#FamilyTravel | Where to Play, Eat, Stay for the Holidays in Charlotte, NC #CLT

Thanksgiving Weekend 2018 has ended but not without making memories in Charlotte,NC. Me and my #HeighPartyof3 drove 2.5 hours to kick off our holiday season in the Queen City and had such a great time! I wanted to share some of the highlights from our visit to inspire other families who may be traveling there soon. Check out my Family Travel Guide|Where to Play,Eat,Stay for the Holidays in Charlotte,NC.

PLAY

Discovery Place & IMAX| website

Discovery Place, located in Charlotte’s Uptown area, is a wonderful hands on learning complex about technology, nature and science. Spread out over 3 floors, families can spend the day here exploring and having fun. Watch an IMAX feature, Touch a Starfish, Create Art with a hot glue gun, and Dance while learning how the muscles move in your body! There is plenty to see and do like looking at our skin cells under a microscope, crossing a rope bridge in the rainforest, playing the secret scents game and so much more! Discovery Place lets kids of all ages experience learning thru play. It is a great way to spend a fun day! To see more, watch youtube video>>here.

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Visiting #Charlotte #NC for the holidays? Take the whole family to @discoveryplace and discover something new! Swipe 🔙 and get inspired to learn more of the wonders of science, technology and nature. Plus, check out my #instastories as we explore three floors of fun for everyone from interactive displays, a rainforest, an @imax 3D theater and more! We ❤ science and had a blast! Have you ever been to Discovery Place? What did you discover? . . . #SobeSavvy #lifestyleblogger #NCblogger #familyblogger #fun #familyfun #family #clt #discoveryplacescience #Heighpartyof3 #museum #outandaboutAva #science #stem #stemlearning #travelblogger #play #thingstodoinCharlotte #learningisfun #Ilovescience #girlmom #dadanddaughter #nature #technology

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Speedway Christmas at Charlotte Motor Speedway | website

Charlotte Speedway is the annual home to “Speedway Christmas”. Every year thousands and thousands of lights takeover the infield and stands at this iconic racing venue. We got a chance to actually drive on the racetrack which my husband loved! Tune in to their own radio station and listen to Christmas tunes as you take a slow drive for a few miles. We enjoyed partaking in the tradition of seeing the unique sights and creativity used for the dozens of displays. Guests can stop at their Christmas Village for snacks, rides and shopping. Speedway Christmas is a seasonal, holiday event held at Charlotte Speedway. So pack the family up in the car and have your chance to drive on the speedway to see holiday lights! Pay one price per vehicle and sit back, sing Christmas Carols and Enjoy! Take a look at my youtube video and enjoy some of light displays at Speedway Christmas!

SobeSavvy Tip: It is recommended that visitors come in early in the season as the lines tend to get longer the closer they get to Christmas. Also going on a Thursday or Sunday night is best as the Village is open and movies are shown on the Speedway TV. On Dec.9 bring 5 Food Lion brand non-perishable food items and get $10 off admission!

EAT

Piedmont Social House | website

Looking for a place that has great food, a tap room, games and a 12 lane bowling alley? Then head to Piedmont Social House, located in the popular Ayrsley neighborhood of Charlotte. It is a one stop destination for an afternoon or evening of food,drinks and fun! The atmosphere here is energetic and lively. It is a great spot for groups or a fun date night. There is something for everyone in the family. The service was good and so were their Chicken and Waffles! Just feast your eyes on it here:

SobeSavvy Tip: Now through December 31 they have a special Gift Card Promotion. Buy a $50 Gift Card and receive a $10 Bonus Card! Just ake a look at my photos featuring good food and good vibes from our dining experience at Piedmont Social House >>here and you’ll want to give or get a gift card to this restaurant!

THE COWFISH Sushi•Burger•Bar | website

With so many restaurant choices around Southpark Mall in Charlotte, it can be hard to find something that is actually different. One in particular that stands out from the rest is The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. Creative cocktails, innovative sushi rolls and awesome burgers is what ypu can find here. My daughter loves their kids menu choices, which comes with a Cowfish tattoo! Service is excellent and if you can, save room for dessert. See more drool worthy photos from our visit >>here and be sure to dine at The Cowfish when visiting Charlotte.

American Girl Bistro | website

SPECIAL..MAGICAL..MEMORABLE, Those are three words I would use to describe our visit to the American Girl Store/ Bistro. On Sunday, my #Heighpartyof3 enjoyed ‘Holiday Tea’ and each other during this event. Our #outandaboutAva and Luciana got all dolled up in their matching red velvet dresses for the special occasion! It was so darling! Girls got to visit the hot chocolate bar, play with a paper doll craft and we all had a chance to eat savory bites/sweet treats. Check out more photos from the Holiday Tea event>>here to see some of the holiday memories we made at this special in-store experience. With all the attention to the little details for girls and their dolls, it was a visit our daughter will never forget!

SobeSavvy Tip: Save 25% on matching dresses for girls and dolls thru 12/24/18! Find something special to make their season memorable and magical at americangirl.com

STAY


Hampton Inn & Suites Charlotte/SouthPark at Phillips Place| website

The Hampton Inn & Suites was a wonderful place to stay during our Charlotte visit. It is located at The Phillips Place Shops area and is within walking distance to many restaurants and even has a Whole Foods next door. The immense Southpark mall is right down the street. It has a stately lobby and public areas. Large modern and stylish suites awaits visitors. I loved the built in TV vanity mirror feature of our suite. There is complimentary Valet Parking and of course the Hampton Inn breakfast gets you ready for another day tackling the Queen City. Make this your property of choice on your next visit to Charlotte!

Here is an inside look at the Hampton Inn & Suites Charlotte/ SouthPark at Phillips Place:

As you can see, Charlotte is one of those cities in North Carolina that no matter the length or purpose of your visit, there are so many options for families. You can play, eat, stay and have fun along the way!

Planning to visit Charlotte this season? Which one of these places would be on your list?

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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Plan a #MommyandMe Lunch Date at @American_Girl Bistro + Enjoy Interactive Shopping Fun with American Girl App! #charactercounts

I recently traveled to Atlanta to visit family and friends during my daughter’s Spring Break. It coincided with Easter as well, so there was a whole lot to celebrate! We enjoyed a fabulous Easter Brunch at the Mandarin Oriental, a fun dinner/show at Medieval Times, and a family-friendly dining experience at The Cowfish during our stay.

While all of these were amazing foodie fun experiences, I knew that planning a visit to the American Girl store would be just the place to make #outandaboutAva’s Spring Break extra special. I was happy to find out there was one in Alpharetta,GA that included a bistro and even happier that I could turn this into a double date with mom/blogger [Ashley of @MommyWeek], her daughter and of course the Girl of the Year doll, Luciana Vega!

Mommy and Me Lunch Date with Ashley of MommyWeek, Leslie of SobeSavvy, their daughters + American Girl dolls!

The Bistro

As soon as you walk into the bistro, you know you are in for a girly good time with all the pretty pink decor. From the pink table, pink menu, pink daisy centerpiece and pink napkin holder (which your child gets to take home as a pony tail holder keepsake), the American Girl Bistro is… “soooo cute” per my little girl. All are welcomed to have a seat at the table, including your doll! They will bring a pink dining chair (with a doll if you don’t have one) right to you for your little one to enjoy. Here is a fun pic from my Instagram instastories showing what the American Girl Dolls look like sitting at the table too!

The Menu

Memories are always on the menu at the American Girl Bistro. Expect to have a delicious dining experience that you can create all on your own! Lunch included an appetizer, entreé and choice of dessert. We ordered speciality Luciana Vega drinks and said a toast to new friends and new memories!

For starters, I had the mozzarella cheese sticks while both girls ordered the fruit fondue, which came with muffins, a fruit skewer and yogurt. We all thought the presentation of the yogurt served like a flower pot was so fun! Our main entreés came quickly and were cooked perfectly. I highly recommend the salmon dish if you are looking for a healthy seafood option. My daughter loved customizing her bowtie pasta by sprinkling as much parmesan cheese on it as her heart desires! Everyone became a member of the clean plate society since we finished every bite. It was that good.

Be sure to save room for the scrumptious sweets to enjoy at the end of your meal. The delicious desserts range from cookies, cupcakes, brownies, ice cream or if you really wanna go all in, get a brownie ice cream sundae!

SobeSavvy Tip: Wanna make your dining experience more fun? Play the the conversation starter game, which you can find at the center of the table. It’s a great way to learn about yourself and everyone else!

The Boutique

After our delicious lunch, we headed into the American Girl boutique store to explore what’s new. Did you know you can search for exciting augmented reality experiences throughout the store simply using your smartphone? That’s right, you can bring magic to life and unlock interactive experiences, stop-motion videos, behind-the-scenes content, and more!

SobeSavvy Tip: Download the American Girl app for FREE, scan the pages of the catalogue and look for special icons in the stores. Get ready to go beyond the stars with Luciana and discover all of the interactive ways to play at americangirl.com/luciana. Overall our Mommy and Me lunch date was more than just a girls day out, it was a day to remember and a trip we’ll never forget! Just watch this video and wait for the happy dance moves from my little one after all the fun:

Make plans to head to your nearest American Girl store and check out all the fun, new happy spring experiences to share. Check out MommyWeek’s blog post giving her perspective of this fun day! Be sure to stop in American Girl store soon and leave with your smiles in full bloom! Thanks again to our friends at American Girl for hosting us and giving all of us a Spring Break date we will cherish.

All smiles for #outandboutAva and her mom, Leslie, Founder of SobeSavvy.com during their visit to the American Girl Boutique and Bistro in Alpharetta,GA

American Girl Atlanta Bistro

1202 North Point Circle

Alpharetta, GA 30022

#outandaboutAva visits the @American_Girl Store for Holiday Shopping, Bistro Dining and More! 

We are in Charlotte,NC where a visit to the American Girl store in the SouthPark Mall is a must do experience! Our daughter, now age 6, was very excited to take her GOTY doll, Gabriela McBride, with her for the first time to enjoy afternoon tea at the Bistro, ear piercing at the doll salon and some holiday shopping. Not only did my husband,daughter and I enjoy our family date, but we got the opportunity to #givewhatcounts to our child. American Girl brand inspires all to create memories that will last thru the holidays and beyond!

THE BISTRO

Good eats, delightful sweets and for your doll a special seat..that’s what you can expect at the Bistro. We went during their special Holiday Tea event, which included a deliciously different menu of teatime treats, a craft, and fun conversation with the holiday Table Talkers. We made a fleece headband to keep the dolls’ ears warm on chilly days, and a holiday-card-making craft. It was great way to start the holiday season with a special teatime together and a couple of crafty projects!

DOLL HAIR SALON

Recently, #outandaboutAva got her ears pierced just in time for her photo with Santa and thought it would be great to have her doll’s done too! At the American Girl Doll Hair Salon you can get a “Gabriela Girl of the Year Ear Piercing”, which is an exclusive ear-piercing service available only for the Gabriela™ 18″ doll. It was a quick service for her doll, which included her signature earring set. The music note studs are so adorable, I wish I had a pair! Pampering services and hair styling services are also available at the salon. It was so fun to see the dolls get a new look!

SHOPPING

Christmas is just days away and if you are still looking for ideas to gift your girl then look no further than American Girl. They have gifts that will teach her that “little moments of kindness can only come from big hearts”. I decided to treat my daughter to an early gift to celebrate her courage in performing in her first solo ballet recital a few days ago. It was practiced as a duet but in the last moments, she had to do it by herself. That experience helped build her confidence and allowed her to let her spirit shine.

To help her with backstage jitters, we were able to discuss how her American Girl doll Gabriela loves to perform and express herself thru dance just like her. Gabriela’s story inspires creativity and even when its not easy, she uses her talent to help those around her. So for both, my daughter and Gabriela, we got matching girl & doll PJ sets, which are on holiday sale until 12/24/17. We are planning an NYE ‘family date night in’ which is a together tradition we do and you can bet these fun, matching pjs will come into play. Find creative tips on planning the ‘Ultimate Sleepover’ inspired by American Girl’s ‘A Year of Slumber Parties’ book.

SobeSavvy Tip: Now-Thru December 31, 2017 while shopping at any American Girl store in the U.S., American Girl will match any customer donation to the American Red Cross, up to $75,000 maximum. Tied to the debut of its newest BeForever character, Nanea Mitchell—a Hawaiian girl growing up in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1941 during WWII, American Girl is supporting the American Red Cross and their Service to the Armed Forces mission
to provide care and comfort to members of the military, veterans, and their families. Donations can also be made at americangirl.com.

On Jan 1, American Girl is introducing Luciana Vega, the 2018 Girl of the Year. She comes with her cool line of space inspired products (like a Mars habitat and flight suit!) AND an out-of-this-world storyline about an 11-year-old who dreams of being the first person on Mars. American Girl worked with NASA, including a task force of advisors (scientists, astronauts, and more) who helped ensure the accuracy and authenticity of Luciana’s world—from her story and products to a STEM-based educational program in partnership with Scholastic and Space Camp.

We plan to head to the Raleigh,NC temporary store to celebrate her launch. AG is hosting Luciana debut events at its retail locations nationwide on January 1. The event features interactive science demonstrations, a Moon Phase craft, galaxy-inspired treats, and a free Luciana doll tee to take home. For more details, visit americangirl.com/retail.

Check out more of our in store experiences on You Tube and see a glimpse of how magical it is! Enjoy..thanks for reading..and Happy Holidays 🎅🎄💖🎁

#FoodieFriday Spotlight on #CLTFood | Where to Eat & More #Charlotte #CLT #charlottesgotalot 

Note: This post was sponsored in part by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority. All opinions and photos are my own.

To celebrate the end of 2016, my family and I went on a road trip down to Charlotte, NC. Besides all the great cultural and sports attractions that North Carolina’s biggest city encompasses, I was there for a more basic reason: to eat !  Charlotte has quite the cuisine scene and this foodie was focused on eating like a Queen in the Queen City! 

American Girl Dining SouthPark Mall

First, I made plans to have lunch with my little princess and her favorite doll at the bistro inside the American Girl Store at SouthPark Mall. It was quite a unique experience, which you can read my full review here. Not only was it a fun time, but the kid friendly menu had tasty options for us adults too. A reservation is definitely necessary as this place is popular. Be sure to end your meal on a sweet note and order dessert. They’ll even bring a cupcake out for your child to decorate for their doll to enjoy!

Dinner at Sea Level NC  

Since it was NYE, an early dinner in Uptown was the perfect choice. I love fresh seafood and Sea Level NC delivered just that! Service was friendly and professional. Never underestimate how important southern hospitality is to a restaurant experience.Their decor is modern and understated stylish. Lots of exposed brick and wood. 

They have a incredible farm to fork raw oyster menu sourced from North Carolina and all over the country. It changes constantly depending on the season and what’s available. All fresh and delectable. 

Ooh baby I like it raw..in my ODB voice..lol, but if you dont’t and prefer something steamed, try the mussels. Plump and tasty. Mussel rule #108 don’t forget to use the bread for sopping up the mussel broth made with white wine and garlic butter !

Wash them down with a beer or glass of wine from their extensive drink menu or a  order craft cocktail called Melting NY Sour. It was what my husband called a “man’s drink”.

Their daily seafood catches and delicious dishes, like their classic Lobster roll make this restaurant a must try for visitors and locals. Huge hunks of lobster on greens and a remoulade sauce on a lightly toasted bread was fantastic. They let the lobster just be lobster. Why mess with perfection?!

Midwood Smokehouse Ballantyne

Midwood Smokehouse has quickly become a BBQ institution in Charlotte. We had the pleasure of dining at their Ballyntyne location in Charlotte on New Years Day for dinner. North Carolina and Charlotte in general have a lot of BBQ restauarants, but when restaurateur Frank Scibelli toured barbeque joints in Texas, he picked up invaluable tips.For starters, they burn hickory logs 24 hours a day to smoke their meats in a one of a kind ,old school manual commercial smoker. The general manager was kind enough to give me a tour of the kitchen where all the magic happens. Someone has to feed the smoker constantly to keep the fire going and maintain a even temperature in the smoker at all times. That takes a lot of work . More art than science and it shows in their food.We started with some smoked wings. Dry on the outside but moist and flavorful inside. 

I had a new years special that is not normally on their menu. Pork shoulder, collard greens, black eyed peas and jalapeno cornbread. This is traditional meal to be eaten for good luck to start 2017. They should start a tradition and keep this entree on the menu! It’s was that good.

One side dish you can always find on the menu is the mac and cheese. I do not know what cheeses were used but there was plenty of it throughout ! I have no doubt this was made with love.

Service was prompt, informative and friendly. The manager demanded we try some brisket before we departed , so we managed to try a few bites. WOW ! tender, tasty and perfect mix of lean and fat.Midwood is now our “GO TO ” spot when we are in Charlotte and craving REAL BBQ . Take it from their mascot, the Notorious P.I.G ..they smoke the good stuff!

After a great dinner, we headed back to our hotel at Homewood Suites by Hilton in Ballantyne. It is conveniently close (within walking distance) to the restaurant and a great choice of lodging when staying in Charlotte. Check out my video to see why : https://youtu.be/YqoCw2QHhuk

Holidays on Ice at the NASCAR Hall of Fame Plaza

Although it rained most of our visit, on our last day, I got to work off some of that good eating by ice skating. Located outside the
Nascar Hall Of Fame, Charlotte’s outdoor ice rink is perfect for families, date nights or fun outings with friends. 

None of us had ever been ice skating before so this was an exciting family first! Skates on.Stand up. Let’s skate. If it was only that easy !! Luckily a few kind teenagers helped us onto the ice. We all held on to the bannister and laughed alot. Holiday on Ice is definitely a holiday tradition that both skaters and non-skaters can enjoy. Afterwards, we celebrated by having our picture taken with the giant polar bear and next to a NASCAR sign of course!

Thank you to our friends at Homewood Suites by Hilton Charlotte Ballantyne, American Girl brand and a very special thanks to the CRVA for the warm welcome to Charlotte! We made great memories, discovered amazing places to dine, learned that the Queen City is a haven for foodies and that Charlotte’s got a lot.