SobeSavvy.com presents ~A Parent’s Survival Guide to #SouthBeach, #Miami #FL|#FamilyTravel

Disclaimer: This is a Non-Sponsored post. We moved from South Beach in 2015 after living there for 18 years and thought we’d create this fun guide as ex-locals for families who may be considering travelling to South Beach, Fl but not sure if it is kid-friendly. 

It’s always fun to get away, especially for Mother’s Day weekend where I can relax , relate and release with my loves. Last year, we hit LA, where we did alot of site-seeing, dining at The Grove and I even attended a Blogger Babes Event for Brit Week. This year, I wanted a slower vacay, someplace where I didn’t have to plan anything and we could just play in the sand. We decided the perfect place to go was our daughter’s birthplace! So we packed our bags and the #HeighPartyof3 were off on another adventure. This time it was RDU ➡MIA!✈

Miami, particularly South Beach is well known for it’s party scene and that is well warranted. My husband and I called it home for almost 18 years so we know the quiet side fo South Beach also {Yes, there is an actual quiet residential side but only tell your best friends} There is much more to South Beach than bottle service. Families are plentiful and so are family friendly hotels, restaurants and more!

STAY

Hubby planned a long Mothers day weekend getaway for us and chose to stay at the Loews Hotel Miami Beach. This large upscale hotel has been newly renovated. The grounds, pool area and guest rooms have undergone a major makeover. We had a great view from our partial ocean view double room.

An already good hotel/resort is even better. They cater to kids like no other. Check out  this dedicated kids area on the beach!

The new expanded pool area is very attractive and I even made a new friend as she was floating by !

My daughter was offered the use of a “house” IPAD during breakfast. Every restaurant including pool or beachside has a kids menu. They even have a kids club where youngsters can day camp with all sorts of organized activities! We spent the days in the pool or beach. Both were stellar. Loews is a excellent choice for families.

Also at the Loews is the renowned Exhale Spa. Hubby surprised me with an hour long “Fusion Massage”. Peaceful and zen, the spa was a great refuge for me/mommy time on Mother’s Day weekend.

EAT

*Breakfast:

Whether a guest of the hotel or not, The breakfast buffet inside Preston’s at the Loews is an amazing way to start your day.

You get a myriad of fresh farm to table choices for one price. They also have great kids and a la carte menu choices to be enjoyed indoors or out on their beautiful terrace overlooking the lush pool area. In case you missed it, check out my review of Preston’s >>>here. 🍴

South Beach also has a Starbucks on every corner {almost} so you will never be far from their standard breakfast choices. For a real authentic Cuban Coffee breakfast experience check out David’s Cafe on Alton and 10th street. Cafe Con Leche and a pastelito is a great way to start the day the Miami way !

*Lunch:

 Lolo’s Surf Cantina


After sand, sun and fun on Saturday afternoon we went to Lolo’s Surf Cantina for lunch. REAL Authentic Mexican food {No cans of Velveeta here!}.Tacos and Sangria ruled the day. Located just steps from the sand on Ocean and 1st street it’s is the perfect spot for lunch on a beach day. Check out my full review >>here🍴

Being a recent former resident of the “residential area” of South beach has it’s advantages. To avoid alot of tourist traps, we revisited a few other of our local favorites which are overlooked {thankfully} by the throngs of visitors.

Lincoln Road is one of those rare areas where the local and tourist mix is about 50/50. It operates as a sort of main street.Restaurants, art galleries, movie and performing arts theatres are all present on this beautiful almost mile long pedestrian thoroughfare. My daughter has always been head over heels about frolicking on Lincoln Road.

Stopping by The Frieze” ice cream shop was one of our favorites {and still is !}

Epicure Market Hot Bar
This is an iconic gourmet market on Alton and Lincoln Road that specializes in upscale quality choices. It’s full of local snowbirds and a few tourists in the know. They have an awesome hot bar and a cute little cafe where you can sit and enjoy your lunch. For more info, check out Epicure>>here.

* Happy Hour

Semilla


This unassuming yet stylish bistro has an awesome happy hour Mon thru Sat 5-8pm. Oysters on the Half Shell, Kobe beef sliders and Shrimp Tempura just to name a few. Prosecco and specialty craft cocktail at discount prices. You can sit inside or out on the sidewalk. Low key and local. We love Semilla..and so does #outandaboutAva, who knows how to eat Florida Stone Crabs like a pro. 


Doraku
(everyday)

With outposts in Hawaii and Atlanta, Doraku has been in South Beach for 10 yrs now. They offer a superb sushi happy hour every day. Located on the Western end of Lincoln Road by the movies, Doraku has been a mainstay in a fickle town where restaurants come and go pretty quickly. Solid choice for sushi and cocktails while shopping on Lincoln Road. Their Lychee Martini is awesome. Order one.Or two.

Monty’s 
One of my favorites after work spots used to Monty’s. Kinda hard to describe this place. It is a very casual {think shorts, tank tops and flip flops}Key West-ish kinda vibe. They are mainly a seafood/raw bar spot but they also have a more structured menu that you can order from a menu with one of the waitstaff. There is usually a carribbean type band performing and there is also a small pool for those who want to cool off. Located on the Miami Beach Marina ,you can pull up in your boat and just walk up the steps to some fun.

*Dinner

Grillfish

One of the oldest restaurants in South Beach has to be Grillfish. My husband/boyfriend at the time and I used to go here almost weekly since we moved to Miami in 1996. It is the rare place that caters to tourist and locals alike with competent service and an inviting atmosphere of no pretense. At it’s core it is a fish house. The way that they grill fish is simple. They let fish, be fish. Open flame, a few oils and spices and serve. Some whole fish, some fillets. All incredibly fresh and presented the way fish should. Great cocktails and great mgmt {shout out to our fav manager Darcy}make the perfect reason why this place has stood the test of time. You can sit at the bar to eat or a table. Just go here.
Bar Collins at Loews

Another great choice to stop in whether a guest or not. Huge wall screen showing sports and comfy sofas where you can order elevated bar food like their amazing soft shell crab in Korean Soft Buns. Excellent choice. So late night or early evening this is a good place to “pre game” an evening on the town.

*Sunday Brunch

Terazza at Shore Club


Mothers day in Miami. That means every place with electricity and a stove is advertising for a “Mothers Day Brunch”. Thankfully hubby already knew one of my fav brunch spots (that SobeSavvy.com had a chance to review before..ICYMI see here) and made a reservation at Terraza. Located at The Shore Club Hotel, Terraza offers a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a gourmet all inclusive brunch. For roughly 2 hours, guest enjoy unlimited mimosas, sangria and flutes of prosecco and one incredible brunch food choices. Oysters, shrimp and Crab cakes in a beautiful setting on their expansive terrace.

Great place to spend the afternoon with my family and some great friends.

Tip: If you fly into MIA and you plan to stay on South Beach, no car or parking woes necessary. Taxis are flat rate and you also can opt for Uber or Lyft your way to the beach. Once there you can use Swoop or our fave Freebee,

..as well as the South Beach Local bus or Trolley your way around. But if you do opt for a car, all the major car rental companies have a outpost in Miami Beach.

Only rent a car if you plan on traveling to other parts of Miami, otherwise save yourself alot of parking meter grief. South Beach is truly for walking, biking or running!

Our weekend back “home” came to an end much too quick. My daughter was born here and resided for almost the first 4 yrs of her life. Miami is a special place. We’ll always be back. Until next time..kisses or as we used to say in Miami..Besitos!

Where to Enjoy a Luxury Family Getaway ~Mandarin Oriental Atlanta @MO_Atlanta #FanofMO 

I have been fortunate enough to have had quite a few experiences traveling the globe and staying in some of the world’s premier hotels. Whether for business or pleasure, most were renowned for their “luxury” and grandeur. However, my most recent stay at the Mandarin Oriental Atlanta was the first luxury family travel experience shared with our daughter. As a kindergartner celebrating her first Spring Break, I thought we’d stay at this 5 star hotel known for its beautiful rooms, superb restaurant and elegant spa. We were quite pleased with how this property combined luxury with great service while keeping the littlest guests in mind.

CHECK IN

The moment we arrived at this 580 ft tall skyscraper in Buckhead, we immediately felt part of the #MOfamily. When we pulled up to their valet service, no one asked us did we need help with our luggage, they simply just took over the task. I found that predicting needs is what sets them apart from the rest. The intimate check in area was friendly and efficient. Upon arriving, a special welcome awaited our daughter along with a ‘Passport’ that had a fun scavenger hunt inside. This allowed us to tour the hotel to find clues as well as admire the ppst modern architecture and beautiful decor, such as the white and black marble floors throughout the lobby area!

A warm welcome always makes a great first impression. Our little one received a MiniMO stuffed Panda and slippers along with some bath products to make her stay more comfortable. Also awaiting for us was a beautiful array of delicious sweets to enjoy. These special children’s amenities and treats were a pleasant surprise! 

OUR ROOM

Our first room located on the 6th Floor had an issue with the Air Conditioning unit. Maintenance arrived in a few minutes. After a quick assessment they determined it may take a bit of time to repair. The room phone rang. It was the front desk. They apologized profusely for the situation and advised we would be immediately moved and upgraded to one of their Mandarin Terrace Rooms on the 15th floor. This room had a private balcony which overlooked the Buckhead skyline. The staff took control of what could have been a negative experience and not only solved it but enhanced the positive.  Click here to see our video tour of this elegant and spacious room. My favorite feature in the room was the smooth white marble bathroom with deep soaking tub, walk in shower and vanity area with flat screen tv. Our daughter really enjoyed bath time watching her favorite cartoons and I enjoyed winding down each day by turning bath time into my own city sanctuary! 

DINING

After a great night’s sleep, which included turn down service-another sign of the high caliber property that the Mandarin Oriental is, we woke up just in time for room service to deliver our breakfast. It was delightful. The American Breakfast offered a variety of delicious breakfast favorites. The Brioche French Toast with chocolate chips is definitely a 5 yr old’s dream! We enjoyed the meal and it was a great way to start off the day.

We also dined in their sophisticated restaurant and enjoyed breakfast there on our final day. I laughed when I was about to ask my waiter for more cream but he magically appeared before I could ask…he was holding more cream..There is that predicting needs thing again! The Cafe & Bar and its inviting surroundings not only offers a tasty breakfast menu but dinner, lunch and Sunday brunch. French Press Coffee, Freshly Squeezed Juice, Belgium Waffles, and Shrimp & Grits are just some of the modern American cuisine menu items you can find on their menu. High quality, locally and flavorful ingredients were used to prepare our meal and without a doubt turned us into #MOfoodies!

THE SPA at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta

Winner of the Best of Atlanta Awards by Atlanta Magazine, Dec 2016 for Best Spa Package (Splurge) , The Spa at Mandarin Oriental Atlanta is a wellness oasis and a great treat for anyone needing some relaxation. I had a spa appointment for an Oriental Essence massage on our final day but prior to my indulgent treatment, we enjoyed their 60 foot lap indoor pool. 

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental offers a range of treatments, sauna, steam room, vitality pool access, a spa boutique, fitness center and more. The minimum age requirement for Spa and Fitness center access is 18 yrs old, however the pool is available to all guests. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day around the corner, I highly recommend treating someone to the gift of luxury & wellness by gifting them a Mandarin Oriental gift card! They won’t be disappointed. 

AMENITIES & OFFERS

While I received my massage, hubby and daughter wanted to check out Lenox Mall & Phipps Plaza nearby. While he was going to retrieve the car, the doorman advised them for such a close drive they should take the Mandarin Oriental’s house car. Ahmad the driver pulled up in their Tesla sedan and off they went. They simply called him when they were ready to return and he promptly picked them back up and delivered them back to the property. Very nice indeed.

The Mandarin Oriental Atlanta has a variety of offers for those planning a luxury retreat. From May 1-October 31, 2017 check out their Family Field Trip package which encourages family travelers to explore Atlanta’s great outdoors.  We checked out some indoor family fun attractions: Center for Puppetry Arts & Legoland Discover Center (which is conveniently close to the hotel and a must do). Stay tuned as I share my review of these Atlanta kid friendly places this week.

I hope you enjoyed reading about some of our favorite moments staying at The Mandarin Oriental Atlanta and are inspired to ‘Experience MO’ yourself with family.  At check out, #outandaboutAva received a concierge gift for completing her scanvenger hunt and answering correctly. Luxury they do very well. Service they do even better. We are definitely #MoFans aka Fans of Mo and hope you will consider becoming one too!

The Mandarin Oriental Atlanta 

3376 Peachtree Road NE

Atlanta GA 30326

Website: http://www.mandarinoriental.com/atlanta

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Family Travel Guide #ArlingtonVA | @StayArlington Where to Stay, Eat, Play

Arlington, Va has long been known mainly just for it’s proximity to the nation’s capital. Well I am here to share that Arlington is a awesome destination all on it’s own. With a population of 1/4 million people, Arlington is a gem well worth exploring because it packs a lot of excitement,charm accessibility and affordability into one small area. My family and I, aka #HeighPartyof3, went on a roadtrip to Arlington,VA and here is our weekend family travel guide! 

Where to Stay

Hyatt Place Arlington/Courthouse Plaza  

Savvy Tip: Arlington is home to more than 40 hotels offering rates up to 20 percent less than those in downtown Washington,D.C.

Arlington has many options when it comes to accomodations. At the suggestion of Stay Arlington, we stayed at the brand new Hyatt Place in the Courthouse district. In my opinion this eight-story hotel property is located in an awesome area for walking and exploring Arlington on foot or the metro 2 blocks away. Hyatt Place Arlington is perfect for families as well as business and leisure travelers as it has everything one needs for a comfortable stay. The guestrooms are spacious and allowed us to rest easy after driving up for 4 hrs from Raleigh.

With inviting spaces to connect, meet, socialize, eat and drink, this innovative hotel is truly designed around the modern traveler.Speaking of eats and drinks, this hotel offers a Grand and Go case in the lobby where you can get sandwiches and salads 24/7 as well as order from a gallery menu.So whether getting in late or early you will never go hungry here. Be sure to check out the drink menu if you are in the mood for ‘satisfying sips’ for a night cap.Since it was St.Patricks Day (well evening) when we arrived, I decided to drink green and ordered me an apple martini. CHEERS~It was great!

During our stay, we enjoyed their complimentary A.M.Skillet breakfast which has a build your own yogurt station and hot egg and waffle options presented in what else but a skillet ! My little girl enjoyed putting almonds and granola in her oatmeal. For some of our visit, #outandaboutAva got a lil stomach bug. Thanks to the kind and helpful staff at Hyatt Place Arlington for making some customized chamomile/mint tea to help her feel better! We all loved the Hyatt Place as our home away from home.

What to Do

Explore~  We stayed in the vibrant Courthouse district which is within walking distance to a variety of shopping, entertainment and restaurant options. Just across the river from nation’s Capital, Arlington boasts the neighborly, small-town community vibe with all the amenities and conveniences of major urban centers.In addition to its many historical attractions, Arlington is just minutes to the National Mall and other regional attractions. Here are some of the places we explored:

Arlington Farmers Market

Since 1979, residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the weekend Arlington Farmers Market. All things produce and much more can be found in this local gem of a market.

Rocky Run Park

We actually happened upon Rocky Run Park. Set in a quiet residential street, this park has something for everyone. Extensive kids jungle gym activities and basketball courts and multi use turf fields. Great spot for letting the little {and big} kids burn off some steam and have fun.

Arlington National Cemetery

We decided to visit the hollowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery, our nation’s shrine to honor those who have served our country. Both beautiful and peaceful, the cemetery is a place to pay homage anf remember those who sacrificed. We enjoyed exploring the impressive landscape and saw many moving experiences like: the Eternal Flame, President Kennedy and Family and Medgar W.Evers grave. If you are looking for a particular place of interest, use the ANC Explorer app available on the cemetery’s website, on-site kiosks or through online app stores. To see more of my photos from our visit to Arlington National Cemetery, see here.

National Mall

One of the perks of staying in Arlington is that you can visit The National Mall, the Smithsonian museums and other places in our Nation’s Capital because they are all just minutes away on Metro. Since we drive up, we just crossed the Potomac River in less than 10 mins to see the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Albert Einstein Memorial and the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. A must see!

#PhotoswithAlbert 

National Harbor Capital Wheel

If you happen to visit Arlington by car like we did, you will learn that its location ‘inside the Beltway’ (I-495 and I-95) makes it easily accessible from many routes. There is plenty of on-street and private parking options. About 20 mins away is the National Harbor , where we were invited to visit their family fun regional attraction, the Capital Wheel. If you have a sense of adventure, take this ride up to the sky to see the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) landscape for miles around!

Where to Eat

Bayou Bakery 

In the mood for Louisiana-style favorites, coffees and desserts? Stop by Bayou Bakery. Owned by New Orleans-born chef David Guas who hosts The Travel Channel’s “American Grilled”, Bayou has brought authentic cajun cuisine to Northern Virginia. 

We had some delicious beignets and coffee as a mid morning snack. The place was bustling with families and couples alike. Their living room atmosphere, full of casual charm and vintage Southern character, makes this place a welcoming eatery for breakfast or lunch.

Earl’s Sandwiches

I first learned about Earl’s when looking up what restaurants were close to the hotel. With great reviews on their Facebook page, I knew the location at 2605 Wilson Blvd would be a wonderful place to feature as a must go to lunch spot. There are 2 locations (Clarendon,Ballston) in Arlington where you can get you one of Earl’s delicious sandwiches.

Owner Stephen Dugan(as seen in photo above) was there making sandwiches and taking orders himself! He shared that after being in business for 11 years, his customers love their homemade sandwiches, salads and soups made without the hassle. Looking for a Gluten Free meal? No worries. Any sandwich can be made into a salad for no additional cost. Breakfast sandwiches are served all day and they offer a catering menu too. We ordered 2 items from their monthly Fab Four menu: lump crab cake sandwich (deliciously grilled and served on a sesame seed bun), fish and fries (all served together on one sandwich-yum!) and we all drooled over my daughter’s grilled chicken breast sandwich, shown here. My daughter said it was not good..it was FANTASTIC! Everything was delicious, fresh and tasty. 

Kona Grill

Located in Rosslyn, one of Arlington’s urban villages, Kona Grill is one of the 500 restaurant options available in Arlington that offers diverse cuisine and a delightful epicurean experience. Known for their variety of amazing appetizers, mouthwatering entrees, fresh sushi and creative cocktail creations, I knew Kona Grill would be the perfect dinner option for us as a family. They also offer a kids menu and there’s a beautiful aquarium in the center of the restaurant that my daughter loved. This place is popular so make reservations and go early if have a little one. I will be sharing my full review as my #FoodieFriday feature. Stay tuned!

With plenty of “National History.Local Flavor”, our stay in Arlington was indeed memorable. We look forward to returning when it’s warmer as there is some shopping I did not get to do at their infamous Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and more fun to be had!  

We did do some online shopping prior to our trip with SunglassWarehouse.com and partnered with them to show you how we travel in style.I’ll be sharing more about this brand that offers classic sunglass styles at affordable prices in a future Fashion Friday post. Since our roadtrip took us to Arlington, VA & Washington DC, I thought it would be fun to style their (from left to right) Canoe driving sunglasses for me, Arlington for Him (very apropo don’t ya think) and Lincoln (for my lil one and Mr. President himself..lol)

Until next time..Happy Travels!

#TravelTuesday Feature ~ #FamilyTravel Fun Itinerary for Greensboro, NC #VisitGSO

With a great selection of 135 attractions, Greensboro has been on my family’s radar to visit ever since we moved to Raleigh, NC almost 2 years ago. That’s why when I learned the Triad Women’s Blogger Network was holding their first meetup of the year in The Gate City, I took the opportunity to reach out to VisitGreensboroNC.com, who guided us in where to stay, eat, play while there. Here is a look at my family’s, aka #HeighPartyof3, itinerary during our weekend visit. 

FRIDAY

We checked into the Home2Suites by Hilton Greensboro Airport . 

This extended stay property is located near the airport, so for those flying into and out of Greensboro this is a great location. They have a nice gym and a indoor pool. Breakfast is included so you have fuel to start your day of exploring Greensboro !

SATURDAY

I attended the meeting with Triad Women Bloggers Network, while my husband and daughter checked out The Greensboro Children’s Museum.What is the Triad Women Bloggers Network? It is a group, founded by Ashley Carter of http://www.fabellis.com, of women bloggers in the Triad North Carolina area who connect, build, empower and encourage each other. The meetup was held at Urban Grinders which is part coffee shop, part art gallery, 100% cool. It was the perfect place to hold the event, which included an amazing Blogger panel, swag bag for each attendee and great networking. Check out photos from the meetup here.

Photo Credit:Triad Women Bloggers Network

According to my daughter, aka #outandaboutAva, I missed all the fun at The Greensboro Children’s Museum.

Having a 5 yr old means that you first realized that there are actual museums devoted to just children, What a concept !!

Having visited other kids museum, this one turned to be pretty unique. Besides the usual pretend Post office and Dentist office , this museum has an extensive outdoors area dedicated to agriculture, vegetation and even a tractor and a hen house. Science and hands on arts and crafts made this museum a fun and a learning experience. Centrally located downtown , this is a can’t miss for families with the under 10 set.

We met up for lunch at The Table on Elm, located in Downtown Greensboro . I will be sharing an in depth review of this restaurant as my #FoodieFriday feature this week, so stay tuned! I will say that this place is a must try and I am still dreaming of their desserts. It’s the perfect grab and go eatery to get lunch, and walk to one of the 2 nearby parks.

LeBauer Park and Center City Park are both adjacent to each other

City Center Park is a stylish park with beautiful walkways sprinkled with public art pieces that sometimes are actually benches ! They have an attractive amphitheater where free concerts and events are held all summer long.

Lebauer Park is a new urban park/playground area we had heard so many positive things about. It takes up a few acres of prime real estate downtown so it did not disappoint. What makes this place great is the plethora of activities that can be had at one time in a clean and modern park setting. Ping Pong tables, badminton, miniature golf..ALL of the equipment right there for the public to use at their leisure. I have not seen anything like this here in the states before. Other places would charge for these facility perks but here it all for free. They have a lot of tables on the perimeters where coupes and families were enjoying their lunches whilst their kids romped around. It was very pleasant and even though there was a crowd there on a Saturday afternoon, it never felt crowded. A must see for any visitor to the Gate City of Greensboro.

#soTravelSavvy tip: Get off the beaten path when visiting a new city. You never know what you may find. We saw so many beautiful murals while doing so!

SUNDAY
No Family Travel to Greensboro would be complete without a visit to the Greensboro Science Center.

This attraction has a trifecta of activities. The aquarium, Science museum and the outdoor zoo. We spent the entire morning here looking at snakes and sharks and tigers ! The layout is logically set up so guests meander throughout the indoor sections that eventually lead them to the outdoor zoo and Skywild zipline/elevated walkway attraction. We so enjoyed every part of this complex. The interactive science experiments were so much fun. The zoo had Gibbons and of course that big Bengal Tiger.The petting zoo was an awesome part also that my little one enjoyed. The whole complex is just a wonderful concept.Here is a video roundup of our day at the Greensboro Science Center. Enjoy!

#soNCsavvy Tip: Don’t leave Greensboro without learning more about the role this NC city played in the Civils Right Movement, Black History and American History.

Although it was our first visit to Greensboro , it won’t be our last as it is a quick road trip away. Tell me, have you been to the Gate City of Greensboro and explored all they have to offer ? If not, what are you waiting for?! If so, share your experience below….as seen here at The Greensboro Science Center, we’re all ears!