The origin of this trip traces back to the summer. I was at my favorite bar in my neighborhood and the cocktail waitress was telling me that she is from Cincinnati. Something Cincy is known for: having one of the (and this year, the) largest Oktoberfest celebration in the country.

I had never been to Cincinnati nor neighboring Kentucky and boy do I love me a seasonal beer.

So that night I went home and cross-checked the city’s Oktoberfest with the Reds schedule. Turns out the Pirates were in town. So I’d get to visit a new city, a new state, a new ballpark and take part in a huge Oktoberfest.

I added another new experience to my plate that summer night: the first time I booked a flight after a few drinks.

Eventually I scored a nice deal on a hotel downtown through Hotwire and before you know it, the weekend of September 17 was here. I flew in to Cincy’s airport on Saturday morning. Fun fact: the airport is across the river in Kentucky; about a 15 minute drive from downtown. After checking in, I went for a three-and-a-half mile jog around the city. I really enjoy the way Cincy is set-up: Paul Brown Stadium (home of the Bengals), Great American Ballpark (Reds) and the city’s arena are all on the river. Cincinnati uses these centerpieces to develop both commercial and otherwise: there’s also a beautiful park with a couple of playgrounds right on the water.

Whenever I stay in a city for multiple nights I usually try and grocery shop. Even if I can’t buy perishables (my hotel room had a fridge but it wouldn’t get cold enough to keep anything from spoiling), I want bottled water and snacks because buying these from a store as opposed to a “market” downstairs usually will save you some money. I also enjoy checking out new grocery stores and my Cincy trip marked the first-ever visit to a Kroeger’s.

But on my way to Kroeger’s, I walked through Washington Park. Apparently every Saturday they hold an outdoor flea market there; tons of different merchants plus food and alcohol vendors. It was a pleasant and unexpected break in my schedule. I picked up a sweet vintage “Oktoberfest Zinzinnati” t-shirt, cracked open my first Rhinegeist Truth IPA and took a minute to enjoy the weather before continuing on with my trip to the store.

It’s tough for me to judge all of Kroger’s based on this particular visit because the store wasn’t in the best part of town (something my Uber driver warned me about but again, I like new experiences). That said, I still picked up a couple of items and headed back to my hotel.

I hit up Oktoberfest on Saturday and Sunday. It was good and I’m glad I attended but probably wouldn’t go out of my way to return. Samuel Adams is the title sponsor so the brewery’s Oktoberfest beer is plentiful. I tried a few other brews as well before retiring to my room for a quick nap.

Right before I left the city, I checked Pollstar’s concert schedule to see if there was anything happening in the area that weekend. Puff Daddy and the Bad Boy Reunion Tour was in town. And across the river in Newport, Kentucky, Jon McLaughlin was performing with supporting act Marc Scibilia.

Marc Scibilia?! I know him!

Marc and I grew up together in Western New York. I hadn’t seen him in about a year, but that changed last weekend. I attended his performance at The Southgate House Revival, which looks like a renovated church-turned-venue. It’s a very unique place to catch a show.

After his solo set, Marc and I decided to do something more unique: we grabbed Mexican food in Northern Kentucky. The spicy tacos were surprisingly delicious and seemed like a good idea at the time.

A little later in the night I flip-flopped on that decision.

Anyways, Sunday brought about another three-mile-plus run before I walked over to Great American Ballpark. I bought a ticket on StubHub, two rows off the field right by third base, for $30. It was a hot and humid day in the city, and coincidentally enough, former Yankee stars Ivan Nova and Francisco Cervelli were starting for the Pirates.

The ballpark was a real treat: great sightlines, lots of cool places to stand and watch the game, plenty of food and beverage options. The staff and the fans were both pleasant, despite the abysmal season that the Reds have had.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on

Cincy salvaged the final game of the series and I made my way back to the hotel, through Oktoberfest one more time. There was a big TV set-up so Bengals fans could catch the end of the game against the team’s archrival the Steelers. The Bengals lost and I think between that, the heat and Oktoberfest – the wind was taken from the sails of the city.

I did end up at the casino (small donation via the Blackjack tables) and Nick Lachey’s sports bar (aptly named “Lachey’s” – good food, excellent Bloody Mary) before essentially retiring to my room for the evening. I wanted to relax and I also came to the realization that I definitely did not need 48 hours to experience all that Cincy had to offer.

I also probably don’t need to book travel after a night of drinking but something tells me I haven’t quite learned that lesson yet.

A new Miss America was crowned on Sunday night in Atlantic City, although you can count her in the court of Queen Beyonce.

“Oh, I’m a dancer,” Savvy Shields, a 21 year-old entered the competition as Miss Arkansas, replied when I asked her about her obsession with the “Formation” singer. “Every single dancer’s dream is to be a backup dancer for Beyonce.”

And Shields knows a thing or two about dreaming big and watching that dream become reality, as it did for her a few nights ago at Boardwalk Hall.

“Ever since I was eight years-old and I watched my first Miss America pageant,” the University of Arkansas senior revealed. She’ll continue school after completing her reign with the crown. “I think my mom goes, ‘The southern states always do well.’ That’s my first memory of the Miss America pageant!”

It’s true; I’ve likened southern states’ passion for pageantry to their love for college football, a comparison Shields agreed with.
“Pageants are a big deal (in the south),” she said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to whenever I’m traveling the country get to see how pageants are in different regions.”

At the moment, Shields is spending her time in the northeast. I caught her in the middle of a whirlwind media tour in New York City that included “Good Morning America,” “Live With Kelly,” “CNN” and a number of other media outlets.

“My first journal entry was (Monday) night,” Shields said, noting that she is trying to jot down memories on a nightly basis. “I wrote down the very first day of Miss America and what that means.”

Some other fun facts about the new titleholder: she loves lipstick (“I have about five in my purse and six in my makeup box”), enjoys people (a job prerequisite) and knits, as in scarves.

“I taught myself when I was around 13 years-old how to knit on YouTube,” she explained while also inadvertently yet perfectly encompassing the idea of Miss America (this was the organization’s 96th pageant) in the 21st century. “Every winter I’ll whip out my knitting needles and I will knit scarves for all my friends.”

Shields once tried to make a hat with her knitting skills, but wasn’t impressed with the final product.

“It didn’t turn out that well. It was more like a sock.”

Thankfully for Shields, she has her headgear planned out for at least the next year anyways.

The 96th Miss America pageant took place Sunday night in Atlantic City at Boardwalk Hall. I was on the red carpet before the show and spoke with a few of the judges (Cole Swindell, Gabby Douglas, Mark Cuban, Laura Marano) and one of the co-hosts, Sage Steele, about the big event.

On Friday night I was in the middle of my nightly Facebook Live broadcast when my buddy Nick from back home commented – Nick wanted to let me know that he was going to Saturday’s Yankees game.

Nick and I both grew up in Western New York and then in a strange twist, both ended up in Northeastern Pennsylvania around the same time for a few years. In yet another crazy turn, we both moved to the tri-state area too; he’s up in Connecticut with his wife and I’m of course in Manhattan.

We’re also both diehard Yankees fans. Yet despite this, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw Nick, and neither of us had attended a game in the Bronx together this year.

That was until last weekend of course.

I met Nick at a place we’re both fans of by the ballpark, Stadium Pizza. Why are we fans? Well I enjoy it because it’s a bit out of the way at 157th and River. But what keeps me coming back to the place is their drink special: three domestic bottles for $10. A bucket of 6 for $20. It’s a deal you can’t beat anywhere near the Stadium.

I joined the group mid-buckets. We had a few rounds then made our way in to the game. A great feature of Yankee Stadium is the open concourse and wide array of standing room areas. I think the original plan was to make our way out to center field and the Batter’s Eye Café but we settled on the area behind one of the Main Infield sections.

A photo posted by Ralphie Aversa (@ralphieaversa) on

The Yankees won, the celebration commenced across the street at Stan’s and then I headed home. The 4 p.m. first pitch worked perfectly because I was home in bed by 11.

The reason I retired so early on a Saturday night is because my Sunday was jam-packed. I ran, showered, changed, went to the radio station to grab an audio recorder and then cabbed it to Port Authority where I hopped on a bus to Atlantic City. I arrived in AC around 5:30, grabbed a quick sushi dinner and then walked to Boardwalk Hall.

For my second straight year, I attended Miss America. This year, I was covering the red carpet for my radio station.

Some of the highlights: interviewing gold medalist Gabby Douglas and Laura Marano at the same time, Mark Cuban telling me after this election season he’ll never talk politics again and ESPN’s Sage Steele revealing that she didn’t check football scores so she could focus on rehearsing her lines for the show. Ciara didn’t stop and talk with any media outlets but did say hello to me, which was very kind of her.

Miss Arkansas, Savvy Shields, won the crown and after her press conference I headed to the after-party. And then to a blackjack table or three. And then, $75 lighter, back to New York City.

After all, I had my radio show Monday night, and another Facebook Live broadcast to host.

Ahead of Sunday night’s competition, five Miss America finalists from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island called in to talk about prelims and their path to the crown.
A new Miss America was crowned Sunday night on ABC.

Pizza for the weekend! Check out a brand new edition of “2 Slices & A Story” featuring Broadway star, actor extraordinaire, Glee alum and all-around great guy Darren Criss!

TLC’s Chilli called in to chat about the group’s tour with En Vogue, upcoming final studio album, awkward moments on stage and those Nick Cannon rumors.
Check out TLC and En Vogue on tour later this month: September 25 at the NYCB Theater in Westbury, N.Y. and the 26 at the Wellmont Theater in Monclair, N.J.

Labor Day weekend has become a weekend that I really, really look forward to.

I’ve always enjoyed the holiday because it serves as a nice bridge between a hot-and-humid summer and a busy fall. Autumn is usually the most hectic time of year for me; ratings are most important this time of year, many artists are on promotional runs gearing up for holiday releases and there are a number of big events to cover – ranging from The Rockettes to the American Music Awards to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (the latter two usually fall in the same week on different coasts).

Fall is also my favorite time of year, and no it’s not because of UGGs or Pumpkin Spice Lattes. We have the start of football, meaningful baseball, great fashion, scenic views and the best weather of the year.

OK, I like pumpkin beers as well. Sue me.

Anyways, LDW serves as a chance to rest, relax and reset before the busy season. In what has now become an annual tradition, I take a bus to Scranton on Saturday and drive with my buddy Danny to Niagara Falls. Brews, barbecues and pool time are a-plenty over the three days.

We usually throw a wrinkle or two in to that mix as well. Last year, it was clubbing in downtown Buffalo and attending the Chicken Wing Festival. This year, it was hanging with my cousin Anthony at his engagement party, which was catered by the venerable Niagara Falls restaurant The Como. From there, we went to the Seneca Niagara Casino downtown where I lost a little bit of money in Blackjack, and then made it back ten-fold by learning to play Craps! If you know what you’re doing (and you’re winning), it’s a really fun game.

But like I mentioned, the trip is really centered on the beer and the pool, both of which were prominently featured on my Instagram that weekend.

God bless Niagara Falls. And Western New York. And Labor Day Weekend.

And, fall.

Darren Criss stopped by 95.5 to chat with Ralphie about the upcoming second annual Elsie Fest, taking place this Labor Day on Coney Island at the Ford Amphitheater. In addition to organizing the event, Criss will also perform at it. The former “Glee” star also chatted about his upcoming run on the “Hedwig And The Angry Inch” tour and what his plans are for the rest of the year.

Purchase your Elsie Fest tickets here.

In a new “2 Slices & A Story,” “Britain’s Got Talent” star Calum Scott reveals his favorite English meal and tries New York pizza for his first time!