I am among the personally-disorganized masses who are not going anywhere in particular this holiday weekend. But were it up to me, could I go and have a traditional Labor Day-type vacation in a house with people I knew and liked, I would choose a lake house over a beach house every time.
Beaches are a bum deal at peak times of year, unless you are rich as a Winklevoss. I like the ocean as much as anyone. But in America, on holiday weekends, ocean beaches are crowded, smelly things. If I wanted to hang out with throngs of roving, yelling Americans I could simply bring a chair to Times Square and achieve roughly the same effect. In neither place can I drink outside of specially-designated areas.
Further: There may be a certain singular joy to wandering along the boardwalk, yes, but eating popcorn, funnel cakes, french fries, saltwater taffy, ice cream, and pizza all in one day has inevitable bad effects. What physical activity is accomplished by playing skee ball in a boardwalk arcade or "swimming," i.e. treading water, in the ocean, cannot mitigate the effects of the bad food. Sand is pleasant until you're washing it out of any crevice.
And any house you rent near enough to the ocean to count will charge you a bloody fortune for these limited privileges.
Meanwhile, a lake house tends to be slightly more isolated and therefore more contemplative. If this opens you up to a slightly larger chance of murder, so be it.
There are usually fewer fried foods easily available for purchase within walking distance of your average lake house, true. But home grilling and serious supplies of potato chips can easily replace them. The physical activities available—canoeing, hiking, proper swimming—are energizing without being arduous.
And besides, it's all worth it because of this: when you want to sit and contemplate the water, you do not need to stake out a position hours in advance. You simply get up and walk to the end of the dock. At the best kind of lake house, some sort of Adirondack chair might be waiting for you there, but it's good not to underestimate the simple pleasures of sitting on the dock proper with your feet in the water.
Sometimes, too, there are ducks, beavers, and frogs to watch. These cute creatures all make up for the occasional snake, bear, and yes, mosquitoes. Here is my secret: tea tree oil. You'll smell fine, they'll hate you. Go in peace.
[Image via Shutterstock.]