#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 🎅🎄💖🎁

 https://youtu.be/Pzko6A78oLU

#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.