the ideal price but are great quality and are very durable, Steve Madden is the perfect store.

  • Boohoo: Boohoo 35% off purchases for students. Boohoo is a hip fashion retailer that has the latest trends at reasonable prices.
  • Express: At express they offer 15% off online and in-store purchases.
  • Forever 21: For students, Forever 21 10% off full price online orders.
  • Levi’s: Levi’s gives a 15% off online and in-store discount on purchases.
  • ModCloth: For vintage shopping, save 15% on all clothing at ModCloth when you register as a member.
  • Steve Madden: With your college ID offer 10% off in store. Now it’s nearly impossible to say no to the shoes you absolutely “need”
  • Madewell: Students can get 15% off at Madewell by simply bringing an ID.
  • Kate Spade: Kate Spade gives a 15% discount when you show your ID upon checking out.
  • Topshop: At TopShop,  Get 10% off online and in store.
  • J Crew: At any J.Crew store, you can get 15% off all full priced items by showing your ID.

 

Entertainment and Travel: As a college student, traveling is a necessary part of the college experience. Especially since Boston is so close to many other major cities, using discounts from Amtrak and Greyhound is a must. Also, for streaming music, Apple and Spotify both offer student discounts. For those who read Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, those publications also offer a discount for students.

  • The Wall Street Journal: For students, it is $1 a week for both print delivery and digital access of The Wall Street Journal.
  • Apple: At Apple, students can obtain a discount of up to $300 off a MacBook. Also, a pair of Beats wireless headphones is complimentary when you buy a Mac or iPad Pro.
  • Apple Music: Apple offers Apple Music for $4.99 a month for students, and they give a three month free trial.
  • Spotify: Spotify gives students have access to Spotify Premium for only $4.99 a month.
  • Amtrak: As a student you can get discounts on train tickets by receiving 15% off on Amtrak
  • AMC Theaters: On Thursdays with your school ID you can get discounted tickets at AMC Theaters.
  • Greyhound: With a Student Advantage Discount Card from Greyhound, you save 20% on Greyhound travel fares.
  • Cinemark: With your student ID, you get a special student rate at Cinemark theaters.
  • New England Aquarium: At the New England Aquarium, students are able to purchase discounted aquarium admission tickets.
  • Amazon: Amazon offer a discount to students for free two-day shipping for six months, and discounted Prime.
  • The New York Times: The New York times offers their paper at just 99 cents for the first four weeks and 50% off the regular rate after the four weeks is up.

 

Food: There is arguable nothing better than free or discounted food. Here are a few restaurants that offer special discounts and free items for students.

  • Arby’s: At certain locations with your student ID, Arby’s offers a 10% discount.
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Get a 10% discount off wings with your student ID at Buffalo Wild Wings.
  • Burger King: That burger and fries are 10% off when you show your ID at select Burger King locations.
  • Dairy Queen: Dairy Queen offers a 10% discount for students with ID at some locations.
  • McDonalds: At McDonalds, a McFlurry or burger comes with a 10% discount with an ID.
  • Pizza Hut: Depending on the Pizza Hut, they offer a 10 to 20% off pizza.
  • Qdoba: At Qdoba, they  offer a free drink when you purchase a meal.
  • Subway:  With your student ID at some Subway locations, you can receive 10% off your subway meal.
  • Chick-Fil-A: At various Chick-fil-A locations, you can get a free drink by showing your ID.
  • Chipolte: Most Chipotle locations will offer a free drink with your meal when you show your ID.

For savings on everything, here are two helpful websites for college students that I found:

 

Hopefully these saving secrets for students can help you save money and maybe now you will actually have enough in your bank account to splurge.

A Long Way from Home

I remember the exact moment when my dad left me my freshman year during my move-in day. It felt too fast, with an unfinished goodbye. He was saying his “fatherly advice” bit and, too soon, his Uber drove up and it was time for him to go. I struggled to comprehend the actual meaning of him leaving me behind, on a street in Boston I couldn’t name even if I tried. Although a part of me felt ready to “be an adult,” I also knew I wasn’t fully ready to be truly left alone, in a city I had only previously visited once before. I didn’t cry, but I felt like I should have. It was supposed to be a huge deal and I should have been immediately homesick; at least, that’s how everybody told me I should have felt.

I mean, I am from California, which, if you didn’t know, is kind of across the entire country. How else was I supposed to react?

Whenever I reveal I’m from California, I almost always get “that” look. A look that asks, “Why? Why on earth would you move to Boston? Why would you move from sunny Southern California to a place like this?”

The answer isn’t that simple. I didn’t move because I hate California. Who can’t be entranced by the cloudless, warm days and picturesque coastline? No, there were many more factors to my decision than surface level elements; I do have some state pride. Though I can’t exactly explain what caused my dire urge to leave the state, I can say – with full confidence – that I just didn’t feel like I belonged. Don’t get me wrong, I love going back home; however, I knew I needed a break.

Finally deciding to go to a college across the country filled me with so many emotions, the most significant among the rest being fear and excitement. Fear for being alone in a city, excitement for the new chapter of my life. Fear for the unknown, but excitement for it as well; this was unexplored territory for me, everything was so new I wasn’t sure how to even approach the idea of settling into a new place in the world. I was sure that one day I would be so homesick that I would beg to go back home.

But the day never came.

I waited and waited during that first full month, but I never experienced the homesickness that everyone told me I would feel. It took me until Thanksgiving break to realize that I never really was homesick. There is the fact that I could text, call, or FaceTime my family any time I wanted, which probably helps, but I never felt the urge to break down and ask for the next flight home.

I’m not exactly sure why this occurred – maybe it was Boston or, perhaps, the business of college taking over my mind – but what I do know is that I finally found myself in a space where I could do what I wanted. To think about the mere amount of possibilities available to me, now that I relocated to Boston, is so utterly overwhelming, yet also freeing.

What followed surprised me: when I returned to California, I missed Boston. I missed the independence I had. I missed the trees and the brick buildings. I missed the routine, the shops and the walks I had through the Common. Though I did miss my family and I missed my home, I didn’t feel the same as I did in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, I love living in California. Who wouldn’t? There’s no end to its bright, sunny days, there’s cool shop and plenty of things to do, but it just wasn’t the same.

All summer, I yearned for Boston. It was clear that Boston became my second home.

Moving across the country was probably the most intimidating thing I’ve ever done. Whenever someone asks me the question though, I never experience the feeling of intimidation. Instead, I feel pride in the fact that I was able to defeat the fear holding me back home; that I was able to do what many others cannot. I love my home and living in Southern California definitely had its perks, but moving across the country was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Many probably assume that I can’t survive the winter, but I want to try. My exploration of the city of Boston is still afoot; and I’m grateful for what is to come.

The Boston Coffee Shop Guide for the Coffee-Obsessed Emersonian

I’ll just say it: I’m addicted to coffee. I haven’t always been, though. In fact, the first time I had it, I thought it was horrible and bitter. That could, of course, be the fact that I was drinking Starbucks beans with milk, but I digress.

Now, I can’t get enough of it.

Coming from Southern California, there are so many coffee shops to choose from, but most of my favorites are rooted at home and don’t have locations on the East Coast. I probably sound like a “coffee snob” but I’m not a big fan of Starbucks and very few chains appeal to me, so, I’ve had to find new places in the great city of Boston to curb my coffee obsession.

In a city like Boston, where there seems to be no end to the list of coffee shops available to try, it can be intimidating to choose where to start. So, for my fellow coffee snobs, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite shops I’ve found over the course of a year of being in Boston. Each has their unique qualities, so I’ve attempted to choose a variety of shops to attend to everybody’s wants and needs in a coffee shop.

Just as a note, to make it fair, I ordered a Cold Brew at each shop, as it’s my favorite way to drink coffee and the kind I buy the most as a casual coffee drinker.

Best Place to Study: Jaho Coffee

Downtown and South End

Price for Large Cold Brew: $4

Pros: Big seating area to study, open late, closest to Emerson

Cons: Not the fastest service

Being the closest to Emerson, Jaho Coffee is perhaps the most accessible to those living in the dorms or wanting a good cup of coffee to drink on the way to class. There’s a lot to choose from, which is definitely nice for the non-coffee drinkers out there. For complete transparency, I have come across some slow service, as not a lot of people work, but the coffee itself doesn’t disappoint. Studying at Jaho is also a highlight, as it’s easy to find a place to sit, whether at a bar, on regular tables, or on comfy seats. While it does get busy at times, it never gets too loud and the Wi-Fi is also fast enough for all of your homework needs. Overall, there’s not too much to complain about with regards to Jaho; it’s a casual place that fulfills all of the necessary essentials for a great coffee shop, and, as it’s so close to Emerson, it’s a great place to go to if you just want to get out of your dorm room or the library.

Best Outside Seating: Render Coffee

South End

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.30

Pros: Pretty location, outside seating

Con: Seating fills up quickly, long lines

Sitting between the brick houses of South End, Render Coffee has great views as well as great coffee. It also looks the one that looks like the stereotypical “cute neighborhood coffee shop” found in small towns. Taking a step outside of the city sets this shop apart from the others on this list and almost gives it a peaceful quality that the others don’t seem to have. Though it can get busy at times, it’s a great place to study, especially during warmer months where you can sit outside on the deck they have tucked next to a couple of brick buildings. Abandoning the now trending minimalist and modern style that coffee shops have attained over the past couple of years, it’s nice to see a shop that hasn’t left the traditional coffee shop ambiance.

Best Quick Service: Gracenote

Chinatown

Price for Large (16 oz.) Cold Brew: $5

Pros: Great coffee, fast service

Cons: No place to study, most expensive

Gracenote seems to always take the top spot on “Best Coffee in Boston” lists, especially lately, as it was featured in Boston Magazine’s “Best of Boston 2017″ list. Though definitely warranted – their coffee has many pleasing notes as well as complex tastes – it is also the most expensive. They also have no place to study, which is another disappointment, but, with the eclectic and stereotypical “hipster coffee” vibe, it’s almost expected to only have one tiny bar next to its barista station. Nevertheless, if you are ever in need of a good cup of coffee fast, Gracenote is the way to go. You can tell the baristas take care in promoting the art of coffee as soon as you walk in, making it also apparent that you will be getting something entirely different than a usual chain cup of coffee.

Best Location: Sip Cafe

Financial District

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.25

Pros: Gorgeous location, seating inside and out, great service

Cons: Not open on Sundays

Tucked at the end of a tiny park in the middle of the Financial District is Sip Cafe. This adorable location is great for those who want to be surrounded by greenery while studying or chatting with a friend or just simply enjoying a good book. It feels as if you’ve temporarily stepped away from the city and into this unique coffee shop. Though it is smaller and not your usual coffee shop, it’s still spacious enough for all of your needs. On top of that, the coffee is one of the best on this list. The cold brew is smooth and tastes great and they serve larger portions as well. Though it may be a little farther than some of the rest on this list, it is definitely worth the walk.

Best Overall: CuppaCoffee

South End, West End, and Back Bay

Price for Large (24 oz.) Cold Brew: $4.50

Pros: Multiple locations around Boston, great coffee, friendly service

Cons: Only South End is open on Sundays, not open late, cash only when under $5

With the best coffee, a variety of locations that cater to either quick service or long-term needs, and a unique take on the coffee shop, CuppaCoffee is a definite bright spot in Boston’s coffee repertoire. Dedicated to their Australian background, the shops serve not only coffee but also the Aussie meat pies, among other Australian favorites. My favorite part is that their cold brew also has a 24 oz. option, which not many coffee shops offer, rather opting for a singular, 16 oz. size. I’ve never had a bad experience at CuppaCoffee. The friendly baristas are easy to talk to and their cold brew is, by far, the best to drink. I keep finding myself needing to slow down because I drink it so fast. It’s everything I look for in a cold brew and it reminds me of my favorite place back home. Also, as a bonus, they have rewards cards, which is a huge plus if you are a fan of the shop.

Being a person who enjoys studying at coffee shops, the South End location is a perfect place to escape to because it is quiet enough to be able to focus while drinking my favorite cold brew in Boston. In this way, I think it’s grossly underrated. They keep exceeding my expectations whenever I go and I plan on going even more.

Though the preference of a coffee shop and coffee bean itself is entirely subjective, one thing is for sure: as coffee snobs, having a great cup of coffee can make a day great. If you’re new to a city overflowing with coffee shops, it can be overwhelming to find the perfect one, but these choices might, perhaps, be your best bet to finding your new favorite Cup of Joe.

The Salem Experience for $20 or Less

Come for the witches, stay for the tiny hand-blown glass animals.

image2.jpegThat’s not the slogan for the town of Salem, but it definitely is for my time there. I was initially interested in the grisly history of the witch trials, especially since it’s perfect for Halloween. I mean, the pivotal film Hocus Pocus is set there. But I must confess I spent much more of my time delicately combing through a tray of miniature polar bears and dogs and squids than I did contemplating the fickleness of humanity at the witch trials memorial.

Perhaps the most important part of my Salem adventures, however, is the fact that I spent less than twenty dollars for the whole day, train fare included. Here are my tips for how you can spend a day in the insanely-crowded town without breaking the bank!

1. Don’t buy your tickets on the train

Just go over to the little Charlie card ATM-like robot and buy a ticket. It’s a couple dollars cheaper, and those couple dollars can buy you a magical stone. A magical stone!!! More on that later.

2. The best souvenirs are also pretty cheap

Earlier — as in, immediately before this — I mentioned a little something about a magical stone. It’s time to talk more about that. I spent the unbelievable price of ONE AMERICAN DOLLAR on a stone that promises to increase my success, elevate my mood, and grant wishes. And it looks good doing it! This is an amazing and useful souvenir, especially since I’ve already gone a few days and haven’t lost it!

A lot of the stuff in the witchy stores in Salem is reasonably priced. So are postcards and little things like that. If you want a souvenir from your spooky journey you don’t have to break the bank!

 

3. Walking around is free

Tiring, yes, but free. Sometimes it’s like people forget you don’t have to pay for a tour in order to see stuff. The witch trials memorial is really amazing and right in town. The historical sights can be gazed at from afar with no added cos

t. There’s even the Salem Heritage Trail, which is similar to Boston’s Freedom Trail but distinctly witchier.

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And some of the most fun I had in Salem was walking around the stores. This is not because I am Isla Fisher in the 2009 film adaptation of Sophie Kinsella’s bestselling novel Confessions of a Shopaholic, but rather because there are a ton of cool stores in Salem. Some of them are so cool there is a line to get in! My favorite one was The Coven’s Cottage, and I chose to buy my magical stone from there because I liked the vibe. There are also wand stores, knick knack stores and bookstores, and all of these make for a fun browse!

4. Spend some money on the experience

For me, this meant forking over a couple of ones for a hot apple cider. 

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(Review: watery, but delicious!) For some of my fellow travelers, this meant fried dough, a book on Wiccan spells, a bandana for a dog or fifteen minutes with a fortune-teller. Some people enjoy feeling unsafe and frightened, and these people would not be able to visit Salem without entering the doors of one of Salem’s many haunted houses. There’s not much point to visiting if you don’t feel spooky or Halloween-y or, in short, Salem-y. So it’s worth it to shell out some cash for that One Thing.

In short: Salem is great and very Halloween-feeling and it doesn’t have to be expensive! If you plan in advance and consider what will make your experience really worthwhile, you can have a solid day for $20 or less.

 

Best Boston Attractions From a Professional Tourist

 

After living in Boston for almost three months, I still consider myself a professional tourist. Professional tourist, what’s that you may say? Well, since I am still new to Boston I wouldn’t consider myself a Bostonian, but I am also just not a vistor anymore. Therefore, I just consider myself a professional tourist now. Through these few months of having my own time to explore and having visitors come to town, I have come up with a list of my favorite places to visit in Boston.  

New England Aquarium 

Going to the New England aquarium proved to me that you are never too old for an aquarium. I recently went to the aquarium when my family was visiting and I’m not going to lie I was way more excited than my fourteen-year-old sister. Not only were there great exhibits, such as penguins and seals, but they also had very interactive exhibits. I got to pet starfish, stingrays and even sharks! And to top off the whole experience, it is located right by the harbor. So once you are done exploring the aquarium, go out to the harbor and take pictures by the beautiful waters.

Skywalk Observatory  

The Skywalk Observatory located in the prudential center has the absolute BEST views of Boston. The Prudential Center is a very feasible walk from Boston Public Library. On the 50th floor of the center lies the observatory.  The walls are all glass windows with a breathtaking view of all downtown Boston. There you can see Fenway, the commons, churches and the Charles river all in one place. I personally believe this is a must on anyone’s Boston tour agenda. The price of the New England Aquarium and the Skywalk Observatory is substantially cheaper with a Go Boston card.

The North End

If you are in the mood to try out some great food, go to the North End. I highly recommend going to Quincy Market for an array of choices. There are a plethora of food trucks and restaurants to pick and choose from, but what the North End is most well known for is the Italian food. You will find homemade pasta and Italian pastries galore there. You will not be disappointed by the homemade food there. But, be prepared to either make a reservation or wait hours for a table.

Boston Common

The Boston Common is definitely a must! Take a walk, have a picnic, or even take a swan boat tour during the summertime. Even though we become immune to the beautiful scenery of the Boston Common, your guests will definitely be blown away by the beauty. Even if the Boston Common isn’t one of your main attractions on the tour, use the commons as a detour and go through the gardens to get to Newbury street.

Newbury Street

If you are in the mood for great shopping and food, go to Newbury Street. Newbury Street varies from stores like Forever 21 to Chanel. When shopping, have a general idea of what stores you want to visit because if not you may become overwhelmed.  There are  also many different restaurants and desert places. If you have ever seen the TV show DC Cupcakes, then you must go to Georgetown cupcakes to try out one of the delicious desserts for yourself.  

The Boston Public Library

The library is one of my favorite places. One street over from Newbury Street on Boylston street lies the Boston Library. Take a walk through the magnificent interior of the Library and explore the beautiful architecture. Don’t forget to checkout outside too. The outside part of the library is equally as beautiful of the inside and will blow you away. 

Duck Tours- You see the duck tour buses everywhere around Boston, but the mere sight of them is not a good enough experience. A Duck Tour was one of the first things I did when I visited Boston and it made me fall in love with Boston even more. To start off the tour, you are assigned a driver and they are dressed up in character. I have seen “conDUCKtors” ranging from Duck Dynasty to The Mad Hatter. The tours take you all around downtown Boston and take you across the Charles River. This tour is a great way to get a great sense of the city and it’s rich history in a fun, entertaining way. 

These are most definitely not the only places you should visit while in Boston, there are too many places to fit into one trip but I personally believe that these are some of the best attractions. I hope my expert advice as a professional tourist can benefit you and your visitors, and that you will come to love this city as much as I do.

Chicago in 3 Days

 

Looking to explore a new city? Want to experience a breathtaking skyline that’s also right on the water? It may be time to look into visiting Chicago. This past week I went for 3 days and really fell in love with the city. There are great deals on Expedia that will make it easier to travel on a budget and this guide will help you get the most out of your trip. 

Chicago Cubs

If you’re a Red Sox fan, Wrigley field will feel very familiar to you. It is the second oldest ballpark behind Fenway and has an awesome old timey feel. Wrigley is a beautiful field with great a great view from every section. There is history packed into the stadium and fun facts posted around the park to read up on the history of the Cubs. Awesome food, die hard fans and ice cold beer. Basically Boston, right?

The Bean

The Bean!

An icon in Chicago, the Bean can’t be missed. Located in the heart of the city in Millennium Park, it could not be easier to get to. Grab a Chicago dog from a nearby food truck and sit by the Bean for an hour or so. The perfect place to people watch and snap some fun pictures. There are other sculptures and artwork scattered around the park to check out too. Research restaurants around the Bean because there are many cool food joints hidden around the downtown area!

Art Institute

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by George Seurat

After you’re done with the Bean, move on to the Art Institute of Chicago to explore an incredible selection of artwork. The institute carries an impressive collection of pieces from Seurat, Monet, van Gogh, Warhol and so many more. It is not hard to spend an entire day here exploring every wing of this beautiful museum. Be sure to check out the modern wing upstairs for very funky, contemporary paintings and sculptures.

Navy Pier

James Curran ferris wheel santa monica santa monica boardwalk GIF

What is better than an amusement park on a boardwalk?! Navy Pier is a fun place to visit while in Chicago, even if it’s only for half a day. On certain days over the summer they feature outdoor movies on the pier along with other cool activities. There are many fun restaurants, carnival rides, and boat tours to explore. The Navy Pier ferris wheel is the perfect way to view the entire Chicago shoreline from end to end. To make thing even better, the shuttle from downtown to the pier is always free and runs about every half hour! Grab a bite to eat and enjoy the beautiful shore of Lake Michigan.

John Hancock Tower

Sunset from the top of the 360 Observatory.

The top floor of the Hancock tower hosts the most amazing view for a sunset. An elevator takes you 94 floors up in less than a minute. When the doors open, you are greeted by floor to ceiling glass windows showcasing a 360 view of Chicago from a bird’s eye view. It is so peaceful being in that beautiful tower and a perfect way to relax at the end of a busy day exploring the city. You pay for admission to the top of the tower and can stay as long as you want. There is a fun new feature at the top called Tilt! where you lean against the glass at the top of the tower and hang out above the city. Very scary, but worth it for the thrill!

Chi-town is my new favorite city and maybe it will become yours too!