Where to escape NYC to...

The City can be daunting to say the least, check out these other cultural hubs for a refreshing escape.

My story started like many other ambitious little girls who dreamt of growing up and becoming singers and actresses. From a very young age, I swore I'd move to New York City. Being the hard-headed, determined little girl that I was, I made it happen. I worked twice as hard throughout school to prove to my parents that I could handle the move and that investing in an education in the arts wouldn't be for naught. So, when I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed eighteen year old, I hit the road and moved to The Upper West Side to start college. I've been in New York for four years since and I can tell you it's no cake walk.

I feel like the burning question from one transplant to another is always, "How long have you been here?" Is it a way of sizing one another up? Commiserating? Who knows. When I just stated that I've been here for four years, my face flashes back to the tired eyes that told me their number. In hopes to never feel that tired or jaded, I've taken to traveling more and looking for an eventual second home base. Here's what I found!

Asheville, NC

OCTOBER 22: A colorful wall mural adorns a building in the quirky West Asheville neighborhood as viewed on October 22, 2016 in Asheville, North Carolina. Named one of the 'Top 10 Great Places to Retire' by AARP, Asheville is experiencing a major cultural revolution, with the addition of new residents, restaurants, live music, and a vibrant arts community.

(Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

To say that I am obsessed with Asheville is a mild understatement. My boyfriend was performing nearby last month, so I surprised him and bookended my trip with a solo adventure to Asheville. I had heard great things from friends who have passed through and I was not disappointed. I stayed at Bon Paul and Sharky's Hostel in West Asheville which is essentially Haywood Road. The area boasts a plethora of local bars, cafes, and organic grocery stores and seems to be mainly residential. Biscuit Head is famed for their biscuits and delicious breakfast. My favorite spot was Odd's Cafe which was right next door to my hostel and really great for coffee, small bites, and internet access. Lucky for me, the early bird that I am, most places in the area opened around 6 or 7am so I had somewhere to hang out while the rest of Asheville woke up.

If I ever were to move to Asheville, I would definitely opt for Downtown Asheville. The area reminds me of a smaller scale Williamsburg with added Southern comfort of course. There are tons of great spots to eat, my favorite being Farmburger which sports an amazing menu of customizable grass-fed burgers (and vegan options too!) and their own brewery on site. The feel of the city changes from block to block. There are some areas that feel more classic/family oriented while others seem to suit artists and entrepreneur types. My favorite thing about Asheville is their local music scene which seems to be both intimate but also thriving. Since I am a musician, it's certainly on my list for possible escapes from NYC.

Pros: Much cheaper than NYC (the average cost of a studio in Asheville is $620 a month in comparison to NYC rates that average at about $2300 a month), the area is rich in culture and has a vibrant music scene, great places to eat and drink.

Cons: Not a lot of acting opportunities, need a car.

Austin, TX

AUSTIN, TX - JULY 30: Singer-songwriter Michelle Branch performs in concert during 'The Hopeless Romantic Tour' at Emo's on July 30, 2017 in Austin, Texas.

(Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)

Who wouldn't want to live in a city who's motto is "Keep Austin Weird." I've been told by almost everyone, I'd love Austin, TX for it's thriving indie music and film scene. Austin served as the playground for many greats like Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. Likewise, there is an excellent nightlife and live music scene to enjoy in your spare time. From state of the art restaurants to trendy farm to tables, Austin has everything. Food Truck culture is on the rise. Some of the best noted as Soursop a pan-asian cuisine truck, Veracruz All Natural which is regarded as the city's best taco truck (a necessary staple), and Tommy Want Wingy, your go-to wing and comfort food stop.

In Austin, you can see live music ranging from the hottest mainstream artist to undiscovered locals at tons of different venues, two well regarded being The Mohawk which boasts a mixed palate of mainstream and indie, Antone's Nightclub which veers way more on the indie or undiscovered side, and Cheer Up Charlie's which curates events with unique artists and is hub for the queer community in Austin.

Whenever I consider a new place that's not New York, I make the mistake of assuming the city layout works the same. While New York is a beast to get around, it makes total sense to me. Downtown Austin is divided into districts, similar to New York.

Sixth Street is the place to go for clubs, live music, and entertainment, while Second Street is where you want to go for dining and shopping. The Seaholm District is fairly new and is the city's old industrial area now being converted to a trendy residential and store front area. The Red River District is one of Austin's most known entertainment and art districts boasting clubs like The Mohawk mentioned above.

Pros: There is a ton to do, indie musician friendly, cheaper than NYC (apx. $930 for a 1 bedroom)

Cons: More expensive than Asheville, need a car, very little film opportunity though definitely an appreciation of film consumption in the area.

Los Angeles, CA

LAX sign at the Century Boulevard entrance to Los Angeles International Airport.

(Photo by: Ken Ross/VW Pics/UIG via Getty Images)

The obvious choice for relocation from the East Coast's cultural capitol is the West Coast's cultural queen, Los Angeles; however, something to consider is it's every bit as frustrating and expensive as NYC, just in a different way. Trade your MTA frustration for strategic planning to skip traffic, trade your through the roof rent for slightly less through the roof rent plus car payments, but still being born and raised near a beach, the easy-breezy culture of Los Angeles calls me and so I did a little research and some visiting to see how it compares.

First of all let's look at the attainable neighborhoods to live in. Something to know about LA is that it's much easier to stay in your neighborhood for day to day activities like work and play to avoid the insufferable traffic. One great spot in LA is Venice Beach. Being right next to the beach is a huge perk and there's plenty to do in the area. Visit the Mosaic House for Insta-worthy shots that will make you disbelieve that you live in such a cool place, take up skate boarding at Venice Skate Park, shop, dine, and check out gallerys on Abbot Kinney Boulevard. The average cost of a one bedroom apartment in this area is $2,500 which is still less then NYC and could be worth the splurge for the incredible neighborhood you get with it.

Another possible neighborhood is Silver Lake which is perfect for the aspiring actor because it's right next to the studios where auditions are held. Like Venice Beach, Silver Lake boasts some outdoor, but less-beachy gems like the Silver Lake Reservoir and the Silver Lake Stairs. Sunset Junction is Silver Lake's walkable shopping district. If you're into spendy coffee dates, Intelligentsia will be the perfect neighborhood hang out for you. There are also weekly farmer's market and the neighborhood is described as trendy and eclectic boasting cool graffiti and neighborhood charms. The average price of a one bedroom in this area is slightly less then Venice Beach at around $1,500-1700. If you don't mind being further from the beach, this is definitely a wallet friendly spot.

A little further removed from LA proper is Sherman Oaks which is regarded as the suburban LA. The area attracts a diverse community from artists to families to elderly folk and in return, the area boasts a large array of things to do, to accommodate its diverse crowd. The nightlife scene holds its own with the two reigning spots being The Local Peasant which is a great burger and drink joint with frequent events, and The One Up which is a cool spot for drinks and old school arcade games. Shopping and salons are plentiful in the area especially in the Galleria and Westfield Mall. The area definitely has everything you need day to day and the price is a little more reasonable with prices for one bedroom swaying between $1,500 and $1,900.

LA generally speaking has the same kind of opportunities I came to NYC for so it's definitely the closest option in terms of that but in terms of less stress, I find it to be equal.

Pros: Just as much opportunity as NYC, fun and thriving neighborhoods

Cons: Almost expensive as NYC with added expense of a car.

So here's where I landed. It's not time to leave NYC just yet, but I had so much fun exploring my options! I decided to make exploring other cultural hubs in the US a new hobby so up next is Nashville and Chicago!

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An endangered species is not a tragedy, because if a species is endangered, then they aren't yet extinct.

Sadly, there are millions of endangered species across the world, all facing threats that mostly stem from human activities. Still, it's not too late. Take a gander at these majestic animals, and then donate to a wildlife fund or environmental activism group of your choice.

Of course, nature doesn't need saving—humans do—and climate change and environmental destruction are threats to humans as well as animals, but if you need a reminder of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, check out these extraordinary species.


Do Non-Melatonin Sleep Aids Really Work?

Objective makes a chocolate square.

I Can't Sleep.

I truly cannot remember the last time I had a good night's rest. Even before the stay-at-home orders, I was just a little ball of nerves.

But lately, it's been awful. I toss and turn, it's always too hot or even too cold, sometimes I make myself tea and read for a bit, but when I'm still up at 1 a.m., I reach for my phone and then I'm up until 3. My sister and I have a weekly call, and our small talk about our exhaustion turned into an hour long conversation about sleep.

I Thought I'd Tried Everything. Even Melatonin.

My sister asked why I hadn't gone for the old staple, melatonin and I reminded her about the time we traveled abroad, and it gave me the weirdest nightmares (the horrible kind where you wake up in your dream and you're still in a dream). Chamomile tea didn't work, nothing worked.

She said she had a friend who swore by something I definitely hadn't heard of.

They Were NOT Pills, Teas or Anything I'd Seen Before.

A company called Objective makes Fast Asleep, a sleep solution delivered as chocolatey treats. They're created with saffron and GABA. If going to sleep was as easy as eating a piece of these chocolatey, minty delights every night, I'd be sold.

What Exactly Was In It?

Cocoa contains caffeine, so I didn't know how this would help me sleep. After talking with my sister, I went online and saw that the calming, sleep-supporting ingredients cancel out any of the very little caffeine content.

Saffron, the spice, is apparently known to help with staying asleep, and their GABA is a fermented version of the neurotransmitter that's known to help you relax and fall asleep faster. In a study, 100% of customers saw improvement in their sleep quality thanks to saffron. One hundred percent!

Do I Try It?

A bag of 30 pieces was only $40, and they had a money-back guarantee.

They're keto-friendly and only 30 calories a piece, so not too decadent before bedtime.

They were chocolatey-minty, which is my favorite flavor, so I was sold. I ordered a bag to try.

The First Night, I Wasn't Impressed.

I took one piece (super yummy!) - 30-60 minutes before bedtime is recommended - but when I climbed in, I didn't notice a difference. I was worried I'd wasted my money.

However, once I fell asleep, I stayed asleep until my alarm went off, which hasn't always been the case for me.

I checked the site again, and noticed that many people didn't notice a real difference until the third or fourth night - it builds up in your system over time, so I decided to keep an open mind the rest of the week.

The Second Night Was Completely Different

Without doing anything differently from the first night, my second night was amazing. I felt calm and sleepy as I was getting ready for bed, and once I hit the pillow, I was out the whole night.

It had to be these sweet treats. The next day, I even felt more balanced and relaxed - Fast Asleep helps boost serotonin levels and reduce cortisol (the stress hormone), and I definitely noticed a difference in my overall mood and alertness.

I Already Ordered More.

Just In Case! There's nothing habit-forming about this product, so it's completely safe to take every night, and I honestly always want to keep it in the house. I'd also love to offer it to anyone staying over in the guest room, whenever we have guests again.

Now that I'm getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep every night, I feel more equipped during the day to tackle the things I need to do and deal with some of my daytime stressors. I finally had the energy to clean the kitchen, which had been bothering me so much for the past few weeks.

With Objective's Fast Asleep, I get real sleep and balance my levels, so I don't have to feel tired during my waking hours. Sleep in the form of chocolate squares sounds so weird, but oh my goodness, do they work.

Our partners at Objective Wellness are currently offering a 25% discount if you use the coupon code STAYHOME. Check them out here!

Food & Drink

The Best Apps for Craft Beer Delivery

Try beers from all over the world–from your phone.

With breweries and distilleries out of business for the foreseeable future, your favorite beer may feel particularly out of reach this time of year, especially with the weather changing. But don't let quarantine suck all the fun out of summer. Luckily, thanks to technology, a lot of craft beer is now deliverable straight to your door step. Here are a few of the best apps to help make sure you stay up to date on the latest trendy brews.



Simplistic and elegant, Tavour allows users to easily fill up a box of beer over a period of time before shipping. The app offers more than 650 different breweries both local and national and is perfect for those who like to experiment. It's easy to use, and their menu rotates regularly so you and your beer never grow stale.



TapRM offers a wide range of both craft beers and hard seltzers. While based almost exclusively in New York City, the app offers fast, same day delivery from some of the best beer brands in the world. They also provide a unique selection of beers to help you find your new favorite. All you need to do is download the app and place your order!


Offering a stark variety of craft beer, Drizly allows its users to mix and match 12-packs, sixers or by the bottle. Their guarantee is that they can have whatever you order delivered to your house in less than an hour. You can even schedule your delivery for a specific time, with each delivery taking around 20-40 minutes.


Saucey takes delivery very seriously. When you order with them they guarantee that they'll deliver in 30-minutes or less, or they guarantee two day shipping. Also, beer aside, their entire liquor cabinet is also up for grabs. From tequila and whiksey, to vodka and wine, nothing is off the table for Saucey.

Beer Menus


For those who enjoy strictly local beers, BeerMenus features a tap list from local bars and a broader stock list from your neighborhood beer store. With that, you can make sure to create a list of your favorite beers in your neighborhood, so that when they're in stock you can be ready to go.