#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?

#FoodieFriday Spotlight on @VivaceCharlotte – Where to Dine in #CharlotteNC #cltfood #SobeSavvyeats #italian

Many Thanks to Vivace Charlotte for hosting SobeSavvy.com for our #SobeSavvyEats Series and #FoodieFriday Feature

When I travel with my family, I know there is one type of cuisine where everyone can find something they love on the menu. Italian cuisine suits my daughter’s love for pizza, my husband’s passion for pasta and my craving for meat or seafood. During our recent trip to Charlotte, we worked up an appetite after our family fun day at Carowinds, and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Vivace Italian restaurant located in the Midtown area of Charlotte, NC.

ENJOY DINNER WITH A VIEW

Vivace[yes, it rhymes with Versace] is an upscale modern take on an Italian Trattoria which traditionally isless formal than a ristorante, but more formal than an osteria. Upon entering this multi-leveled space, we were impressed by the beautiful wood and lighting. The layout featured bars on each floor and also a dining area. Upstairs they also have lounge chairs and tables on their patio, which offers breathtaking views of the Charlotte skyline.

COCKTAIL TIME

This trendy restaurant had a nice after work crowd of folks who opted for some drinks at the bar to end their week and start their weekend. Other patrons were smartly dressed to match the décor and ambiance.

My husband and I started with a two cocktails from their drink menu which includes wine and an impressive number of NC craft beers. Both of us are Gin fans so he ordered “The Summer Affair” which uses Hendricks Gin, his favorite. I opted for the “Botanico“, which I really enjoyed how refreshing this drink was with the use of cucumber and rosemary. Crafty, creative, classic cocktails can be found here at Vivace.

FAMILY FRIENDLY DINING + MENU

Is this restaurant family friendly? Yes!
Since we had our little foodie,#outandaboutAva with us, we opted for an early dinner. While on the surface this is not a “kids” type place, they do have a Bambini Menu. Our just turned 7 year old daughter ordered a cheese pizza, which came with fresh strawberries and Nutella for dipping.

For starters, I suggest their steamed PEI mussels because its perfect for sharing. It was served with crusty bread, which is essential for soaking up all the flavors in the broth!

For my dinner entrée,I ordered the Pistachio Crusted Lamb Chops with mashed potatoes and a veal demi glace. I love lamb chops and thought the use of pistachios gave it a unique taste while the veal demi glace amped up the bold and savory flavor. The quality of the meat was superb and it was cooked to perfection.

My husband always says you judge an Italian restaurant by their gnocchi. So that’s what he went with. Vivace serves theirs with grilled chicken and asparagus tips. Luckily, I was able to procure a few of his disappearing gnocchi before they were gone. He
commented on how he could tell that unlike so many Italian restaurants that just have them sitting in warm water that these gnocchi were “dropped to order”.

After speaking with their chefs, they confirmed that indeed that was the case! In fact all their pasta is made in-house. And ingredients used to prepare their dishes focus on local/regional ingredients.

Our dining experience at Vivace was wonderful not only because our server was sweet and attentive but the food was great. I would recommend dining here because not only with you find traditional Italian eats but dishes that will also cater to some American likes.

The location and layout is beautiful and the restaurant’s atmosphere is unique. My husband mentioned that he was relieved that finally a spot’s style matched it’s substance.

Lil Miss Foodie aka #outandaboutAva and her Mom, Leslie/Founder of SobeSavvy.com bid arriverderci to Vivace, but look forward to coming back!

SobeSavvy Tip: Their private events manager, Blythe Bayrd informed me that they host numerous holiday parties with great package prices. The
schedule is filling up fast so book your companies or your own private event for the holiday season NOW.

HAVE YOU EVER DINED AT VIVACE BEFORE? WHAT IS YOUR GO TO CUISINE THAT SUITS YOUR FAMILY? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW 🍴

#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.

#TravelTuesday ~See Why #CharlottesGotAlot of #FamilyFun #GoodFood in the #QueenCity @charlottgotalot

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I love to celebrate life, especially with my family. No holiday is too big or too small. So when it came time to celebrate Father’s Day, I thought why not treat Dad Like a King by traveling to the Queen City a.k.a Charlotte, NC !

Myself, my husband and our 4 year old daughter packed up our car for a road trip to Charlotte. I had 2 days of family fun planned for us. When researching for this trip, it became pretty clear that the Queen City has something for everyone!

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In case you are planning a trip with your little ones in tow, I can assure you that Charlotte is family friendly and an awesome place to make memories. Take a look at our family fun travel guide and a snapshot of our itinerary during this past Father’s Day weekend!

STAY 
Hyatt House Charlotte/City Center proved to be the perfect location for our stay as it was right in Uptown. It had everything required in a style forward setting. Full kitchens and comfy beds.Full breakfast in the lobby with  made to order omelettes included. Nice small pool and paraben free bath products sealed the deal. It’s location made walking to city center attractions a breeze.

*Day 1
Late Afternoon/Evening :After a day of traveling , it was nice to arrive to comfortable accomodations. The sun was shining so we headed to the hotel’s outdoor pool, which also had a lounge area. Dinner options are available at the hotel ‘s restaurant known as H BAR which is opened daily 5pm-10pm offering delicious bites from a “menu  of home-cooked comforts”. Needless to say, Day 1 was fun yet relaxing!

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PLAY
Discovery Place 
Trying to find a place that makes kids and adults equally happy is always a challenge when traveling. Lucky for us Discovery Place fits the bill. Calling this a childrens museum does not do it justice. It’s is all in one wonderland that is a delight for all! It has so many interactive and educational exhibits all under one roof. Science experiments in one room and an aquarium in the next. We learned about the power of air pressure and the wonders of the rain forest. My daughter loved the infrared machine outside that accurately measures your height by just standing underneath the beam ! It was just the perfect blend of all things amazing about our world. I highly recommend this for any family visits to Charlotte. It was filled with cool stuff to do and so much fun! No wonder it is one of Charlotte’s most visited attractions.

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NASCAR Hall of Fame

“Start Your Engines”..Those are 3 of the most beloved words to racing fans. The Nascar Hall of Fame is a place to come and celebrate the history and heritage of the sport. Located in a beautiful building filled with memorabilia and exhibits, The Nascar Hall Of Fame did not dissapoint.  They have classic racing cars and the realistic racing simulators where at the end you get a personalized stat sheet of how you performed. You can practice fast changing a tire at the pit crew challenge and even the little ones can be part of the pit crew in the kids zone. The gift shop was amazing. You can buy everything from mini replica cars to all sorts of racing clothing and gear. Check out our visit to the Nascar Hall of Fame where we spent the afternoon walking among legends!

*Day 2
Morning: After a restful evening, we woke up ready to go sight seeing in the Queen City. The complimentary breakfast buffet at Hyatt House was enough to give us energy to walk to the nearby attractions. On the way to Discovery Place, we passed the Time Warner Cable Arena (which is next to hotel) where the Charlotte Hornets Play. While we opted to stroll ( Uptown is pedestrian friendly), we noticed other ways available to get around the Center City, like horse and carriage or bicycle.
Walking allowed us to see the beautiful skyline and amazing public art along the way, such as the four statues at Trade and Tryon streets.
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*Day 2 continued..
Afternoon: Every foodie must have lunch at 7th Street Public Market. ( I will share more in the EAT section below). The Nascar Hall of Fame does have a cafe inside if you choose to eat there. Believe me, you will need fuel as we found out this attraction is a place you could spend your entire afternoon!
Evening: For dining,nightlife,entertainment, EPICENTRE has it all in one place. Just a couple of blocks from the hotel made this a perfect place to catch and early dinner with our little one. We ended our evening by hopping on the CityLynx Gold Line, a streetcar system that connects neighborhoods through 6 stations all for free! The 1st and last stop conveniently was across from the Hyatt House.

EAT
7th Street Public Market is a foodie’s paradise! Variety is the spice of life and this place is so diverse in its dining options. For example: my daughter had pizza from Pure pizza, I wanted sushi,so Bonsai Fushion fit the bill and Local Loaf was my husband’s choice for a sandwich. The quality of the food and the variety of offerings can be enjoyed by all: families, locals, tourists, hipsters, just to name a few! The market also has retail shops great for picking up locally made items or imported goods. We ended our visit to the 7th Street Public Market on a sweet note by getting a cupcake for my cupcake and a very memorable creme brulee from Cloud 9 Confections!

Nan and Byron’s
It was a beautiful Sunday morning and we took a short drive to the South End neighborhood to have brunch at Nan And Byron’s restaurant. Their weekend brunch consists of an all you can eat buffet w/carving station, bloddy marys and mimosas. The buffet was attractively laid out in their bar area with various breakfast favorites and they even had a seafood raw bar of Snow Crab legs and oysters. The little one enjoyed the pancakes. We sat in the open dining room with huge windows that let in the beautiful natural light of the morning. Service was very good. If you ever on the South End or want a brunch with locals and not a huge amount of tourists, then this is your spot. Oh yea..their sweet rolls are decadently yummy !
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*Day 3
Morning We checked out with ease and headed over to Nan and Byron’s for their special Father’s Day Brunch. The restaurant opened in November 2013 and its name originated from Grant Wood’s well-known 1930 American-Gothic painting of a man and woman (Nan and Byron) holding a pitchfork in front of a farm. The restaurant, which focuses on new-American cuisine, is a short drive from Uptown but well worth the trip! We discovered alot about Charlotte and all of its regal offerings. We left with many fond memories of The Queen City and something to tell all our friends and family: “Charlotte’s Got A Lot” !
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#TravelTuesday : #SobeSavvy Samples the Carolinas at #TasteCarolina @Carowinds

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This past Sunday I took my daughter on a little road trip from Raleigh to Charlotte. Off we went on I-85 South to the famous Carowinds Amusement Park https://www.carowinds.com

The Spring weather had finally taken hold and it was a bright and warm afternoon when we arrived. Although they have immense rollercoasters and rides , we were there for the Taste Of The Carolinas Food and drink Festival https://www.carowinds.com/taste

This event is a culinary salute to unique Carolina cuisine from both North and South. There are 7 different food booths representing different regions/areas of the Carolinas. Simply purchase your tokens of various amounts and take a food journey through the history of the Carolinas.

We didn’t know where to start, but we decided on the Charleston booth. We chose the shrimp and grits. Unlike the traditional dish, the fresh Carolina shrimp were coated in a grits batter and fried to a golden brown served with awesome tarter sauce. Superb! Next up around the corner was a order of catfish from the Outer Banks booth. Fresh and delicious. Time for something cold to wash all that goodness down with. I went with a local craft beer from the wine and beer booth. All beer and wines on sale are from Carolina breweries and wineries. We strolled down to the Low Country of South Carolina booth for seafood gumbo. Right amount of heat and the Okra was perfect.

Since my sweet tooth was calling, I decided on some Pecan Cinnamon Bread Pudding from the mountains of Asheville. Topped with cream cheese icing, this was literally a great way to end our food travels at Carowinds. It was great to be able to take a food tour all in one compact area. This unique even takes place every Saturday and Sunday through May 1. Whether you are near or far from Charlotte, take a trip to Carowinds..your stomach will thank you !

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Photo Credits: Barry Heigh

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#SobeSavvy .Com shares a #HiltonStory @Homewoodsuites @HiltonHotels #Charlotte #NC #Travel~#soNCsavvy #soTravelsavvy Recap

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My family and I just spent some time during the Thanksgiving weekend in the Queen City” of Charlotte, NC. Some good friends of ours recommended the Ballantyne area of Charlotte, known for its location to attractions, shopping and peacefulness. After looking at a few choices we decided that we would stay at the Homewood Suites
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This new all suite property is located within the fabulous Toringdon Circle and Ballantyne Village Shopping area. The hotel is within easy walking distance of various restaurants and wine bars. Upon pulling up I could tell this was not a “normal” Homewood Suites experience {although the normal experience is usually very nice also !}. A scenic water display was adjacent to the driveway.
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Upon entering, the modern huge public lobby/dining areas reminded me of a luxurious mountain lodge. Replete with fireplace and woodsy accents. I loved the little private alcoves in the lobby where you could relax with your own flat screen and enot a cup of coffee, hot tea or my lil girl’s favorite, hot cocoa! The business center has full size Apple Macs for their guests to utilize.
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Check in was friendly with a dash of that famous southern charm that Charlotte is known for. Our suite was very modern and of a trendy design aesthetic. Big and roomy for us 3. Full kitchen with beautiful granite counters. The bed was very comfortable and so were the pillows. All the furnishings had a very high end feel to them. The shower reminded me of a spa alcove. I wanted to just cocoon in the suite all day but I had to get a work out in. The gym was perfect. New Precor machines and plenty of free weights. I could have also chosen to take advantage of a free pass the hotel has arranged with the LA Fitness gym within walking distance of the hotel in the shopping center. Maybe next time.
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Due to it being late November we couldn’t take advantage of their attractive outdoor pool and grilling area.
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We had to get an early start the next morning, but not before indulging in the awesome free breakfast buffet. Make your own waffle station. Various eggs and meat choices. The oatmeal was great. My little one gives the waffles a big thumbs up!
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Great stay at a great property. It’s near the Ballyntyne corporate center. So whether in this part of Charlotte for work or play this Homewood Suites IS my base camp on every trip to the Queen City. Make it yours too !
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