Axe throwing: the new urban craze

Could this be the new cornhole?

When my mother-in-law emailed me a link to an article on the new axe throwing craze, I found the idea amusing but stupid. "Psh. I'll never do something that lame," I announced to my husband. "Who the hell would pay money to throw an axe at a wall?"

However, over time, my attitude changed. I was headed to Austin, Texas for a vacation, and I'd read a few blogs that mentioned Urban Axes as a fun place to while away an hour or two. A coworker confided that she found axe throwing invigorating. Perhaps this wasn't the dumbest idea I'd ever heard of.

I'm not alone in wanting to try odd new outings. In comparison to previous generations, millennials prefer to spend their hard earned dough on experiences rather than possessions. We were either in diapers or not born yet during the 1980's "greed is good" phase, and our spending habits reflect this. Traveling, craft beer brewing, and whitewater rafting - while these are all embraced by my generation, they are also omnipresent and we get tired of them quickly. That means companies need to up the ante to keep us interested. Axe throwing fits the bill nicely.

Diving in

Several weeks after that email my husband and I rolled up to what appeared to be a dusty airport hangar in a less than desirable part of town. Entering through a heavy door emblazoned with the Urban Axes logo, we stepped inside what looked like a sparsely furnished barn filled with half open batting cages. Each half-cage had a hastily constructed wooden target nailed to the back wall, which was covered in battle scars of past hits. Set in between every pair of cages was a frayed stump in which two axes were wedged. There were multiple people dressed in plaid shirts, skinny jeans, and ironic tee-shirts scattered throughout. Clearly, we had discovered the hipster mecca. I felt rather underdressed in my circa 2005 Gap Outlet tank top and powder blue shorts. What a time to be without my "I put the FU in fun" tee. Though underwhelmed by the austerity of the place, we gamely forked over $20 each for an hour session and sat down to wait for our turn at "bat."

The Urban Axe employees were a diverse-looking bunch. One girl sported a shaved head and overalls, several of the men combined man buns with hipster beards, and our trainer was a burly fellow wearing a shirt that said "My other shirt is a beard."

Only you can prevent axe-idents

Zach, as he was called, led us into our roped area where we would begin our session. He first proceeded to go over guidelines for safely handling axes and trading places with other participants. For each pair of cages there were six participants; each person would get approximately 20 minutes of axe throwing time per hour, enjoyed during rotating five-minute sessions. No one was to hand off an axe to anyone else, instead, it was to be jammed into the wooden stump for the next person to grab. He instructed us to grip the axe tightly with both hands, lean back on the right foot and hoist the axe over our head for the windup, then step forward as the momentum would help propel the axe towards the target after we let it go.

While I appreciated the emphasis on safety, I found a few things mildly disconcerting. After going over the safety instructions, Zach informed us that the beer fridge was open for business. Booze and sharp objects didn't seem the most prudent combination, but hey, beer makes everything better, right? Another element that didn't quite augur well was the fact that while there was a half batting cage enclosing the space surrounding the target, there was nothing to stop a wayward axe from slipping from someone's hands during their backswing. I quietly pointed this out to my husband and we edged to the side a few feet in the event a sweaty axe slipped from an inebriated grip. Luckily, my fears were unfounded and we experienced no major incidents.

Let that sucker fly!

When it was my turn, I gripped the axe and went through a few practice swings. It was substantial but was probably under five pounds in weight. I reared back and let it fly…straight into the wall above the target, where it hit with a dull thwack and fell to the ground. As my athletic prowess is, shall we say, underdeveloped, this was an unsurprising outcome. Zach coached me on my subsequent throws, showing me the windup and guiding me on when to let go, which resulted in more than a few solid hits. I ended up hitting the target more than once and even managed a bulls-eye. Much like making firm contact with a baseball, the thunk sound of the axe stuck in the target elicited a warm sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. The cheers from the other participants didn't hurt either.

In what seemed like no time, our hour was finished and Zach thanked us for stopping by. While I don't think I'll be back to let an axe fly any time soon, it was a memorable (and unique) way to wind down an afternoon. To those looking for a way to get in touch with their inner woodsman (without actually chopping wood), I would definitely recommend trying your hand at axe throwing.

With all these millennials flocking to new, weird activities, those craving an experience that is truly unlike any other will have look even harder find the path less traveled. There may very well come a time when naked yoga, cheese rolling, and street sliding could be commonplace. Our generation gets tired of things so quickly (does anyone remember planking?) who knows what weird stuff we'll dream up next.

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If you've googled one thing during this pandemic, it is definitely: "Thai food near me."

Thai food has remained one of the most delicious and sought after takeout gems; and in New York City, specifically, there are so many delicious options that it can be overwhelming. Often unlike Chinese food, Thai food offers fresher ingredients and versatile cuisine options. Whether you want some Pad Thai or Pad See Ew, or some coconut milk-infused curry or even just some soup, Thai food is good for any occasion. But with so many options, how do you know you're getting the freshest ingredients at the best price? Here are the best spots to order take-out from, and we even broke it up by borough for you.


Manhattan: Fish Cheeks

Fish Cheeks

Reviewed by The Times as "fresh, vivid and intense," Fish Cheeks offers solid takes on traditional Thai Cuisine. Their speciality remains seafood, so their Crab Friend Rice and Coconut Crab Curry are delicious highlights. Their Tum Yum is also to die for, made with fresh galanagal, lime leaves and lemongrass.

The version [of tum yum] here hums with fresh galangal, lime leaves and lemongrass. Shrimp and knobby mushrooms simmer in a broth that gets extra body from milk, a twist I've never seen before but one I approve of. It could be spicier, but the use of bird's-eye chiles is far from shy.

Manhattan: Lan Larb

thia food

Arguably some of the best Pad Thai in the city, Lan Larb is focused mainly on the food of Thailand's northeast region. As a result, there is often a combo of meat and seafood involved in most dishes, such as the Lao Chicken Soup, which combines fresh chicken with pickled fish and a steamy brown broth. The menu will make your tastebuds whirl if you're one for experimentation, if not, their Pad Thai is iconic and filling enough on its own.

Brooklyn: Ugly Baby

Brooklyn has always been teeming with amazing Thai food joints, but Ugly Baby is the borough's most established success story. The Carrol Gardens sensation was preceded by two long gone Red Hook restaurants known for their authentic Northern Thai cuisine. With Ugly Baby, a name which comes from an ancient belief in Thailand that ugly children bring good fortune, chef Sirichai Sreparplarn had mastered his craft. The restaurant quickly gained glowing praise throughout Brooklyn and New York, and their take on Khao Soi Nuer and Kao Tod Nam Klook remain the stuff of legends.

Queens: Ayada

ayada thai

Ayada's cuisine is so good that it made a New York Times journalist cry at his table. Not out of emotion though, but out of spice. For those looking for a truly bold eating experience, this Queens Thai restaurant holds nothing back when crafting their drunken noodles or Pad Thai, but that spice is what makes it one of the best spots in the city.

Bronx: Ceetay

​While the Bronx isn't necessarily a buzzing Thai food borough, Ceetay's asian fusion cuisine is of the highest quality and will appeal to anyone desperately needing to nom on some noodles. Their sushi is amazing but their Pad Thai is packed with amazing flavor. Seasoned with onions, peppers, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, peanuts, scallions and cilantro, this Pad Thai is packed with flavors and will slam your taste buds in the best possible way.

Travel

5 Countries to Visit This Fall

As the weather starts to chill out, we're just getting warmed up to travel

It's not winter yet!

So that means, we're all about that fall travel. It's a beautiful time of year to be outside in many countries, soaking up the colorful landscapes and fresh air. Here are our picks for the top places to visit this fall.

1. Germany

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Burg Eltz Castle is a magical step back into the Middle Ages that's been here for more than 850 years.

2. Switzerland

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The red leaves in Bern are absolutely striking.

3. Italy

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Nothing like the sheer beauty of the formidable Italian alps.

4. Peru

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Machu Picchu beckons visitors from near and far this fall.

5. Mexico

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It's not too cold to skip the beach!

Everyone has heard of the murder-hotel where dark shadows creep at the edge of your vision, or the abandoned house where the furniture moves each time you leave the room.

But sometimes the places set up to capture the fun and fright of the Halloween season for paying customers can be far more horrifying than any ghost stories. These "fake" haunted houses will leave you genuinely haunted.



Pennhurst Haunted Asylum

So spoooky!

Thomas James Caldwell

Pennhurst Asylum was in operation from 1908-1987 in the small town of Spring City, Pennsylvania. While we don't have all the records of the residents' experiences there, it doesn't take much imagination to realize that this building was home to true horrors. In many ways, 1908 wasn't that long ago, but in terms of mental health treatment—especially in small-town Pennsylvania—it was absolutely the dark ages. This was the time of lobotomies, straight jackets, and shock therapy. Whatever the jump scares and fake blood contribute to the fear you will feel walking through Pennhurst Asylum's aging, echoing halls, they can't come close to the deep, sinking feeling caused by the deep history of torment that has left its imprint on the very fabric of the place. Four spooky skulls out of five.

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Haunted Trap House

Like this, but less 90s

In Centreville, Maryand, in the year 1989, a group of visionaries were struck by a bolt of inspiration. What if—instead of zombies and werewolves and demons, and all the stuff out of children's nightmares—what if they filled their haunted house with the real-world nightmares that were actually infesting their city, killing their residents, and generally afflicting every corner of the entire nation. Thus, the Haunted Crack House was born. Since renamed the Haunted Trap House, it's ostensibly an educational experience on the dangers of drug use, it features simulations of overdoses, arrests, and shootings, as well as actual former convicts who are paid to draw on their real experiences to make your visit as terrifying as possible. This kind of fetishizing of human misery to capitalize on the Halloween season is as despicable as it is spooky. Four-and-a-half skulls out of five.

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McKamey Manor

He technically consented to this

A $20,000 reward? A 40-page waiver? These figures have garnered a lot of attention in recent headlines. Supposedly this is the "scariest" haunted house experience in the country. Who could resist the temptation of that once-in-a-lifetime experience, combined with the chance to win a big cash prize? Unfortunately, that is exactly what Russ McKay wants. There's a reason he's put so much work into the legal side of his operation. Rather than gassing up neutered chainsaws and chasing you around in a hockey mask, McKay has opted for producing actual, real, straight-up torture. You may not find the decorations and costumes that scary, but you will absolutely fear for your life when you consent to be water-boarded with fake blood. For being operated by a man who is clearly an unhinged psychopath, McKamey Manor ties the Haunted Traphouse, with four-and-a-half spooky skulls.

💀💀💀💀.5/5

Donald Vann's House of Horrors

Donald Vann murdered eleven people. Happens to the best of us, but it does present a problem. How do you dispose of all those bodies? Donald's solution was to open a haunted house and put his victims' decaying remains on display as props. Props to him. For eight months he prepared his fetid, malodorous horrors, before debuting on October 1st. Unfortunately, you won't be able to visit his house of horrors, because he has since landed in some legal trouble—board of health, maybe?—but I'm sure for the lucky few who were able to visit during its brief tenure, and witness Vann's "psychotic smirk," I'm sure the nightmares they're left with keep on spooking.

💀💀💀💀💀/5

Every Hell House in America

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In the same vein as the Haunted Traphouse, Hell Houses are church presentations intended as educational experiences that warn kids and teens away from the path of sin. Their methods for achieving this obviously vary, but according to The Washington Post, you can generally expect the following: "A devil ushers a gay man dying of AIDS into the fiery pit. A teenager who is raped at a drug-filled rave commits suicide and also goes to hell. A young girl hemorrhaging from an abortion repents at the last minute." Awful. Truly sickening. What kind of trauma are they inflicting on these children to prop up their outdated ideologies? Six spooky skulls. Where'd that extra skull come from?? Nobody knows…

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