#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

Event Recap |Carnival Horizon’s Naming Celebration + More #FunontheHorizon @CarnivalCruise

#FUNONTHEHORIZON

If you read my previous blog, I shared My Top 5 Must See Features On Carnival Cruise Line’s Newest Ship, Carnival Horizon. Well, I just got back from seeing it in person at the naming ceremony and US inaugural celebration in New York on May 23, 2018. This momentous occasion has left me so inspired to cruise with my family this summer!

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Officially named by its godmother Queen Latifah, Carnival Horizon was celebrated by invited guests aboard the ship for an evening full of festivities. My time with Carnival Cruise reminded me that having fun is a daily choice and if I had one word to describe the event it would be FUN! Just take a look at my #FunOntheHorizon recap and you’ll see why:

MEDIA BRIEFING

Prior to the event, Carnival hosted a media briefing with Carnival President Christine Duffy, where St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was presented with a $100,000 donation check from Carnival representing monies raised from various fundraisers, both onboard and ashore. The funds continue the line’s ongoing support of St. Jude with more than $16 million raised in the fight against childhood cancer since the partnership began in 2010.

EMBARKATION

After the media briefing, it was time for the fun to begin aboard the Carnival Horizon! Check In/Boarding was a smooth process thanks to Carnival’s wonderful staff and The Cat in the Hat was even there to welcome us. When I boarded the ship, the first thing I noticed was the Dreamscape, a stunning three-deck-high LED sculpture in the ship’s atrium. It will showcase the artwork of the talented young artists from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s a beautiful sight to see and such a cool collaboration!

TOUR

Before the naming ceremony, my husband and I took a self-guided tour of Carnival Horizon. We started in our outside stateroom which was spacious, modern and comfy.

We could not wait to see the dozens of new innovations on this ship that makes it different than other Carnival cruises! Carnival Horizon has:

* Dr.Seuss Waterworks, the first-ever Dr. Seuss water park

* a new teppanyaki venue, Bonsai

* Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse, a unique dining concept that combines real deal BBQ favorites created by Food Network star and longtime partner Guy Fieri, along with four craft beers brewed on board by brewmaster Colin Presby.

Carnival Horizon is the second in the line’s Vista class series so it includes features like the following:

*the bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction called SkyRide

*a Havana section with its own Cuban-themed bar and pool

NAMING CEREMONY

Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line said “Carnival Horizon’s naming ceremony was one of our best yet, with Queen Latifah carrying out her duties as godmother then battling it out with Super Bowl champion Jake Elliott of my hometown Philadelphia Eagles in an entertaining Lip Sync Battle. We were also delighted to showcase the wonderfully talented children from St. Jude whose artwork on the Dreamscape will be forever associated with this spectacular ship.”

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Added Latifah, “My time aboard Carnival Horizon was nothing short of incredible. In addition to having the honor of serving as the ship’s godmother, meeting the amazing kids from St. Jude and their families and squaring off against Jake in an all-out Lip Sync Battle is certainly something I will always cherish.”

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

LIP SYNC BATTLE | #LSBCarnival

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Following the ceremony, we headed into the Liquid Lounge to see Queen Latifah square off against Philadelphia Eagles Super Bowl champion Jake Elliott in Lip Sync Battle: Horizon modeled after the hit Paramount Network TV series and rolling out across the Carnival fleet.

Photo Credit | Carnival Cruise Line

Latifah rocked the house with her incredible interpretation of the Weather Girls classic “It’s Raining Men,” while Elliott had a chance to live out his rock star fantasies performing Whitesnake’s arena anthem “Here I Go Again,” all performed with back-up dancers from Carnival Horizon’s Playlist Productions to a packed house who were given light up microphones and foam banners to wave in support of “Queen” or “Champ”.

DINING

Dressed in our “cruise elegant” attire, [if you are like me and not quite sure what that is, find definition here] we headed to dinner in the Meridan Dining room. Being the seafood lover that I am, I ordered and enjoyed the oysters as a starter, the Lobster/Shrimp entree while my husband got the lamb chops. We also sampled food from the Seafood Shack,various dishes from the buffet at Lido and Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint!

There are so many dining options and amenities to satisfy any traveling foodie! The quality of the food was great and everything we tried was fresh, and flavorful. After dinner drinks are available at the many bars on the ship. If you enjoy craft cocktails, definitely try Alchemy Bar, where they take a scientific approach to Mixology.

ENTERTAINMENT

So much to see and so much to do if you choose aboard the Carnival Horizon. Sports Fans can hang out at the SkyBox Sports Bar, Comedy Lovers can catch at act at the Limelight Lounge, check out the DJ and party on the deck. Catch a movie at IMAX or watch a Dive-IN Movie at Seaside Theater.

There really is so much to do and I had so little time. However, this overnight stay gave me just enough glimpse into how entertaining a cruise on Carnival Horizon would be!

BOOK YOUR CRUISE


Carnival Horizon kicks off a summer schedule from New York with a four-day cruise to Bermuda departing May 24, 2018. The ship will operate four-day Bermuda and eight-day Caribbean departures from New York through September then reposition to Miami for year-round six- and eight-day Caribbean cruises beginning later that month.


To learn more about Carnival Cruise Line or to make a reservation, visit Carnival.com, call 1-800-CARNIVAL, or contact any travel agent. Follow Carnival on: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.

GIVE BACK #HOWICHOOSEFUN

Thanks again Carnival for giving me the opportunity to explore Carnival Horizon to get a first look at your 26th ship and share the #FunontheHorizon!

As part of their “Choose Fun” for a great cause campaign, Carnival invites us all to share a selfie on social media with the hashtag #HowIChooseFun and Carnival will make a donation to St.Jude Children’s Research Hospital!

Leslie, Founder of SobeSavvy.com and her daughter #outandaboutAva says Carpe Diem! Wake Up and Choose Fun! #HowIChooseFun

I choose fun by embracing my inner child while playing with my own kid. Everyday she reminds me to get some laughs and fun in before my Mom/Wife/Life daily duties begin!
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE FUN?

#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?

Looking for a #SundayFunday #Staycation in #Raleigh ? Visit #NorthHills + @RenRaleigh #renhotels

Disclaimer: This post is in partnership with Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel, however the opinions/photos 100% are my own.

People like to ask the question: If you could pack up and go on a mini vacation, where would you go? For me, sometimes the fun can be found right in your own city! I shared in a previous post that North Hills is a great place to Stay, Eat, Play when looking for a staycation getaway. Well last Sunday, I revisted North Hills and checked into the newly renovated Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel.

SUNDAY FUNDAY + Things to Do 

If you follow my Instagram @SobeSavvy and checked out my Instastories, you may have seen the shopping and dining fun I had in North Hills. My family and I strolled along before picking up my birthday freebie at Sephora. We then made a lunch stop at one of our favorite pizza spots, Pielogy before checking in. There are just so many ways to spend the day in North Hills and Renaissance Raleigh is conveniently close to all of the exciting things to do!

Renaissance Raleigh is just steps away from endless shopping, dining and exciting entertainment in the coveted North Hills

In addition to family fun options, there are plenty of date nights spots and places to go with your girlfriends in North Hills.  I met 
up with 2 friends to enjoy Level 7 Rooftop Bars latest cocktail, Frosé which is Frozen Rosé Wine. It left a great impression on us ladies which I shared on video>>here

Say Frosé ! @Level 7 Rooftop Bar                                          

I also met up with some fellow NC Bloggers for a “Bloggers and Bar Bites” sampling event at BoneFish Grill which I had the pleasure of hosting. They have new menu items on their hand-crafted Happy Hour (which is EVERYDAY) that you can read more about >>here. After all the Sunday Funday was had, it was nice to not have to drive home but to enjoy an overnight stay right there at Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel.

STAY

The Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel is a four star property with 229 rooms, meeting spaces and a new bar/restaurant/lounge named 41Hundred. In case you missed it, read about the Grand Opening >> here and the many reasons you should drink and dine there.
The entire hotel recently went through a renovation, so I thought it would be great to feature and share with my local SobeSavvy readers who want to know where to go for staycation. I had a chance to experience their luxury hospitality with my husband and our daughter and it was such a wonderful stay!

Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel Lobby | Photo Credit: Barry Heigh, SobeSavvy.com

The bright and airy lobby had flowing ceiling artwork and this beautiful spiral staircase that was ideal for a fun mini-photo shoot before my night out with the girls!

The lovely staircase at the Renaissance Raleigh is the perfect place to make a Grand Entrance

Lobby Level of Renaissance Raleigh

Check in was quick and friendly. Our room, a 2 Queen + sofabed type, was very spacious and our daughter, who is fondly referred to on the blog as #outandaboutAva, made herself right at home! 

Our Princess, #outandaboutAva , enjoys a Queen size bed !

Sofabed + 7th Floor Views at Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

The room decor had a style that while modern was still classic. My husband realized that we did not have to tune into our daughtet’s tablet for her favorite shows because their state of the art flat smart TV screen allowed us to sign into our Netflix account just as if we were home! There was also plenty of connectivity throughout the room for all of our laptops, tablets and cellphones. 

In room work space at Renaissance Raleigh

So our daughter liked the beds, my husband was fond of the technology, as for me my favorite thing was the bathroom shower. It was A-MAZING! Besides the normal showerhead, it had two separate horizontal water jets which basically gives you a back massage while showering. Pure bliss.Their Aveda products were just the icing on the cake for me as far as amenities.

WORK + PLAY 

The second floor of the lobby is what I like to refer to as their ‘living lounge’. It’s part contemporary living room, part modern lounge with an open space which includes plenty of comfy couches, a ping pong table and a couple of connect five board games set up for anyone to use them while socializing and having a few drinks. Another reason this refined lounge area represents ‘living” to me is because of the use of outdoor elements for indoor decor. 

Lounge Area | Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

Family Fun Spaces at Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

My daughter turned to Disney Channel and we played a few games of connect four +ping pong! This use of space is fun and creative. They also have various size boardroom and conference areas for you to book your corporate needs.

Exterior of Pavane Boardroom at Renaissance Raleigh

DINE

After a restful night, we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast buffet in their unique lobby restaurant, 41Hundred

Breakfast Buffet at 41Hundred Restaurant | Renaissance Raleigh Hotel

There were plenty of choices on the buffet which includes the option of made to order omelettes, pancakes or french toast from the a la carte menu.  The variety of fresh fruit and pastries on the buffet caught our eyes as well. Everything was delicious! My husband who is a breakfast enthusiast, said their “Breakfast was fit for a King” ! Yep, my King’s breakfast stamp of approval means alot. Dining here was a great way to start the day prior to check out. 

Rise & Dine ! Enjoying the Breakfast Buffet at 41Hundred Restaurant,Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

My #HeighPartyof3 enjoyed our staycation here. Good Food ✔ Comfortable Beds✔ Great Service✔ Awesome Amenites✔ Convenient Location✔…they had all the bases covered and hit a home run in our minds! When seeking a local staycation hotel, make Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel one of your top choices.

Exterior View Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel

4100 Main St at North Hills

RALEIGH, NC 27609

#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


     


    Top 6 #FamilyFun Activities to do this Summer in #Baltimore | #FamilyTravel #VisitBaltimore #MyBmore

    Today on the blog, I am sharing #MYBmore TOP 6 Family Fun activities everyone should add to their child’s Summer Break list of things to do in Baltimore! This past weekend my #HeighPartyof3 drove the easy 5 hr ride to Downtown Harbor East and stayed at one of our favorite hotels, Hyatt Place. One of the reasons I was there was to cover the 4th Annual Chesapeake Crab and Beer Festival (be sure to check out my photo recap>>>here) but to also take #outandaboutAva to some museums and attractions in Baltimore. Here is my list of TOP 6 Family Fun Activites :

    1. See an Orioles Basesball Game -Orioles Park at CAMDEN YARDSA summertime visit to Baltimore would not be complete without a visit to the undisputed best ballpark in the nation! Oriole Park at Camden Yards is celebrating their 25th anniversary. We joined others to take in a game on an absolute beautiful evening. It was my little one’s very first MLB game and she loved it. Camden Yards is designed where there is not a bad seat in the house. She was also able to get up and close to the field pre game to watch the players stretch and interact with their fans. A night to remember for all.
    2. Learn and Play at Port Discovery Childrens MuseumBaltimore’s Port Discovery Children’s Museum is an expansive building dedicated to kids. They play and learn. Sometimes at the same time. This place has so many things to do, it can fill up an entire afternoon. From a faux diner called Tiny’s where the little ones can serve you lunch items {albeit plastic of course} to jungle gyms and a whole area dedicated to solving the mystery of what happened to a missing family, this place is amazing. My daughter enjoyed the Oasis room where she could sit quietly and read.There is plenty of hands on exhibits and interactive areas that the kids will simply love. A must stop for any families visiting with children. When you arrive grab your map at the front desk, arms in and let fun begin!
    3. Eat,Drink and Be Royal at MEDIEVAL TIMES Dinner & TournamentGo back in time to King Arthur’s day and visit the Medieval Times castle for a Dinner and Show you will never forget!  This attraction is not in Downtown Baltimore, but in Arundel Mills Mall (aprox 30 mins away by car).  Along with a medieval dinner (that you eat with your hands only),…we enjoyed entertainment like jousting,horse dancing and a real Falcon soaring above our heads to do a stunt!  This is all entertwined with a storyline the narrator explains.Medieval Times is great place to take someone who proclaims that they have seen it all. A mix between a Broadway show and Polo…Nothing compares to this experience. My daughter and her Grandma truly enjoyed their ‘Knight’ out! 
    4. Take a Joy Ride thru History at B&O RAILROAD MUSEUMDid you know that Baltimore is the home for modern commercial Railroading? The B&O railroad, which operated from 1828 to 1987, had many people skeptical {and scared} of this “new” technology. That didn’t last long as the B&O proved sucesseful in (per it’s motto)”Linking 13 Great States with the Nation”. We learned all about the rich history at the B&0 Railroad Museum while enjoying the impressive collection of vintage trains. We even took an actual 1.5 mile ride on an original section of the line! The museum does an excellent job telling the story of the railroad, which mirrors the story of America itself. Children can enjoy a hunt to collect stamps at stations throughout the museum in a little passport booklet which they turn in at the end for a free present at the gift shop! They also have a kid play area and rides outside which makes this a fun informative museum the entire family will love. I made a YouTube video full of highlights from our visit. Watch it here and Enjoy! SobeSavvy Tip: Check out this special circus themed event ‘Under The Big Top’ happening Now thru June 30 For more info visit www.borail.org.             

    5. Take a cruise aboard the ‘Fearless’ and become a pirate for the day with URBAN PIRATES 

    A day at the world famous Inner Harbor demands that one gets out on the water. We chose to take a trip back in time with a company called “Urban Pirates”. Based out of the Ann Street Pier in the Fells Point area, Urban Pirates takes visitors on a 90 min trip around the Harbor on a vintage looking ..well pirate ship. We didn’t know what to expect when we boarded along with other families. We were given official pirate names with tags and some pirate attire to wear for our voyage. https://www.instagram.com/p/BVu67NbBU55/ 

    Once out on the open water, the crew did a great job of entertaining all of us (and especially the kids) with songs, dances and all sorts of seafaring games. We even had an attempted sea hijack that we all thwarted with their water cannons! I don’t want to give away too much but let’s just say be prepared for a great experience unlike any other.

    6. Discover close to 20,000 animals at NATIONAL AQUARIUM The National Aquarium with its unique spiral floor plan, it’s huge rain forest in the rooftop, the diverse species of fish plus sharks and dolphins make it THE aquarium to visit. We chose to go early on Sunday morning and it paid off for being less crowded since this is Baltimore’s most popular attraction. 

    The close encounters of being able to touch horseshoe crabs and a real moon jellyfish in the Living Seashore exhibit made the experience that much more real. This aquarium is a crown jewel for both kids and adults alike and we always look forward to learning something new with each visit.

    Now that you know “Where to Play” your next visit to Charm City, be sure to check back here on Friday when I’ll be sharing “Where to Eat” and “Where to Stay” in Baltimore. Also check out www.baltimore.org for any information you need to plan your trip.

    Check out my fun photo video recap of these listed attractions : https://youtu.be/8lWvmmN9LRs

    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 

    Disclaimer: We received a media rate during our stay,however the opinions are 100% my own.

    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. Take a look at 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: www.mandarinoriental.com/atlanta

    #TravelTuesday Spotlight on New Hotel @EmbassySuites by Hilton Atlanta NE Gwinnett Sugarloaf #EmbassySuites

    My sister in Law lives in Gwinett County, one of Atlanta’s main northern suburbs. Since this is my daughter’s spring break week, we decided to roadtrip 6 hrs down from Raleigh,NC. Every time my family and I come to visit we have a dilemma on where to stay and set up base camp. Thankfully that dilemma has been solved by the new Embassy Suites Atlanta NE Gwinett Sugarloaf

    Centrally located near Duluth/Lawrenceville, this lodging choice is convienient to the many attractions here in this part of Metro Atlanta. Sugarloaf Mills and Medieval Times (a family fun attraction we checked out on Sunday)  is a short 5 minute drive as well as dozens of dining and entertainment choices. Most of this brands properties were set up in a classical atrium style. This is a different design. Set up in a more traditional hotel layout, this new property boasts a fresh upscale modern design with technology and service at their forefront. Rooms have a plethora of USB and charging outlets. Bedrooms even have their own dedicated power stations. This is essentially a tablet, smartphone, laptop obsessed world so to pleasure and business travelers alike, connectivity is important.

    The public spaces are just as beautiful. Cabana style nooks with flat screens.

    The expansive outdoor stylish patio seating just adds to the already special flair one feels when staying here.

    The gym has everything needed for a workout and the indoor pool is available for a swim.

    They have also redesigned their room suites. High end furnishings and quality bedding is par for course. The interior resembles many a high end boutique hotels for sure. Avant Garde light fixtures just add to the overall high brow feel to the entire suite.

    I am also here to report that there iconic breakfast offerings are even better now with dedicated stations for custom yogurt parfaits and a oatmeal station with every imaginable fixin for the taking.

    Of course made to order omelettes are still standard.

    This hotel also still has their famous 2 hour complementary happy hour 7 days a week. Light snacks , beer, wine and cocktails can be enjoyed in their indoor or outdoor spaces. This is always been a generous perk of staying at this brand of Hilton Hotels.

    SobeSavvy Tip:

    Embassy
    Suites by Hilton Atlanta NE Gwinnett Sugarloaf participates in the Hilton
    HHonors® loyalty program, which is open to all guests and free to join –
    visit 
    here for enrollment information. Hilton
    HHonors members always receive the lowest price with Hilton’s Best Price
    Guarantee, along with Hilton HHonors Points, free standard Wi-Fi access, digital
    check-in, Digital Key and no hidden fees, only when they book directly through
    Hilton. To celebrate the recent opening, guests will earn 1,000 HHonors Points
    per night from January 18 – May 31, 2017.

    Next time in this part of the Atlanta metro make this Embassy Suites your lodging of choice. You’ll be glad you did. 

    Cheers! https://www.instagram.com/p/BSuQZ8ihIhZ/

    What To Do in #Atlanta for #FamilyDate Night Fun ? @MedievalTimes for Everyone !

    My family and I are visiting Atlanta during our daughters very first official spring break and decided to step back in time for a family fun filled Sunday dinner.

    All the way back to Medieval Times! This spectacular dinner theatre in Gwinett County features Jousting, horsemanship & falconry plus a 4-course utensil-free meal served in a castle-like ancient arena.

    Upon entry their expansive lobby area is bustling with all sorts of activities. You can take pictures with characters who are straight out of King Arthur ! There is a crackling fire and a huge bar where you can grab a drink prior to the show. We ended up with a cocktail called the “Dragon Slayer”. It came served in a specialty cup that we can keep for years as a conversation piece.

    Once we entered the competition arena things really got interesting. It was a surreal atmosphere. The “stage” is a custom made sunken equestrian course with sand. The knights performed all sorts of competitions and games like pluck the ring and horse relay racing !

    While enjoying the show we were served a set menu of roasted chicken ,corn, potatoes and corn on the cobb. No forks or knives allowed. Eat like the knights of old.WITH YOUR HANDS !!

    The show culminated with a hollywood worthy showdown of what can only be called a “knight fight”. Swords and swinging hammers were everywhere while the actors played stuntmen with flips and falls. The audience went wild and cheered. The King and his daughter ruled the show from their royal perch. 
    In addition to general admission, they also offer knighting ceremonies, upgrade packages such as king’s royalty (additional $22 per person), royalty (additional $18 per person) and celebration (additional $12 per person).
    SobeSavvy Tip : Go anytime during the months of March and April and take advantage of their special spring break rates by following this link and use discount code ” SB17″.

    If you ever want to do something unique to do on your next visit to Atlanta make sure you take the whole family to have dinner and a show at medieval Times.