Where to Stay in #DowntownDurham your next #Staycation | @TheDurhamHotel #Durham #NC #Travel

The Durham Hotel located in Downtown Durham

Downtown Durham’s renaissance has been in full swing now for over 5 years. New businesses and restaurants seem to be opening on a weekly basis. A number of trendy boutique hotels now gives visitors and staycationers plenty of choices. One problem that I have noticed is that most only do one thing at a high level. Great bar but no vibe. Great vibe but the hotel lacks good service and room quality. Fun poolside scene but I don’t want that scene RIGHT outside my door. I have found the answer to this dilemma. That answer is found at The Durham Hotel. My husband and I spent the night there recently and experienced everything this wonderful hotel had to offer. SobeSavvy Tip: pack your camera and capture great views of the city from The Durham Hotel’s rooftop. 

Sunshine + Staycation Smiles at The Durham Hotel


ACCOMODATIONS

King Deluxe Room | The Durham Hotel

Per their website their 52 rooms ..”Feature modern interiors and local collaborations, the rooms at The Durham have been designed by Los Angeles-based firm Commune to be warm and residential, making guests feel right at home in our downtown Durham hotel.” Indeed our room was stylish, spacious and minimal in a comfortable sense not spartan. It had an airy west coast feel to it. 

 BATHROOM AMENITIES

Bathroom Amenities | The Durham Hotel

 

I can tell alot about a property based on the quality of their bath products. Here at The Durham Hotel, guests can expect bath robes & slippers along with red flower bath products. If you are unfamiliar with red flower, they use essential plant oils and is an all natural product. I really enjoyed how gentle and moisturizing the soaps and lotions were as well as the scent.

ROOFTOP

Rooftop Views of Bull City | The Durham Hotel

After check in we headed up to their rooftop area, which coincidentally is called what else, “The Roof” of course ! They explain this wonderful area as ..” The Roof at The Durham is a year-round gathering spot for guests and locals alike, offering one-of-a-kind panoramic views of the city. Here you will find original, handcrafted cocktails, extensive wine and beer offerings and a seasonal raw bar and small kitchen menu.

Rooftop Bar and Dining | The Durham Hotel

We enjoyed a ‘Sunday Funday’ sunset while sipping on cocktails such as the ‘Airmail’~made with rum, lime, honey and prosecco~served in a flute! The bartender was amicable and service overall was great. I am a seafoodie, so ordering from the raw bar was a must. I enjoyed freshly shucked oysters and even tried a speciality one called ‘The Durham Oyster’. If you love raw oysters, definitely make plans to enjoy some while dining on the rooftop.

Dine at The Rooftop Raw Bar | The Durham Hotel

Perfect for intimate gatherings and large groups, the breezy 3,000 sq ft. layout features an indoor bar, covered and open-air lounge seating, as well as a penthouse with its own patio for private parties. The hotel also hosts its own calendar of events, making the rooftop the perfect destination every night of the week.

The Durham Hotel’s Rooftop

HOTEL AMENITIES

There are many unique offerings this hotel offers which made it very appealing to book a stay here like complimentary Rooftop Yoga on the weekends to name a few. Here are some amenities that we were able to partake in:

  • 24 Hour Fitness Studio

24 hour Fitness Studio | The Durham Hotel

  • Business Center + Meeting Space 

24 Hr Business Center , Meeting Spaces, Conference Rooms | The Durham Hotel

  • In Room Coffee Service

In Room Coffee Service | The Durham Hotel

    Before we dozed off to sleep in the evening, we were sure to fill out our “coffee card” in the room and hang it on our door. The next morning, VOILA fresh ground coffer is delivered to your room. This is included with your stay at no extra charge. The in-room coffee features Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee freshly ground for guests to brew. This was by far our favorite of all the amenities! Both the ‘Apollo’ and ‘Big Trouble’ provided us with the coffee kick we needed to start our day. 

    BREAKFAST

    Continental Breakfast | The Durham Hotel

    Continental Breakfast is served daily in the restaurant featuring select complimentary offerings for hotel guests. Here is a list of the ‘made in house’ deliciousness they had available for us to eat:  

    • Durham Granola with yogurt 
    • Buckwheat Sugar Cake
    • Cheese Toast (Boulted Bread from Raleigh) 
    • Hard Boiled Eggs
    • Candied ginger scone
    • Date cakes with salted caramel 
    • Corn muffin preserved local fruit (gf)

    Breakfast as well as dinner is served in the restaurant on the 1st floor. They also serve Brunch on Sundays.

    The Durham Hotel Restaurant on the 1st Floor offers indoor and outside seating

    Overall, we enjoyed our stay at The Durham Hotel. From the customer service, to the cleanliness and comfort of the room, I would highly recommend this hotel to visitors and locals alike! It is in the heart of Bull City and convenient to hot spots like Pour Taproom (which I’ll be sharing more about later this week). We kept our car parked during our stay since we could easily walk to things to do in Downtown Durham. Before you check out, make sure to get a picture of the iconic Durham Bull, located across the street from The Durham Hotel. 

    Watch the video recap + room tour of our staycation at The Durham Hotel >>here. For more photos, take a look at this>>  Facebook album. I hope you enjoyed this post and if you are local will add The Durham Hotel to your Staycation Ideas list!

    THE DURHAM Hotel

    315 E. Chapel Hill St.

    Durham, NC 27701

    thedurham.com | 919-768-8830

    #TravelTuesday Review @BigBusDC #DC #BigBusTours #FamilyTravel 

    Have you ever been on an open top, double decker tour bus? They are so much fun when visiting a city and you want to see as many sites as you can in a short time! This Labor Day weekend, my family and I took one for the first time in Washington DC aboard the hop-on hop-off sightseeing BIG BUS.

    When we visited Arlington, VA earlier in the year, we didn’t get a chance to use our vouchers due to Mother Nature not being on our side. However, this weekend the weather was picture perfect for our visit to the nation’s capital. 

    BIG BUS Tours Washington DC

    No matter if you are a DC native or this is your first time (or you’re return visitor like me), BIG BUS Washington DC is a great way to take advantage of exploring attractions, museums and more at your own pace! Here are some of the reasons a ride on the BIG BUS should be on your ‘Things to do in DC‘ list: 

    • Unlimited Rides for 1 or 2 days.
    • Fantastic Photo Ops & Amazing Views
    • Hop Off and On at Any Stop
    • Live-guided or recorded Commentary (free headphones are provided)
    • Family-Friendly (kids under 5 yrs old travel free, age 5-15 yrs pay reduced fare)

      There are 3 Day Tour loops: Red, Blue, Yellow that will take you all around the District. You can even transfer between the routes, just be sure to know the last departure times. SobeSavvy Tip: Download the Free BIG BUS App for an interactive city guide map route planner and more >>>>here

      My #HeighPartyof3 chose the “Red Loop”, which has 22 stops and is the official tour of the National Mall including the National Memorials and Monuments. Take a look of some of what my husband, our daughter #outandaboutAva and I experienced during our tour : 

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 1- Union Station

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 2- US Capitol

      Inside Air & Space Museum | BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 4

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 5- Smithsonian Castle

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 6- Washington Monument West

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 7- Bureau of Engraving

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 8- Jefferson Memorial

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 10- Lincoln Memorial South

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 13- African American History & Culture Museum

      BIG BUS Washington DC ‘Red Loop’ Stop 19- Madame Tussauds

      There are options to complete your sightseeing experience by creating a combo and adding on extras such as top attractions like Madame Tussauds to further your Washington, DC experience. We enjoyed seeing not only seeing historical figures and celebrities in wax but also joining all 45 commanders in-cheifs in the U.S. Presidents Gallery. Check out my >>>Youtube video <<< recaping some of the fun at STOP 19 of the ‘Red Loop’, Madame Tussauds + see more photos via fun slideshow>> here.

      Where to Buy BIG BUS Tickets

      • From any uniformed BIG BUS staff
      • www.bigbustours.com
      • The BIG BUS mobile app
      • On the bus at any BIG BUS stop
      • Your hotel
      • By phone : 1-877-333-8689

      I hope to check out the other routes as well as try their night tour which offers an illuminated look at the Capital’s world-famous memorials and monuments. BIG BUS Tours are also in other US Cities like Miami, New York, Las Vegas and more. My family and I really enjoyed the BIG BUS Tour and hope you are inspired to take one soon!

      #HeighPartyof3 loves to explore & have fun ~ Thanks for the memories BIG BUS Tours !

      Looking for a #SundayFunday #Staycation in #Raleigh ? Visit #NorthHills + @RenRaleigh #renhotels

      Disclaimer: This post is in partnership with Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel, however the opinions/photos 100% are my own.

      People like to ask the question: If you could pack up and go on a mini vacation, where would you go? For me, sometimes the fun can be found right in your own city! I shared in a previous post that North Hills is a great place to Stay, Eat, Play when looking for a staycation getaway. Well last Sunday, I revisted North Hills and checked into the newly renovated Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel.

      SUNDAY FUNDAY + Things to Do 

      If you follow my Instagram @SobeSavvy and checked out my Instastories, you may have seen the shopping and dining fun I had in North Hills. My family and I strolled along before picking up my birthday freebie at Sephora. We then made a lunch stop at one of our favorite pizza spots, Pielogy before checking in. There are just so many ways to spend the day in North Hills and Renaissance Raleigh is conveniently close to all of the exciting things to do!

      Renaissance Raleigh is just steps away from endless shopping, dining and exciting entertainment in the coveted North Hills

      In addition to family fun options, there are plenty of date nights spots and places to go with your girlfriends in North Hills.  I met 
      up with 2 friends to enjoy Level 7 Rooftop Bars latest cocktail, Frosé which is Frozen Rosé Wine. It left a great impression on us ladies which I shared on video>>here

      Say Frosé ! @Level 7 Rooftop Bar                                          

      I also met up with some fellow NC Bloggers for a “Bloggers and Bar Bites” sampling event at BoneFish Grill which I had the pleasure of hosting. They have new menu items on their hand-crafted Happy Hour (which is EVERYDAY) that you can read more about >>here. After all the Sunday Funday was had, it was nice to not have to drive home but to enjoy an overnight stay right there at Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel.

      STAY

      The Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel is a four star property with 229 rooms, meeting spaces and a new bar/restaurant/lounge named 41Hundred. In case you missed it, read about the Grand Opening >> here and the many reasons you should drink and dine there.
      The entire hotel recently went through a renovation, so I thought it would be great to feature and share with my local SobeSavvy readers who want to know where to go for staycation. I had a chance to experience their luxury hospitality with my husband and our daughter and it was such a wonderful stay!

      Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel Lobby | Photo Credit: Barry Heigh, SobeSavvy.com

      The bright and airy lobby had flowing ceiling artwork and this beautiful spiral staircase that was ideal for a fun mini-photo shoot before my night out with the girls!

      The lovely staircase at the Renaissance Raleigh is the perfect place to make a Grand Entrance

      Lobby Level of Renaissance Raleigh

      Check in was quick and friendly. Our room, a 2 Queen + sofabed type, was very spacious and our daughter, who is fondly referred to on the blog as #outandaboutAva, made herself right at home! 

      Our Princess, #outandaboutAva , enjoys a Queen size bed !

      Sofabed + 7th Floor Views at Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

      The room decor had a style that while modern was still classic. My husband realized that we did not have to tune into our daughtet’s tablet for her favorite shows because their state of the art flat smart TV screen allowed us to sign into our Netflix account just as if we were home! There was also plenty of connectivity throughout the room for all of our laptops, tablets and cellphones. 

      In room work space at Renaissance Raleigh

      So our daughter liked the beds, my husband was fond of the technology, as for me my favorite thing was the bathroom shower. It was A-MAZING! Besides the normal showerhead, it had two separate horizontal water jets which basically gives you a back massage while showering. Pure bliss.Their Aveda products were just the icing on the cake for me as far as amenities.

      WORK + PLAY 

      The second floor of the lobby is what I like to refer to as their ‘living lounge’. It’s part contemporary living room, part modern lounge with an open space which includes plenty of comfy couches, a ping pong table and a couple of connect five board games set up for anyone to use them while socializing and having a few drinks. Another reason this refined lounge area represents ‘living” to me is because of the use of outdoor elements for indoor decor. 

      Lounge Area | Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

      Family Fun Spaces at Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

      My daughter turned to Disney Channel and we played a few games of connect four +ping pong! This use of space is fun and creative. They also have various size boardroom and conference areas for you to book your corporate needs.

      Exterior of Pavane Boardroom at Renaissance Raleigh

      DINE

      After a restful night, we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast buffet in their unique lobby restaurant, 41Hundred

      Breakfast Buffet at 41Hundred Restaurant | Renaissance Raleigh Hotel

      There were plenty of choices on the buffet which includes the option of made to order omelettes, pancakes or french toast from the a la carte menu.  The variety of fresh fruit and pastries on the buffet caught our eyes as well. Everything was delicious! My husband who is a breakfast enthusiast, said their “Breakfast was fit for a King” ! Yep, my King’s breakfast stamp of approval means alot. Dining here was a great way to start the day prior to check out. 

      Rise & Dine ! Enjoying the Breakfast Buffet at 41Hundred Restaurant,Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

      My #HeighPartyof3 enjoyed our staycation here. Good Food ✔ Comfortable Beds✔ Great Service✔ Awesome Amenites✔ Convenient Location✔…they had all the bases covered and hit a home run in our minds! When seeking a local staycation hotel, make Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel one of your top choices.

      Exterior View Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

      Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

      4100 Main St at North Hills

      RALEIGH, NC 27609

      #TravelTuesday | Top 4 Reasons to Visit @WilmingtonNCoast for #FamilyTravel #WilmingtonNC

      Disclosure: Thank you to Wilmington and Beaches CVB for your assistance with itinerary and attractions to facilitate this review. 

      Leslie Heigh, Raleigh-based freelance lifetyle/travel writer/blogger at Wilmington and Beaches CVB Visitor Center’s main office~505 Nutt Street

      I planned to visit Wilmington, NC for my 44th birthday this year and met up with family & friends to enjoy my birthday themed weekend: #44bytheshore. Why Wilmington? It is an easy 2 hour drive from where I live in Raleigh, NC plus I love the city and all it has to offer. From the beautiful beaches and shores, variety of attractions, restaurants and tours, Wilmington, NC has alot to explore!

      Welcome Bag courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches CVB

      My family did a daycation here last year (see travel guide here) and we had so much fun! Now that our daughter is older, we looked forward to an extended stay and having her revisit some places we went to before while also discovering new family friendly activities to do. 

      STAY |The Hilton Wilmington Riverside, located on the Cape Fear River in historic downtown Wilmington, was our hotel for our two night stay. We loved how convenient it was to restaurants (such as The Basics, located in The Cotton Exchange across from the hotel) as well as attractions (like the Wilmington Railroad Museum). Stay there for enjoyable river views from their renovated rooms, the pool /tiki bar and access to the 1.75 mile Riverwalk! For more of a look inside the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, click here.

      Inside the Hilton Wilmington Riverside

      If you are planning a visit to Wilmington and not sure if it is a good fit for your family, I’d like to share with you my         Top 4 Reasons to Visit Wilmington,NC for Family Travel 

      1. BEACHES

        #outandaboutAva & her Mom at Kure Beach   

        Did you know that Wilmington, North Carolina has 31 miles of pristine shoreline with luminous sandy beaches? During our visit, we enjoyed 2 out of 3 island beaches: Carolina Beach Kure Beach. The sun played hide and seek during our 2 nt stay but we still found time to play in the area known as, Pleasure Island . 

        Carolina Beach Boardwalk                            

        Since we arrived on Thursday, we got to check out the Carolina Beach Boardwalk Blast concert with fireworks and also the seasonal amusement park. There’s plenty of sweet treats on the boardwalk but if you love donuts save room for Britt’s Donut Shop!

        Britts Donut Shop

        Kure Beach Pier                                                  

        Kure Beach, North Carolina is known for its Kure Beach Pier , oceanfront park and four miles of uninhabited beach. The award winning aquarium is there also so this beach is kid-friendly. To get here was an easy 20 minute drive from our downtown Wilmington hotel. Check out more photos from our visit to both of the beautiful beaches >>>> here.

        Enjoying a Mommy and Me moment

      2. FOOD 

        Visit Wilmington, NC aka ‘Foodie Paradise’

        See more food pics from this trip>>here. Wilmington, NC has alot of great restaurants and notable chefs making this city a foodie paradise. During our visit to Carolina Beach, we enjoyed Kate’s Pancake House for breakfast. This restaurant is popular because it serves some of the most original pancakes and waffles. It’s only open until 1pm but this is a great place to fuel up for the day on the way to the beach or Aquarium.

        Breakfast Time at Kate’s Pancake House

        Looking for a quick lunch in Downtown Wilmington ? Chop’s Deli: a Boar’s Head Delicatessen would be that destination. They offer made to order salads and classic deli sandwiches, as well as soups and spectacular paninis. Their walk up window serves the hungry masses from 11pm to 3am on summer weekends. We decided to sit outside for some sunshine and people watching as we enjoyed a salad, some soup and a sandwich. Don’t forget to wash it down with their homemade lemonade. Everything was fresh and delicious! 

        Chop’s Deli, Downtown Wilmington                    

        No trip to the coast would be complete without a visit to a quintessential seaside seafood restaurant. Michael’s Seafood, founded by it’s namesake, the late chef Michael Mcgowan and his wife Shelly in 1998, is that place. We had a bowl {2 bowls actually} of it’s international award winning seafood chowder. My 6 yr old basically inhaled the first bowl! This restaurant is not only family-friendly but a perfect dinner option if you are looking for amazing seafood and great service. 

        Michael’s Seafood Restaurant ~Seafood Chowder

        Since we were in Wilmington to celebrate my #44bytheShore birthday, we were delighted to dine at The Basics. They serve simple dishes made with basic ingredients, however, they still manage to elevate our tastesbuds with amazing flavors. Our server took good care of the table and we never felt rushed as we lingered over great food, wine and conversation. If you are staying at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside, this restaurant is conveniently located across the street in The Cotton Exchange. Take a look at this drool-worthy pic I shared on IG of the Filet Mignon w/goat cheese at The Basics : 

        The Basics, Filet Mignon Entree, IG@SobeSavvy

      3. Historic River District

        The majestic Battleship NORTH CAROLINA

        Travel to Wilmington, the biggest city on North Carolina’s coast, to learn about its unique history, which predates the civil war. There is no better way to learn about it than to take one of their myriad of tours. This visit we took a Wilmington Trolley Tour, which for over 19 years has been providing visitors with a colorful tour of the city. This 8 mile tour highlights architecture, civil war history and also speaks honestly about the racial strife that was a part of Wilmington’s history. Our driver was excellent. He was informative and entertaining at the same time. I highly recommend this family-friendly tour! 

        All smiles after the Wilmington Trolley Tour

        We also went on self-guided tours and walked along Riverwalk Downtown Wilmington and Cape Fear River. We made many discoveries on foot, like the City Market, a great Saturday morning Riverfront Farmers’ Market and many more shops and stores Downtown. See more photos of where our feet led us>>>here

        Taking a walk along the historic Riverwalk, Downtown Wilmington

      4. Family Fun Attractions

      #outandaboutAva gets ready for some family fun at the Fort Fisher/NC Aquarium

      When it comes to family fun, we let our daughter, #outandaboutAva lead the way to places where she can imagine, learn, explore and play! Wilmington, NC has some great options that everyone would love to visit such as the Fort Fisher NC Aquarium

      SobeSavvy.com at Fort Fisher NC Aquarium

      The Wilmington Railroad Museum , a great place to explore family-friendly activities in Wilmington’s River District. 

      SobeSavvy.com at the Wilmington Railroad Museum

      …and the Children’s Museum of Wilmington, which served as a perfect place to play indoors on a rainy day. 

      #outandaboutAva #CMoW #PlayToLearn at The Children’s Museum of Wilmington

      Visit & Follow my Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/soBEsavvy as I will continue to give you an inside look and share more details plus photos from these 3 family fun attractions. 
      Those are just some of the great reasons to visit Wilmington, NC’s Historic River District & Island Beaches. Check out www.gowilmingtonandbeaches.com before you go and see the many ways to explore and to get information for your next family getaway. My family & friends enjoyed our short but sweet 48 hours here and are already making plans to return next year. Hope you are inspired to make memories there soon!

      #44bytheShore Family & Friends Getaway to Wilmington, NC Historic River Distict & Island Beaches


         


        #TastyTuesday Spotlight on @OroRaleigh ~ Where to Eat #DowntownRaleigh #LunchDate #NC

        Downtown Raleigh has an amazing culinary scene with some great options being on Martin St. One of them being the stylish ORO Restaurant and Lounge. But let me tell you its not all just style, there is substance being served on those plates!

        Recently I met with fellow NC Blogger\Influencer, Jen Lawrence of JenOni.com. We made plans to enjoy lunch and feature ORO since we’ve both heard awesome things about the restaurant, menu, drinks and of course the food.

        The Restaurant

        As soon as you walk in, the sleek white decor will catch your eye. Opt to sit at the chef’s table for a closer look of the magic in the the kitchen, 

        in the main dining area or in the mezzanine, which has a fireplace.

        Although I was there for a casual business lunch, I can definitely see myself coming back for a date night or a fun girls night out. If you are looking for a casual yet chic place to dine in Downtown Raleigh, this is the place! Looking for a place to hold your Private Event and /or offers Catering? ORO provides those services as well.

        The Menu

        Serving fresh, local ingredients that is pleasing to all and designed to be shared among friends is the mission of ORO. Created by Hylton Hospitality, Christopher and Cara Zalcberg Hylton has done a fantastic job featuring a variety of small plates and signature dishes since Spring 2012.
        Executive Chef Chris Hylton has created lunch (served 11am-2p) and dinner (served 5-10pm) menus where all items  are identified with respect for dietary  restrictions. So if you are looking for Vegetarian, Vegan or Gluten-Free dishes that are flavorful and delicious, reservations at ORO are a must. The restaurant also offers some off the menu items that are chef’s selections using seasonal ingredients. 


        The Drinks

        Looking for an after work spot to enjoy cocktails and conversation? Step up to the full bar and order any of their exclusive wines or beer on tap and check out their specialty cocktail list. I recommend the Mimosarita.

         It’s made with peach infused 1800 reposado..mango infused moscato..lemon.. orange and a large ice cube made of orange juice and sparkling water. Once the ice starts to melt, you get a nice effervesent surprise! Also on the menu is 3 types of mules. Jen tried the classic Moscow Mule made with Tito’s Vodka. Both drinks were refreshing and memorable in a good a way.

        The Food

        Soups,Salads and Starters...Oh My! Everything on their lunch menu sounded so good, we could not wait to try. The Truffle Mac & Cheese is a staple on the menu. Since the restaurant has been open for the past 5 years, it has been a favorite of guests. So I had to order the vegan dish to try for myself. Made with yellow and white cheddar cheese and fine herbs, the truffle mac and cheese is served as a shareable plat , but you might hesitate and keep all that yummy goodness to yourself. Jen ordered the Chef’s feature soup which was green curry and chicken. I love a good soup because when all the flavors come together, it’s like a party in a bowl. Let me tell you, I had a sample of her soup and my tastebuds were dancing at the party.

        From the Sides menu, I tried the Wok Fried Brussels, which is suitable for both vegans and vegetarians. The soy, ginger and chili flakes gave it a wonderful flavor. Not too salty or too spicy,  but just the right balance to make me happy with this side dish. 

        Everything looked so good under the Main Dishes portion of the menu that I was a bit undecided. Do I want seafood, or beef or chicken? Thankfully, Maresa was there to guide me thru and offer some of her personal favorites. I ultimately ordered the Fish Tacos. You get 4 tacos topped with mango salsa, cucumber, red onion and cilantro lime aioli. For me the aioli and salsa is what elevated the dish from being just a basic fish taco.

        Beef & Broccoli is what Jen opted to order. It was a nice portion of marinated filet served with chinese brocoli and water chestnuts. She enjoyed it and mentioned she would recommend this dish for those who enjoy the Chinese classic. 

        Be sure to save room to order something sweet from the Dessert menu. I had my eye on either the creme brulee or banana bread pudding, but an off menu featured dessert was described and we went with that. Ladies and Gents, feast your eyes on this celebration on a plate! 

        A housemade funnel cake ice cream sandwhich with birthday cake ice cream in the middle and confetti sprinkles. Since my birthday is on Thursday, it was apropo to go with this and make an early birthdy wish! This was heavenly indeed! Such an amazing sweet ending to a great lunch. 

        SobeSavvy Tip: Visit ororaleigh.com and subscribe to ORO’s Newsletter to receive updates and the latest news!

        ORO Restaurant & Lounge

        18 E Martin St

        Raleigh, NC 27601 

        Phn 919-239-4010 

        Western #NCFarmTour Recap: The Food, The Farms, The Fun w/@NCAgriculture #gottobeNC #avlbba

        Disclosure:  I joined food bloggers/writers from NC on a sponsored tour of agriculture in Western NC. Lodging, Transportation and meals were covered , however the opinions shared here are 100% my own. Thanks again to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA &CS) and the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association for hosting our group. Also thanks to Kristen Baughman of Tabletop Media Group and Heather Barnes, the marketing specialist for the NC Dept of Agriculture who did an amazing job organizing the tour! 

        On July 19-21, 2017, I went on a fantastic tour of agriculture in Western NC and let me tell you, I learned so much about food, where it comes from, how its sourced and the people. Our group traveled from Raleigh,NC to Colfax, Salisbury, Hickory, Marion, Black Mountain and Asheville and came back with so much knowledge and respect for what it takes to produce quality food from farm to table!

        I shared with you some of the highlights from our two and a half day tour on social media @SobeSavvy but encourage you to also check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram of our groups social media shares at #NCFarmTour. Growing up in the city, it was great to meet farmers, experience farm life and learn about the diversity of NC agriculture. I mean as a ‘foodie’, I think it was a right of passage for myself to see where it all begins. So let’s begin…..

        DAY 1 |Wednesday, July 19

        Here I am with Quinn and Paten Carlton, SoulFull Sisters departing from the Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax. We left from Raleigh Farmers Market but made a stop here to pick up bloggers from Charlotte,NC. I am happy we stopped here because I was able to get a to- go snack from Moose Cafe , voted “Best Restaurant for Best use of local ingredients”.  I got one of their homemade biscuits and signature apple butter to try and it was just like grandma used to make..so good! 

        Fading D Farm -Salisbury, NC

        Owned by Faythe (head cheesemaker) and David DiLoreto, this is the only working water buffalo dairy herd in NC and is one of the stops on the NC Cheese Trail. During this stop we toured the fields, farm, creamery and store and got to hear how a trip to Italy and their love for cheese sparked their passion to produce at a farm of their own . Fun Fact: The water buffalo get nicknamed after cheeses and their milk is used for making their award winning fresh/aged cheeses, which we got to enjoy tasty samples of. I learned that the water buffalo milk is 30% higher in protein and if you are dairy sensitive, these milks/cheeses are a better option. In addition to selling the cheese at their on-site farm store, you can buy soaps, other gift items, and  select cuts of water buffalo meat (which is low in cholesterol and flavorful). If interested in trying some for yourself, join Heidi Billotto of Heidi Billoto Food for her On The Farm cooking class, which features 5 courses/wine pairings and fun! It’s being held at Fading D Farm on July 30 from 2-5pm! Email to make a reservation HLNC@carolinarr.com. Check out my photo album of this tour stop >>>>here

        Highland Avenue Restaurant –    Hickory, NC 

        For the record, this part of the blog post is making me hungry as I look over the menu and pictures from this farm to table feast we enjoyed courtesy of Highland Avenue Restaurant. Led by Executive Chef Sam Stachon, the team at this restaurant provided us with top notch service along with their amazing dishes. It’s no wonder they have received regional and national recognition for sourcing local foods. The Chef shared with us that he sees this as a ‘friends to table’ restaurant because of the personal relationships he has built with the farmers and the food they provide. See some of the delicious dishes that we enjoyed for dinner>>>>here.

        DAY 2 | Thursday, July 20

        Sweet Biscuit Inn, a Bed & Breakfast in Asheville, NC 

        This Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association Inn was my accomodation during the tour. Our group was divided among the different 15 Asheville area inns, that work together to promote outstanding guest service, guest safety and quality. The Sweet Biscuit Inn’s hosts, Claudia and Christian Hickl, exceeded in hospitality by making our stay comfortable and sharing their insights of the area. My room (check out youtube for room reveal video)  was decorated with European style and a southern charm. It was spacious and suitable for 2 adults and 1 child. This inn welcomes children of all ages and is convenient to downtown Asheville and only 1/2 mile north of the Biltmore Estate entrance. The 3 course gourmet breakfast prepared by Chef Claudia was mouthwatering and memorable! Watch my video to get a taste of Sweet Biscuit Inn and make plans today for your next Asheville stay!  https://www.instagram.com/p/BW-jZcVh4S0/

        Pisgah Brewing Company –                 Black Mountain, NC 

        Before moving to NC, I would casually drink beer only in the summer as a pairing with Maryland steamed blue crabs. Then when I moved to Miami, I started covering beer events, festivals and grew to develop my palate thru tastings. I even have a category on the blog dedicated to Spirits/Beer. So I was excited to tour NC’s own Pisgah Brewing! We learned all about this brewery , founded by Dave Quinn. Our tour guide, Tom, shared that the #1 ingredient in beer is water and because of the great quality there in the western NC mountains, they are able to produce brews consumers enjoy! Since 2005, they have specialized in craft brews made with 100% whole leaf hops and organic grains and malts. We got to walk threw the brewery and learn about the history of Pigsah and process of making beer. Outside we saw their real beer garden, viewed the hop vines and learned how they use local produce to make beer. My fave part was sampling some of Pigsah’s brews inside their taproom, which is open 7 days a week and often has live music and other events. Wanna see more from this part of the tour? View pics >here.

        New Sprouts Organic Farms-Black Mountain,NC

        Ever wanted to follow the journey of a seed to the grocery store? Well Founder, Alan Rose and his son took us on a tour of New Sprout Organic Farms -it’s office, packing house and we even got to visit the fields(see pics >>here).  The family owned farm grows, pack and ships certified organic fruits and vegetables to East Coast grocery stores, including Ingles, Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Harris Teeter. During this part of the tour, I learned what it means to be GAP certified. It means Good Agricultural Practices are met for food safety.  For optimal health, it’s important to eat local to ensure the days from field to plate are not long. This is a way to to make sure you get the most nutrients from your vegetables. Check out the youtube video of my photo recap of this tour.  And thanks again Alan for our New Sprout Organic Farms swag!

        “Taste of Local” event at Ingles Market

        After a delicious lunch at locally owned Black Mountain Bistro , it was time to head to Ingles Market in Black Mountain for their “Taste of Local” event. This event is held every Thursday at Ingles stores and gives customers a chance to meet local farmers/vendors who supply Ingles and sample their products. I came home with some edible souvenirs like Unicoi Preserves, which owner Suzy Neal explained are “perfect pairings with cheese and charcuterie” !

        All of the staff/farmers/vendors were so passionate about their products and a pleasure to talk to. Special thanks to Ingles Markets Corporate Dietitian Leah McGrath (we share a Maryland connection, Go Terps!) who not only is a pioneer in her field, but has done an amazing job connecting brands and products to consumers and informing customers about health and nutrition.  

        If ever in the area, this is a free event you should attend! Here is my event recap : https://www.instagram.com/p/BWyMOjQB1K4/

        Engadine Inn & Cabins at Honey Hill-Candler, NC

        So much to see and say about this wonderful evening at Engadine Inn & Cabins. The Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association (ABBA) welcomed us to a feast featuring dishes from many of the B&Bs. We got to tour the historic inn, and enjoy dessert by the fire pit. Dinner was delicious and the sunset views of the Blue Ridge Mountains were amazing! I captured some of it here via Facebook live. This 12 acre property offers the choice of staying in one of the B&B elegant rooms(adult only) or in the cozy,comfort private cabins(which allows pets and children). This is also a perfect place to host a wedding or any indoor/outdoor event. Want to see more photos, check them out >>>>here

        DAY 3 | Friday, July 21

        Harvest Farm- Marion, NC

        Harvest Farm is a conventional family farm owned by Cassandra Benfield. During this stop on the #NCFarmTour, we learned that in addition to distributing their produce to wholesale distribution facilities, the farm also works with local produce stands, local restaurant delivery trucks, food shelters, Move With Compassion Ministry, The Society of St. Andrew, and a local cattle farmer. Cassandra is passionate about freshness and makes every effort to provide the best produce to a diversity of people within the community. We were thankful to not only learn about her and what she does but we also got a chance to pick tomatoes to take home and plant cabbage! We hope to return in the fall to the Harvest Farms Corn Maze and Pumpkin patch. See my photos from our visit>>>>>here.

        Ingles Distribution Center

        The final stop on the Western NC Farm Tour was the Ingles Distribution Center, which is located within 250 miles of Ingles stores, allowing it to meet the store’s standards for freshness and quality. Now that’s an #InglesAdvantage that customers appreciate! All merchandise (grocery, perishable, frozen, health & beauty) for Ingles stores is distributed by the company’s 1.6 million square feet distribution center. No cameras were allowed inside, but we were in awe of how much product was stored, the organization of operations, and positivity of the employees (many who have been there for years). There are approximately 200 stores in six southeastern states all accepting deliveries 7 days a week. After lunch, sponsored by Ingles, we were on our way back to Charlotte & Raleigh, with memories, knowledge and a great appreciation for agriculture and the people in Western NC. 

        Top 6 #FamilyFun Activities to do this Summer in #Baltimore | #FamilyTravel #VisitBaltimore #MyBmore

        Today on the blog, I am sharing #MYBmore TOP 6 Family Fun activities everyone should add to their child’s Summer Break list of things to do in Baltimore! This past weekend my #HeighPartyof3 drove the easy 5 hr ride to Downtown Harbor East and stayed at one of our favorite hotels, Hyatt Place. One of the reasons I was there was to cover the 4th Annual Chesapeake Crab and Beer Festival (be sure to check out my photo recap>>>here) but to also take #outandaboutAva to some museums and attractions in Baltimore. Here is my list of TOP 6 Family Fun Activites :

        1. See an Orioles Basesball Game -Orioles Park at CAMDEN YARDSA summertime visit to Baltimore would not be complete without a visit to the undisputed best ballpark in the nation! Oriole Park at Camden Yards is celebrating their 25th anniversary. We joined others to take in a game on an absolute beautiful evening. It was my little one’s very first MLB game and she loved it. Camden Yards is designed where there is not a bad seat in the house. She was also able to get up and close to the field pre game to watch the players stretch and interact with their fans. A night to remember for all.
        2. Learn and Play at Port Discovery Childrens MuseumBaltimore’s Port Discovery Children’s Museum is an expansive building dedicated to kids. They play and learn. Sometimes at the same time. This place has so many things to do, it can fill up an entire afternoon. From a faux diner called Tiny’s where the little ones can serve you lunch items {albeit plastic of course} to jungle gyms and a whole area dedicated to solving the mystery of what happened to a missing family, this place is amazing. My daughter enjoyed the Oasis room where she could sit quietly and read.There is plenty of hands on exhibits and interactive areas that the kids will simply love. A must stop for any families visiting with children. When you arrive grab your map at the front desk, arms in and let fun begin!
        3. Eat,Drink and Be Royal at MEDIEVAL TIMES Dinner & TournamentGo back in time to King Arthur’s day and visit the Medieval Times castle for a Dinner and Show you will never forget!  This attraction is not in Downtown Baltimore, but in Arundel Mills Mall (aprox 30 mins away by car).  Along with a medieval dinner (that you eat with your hands only),…we enjoyed entertainment like jousting,horse dancing and a real Falcon soaring above our heads to do a stunt!  This is all entertwined with a storyline the narrator explains.Medieval Times is great place to take someone who proclaims that they have seen it all. A mix between a Broadway show and Polo…Nothing compares to this experience. My daughter and her Grandma truly enjoyed their ‘Knight’ out! 
        4. Take a Joy Ride thru History at B&O RAILROAD MUSEUMDid you know that Baltimore is the home for modern commercial Railroading? The B&O railroad, which operated from 1828 to 1987, had many people skeptical {and scared} of this “new” technology. That didn’t last long as the B&O proved sucesseful in (per it’s motto)”Linking 13 Great States with the Nation”. We learned all about the rich history at the B&0 Railroad Museum while enjoying the impressive collection of vintage trains. We even took an actual 1.5 mile ride on an original section of the line! The museum does an excellent job telling the story of the railroad, which mirrors the story of America itself. Children can enjoy a hunt to collect stamps at stations throughout the museum in a little passport booklet which they turn in at the end for a free present at the gift shop! They also have a kid play area and rides outside which makes this a fun informative museum the entire family will love. I made a YouTube video full of highlights from our visit. Watch it here and Enjoy! SobeSavvy Tip: Check out this special circus themed event ‘Under The Big Top’ happening Now thru June 30 For more info visit www.borail.org.             

        5. Take a cruise aboard the ‘Fearless’ and become a pirate for the day with URBAN PIRATES 

        A day at the world famous Inner Harbor demands that one gets out on the water. We chose to take a trip back in time with a company called “Urban Pirates”. Based out of the Ann Street Pier in the Fells Point area, Urban Pirates takes visitors on a 90 min trip around the Harbor on a vintage looking ..well pirate ship. We didn’t know what to expect when we boarded along with other families. We were given official pirate names with tags and some pirate attire to wear for our voyage. https://www.instagram.com/p/BVu67NbBU55/ 

        Once out on the open water, the crew did a great job of entertaining all of us (and especially the kids) with songs, dances and all sorts of seafaring games. We even had an attempted sea hijack that we all thwarted with their water cannons! I don’t want to give away too much but let’s just say be prepared for a great experience unlike any other.

        6. Discover close to 20,000 animals at NATIONAL AQUARIUM The National Aquarium with its unique spiral floor plan, it’s huge rain forest in the rooftop, the diverse species of fish plus sharks and dolphins make it THE aquarium to visit. We chose to go early on Sunday morning and it paid off for being less crowded since this is Baltimore’s most popular attraction. 

        The close encounters of being able to touch horseshoe crabs and a real moon jellyfish in the Living Seashore exhibit made the experience that much more real. This aquarium is a crown jewel for both kids and adults alike and we always look forward to learning something new with each visit.

        Now that you know “Where to Play” your next visit to Charm City, be sure to check back here on Friday when I’ll be sharing “Where to Eat” and “Where to Stay” in Baltimore. Also check out www.baltimore.org for any information you need to plan your trip.

        Check out my fun photo video recap of these listed attractions : https://youtu.be/8lWvmmN9LRs