1. Rent mansions
My family’s first vacation house at Long Beach Island was a two-bedroom wooden bungalow with no air conditioning and a carpet that smelled like sand and feet. We’ve since upgraded to these insanely ginormous beachside mansions that sleep up to 15 people at a time. They’re absolutely beautiful, and probably the biggest house I’ll ever see in my entire life.
Standard features include spiral staircases leading up to sun decks, wrap-around porches, perfectly manicured lawns complete with hyacinth bushes, and kitschy beach decor like seashells in the bathrooms and “Life’s a Beach” welcome signs.
2. Spend all day at the beach
We get up at 8am, take our camping chairs out to the sand, sit in a circle, and pound vodka iced teas and Miller Lite until 4pm. The kids are totally content with making drip castles, and the adults all get a kick out of lying to the teenage patrollers about having the correct number of beach tags.
It doesn’t matter if there’s a hurricane, a hailstorm, or if it’s overcast and 65 degrees the entire week — we need to justify the insane cost of our beach house rental by sitting on the beach all day, dammit!
3. Eat ice cream every day
I never eat ice cream back home, but when I visit Stone Harbor, all 27 of my cousins and I make the trek to Springer’s Homemade Ice Cream to indulge in the “Springer’s Challenge” — eating a different flavor of ice cream every day.
It’s pretty obscene when you think about it, not to mention how terrible something like that is for your health. But it’s the kind of thing that’s like, “Well, I’m not going to eat ice cream for the rest of the year, so why the hell not.”
4. Ride weird modes of transportation
Not all of us have luxurious bike lanes back home, or even bikeable terrain, so we make the most of our active time by renting beach cruisers and just cycling up and down the islands all day long. Some people at the Jersey Shore go all out and rent tandems, or these crazy contraptions that seat eight people and are pedaled by four — sort of like a surrey with the fringe on top, but way more ridiculous.
5. Buy ironic t-shirts on the boardwalk
It’s not uncommon to see teenagers on the boardwalk brandishing neon-colored, silk-screened t-shirts printed with stuff like, “#1 Slut” and “OBAMAphone.”
MTV’s Jersey Shore made the boardwalk t-shirt print shop an iconic symbol of New Jersey trashiness, and ever since “T-Shirt Time!” became a thing to say before you headed out to work, people have been buying, “I pooped today!” “Sausage and peppers FTW,” and “Skinny Bitch” streetwear that they’d absolutely never be caught dead in off the boardwalk.
6. Walk around barefoot
It doesn’t matter that the blazing sun has made the blacktop streets unbearably hot, there’s no reason to wear shoes when the beach is two blocks away. Or when you’re BBQing in the backyard. Or when you’re shopping for seashells with googly eyes at the local craft fair. Or when you’re at church.
7. Pretend to enjoy gambling
At least once during our vacation, we end up in Atlantic City. We’ll breeze past the obese smokers and withering elderly folks squandering away their pensions, and slap a $100 buy-in on a craps table at Caesars Palace or lose $500 at a Texas Hold ’em station at the Trump Taj Mahal.
We all come home at 5am, feeling exhausted and dejected. As my uncle so aptly put it, “Just give me $20 for you to sit in a chair and do nothing, and it’ll be the same experience as playing the penny slots.”
8. Play cornhole
I feel like Bag-O (beanbag toss) is the croquet of the 21st century — it’s mostly played by a bunch of rich, white people wearing capris pants and button-down linen shirts, or frat guys at “game bars.” No one really knows how to play, so the rules change depending on whoever you’re playing against, and no one has thought of a way to make it into a drinking game yet.
9. Go to that “one” bar
Unless you’re in Seaside Heights or Wildwood, most of the smaller Jersey beach towns cater to sober types. Or at least, sober on the surface. It’s not really cool to hit up the one bar in town, since we have just as wild a time drinking at our beach mansions, with our hot tubs and soft patches of grass that feel extra nice when we face-plant into them.