travel

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    A few hours from Los Angeles, 40 minutes north of Palm Springs, is the Morongo Basin, home to a handful of high desert small towns that act as an escape for city folk and boast a community of artists and outdoors lovers. Places like Joshua Tree, Morongo Valley, Yucca Valley, Landers, and Twentynine Palms are notoriously affordable by Southern California standards, making them a draw for many women—a cool, safe place where we can also own property. It’s no surprise, then, that many of the local businesses are women-owned and the highlights below are truly superb…not just “desert good” (for a full archive of lady-run businesses, check out daughtersofthedesert.com). Take into account the otherworldly landscape, inherent desert quirkiness, and just the right amount of woo, and you’ll want to seek refuge at this SoCal destination, too. 

    wOwUCdez e298bCactus Mart

    STAY + EXPERIENCE

    Book a room in advance at the serene oasis of Mojave Sands Motel (62121 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree); the compact, roadside retreat has only five sought-after rooms. The Joshua Tree Inn (61259 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree) has been a mecca for Gram Parsons fans for decades (he spent his last hours in room 8), but locals love this hotel for its picturesque pool. 

    For a relaxing meditative treat, and a uniquely desert experience, schedule a sound bath at the Integratron (2477 Belfield Blvd., Landers). Owners Linda Krantz and Robyn Celia host world-class music acts at their historic roadside saloon and BBQ joint Pappy & Harriet’s (53688 Pioneertown Rd., Pioneertown)—even Paul McCartney recently played the small but legendary venue. (Pro tip: Monday open mic is a favorite night for locals.) A visit to Joshua Tree National Parkis a must, but so is respect for the land. When driving through the park or around the desert, stay on marked roads—Joshua trees look like mystical creatures, but they’re actually very old, very fragile succulents. 

    bs5 huG1 0ad12Pappy & Harriet's

    SHOPPING + PLANTS

    You can’t visit the hi-des without doing some vintage shopping. At The End’s two locations (55872 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley; 49925 Twentynine Palms Highway, Morongo Valley), owner and stylist Kime Buzzelli will help you flaunt your wild creative soul with colorful graphic dresses and art-to-wear clothing. Black Luck Vintage (7350 Acoma Trail, Yucca Valley) has a little bit of everything including home goods, records, and clothing. Stop into Holly’s Trading Post(49700 Twentynine Palms Highway, Morongo Valley) for vintage ceramics and textiles, and Pioneertown General Store (53635 Mane St., Pioneertown) for curated vintage with a Western vibe.

    Cactus Mart (49889 Twentynine Palms Highway) is one of the first landmarks you see when you drive through Morongo Valley, where visitors have been digging up their own baby cacti since the 1960s. And florist The Bloomin Gypsy (55827 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley) also boasts a plant-focused gift shop called TBG Homegrown curated by floral designer Veronica Lowe.

    urABRJHW 1d3bbThe End

    EAT + DRINK

    La Copine(848 Old Woman Springs Rd.) means “girlfriend” en français, and this French-American restaurant from co-owners Chef Nikki Hill and musician Claire Wadsworth has put Yucca Valley’s Flamingo Heights nabe on the map. Their fried chicken is a favorite, but I go for their delicious lamb burger and duck fat potatoes. After hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, fuel up on vegetarian and vegan dishes at The Natural Sisters Café (61695 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree), and be sure to save room for a slice of vegan pie heaven made by local baker Boo. Wine & Rock Shop (59006 Twentynine Palms Highway, Yucca Valley) is a newly opened libations shop, which offers really pretty crystals along with bottles of beer and wine. 

    9dK6ekLl c83cdThe Natural Sisters Cafe

    ART 

    Midnight Oil Gallery (55818 Twentynine Palms Highway) in Old Town Yucca Valley has rotating shows, but make an appointment for a desert-inspired stick ’n’ poke tattoo from co-owner Taylor Elyse Compton. I might be biased, but you should try to catch open hours at the All Roads “Stordio” (7319 Acoma Trail, Yucca Valley), my tiny textile shop and studio where I work on large-scale weavings. Happy hookers can’t miss the World Famous Crochet Museum (61855 Twentynine Palms Highway, Joshua Tree); the former photo-processing booth houses owner Shari Elf’s colorful, eclectic collection of crocheted items. At the weekly Sky Village Swap Meet (7028 Theatre R., Yucca Valley, Saturdays and Sundays), stop by the High Desert Test Sites HQ for a local-art-site driving map. Want to know more about hi-desert desert living? Listen to interviews with local desert ladies on the podcast Desert Lady Diaries.

    jk7CNJH 21d04World Famous Crochet Museum

    M1DgCaye 4c3e7Wine & Rock Shop

    By Janelle Pietrzak
    Photographed by Kat Borchat
    This article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • BUST Travel.Illo MaiaBoakye RGB 43411

    Travelers come in all shapes and sizes, but airline seats, sadly, do not. I can personally attest to this, as a plus-sized woman who’s been squashed into tight spaces en route. Suffering in silence makes for a lousy trip, so read on for my best advice, plus some pro tips from a few fat-acceptance authors and bloggers. Who says big girls don’t fly?

    Research before you book 

    Not all seats, planes, or airlines are created equal. Aircraft size matters. Smaller planes usually have smaller seats. And while Frontier Airlines has seats as wide as 19.1 inches across, and Delta’s new Boeing 777 seats are 18.6 inches across, most seats typically fall between 16 to 18 inches in width. And trust me, two inches can be the difference between feeling crowded by the armrest, and bruising your hips. So call up the airline and chat about the seat measurements, length of seatbelts, legroom, and their policies for passengers of size. Want to skip this step? Lia Garcia of Practical Wanderlust recommends flying Southwest, her favorite “fat-positive” airline, and grabbing “one or two extra seats as needed.” It’s really easy to get a “refund for the extra seats after your trip.” All you have to do is call or email Southwest to receive a full refund of the extra seats. Plus, when you book a second seat, you’re automatically included in the early boarding group. 

    Don’t bank on premium economy 

    It’ll save your knees, but not your hips or thighs. While these seats have more legroom, they usually aren’t any wider. Forget booking an exit row—some airlines don’t allow passengers of size to sit in these seats (because fat people don’t deserve to exit the burning plane first, apparently). Business-class seats are substantially roomier, but way spendy. If you have no budget for upgrades, Hannah Logan of Eat Sleep Breathe Travel advises ditching the use of tray tables, and bringing your own bottled drinks to “stick in the seat pocket” instead. 

    Be your own best ally 

    Request to be moved next to an empty seat at check-in, and again after boarding if you spot any. Ask to board early if you want extra time, and for a seatbelt extender if you need one. You deserve to be comfortable and safe. Like Jes Baker, author of Landwhale, says, “Be kind to YOU. There is no reason for self-flagellation when you walk down a plane aisle. You deserve to be treated like a human just like every other passenger…every single time.” 

    By Chris Ciolli
    Illustration by Maia Boakye
    This article originally appeared in the October/November 2018 print issue of BUST. Subscribe today!

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  • JodyWatley 9128cJody Watley performing on the Ultimate Disco Cruise

    I’m a long-time live music fan and I have the scars to prove it. The first Lollapalooza festival in 1991 was so hot, Corey Glover from Living Colour doused the crowd with a fire hose. I caught the spray full in the face and was knocked painfully to the ground into a sea of stampeding Doc Martens. And at the 1993 HFStival at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C., I moshed to the front row during Iggy Pop’s set, only to be crushed against the retaining wall by a huge crowd surge once INXS took the stage. Security had to drag me over the wall before I lost consciousness, and I remember lying on a medical cot under the stage while Michael Hutchence’s distorted vocals boomed over my head.

    My love for live music hasn’t diminished in the last 25 years, but my tolerance for music festival mayhem certainly has. I don’t want to endure abject human suffering just to see a great group of bands. Which is why my experience aboard the Celebrity Infinityfor the Ultimate Disco Cruise—a floating music festival that took attendees from Miami to Key West to the Bahamas and back from February 10-15—was such an absolute game-changer for me.

    To my delight, the retro-soul lineup assembled on the ship was as good as anything I’ve endured heatstroke for on land. Over the course of five days, I saw stellar mainstage performances by the Commodores, the Jacksons (Jackie, Tito, & Marlon to be exact), Sister Sledge, KC and the Sunshine Band, and Shalamar Reloaded featuring Jody Watley; as well as a series of high-energy afternoon showcases dominated by amazing women from the disco era, including Anita Ward, Maxine Nightingale, France Joli, Linda Clifford, Norma Jean Wright, and my absolute favorite—Martha Wash, the former Weather Girl with a voice as big as the ocean itself.

    Martha efa71Martha Wash on the Pool Deck

    It was the promise of these great performances that got me on the boat. But what I never anticipated was how luxurious a concert-going experience like this could actually be. There wasn’t a bad seat in the ship’s Celebrity Theater where all the main concerts took place. Every row was lined with plush banquettes punctuated with little drink trays. You could sit or stand, dance at your seat or jump up and down and grasp the hand of the lead singer down at the lip of the stage. There was plenty of room for everyone in a relaxed, climate-controlled atmosphere where handsome waiters were always standing by ready to refresh drinks. (By the end of the cruise, I didn’t even need to ask for my Diet Coke—it just arrived!)

    CelebrityTheater d42aeThe Commodores at the mainstage Celebrity Theater

    And that was just one of the venues. During the day, the great divas of disco performed out on the pool deck where the main swimming pool had been covered over to create a fun open-air concert hall. Sun worshippers could stretch out on chaise lounges and enjoy the tunes with frosty daiquiris and veggie burgers from the BBQ grill in hand. Amateur dancing queens spun and twirled with their pals in the open area in front of the stage. And the aquatically inclined took it all in while soaking in hot tubs or floating in the lap pool.

    onDeck e8f01Bee Gees Gold rocking the Pool Deck

    Once the mainstage shows had concluded and a fancy dinner had been served in the formal dining room, that’s when the real decision-making process for music fans began. Every night there were first-rate tribute bands covering hits by ABBA; the Bee Gees; Earth, Wind, and Fire; and more, doing late-night sets. The karaoke bar was bumpin’. And celebrity DJs including Nicky Siano, Bob Pantano, and Felipe Rose (of the Village People) revived Studio 54 in a dining room tricked out with a light-up Saturday Night Fever floor beneath a spinning disco ball.

    Studio55 842baNightclub "Studio 55"

    Meanwhile, the midnight buffet was its own amazing scene where fans could easily meet their idols post-show. (I’m a shy creeper, so watching Debbie Sledge eat salad in an oversized hoodie and snapping a pic of Marlon and Tito Jackson eating oatmeal together at dawn were highlights for me.) Foxy session musicians were always hanging out there swapping war stories with other bands over slices of pie in this sprawling space, and more than a few love (or lust) connections were made before closing time.

    Jacksons 41ba7Marlon and Tito Jackson eating oatmeal

    Which led to possibly the most luxurious aspect of the Ultimate Disco Cruise. All my life, the high of going to a music festival was always immediately tempered by the crushing despair of trying to exit a venue en masse. Lining up to clear the grounds, hours of traffic to leave parking areas, or risking life and limb to jam myself into late-night mass transit, followed by more walking or driving or whatever to get home after a show. It all eventually became too much to endure. But in this miraculous musical Shangri-La at sea, once the last encore was played and I had left it all on the dance floor, a fluffy hotel bed overlooking the ocean was just an elevator ride away every night. It was the greatest feeling ever to rock till I dropped, crash in my room immediately afterward, and then get up in the morning feeling refreshed and ready for more.

    stateroom 888d0Heaven after a long night of bustin' moves

    For a music fan like me, it was a level of pleasure I didn’t think was even possible. And I can’t wait to do it all again.

    studio54 b105bThe author and her paramour on the dance floor

     ***

    The Ultimate Disco Cruise is a production of StarVista Live, a company that specializes in curating music festivals at sea for multiple genres, including The 70s Rock & Romance Cruise, The Country Music Cruise, The Flower Power Cruise, The Southern Rock Cruise, The Soul Train Cruise, and the Malt Shop Memories Cruise. Info for those cruises is available at StarVistaLive.com.

    Tickets for the next year’s Ultimate Disco Cruise, sailing from February 22 - 27, 2021, are already on sale and headliners will include Kool & the Gang, Expose, Bonnie Pointer, and A Taste of Honey. Find out more at UltimateDiscoCruise.com.

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    An imperial city with a seedy communist past, Budapest sits directly at the intersection of glamour and grit. By night, the “Capital of Freedom” is an illuminated fairytale split in half by the black waters of the Danube river, animated by partiers both foreign and domestic. By day, it’s a bustling capital boasting Turkish influences, Habsburg history, and the many scars of war. Like any good love affair, this affordable Central European gem is a heady combination of pleasure and history, destined to seduce even the most seasoned traveler.

    Shop
    Budapest has two main shopping centers, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Andrássy Avenue, and the Jewish Quarter. Sandwiched between the two you’ll find boutiques boasting distinctly Hungarian designs. Don’t miss Margot (Irányi u. 10, 1056), a boutique hosting only female Hungarian designers and hyper-feminine looks. It’s staffed by the designers themselves, so you’ll get the chance to chat about the pieces—like a pink velvet wide-brimmed hat or a leather handbag covered in hand-drawn naked ladies—with the women who made them. Then mosey on down to The Garden Studio (Paulay Ede u. 18, 1061) or Lollipop Factory(Király u. 24, 1061) for some seriously eclectic designs that could only be found in Eastern Europe. Think metallic hot pants, jewelry made from AstroTurf, and looks inspired by retro-futurism. For more sophisticated pieces hit Nanushka (Bécsi u. 3, 1052), run by a husband-and-wife team quickly gaining an international following for their satin dresses.

    WmEE5r1W 04536The Garden Studio

    TLfLYpsO 3b870Lollipop Factory

    Bathe
    Budapest is perhaps most famous for its thermal baths, and rightly so. Where else is it socially acceptable, nay, encouraged, to spend entire days soaking in hot water while drinking wine? The Turkish bath known as Rudas (Döbrentei tér 9, 1013) is a true Hungarian treasure. Floating around among the steam, waterfalls, and Medieval architecture, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another world where pleasure reigns and wine is cheaper than water. Since it’s open until 4 a.m. on weekends and boasts an on-site bar and nap room, there’s no reason to cut the fantasy short. Gellért Thermal Baths (Kelenhegyi út 4, 1118) is another local favorite. This art nouveau masterpiece is not to be missed by lovers of indulgence or architecture.

    iBkWlqu0 29d0fGellért Thermal Baths

    Eat
    For dinner, stop by Onyx (Vörösmarty tér 7, 1051) to explore Michelin-starred interpretations of Hungarian cuisine. What’s Hungarian cuisine like? It’s basically comfort food whipped up by the most loving grandmother in the world—hot stews, potato dishes, and lots and lots of cheese. If you like a more traditional approach, grab a table at Drum Cafe (Dob u. 2, 1072) for hearty fare and decadent desserts flavored with nostalgia. Hungarians are famous for their sweets, so don’t miss the honey cake or palacsinta (Hungarian crepes). After a night of partying, score some langos—deep fried dough covered in garlic, sour cream, and local cheese—Hungary’s national hangover cure, on virtually any street corner.

    vQ1J509q 3a3f2Onyx

    Drink
    Iconic buildings destroyed by war, then reclaimed decades later by a bunch of aesthetically minded young folks in need of a place to party—what could be more Hungarian than Budapest’s famous ruin pubs? Don’t miss the gorgeous restaurant and ruin pub Mazel Tov (Akácfa u. 47, 1072), serving up artisan cocktails and Israeli fare. Just next door is the grungy, psychedelic Fogasház Kert(Akácfa u. 49-51, 1073). Eastern Europe might not always be the most friendly place for queer folk, but you can certainly find a safe haven at Auróra (Auróra u. 11, 1084), a queer community space, nightclub, and bagel shop. And of course, you can’t miss the one that started it all, the original ruin pub, Szimpla Kert (Kazinczy u. 14, 1075). Go on a weekday to skip the crowd. 

    6VdwhFLY c4ebaSzimpla Kert

    Culture
    Beauty abounds in Budapest. Fisherman’s Bastion, a lookout point on the Castle Hill (Szentháromság tér, 1014), hosts romantic views of the Danube. Art lovers can head to the nearby Hungarian National Gallery (Szent György tér 2, 1014) inside Buda Castle to see the most beloved pieces of Hungarian art. For a more mystical experience, glide over to Gellért Hill Cave and wander around the once forbidden Cave Church (Szent Gellért tér 1, 1111). Conquered time and time again, Budapest still showcases art bearing the influences of its many invaders, while remaining true to Hungarian culture. One of the best examples of the singularly Hungarian cultural legacy is the Museum of Applied Arts (Üllői út 33-37, 1091), which spotlights the architectural elements that have made Budapest so strangely majestic.

    8ZKGQc5B c0c55Fisherman's Bastion

    By Isabella Beham
    Photographed by Anna Illés
    Top photo: Buda Castle on Castle Hill
    This piece originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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    Known for its past as an audacious gambling hub complete with brightly lit neon-signed motels, Reno has evolved beyond its “smaller Vegas” stereotype to host a thriving and dynamic arts culture (thanks, in part, to its proximity to Burning Man). Stay away from the gaudy nightlife of the casinos and instead dive straight into the heart of the city, where locals are friendly and good times are aplenty.

    thedeluxe c3209The DeLuxe

    FOOD + DRINKS

    To indulge like a true local, head to The Little Nugget(233 N. Virginia St.), a classic throwback to ’50s diner culture, for their famous “Awful Awful” burger. The name’s origin is a secret, and a misnomer—it’s Reno’s favorite greasy late-night meal. For healthier options, you can’t go wrong with the variety of eateries at West Street Market(148 West St.). For Reno’s freshest wood fired pizza, check out the Pizza Collective. Vegan food lovers should try The DeLuxe, where you can relish savory dishes such as vegan bahn mi and mushroom tacos. Stop by Sol, Reno’s one and only kava bar, where they mix up tasty and healing herbal tonics and teas with the plant, known for its calming properties. Top off your market trip with dessert at Icecycle Creamery, whose ice cream bar is stacked with signature flavors like honey butter cornbread and rosemary chocolate chip. Just down the street, grab drinks at The Eddy(16 S. Sierra St.); with an open courtyard and games like bocce ball, it feels more like an adult playground than a bar.

    awfulawful b552aThe "Awful Awful" burger at The Little Nugget

    COFFEE + TREATS

    For a sweet morning treat, take a peek at the glorious array of options at Holey Schmidt Donuts (490 S. Center St.). With flavors like Oreo, red velvet, and cheesecake, this shop will titillate the taste buds of any fried dough fiend. Walk by the river and grab coffee from Hub on Riverside (727 Riverside Dr.), which has the best view of any coffee shop in Reno. If you’re looking to step up your typical latte, Old World Coffee Lab (104 California Ave.) houses the Mocha Dragata, a double shot espresso with milk and a cinnamon, cayenne, and allspice blend—this signature drink is unparalleled!

    icecyclecreamery 5bbbcIcecycle Creamery

    OUTDOORS

    Reno is famous for effortless natural beauty, including its gorgeous, rosy pink sunsets—catch one while walking through Reno’s Riverwalk District along the Truckee River. For something a little more adventurous, try BaseCamp Climbing Gym(255 N. Virginia St.). Once a colossal casino, the building now hosts the largest climbing wall in the world. For a trip outside the city limits, the easily accessible mountains are perfect for day hikes and weekend camping (Lake Tahoe is only 45 minutes away!).

    RENO8HubonRiverside Riverwalk District ElspethSummers 1e3d0Hub on Riverside in the Riverwalk District

    SHOP

    For the best treasure hunting and most unique finds, walk through Reno’s midtown district. With a host of fresh female-owned shops, you are sure to find a statement piece or gem of a gift. One of the most iconic spots is Junkee(960 S. Virginia St.). Reminiscent of a colorful New Orleans parade, the large space is a truly eclectic source for all things costume and vintage. For more curated vintage and the latest trends with feminist flair, check out Bad Apple Vintage(1001 S. Virginia St.). For an unexpected gift, hit up Natural Selection(39 St. Laurence Ave.), a contemporary taxidermy shop with hanging succulents, petrified bugs and spiders, and a myriad of bones.

    junkee 84cc4Junkee

    ARTS+CULTURE

    As one of the most distinguished architectural achievements in the city, the Nevada Museum of Art(160 W. Liberty St.) is a visual masterpiece both inside and out. For a far less polished, much more intimate experience with Reno’s underground arts culture, check out the music at The Holland Project(140 Vesta St.), where you can hear everything from electro synth pop to neo grunge, a true rebel girl’s fantasy. See local plays and art exhibits at the PotentialistWorkshop (836 E 2nd St.), or hit Dickerson Art District (Dickerson St.), which houses a series of artist collectives and creative businesses including Reno Art Works(1995 Dickerson Rd). The creative space hosts regular art installations and also sells work from resident artists, who create everything from jewelry to multimedia wall hangings. No matter what you’re into, there is bound to be a place for you in the biggest little city! 

    potentialist c308dPotentialist workshop

    naturalselection 23800Natural Selection

    By Yolo Mana Yarrow
    Photographed by Elspeth Summers
    Top photo: Reno Arch
    This article originally appeared in the October/November 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • Lit Ferris Wheel, Steel Pier, Atlantic City

    I have to admit, before this year, I always kind of took Atlantic City, NJ, for granted. Las Vegas’ grungier, East Coast counterpart, this seaside vacation town is where my grandparents on both sides all spent their humble honeymoons and was the setting for a seedy 1980 crime drama starring Susan Sarandon. But a recent visit to the shiny, new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino—a miraculous re-build over the remains of Donald Trump’s dismal Taj Mahal—really opened my eyes to what safe travel can look like in the COVID era while reminding me that “Work From Home” can really mean “Work From Anywhere.”

    By the time I made it to the Hard Rock with my guy, I was in pretty rough shape. As someone at higher risk for COVID, I had been living as a virtual prisoner in my tiny East Village N.Y.C. apartment for the past six months. Whenever I tried to venture out for a little sun or a nice walk, I was scared back inside by streets crowded with maskless partiers with To-Go cups of cocktails; sick, displaced folks in hospital gowns doing hard drugs in front of boarded up businesses; and even a parade of maskless strangers from NYU heavily laden with beer making their may to my roof for a clandestine party. It just didn’t seem worth it to even try anymore. My skin turned gray, there were dark circles under my worried eyes, and the health risks of living like veal were beginning to compete with the dangers of the virus.

    So when I was invited to Hard Rock’s Atlantic City location to check out the new Safe + Sound protocols being put into place at all of their destinations worldwide, the idea of spending a few days with plenty of uncrowded outdoor space and indoor areas being maintained in strict accordance with CDC guidelines sounded literally like a breath of fresh air. I couldn’t get there fast enough.

    Ac2 0d456 Atlantic City is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Manhattan, so my guy and I were able to pay a friend with a car to get us there safely. But the real safety party began at the front door to the hotel. Posted at every entrance was a security guard with thermal scanning equipment ensuring that nobody running a fever could get in. We also had to answer a lengthy list of questions about possible COVID exposure. The place is an anti-viral fortress.

    Thermal 2aa8d Once inside, there were more security guards maintaining 100% mask compliance and social distancing while making sure nobody was eating or drinking outside strictly designated areas. Smoking was prohibited everywhere, the front desk was walled off by plexiglass dividers, and so was every seat at every table throughout the entire casino, making the few gamblers and dealers on the floor look like rare exhibits under glass. 
    Plexi 0d433Hand sanitizer dispensers were absolutely everywhere, and a literal army of staff wearing bright yellow Safe + Sound shirts were buzzing around like an army of helpful bees constantly disinfecting every surface in sight. The few times I ventured into public bathrooms they were always in the process of being cleaned and signs outside informed visitors that every restroom was being cleaned hourly.
    Cleaning 85dba

    After a completely contactless check-in, we took our bags up to our ocean-view room and had to break a seal that had been placed on our door signifying that the space we were entering had passed a 272-point inspection process. The room smelled like lavender and fresh linen. Sun was shining in through the curtains and waves were rolling in on the nearly empty beach below. I had just arrived and already I never wanted to leave.
    room e085a

    What followed was a whirlwind of totally revitalizing days spent walking the historic boardwalk, gazing out to sea watching surfers ride the sparkling September waves, swimming in the blissfully uncrowded pool, basking on the socially distanced sun deck, playing the sanitized slots (my lucky machine was Pac Man), racing go-karts on Central Pier, melting into an amazing fully-masked massage at the Rock Spa, and generally reminding myself how to be a happy, fully-functioning person again. I even managed to get work done—while the desk in our room was perfectly adequate for a day or two, I found that answering emails while propped up on six pillows in the enormous king-sized bed made me feel like the Queen of BUST Magazine.

    Montage 67858 The part of the trip I was most nervous about before I arrived was eating, so I packed a few things for the room’s mini fridge. But I quickly realized that I could safely navigate feeding myself outside of what I brought, too. My favorite meal was a decadent old-school room-service breakfast—the rolling cart with the coffee and the fruit and the toast and all those little pots of jam—heaven!  RoomService ba1de

    Another great meal was had when we found the Hard Rock outpost of the famous Atlantic City sub shop White House (a local institution since 1946!) in the “Flavor Tour” food court area. We grabbed a couple of huge sandwiches and sodas and ate them in a deserted outdoor area that pre-COVID was a bar but now functioned as a perfect place to eat overlooking the ocean. When I saw how truly far apart the tables at the indoor dining options were and how few diners were allowed to eat there at a time, we also decided to try a sit-down place called Sugar Factory. It was there that we had the most memorable drinking experience of our stay—an enormous goblet of blue, boozy, fizzy, blue-raspberry-flavored craziness that smoked and bubbled like a cauldron and had jawbreakers and blue gummy bears floating amongst the ice cubes. The snaps I took of my guy doing battle with that beverage were by far the most popular on social media.
    BigDrink 33a2c

    We enjoyed our time in Atlantic City so much we decided to stay an extra day. In fact, we’re already planning to return to the Jersey Shore (assuming New Jersey’s COVID transmission rate stays among the lowest in the nation at around 2%) the next time the quarantine blues become too much to bear. That being said, however, it should be noted that during my boardwalk explorations I did peek inside a few other oceanside casino resorts and the safety measures in those places were not comparable to those I experienced at the Hard Rock. I didn’t see thermal scanners at the door anywhere else and if there were extra cleaning crews on-hand, they were not an obvious visible presence like where I was staying. The whole Safe + Sound program definitely put my mind at ease during my first outing away from home since the COVID crisis began and helped me re-capture a little glimmer or normalcy during a very abnormal time. If Americans are ever allowed to travel to other countries again, I’ll be tempted to look for Hard Rock resorts outside the U.S.before deciding where to visit next.

    Sunset a2981

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