#NCFarmTour | Where NC Agriculture Meets Educational Fun ~Recap by SobeSavvy.com

On June 27-29, 2018, I joined a group of bloggers on a fantastic tour of northeast North Carolina. We were invited by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to experience the diversity of eastern North Carolina including cucumbers, white potatoes, wine, beer, brats and seafood. Here is a recap of what I learned, where we traveled, who we met and of course, what I ate along the way!

Day 1- Wednesday, 6/27

Stop 1 on the #NCFarmTour – Lunch at Nothing Fancy Café, Edenton

Locally owned, Nothing Fancy Café features made-from-scratch southern home cooking. The restaurant also features a variety of retail items including antiques and baked goods. I left with a beautiful $5 pineapple candle holder and an appreciation for this restaurant who serves field to fork food. The collard greens I enjoyed as a side came from a local NC farmer and tasted like my grandma made it! Nothing Fancy Café is also my new favorite place to enjoy a burger. When the beef comes from a local farmer, trust me you can taste the quality and the difference.
Facebook: @NothingFancyCafe

Stop 2- AJ Smith and Sons Farm, in Edenton, NC

Did you know that Edgecombe County is #1 in growing of cucumbers in NC? We visited a farm started by AJ Smith and is now run by his four sons + grandsons. The farm is extremely diversified. They grow clary sage, peanuts, soybeans, corn,watermelons, cucumbers, and snap beans. The farm also has cattle and hogs. We got to pick some cucumbers at AJ Smith and Sons Farm as well as learn about the process of preparing them for packaging. And just in case you were wondering..yes, they do get waxed for preservation purposes. All cucumbers are not created equal. However, curved or straight if they were grown in NC they will taste great!

SobeSavvy Tip: When selecting a cucumber, look for cucumbers that are very firm and rounded right to the ends.

Stop 3 on the #NCFarmTour is a tour of Historic Edenton

PLAY | Thanks to the Chowan County Chamber of Commerce, we took a horse and wagon tour of historic Edenton. We learned alot of history, enjoyed nature, and viewed beautiful architecture in the “South’s Prettiest Small Town”. WATCH my youtube video of highlights from this tour:

EAT | Ended Day 1 of #NCFarmTour at Cypress Creek Grill, a family-owned restaurant is in downtown Elizabeth City, one block from the Pasquotank River. Their meals feature
fresh seafood and local ingredients. Executive Chef Bradley Chambers created a special menu that showcased the best of what Northeast NC has to offer and combined an amazing array of flavors!

STAY | We stayed in nearby Elizabeth City overnight at Fairfield Inn, which offers guest FREE breakfast with stay plus this comfy, modern hotel has an indoor pool/jacuzzi and mini fridge+ microwave in the room.

Day 2- Thursday, 6/28

Day 2 of #NCFarmTour started off at TCOM, LP

Look up in the sky..it’s a bird, it’s a plane..no it’s a blimp that has been assembled and tested at TCOM,LP located in Elizabeth City,NC. It was so cool to tour the 225-acre facility that manufactures and test aerostats (airship or hot air balloon, especially one that is tethered). The hanger is 150 feet tall and 1,000 feet long and can hold six fully-inflated 71-meter aerostats. Their blimps are used for sporting events, by the US Military and for national security. TCOM,LP
is not a blimp manufacturing company however they do make the envelope and assemble them without the mechanics on it. It was so fascinating to see up close!

SobeSavvy Tip: Here’s an interesting connection to agriculture: The first aerial applicator was not a plane,
but a hot air balloon. It was used in 1906 to spread seed over a valley in New Zealand that had flooded.

Day 2,Stop 2 #NCFarmTour John E. Ferebee Farms

This seventh-generation family farm focuses on potatoes, each year growing and packing red, white and yellow flesh potatoes. John E.Ferebee Farms potatoes are shipped across the US. They’ve also worked with many of NCDA&CS marketing programs. We met both sisters but it was Martha took us on the tour around the facility, which have washed bulk capabilities/cold storage, and onto the potato fields. I learned that summer potatoes of eastern NC come from farms situated alongside well nourished soil beside saltwater sounds/freshwater river beds. Did you know that NC produces over 16,000 acres potatoes? This farm grows 350 acres of North Carolina Potatos.

Day 2 #NCfarmtour Lunch and Tour at Weeping Radish

If you are hungry for bratwurst, beer and knowledge just talk to Uli Bennewitz, owner of Weeping Radish, a brewery, restaurant, butchery and farm that celebrates craft! He came to NC in the early 1980s, from Bavaria, Germany, established a microbrewery and worked with lawmakers to change the NC laws to allow microbreweries to sell beer directly to consumers. In addition to brewing beer, cattle and hogs are sourced from local farms and processed on-site into sausage and charcuterie. The retail counter sells sausage, pastrami, bacon and beer. The Pub serves lunch and a housemade draft root beer that you must try!

Day 2 #NCFarmTour ..a look at our visit to Sanctuary Vineyards, Jarvisburg, NC

The Wright family-owned vineyard grows a variety of grapes on 10 acres. All grapes are picked by hand and the use of french oak barrels gives their NC wine a wonderful taste. We toured the vineyards and learn how world-class wine is made at Sanctuary Vineyards. I purchased a bottle of Morton which is a red wine blend that I can not wait to enjoy!

Jennette’s Pier, Outer Banks

PLAY | Jennette’s Pier is the oldest fishing pier in the Outer Banks and has been a landmark since 1939. Fisherman catch a variety of fish from the 1,000 foot pier including red drum, speckled trout and croaker. We bloggers took advantage of the opportunity to cool our heels from all the farm tour walking at the pier since you get access to the beach!

Today was filled with so much to learn, see and do, here are some of my fave moments from the #NCFarmTour Northeast North Carolina Day 2 w/@nc_agriculture @gottobenc ——————— •A visit to @jennettes_pier_official gave us access to the beach and a chance to see the oldest fishing pier in #OBX • We got to see who makes the envelopes for blimps and learn this history of #TCOM ,LP •John E. Ferebee Farms gave us an inside look of how they grow and pack red, white,yellow potatoes •@weepingradish is where we celebrated the craft of cooking, butchery amd farming. We had lunch at this microbrewery before taking the Beee and Brat Tour • i enjoyed tasting some NC wines from Sanctuary Vineyards and learning about their wine making process •Beautiful views from my balcony room at The Oasis Suites Hotel • Lastly, Dinner @lonecedarcafe Where their fried soft crab was some of the best I ever had caught fresh here in #NC.

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EAT | Dinner at Basnights Lone Cedar Café, located on the Roanoke Sound, is family owned/operated and serves only seafood caught in NC by local fishermen. Pork, poultry and vegetables are sourced from local farms. Herbs are grown on-site. Deserts are made from scratch daily on-site by the pastry chef. Everything we tried was delicious, especially the soft shell crab!

STAY |The Oasis Suites Hotel is the only boutique hotel on the Outer Banks. All rooms have private balconies with water views and are very spacious! Take a LOOK at my room reveal video to see for yourself how lovely this hotel property is:

Day 3-Friday, 6/29

Everything tastes better with bacon right? If you like savory and sweet, try the Maple Bacon Donut from Duck Donuts, Nags Heads

After enjoying breakfast from Duck Donuts, we started Day 3 of #NCFarmTour at O’Neals Sea Harvest in Wanchese. Sara Marabilio, who is the Fisheries Extension Specialist at NC Sea Grant, met us at the family owned and operated
seafood wholesaler to lead the tour and provide more information about NC Seafood. At O’neals Sea Harvest, you can purchase locally caught, fresh
seafood daily. The also sell fresh and frozen seafood (crab, variety of fish, shrimp & scallops) through their retail store and Monday-Friday they serve the fresh catch at their restaurant on-site.

Next stop, was nicknamed by me as Crabmeat Lover’s Heaven because Captain Neill’s Seafood, in Columbia is the largest domestic crab processing (by hand-picking) plant left. Owner Phillip Carawan started buying hard/soft-shell crabs, then opened (in 1997) a facility to process wild caught crabs caught from NC waters and purchasing daily from crabbers that dock behind their facility. Captain Neill’s processes a variety of crabmeat products in
addition to oysters, cocktail fingers and ready to eat steamed crabs.
They sell to a variety of markets, including grocery chains, under the
names Capt. Charlie’s and Capt. Neill’s. I learned that aprox 11 pounds of crab yield 1 pound of crabmeat and that an emplyee can pick the meat out of the crab in aprox 15 seconds! I left there amazed at the efficiency of the process and hungry for crab. SobeSavvy Tip: If you are a member of Sam’s Club you can purchase their crabmeat there.

EAT |Our last stop and final lunch on #NCFarmTour was at Garden Spot Café in Plymouth,NC. Located in a building built around 1900 on the banks of the Roanoke
River, this restaurant is owned by three sisters and known locally for their home-style cooking. They offer a variety of menu items to meet every taste preference. I tried the fried shrimp platter/flounder because after all that time learning more about NC seafood I was craving it!

All of these stops on the tour are just a short drive from the State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh. I encourage you to take the to time to explore more of NC, shop at your local farmers market, support restaurants where you can eat local foods and buy local goods. There are so many fun ways to support our state’s number one industry, AGRICULTURE! I am so inspired to incorporate what I have learned when it comes to food that my family consumes and make sure it comes from a North Carolina Farm!

Leslie Heigh, Founder of SobeSavvy.com on the #NCFarmTour

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TRAVEL | Top Family #SundayFunday Activities To Do In @BaltimoreMD #MyBmore

Dear Baltimore, I ❤ You. You may be misunderstood sometimes but anyone who has ever visited will discover that you have a whole lot of heart.

Recently, I was there to cover the Chesapeake Crab and Beer Festival and spent a ‘Sunday Funday‘ in the heart of Charm City at The Inner Harbor/Downtown Baltimore. It is a one stop place for family fun and a great city to travel this summer. Growing up here always makes it so surreal to return with my daughter and its beautiful to see her learn more about the city where her Mom and Dad where born.

Today, I am sharing my Top Family Sunday Funday Activities To Do In Baltimore,MD ! I am grateful to Visit Baltimore who provided passes to these attractions which allowed for me to review the experiences to be shared with you. Special thanks to BRIO Tuscan Grille for hosting my #HeighPartyof3. Hope you are inspired to visit this family friendly city soon! ❤

1. MARYLAND SCIENCE CENTER

We started our Sunday Funday skipping up the steps of the Maryland Science Center yelling, “Let’s Science!” Science is fun,factual and actual! If you agree, then check out the Maryland Science Center where there are so many cool things to do,learn and see! This attraction is known for its major exhibits that focus on dinosaurs, earth science,the human body and space exploration. With three floors of hands-on exhibits, the Davis Planetarium and IMAX Theater, families really could spend a whole day here.

2. INNER HARBOR

One of my fondest memories growing up in BMORE is strolling and hanging out at the Inner Harbor. Now I get to do it with my daughter and show her the beauty of Baltimore’s waterfront. The Inner Harbor is the heart of downtown and many of the top attractions, as well as hotels and restaurants, are located here.

3. SUNDAY BRUNCH AT BRIO

Baltimore was voted America’s Hottest Food Cities on the Coast and has so many great dining options. We chose to experience the flavor of tuscany at a restaurant conveniently across the street from the Inner Harbor. Page 66 of the Visit Baltimore Summer-Fall 2018 guide led us to BRIO tuscan grille. It’s a delicious family-friendly restaurant that offers weekend brunch,lunch & dinner. We started off with two refreshing Brunch Beverages: White Peach Sangria & Italian Mule and for Starters: Bruschetta Sampler. I absolutley loved the presentation of the sampler as well as the fresh ingredients used and combination of flavors. My daughter ordered pasta of the kids menu, my husband customized a veggie omelette and I enjoyed a Strawberry and Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinegarette. Save room for dessert and get the BRIO TRIO. You won’t be disappointed by the food or the great service here!

4. RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! Baltimore

So our daughter has a love/hate relationship with Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Sometimes she is freaked out by the weird displays, other times she finds the unusual items funny. We had a really good time going thru the Mirror Maze as a family and finding our way out to enjoy more of Baltimore. Our daughter left saying “I love Ripley’s now, I’m not afraid anymore. It’s so much fun!”

The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium offers unique fun!

5.PORT DISCOVERY CHILDREN’S MUSEUM

My cousin and I are both in our 40’s with young girls under the age of 7. We wanted to meet up at a place where the girls could play and our families could catch up. Port Discovery Children’s Museum, voted one of the ten best childrem’s museum, proved to be a fun spot for us all! Make sure you get your kiddos to see the Dinosaurs Land of Fire and Ice exhibit before it ends on September 9th. Port Discovery is a great place for kids to enjoy interactive exhibits and creative play!

There is really a diverse array of attractions for you to enjoy with family and friends in Baltimore. I would recommend a long weekend up to a week to enjoy Baltimore’s attractions museums, tours and historical sites. The next time you are looking for a city with things to do and places to enjoy a ‘Sunday Funday’, consider planning a vacation to Baltimore for the entire family! Read more of my family fun ideas to enjoy this summer in Charm City>>>here and watch this video to see more ways to have fun and explore BALTIMORE!

Have you ever visited Baltimore? What was your favorite family friendly attraction?

Shop, Eat, Play, Explore|Celebrate with a ‘Day in DC’ Family Date @American_Girl Store #charactercounts

Shop, Eat, Play, Explore | Celebrate with a ‘Day in DC’ Family Date at American Girl Store #charactercounts

Disclaimer: Thanks to American Girl for hosting my #HeighPartyof3, which consists of my husband, our daughter and me! All opinions expressed here are my own.

It’s been quite the school year for our daughter, #outandaboutAva. Besides doing so well in first grade and receiving an award for perfect attendance, she has had a busy year with after-school activities such as bowling league and gymnastics.

#outandaboutAva celebrates #GIRLPOWER with American Girl of the Year 2018, Luciana Vega

Now that the end of school year is here, there’s more time to enjoy quality time as a family. So I planned a ‘Day in DC’ family date at the American Girl store. It’s a great place to celebrate time together and I knew it would be a memorable experience for us all!

SHOP

More than just a girls’ day…Dad and Daughter get ready to shop, have fun and explore the American Girl Store

This was our first visit to the American Girl Store located in Tysons Corner Center. The first thing we noticed is that it has two floors! Compared to the Charlotte and Atlanta location, it was HUGE to us.

The American Girl Store Washington,DC has two levels!

The moment you step inside an American Girl store, you realize that everything inside has been designed with girls in mind. From dolls, accessories, outfits, and books, it’s worth it to stop by an American Girl store even if it’s just to have a look! You can plan to buy later and shop online at americangirl.com.

#outandaboutAva is an only child so she uses her imagination of having a sister American Girl Bitty Baby doll!

EAT

If you worked up an appetite after shopping in the store, I highly suggest making reservations at the American Girl Bistro. The food here is really good and I learned that while the bistros offer similar menus, they are not exactly alike.

American Girl Bistro- Washington,DC Lunch Menu

I am a fan of their ‘Design How You Dine’ format which allows you to choose a starter & a main course all for one price. This location offers cocktails and wine on their drink menu for the adults to enjoy as well as speciality drinks for the girls. Even Luciana Vega, American Girl of the Year 2018, gets a cup in case she wants a beverage!

Sip, Sip, Hooray..Parents, Girls and Dolls, too can enjoy hot or cool beverages at American Girl Bistro

More favorite moments from our dining experience at this American Girl Bistro….

Every table has a box of conversation starters on it. It’s a great way to learn more about each other!

Great customer service and dining suggestions from the staff at American Girl Bistro

Salmon for Him, Pasta for Her and for me, Asian Chicken Salad. It was all pretty tasty and filling especially after having scrumptuous starters. Can you believe we had no room for dessert!?

PLAY

Dad watches his daughter swaddle a Bitty Baby and is reminded of her own swaddling days! Time flies!

Children are so used to being told to not touch things in stores, don’t play with that, or put that toy down. But at American Girl store it’s different. They want to inspire your childs’ creativity thru play and let little girls be girls. Our daughter enjoyed learning how to swaddle a Bitty Baby doll, made silly faces like the Wellie Wishers and shared a fun secret with her Dad! Even at the Bistro there were activities to play while we waited for our meal. Check out americangirl.com/play to take play online too!

So many ways to encourage endless imagination and creativity thru play at the American Girl Store

EXPLORE

Luciana Vega, Girl Of The Year 2018, inspires girls to explore and shoot beyond the stars!

Our ‘Day in DC’ Family Date was inspired by American Girl 2018 Girl of the Year, Luciana Vega, whose dream is to be an astronaut and land on Mars. We encourage STEM learning and feed our daughter’s interest in science, specifically space travel. So I thought a visit to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum would be cool, especially since its only about 20 mins from the American Girl store and entry is FREE!

After a visit to the American Girl store, check out the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum!

It was fun to see the real space suits worn by the astronauts and compare just how much attention to detail American Girl has added in Luciana’s Space Suit. In fact, have you noticed how all of Luciana’s accessories are quite realistic? Stay tuned, #outandaboutAva will share more about Luciana Vega and her fun accessories in an upcoming post!

SobeSavvy Tip: Explore more of the American Girl world with augmented reality, exclusive videos, and activities at American Girl Stores. Be sure to download the American Girl app before you go!

If you are planning a visit to DC, I recommend going to the American Girl store, dining at the Bistro and enjoy your time together. Life is busy and kids grow up so fast, so it is so important to spend quality time and make memories that last! Remember, “Time together is a gift. Make it count.” ~American Girl

Plan your visit at americangirl.com/stores

American Girl Washington, D.C.
8090 Tysons Corner Center
McLean, VA 22102

My #HeighPartyof3 enjoyed our time together at DC/Tysons Corner American Girl Store/Bistro

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Event Recap |Carnival Horizon’s Naming Celebration + More #FunontheHorizon @CarnivalCruise

#FUNONTHEHORIZON

If you read my previous blog, I shared My Top 5 Must See Features On Carnival Cruise Line’s Newest Ship, Carnival Horizon. Well, I just got back from seeing it in person at the naming ceremony and US inaugural celebration in New York on May 23, 2018. This momentous occasion has left me so inspired to cruise with my family this summer!

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Officially named by its godmother Queen Latifah, Carnival Horizon was celebrated by invited guests aboard the ship for an evening full of festivities. My time with Carnival Cruise reminded me that having fun is a daily choice and if I had one word to describe the event it would be FUN! Just take a look at my #FunOntheHorizon recap and you’ll see why:

MEDIA BRIEFING

Prior to the event, Carnival hosted a media briefing with Carnival President Christine Duffy, where St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was presented with a $100,000 donation check from Carnival representing monies raised from various fundraisers, both onboard and ashore. The funds continue the line’s ongoing support of St. Jude with more than $16 million raised in the fight against childhood cancer since the partnership began in 2010.

EMBARKATION

After the media briefing, it was time for the fun to begin aboard the Carnival Horizon! Check In/Boarding was a smooth process thanks to Carnival’s wonderful staff and The Cat in the Hat was even there to welcome us. When I boarded the ship, the first thing I noticed was the Dreamscape, a stunning three-deck-high LED sculpture in the ship’s atrium. It will showcase the artwork of the talented young artists from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s a beautiful sight to see and such a cool collaboration!

TOUR

Before the naming ceremony, my husband and I took a self-guided tour of Carnival Horizon. We started in our outside stateroom which was spacious, modern and comfy.

We could not wait to see the dozens of new innovations on this ship that makes it different than other Carnival cruises! Carnival Horizon has:

* Dr.Seuss Waterworks, the first-ever Dr. Seuss water park

* a new teppanyaki venue, Bonsai

* Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse, a unique dining concept that combines real deal BBQ favorites created by Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri, along with four craft beers brewed on board by brewmaster Colin Presby.

Carnival Horizon is the second in the line’s Vista class series so it includes features like the following:

*the bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide

*a Havana section with its own Cuban-themed bar and pool

NAMING CEREMONY

Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line said “Carnival Horizon’s naming ceremony was one of our best yet, with Queen Latifah carrying out her duties as godmother then battling it out with Super Bowl champion Jake Elliott of my hometown Philadelphia Eagles in an entertaining Lip Sync Battle. We were also delighted to showcase the wonderfully talented children from St. Jude whose artwork on the Dreamscape will be forever associated with this spectacular ship.”

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Added Latifah, “My time aboard Carnival Horizon was nothing short of incredible. In addition to having the honor of serving as the ship’s godmother, meeting the amazing kids from St. Jude and their families and squaring off against Jake in an all-out Lip Sync Battle is certainly something I will always cherish.”

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

LIP SYNC BATTLE | #LSBCarnival

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Following the ceremony, we headed into the Liquid Lounge to see Queen Latifah square off against Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl champion Jake Elliott in Lip Sync Battle: Horizon modeled after the hit Paramount Network TV series and rolling out across the Carnival fleet.

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Latifah rocked the house with her incredible interpretation of the Weather Girls classic “It’s Raining Men,” while Elliott had a chance to live out his rock star fantasies performing Whitesnake’s arena anthem “Here I Go Again,” all performed with back-up dancers from Carnival Horizon’s Playlist Productions to a packed house who were given light up microphones and foam banners to wave in support of “Queen” or “Champ”.

DINING

Dressed in our “cruise elegant” attire, [if you are like me and not quite sure what that is, find definition here] we headed to dinner in the Meridan Dining room. Being the seafood lover that I am, I ordered and enjoyed the oysters as a starter, the Lobster/Shrimp entree while my husband got the lamb chops. We also sampled food from the Seafood Shack,various dishes from the buffet at Lido and Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint!

There are so many dining options and amenities to satisfy any traveling foodie! The quality of the food was great and everything we tried was fresh, and flavorful. After dinner drinks are available at the many bars on the ship. If you enjoy craft cocktails, definitely try Alchemy Bar, where they take a scientific approach to Mixology.

ENTERTAINMENT

So much to see and so much to do if you choose aboard the Carnival Horizon. Sports Fans can hang out at the SkyBox Sports Bar, Comedy Lovers can catch at act at the Limelight Lounge, check out the DJ and party on the deck. Catch a movie at IMAX or watch a Dive-IN Movie at Seaside Theater.

There really is so much to do and I had so little time. However, this overnight stay gave me just enough glimpse into how entertaining a cruise on Carnival Horizon would be!

BOOK YOUR CRUISE


Carnival Horizon kicks off a summer schedule from New York with a four-day cruise to Bermuda departing May 24, 2018. The ship will operate four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures from New York through September then reposition to Miami for year-round six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning later that month.


To learn more about Carnival Cruise Line or to make a reservation, visit Carnival.com, call 1-800-CARNIVAL, or contact any travel agent. Follow Carnival on: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

GIVE BACK #HOWICHOOSEFUN

Thanks again Carnival for giving me the opportunity to explore Carnival Horizon to get a first look at your 26th ship and share the #FunontheHorizon!

As part of their “Choose Fun” for a great cause campaign, Carnival invites us all to share a selfie on social media with the hashtag #HowIChooseFun and Carnival will make a donation to St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital!

Leslie, Founder of SobeSavvy.com and her daughter #outandaboutAva says Carpe Diem! Wake Up and Choose Fun! #HowIChooseFun

I choose fun by embracing my inner child while playing with my own kid. Everyday she reminds me to get some laughs and fun in before my Mom/Wife/Life daily duties begin!
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE FUN?

Dine with a View and Taste What’s New at @OceanicDining + @BlueWater_ILM in #WrightsvilleBeach @WilmingtoNCoast

Today’s #FoodieFriday feature is dedicated to two restaurants my family and I dined at during our recent visit to Wilmington, NC to see What’s In Bloom. Bluewater Waterfront Grill and the Oceanic Restaurant, both located in Wrightsville Beach, are two places that I would recommend for enjoying delicious food/cocktails with gorgeous views!

OCEANIC RESTAURANT

703 S.LUMINA AVE. | Seafood
www.oceanicrestaurant.com/

For dinner on Saturday, we had a reservation at the Oceanic Restaurant, located on the beach and connected to the Crystal Pier. They recently launched a new menu at the Oceanic and SobeSavvy.com was invited to check it out! Having lived in Florida, I have found that usually beachside restaurants either have good food and a non existent view or an awesome view and subpar cuisine. Oceanic Restaurant on Wrightsville, Nc is the rare gem that manages to do both.

Being the only restaurant in Wrightsville Beach situated on the Atlantic Ocean carries a lot of responsibility and they carry it well.
Oceanic also played a huge part in restoring the Crystal Pier, which literally stretches into the atlantic ocean with a fishing pier and outdoor above ocean tables.

We were seated upstairs at a table with a beautiful view of the sand and the surf below. They presented a neat kids menu with crayons for my little one to enjoy.

I ordered a White Sangria unlike any other I have ever had. It came with a frozen stone fruit popsicle immersed in the glass. Loved it! Hubby ordered a nice glass of Greek white wine, which paired well with our appetizer order of Oyster Rockefellers. I am still dreaming about those plump fresh oysters, topped with creamed spinach, pernod and crumbled bacon. So amazingly good!

In lieu of dinner rolls, you can expect an order of hush puppies to arrive in a basket for all to enjoy! My little one ordered the kids pasta marinara and a side of steamed broccoli. Kids and pasta go together like fish and water, so she was happy.

We tried two new items from their dinner menu that caught our attention: Shrimp and Grits and Brick Roasted Chicken. The Shrimp and Grits were large shrimp sautéed with shallots, pancetta, mushrooms, cajun spices, finished with cream and served over a fried Asiago polenta cake. The shrimp were good BUT that polenta cake was the perfect sponge to soak up all that creamy goodness. The chicken was amazing! I don’t usually order chicken at a seafood restaurant, but after the GM described it, I am so glad I did! It was moist, flavorful and the skin was the perfect grade of crispy without being overcooked.

SobeSavvy Tip: This restaurant and its unique seaside setting makes Oceanic very popular amongst visitors and locals alike. It is a place you MUST visit when in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Come for the food, stay for the view and GET IN LINE BEFORE YOU ARRIVE with Yelp Mobile App.

BLUEWATER WATERFRONT GRILL

4 MARINA ST. | Seafood
www.bluewaterdining.com/

Bluewater Waterfront Grill, recently launched a brunch program at the restaurant and includes a Bloody Mary bar, champagne cocktails and a new cocktail program. SobeSavvy.com was invited to check out what’s new so this is where we decided to enjoy Sunday Brunch for Mother’s Day!

Brunch, without a doubt is one of the best ways to start of a lazy Sunday morning/afternoon. Brunch on the Intra-Coastal waters of the NC coast is even better. Enter the Blue Water WaterFront Grill in Wilmington Beach, NC. Set amongst beautiful boats and folks pulling up their pleasure crafts right to their dock, this restaurant is a mainstay in the area.

What’s New! They have a special build your own Bloody Mary and Champagne Cocktail Bar on Sundays that we enjoyed. Peach Bellini and Red Sangria set the tone for a wonderful meal experience. Bananas Foster French Toast was divine as was the Egg & Bacon Croissant.

Sitting dockside was a fun treat for our little one. She loved watching the comings and goings of the watercrafts as she enjoyed her kids menu item Fish & Chips. Such a relaxed atmosphere on a picture perfect warm spring morning. This was a brunch to remember!

Thank you to Oceanic Restaurant and Bluewater Waterfront Grill for hosting my #HeighPartyof3 during our visit to Wilmington,NC and Island Beaches. If you are looking for family friendly dining with great service, a delicious food/drink menu and amazing views, make reservations at these two places for a memorable dining experience.

#TRAVEL | Visit #WilmingtonNC & Island Beaches to Enjoy Nature and Discover What’s In Bloom🌹

TRAVEL | Visit Wilmington NC & Island Beaches to Enjoy Nature and Discover What’s In Bloom! Photo Credit: SobeSavvy.com

You all know the saying ..”April Showers Bring May Flowers“,well my #HeighPartyof3 decided to put the theory to the test and headed to Wilmington NC & Island Beaches to discover What’s In Bloom! In the past, we have visited during the summer as a fun, “Family Travel” destination and also spent a “Daycation” in Wilmington NC & Island Beaches because for us it’s just a 2 hour roadtrip from Raleigh, NC.

This was our first time traveling to Wilmington NC in the Spring and I thought instead of flowers as a gift for Mother’s Day, why not experience botanical gardens and more in this beautiful city! With just 24 hours to explore, there is so much to get outside and do here. Take a look at our weekend itinerary filled with nature-theme activities the whole family can enjoy!

DAY 1 Arrive Saturday

Wilmington + Wrightsville Beach

Before you explore, make your first stop at the main Visitor Information Center, located at 505 Nutt Street in Downtown Wilmington. It opens on Saturday at 9am and is open daily except for Thanksgiving/Christmas. You can get any questions answered by staff, pick up maps, guides and vacation coupons!

Pick up an Official Visitors Guide and more at the main Visitor Information Center | SobeSavvy.com

Take a self-guided walking tour at Airlie Gardens , a 67 acre historical garden in Wilmington. We took advantage of the complimentary tram ride and learned so much about the lush gardens and its rich history. Go and see a 468 yr old Airlie Oak, Azaleas, and the Butterfly House. Learn about Minnie Evans, an African American woman who was a domestic who sold her artwork at Airlie. She once said ” God has some 600 shades of green, and He dressed the world with them.” She died in 1987 and local artists created the Bottle Chapel, a memorial sculpture garden, in 2004 in her honor. It was such an amazing sight to see!

Walk thru Airlie Gardens and learn about history while enjoying nature | SobeSavvy.com

All that walking will surely work up an appetite! Sweet & Savory Café is close by and offers a Saturday Brunch. This farm to fork restaurant in Wilmington is known for its variety of menu choices and fresh baked goods at their bakery.

Dine at Sweet and Savory for Saturday Brunch for a variety of Farm to Fork dishes | SobeSavvy.com

SobeSavvy Tip: Short on time or rather have a quick bite to go? Grab something at Port City Java. I enjoyed an iced coffee for a caffeine boost before our next activity!

Port City Java uses the Japanese Iced Coffee method for a more flavorful,bright,complex brew and its oh so good| SobeSavvy.com

We checked in at the Hampton Inn Wilmington/Downtown and got changed into our bathing suits for some fun in the sun at Wrightsville Beach, located just 15 mins away from Downtown Wilmington. It’s a spacious, clean beach with clear blue waters and is one of the most environmentally friendly beaches in the state. We collected shells to take home as a souvenir and our daughter played by the shore until it was time for dinner at Oceanic Restaurant attached to Crystal Pier. *Be sure to check back here for my #FoodieFriday review of our dining experience at this restaurant. Wrightsville Beach is a walkable beach town with the beauty of nature all around!

Play, Relax and Start a Seashell Collection at Wrightsville Beach | SobeSavvy.com

The Arboretum at New Hanover County closes at 8pm which made it a great last stop of our day. It happened to be prom night and many people were there to capture the perfect photo. Visit the 7 acres of nature trails and gardens, which include a Japanese tea house, gazebo, children’s cottage, ability garden and water garden for FREE!

See the beauty of blooms for free at The Arboretum at New Hanover County | SobeSavvy.com

DAY 2 Depart Sunday

Kure Beach+ Carolina Beach

Sunday,Mother’s Day..all I want to do is sleep in but when you have a six year old daughter who’s motto is ‘Carpe Diem’, you get up early and seize the day! We enjoyed brunch with a view in Wrightsville Beach at Bluewater Waterfront Grill (which you can see a few of my photos here + stay tuned for my #FoodieFriday feature) before our visit to the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher in Kure Beach. It’s worth the short drive from Wilmington to see more than 2500 animals and the 2 special exhibits: Dinosaurs! and Butterfly Bungalow. The cherry on top of our Sunday Funday at the Aquarium was when one of the butterflies landed right on my husband’s hand! My whole family had a fin-tastic time at this attraction learning just how much animals and nature are connected to each other.

Visit the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher to be inspired by nature and all its wonder | SobeSavvy.com

We did not plan to have another beach day but our daughter’s pleas and the call of the ocean breeze encouraged us to stop at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. It is right down the road from the Aquarium so it really was a convenient stop. This public beach is great for bird watchers because alot of nature is unspoiled here.

Kure Beach is a pure and natural playground for beach goers, bird watchers and nature lovers | SobeSavvy.com

Did you know that one of the only places in the world where you can see the Venus flytrap growing in its native environment is at Carolina Beach State Park? See the rare Venus Flytraps for FREE and learn about one of the world’s most unique carnivorous plants!

Head to the Carolina Beach State Park for a tour along the Flytrap Trail | SobeSavvy.com

SobeSavvy Tip: Ranger-Guided tours of the park’s Venus flytrap trail are available Saturday and Sunday mornings at 10am. I recommend the guided tour, as the flytraps can be hard to find on your own. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes with socks for this guided tour. Insect repellent is highly recommended as are long pants. You can always change back into shorts and sandals in the park’s visitor center bathrooms. The hikes meet at the flytrap trail head and depart promptly at 10am so be sure to arrive in time to park and meet. If you gey hungry after hiking the nature trails, go a half a mile to dine at Michael’s Seafood and enjoy fresh seafood dishes like loaded oysters and snow crab legs!

Dine at Michael’s Seafood, conveniently close to Carolina Beach State Park | SobeSavvy.com

Thank you to Wilmington and Beaches CVB and the attractions who welcomed my family and I to experience nature-theme activities and feature them in my 24 hour itinerary. I hope you and your family will review this travel guide and take the opportunity to visit Wilmington NC & Island Beaches soon to see What’s In Bloom!

#Travel | My Top 5 Must See Features On @CarnivalCruise Line’s Newest Ship, #CarnivalHorizon #ChooseFun

Have you heard the news about the new ship from Carnival Cruise? Yes, the Carnival Horizon is making it’s debut as Carnival Cruise Line’s 26th ship! This 3,960-passenger ship is so far the biggest of them all and has so much fun for everyone to enjoy! I am so excited to announce that I will be attending the ship’s official naming ceremony and pierside overnight event in New York City this month!

I am looking forward to seeing Carnival Horizon’s Godmother, Grammy award winning artist and actress Queen Latifah perform in a celebrity Lip Sync Battle, as well as the variety of innovations aboard this ship! There are so many new and amazing features on this ship that I have read about thus far, but here’s my list of the ones that I can not wait to see and experience once aboard the ship!

My Top 5 Must See Features On Carnival Cruise Line’s Newest Ship, Carnival Horizon

1. THE ELEVATORS

I know you are wondering what in the world is so great about the elevators? I’ll tell you right now. They’re special Schindler port elevators with no buttons. All guests waiting to get on use a touch pad to choose what floor they are going to. Afterwards each guest is electronically assigned an elevator car that whisks you to your floor ONLY with guests stopping in proximity. So for instance if you and another guest are going to decks 4 and 5 and 2 other folks are going to decks 8/9 the computer will place you all in the quickest elevators only with those going to the same stops. You will have the shortest trip times and stops! Saves times and less of that awkward elevator silence.

2. DR. SEUSS WATERWORKS

Taking my daughter on a cruise is something I look forward to very soon and with the expanded Dr. Seuss WaterWorks play area, I am assured of lots of smiles. This is the first expanded shipboard Dr. Seuss-themed Water Works water park. Besides occasional roaming characters they have colorful statues of Cat in the Hat the Thing 1 and Thing 2 who also get their names on twisting water slides. A giant red and white striped water dumping bucket is also shaped like the Cat’s hat.

3. Guy Fieri’s PIG & ANCHOR Bar-B Que Smokehouse and Brewhouse

Beer and Barbeque go together in a great way. Carnival has introduced celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s restaurant and brewery named Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B Que Smokehouse and Brewhouse. 4 craft beers are made in the worlds only onboard full brewery. Four types of beer are brewed and the meats are smoked over hickory and apple wood to give it that amazing flavor.

4. HAVANA SUITES

While I don’t mind a crowd, sometimes you just want a smaller crowd! Enter the new category of suites called “Havana Suites”. These are oversized suites that are in their own section of the Horizon. Guests who stay here get access to their own Havana pool and bar area that is off limits until 7pm for any other guests who are staying in these suites. This alone makes a little splurge worth it.

5. SKYRIDE Anyone ?

First introduced on Horizon’s sister ship,The Vista, SkyRide is a bit like riding a bike — you’ll never forget it. But SkyRide is also completely unlike riding a bike, because when was the last time you biked around a ship, high above the deck and even higher above the sparkling blue sea? Zip safely around our two-lane suspended course in a pedal-powered go-mobile, in search of your biggest racing victory, a lower-body workout… or simply the greatest view!

These Top 5 just scratch the surface on this amazing ship! I look forward to getting more information and sharing with you once aboard the ship. Stay tuned for more of Carnival Horizon + my event recap!

Have you taken a Carnival Cruise before? What was your favorite feature?

Looking for the Best Sips & Sushi in #Atlanta that the whole family can enjoy? Check out @TheCowfishATL Sushi*Burger*Bar #TheCowfish

Atlanta has become one of the great food cities of the world in the last 15 years. Name a cuisine and odds are you will find it there! Because my family and I are traveling foodies, one of our things to do is to seek out good food wherever we go. Sometimes it is best to revisit a place where you have dined before because the food, service and quality is consistent. That place for us is The Cowfish.

My daughter, fondly referred to as #outandaboutAva, is always ‘heads over heels’ to dine at The Cowfish. They currently have 5 locations, including this one at Perimeter Mall in Atlanta. She enjoys the fun yard games on the outside as much as we enjoy the Sushi, Burger, Bar on the inside!

DINING ROOM VIBE

Although there is outside patio seating, my family and I had dinner in their casual dining room. We sat at a booth that gave us a view of the beautiful aquarium behind the bar. There is also a smaller one by the hostess stand which has a sole yellow cowfish swimming in it! My little one was amazed at it’s peculiar shape and unique look. That is not the only unique thing about this restaurant. I think The Cowfish has some of the Best Sushi and Sips on their menu, which is why we came here for dinner. But first this Mom & Dad need…..

DRINKS

It was almost 84 degrees outside so we were ready for a few cocktails. I tried a Sake sampler, which offered both cold and warm sake pours. The Fuji Apple cold sake was my absolute favorite! I loved the presentation on a board with each name. Matter of fact I loved it so much I ordered a bottle of the Fuji Apple! Hubby is a bourbon/scotch man so he ordered one of the handcrafted cocktails which they called a “new fashioned”. SobeSavvy Tip: Enjoy half off Martinis every Tuesday and discover your favorite Martini on the menu!

MENU

We started off with an appetizer of Blackened Tuna Nachos. Seared tuna slices on Wonton Chips over their crab Rangoon dip. It was delicious and enough to share with my #HeighPartyof3.

My soon to be 7 year old ordered the grilled chicken kids entrée. It came with fries and edamame and is served in a bento box. Also included is a fun cowfish tatoo and rice crispy treat with a swedish fish on top for dessert!

Hubby ordered from their “Burgushi” section. The Cowfish finds ways to merge a tasty burger with fresh sushi in different dishes. His Fusion Specialty Bento Box came with a mini burger, a sushi roll, fries and Thai cucumbers. I must admit I was picking off his plate, I mean bento box as I enjoyed the variety of his dish.

I ordered “The Prime Time” Filet and Lobster Roll which is a creative and tasty sushi roll version of the classic Surf & Turf. Guests can order strictly sushi or strictly burgers from other areas of the menu, but The Cowfish offers the best of both worlds!

DESSERT

Thinking of dining here soon? I have just one piece of advice SAVE 👏ROOM👏 FOR 👏 DESSERT! We split a very BIG slice of their Chef Dave’s Not Factory Made Cheesecake. This creamy, almond coconut cheescake is beyond good and everyone enjoyed it!

See what else we enjoyed here on my Instagram post:

Here are some fun things coming up at The Cowfish in Atlanta:

• Offering half priced Skinny Gonzales Margaritas on Cinco de Mayo

• Offering complimentary chocolate dipped strawberries on Mother’s Day

Be sure to stay up to date

Visit The Cowfish at www.thecowfish.com

Follow on Twitter: @The_Cowfish

Instagram: thecowfishsbb

Facebook: @thecowfishatl

Thanks again to our friends at The Cowfish in Atlanta for hosting our dining experience. My daughter left with big smiles and lots of fun, foodie Spring Break memories.

#outandaboutAva visits The Cowfish in Atlanta for a fun, family-friendly dining experience | SobeSavvy.com

Recap of the #Easter Festivites at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta @MO_Atlanta #EventsbyMo #EasterBrunch #Atlanta

Yesterday my family and I attended the Easter Festivites event at the fab Mandarin Oriental in Atlanta. Last week I wrote about what to expect there on Easter Sunday and as always, they delivered on their promises. It was a warm and beautiful spring day in Atlanta for Easter. Picture perfect for my family to spend the afternoon with Floppy the Bunny, who was a special guest at the Mandarin Oriental.

This luxury haven had so many special Easter events wrapped in a few hours. But first we ate. Ate very well actually. We were seated in their bright dining room looking out at their English Garden courtyard. They had every imaginable food choices at station after station. Omelette station, Assorted Pastries,Salads,Charcuterie & Cheeses, a Carving station and chilled Seafood Station featuring an Easter Egg Ice Sculpture in the center of jumbo shrimp, raw oysters, crab legs and claws.

An enormous ice Easter Egg along with a roaming Easter Bunny are just some of the whimsical touches that could be found everywhere. My 6 year old stated she wanted to eat fast so she could start on their incredible dessert station! When is the last time you’ve seen a macaron Ferris Wheel?

We also loved the Champagne Cart making the rounds serving premium brunch cocktails tableside. The servers were on their “A” game. That is standard for the Mandarin Oriental but it allowed us to relax and simply be taken care of.

The English Garden was where the Easter Egg Hunt and Petting Zoo took place. All the kids seemed to have fun looking for the eggs as well as petting the adorabe sheep. It was a toss up deciding who had more fun, the kids or us parents watching!

There were so many awesome Easter memory made at this beautiful luxury hotel. Watch this video for more highlights of the Easter Festivities at Mandarin Hotel Atlanta and see why we are #MOFoodies + #FansofMo!

Thanks to our friends at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta for hosting my #HeighPartyof3 for Easter. It was truly an experience we will never forget!

MANDARIN ORIENTAL ATLANTA

3376 PEACHTREE RD. NE

ATLANTA, GA 30326

#TRAVEL | My 48 Hours in South Beach #MIAMI 🌴 Beach, Bites, Sips & Sights ☉ #FoundInMiami

Last week this time I was flying Delta airlines to make my way back to a city that I lived in for almost 19 years, Miami Beach. My reason for going was to attend the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration ‘On the Road’ conference[stay tuned for my recap], however while there I made this trip into a mini Momcation. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when a Mom travels solo without kid(s) or husband in tow and goes away on a much needed break! As seen in my Miami Beach Family Travel Guide, South Beach with Kids can be done, but this time I was back to enjoy some solo fun. I saw some friends, got some sun and of course dined at some restaurants! With just 48 hours in the Magic City, I made sure to enjoy 4 things: BEACH..BITES..SIPS..& SIGHTS!

BEACH

I moved away from South Beach three years ago and the number one thing I miss is being able to walk to the beach. After meeting up with a friend/former neighbor at Beach Taco for lunch [I’ll tell you more about that in a bit], we walked over to the sand behind Nikki Beach, known for its day parties and Sunday Brunch. The temps of the water can be a bit cold in March, however don’t let that deter your from playing or taking selfies by the shore! Plus I had some new sunglasses from my friends at SunglassWarehouse.com to break in! 😎 I love these over-sized sunshades for great sun protection.

BITES

Since I arrived on a Tuesday, it was only right for my first bite to be tacos! Beach Taco Miami was the perfect place to celebrate #TacoTuesday while enjoying a variety of tacos for lunch. My fave were a tie between the shrimp tacos and korean bbq. Take a look at the yummy pics I took ….warning you may be dreaming of tacos after! 🌮

SobeSavvy Tip: Every Tuesday, get an order of queso dip and handmade chips FREE with your order at Beach Taco Miami!

Breakfast was provided at the conference and since I was staying with a friend, I enjoyed the comforts of home and eating in. However, I was able to enjoy a lovely dinner on my final night at Barceloneta. Located in Sunset Harbor [which is where locals dine away from Ocean Drive], this place is known for its amazing Spanish tapas and flavorful mediterranean dishes. I used to dine here for brunch often, but this was my first time coming for dinner. Feast your eyes on these tasty bites:

SobeSavvy Tip: Enjoy Happy Hour specials every day from 5-8pm and also late night Sun- Thurs, 11 pm-12 pm & weekend happy hour 12 am-1 am Fri & Sat in the bar/lounge area at Barceloneta Miami Beach.

SIPS

As formentioned, Barceloneta is a great spot to enjoy some sips. They have an extensive wine, beer,and cocktail list. I highly recommend getting a pitcher of their ‘Verdajo Al Sol’ Sangria[pictured above]. It’s made with sparkling wine, verdajo, gin and passionfruit.

Every tourist must check out Wet Willie’s on Ocean Drive/South Beach for their infamous frozen drinks! Mix and match your flavors and head upstairs to enjoy the view. SobeSavvy Tip: Not sure which flavor you want? Just ask the bartender to give you tasting samples before making your choice. Keep in mind there are more flavors located on the second level.

My favorite sip is a cocktail that I enjoy during Happy Hour at Doraku. It’s a ‘Lychee Martini’ and I try to have one or two each time I visit. It’s that good! This restaurant is popular for its sushi and their happy hour is the perfect time to try a variety of things from their menu at a great price. I don’t know about you, but I’ll drink to that! CHEERS!🍸

SIGHTS

No matter where you look there are always sights to see in Miami. From the beautiful beaches to the palm trees, the best place to take it all in when you have a short amount of time is Ocean Drive on South Beach.

With the right shoes, sunscreen and cold beverage in hand, you can walk and take in so much scenery on the 15 blocks that make up Ocean Drive. My friend took me to the newly renovated Muscle Beach area where men [and women too] and their muscles are on display during workout sessions on the sand at 9th/Ocean, Lummus Park.

Have you been watching the FX TV series: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story? This crime happened in 1997 and we had just moved to Miami Beach in 1996. Can you imagine how sad/scary that was to say the least! The Versace mansion which is located on Ocean Drive, is now a hotel & restaurant. It’s worth stopping by just to see the beautiful villa adorned with the iconic Versace symbol on the outside.

SobeSavvy Tip: Take the opportunity to get off the beach [via a short bus ride, taxi, or use UBER and get $5 off each of your first 4 Uber rides. To accept, use code ‘2ackv’ to sign up. Enjoy!]. Head to Downtown Miami to see views by the water at Bayside Marketplace. Also check out the Wynwood Walls to see some amazing street art. Find a mural and get your pose on!

Thanks for reading all about my fun-filled 48 hours in South Beach Miami. Special thanks to Beach Taco Miami and Barceloneta for hosting me. I enjoyed trying items from your menu and sharing about my experiences. I hope you all plan to check them out as well as my other suggestions your next visit to South Beach- Miami Beach, Florida! See more beach,bites, sips and sounds on my youtube recap video. Enjoy!

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO MIAMI BEACH? WHAT WERE YOUR FAVORITE BEACH BITES, SIPS & SITES? SHARE BELOW😎🌴🍸☉