Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail


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I visited the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens on my third trip to Scotland, checking it off my “must see” list. The sprawling gardens are wildly beautiful and my sister and I enjoyed wandering down the pathways, stopping to inspect new to us plant species.

When I returned to Edinburgh last December, I noted with excitement that a special event was going on in the gardens, coinciding with the holidays. I booked my entry immediately.

My first full day in the city concluded with the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail, an after dark spectacular featuring lights and music.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail title

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

The Royal Botanic Gardens, founded in 1670, began as a space to grow medicinal plants. Today the garden occupies four sites across Scotland: Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore. Each offers its own special collection of plants. The Edinburgh site hosts the main garden. Its outdoor collection consists of more than 13,000 plant species and almost 300,000 individual plants.

Originally the gardens flourished near Holyrood Palace, at the foot of what’s referred to as the Royal Mile. It is the second oldest botanic garden in Great Britain, after Oxford’s. That first medicinal garden occupied a 40 foot by 40 foot plot, and housed almost 900 plants. When the site became too small, the garden relocated in 1676 to Loch Nor, not far from High Street. Today Waverly Railway Station occupies that space.

In 1763 the garden moved again to Leith Walk, away from the more populous part of Edinburgh. And in the early 1820s the garden moved to its current location adjacent to Inverleith Row. The garden occupies 70 acres and includes a variety of collections including Alpine Plants, Chinese Hillside, Rock Garden, Scottish Heath Garden and Woodland Garden. There’s also an Herbarium on site, that houses more than 3 million specimens.

During the rest of the year, entry into the botanical gardens is free. There is a small fee to enter the greenhouses.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail lanterns
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail – lanterns

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail

Also called Christmas at the Botanics, the event runs for five weeks, beginning the third week in November. Guests enter through the East or West Gate. Once inside, a clearly marked one mile path weaves through the garden displays.

The beautiful displays feature a variety of lights and light shows with accompanying music, making the walk through the gardens magical.

Look for light projections that tell a story, against Inverleith House, Father Christmas and decorated booths selling hot chocolate, mulled wine, spiced cider and snacks. The main building at the East Gate is open so that visitors can use the restrooms, check out the gift shop or warm up for a few minutes.

Last year marked the sixth time for this special night trail. The event has become an important fund raiser for the Gardens. The funds help support plant research and conservation work.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail magical
The Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail is magical!
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail father christmas
Father Christmas delights the young and young at heart.

What You Need to Know

From Old or New Town, the gardens are certainly walkable. However, with the event taking place during the colder months and after the sun sets, many opt to take a city bus or an Uber or taxi.

Reserve entry time online HERE for 2023. Tickets specify whether you enter through the East or West Gates. Show up 15 minutes early so you are ready to have your online ticket scanned.

If arriving by car, taxi or group bus, select entry through the West Gate on Arboretum Place . Use the East Gate on Inverleith Row for public transportation or when walking to the gardens.

This is a ticketed evening event. You must purchase tickets online, reserving your time. Last year, advance tickets were 21.50 pounds.

Entry begins at 4:15 pm with the last admission at 8:00 pm. Timed entries are spaced 15 minutes apart per group.

Expect to spend at least an hour and a half wandering through the festive gardens.

Red flower lights on the night trail.
Red flower lights on the night trail.
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trails japanese
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail Japanese house

My Experience at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail

I booked my ticket online and selected 4:15 pm as my entry time. Remember that in winter, it gets dark EARLY in Scotland. The sun is completely down by 3:30 in the afternoon.

Although the gardens are located a 20 minute walk from Princes Street, I decided to take an Uber since it was already dark and cold. I dressed in warm layers and a heavy coat, pulled on my red stocking cap and gloves and arrived 15 minutes early at the designated gate.

I spent a little more than an hour and a half walking through this enchanting garden. My group started out together and I made friends with a woman from London. However, we all quickly spread out over the grounds as some walked faster or slower and others lingered over displays. The paths are indeed well marked and security personnel stood in key locations to help, if needed.

I love botanical gardens anyway. This nighttime experience was unforgettable. The lights, from flickering candlelight to thousands of tiny white lights to brightly colored laser shows created such a fresh experience in the gardens. Most of the light displays had music as well. I felt like I’d wandered into a place where magic truly is possible.

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail tunnel
Tunnel of Light. That white circle was a full moon…perfect for the evening!
Water Lilies
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail – water lilies

Visit the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Night Trail in 2023

For a beautiful night time experience in Edinburgh, check out the lights and music at the botanic gardens. Artist created displays change each year, or at least some of them do. Tickets go on sale in late fall.

And do stop by Edinburgh’s botanical gardens during the day if you are in the city during any season. It’s well worth the time spent walking among the trees, flowers and water features there.

Have you ever visited a botanical garden during the holidays? Which one?

Me in the Gardens

Get a warm, lined red stocking cap like the one I wore HERE.


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CoDE Boutique Hostel

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When I’m planning a trip, the first thing I focus on, even before checking flights, is accommodations. Where I stay is important, especially since I’m on foot during most of my stay.

My ideal accommodation is located near the area I most want to explore, has a kitchen or mini kitchen and is unique.

As I searched in Old and New Towns, in Edinburgh, I browsed through many hotels. I found several that met my criteria, however the price per night was high for all of them. I hoped to spend 5 – 7 days in Edinburgh so I kept searching.

I’m not sure how I ended up on the CoDE Boutique Hostel sites. I apparently clicked a link or a photo and rather than click away, I kept scrolling through their info. CoDE features sleek, comfy pods in dormitory style rooms, similar to Japanese hostels. Intrigued, I considered booking a pod in a female only room.

And then it happened. CoDE operates two hostels in Edinburgh, one off of the Royal Mile and the other on Rose Street. Rose Street felt perfect, location wise. As I looked at the dormitory rooms I discovered that the Rose Street location offered a top floor “penthouse” with a full kitchen, private bathroom, incredible floor to ceiling windows AND a balcony.

My heart beat faster, a sure sign that I’d found my accommodations. And, the price was incredible. I could stay a full week at CoDE for less than the cost of 3 nights at the hotels I’d been perusing. My trip to Edinburgh came together quickly after that remarkable find.

CoDE Boutique Hostel title

CoDE Boutique Hostel

With their private pods, ear plugs and sleeping masks, this luxury hostel offers a great night’s sleep with an emphasis on privacy and security.

They provide cozy common rooms to encourage social interaction among the guests and the CoDE Court Hostel off of the Royal Mile offers waffles for breakfast every morning. Amenities include free wi-fi, storage lockers, toiletries and a place to stash luggage if you arrive before check in time.

The Court in Old Town is so named because the building formerly served as a courthouse and jail. The cells are now individual rooms and the courtroom a sleeping studio with pods.

The pod beds feel private with curtains that close at the foot of the pod. The pods contain a shelf, LED lighting, hooks and USB ports. Each pod has a corresponding locker with a digital lock that securely holds luggage and personal items. Female only and coed dorms are available.

The CoDE name comes from the fact that each guest receives his or her own unique personal code for access to the building and dorm room or apartment.

CoDE Boutique Hostel Loft

The hostel I chose, located at 50 Rose Street North Lane, provides long term living options in a beautiful old building in the heart of New Town. This hostel offers discounts for stays from a week to several months, making it ideal for my trip.

There’s also a family room at this site, with a double pod and two single pods, perfect for parents with kids who want to share the same space. Each of the floors contain two pod rooms with shared bathrooms. The penthouse, a cozy and cute studio style apartment, sits at the top of the building. My guess is that this is a recent add on.

On the ground floor is a full kitchen for guests to prepare meals and a common room for social interaction, watching tv or working on laptops.

The spotless apartment contains a spacious bathroom with walk in shower, a kitchen with mini fridge, full size electric range, microwave, plates, glasses, mugs and silverware and cooking essentials, dining area/workspace and a double bed. The large windows look out over charming buildings in the area and at the end of the apartment, a sliding glass door opens onto a large private balcony.

Take a tour of the penthouse apartment with me as I point out some of the amazing features!

CoDE Boutique Hostel exterior
The exterior of the CoDE Boutique Hostel.

Common Room and Shared Kitchen

Using the personalized code, I entered a hallway that leads to storage lockers and stairs going up to four floors of rooms. There isn’t an elevator.

Immediately inside the entrance and to the right is the common room with a shared kitchen, tables, sofas and a television mounted on the wall. I don’t believe the pod rooms contain a tv although the apartment does.

The kitchen is stocked with cooking essentials and free coffees and teas.

There isn’t a check in desk. Arrangements are made online and my card was charged right before I arrived. There are helpful staff onsite. The young man working the day I arrived graciously carried my luggage to the top floor!

I met several of the other guests although I never used the shared kitchen or hung out in the common room. Everyone seemed kind and thoughtful.

CoDE Boutique Hostel common room and kitchen
CoDE Boutique Hostel common room and kitchen

CoDE Boutique Hostel Apartment Hallway

The industrial style door opens onto a hallway with storage, hangers and cubbies for clothing. At the end of the hallway is the bathroom. The living area/bedroom opens off of the hallway as well.

A perfectly placed full length mirror made the clothing storage area a wonderful spot to get dressed and don coat, hat, gloves and scarf before heading out to explore. I really appreciated this handy area.

Apartment hallway with clothing storage area.
Hallway with clothing storage area.
Bathroom at the end of the hallway.
Bathroom at the end of the hallway.

CoDE Boutique Hostel Apartment Bathroom

I loved the large bathroom! Subway tiles, an awesome shower, dual mirrors, the ledge near the sink for toiletries and the cheerful orange rug all enchanted me. Plus, it absolutely gleamed!

CoDE provides two hand towels and two bath towels, shower gel and a hair dryer, which meant I didn’t have to pack one or use electrical adapters.

A small wall radiator kept the bathroom cozy. Also, blue mood lighting installed along the baseboards served well as a nightlight.

CoDE Boutique Hostel bathroom
CoDE Boutique Hostel bathroom
Awesome shower
Awesome shower

CoDE Boutique Hostel Apartment Sleeping Area

A double bed, two bedside tables and lamps and a wall mounted television occupy one end of the studio style apartment. The thick, comfy mattress provided the BEST night’s sleep after a day of exploring.

Above the bed, the words “Wake up and be awesome” inspired me every morning.

Charging ports built into the walls made it easy to plug my phone in for charging and again, I didn’t have to use the electrical adapters that I brought.

The two exterior walls contained large windows and a sliding glass door opening onto the balcony. I loved the light and the views.

Wake up and be awesome
Wake up and be awesome!
What amazing views
What amazing views!

CoDE Boutique Hostel Apartment Kitchen and Dining Area

At the other end of the apartment an island with four stools provided dining and work space near the windows.

And the kitchen offered a full sized stove/oven, a microwave, mini fridge, toaster and my favorite, an instant water kettle for making hot tea. The kitchen contained everything I needed to create meals. Because I’m plant based, it’s easier for me to make my own breakfasts and dinners and eat lunches out at various vegan restaurants. Cooking saves me money and I know I’m eating healthy. A corner grocery store a few blocks away made shopping convenient.


CoDE Boutique Hostel kitchen
CoDE Boutique Hostel kitchen
Dining/work area
Dining/workspace area with a peek at the private balcony beyond.

My Experience in the CoDE Boutique Hostel

I immediately fell in love with this apartment!

Yes, at least twice a day I climbed four floors to reach my apartment. By the third day, I made that climb easily without feeling out of breath. And oh, that climb was worth it!

I raised the shades first thing every morning, ate my oatmeal and berries sitting in front of those windows, watched the sun rise, the snow swirl, the clouds gather, darkness fall. The views from that top floor apartment melted my heart.

In fact, my first evening in the apartment, after exploring for a few hours, I stood at those windows and said aloud, “I’m in Edinburgh!” And I promptly burst into tears. It was such an emotional experience.

I loved everything about the apartment: location, beauty, kitchen, balcony, dressing area, bed. By nature I’m a tidy person, so I kept the apartment clean… picked up, bed made, dishes washed, clothes put away tidy.

One thing the apartment does not have is an indoor chair. There are the stools at the island and the bed but no chair. So I brought in one of the eight outdoor chairs on the balcony and set it up in front of the window. It became “my place” to greet the day, eat meals, plan for the next day and meditate.

And on the day of heavy rain and snow, that comfy chair served as a drying rack near the radiator for my coat, hat, gloves and scarf!

A snowy day in Edinburgh
A snowy day in Edinburgh.

Who Might Not Like This Luxury Hostel

CoDE Boutique Hostel perfectly fit my needs and exceeded my expectations.

I’m aware, however, that not everyone would appreciate this type of accommodation.

Why you might not like this hostel:

  • you can’t climb stairs
  • there’s zero parking for a rental car…the location is ideal however for walking
  • while staff are onsite, there’s no check in/check out desk
  • instead of a room key, you receive a unique to you code to punch in on a keypad
  • there’s no daily room cleaning service in the apartment…it’s cleaned between guests
  • pod rooms share bathrooms
  • Rose Street is a busy pedestrian street, which means you might hear some noise late at night as people walk down the street (this didn’t bother me or keep me awake)
  • guests come and go at all hours of the day and night (again, this didn’t bother me or keep me awake, since I was at the top of the building)
  • there’s no gym, pool, business center or complimentary breakfast at the Rose Street site
This is Edinburgh
My apartment was the Edinburgh Suite. I loved that.

Would I Stay at CoDE Boutique Hostel Again?

So…would I stay here again?

Yes! I absolutely would. The apartment became my home base as I explored Edinburgh. Its convenient location made it easy to stop by after lunch to drop off any purchases and refresh before heading back out.

The staff answered all my questions and when the heat didn’t kick on the first night, a quick email resulted in an even quicker fix. They were able to turn on the radiator remotely.

I so enjoyed my stay at CoDE that I felt genuinely sad when I left for the last time, to catch a flight home. For a glorious week, that little apartment WAS home and it served me well.

I can’t really say I experienced a traditional hostel stay, since I had my own private space, but I loved this new to me type of accommodation, nonetheless. My stay at CoDE contributed to my Edinburgh trip in very positive ways. I’d definitely stay here again or even consider a stay in the females only pod room.

Would you stay at CoDE Boutique Hostel? Why or why not?

CoDE Boutique Hostel balcony
Enjoying a light snowfall on the balcony at CoDE Boutique Hostel.

Other Unique Places I’ve Stayed:

citizenM Hotel Washington DC

Sailor’s Rest Airbnb

Culture Boutique Hotel


Winter Gear from Amazon:



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Fun Things to Do in Washington DC

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

What an amazing experience, exploring Washington DC for the first time. The city surprised me in so many ways, and I wondered why I waited so long to visit. My grandson Dayan moved to DC last summer, for post graduate studies, and for work. Dayan living there prompted me to travel to DC so I could not only see my grandson but see the city through his eyes.

There are SO many fun things to do in Washington DC, and most of those activities are free.

Haven’t been to DC yet either? Use my experiences as a guide. Been to DC already? Share your favorite things to do in the city, in the comments.
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC pinnable title

List of Fun Things to Do in Washington DC

For reference, I spent four days and three nights in DC, at the fabulous citizenM Hotel located a couple of blocks from the National Mall. A nearby Metro station made getting around the city easy. And, DC is very walkable if you don’t mind walking a LOT. I’d suggest comfortable, sturdy walking shoes.

I experienced rain every day of my visit. That didn’t stop Dayan and me from exploring all day long with the help of rain jackets and an umbrella.

Here’s a list of fun things to do, while visiting the nation’s capital.

Tour The Capitol Building

The United States Capitol, typically called The Capitol or The Capitol Building, is the seat of the legislative branch of the United States federal government. It is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall, on a plateau 88 feet above the level of the Potomac River. From The Capitol you can look west and see the Washington Memorial 1.4 miles away and the Lincoln Memorial, 2.2 miles away. These three structures line up on the National Mall.

The Capitol is home to the House of Representatives and the Senate. As the country and city grew, so did The Capitol. Building began in 1793 and the first congress met there in 1800. Currently the building contains over 1.5 million square feet, 600+ rooms and miles of corridors. The structure is crowned by the magnificent white dome and is an iconic symbol of the US and her people.

You can participate in a paid tour of The Capitol. Only visitors with advance tour reservations may enter the building. Check out tour info HERE.

Dayan and I toured The Capitol Building shortly after my arrival in DC. The 1 1/2 hour tour begins with a 30 minute film about the construction of The Capitol and its purpose. I felt SO moved during the film. It brought home to me the importance of this historic building and also of the city itself. It’s one place…for many people…for ALL people. Inscribed in the rotunda is the Latin phrase, “E Pluribus Unum”, from the many, one. One government, representing all.

We loved this fascinating tour and learned so much.

Fun Things to Do in Washington DC dayan
I not only enjoyed the tour of The Capitol, I enjoyed watching my grandson’s delight.

Explore The National Mall

Nicknamed “America’s Front Yard”, the National Mall is where the country’s most iconic memorials, museums and statues are found. You can participate in guided tours of the Mall, or walk the area yourself. The space stretches from The Capitol Building to the Tidal Basin area beyond the Lincoln Memorial to the White House on the north side. It is flanked by the Smithsonian Museums.

A 5 mile loop around the Mall takes approximately an hour and a half to walk. You can easily spend days exploring in just this area, visiting memorials and museums.

Dayan and I wandered around this area on all four days, popping into museums and art galleries, to escape the rain, and visiting monuments and memorials. Seeing the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, after reading about them and seeing photos of them my whole life, was an emotional experience for me.

Fun Things to Do in Washington DC national mall
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC – National Mall

Discover Monuments and Memorials

While exploring the National Mall, stop at the many, many monuments and memorials.

The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial are the most well known however there are more than 100 structures in the area. These monuments and memorials honor America’s forefathers and heroes and tell stories about our history.

Places to visit include Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, National World War I and World War II Memorials, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Albert Einstein Memorial, Vietnam Women’s Memorial, African American Civil War Memorial and DC War Memorial.

There are many other sites set up in memory of a person or group. Part of the fun is finding them.

The Lincoln Memorial
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC – Lincoln Memorial

Visit the Smithsonian Museums

DC can boast that it has the world’s largest museum complex!

Around and near the National Mall, 16 Smithsonian Museums offer exhibits that range from art to science to history. The National Zoo is included as a Smithsonian site as well. All Smithsonian Museums are, amazingly, free to enter. Some do require a timed entry. You can reserve your pass online.

Smithsonian Museums include:

  • Anacostia Community Museum
  • Arts & Industries Building
  • Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
  • National Air & Space Museum
  • National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Renwick Gallery of Smithsonian American Art
  • National Museum of African Art
  • National Museum of American History
  • Smithsonian Institute Castle
  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • National Museum of Asian Art
  • Smithsonian National Zoo
  • National Museum of Natural History
  • National Portrait Gallery & Smithsonian American Art
  • Smithsonian Gardens
  • National Postal Museum

Among the museums, the National Museum of Natural History, with its dinosaur bones, sea life exhibits and rock and mineral section, is the most popular. It ranked first, with almost a million visits in 2021, with the National Zoo a close second.

Dayan and I enjoyed visiting several of these museums, including Natural History, the Portrait Gallery, American Art and American History. We also visited the National Gallery of Art, which is not a Smithsonian Museum. However, it is worth a visit as well, for its amazing works of classic art.

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC – Smithsonian Museums

Walk Through the United States Botanic Garden

In the middle of the city lies a beautiful garden. This is the United States Botanic Garden, established 200 years ago. It too is free to enter.

The US Botanic Garden offers uniquely beautiful exhibits that not only delight but inspire us to become better stewards of the plants on the earth.

You can wander through outdoor exhibits that include vegetable gardens, flower gardens, sculptures, fountains and seasonal displays.

Indoors, in the conservatories, stroll through world regions that include desert, tropical, subtropical and Jurassic. There’s a medicinal garden, orchids and endangered plants.

I love to visit botanical gardens in every city and country that I visit. This one was magical!

United States Botanic Garden
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC – US Botanic Garden

Take a Photo of the White House

At the northern edge of the National Mall, on Pennsylvania Avenue, sits the beautiful White House. This magnificent structure has housed every US president, since John Adams in 1800.

Did you know that the White House is modeled on Leinster House in Dublin? Irish born architect James Hoban intentionally created the neoclassical structure based on the Irish Legislature building.

The West Wing was added in 1901, by President Theodore Roosevelt. Eight years later President William Taft added the Oval Office. And the East Wing was completed in 1946. The executive residence includes six stories, 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases and 3 elevators.

Tours of the White House are free, however, you must contact your representative to make a request. Submit requests at least 21 days in advance or up to 3 months before your visit. There are a limited number of visitors allowed.

I didn’t discover the 21 days in advance rule in time to request a tour. However, Dayan and I explored nearby Lafayette Square and took photos of the White House.

The White House
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC – take a photo of the White House

Enjoy the Views from the Old Post Office Clock Tower

What a wonderful way to get a different perspective of the city!

The Old Post Office, located at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, is a National Historic Site. Completed in 1899, this post office replaced an earlier general post office building from 1839. The clock tower is the third tallest structure in DC.

It ceased existence as a post office in 1914 at the beginning of WWI. After avoiding demolition for many years, retail space, a food court and a roof skylight over a central atrium brought new life to the old structure. The building operated for four years as a luxury hotel before reopening this year as the Waldorf Astoria Washington DC.

The 315 foot high clock tower houses the “Bells of Congress” and on its observation level, offers panoramic views of the city. Entrance is free.

Dayan suggested this site, and I admit giddy relief when he told me there’s an elevator to the observation deck! The wind was brisk and cold but what amazing views over the city! The final photo in this post shows just how beautiful those views are.

Old Post Office Clock Tower
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC – the Old Post Office Clock Tower

Walk Around the City

Besides the National Mall, there’s much to explore in the city, such as charming neighborhoods, museums like the International Spy Museum, historic spots like Ford’s Theatre, restaurants that specialize in brunch, cool coffee shops, gardens and stunning architecture.

In spite of the rain, I spent Monday afternoon walking in downtown DC, after one last lunch with my grandson. I “gwalked”…walked and gawked at the same time! DC is a gorgeous city, clean and friendly with lots of green space. I loved everything about it and simply enjoyed being there.

Ford Theatre
See what you can find, as you walk the city!

Take a Tour

There are many tours available in DC, from historic ones to memorial tours to ghost walks. The city offers bike tours, bus tours, walking tours or you can explore by moonlight in a trolley.

I spent the remainder of my last afternoon in DC on a 90 minute bus tour. It got me out of the chilly rain, which was quite heavy by then, and I appreciated the stories the tour guide shared. We stopped at the Lincoln Memorial and I snapped additional photos.

I love experiencing ghost tours in the cities I travel to. This time, however, Dayan and I created our own walking ghost tour, stopping at haunted locations in the city to take photos. Check out my post, Ghost Stories from Washington DC.

Take a tour of the city
Take a fun tour of the city.

Have you visited DC?

My four days in DC flew by! There’s so much to do and see that I need another trip there. I believe I could visit DC yearly and never run out of experiences to enjoy. Let these fun things to do in Washington DC give you a starting point.

Have you visited DC? What experiences did you most enjoy? Add to my list by posting your recommendations in the comments below!

View from the top
Fun Things to Do in Washington DC – clock tower view


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citizenM Hotel Washington DC Capitol

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

On my recent trip to Washington DC, finding the right accommodations landed high on my list.

I’m drawn to unique, fun properties. Location is important of course, as I’m usually on foot. And eco-friendliness is a huge factor as well.

As I sorted through possibilities, one hotel stood out to me as it checked all my boxes. Location…perfect. Eco-friendliness…outstanding. And uniqueness…through the roof!

I’m excited to share citizenM Hotel with you, the Washington DC Capitol location.

citizenM Hotel title

The Story Behind citizenM Hotel

The citizenM hotel franchise opened its first hotel in Amsterdam, in 2008, with a big mission: to become the leading transformational hotel inspiring a new generation of modern travelers in the big cities in the world by offering an affordable luxury lifestyle.

They are a new breed of boutique hotel that disrupts the traditional models by eliminating the frustrations travelers shared and offering a luxury experience in central city locations for an affordable price.

This hybrid hotel isn’t just a place to sleep, but a place to work, relax, and play. It’s a place to meet like-minded people and get inspired. citizenM feels like home the moment you walk through the door with its free Wi-Fi, comfortable furniture, and an extremely comfy bed to crash in at the end of a long day exploring.

They call themselves the brand with attitude…playful, cheeky, fun, outrageous. It’s a hotel brand that connects to the young at heart, no matter the actual age. They are proudly colorful, confident and artsy. And the hotels encourage guests to gather outside the cozy rooms in bright common areas, work spaces and meeting rooms.

citizenM Name

According to citizenM, mobile citizens cross continents as easily as they cross streets. They appreciate more than chocolates on pillows. And they mix and match their choices from clothing styles to travel modes.

citizenM is named for these mobile citizens. Every decision they make for their hotels is based on the needs of these travelers.

Currently the company operates 20 hotels in Europe, Asia and the US, with 18 new hotels in development, globally.

citizenM Hotel gathering area
citizenM Hotel Washington DC Capitol – one of the inviting living rooms in my hotel

Why I Love citizenM

Washington DC offers two citizenM Hotels. I chose the Washington DC Capitol location, due to its proximity to the National Mall with its monuments and museums and the Metro system. Once I downloaded their cool and easy to use app, I made my reservation through it and looked forward to experiencing their uniqueness.

I was not disappointed!

Here’s what I love about citizenM, in no particular order.

Quick Contactless Check in

Using the app, I checked in as I arrived at the hotel, located at 550 School Street SW, Washington DC. I paid on the app too, as I walked into the lobby. From there I simply picked up an electronic key to my room and chatted for a moment with the friendly ambassador, available to offer aid and answer questions. Because I arrived hours before check in time, they kindly stowed my carry on so I could head out with my grandson to explore the city.

Check in is SO quick and easy. For those who do not have the app, computers are set up for self check in.

When I left I checked out online and dropped off my key.

Common Areas and 24/7 canteenM

Before going to my room, I wandered around downstairs. I loved the bright, inviting common areas, the table with a bank of computers and all the amazing art.

canteenM is a kitchen/cafe, open 24/7, for drinks and food. I could fill my water container here, eat breakfast from the buffet, grab a late night drink or snack or have a cup of tea.

cloudM is the rooftop bar, however, with the steady rain during the four days I visited DC, this open air space remained closed.

The mezzanine features meeting rooms and a gym.

citizenM Hotel mezzanine
citizenM Hotel Washington DC Capitol – meeting rooms, restrooms and gym on the mezzanine level, overlooking canteenM below

Green Hotel Practices

Eco-friendliness is SO crucial to me. citizenM is kind to the planet with a focus on building and operating healthier, greener hotels. They promote water conservation with water bottle filling stations on site, have a “no single use plastics” policy, provide on site recycling, contribute to local charities and organizations and offer choices on housekeeping.

I chose the option of no housekeeping in my room while I was there. I choose that option in every hotel I stay in. However, citizenM takes that choice one step farther. They donate $3 or 3 euros to charity, when a guest stays 2 or more nights and chooses the “no cleaning” option.

The LED lights automatically turn off when guests leave the room. A light automatically turns on at dusk, in my hotel at least, so that you never walk into a dark room. And all rooms have individually controlled heat/air so that only occupied rooms use energy.

They partner with the TooGoodToGo app to sell breakfast buffet leftovers that would otherwise go to waste.

Read more about citizenM green practices HERE.

canteenM with the friendliest staff

The citizenM Room

All rooms at citizenM are the same, designed for one or two adults, with a single extra large king size bed.

This hotel likes to boast about their comfy beds…with the fluffiest pillows and snuggliest duvet comforters…and it’s true. I LOVE the big oversized bed, positioned next to the huge window for great city views. After a day of walking and exploring, it was pure bliss to crawl into that bed. I slept soundly and deeply.

Fun fact: my bed was sprinkled with red balloons when I arrived.

Under the bed storage bins provide ample room to stash gadgets, shoes, luggage or a laptop. There’s also a safe in one of the drawers.

Besides the comfiest bed, what else do I love about about the room?

iPad Controlled

This is fun. The whole room is controlled by an iPad. Lights, the window shades, the television and room temperature, all controlled via the iPad screen. There are mood lights in the sleek bathroom that change colors, lights that brighten or dim or lots of entertainment on the big screen tv on the wall at the foot of the bed.

You can also find traditional light switches on the wall.

I found the iPad easy to use and loved the convenience of changing lighting, tv channels and room temperature from the bed.

citizenM Hotel howdy
citizenM Hotel – a greeting from the iPad in the room

Recycling Bin in Room

The multifunctional counter with sink, storage, refrigerator and lighted vanity mirror also contained a recycling bin. That’s a first for me and I used it for paper disposal.

Multifunctional counter
Multifunctional counter that includes recycling bin

Sleek Bathroom

The room makes the absolute best use of space. The sink is outside the bathroom area while the shower and toilet are enclosed. The walls are opaque. There is a privacy curtain guests can use if desired, to separate the bed area from the bathroom.

You can change the lighting color over the shower, which offers nighttime and daytime shower gels/shampoo and an amazing shower head.

citizenM Hotel mood lighting
citizenM Hotel – mood lighting in the bathroom

Desk with Charging Stations

Next to the bed is a desk and chair. The iPad has a charging dock here plus there are built in charging plugs on the wall above the desk. It’s so convenient to plug in my phone at night.

Desk with charging stations
Desk with charging stations

Window Shades

The large window next to the bed offers wonderful city views. During the day, I could raise the shades to let light in. Or I could lower the thin shade that still allowed light to come into the room while providing privacy. And then there’s the room darkening shade, for sleeping.

Every morning, lying in bed, I’d use the iPad to raise the darkening shade and then the privacy shade and welcome in the new day. What a beautiful ritual that became.

citizenM Hotel shades
Good morning DC!

I’m a citizenM Fan

I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at citizenM Hotel Washington DC Capitol. Everything about this place enchanted me, including the cheerful, helpful staff.

And yeah, I know it won’t be everyone’s preference. citizenM is colorful, playful, bold, progressive, untraditional and outrageous. I believe it’s the hotel of the future, here now in the present. It’s a place where travelers feel understood and acknowledged and encouraged to keep following their hearts as they explore.

I appreciate everything that this hotel franchise offers and the changes they are making in the world.

I’m a citizenM fan, so much so that I’d love to visit ALL of their hotels around the globe. They happen to have hotels in most of the cities on my travel list.

Coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidence. It’s fate. And it’s a big goal, to make this desire a reality.

Have you stayed in a citizenM Hotel? Which one? And if you haven’t, would you stay here? Ask me your questions.

Click this LINK to see citizenM Hotel locations and book a room.

Matching the lobby
Citizen Cindy, in the lobby and accidently matching the decor.

Watch for more posts from my time in DC. And check out this one on Haunted DC.

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Antonia Graza Ghost Ship

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My sister and her family are Halloween party planners, extraordinaire. They create the most amazing themed parties each year…when COVID (2020) or a move to a new house (2021) don’t cancel the highly anticipated event.

Check out the 2018 and 2019 Halloween Parties…more themed parties available by clicking links at the bottom of those two posts…and prepare to board the Antonia Graza Ghost Ship, for a voyage into spookiness.

Antonia Graza Ghost Ship title

The Antonia Graza Ghost Ship

This year’s theme included a backstory, cleverly posted as newspaper headlines on the walls. My niece Ashley makes full use of her incredible graphic design abilities.

Reading the headlines from various national newspapers reveal that the MS Antonia Graza never arrived at her destination, after embarking on her maiden voyage October 29, 1922. All on board, 600 passengers and 500 crew, are listed as missing. Initial rescue efforts fail to locate the Antonia Graza.

Eventual sightings of the vessel lead to recovery crews boarding the ship, which appears operational although no sign of the passengers or crew are reported. Rescue efforts halt when the recovery crews fail to return.

The Antonia Graza roams the seas for 100 years, all lives…including those of the rescue crews….presumed lost. In 2022, the Antonia Graza is sighted once again, cruising along on her original route in the North Atlantic.

We each received electronic invitations to board the Antonia Graza Ghost Ship, if we dared!

Antonia Graza Ghost Ship staircase
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship – grand staircase

Tour the Antonia Graza Ghost Ship

Come on a tour of the ghost ship with me. My sister Debbie and her family transformed the lower level of the house and the upstairs hallway and bathroom.

The attention to detail is perfect. Using estate sale and thrift shops finds, these creative souls go way beyond adding a few ship worthy decorations. They paper the walls, creating areas of exposed “brick”, add seaweed and cobwebs, add sound and light special effects, remove existing furniture, build false walls and prepare a spread of theme appropriate food. Lights flicker. Red alerts sound. Fog roils past the front door. In costume violinists perform a hauntingly beautiful song in the dining hall.

Guests arrive in costume, ranging from 1920s aristocrats to “dead” crew members to sharks to passengers who perished aboard the ship.

Have a look!

Antonia Graza Ghost Ship buffet
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship – buffet spread out over three rooms.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship dining
Ship dining room (in reality, this is the family room) for gathering with plates of food and drinks.
Ghost Violinists
Ghost violinists
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship elevator
Upstairs an elevator malfunction! I love the little touches, like numbers on the doors.
Upstairs bathroom
Upstairs bathroom
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship quiet moment
My sister Debbie enjoying a quiet moment in the ship lounge.
Ship clock
Ship clock

Antonia Graza Passengers and Crew

Here’s a peek at the creative costumes of those attending the party.

Antonia Graza Ghost Ship crew
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship crew, my sister and her family, hosts for the party.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship sharks
Baby Shark with Mommy Shark and Daddy Shark
My brother and sister in law
My brother and sister in law.
Cousins photo
Adult cousins photo. The outdoor deck provided a great gathering spot.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship greg and roy
Greg and Roy. Perhaps they are members of the rescue crew.
Antonia Graza Ghost Ship sibling photo
Sibling photo – me, my brother and my sisters

Fun Evening

What an amazing voyage, aboard the Antonia Graza. I captured photos of most family members, however there were many more guests that came and went.

We all enjoyed the evening, the food, the music, the decorations and chatting in groups that formed, broke apart and reformed with new people.

I so appreciate all the hard work that goes into this annual event. I absolutely know that my sister and her family could create a successful business around their creativity and their love of Halloween. They currently do all of this for fun. And fun it is.

Does your family celebrate Halloween? If you had a Halloween party this year, what was your theme?

Me and my girls
Me with daughters and granddaughter, We missed my son and his family at the party!

Ghost Ships from Amazon:



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Dine and Dash

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Thank you to The Adventure Challenge, for sending me The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition Book for review purposes and to use for my Year of Adventure. All opinions are my own.

I seem to be on a food arc, with The Adventure Challenge activities! Last month I randomly chose Homegrown, and enjoyed a trip to the farmers market where I selected fresh produce for my evening meal.

This month, opening a page at random, closing my eyes and picking an activity, I chose adventure #34, Dine and Dash.

That title gave me a moment’s pause, as “dine and dash” is a form of theft in which a diner orders and consumes food at a restaurant and then leaves without paying for the meal. No worries! The Adventure Challenge does NOT encourage lawlessness.

Check out this month’s challenge and see what it was all about!

Dine and Dash title meme

The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition

The Adventure Challenge books contain scratch off adventures, suitable for adults, families and individuals. Each hardbound book contain 50 fun and unique challenges to experience with a partner, spouse, friends, family members or on your own.

The challenges encourage you to get off your phone and electrical devices and connect with each other…or more deeply with yourself. They are the perfect way to explore your city or the great outdoors, try something new, reconnect with your inner child or make new friends.

The keepsake book makes it easy to document the memories, with snapshots and a few words about the experience.

There’s a catch though. The challenges are hidden. You don’t know what the activity is, until you scratch it off. If you’ve followed me for very long, you KNOW I love playing games built around randomness. The Adventure Challenge books are like the games I play where I draw random slips of paper out of a jar and do the activity I select. There are no “do overs”, in those fun games I make up, or in The Adventure Challenge.

Dine and Dash

The instructions for Challenge #34:

“Tonight you dine like royalty! You’re gonna order an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert.

The only rule is, you can’t eat any of them from the same restaurant. Three different courses, three different restaurants, one tasty night.”

This activity is fun…and there’s no not paying for meals!

During one of my birthday celebrations this past year, I did a similar activity and enjoyed it. As one who eats plant based, choosing restaurants is the challenge, however I knew exactly which ones to visit for this activity.

Dining at three different restaurants takes time as well. The activity suggested allowing 2 – 3 hours. So Greg and I selected a late afternoon to begin the dine and dash challenge, allowing plenty of time to eat and drive.

Dine and Dash first course
Dine and Dash – first course at Panera.

Dining and Dashing

We started our dining and dashing at Panera.

First Course

Rather than appetizers, our first course consisted of an Asian salad for me and a bowl of soup for Greg, with water to drink. Knowing our next stop was for the main course, we both selected the half portion sizes for our first course.

A huge benefit of this activity is eating slowly and enjoying the food before hopping in the car and driving to the next restaurant. Dining and dashing doesn’t mean wolfing down food as quickly as possible. It’s an experience to linger over.

Second Course

We felt ready for the main course when we arrived at Cracker Barrel, located five miles away.

Here Greg ordered one piece of fish and veggies, while I dined on the Cracker Barrel vegetable plate. I selected four plain veggies…baked potato with no butter or sour cream, green beans, carrots and broccoli.

Again, we ate slowly, savoring the food. And knowing dessert was still to come, I elected to take half of my main course home.

Third Course

Dessert out is difficult for me. Not only do I eat plant based, but I try to avoid gluten and too much sugar. At home I can limit the amount of sugar and use gluten free flours.

My solution? Dairy Queen drive through.

Did you know that Dairy Queen sells a gluten free, vegan dilly bar? They do! The sugar content is higher than I like, however, the dilly bar uses coconut cream and it is gluten free.

Rather than eat inside Dairy Queen, we chose to pick up a box of six vegan Dilly Bars and took them home. We enjoyed the special treat at home a little later in the evening. And Greg gets the rest of the bars!


Dine and Dash second course
Dine and Dash – second course at Cracker Barrel

Adventure Challenges

Do these adventure challenges sound intriguing to you?

Challenge books are available in solo, family and couples editions. Each book contains 50 scratch off challenges. Check out the various books and the camera/book kits HERE. Use my code GOINGBEYOND to save 10% off of your order at checkout.

You can also purchase the camera HERE, from Amazon. The instamatic photos add to the fun, plus there’s a spot for them in the book as you document the challenges.

This Dine and Dash challenge proved fun…and all meals WERE paid for. I toted along the Adventure Challenge book and the instamatic camera, for photos.

And no, I didn’t do this challenge solo. And I adapted the activity a bit. However overall, I completed the activity and enjoyed the leisurely meal that stretched over three locations and a couple of hours.

I’m curious to see if the food theme continues when I choose another challenge next month!

Dine and Dash course three
Dine and Dash course three – vegan Dilly Bar from Dairy Queen


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Weekend Fun in Branson MO

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Branson, Missouri is a popular vacation destination, drawing visitors from around the world. In fact, it’s known as the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” due to the variety of live shows and events offered. And attractions such as Silver Dollar City and the Titanic Museum provide top notch entertainment.

I live in Joplin, Missouri, about a two hour drive from Branson. And although I’ve visited the city many times, I had yet to spend time in the charming downtown area.

Greg and I joined my sister Linda and brother in law Roy for weekend fun in Branson. Check out what we did!

Weekend Fun in Branson MO title meme

Branson Missouri

Located in the Ozark Mountains in Southwest Missouri, Branson is a unique community. The city offers a huge variety of activities, attractions, live shows and natural beauty.

Play golf on one of their many courses that range from par three to nature courses to championship, with skill levels suited for everyone. Visit a wide variety of restaurants, shops and museums.

And stay at accommodations that include hotels, Airbnbs, B&Bs, condos, cabins and luxury resorts.

It’s the perfect weekend getaway. Start planning your trip by visiting Explore Branson.

Linda and Roy spent five days enjoying Branson, staying in an Airbnb condo. Greg and I joined them for the weekend.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – view from the condo balcony

Exploring Downtown Branson

While Greg and Roy played golf Saturday, Linda and I explored the historic downtown area.

As many times as I’ve visited Branson, this was a first for me. The Strip in Branson hosts many attractions and that’s where most of the live show venues are located. However, Downton Branson is a fun and charming destination of its own. The area includes many unique small shops and restaurants plus entertainment, outdoor activities, attractions and the fabulous Branson Landing.

It’s a very walkable area or you can ride the free Downtown Trolley called Sparky.

Linda and I found a free parking lot and walked. It was fun to explore the variety of shops…everything from energy infused jewelry stores to flea markets and gift shops to entertainment venues. We bought fudge for the guys. Wandered through cute shops, stopped by a dinosaur fossil store and enjoyed a girls’ lunch at MoMo Sushi and Grill.

We both found travel themed handbags at one shop and at another stop, I picked up a small vegan leather sling type purse that’s perfect to carry when I’m traveling.

And we enjoyed Dick’s 5 & 10, an old fashioned retail shop that’s been in Downtown Branson since 1961. The fun store boasts 250,000 items on the shelves and I believe that! We found all kinds of merchandise, some reminiscent of our childhood favorites. I bought a cute little tabletop framed quote that says “The best miles are the ones you walk”. It’s perfect for my travel shelf.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO downtown
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – historic downtown

Branson Landing

After wearing ourselves out walking and shopping in the August heat, we met up with the guys back at the condo. On the agenda for the evening…Anthems of Rock at King’s Castle Theatre on The Strip.

But first, the four of us walked in Branson Landing and ate dinner at Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen there.

This 1.5 mile boardwalk along Taneycomo Lake offers shopping, dining and entertainment. Strolling down the boardwalk, Branson Landing feels like a cross between a high quality outdoor mall and a cute downtown. It’s a beautiful place to get outdoors, enjoy the activities, try a new restaurant and play.

Branson Landing offers events as well such as the weekly Farmers Market, concerts, the Grand Prix of Missouri Powerboat Nationals, Trick or Treating in October and a Winter Wonderlanding Season that begins in November.

Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen is a spacious restaurant and gift shop that specializes in family style dining with classic Southern recipes. I appreciated the family style dining. The four of us shared a variety of main and side dishes.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO branson landing
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – strolling along Branson Landing
Weekend Fun in Branson MO train
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – you can catch a train in Branson Landing if you need a lift…although this ride isn’t free

Anthems of Rock

After dinner we arrived at King’s Castle Theatre for the Anthems of Rock live show. When they say about this show, “Get ready to rock!”, they mean it!

This biggest rock party in Branson showcases hits from some of the most famous bands including The Beatles Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Bon Jovi, Led Zeppelin, Journey, Aerosmith, Meatloaf and Tina Turner.

It’s a high energy two hour performance by a cast of extremely talented singers, guitar players and dancers. They encourage the audience to sing and clap along.

We loved this show. If you grew up listening to rock music, you’ll appreciate every song. The performers keep the fast paced show interesting with props and costume changes. They seem to genuinely enjoy performing and interacting with each other and the audience.

And if you aren’t quite sure what that familiar song is, there are large screens behind the stage and in the corners of the auditorium that display the album cover, band and song.

I’d definitely recommend Anthems of Rock. Get more info and tickets HERE.

Weekend Fun in Branson MO anthems of rock
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – Anthems of Rock live show
Weekend Fun in Branson MO rock show
Weekend Fun in Branson MO – waiting for the rock show to begin. We enjoyed it.

Have you Explored Branson Missouri?

What a perfect getaway weekend! Branson offers so many choices and fun things to do. I loved exploring parts of the community I had not seen, trying a new restaurant and rocking out to favorite songs with an energetic audience.

I’d love to go back during the holidays to see Downtown Branson and Branson Landing decorated for Christmas and to catch another performance at King’s Castle.

Have you visited this beautiful city? Traveled to the past at Silver Dollar City or experienced the Titanic?

What are your favorite activities to enjoy while in Branson?

Weekend Fun in Branson MO quiet morning
Enjoying the view from the condo balcony


Exploring during the summer? You need these accessories from Amazon:


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More Funny Travel Stories

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Last April I shared my first Funny Travel Stories post. The humorous experiences were fun to recall as I typed them out. And, in the process, I realized that I had enough funny stories for at least one more post.

I hope you enjoy these tales from my travels and feel inspired to share your own.

Here they are…more funny travel stories.

More Funny Travel Stories title meme


On my first visit to Scotland, with my cousin Mindy and her son William, we stayed at Halcyon House in Edinburgh. This property felt more like a grand old house rather than a hotel. The friendly owners lived on site and offered guests a hearty breakfast every morning in the dining room.

On our first morning in the city, Mindy and I finished getting ready in the large room while William showered. I KNEW better than to plug my hair dryer into the socket. I packed an electrical adapter, however, in my excitement to explore Edinburgh, I plugged the dryer in and turned it on.

The hair dryer sounded strange, surging with power. Just as I thought “Oh no…” a loud POP occurred. The dryer stopped and the lights went out. William yelled as he tried to shower in total darkness. I yelled an apology back and then heard doors opening all along the upstairs hallway. Power went out on the whole floor, as everyone got ready for the day.

I felt so embarrassed! One of the owners, Matthew, thankfully brought a ladder up, fiddled with the circuit breakers and quickly restored power. William did not let me forget that incident and I never forgot to use an adapter again.

Two Doctor Whos

My grandson Dayan and I are both huge fans of the British television series, Doctor Who. What a wonderful experience to attend our first Comic Con in St Louis, with special guests David Tennent, the Tenth Doctor and Matt Smith, the Eleventh.

After Dayan’s photo op with the two doctors, it was my turn. Throwing an arm around each actor I squeezed them close and happily told them they were two of my favorite people. David quipped, “Two of your favorites? Why aren’t we your absolute favorites?” Matt joined in the conversation and we all laughed so much that we messed up the first photo. The photographer scolded us and told us to stop laughing and talking and to hold still….which only made us laugh more.

Later, after standing in line for a couple of hours to get David’s autograph, I  offered my condolences on the recent death of his father. I told him how proud I was that as a Scotsman, he represented the country well during his stint as the Doctor. David surprised me by reaching for my hand and giving it a squeeze. I walked away and then realized I never got a signature on my photo.

Turning around, David saw me and waved me back. In his thick Scottish brogue, said he wondered how long it would take for me to return. He signed the photo with a flourish and then said, “Now go…and behave yourself!” (You have to imagine the words spoken in a Scottish accent to get the full effect.) I’ll remember that day always!

More Funny Travel Stories doctors
More Funny Travel Stories – Dayan with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors

Knock First!

During the girls’ UK trip with my mother, two sisters and niece, we shared rooms to cut down on costs. And almost immediately we had to have a talk about respecting personal space after my mom nonchalantly walked into the bathroom while my sister Debbie was in there. Knock first, we suggested seriously, even though everyone except Debbie laughed about the incident. I thought it was funny too, until it happened to me.

In London, I shared a room with Mom and my sister Linda. While showering in the glass enclosed shower, my mother and/or Linda walked in on me not once…not twice…but three times. I think the last intrusion was deliberate, just to hear me yell “For the love of God…some privacy please!”

I locked the bathroom door after that.

Road to Nowhere

I appreciated having a rental car on my recent trip to the Charleston area. The Mitsubishi Mirage featured a large screen on the dash. When I plugged in my phone and pulled up the maps app, it displayed on that screen and Siri directed me from there, making navigating on the South Carolina sea islands and Charleston easier. It worked really well…until it didn’t.

On my departure day, I left the airbnb early, with the Charleston International Airport address loaded into the app and up on the screen. Siri directed me effortlessly through heavy morning traffic. However, as the screen showed about 10 minutes left until I reached the airport, something didn’t seem right. Looking around, I didn’t recognize this part of the city.

I trusted the GPS system though, following Siri as she directed me off of the expressway. I continued to trust as I turned into what looked like a neighborhood. Maybe this was a shortcut? Deeper into the neighborhood, I turned onto a street and Siri announced, “Destination on the right. Arrived.”

I stopped in front of an ordinary looking house, on an average street, in a typical suburban neighborhood. The man working in the yard turned to look at me and waved, a bit hesitantly. This was not the airport!

I nodded to the stranger, drove to the end of the street and re-entered the airport into the maps app. Fortunately, it was only 15 minutes away. I’ll never know what happened and why the map changed to a different location, mid-route. But I arrived at the airport with time to spare, turned in the car and caught my flight. Even if I don’t understand why, I believe everything happens for a reason.

Lucky Bird Poop

After exploring the medieval village of San Gimignano in Italy, my grandson, daughter and I sat on benches near the city gate with our tour group. As the tour bus pulled up, we all stood and gathered our belongings.

I felt something hit my shoulder and arm. Looking up, I spied a bird in the tree above me. Glancing back at my arm, I noticed bird poop.

I made a sound of disgust, however, to my surprise our tour guide Fabi and others in the group cheered and applauded. In Italy it’s a sign of good fortune when a bird poops on you. The next suggested action is to visit a casino.

People came by to rub my shoulder, transferring good luck to themselves. One dear woman offered me a package of wet wipes so I could clean off the poop. Bless her!

Read more Italian good luck traditions HERE.

More Funny Stories bird poop
More Funny Travel Stories – lucky bird poop in San Gimignano, Italy

Deja Vu

Traveling cross country with my family, I began to experience deja vu. This phenomenon is described as a feeling of already experiencing the present moment, of remembering something that can’t possibly be remembered.

Leaving Los Angeles, Joplin bound via a layover in Denver, the deja vu began at LAX airport. By the time we landed in Denver, that strange feeling was occurring almost continuously. Casting about for an explanation, I decided this must be the day that I die. I was seeing my life flash before my eyes through deja vu.

Boarding our plane for the last leg of the journey home, I experienced the strongest sense of remembering yet. The artistic design on the front cabin wall triggered it, as did the approaching severe thunderstorm. Our pilot announced that due to the storm, take off would be quick and rough. This was it. We were going to crash.

Only my older daughter sensed that something was going on with me. Her look of concern prompted me to pray like I’ve never prayed before. I asked for angels to surround the plane, placed protective energy around it and visualized us all flying safely above the storm and arriving back home. Closing my eyes, I did all I could to help that plane take off  and rise above the turbulence.

This story is more weird than funny. And it’s absolutely true. The deja vu stopped as soon as we cleared the storm and we did indeed arrive home without further incident.


I am not afraid of most animals. Even snakes and spiders are fascinating to me. However, I do not like alligators. They freak me out. During trips to Florida and South Carolina, I’ve observed them from afar and that’s the way I want it. On my recent trip back to South Carolina, I discovered it was mating season for these reptiles, which can make male alligators more aggressive. Oh, wonderful.

The beautiful airbnb I stayed at on Johns Island, with its pretty pool, is situated on a tropical property, lush with trees, plants and flowers. Aware that the island is surrounded by rivers and marshes, I hoped I would not have a close encounter with an alligator.

My first night at the airbnb, I ventured out after dark, barefoot and wearing a lightweight cotton dress. Lights strung up all over the property make it even more magical at night. Wandering down a path I suddenly froze. Something big thrashed in the shadowy underbrush and it seemed to be coming toward me. I immediately thought, “Alligator!” and ran back to the airbnb as fast as my bare feet could take me.

The next morning, talking to Neil, one of the hosts, I sheepishly mentioned my encounter the night before. I asked if alligators ever get into the pool. He laughed and shook his head. In all the years he’s lived on the island, he said, he’s never seen an alligator on the property. But he added, with a twinkle in his eyes, they do have armadillos who like to forage at night among the plants. He spotted one earlier that morning.

I ran from an armadillo…and what a relief.

I still didn’t wander too far from the house at night though, just in case.

Share Your Funny Stories

We all have embarrassing, funny or strange travel stories. These colorful adventures form part of the life tapestry, woven with threads from rich experiences.

I know I’ll have more funny travel stories to share as I continue to explore the world with an open heart and mind and the ability to laugh at situations and most importantly, at myself.

I’d love to hear one of your favorite funny stories. Share it in the comments below.

More Funny Travel Stories alligator
More Funny Travel Stories – alligator hiding in the shadows??

Travel essentials from Amazon:


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This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Thank you to The Adventure Challenge, for sending me The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition Book for review purposes and to use for my Year of Adventure. All opinions are my own.

As summer declares itself in full force, all across the US and the northern hemisphere in fact, I considered whether I should carefully select an adventure challenge…or let the activity choose me. This current heat wave is breaking records, with no immediate end in sight. An outdoor activity could prove challenging indeed.

Ever one to play the random game, I let the adventure choose me. What a wonderful activity for summer…and this incredible heat. I laughed with the perfection of it.

This is Adventure Challenge #24, Homegrown.

Homegrown title meme

The Adventure Challenge Solo Edition

The Adventure Challenge books contain scratch off adventures, suitable for adults, families and individuals. Each hardbound book contain 50 fun and unique challenges to experience with a partner, spouse, friends, family members or on your own.

The challenges encourage you to get off your phone and electrical devices and connect with each other…or more deeply with yourself. They are the perfect way to explore your city or the great outdoors, try something new, reconnect with your inner child or make new friends.

The keepsake book makes it easy to document the memories, with snapshots and a few words about the experience.

There’s a catch though. The challenges are hidden. You don’t know what the activity is, until you scratch it off. If you’ve followed me for very long, you KNOW I love playing games built around randomness. The Adventure Challenge books are like the games I play where I draw random slips of paper out of a jar and do the activity I select. There are no “do overs”, in those fun games I make up, or in The Adventure Challenge.


My instructions for Challenge #24:

“Your hometown is unique. The local butcher shop, community garden or nearby farm could bring some of that uniqueness right to your table.

Today your challenge is to create a completely locally sourced meal featuring only local ingredients. Extra special and extra fresh!”

I adore this challenge activity. My community has local farmers markets that offer fresh produce…and other products…year around. In fact, I was just at the outdoor Webb City Farmers Market Saturday morning. This particular market sets up under a long open air pavilion every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday. I happened to select this activity on Tuesday.

Off to the market I went, to pick out the ingredients for my evening meal. Since I am vegan, I intended to purchase a variety of fresh vegetables to create a homegrown meal with.

Homegrown farmers market
Homegrown – Webb City Farmers Market

Gathering Food

The Webb City Farmers Market opens from 4:00 – 7:00 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9:00 – noon on Saturdays. I’ve visited this vibrant market for years. Besides fresh produce, shoppers can find many organic foods, crafts, plants, bakery items, soaps, herbs, spices, fresh flowers, food vendors, a variety of breads and, I’m happy to add, a vegan food vendor as well. A jar of her vegan dill ranch dressing sits in my refrigerator right now!

To complete this challenge, I focused on fresh, locally grown produce. I bought tomatoes last Saturday. During this trip, I purchased red skinned new potatoes, okra, green beans, carrots, onions, zucchini and yellow squash.

Homegrown veggies
Homegrown – my vegetable stash

Creating a Homegrown Meal

I wanted to use each of the fresh veggies in my meal so I settled on a simple vegetable hash for dinner.

A vegetable hash is so easy and delicious and, best of all, I can make it from whatever veggies I have on hand.

After washing and chopping the veggies, I heated a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Adding the chopped potatoes, onions and carrots first, I stir fried them over medium high heat until the potatoes and carrots were almost tender.

Next I added sliced okra, green beans, zucchini and yellow squash plus a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a teaspoon of cumin. I continued to stir fry the mixed veggies until tender, then added a small amount of water, covered the skillet and turned the heat to low. While the veggie mixture simmered, I sliced fresh tomatoes.

My homegrown meal of veggie hash and sliced garden tomatoes was so full of flavor. What a satisfying…and yummy…adventure challenge.

Homegrown veggie hash
Homegrown – veggie hash

Adventure Challenges

Do these adventure challenges sound fun to you? What about the amazing life lessons and/or synchronicities that accompany each one?

Challenge books are available in solo, family and couples editions. Each book contains 50 scratch off challenges. Check out the various books and the camera/book kits HERE. Use my code GOINGBEYOND to save 10% off of your order at checkout.

You can also purchase the camera HERE, from Amazon. The instamatic photos add to the fun, plus there’s a spot for them in the book as you document the challenges.

I enjoyed the trip to the farmers market, picking out vegetables and creating a meal from them at home. It truly was a farm to table experience. And, I have vegetables left for at least three more meals.

Do you have a farmers market or co-op in your area? What do you like to purchase there?

Homegrown adventure challenge 24
Homegrown – adventure challenge #24


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Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield

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I recently enjoyed an afternoon looking for art in downtown Springfield, MO. Check out my first post about the city’s Sculpture Walk HERE.

Springfield features sculptures in their beautiful downtown area, an exhibit that changes yearly. It’s fun to start at Park Central and walk the blocks surrounding it, looking for unique sculptures that tell interesting stories.

This is part two sharing some of the art that I discovered on my trip.

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield title meme

Sculpture Walk Springfield

Sculpture Walk Springfield launched in April 2015 with 13 sculptures installed throughout the downtown area. This year the 2022 exhibit showcases 41 sculptures…29 temporary ones that will change out next year and 12 permanent installations.

Their vision: to create a museum without walls with access to all.

Their purpose: when placed outdoors, integrated in full public view with existing structures and landscapes, sculptures add to a city’s heritage, character, and sense of place and diversity; it adorns a city with distinction, adding to pride of place and a sense of identity. Public art rejuvenates public spaces by transforming them into destinations.  Sculpture Walk Springfield will play a major role in the economic rejuvenation of Springfield.

Their mission: to encourage the artistic transformation of Springfield through outdoor sculpture, thus enhancing our quality of life and promoting economic vitality.

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield park central
Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield – start the hunt in Park Central

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield

Park Central Square is the place to start for the art hunt. There is free parking available nearby and a variety of shops, restaurants, cafés and pubs in the area for a meal or a refreshing drink.

You can visit the Sculpture Walk Facebook Page or the website HERE to download a map or you can park near Park Central Square in downtown Springfield and simply start walking. The sculptures are identified by a small plaque near each one, that lists the artist and a brief description of the inspiration for the art.

Here are more sculptures that we found.

Folded Weight I

Artist: Matthew Csernansky

Matthew’s art utilizes modern materials to capture the minimalistic shapes of nature that often get overlooked. He seeks to provide the viewer with a way to experience those natural shapes.

Folded Weight I  is meant to remind us of natural and man-made objects that awe us with their scale, weight, and presence. The shape is reminiscent of a piece of paper, folded into a new form. Folded Weight I represents shelter, a moment of rest and balance. It encourages reflection and meditation.

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield folded weight
Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield – Folded Weight I

Agatha’s Contest

Artist: Timothy Pease

This is Timothy’s first public art piece. The nurses fighting on the frontlines against COVID provided inspiration for his art. The nurses tirelessly continue against the virus, never wavering in their desire to triumph in this contest.

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield agatha's contest
Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield – Agatha’s Contest

Grandpa S

Artist: Matt Miller

Matt has created art for 12 years while also spending time in the classroom, teaching art to others. He enjoys a constant connection with this form of expression. 

This sculpture is inspired by his wife’s grandfather, who whittled slingshots out of sticks.

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield grandpa s
Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield – Grandpa S

Never Too Far

Artist: Joe Duggar

Joe’s inspiration for this piece is feeling of separation from the ones we love and how a memory pulls those we miss to us again. This is his second work in the sculpture program.

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield never too far
Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield – Never Too Far

Ozarks Jubilee Park

While looking for this year’s sculptures, Greg and I discovered other art pieces in the area. There is a massive cube-like sculpture in Park Central Square. And we found this intriguing piece in Ozarks Jubilee Park, a few blocks away.

The base is similar to those supporting the 2022-2023 Sculpture Walk pieces, leading me to believe this is an entry from a former exhibit, that became a permanent installation.

We had fun walking around this beautiful park, playing on the interactive musical pieces there.

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield ozarks jubilee park
Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield – Ozarks Jubilee Park

More Art to Discover

I’ve shared less than half of the sculptures from this year’s exhibit. Which means, I’ll return to Springfield Missouri soon, when temperatures are below the 100 degree mark, to find more sculptures.

I look forward to the discoveries and the opportunity to try out another new to me restaurant downtown.

Do you have a Sculpture Walk in your city…or a town near you?

Looking for Art in Downtown Springfield sky eleven
Pretty Sky Eleven in downtown Springfield is an apartment for students.

Springfield finds from Amazon:



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