Confessions of a Beach Hater: 7 Reasons Memorial Day in the City is Amazing

While you’re sitting in expressway traffic and getting your first sunburn of the season, I’ll be reveling in the ghost town you’ve left behind.

Image courtesy of Davio's

Image courtesy of Davio’s

If you want everyone in the room to leer at you like you’re a gnarled-face, infant-eating freak, simply utter the following four words: “I hate the beach.”

You may now begin sharpening your edged weapons and firing up your medieval torches.


Sand, umbrellas, flip-flops, board shorts, funnel cake — I don't get it. And judging by the horrified reactions this has garnered over the years, that’s a red-flag indicator of my latent serial-killer tendencies, on par with spree arson or shooting squirrels dead with a pellet gun.

My idea of a vacation, away from the ulcer-inducing existence of sardine-can city life, has never included interminable melanoma tanning sessions, armies of shrieking children with oddly shaped sunburns or power-tripping pencil-necked teenagers demanding you pay them for sitting on hills of hot dirt. And that doesn't even factor in getting there, wasting away for days in traffic so thick you could flip it upside down and hold it there like a DQ Blizzard. This ain't garden-variety New Jersey hate, either. I grew up in Maryland, with that state's Ocean City hosting our summer trips, feeling the exact same way.

I've got nothing against beach-town natives, business owners, shoobies and the seasonal residents who love it so. I've just never comprehended the idea of the shore as this mystical Brigadoon-like place that rejuvenates the human spirit. As a destination, it’s boring to me. Yet still, telling people "I’m not a beach person" is almost always met with a deep revulsion I find both amusing and confusing. I might as well throw on a crude sandwich board detailing a disdain for babies, bacon and Beyoncé.

Being a pariah, however, does have its annual perks.

We're coming up on Memorial Day, the holiest of all beachophobe feasts. That's because the people itching to ditch this crowded city, sit gridlocked on a crowded highway and cram into a crowded shore town are getting the hell out, freeing up so much cubic space that walks down the street begin resembling the dream sequence from the beginning of Vanilla Sky.

In many ways, the first SPF-30 exodus of the summer season is creepy, like a real-life version of that new HBO show where 2 percent of the world's population evaporates. The city becomes staid and eerie. Certain places close. Certain services shut down. Many of your friends skate, not to mention the randos you know (that one guy who sits on his stoop; that one girl who walks by with her dog), suddenly unable to fill their unwitting roles as Truman Show extras in your daily narrative. Acquaintances start dressing in ill-fitting monochromatic outfits and muttering cryptic thoughts about the reckoning to an enraged Justin Theroux. Wait, that’s from that new HBO show.

If you're anything like me, though, the positives of shore-induced ghost city syndrome far outweigh the initial uneasiness:

  • Take a lap around your neighborhood and soak in the calm.
  • With all the out-of-town plates out of town, there are a million vacant parking spots.
  • You actually have time and space to get some thinking and relaxing done on a park bench, without some macchiato-sipping toolbox attempting to scare you away with dirty looks.
  • Biking is far less treacherous.
  • Restaurants and bars that are typically cramped begin offering breathing room as a special.
  • There's no line at anything (except maybe this new place that offers sushi shaped like a burrito).
  • Most vitally, many of those who stay back seem genuinely thrilled at the prospect of a quiet, streamlined city experience, and the feeling is contagious.

Considering the rare joy I associate with this long weekend, you might be left wondering why I bother living in a city in the first place. I love the day-to-day, but it's the sheer novelty of access to a decluttered version of urban existence that's so appealing to me. It's like being turned loose in Six Flags after hours, with quick access to rides and no bros in basketball jerseys threatening to fight you because you accidentally grazed their calves waiting for Kingda Ka. Beach lovers might see the shore as the ultimate summer getaway, but that means the beachophobic get the entire city as a consolation prize. You won't catch me complaining.

By this Tuesday, beachfeet seekers will be back on their work-a-day grind, marking off the seconds until it's professionally appropriate to dip out of the office and back into the turn-and-burn shore cycle. If you need me, you know where I'll be — holding down the fort, and having a hell of a time doing it.

Follow @DrewLazor on Twitter.

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  • http://www.louperseghin.com/ Lou Perseghin

    I never leave the city on Memorial Day. It’s probably my favorite weekend of the year to be in Philly. Looking forward to a long walk, a long bike ride, and dinner without reservations wherever I feel like.

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  • Robert Wright

    I’ve got some fun events for those staying IN the city this weekend… :) http://www.oneupevents.com

  • Felicia D’Ambrosio

    Brilliant.

  • Suzanne Dreitlein

    I totally get this. I used to say that I loved New York on a holiday when everyone went away. Philly’s like that all the time and even better when it’s a holiday here. We’ll be enjoying our empty city as well!

    • das kraze

      exactly!..I call it, getting the city back..

  • Monica Marie

    Times Square? Really?

  • Joseph Haas

    Just as well that some people don’t care for the shore – it gets crowded enough. Looking very forward to my brief stay in Cape May next month.

  • matthew brandley

    Philly. Always best spent in town

  • Rebecca

    Fellow Marylander says, “Right on!!” I won’t set foot in OC during ‘the season’ – I just don’t get it. Nice to know there really are others out there who feel the same.

  • HollyMoore

    You don’t get funnel cake?

  • Helen Azar

    Ditto :)

  • https://twitter.com/PhillyBestBYOB Philly’s Best BYOBs

    +1

  • Daniel

    A-f***ing-men.

  • Debbie Thomas

    I love this article. It’s nice to know there are others out there that don’t like the beach.

  • tom

    What a poor miserable fool this guy is. I almost feel bad for his lack of knowledge as a writer. Also, the people he speaks of are also oblivious to a way better option. Puerto Rico. Hop on a plane for reasonable price, fly 3.5 hours (the time it most likely takes to commute to the beach in the northeast), get a reasonably priced hotel (way cheaper than up there), and enjoy paradise. I never understood why people went to those cesspools they call beaches of NY, NJ, and MD, when there is a cheaper way better option just a short plane ride away. Maybe it’s because the uninformed still think they need a passport to get to the tropical paradise. In the mean time, stay up there, and I’ll go buy a $1 Medalla (local beer) and sit on a deserted beach in Pinones.

    • Heather

      Cool. Could you stay there?

  • Minnie

    Great article! My feelings exactly!

  • Emily Teel

    Preach, Lazor, preach.

  • Ray

    Hahaha! Very good!