TRAVEL | Where to Stay in Atlanta GA – Hyatt Place Downtown Atlanta




Are you planning to visit Atlanta, GA? Well let me help you decide on where to stay. The Hyatt Place Atlanta/Downtown offers …”Southern Charm with a Big City Flair” at a great price. While there are a myriad of lodging choices in Downtown Atlanta, let me share some reasons for you and your family to choose Hyatt Place Atlanta/Downtown.
• CONVENIENT LOCATION


This hotel is conveniently located near the city center which made it the ideal place to stay while in Atlanta. You can walk to over 30 different restaurants and major attractions (we walked to Mellow Mushroom and World of Coca Cola). Not in the mood to walk? The Hyatt Place Atlanta/Downtown offers a free shuttle!Guests can utilize their free shuttle to any destination within 3 miles of the hotel. This pretty much covers almost all major city centers attractions like the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola and even the trendy Atlantic Station Shopping Area.


WORLD OF HYATT MEMBER PERKS


World Of Hyatt Members {free to sign up here} get to enjoy complimentary breakfast featuring cage free eggs, delicious entree choices and specialty breakfast items. My daughter loved the warm monkey bread rolls and I appreciated the fresh fruit options for us all.


HAPPY HOUR


This location specifically has a 5 to 7 happy hour at the lobby bar. For two hours guests can indulge in half price appetizers and their complimentary “drink of the day” 7 days a week. I really enjoyed the Paloma Fizz which was the featured Saturday drink during my stay. Cheers to Hyatt Place Atlanta/Downtown for offering these refreshing cocktails to guests.


MODERN COMMON SPACES


We arrived pretty late and it was nice to be warmly welcomed by staff. As soon as we walked thru the door, I noticed the beautiful Christmas Tree and modern decor. My daughter noticed the fresh green apples in the lobby, which were available for all guests to enjoy. The Hyatt Place Atlanta/Downtown also has comfy nooks and sitting areas for guests to unwind , enjoy 24/7 dining or get some work done in the business center.


COMFORTABLE ROOMS

The Hyatt Place Atlanta/Downtown makes great use of a small space by having a sofa that converts into a bed and a partition that gives partial privacy. The layout made it feel spacious during our two night stay. The room included a microwave, mini fridge and also a personal coffee maker in our suite. We all thought the bed and pillows were quite comfortable and we were satisfied with the cleanliness of the room.

What makes a hotel stay comfortable? Is it cozy bedding, a room that offers peace and quiet for a good night’s sleep, or the quality of in room amenities? I need all of the above and the Hyatt Place brand offers just that! Overall, we had a nice stay. Which for me meant I was able to rest, enjoy a hot breakfast in the morning, and service with a smile. Every single person here greeted my family and I with a genuine smile and inquired how our stay was going. While this may seen minor to some, it is major in my book. This is a way to show thanks and respect for my business. Next time you are in Downtown Atlanta for pleasure or business, consider staying at Hyatt Place Atlanta/Downtown.


HYATT PLACE ATLANTA/DOWNTOWN
330 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia, United States, 30308
Tel: +1 404 577 1980 | Fax: +1 404 688 3706

#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?

4 #Books To Make Holiday #FamilyTravel Easier + #ChildrensBook Giveaway

*Disclosure: This content uses some affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy for more info: here

Do you pack books for yourself or family when you travel? I do. No matter if it’s by plane, train or automobile each member of my #HeighPartyof3 will have some type of reading material or activity book. We are heading up to Charlotte, NC for Thanksgiving weekend and I have already started packing up what books my daughter will read on the roadtrip and keep her entertained during our hotel stay. Sure she has a tablet and my husband has his kindle, but there is still something special about having and holding a book. Here are 4 Books To Make Holiday Family Travel Easier:
Football Freddie and Fumble Dog by Marnie Schneider, Goldie Grace, Illustrated by D.Moore

Description: Football Freddie and Gameday in the Carolinas is a book that follows Football Freddie, a football loving girl who also loves to learn, as she travels around the Carolinas taking in the sights, ending her trip at a Carolina Panthers game in Charlotte.

This book is beautifully illustratrated and includes dome fun facts about the Carolinas and even some Charlotte stops, which is right on time since we will be visiting there in a few days! Our daughter is including this book in her #outandaboutAvareads series to enjoy along the way.

*Available at Amazon.com >here
Color My Washington DC by Elina Diaz

Description: Color Washington, D.C., the way you want to see it… Color your journey through the capital of the United States. Color elaborately hand drawn pen and ink illustrations of some of the most iconic destinations in the District—from to the White House, down through the National Mall and across to the Washington Monument, enjoy all the treasures this city has to offer. Each page contains facts about the District of Columbia, so regardless if you’re a Democrat or a Republican or a first time visitor to Capitol Hill, you’ll have your own relaxing coloring experience for years to come.

I am from the DMV area and enjoy traveling back to DC to see family, friends and share our #soDMVsavvy highlights. With this book, I get to learn more about the city while coloring. When my daughter pulls out her coloring books in the hotel, this is the one I will use!

*Purchase at Amazon.com >here

48 hours in North American Cities

Description: 48 Hours In…North American Cities | How to Enjoy the Perfect Short Break in 20 Great Destinations By Simon Calder

Every Saturday in The Independent’s award-winning Traveller section, our “48 hours” stories explore new and exciting city-break itineraries. Now, 25 years after the series was first launched, we’ve produced this special, designed to help you get the most from a visit to a selection of 20 key North American cities. Among them, you can choose from New York’s dizzying nightlife, the rollercoaster thrills of Orlando, the Hollywood glitter of Los Angeles or Vancouver’s great outdoors. We’ve also included a range of accommodation options to suit your budget.

We love weekend getaways! While my husband and I both have a background in working in a Travel agency (it’s how we met actually), we still like referring to books on what to do in certain cities. Our family just came back from a 3 Day Vacation in Orlando and this book gave us some ideas outside of the Disney box!

*Get your copy on Amazon.com>here

BigFoot Fun Book!: Puzzles,Coloring Pages, Fun Facts! by D.L.Miller

Description: The idea of the book brainchild of Pennsylvania artist D.L. Miller, was to marry fun activities along with learning. “Children have the opportunity to have fun while learning about the world around them with BigFoot,” says Miller.

The activity book is a treasure trove of engaging activities such as mazes, word search games, dot-to-dot pictures, coloring, and of course his classic seek-and-find activities. As with his other BigFoot books, the activity book is intended to help children learn about the world in an engaging and exciting way. As an added bonus, the book also includes animal stickers.

This book, which is recommended for children ages 5-12 years old, grade level:4-6 , is 136 pages of fun for my 7 yr old 2nd grader. The variety of educational, fun and interactive activities is why we parents love this book for our daughter. It keeps her engaged and gives a good balance between playing with apps on the tablet doing an activity in a book. She enjoys the Bigfoot seek and find series, which you can find out more information at IFoundBigFoot.com

*Available at Amazon.com >here

SobeSavvy Tip: Enter my #SobeSavvyGiveaway to recieve a copy of the BigFoot Fun Book!: Puzzles, Coloring Pages, Fun Facts for a child in your life! Comment below in blog comments with ” I Found BigFoot” to enter. One winner will be selected randomnly. Contest ends Monday, Nov 26, 2018 at noon. Additional entry if you comment in this IG post also ⤵

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Orlando 3 Day Vacation- Day 2|Enjoy #FamilyFun at @SEALIFEOrlando @TussaudsOrlando

After a fun filled DAY 1 in Orlando at LEGOLAND and a good dinner/rest at Embassy Suites, it was time to get my #HeighPartyof3 crew ready for DAY 2. When we travel as a family, we love attractions that are located all under one roof. Saves time and just makes traveling with a young child more manageable. Within walking distance from our hotel was the ICON Orlando 360, which has 3 awesome attractions in one complex! Sea Life Orlando Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the huge observation wheel, ICON Orlando are all located at this outdoor entertainment complex. We could actually see the 400 ft tall wheel from our hotel balcony!

Just seeing the ICON Orlando from our hotel room had us ready to explore!

Located on International Drive, ICON Orlando 360 is also home to numerous restaurants and shops in the immediate vicinity. Although we walked there, parking is free inside the garage. It was a great idea to spend our #SundayFunday there and check out the following attractions during our visit:

SEALIFE Orlando Aquarium

SEA LIFE is a unique aquatic attraction in Orlando, Fl. Their mission statement includes their goal to “Rescue, Breed and Protect“. They take in injured sea animals and nurse them back to health to be released if possible. If not, they care for them or find a suitable home at other facilities.

This aquarium is what I like to call “friendly size”. Not too large or two small. Most viewing areas are made into “immersive” experiences. For example, plexiglass is built INWARDS into the tanks where guests can literally almost feel like they are in the water with them. SEA LIFE also has periscope type viewing areas where you crawl under and pop your head up into the middle of the tanks. That was so much fun to do!

Seahorses, Sea Turtles, Sharks..oh my! There was so much to see, discover and learn. Did you know that turtles can live for 50 years or more and take an average of 30 years to reach maturity? Being able to see one up close was amazing! My daughter’s favorite thing was being able to touch a starfish.

I really appreciated reading the educational notes that were found throughout the aquarium. All the major oceans and the Florida Everglades had their own dedicated areas highlighting the sea life in those specific places. We learned about simple ways in which we all can get involved in protecting out oceans. SEA LIFE raises awareness and supports their partner charities in their efforts to protect marine wildlife and habitats across the world. For more info, visit sealifetrust.org.

Watch video of our visit to SEALIFE here:

WHERE TO EAT | We took a meal break between attractions. Lucky for us, both SEA LIFE and Madame Tussauds are just steps away from many restaurant choices. We decided to stroll across the lawn and dine outside on the patio at Uncle Julio’s Mexican.

My family loves mexican food and had our fingers crossed that this was a good decision. BOY WAS IT! Great service, great food and great atmosphere. They make their tortillas on the premise. You can order fresh guacamole tableside. The chips and salsa are homemade. We ordered fajitas and everything was so flavorful,fresh and tasty!

SobeSavvy Tip: Save room for their signature dessert..a chocolate lovers pinata! It is unique and so good. Check it out⤵️

MADAME TUSSAUDS Orlando

Madame Tussauds wax figures are known around the world. My family and I have been to quite a few of their museums. There is always something/someone new to see so we loved getting a chance to go to their location at ICON Orlando 360. Since we are in Florida, welcoming us was Mr. 305 himself, Pitbull!

The figures are so life like that you will want to take a #MTSelfie with these famous entertainers, politicians and heros in the flesh! My daughter got a kick out of posing with her favorite stars like Serena Williams, Taylor Swift, and Michael Jackson.

My husband enjoyed challenging sporting legends like Tiger Woods, Shaq and Ali.

Madame Tussauds Orlando has a new “Heroes Unite” section featuring some of the most popular Justice League characters. We loved Wonder Woman and Batman. All 3 of us had a chance to join Superman and actually “lift” a helicopter from crashing!

We accepted the fun challenge of taking the #BestSelfieEver with President Obama, MLK, Beyonce and even danced with Justin Beiber before exiting this wonderful museum. Adults love it, kids love it, EVERYONE loves Madame Tussauds! Here’s an inside look from our visit to this must see attraction⤵️

After a full day at ICON Orlando 360, we walked back to the hotel where our daughter enjoyed both the indoor/outdoor pool before going to our 5:30p dinner reservation. More about our Orlando Day 2, part 2 coming soon!

Thanks to SEA LIFE Orlando and Madame Tussauds Orlando for providing complimentary tickets to review both attractions and share my honest opinion with you.

#FamilyTravel – Plan to Visit DC? Here’s Where To Stay @EmbassySuites Old Town, Alexandria VA

For Labor Day Weekend my #HeighPartyof3 decided to make a last minute trip to the DMV [which I just shared with a Texas native that it stands for DC, MD, VA in case you did not know]. We have family and friends in this area but needed to decide where to stay for this long holiday weekend. Hmmm…Baltimore, DC proper or Northern VA? For this trip Northern VA would win out. Specifically Alexandria, Virgina at the Embassy Suites in Old Town Alexandria.

Alexandria, VA is a charming town known for its history, tree lined streets, restaurants and a bit of a small town feel in the middle of a booming cosmopolitan metro area. It is also just six miles from DC making it the perfect place to stay when you want to have a fun, family getaway near our nation’s capital.

Embassy Suites in Old Town Alexandria hosted us for one night of our trip this weekend which gave us an opportunity to explore a city we never been to before. Located near the old town section of Alexandria, this hotel is large but never feels overwhelming. Across the street from the King Street Metro station makes this property even more attractive to visitors who have easy access the to District and beyond. Embassy Suites brand is famous for it’s spacious 2 full room suites, it’s cooked to order breakfast and complimentary happy hour.

This hotel property does not disappoint in any of these areas. Newly renovated suites have plenty of room for couples and families alike. Our little one loves having a comfy sofa bed {and flat screen tv} all to herself as we wind down after a day of hitting those Alexandria and DC streets! Hubby and I love getting a handmade cocktail and snacks at the bar everyday during our stay between 5:30-7:30pm.

Each morning the first decision we had to make was cooked to order omelette or hand poured pancakes? Nothing better during a hotel stay than knowing breakfast is just waiting for you downstairs.

After breakfast, visitors can choose to spend their day enjoying the local area nearby or taking a short drive or metro ride into DC. So many places are within walking distance from the hotel. Whole Foods and Starbucks are nearby, dozens of restaurants and shopping choices await. You can even catch the free trolley across the street to drop you off at many of the wonderful destinations in Alexandria. Here is a look at our favorite features of this hotel that I shared in Instagram:

So the next time you are making plans to visit Washington, DC consider staying at Embassy Suites Old Town in Alexandria, VA and enjoy a 2-4-1 destination during your next trip!

EMBASSY SUITES

1900 DIAGONAL ROAD

ALEXANDRIA,VA 22314

A Family Guide to Happy Thrills at #Carowinds | #AmazingLooksLike @Carowinds #FamilyFun

Thanks to Carowinds for hosting SobeSavvy.com to a day of summer fun and “happy thrills”! Complimentary media passes were received in exchange for marketing purposes. Opinions and photos used in this review of my experience are 100% my own.

Recently my #HeighPartyof3 which consists of my husband, daughter and me, traveled from Raleigh,NC for a short 2.5 hour drive to Carowinds. This 400 acre amusement park, with 13 roller coasters, seven water rides and the new Camp Snoopy, was the perfect place to enjoy some end of summer fun and to celebrate #outandaboutAva turning 7 years old!

#outandaboutAva gets a birthday hug from Sally and Schroeder from Peanuts at Camp Snoopy in Carowinds

I asked my daughter to give me two words to describe our family fun day at Carowinds to which she replied: “Happy and Thrilling”. So from the mouth of babes, I present to you “A FAMILY GUIDE TO HAPPY THRILLS AT CAROWINDS”. While this was not our first visit as a family to the amusement park, this was our first time experiencing the Carolina Harbor Water Park, checking out the new County Fair rides and seeing what’s new at Camp Snoopy. I have some mom friends who have children 7 and under who have not visited Carowinds yet, so my hope is that they will read this and be inspired to go and learn from our family experience.

Arriving at CAROWINDS

Upon arrival the first decision to be made is where to park. One thing folks like to complain about is parking. Yes Carowinds is a huge park that has thousands of daily visitors. These visitors also need thousands of parking spots. Parking is plentiful and visitors have two parking choices , General and VIP. VIP sections tend to be closer to the entrance than general.

Entrance in the water park is also entrance into the main park. You can purchase all the same tickets and passes there that can be bought at the main entrance. It is also smart to start here if you want to purchase a cabana for the day because they usually sell out in the first hour or two also.
We started our day at the Water park first and then enjoyed the main park.
The order you choose needs to only make sense to you !

SobeSavvy Tip:

For this trip, we found that if you drive around to the Carolina Harbor Waterpark entrance in the first hour or two of opening parking spots can be found that do not require a long walk.

Waterpark Fun in the Sun at CAROLINA HARBOR

Nestled right between the two states of North and South Carolina is Carolina Harbor Waterpark at Carowinds. There are so many splash adventures to be had at this 27 acre waterpark, including Blackbeard’s Revenge, a six story water slide, two wave pools and a two-acre family area. We are water lovers and really enjoyed staying cool by the pool, soaking up sun and relaxing on the lazy river ride. It’s no wonder Carolina Harbor Waterpark was one of the top winners of USA TODAY “Best Outdoor Waterpark” because of it’s themed water rides and one of a kind attractions for all ages.

SobeSavvy Tip: Now that you know that Carolina Harbor is the coolest place to slide,splash,chill and dine (BTW…the pulled pork Carolina BBQ sandwich is so good!), you should definitely consider renting a cabana. Cabana Life is the way to go to have your own private shaded haven. It comes with a flat screen tv, a mini fridge with half of dozen cold waters waiting for you, a table with 4 chairs, 2 lounge chairs, and menu service. It fits up to six people. So if you come with another small family, you can split the costs!

Love, Peace and Water Tubes at Tidal Wave Bay | Carolina Harbor

Happy Days Are Here Again at the COUNTY FAIR

The all-new County Fair themed area features 3 acres of timeless fun for all ages. There are 4 retro rides like the Zephyr swing ride, go round in a circular motion while enjoying music and spectacular lighting on the Rock ‘N’ Roller, flip upside down 63 ft above the ground on the Electro-Spin and don’t miss the twists and turns of Do-Si-Do, which glides guests up, down and around on three giant arms!

SobeSavvy Tip: Save room for some traditional fair food to eat! Here is wherr you can find hot dogs, cotton candy and my favorite..funnel cake!

Go back in time to 1959 County Fair and ride the Do-Si-Do Ride

Enjoy Kid Sized Thrills at the New CAMP SNOOPY

The former kids’ area known as Planet Snoopy has been completely transformed to the newly expanded Camp Snoopy, which includes six new attractions, a new wilderness theme and parent-friendly enhancements. There were lots of fun photo ops especially for fans of The PEANUTS and you may even get a chance to see your favorite characters. There is so much for young children to see and do here and great memories to be made at Camp Snoopy!

SobeSavvy Tip: Ride the Woodstock Express rollercoaster and choose a FunPix souvenir photo to take home. FunPix is a way to capture and share your memories of Carowinds with unlimited digital photo downloads! Its just one of the many great amenities at Carowinds.

This photo magnet of my daughter with her Dad on her first roller coaster ride at Carowinds is priceless!

Be sure to download the Carowinds mobile app from the App Store or Google Play and Follow Carowinds on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or head to Carowinds.com for more information.

Check out more ‘happy and thrilling’ moments at #Carowinds, plus WATCH my video recap of our family fun experience here ⤵️

What “Happy Thrills” did you experience this summer? Have you ever been to Carowinds? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!

#HeighPartyof3 at Carowinds Aug. ’18

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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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#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?

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

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

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

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

Welcome Bag courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches CVB

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

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

Inside the Hilton Wilmington Riverside

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

  1. BEACHES

    #outandaboutAva & her Mom at Kure Beach   

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

    Carolina Beach Boardwalk                            

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

    Britts Donut Shop

    Kure Beach Pier                                                  

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

    Enjoying a Mommy and Me moment

  2. FOOD 

    Visit Wilmington, NC aka ‘Foodie Paradise’

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

    Breakfast Time at Kate’s Pancake House

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

    Chop’s Deli, Downtown Wilmington                    

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

    Michael’s Seafood Restaurant ~Seafood Chowder

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

    The Basics, Filet Mignon Entree, IG@SobeSavvy

  3. Historic River District

    The majestic Battleship NORTH CAROLINA

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

    All smiles after the Wilmington Trolley Tour

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

    Taking a walk along the historic Riverwalk, Downtown Wilmington

  4. Family Fun Attractions

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

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

SobeSavvy.com at Fort Fisher NC Aquarium

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

SobeSavvy.com at the Wilmington Railroad Museum

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

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

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

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