#TRAVEL | Visit #WilmingtonNC & Island Beaches to Enjoy Nature and Discover What’s In BloomšŸŒ¹

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 CafƩ 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 parkā€™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 parkā€™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!

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

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~A #Daycation in @WilmingtoNCoast #FamilyTravel #WilmingtonNC #WrightsvilleBeach

Summertime and the living is easy..especially if you have a coastal city/beach destination within road trip reach!  Our family headed up 40 east and in 2 hours we were at our destination:  Wilmington, NC & Beaches

With our little girl in tow, we planned a ‘Sunday Funday’ that included a city tour, a fun children’s museum to explore, good eats galore and playtime by the shore!  This was our first visit to this charming Southern city but definitely will not be our last. They have a variety of activities suitable for everyone ! Discover below just how fun our Daycation in Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach was.

Where to Go/What to Eat: Wilmington
Before you get started in any city, I think it is travel savvy to get visitor information. Located at the foot of Market Street, the RiverFront Visitor Information Booth was our first stop. They are open daily..how convenient!  The welcoming staff gave us great tourist tools for our visit and even snapped a family photo to celebrate the start of our Wilmington adventure! 

Before exploring the historic streets of Downtown Wilmington, voted the #1 “Best Al Fresco Dining Neighborhood” by USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards,  we decided to grab a bite. And since it was Sunday, I said, “Let’s do Brunch” !  The Pilot House, a waterfront restaurant with scenic views of Cape Fear River, is known for its steak/seafood selections and for having the only bar that faces the river. Our daughter enjoyed the kids menu choice of grilled shrimp and fresh fruit , while the seafood lover in me had to have the chargrilled oysters topped with lump crab meat! It was amazing! I also had a half sized ceasar salad with shrimp. My husband enjoyed the French Toast from the a la carte Sunday Brunch menu.If you are foodies like us you must try a dining experience at The Pilot House. 

Next we went sightseeing in Wilmingron’s National Register Historic District via a Horse-Drawn Trolley Tour. Dan, our costumed driver, was a funny yet informative tour guide who took us on an unique adventure. We learned some of the rich history of the city and got to take in its beauty and Southern charm. We saw classic architecture, specialty shops, moss-draped live oaks, Wilmington’s historic houses, mansions and more! It’s also nice to know the horses are rescued horses and if you like, you have the option of taking a picture with the horses at the end of the tour. 


Having fun while learning is something our #outandaboutAva loves to do. So when we discovered that The Children’s Museum of Wilmington was located in downtown, we walked over for a family play date!  There were lots of hands-on exhibits and plenty of opportunities to stimulate our soon to be 5 year old imagination. Her favorite area was the Magnetic Minds Science Center, where she could explore and experiment.I had fun too letting my inner child run wild!

Where to Go/What to Eat: Wrightsville Beach
The beach is always recognized as the ultimate family vacation destination and Wilmington,NC has 31 miles of Island Beaches to choose from making it the #1 reason to visit!  We took the easy 20 minute drive from Wilmington across the scenic Intracoastal Waterway to visit Wrightsville Beach

Spacious and clean, this beach with it’s crystal blue waters was the backdrop for some relaxation and family fun in the sun!  Our little one enjoyed collecting shells and playing with her new Wilmington beach ball.We just happened to find parking near public access to the beach close to the newly renovated Crystal Pier. Here are few pics of memories made on the sandy shores of Wrightsville Beach !

A sunset dinner at Bluewater Waterfront Grill was the perfect way to end our day in this beautiful beach town. It is popular on Sundays as they have Live Music on their large patio, so we made sure to get there early. They have an outdoor bar and seating available or you can enjoy dining inside. This restaurant had quite a vibrant dining scene and good food to go with it! Whether you are going for sips and sites or having lunch/ dinner (I highly recommend the coconut shrimp and the filet mignon entree), make sure to get to Bluewater Waterfront Grill. 

It was National Tequila Day, so I made sure to order a margarita or two… on the rocks, no salt please !

Cheers to a wonderful daycation in Wilmington, NC!  I look forward to future visits and I’m already gathering a list for next time. And with Wrightsville Beach being such a short drive away, you can bet we’ll be back soon !  

* These are the latest postcards our daughter will add to her collection šŸ™‚ Thanks for the memories Wilmington,NC ! 

#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!

STAYĀ 
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 withĀ  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 “menuĀ  of home-cooked comforts”. Needless to say, Day 1 was fun yet relaxing!

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PLAY
Discovery PlaceĀ 
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.Ā 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.Ā  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 inĀ the open dining room with huge windows that letĀ 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 Tips: #MyrtleBeach in May ~Where to Stay,Shop,Play @MyMyrtleBeach #FamilyVacation

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Myrtle Beach, SC. is well known as being Number One for Family Fun ! It is one of America’s favorite destinations to Stay, Shop and Play because of the variety of attractions all located in Myrtle Beach. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy and because of its popularity that is why the month of May seemed the ideal time to visit with my 4 yr old daughter and husband. TIP #1 : Go off season. Preferably in May. The weather is warm and it is prior to the very busy summer season.

STAY

We arrived on a Friday for a 2 night stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Oceanfront Resort.
The hotel has two large towers with amenities befitting a resort. Full service spa. A pool complex with various indoor/outdoor pools and two mini lazy river rides. Their famous breakfast buffet is presented every morning in the expansive breakfast lounge area. We had a room with two double beds and an awesome view of the Atlantic Ocean. Hi speed Wi Fi was excellent as I had some work to do when we arrived on Friday. TIP #2: If you are traveling with kids choose this hotel, it’s a short drive to all the action on Ocean Boulevard and the boardwalk, yet quiet enough for a good night’s sleep. It was the perfect base camp for our visit.
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SHOP

You can shop til you drop in Myrtle Beach! There are outlets as well as many other shopping options. My favorite area is this urban shopping, dining, entertainment village known as The Market Common. Barnes and Noble , a favorite bookstore of ours , is there along with the movies and more than 30 of the nation’s most popular stores and restaurants. TIP #3: Wear your athletic shoes, pack a ball or frisbee and head to the Grand Park (across the bridge, connected to The Market Common) where there are open fields, swinging chairs to watch ducks/turtles, and playgrounds.
The Market Common ‘s motto is “Where Fashion Meets Fun” and I could not agree more!
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PLAY

The following are some of the activities, sports, entertainment and attractions we enjoyed during our stay.
BROADWAY AT THE BEACH is one of those one stop shop places that offers a wide range of activities. Here are a few we enjoyed while there:

*The Palace Theatre
located at 1420 Celebrity Circle at Broadway at the Beach. We saw the thrilling “Cirque Extreme” show. Its a spectacle filled show that the whole family can enjoy!
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*RIPLEY’S AQUARIUM of Myrtle Beach located at Broadway at the Beach offers alot of interactive,hands on exhibits that my kid loved. We touched a real jellyfish in their newest expansion exhibit called Planet Jellies! There is also a cove where you can touch a stingray. Our favorite was the shark tunnel, where we could view big sharks, rays, sea turtles, fish and more in a reef all while riding a moving conveyor belt.

Ripley’s have several attractions thru out Myrtle Beach. We also checked out Ripley’s Moving Theater located on the boardwalk. This attraction was too intense for my 4 yr old but we could still enjoy the 5D inaging, surround sound and special effects from non-moving seats.

*Hollywood Wax Museum Entertainment Center gave us an opportunity to play dress-up with some of our favorite stars! They have props available to use and pose in the spotlight alongside your fave celeb. We had a ball here! TIP #4 : This attraction is open 365 days a year and closed at 10pm. We prefer to go late as it allowed us to get more camera time and gave the feeling of having our favorite star all to ourselves!

MINI-GOLF
If you like mini-golf, there are alot of options. We went to Captain Hook’s because my little one loves Tinkerbell. This golf course really stayed true to theme and even had facts along the course about Captain Hook, the Lost Boys and Tinkerbell. TIP #5 Grab a coupon book. They are almost everywhere..inside of hotels and restaurants. They are filled with discounts for attractions, especially mini golf!
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BAREFOOT LANDING is on the waterway offered two unique attractions in one!
*Alligator Adventure was voted the best outdoor adventure by The Travel Channel and I couldn’t agree more. Not only are there literally dozens and dozens of gatorsĀ in various habitat settings, but oneĀ crocodile in particular stood out. His name is Utan. Born in Thailand in 1964, he weighs in at over 2000 LBS and over 18 feet long. He is the largest crocodile in the United States. We witnessed an afternoon feeding of the gators havingĀ theirĀ raw chicken lunchĀ and we also enjoyed the Lemur house and snake wildlife show in the outdoor theatre. It has much more than just gators. My little one loved seeing the pink flamingos and various tropical birds and HUGE Euroasian Owls. Great place and a lot of fun!
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TIP #6 At the back of Alligator Adventure you will receive a bracelet for free wine tastingsĀ to the adjacent Duplin Winery complex.
*Duplin Winery is the world’s largest Muscadine winery. TheĀ main winery and vineyardsĀ are in Rose Hill, NC but the Myrtle Beach location also does some hand bottling. They produce over 4.6 million bottles of wine a year. We enjoyed a deluxe tasting of various popular and special reserve wines. Our bartender, Bruce was both affable and informative. He advised at this tasting we will learn the PDR wine tasting method~ Pour,Drink, Repeat! The building is bright and airy with a delightful outdoor patio which has live music throughout the summer. Duplin wines can be found locally stores in 13 states but some wines can only be purchased at the winery. Took home two bottles to enjoy later and reflect upon how special this place is.

Medieval Times is the ultimate ‘knight’ time attraction because it includes dinner and a show or shall I say tournament! Once you walk thru the drawbridge into the castle, you are transported to a place and time where lords, ladies, princesses, kings come together to feast and enjoy the pageantry and thrills of an authentic medieval tournament!
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We ended our vacation at the 35th Annual World Famous Blue Crab Festival: A Little River, SC tradition featuring over 300 vendors, entertainment and a children’s area. Located just 20 miles north of Myrtle Beach, we thought it would be nice to stop thru on the way back home. Since children under 12 are free, I was able to giveaway a pair of tickets as a surprise to some festival goers. Here are some pictures from our “Sunday Funday” :
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I look forward to making future memories in Myrtle Beach! For current event info, dining, entertainment options, maps and more, go to visitmyrtlebeach.com and plan your family vacation TODAY!

#VisitBaltimore & #GetARoom @HI_InnerHarbor @BaltimoreMd & Dine at #EdenWest #DottiesCafe

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I recently shared with you all the family fun things to do in Baltimore but did not mention where we stayed.This was not an oversight. I intentionally wanted to dedicate a post specifically to accommodations and let you know when looking for a budget friendly place to stay that is within walking distance to all Inner Harbor attractions, choose Holiday Inn Inner Harbor-Baltimore!

It has 365 rooms, including 12 suites and a pillow menu option. The Holiday Inn Inner Harbor makes comfort and hospitality their priority. At the front desk, lollipops and smiles await from the friendly and helpful staff. It was lunchtime, so we were advised to dine at the hotel’s restaurant, Eden West.

Featuring classic Maryland Cuisine, Eden West Restaurant pleasantly surprised and satisfied our appetites! Delicious, fresh and innovative, this place is a hidden treasure to tastebuds everywhere! Oh and kids eat free! An extra plus for budget friendly family travelers.

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Mac & cheese, fruit and milk includes a sweet treat at the end! Crayons and coloring sheet provided by the restaurant kept my Li’l one entertained.

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Our waiter advised us of some recently new items on the menu. For starters I tried the Sweet & Tangy St Louis styled Applewood smoked BBQ Ribs. They are made with homemade lemonade BBQ sauce. So good, tender and I really enjoyed the flavors. It was the first time my 4 yr old tried BBQ ribs because she normally doesn’t like sauce on anything. She is now a fan!

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Next I had the signature Eden’s Salad: mixed greens, tomatoes, onions, cucmbers, mushrooms topped with salmon. As you can see in the picture it’s a big portion so you get alot for a reasonable price! You also get the option of chicken or beef to top your salad if you like. It was super fresh and fulfilling!

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No visit to Baltimore is complete without trying a crab cake sandwich, so I was happy to see this option on the menu. A nice mix of broiled lump crab meat and old bay. Served on a pretzel roll with lettuce and tomato. It came with a side of fries. This was good to the last bite! We ended our meal with a dessert at the recommendation of our waiter. His favorite was the hot apple crisp and it’s now my favorite too!

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After a long travel day, it was time to get comfortable in our ‘home’ away from home during our stay. This hotel has complimentary WiFi throughout the hotel and a 24 hr fitness center. There’s also an indoor pool with sauna but they also have suites complete with whirlpool baths! Here are some pictures of our contemporary stylish suite :

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Remember…Kids Stay Free, a Holiday Inn North America program expectation!

The next day before we set out to explore the Baltimore area   we stopped at Dottie’s Cafe. It’s a coffee shop located in the lobby and has plenty of nibble and nosh options! Souvenirs, newspapers and sundries are available too as well as local and regional goods.
“Dottie Kmoch opened our hotel in 1964 as a switchboard operator (when they actually used plug-in wires) and was most recently our Director of Human Resources until she passed away last year.  She was a feisty redhead and loved by all ā€“ this is her Holiday Inn legacy!”, says Judy Wilbur Director of Sales & Marketing at Holiday Inn Inner Harbor – Baltimore.

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Be sure to sign up for the IHG Rewards Club to earn points when you stay or make any purchases !

After a fun filled day, we had a sweet dreams treat waiting for us. Who doesn’t love tasty surprises?! Thanks Holiday Inn! We ā¤  you and Baltimore too!

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#FamilyFun in @BaltimoreMD with #OutandAboutAva! @PortDiscovery @BmoreWaterTaxi @prattlibrary #USSCONSTELLATION @GeppisMuseum #FamilyTravel #VisitBaltimore

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Baltimore is a city rich in history and heritage. My heritage started in Baltimore City where I was born and where I lived until 1996. So much has changed but so much remains the same. Charm City never loses its charm to me, so it is with great pleasure to explore with my 4 yr old daughter some of the things that make Baltimore special! Recently we paid a short but sweet 24 hr visit to “My Bmore” and here are the places we checked out:

1. Enoch Pratt Free Library Central Location
We took a walk through the monumental Enoch Pratt Free library located in the city’s cultural heart, Mount Vernon area just north of downtown. This library has a charming Children’s department that includes learning toys to play with, computers, a day/night room and live fish to feed!
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2. Historic Ships in Baltimore
Historic Ships in Baltimore includes five national historic landmarks. We toured the 1854 Sloop-of-War USS Constellation and while on board we could see the Lightship Chesapeake glistening red on the Inner Harbor. My daughter loved pressing the numbers in the handheld tour guide and listening to the facts given about the ship, it’s sailors and Captain!
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3. Geppi’s Museum
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is a memorable trip thru American pop culture. We got to experience a time line of nostalgic toys, comics, and other collectibles highlighting familiar characters for both her and I. I was very impressed by the museum’s collection and decided to make my own entertainment by way of photo slideshow as seen here:

4. Baltimore Water Taxi
Ride all day on an on-off ticket when you board any of the blue and white water taxi boats. Get a free map and guide to over 35 attractions and neighborhoods. We boarded at the Inner Harbor and got off at Fell’s Point. From there we headed to the Broadway Market for a slice of cheese pizza, every child’s favorite!
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5. Port Discovery Children’s Museum
About a year ago, my daughter Ava had a chance to visit Port Discovery Children’s Museum ( http://sobesavvy.com/2014/08/14/outandaboutava-visits-portdiscovery-childrens-museum-baltimore-maryland-recap-by-sobesavvy/) with her Nana. A year is a long time in a child’s growth and development and this museum offers ever-changing programs for kids ages birth through 10. Voted one of the top 5 children’s museum in the USA by Child Magazine, this was the perfect attraction to visit during our short stay. We even got to see the new “Here We Grow! ” Exhibit which introduces children to farm processes, products and people. It was some much fun trying to beat the machine in milking the cow the fastest! I also enjoyed having the opportunity to read her one of the many books about farm animals, etc. while there. This museum is a great way for a child to learn and play during a Baltimore stay!
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#Travel to @BaltimoreMD , enjoy the charm of #CharmCity and Fall in Love with #Baltimore ! #visitBaltimore @HI_InnerHarbor @MDScienceCenter @NatlAquarium @BmoreWaterTaxi ~Recap by #SobeSavvy .com #soDMVsavvy #soTravelsavvy

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I had the great fortune of being born and growing up in Baltimore, Md. There are bigger cities. There are smaller cities. But there is NO city more quintessentially American than the city of Baltimore. It’s not even close. Baltimore is literally the seam in our nation. Birth of the Star Spangled Banner. It is where north meets south. It was where slavery and freedom existed. Unique indeed. It is a great port city. Proud of our blue collar reputation. Ethnic neighborhoods abound. Sports is in our soul. From Johnny Unitas and Cal Ripken to Ray Lewis. Festivals more than one can count. The only person who has ever disliked Baltimore has never visited there. Yea, I am biased. I am from Baltimore. Everything here starts from the city center and radiates outward. This city center is where I went back home to spend a beautiful early fall weekend to get out enjoy as many of my cities attractions that locals sometime take for granted.

The Holiday Inn on Lombard street http://www.ihg.com/holidayinn/hotels/us/en/baltimore/baldt/hoteldetail was a fantastic base camp for the weekend. One block from Pratt Street and within walking distance to both Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Stadium where the Ravens play. Hospitality at it’s best. Their Eden West restaurant also lets kids eat free for breakfast, so what’s not to like !

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Here are just a few examples of things we had fun doing last weekend:

The National Aquarium http://www.aqua.org/ . Opened in 1981, it has consistently been ranked as a top aquarium in the nation. The National Aquarium, Baltimore, features a living collection of more than 20,000 fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals living in award-winning habitats. In summer 2013, the Aquarium opened Blacktip Reef, a breathtaking exhibit replicating an Indo-Pacific reef and featuring more than 700 animals, including a school of blacktip reef sharks.

My family had an amazing time there. So much too see and experience. The huge open pool full of sharks, giant turtles and fish was magical. My four year old especially loved the jellyfish exhibit and the dolphin tanks the most. The aquarium floorplan slowly leads up to the roof their iconic rainforest sits. There was an elusive sloth that we searched and searched for but alas eluded us ! What a magnificent place that reinforces the natural wonders of our oceans.

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The Maryland Science Center http://www.mdsci.org/ on Baltimoreā€™s Inner Harbor has interactive exhibits combined with the state-of-the-art Davis Planetarium that was opened to the public in June 1976. The addition of a new atrium lobby in 1986, and the very successful IMAX Theater in 1987, stimulated annual attendance.A major expansion and renovation of the entire facility was completed in May of 2004. New exhibitions were added on all levels as well as the addition of a permanent hall showcasing dinosaurs and earth sciences, and a dedicated gallery for housing temporary exhibitions. Upgrades to the IMAX Theater introduced 3D film technology and improvements to the physical plant updated and enhanced visitor amenities and services. Today, as it has been in the past, the Maryland Science Center continues to focus on remaining a vital community resource and economic development engine now and in the future.

Entering the MD Science center was instant education. Education in the most fun hands on way possible. A huge portion of the complex was interactive hands on experiments. Whether it was generating electricity with handlebars or letting my little one use her hand to break up a tornado, we simply never ran out of things to do and learn about. Without a doubt our favorite part was playing a paleontologist in their dinosaur/fossil area. What a blast! We can’t wait to return to this gem.

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Although on a nice day you could get alot of excersize by walking around the entire harbor area or you can take the water taxi. It has stops near all the major attractions in and around the harbor. From Fells point and Harbor East to harborplace and more. http://www.baltimorewatertaxi.com/ A great way to travel around the harbor and a scenic trip for sure !

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A person can only be from one place. I am lucky that MY place is Baltimore. Come to visit this fall and fall in love..with Baltimore !

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