How OWU Met Josh Radnor

Josh Radnor

“Be kind, be interested in other people, be friendly, be polite, be curious. Don’t give up your character for some short-term gain.”

These were the parting words that the “How I Met Your Mother” star Josh Radnor offered to nearly 400 Ohio Wesleyan University students on Wednesday evening in the Chappelear Drama Center.

The popular CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” (abbreviated by fans as HIMYM) is now in its 9th season and nearing the series finale in just two episodes. The show centers around Radnor’s character, Ted Mosby, and his friends’ lives in Manhattan. The all-star cast includes Cobie Smulders, Alyson Hannigan, Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel.

Radnor’s visit had been in the works since October. The Campus Programming Board (CPB) gave out tickets to the student body at a promotional showing of Radnor’s movie “Liberal Arts” and in the Hamilton-Williams Center during specified periods of time.

“That line blew up within minutes,” said CPB External President Bill Boaz (Sophomore, Psychology). “Anytime you bring somebody who is experienced and successful at accomplishing their dreams, the campus will respond. Josh is a popular actor and we knew it would draw a large crowd.”

Josh Radnor

Growing up in Bexley, a Columbus suburb, Radnor has local ties to the area and was the only one of his HIMYM castmates who did not have a performing arts or child actor upbringing. During his talk he discussed at length his background, which many in the audience could certainly relate to. He explained how a friend at school wanted company while she auditioned for “Oklahoma,” which then ended up being an audition for Radnor, as well. He then performed in shows at his high school and in the community. However, he went on to attend college at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

“I told my parents I’d major in English, but then secretly I spent all my time in the drama department,” Radnor confessed.

Budding artists in the audience were certainly given plenty of advice to take note.

On how to decipher a good script from a bad one
Radnor explained that if it’s easy to memorize, it’s good. When he first read for HIMYM he said, “I only looked at it twice and I knew it.”

On being compared to his character, Ted Mosby
“He’s a version of me on some weird level. He’s like my annoying, younger brother – we’re definitely related, but he makes decisions that make me roll my eyes a lot.”

On writing his movies “Happythankyoumoreplease” and “Liberal Arts”
“Happythankyoumoreplease” was written in Hawaii while Radnor sat next to Jason Segel (who was writing “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” at the same time). “When it comes to writing I enjoy traveling. If you’re sitting in the same place every time you write, you’ll have the same thoughts. So when I travel, I have new experiences that lend themselves to new thoughts and help with the whole writing process.”

On going to college instead of heading straight for NYC or LA
“Go to college. The more wind you have in your sails, the better.”

On “showbiz”
“Kindness goes a long way. You don’t have to be a tyrant, but at the end of the day you should thank everyone who you’ve just worked with. Thank the crew, the actors, the director, the writers, the production assistants – everyone!” Radnor also emphasized that Hollywood and Broadway are places where dues have to be paid. “Work your way up. You’ve got to humble yourself a little bit. Remember this word: apprentice.”

As Radnor wrapped up his 90 minute conversation with the Ohio Wesleyan students, one theme rang true – kindness. “If I’ve learned anything in my acting journey, it’s been that kindness is a premium and character matters. I never gave up being from the Midwest in my values.”

The only sneak peek that Radnor gave the audience into the anticipated finale is that it’s a tear-jerker and to have the tissues ready. And in a beautiful, artistic way, the final scene the crew filmed was Radnor and “The Mother” (played by Cristin Milioti) meeting for the first time. Watch CBS this Monday, March 24 for “The End of the Aisle” and then March 31 for part one of the finale, “Last Forever.”

For more photos of Josh Radnor’s visit to OWU click here, or to read more on his thoughts on kindness click here.

Josh Radnor

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

It’s one of the early signs of spring in Delaware County – the annual Maple Syrup Festival at Camp Lazarus put on by the Boy Scouts of America – Simon Kenton Council. The temperature this past Saturday got up to nearly 50 degrees, and you could tell people were itching to get out of their homes and enjoy the sunshine after a long and brutal winter.

For a $5 admission and $5 all-you-can-eat pancakes, it’s an event filled with entertainment for the whole family. Ironically, the festival’s namesake (Maple Syrup) was in short supply. The Boy Scouts were proud to explain the syrup-making process, and it involves a winter that has frequent daytime temperatures above 40 degrees, and nights below freezing. Since our Central Ohio winter didn’t start seeing daytime temperatures above 40 until this past week, the sap just wasn’t running enough in time for the festival. By opening weekend only three gallons of syrup had been tapped.

Maple Syrup Festival

Winding your way through the campground you were likely to see visions of yesteryear and how the early settlers would have lived. Kids were happy to ride in a horse-drawn carriage, visit a Blacksmith, cut and brand their own piece of wood, churn butter, shoot BB guns, throw tomahawks and much more!

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

Two other presentations that were not to be missed included a firing of an historic cannon and Native American dancing.

Maple Syrup Festival

Maple Syrup Festival

The Simon Kenton Council has things down to a science at this point since this is their 27th year for the annual Maple Syrup Festival. Program Director Ken Ruppel gives much credit to the 175 individuals who volunteer their time to make it all possible. It was clear that the volunteers enjoyed themselves as much as the families enjoyed attending.

To view more photos from the event, visit my Flickr page and scroll away!


Central Ohio Symphony Jazzes Things Up


For many, seeing the symphony is like going to church — there are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to go, but the crowds really show up on Christmas and Easter. Christmas concerts promise carols, hymns and other well-known pieces because that is what people are dying to hear this time of year. I, for one, am the girl who turns on the 24/7 Christmas radio station on November 29 and keeps it going through early January, because the 25th is just too soon to cut everything off so abruptly. So you can imagine my delight when I attended the Central Ohio Symphony‘s Holiday Concert this past Sunday at Gray Chapel on Ohio Wesleyan University’s campus.

Maestro Jaime Morales-Matos assembled a program with a range of traditional to funky pieces and everywhere in between. The concert also featured two guest artists, vocalist Dwight Lenox and pianist Bradley Sowash. The opening piece was a beautifully arranged compilation of “Frosty the Snowman,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” The entire piece, titled “Christmas Memories” invoked a number of emotions within it — one minute you’re feeling a bit whimsy with a classic and then you get an attack of jazz and big band roots.


Another compilation piece, titled “A Christmas Festival,” by Leroy Anderson added eight more traditional carols to the rest that the COS had already performed. “Joy to the World,” “Deck the Halls,” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Silent Night” (in addition to an earlier “Silent Night” sing-along), “Jingle Bells,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful,” which introduced a booming chord on the beautiful (newly re-dedicated) organ that brought down the house. I swear I felt that final chord from my toes to the tips of my hair. It was phenomenal.

“The Blue Danube” or “An der schönen blauen Donau” was an exquisite feature of the symphony. With the flowing rhythms and tempos it was easy to start to imagine yourself traveling along the Danube river through Vienna, Austria.


Mr. Lenox’s vocals were a true treat to the ears. He brought a smooth soul and sweet jazz to his premiered new arrangements of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” A new song that you may hear this holiday season also debuted on Sunday called “Bending Toward the Light” performed by Mr. Lenox and arranged by Alan Klinect.


The “Radestzky March” had the audience clapping along, “The Christmas Song” could’ve soothed a crying baby, and “March of the Toys” sent my mind back to Disney’s 1961 “Babes in Toyland” with Annette Funicello (if you haven’t seen it, you’ve got to check it out – the Library has a copy available). However, none of those could have prepared me for the genius that is Bradley Sowash and his jazz-inspired compositions and arrangements. Mr. Sowash premiered an arrangement of “Patapan” that sounded like it was taken down to the French Quarter of N’awlins. It shook the house, it was gritty, and it offered a great feature of the brass section and drums. The ending was so strong that an audience member could not contain himself and exclaimed “Hey, now!” in approval before applause erupted.


“Advent from the Spirit of Christmas 2” was another original Bradley Sowash piece that was performed and kept the same jazz/pop roots of the others as a variation on “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The final Sowash piece was just some good, old-fashioned fun. If Jimmy Buffet and Dixieland had a baby, it would be Mr. Sowash’s arrangement of “What Child is This?” The orchestra began with the simple main theme with some chromatic undertones, then broke off into a bass riff, drums and Mr. Sowash on piano with a Havana/tropical-inspired section that culminated in one giant jazz explosion.

The concert was unique, entertaining, magical, and everything that a Holiday Concert should be. I hope you are able to enjoy their next performance, Sunday, March 23 of one of the most immortal pieces in music, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.


Delaware Community Chorus Strikes a Chord

Delaware Community Chorus

If you went to see a performance of the Delaware Community Chorus (DCC) just five years ago you would have seen a group of less than a dozen members — ten to be exact. However, with the help of a new Artistic Director, Daniel Hursey, the group has now quadrupled its size and continues to welcome new members. Current members say the growth is directly attributed to Hursey. “Because he’s a great musician and knows how to push us musically, people end up seeking him out and wanting to join,” said one vocalist.

This is Hursey’s triumphant return to Delaware, a place he calls home, after teaching elementary music for 30 years in Connecticut and then spending some time in Tuscon, Arizona with the Tuscon Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

Delaware Community Chorus

I had the pleasure of sitting in on the 41-member chorus rehearsal earlier this week and listening to them prepare music for their busy holiday season. The group exhibited amazing amounts of control as they flew through the octaves, yet kept their dynamics hushed and the rhythms driving.

The music you’ll hear from the chorus this holiday season consists largely of religious baroque pieces, full of opportunity for a Capella singing, cadences and notes that soar as high as the sky and sink low into the basement. It’s a rich, classical style of music and pairs nicely with a minimal accompaniment. The December 22 Christmas Concert, titled “Awe and Wonder,” will feature local musicians from the Central Ohio Symphony on strings, oboe and trumpet.

Delaware Community Chorus

The “Awe and Wonder” concert is truly the highlight of the season for the chorus. With performances on Sunday, December 22 at 3 PM and 5 PM, it still is known to sell out. The concert takes place at St. Peter’s Church (located at 45 West Winter Street in Delaware) and tickets can be purchased for $10 a piece online at or from a chorus member. It will include such pieces as the beautiful benediction The Lord Bless You and Keep You (Lutkin), Carols from Australia (Wheeler, James), Christ the Lord is Risen! Alleluia! (Roman), and Vivaldi’s Gloria. The performance of the Gloria will be worth the price of admission alone. It is one of my favorites and brings out the best in all the instruments featured, vocal and non-vocal.

However, the Delaware Community Chorus isn’t just preparing for their concert on the 22nd, they have half a dozen other performances on the books before that. Just last weekend their season kicked off at the Delaware Area Handbell Festival in Gray Chapel. It continues with the Hospice Tree Lighting at Grady Memorial Hospital on Sunday, December 1; caroling throughout downtown Delaware during Main Street Delaware’s First Friday celebration on Friday, December 6 from 6 – 9 PM; four quartets singing at the Andrews House Christmas Cupboard from 9 AM – 3 PM on Saturday, December 7; and a performance at the Council for Older Adults Annual Luncheon on Wednesday, December 18 from 12 – 1:30 PM.

Delaware Community Chorus Director Hursey

The chorus accepts new members through an informal audition and will be welcoming new bodies for their spring performance season. Join them in January to start rehearsals. They’re already planning a May 4th concert titled “Love is in the Air.” If you are a vocalist looking to join a group with seasonal commitments, consider the Delaware Community Chorus, it will be fulfilling in more ways than one. At one point during this week’s rehearsal Hursey had to joke with his group that perhaps they are “too much of a family” because of so much talking during a break. Getting my family together to sing the Gloria might instead be considered more of a “beautiful noise” rather than what I heard with the DCC.  I’ll take their family’s version over mine.

Barley Hopsters is for {Craft Beer} Lovers


When Crossroads Music’s owner retired from the business and closed his shop at 1 N Sandusky Street, it left many wondering what would be the next business to grace our downtown with its presence. Personally, I have always thought we have the market for a bridal store in the downtown, and wouldn’t a corner store with such large front windows be perfect? (If one ever comes, I will gladly take credit for the initial idea.) But instead of something brand new, a local favorite chose to expand its existing downtown location and welcome the growth of many new opportunities instead.


Barley Hopsters owners Brian and Pam Harpster decided it was time to have more ownership in their business. They seized the opportunity to purchase the Crossroads building when it arose and found a new place to call the brew store home. The move one block south from 43 N Sandusky Street means new visibility and new excitement with the change. Already the beer selection has expanded with the increase of coolers for storage. The wine and root beer selections continue to grow, too. In total you’re looking at about 650 styles of beer and cider, 120 wines, and coming up on 50 styles of root beer.


The Beer and a Movie Night partnership continues with the Strand Theatre on a seasonal basis. A $15 ticket get you in to see the movie of choice, three beers, fun and any “schwag” that the providing brewery has on hand. It’s great for a date night or a change of pace. The Barley Hopsters Home Brew Club also continues on a regular basis. Join the group every third Thursday evening for brewers of all levels, whether you’re interested in learning how to homebrew or consider yourself an expert. The lineup for each meeting changes, but the group will typically discuss a brewing technique, taste commercial and homebrews, and support each other in their brewing endeavors.

An addition of live trivia every Saturday night at 7 p.m. will bring in a new crowd who seeks entertainment while they enjoy their frosty, cold beverage. Thanks to Last Call Columbus you can play along with their live general trivia games and win house cash to use next time or for a beer run during the week. New this last half of 2013 is the Barley Hopsters Wine Club. Reserve your seat for only $12 to taste your way through 100 varietals of wine. The club is currently exploring wines from the Southern Hemisphere.


To supplement the growing homebrew crowd in Delaware, the store also keeps grains, yeast, malt, hops, and additives in stock to create both beer and wine. They also have kits that include everything you need to get started in your own homebrewing adventures. Eight years ago my husband began experimenting in the art of homebrew with a kit. Now we’re growing hops in our backyard and doing about four brews a year. Our most recent pumpkin beer has been a hit among friends and the locals who have tasted it (thanks to Donald and Liz at Staas Brewing Co.). This weekend we are starting our second annual S’more Ale to be ready just in time for the Christmas season.

In early 2014, Barley Hopsters will surely see an increase in business with the addition of Son of Thurman as their next door neighbors (filling the space left vacant by Generations). Now is the time to see what the store has to offer. A build-your-own six-pack or gift certificate would make a great Christmas present and there are always plenty of beer lovers on hand to help you pick out something for your or your loved ones’ tastes. Or give me a call. I would love to help! Happy brewing, drinking and supporting your local businesses.


Try Vito’s Tonight!

Mike Shaw knows his wine. And as the owner of downtown Delaware’s Vito’s Wine Bar, he ought to. When asked how many bottles of wines he has in the store, he answered “135” without a beat.

And liquor?

“Three bourbons, 15 varieties of scotch, and seven Irish whiskeys.”

What about best your cocktails?

“Manhattans are our best sellers by far, with Old Fashions in a close second.”

Shaw’s employees are quick to add that the Sangrias, Margaritas and Lemon Drops are also top notch, and made with freshly squeezed fruits every day, too!

Vito's wine selection

Employee Austin shows off one of Vito’s 135 bottles of wine.

As a beer drinker myself, I had to know if there were any beers on tap. I was happy to see Stella, Moerlein’s Exposition Lager, Stillwater’s Saison, and Iron Fist Brewing Co.’s Stout.

The beers are top notch, but it’s the cuvée that really makes the Vito’s experience. If you haven’t experienced it, the cuvée is a big thing in the self-serve wine world. It consists of a climate controlled station that holds up to four wine bottles and dispenses based on the vino’s preference of a taste, half a glass or a full glass.


Vito’s has three cuvée stations, and Shaw trades out the varieties about every two weeks depending on the wine’s availability and popularity. The entire system operates with just a card, and the push of a button. The card can be purchased at $20 to start, can be spent over any period of time, and is refillable.

Shaw opened Vito’s in 2011 and it has been a consistent part of the downtown atmosphere ever since. With a beautiful make-over to an otherwise plain space, it was quick to attract the eye of Main Street Delaware and won a Design Award within the first year of its opening. Vito’s also hosts musical entertainment on a semi-regular basis and has two large flat-screen televisions.

It’s obviously easy to see yourself spending quite a bit of time at Vito’s watching a game on the big screen and sipping an Old Fashioned, so order a bite of something sweet or savory to satiate your appetite. The flatbreads or artichoke dip are great to share, but you’ll want to save the chocolate molten lava cake with caramel and sea salt all for yourself.

If you haven’t been able to make it to Vito’s yet, or if this article has given you a craving that you can’t curb, it’s perfect timing! Tonight (Thursday, October 24) Rob Rehm, owner of Redde Hedde Farms, is planning a craft beer tour through three of Delaware’s top craft beer stops. The tour begins at Barley Hopsters at 6 o’clock, then will migrate to Vito’s and Staas over the course of the night. You already know what I think of Staas (like a boss!), so I’m definitely in on this! I hope to see you tonight, too.

Keep your eyes to DelawareO for more from me on Barley Hopsters and their move into the new location at 1 North Sandusky!


The Experience Haunted Attraction

Delaware County is no stranger to a spooky story. Ohio Wesleyan University has its fair share of ghost legends, and even the Strand Theatre is rumored to host a spirit or two. So it should come as no surprise that a haunted attraction is practically in our own backyards in Ostrander.

In 1899, the Schneider family farm was located near today’s Dark Woods Theatre, off State Route 36 in Ostrander. Like any other day, Malcolm Schneider’s daughter Saran was out playing in the woods near their house. After hours of playing, Malcolm went out to find her, but there was no trace of the girl. Days after his daughter’s disappearance, Malcolm had disappeared, as well, in his hunt for her. Yet these were woods both father and daughter walked on a regular basis. Was there something evil lurking within the forest, or did Malcolm and Saran trade their farmstead life for one living among the trees, never to return? Dark Woods Entertainment’s “The Experience” gives their answer to the legend.

The creative team, consisting of Alan Saunders, Matt Schmitter, Mike Manter, Darren Huff, Matthew Cherubino and William “Rusty” Lowry, were tired of the gore and cheap scare tactics used in haunted houses in the area and wanted to create a haunted attraction based on a good story and some special effects. I am a big pansy, however, so I brought my friend Kayla along, and we braved the haunted attraction this past Saturday night. And also because I’m a pansy (and maybe some of my readers are, too) I’m going to use scared cat gifs to describe how I felt throughout the night.


The attraction is a casual, walking tour through the woods. Groups go at their own pace and are staggered in 10-minute blocks. The whole walk only takes about 20-25 minutes. Saturday was a perfect night to go, but the previous weekend there had been quite a bit of rain, so the trail would’ve been fairly wet. I wore rain boots and lots of layers, just in case. Guides get you started down the first part of the trail, explaining the lay of the land, some facts about the railroad that used to run through the area, and the “rules” rules of the walk: no cell phones or other artificial light, other than what’s provided, and just follow the natural path – if you start heading into brambles or branches, you may want to readjust. We didn’t have any issues with going off the path, and our eyes adjusted easily to the darkness.


The attraction begins with an enchanted mask guarding a gate, which tells the story of Malcolm and Saran. The story ends, the gate opens, and you’re on your own. Scarecrows and shadowy figures in the darkness lead the way at first. But as the creators intended, eventually your mind begins to play tricks on you and you’re not sure if you’ve seen another shadowy figure or if it’s just the forest looking particularly dark in that area.


Exceptionally creepy areas include a doll-adorned portion of the forest and a graveyard. My scaredy-cat self jumped (yes, and screamed) at a few of the scenes, but my partner in crime was loving everything.


It wasn’t until the final scare where I kept my eyes closed and Kayla was in horror heaven. I don’t want to give it away, but things get very dark, somewhat enclosed, and you see the legend from an entirely different perspective.


“The Experience” runs Fridays and Saturday nights (and Halloween) through November 2 at 10001 W Marysville Rd, Ostrander. Adult tickets are $10 and children ages 12 and under are $8. Get more information or pre-order your tickets at


All gif sources are from:

HHS Thespians Present… Macbeth

At one point or another every high school student has to get a taste of Shakespeare. Some students enjoy the challenge and dive head first into the iambic pentameter and plot themes. Others struggle to understand the language, which makes it even more difficult to understand the story’s historical prominence and relevance to readers today.


Kelly McFarland has worked with the Hayes High School Thespians for nine shows and admits he hears students gripe about Shakespeare’s work on a regular basis, calling it “boring and irrelevant.” So he decided to give it excitement and relevance by bringing it into a new era through the production of Macbeth under his direction.


Using a modern translation for the majority of the characters (with the exception of the witches) and set in a future, post-apocalyptic war zone, the play feels like it has been pulled from a current video game (anyone play Fallout?) or movie. “It’s like Walking Dead, but without the zombies,” said McFarland. “I wanted to make the story feel modern and for the students to be able to relate to it.” In his program note, McFarland points out that the play’s themes of ambition, jealousy, guilt and hate are not new to the youth of today, so no matter where the story is placed, it still tells the story of one man’s self-imposed fall.


The Hayes High School students barely had time to get settled in to their school routine before the Hayes High School Thespians held auditions for Macbeth. The cast was announced the last week of August and they were off. One month is a short span of time to put a play together, let alone a Shakespeare drama. However, through hard work and many after-school rehearsals, the cast and crew of 47 individuals swiftly pulled it all together. The actors look comfortable in their roles and easily morph into the characters they are portraying. The added sets, props, scenery, special effects and lighting all are especially effective in creating the retro-futuristic world McFarland set out to depict.


Additional kudos go to the set designers Jill and Tony Smith; costume designer Linda Hurley; and hair and make-up designer Laura McFarland for their incredible work. The lighting is breathtaking, particularly during the silhouetted scenes, and many of the characters are haunting. The show opened tonight at Hayes High School (239 Euclid Ave, Delaware) in the Performing Arts Center. It will skip a Friday night performance (due to football season) and resume for a 2 p.m. Saturday matinee and a 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening finale. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, and $5 for ITS (International Thespian Society) members with a valid card.


If you are unable to make the shows this weekend, the Delaware Shakespeare Club invites you to attend Macbeth Revisited with the Hayes High School Thespians on Thursday, October 10 at 7 p.m. in the Ohio Wesleyan University Beeghly Library, Bayley Room. Later in 2014 they will also host a Shakespeare and the Classics night at Beehive Books with Richard Albert from the Columbus Civic Theater.

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

All Horse Parade

The Delaware All Horse Parade took place in downtown Delaware today and there were 104 amazing horse ‘units’ participating! In my four years of living in Delaware, this is the first opportunity I’ve had to attend the parade and it was well worth it. A beautiful afternoon and many beautiful animals.

Here’s a glimpse at some of my favorite photos from the afternoon:

American FlagPolice




IMG_0041IMG_0105 IMG_0103IMG_0098





Which one is your favorite? Did I miss one that you wanted to see? Let me know in the comments below!

From OH to DC & NYC and Back

Tips for the spontaneous traveler or wannabe

This summer I had requested a week off work for plans I thought were solid. Turns out, they weren’t and I was left with a week off and nothing to do. I had nine days to decide if I wanted to take a vacation, where my husband and I would go, and figure out all the rest of the lingering details. We decided yes, a vacation was in order, and we would tackle four days in Washington, DC and then head north for three in New York City.

I’m sorry if I’ve just given every A-type personality reading this a panic attack. Perhaps after reading my tips for a whirlwind vacation below, you can make some baby steps to attempt this yourself at one point. Spontaneity is liberating! I believe in you.

Tip1DrivingDistance.jpgTip #1: Pick a city within driving distance

The Midwest is great for this! Not only do you have tons of places within Ohio, but you also have great cities like Pittsburgh, Nashville, Boston, Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville. Six to eight hours in the car is not awful and can be a great bonding experience if you and your friends or family haven’t taken a road trip in a while. Plus, the cost of gas alone compared to what you’d pay for a flight is worth it.

 Tip2GoWhereYouKnowPeople.jpgTip #2: Pick a city where you already know people

Did you have a former colleague who moved to DC for work? What about a high school friend who is pursuing her dreams in NYC? This was the case for me. These are close friends to whom I always said, “I really want to come and visit you sometime!” and I hadn’t had many chances to fulfill my promise. Don’t be that friend who sees someone only at your class reunion and promises it won’t be so long until you touch base next time. Call them and see if you can meet up while on your mini-vacation, or better yet, ask if they enjoy having guests over and would be willing to spare a guest bedroom for a couple nights? For my friend in DC, this worked perfect. She has a guest room in an apartment with a spare key, so we chopped 4 nights in a hotel room off our budget and thanked her by taking her and her fiancé out to dinner on our final night.

The added bonus for knowing people where you’re going is if you’re not already familiar with the city, you’ve got a semi-built-in-tour-guide. If you love craft beers you can ask their recommendation for the best place to grab a drink. It’s really great to get the local perspective on attractions away from the tourists’ eyes. I lived in DC for a quarter in college and didn’t even realize there was a giant farmers’ market with awesome clothes and great deals until my friend suggested we check it out. But A-types, don’t try to plan out every aspect of your day, sometimes it’s fun to just walk out the door with no plan and see where the day takes you and what you discover.

 Tip3DontBeTraditional.jpgTip #3: Don’t be traditional

I found an awesome hotel in New York’s premier shopping district, Soho, by looking first for hostels. I wasn’t looking for something right on Times Square where prices were certain to start at $200 a night. I also didn’t care if our room had an HD TV with all the fancy channels. I was going to New York City. I needed a bed, a shower, a toilet, and since it was July, air conditioning. I looked for places away from the tourist attractions, which is what led me to Soho. Other than the bedroom amenities, I did want the place to be within walking distance of a metro stop and it had to be clean. Using sites with comments and user-ratings are great! I personally love Yelp has real people who write real reviews. The hotel we chose wasn’t rated a 5-star, in fact, it was only rated 2.5, but I read the reviews and realized that people’s expectations were FAR too high for a NYC hotel. Again, you need a bed, shower, toilet, and air conditioning. Cartoon Network? Not a necessity.

 Tip4FreeStuff.jpgTip #4: Take advantage of the free stuff

Our nation’s capital is a great place for F-R-E-E. All the Smithsonian exhibits are available free to the public, including the zoo! We got up close with pandas, elephants, beavers, otters, monkeys and some gnarly looking fish at the National Zoo just for the price of our metro ticket and what we paid for lunch. We also hit up a Washington Nationals baseball game for less than $10 for the both of us because of dollar tickets for dollar dog night! That’s not free, but it may as well be for 2 baseball game tickets, two hot dogs, and two drinks.

Tip4CheapStuff.jpgNew York is generally not known for having anything free, but if you know some secrets, you can take advantage of what there is. Because I had been watching America’s Got Talent before we left, I saw that they were broadcasting their live shows from Radio City Music Hall in NYC and you could log on to the web site and get free standby tickets to be part of the audience for the broadcast. You better believe I hit that up! It was all very last minute (I’m talking 6 days before we’d be in NYC at this point) but we got in! This goes back to what I’ve been saying all along…



 Tip5BeSpontaneous.jpgTip #5: Be spontaneous!

Sometimes NOT planning is what saves you money. If a hotel has rooms available for tomorrow night they will practically pay you to stay with them because otherwise if the room is not full, they are losing money. The same goes for theatre performances on Broadway. We utilized the TKTS Booth located on Times Square to get $55 Orchestra Seats to see Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark. You can download the TKTS app or just visit the web site the day you want to see a show to see what will be on sale that day. The booth we went to opened at 2 PM. We got there at 1:50 and the line was already wrapped around itself 3 times, however it moved quickly. We waited in line just about an hour and could see on the TKTS screen what shows were selling out before we got to the desk to purchase our tickets. We gave them our top choice (which was Pippin) but it had already sold out. We had decided that Spiderman would be our second choice because of the insane amount of special effects that were made custom for it at the Foxwoods Theatre where it was being performed. We got our tickets by 3 PM and had plenty of time to do more exploring and get dinner before the 7:30 performance.

Obviously a last-minute vacation is not the ideal opportunity for everyone, but hopefully you’ve picked up some tips that you can employ on your next trip. I am in love with Washington, DC and New York City and have much more that I could share, so if you have any questions about what we did or where we went, feel free to ask them in the comments below and I will get back to you with my personal recommendations.