There are still a few great weeks left to summer so if you're thinking of heading out to the beach, you might want to take some precautions so you don't end up being a bad beach tourist. I recently took my family up to the beach in Rhode Island for some relaxing in the sun and witnessed a couple of traits in out-of-towners like myself that were less than commendable. These knuckleheads aggravate the locals to no end. To make sure you don't inadvertently make a beach blanket blunder, here's some advice from a few of natives of Westerly, Rhode Island:
1. Don't litter. If there's one thing that ticks off locals more than anything, it's when you use their backyard as your own personal waste bin. It comes down to respect, and this is one of the most disrespectful things you can do.
2. Don't be afraid to smile back. Yes, the local businesses are there to make sure you part with as many of your tourist dollars as possible, but that's not to say they're not being genuine when they smile. Smile back, they won't bite.
3. Ask around for the best restaurants. Sure you can check websites like Trip Advisor or Zagats, but if you really want to find the spot where the oysters practically hop right out of the ocean onto your plate, ask someone from town. In Rhode Island by the way, it's The Matunuck Oyster Bar.
4. Obey the traffic laws. It's bad enough when you're getting lost and have to make crazy U-Turns all over town, but what's even worse is when you completely disregard pedestrians using the crosswalks. Now you're not only a jerk, you're a reckless jerk. If that doesn't motivate you, consider this: there's a good chance you'll be busted for your infraction because local police tend to step up enforcement during the summer months.
5. Be aware of feral local boys. Keep an eye on your daughters. It turns out Dirty Dancing wasn't a complete work of fiction. Local teenage boys have been known to conveniently dump their girlfriends right before summer so they can prey on the "fresh meat."
6. Know your beach. Some places are more family-friendly than others - you don't want to take your tot out for an afternoon of sandcastle building right next to a crew of Jersey Shore look-a-likes blaring their music and wearing thong bikinis.
(6a) And as if you need to be told, remember that not everyone looks good in a thong bikini.
7. Watch your noise level. To be sure most beach towns have their designated party spots, usually you can just follow the guys with the Ed Hardy shirts to the beach shack that's replete with strobe lights and a bevy of frozen Margarita machines. If you're in one of those joints, feel free to party your face off. But if you're renting a house on a quiet block, respect your neighbors and keep the noise down after dark.
8. Don't be a cheesy dresser. Every tourist sundry shop is filled with t-shirts and hats carrying the name of the beach you're visiting. It's fine if you want to purchase these as a souvenir, but don't be caught wearing them while you're there. This only makes you stick out and look way too enthusiastic about your time at the beach. If you want to wear something local, try buying a shirt from a third generation burger joint or vintage ice cream parlor, that's much cooler.
9. Don't whine about beach fees. In Rhode Island this is especially true. Parking can sometimes run you 15 bucks or more a day depending on the beach. While that may seem downright "un-American," realize that someone has to clean the bathrooms, hire the lifeguards, and groom the sand. If you want those amenities consider it your patriotic duty to pay for them.
10. Visit during the off-season. Money is flush for the local establishments during July and August when the beach is packed, but things slow down in a hurry after Labor Day. Yet September and October can also have great beach weather. Head down during a slower time and you're bound to find natives who will be extremely happy to greet you.
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