Category Archives: travel

Tips for Visiting Great Wolf Lodge

A few weeks ago we took the boys to Great Wolf Lodge Charlotte/Concord. It’s less than a 3 hour drive from house so it makes for a great overnight trip.We had a great time and are already looking forward to our next visit.

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I did a lot of research online prior to our trip so I knew what to expect and what we should bring. I like to be prepared, it helps me feel confident when things don’t go according to plan (as always happens) that I’m making good decisions. So here are some of my take-aways from our recent trip.

Look for Special Deals
We found a great deal on Groupon which put our family of 6 is a themed suite with a $50 dining credit for around $300. I highly suggesting finding special offers like Groupon where you can save money especially if you have a larger family. Typically more than 4 guest would be an additional cost for the room we booked, however the special offer waived the additional $50 per extra person water park pass.

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Bring Food
We have 4 small children that want to eat all the time. So I brought plenty of snacks to keep in the room as well as breakfast items. The rooms have a small refrigerator, microwave, coffee maker and sink. If you really want to save money you could bring food to make all of your meals in your room. We just made breakfast in our room and had a few snacks. GWL offers a Cookies and Milk delivery in the evenings (for an additional cost) I just brought cookies and milk from home for our special evening treat.

Leave the Hotel
The Charlotte/Concord location is surrounded by restaurants/shopping so there are plenty of things to do and eat outside of the hotel. We save a lot of money by driving down the street to Chick-fil-a for lunch rather than buying lunch on site. We did buy Pizza at the hotel for dinner since we wanted to pack in as much fun as possible.

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Arrive Early/Stay Late
We arrived at the hotel around 1pm even though our room check-in wasn’t until 4pm. You can get your water park access bracelets at 1pm the day you check-in to enjoy more time at the water park. They have nice changing rooms where you can put on your bathing suit. However, our room was available at 1pm which was nice. Likewise, checkout is at 11am but after we loaded up the car we returned to the water park for more fun then changed out of our wet clothes before hitting the road home. (Don’t miss the suit spinners in the changing rooms to wring out wet suits.)

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Extras: Do Some/Skip Some
My boys loved the arcade so we spent a lot of our down time there. When you buy a pass to play the games make sure you keep it as the pass itself cost money. Each time you visit you can just load more money onto the card and avoid the initial fee. We did check out the 4D theater and other games but they weren’t really worth the money. My boys weren’t very interested in any of the specialty shops either. The spa is super $$$. There are a lot of places where you can spend money but we opted out of most. We did cave on MagiQuest. I didn’t really know what it was but after the boys explore the MagiQuest store they were hooked. Aside from the water park I think it was their favorite thing from the trip. The wand is an investment but we plan on visiting Great Wolf Lodge many more times so it’s worth it.

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Shows/Activities
We attended the evening show/story time. I’ll be honest, the show was weird and creepy. However, the kids were entertained. I did like the story time that followed and the character appearances. We didn’t participate in too many other lobby events because we prefer to avoid crowds whenever possible. Kids Club rocks. While Jude and Joe continued on their MagiQuest I took the younger boys down to the Kids Club. There are so many things for little ones to do. It’s a play room/ craft room. They had coloring, painting, crafts, and activities. My boys colored and did crafts and played bingo and played with toys.

Overall, we had a great time at Great Wolf Lodge and are looking forward to our next trip. I recommended booking your stay on a week night as there is less of a crowd but either way it’s a fun time.

This is not a sponsored post.

Our Family Focused Vacation in Mt. Pleasant, SC

Last weekend we took a long weekend trip to visit Joe’s family in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Mt. Pleasant is a town just outside of Charleston, across the the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.

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We frequently visit the Charleston area since Joe has family in the area and we often go into Charleston to do the regular touristy stuff but this visit we wanted to keep it local to Mt. Pleasant. We took a quick morning trip to Sullivan’s Island for a little visit to the beach. It’s such a low key and relaxing beach that is super close to Mt. Pleasant.

Sullivan's Island SC beach We also visited the Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. It’s located below the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and has a great playground for kids and a pier. From the pier you can see the USS Yorktown and other ships at Patriots Point.

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Of course we had to eat and some local favorites like East Bay Deli, Melvin’s BBQ and Metto Coffee (which Jude thinks is a tree house).

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We had a great time visit family and friends in Mt. Pleasant. It’s a great town that has a lot of great family friendly things to do…. and some funky stuff too.

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Slow Living Cottage near Asheville, NC

This past weekend Joe and I took a kid-free trip to Asheville, NC for a wedding. Joe was the best man in his friend’s wedding so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and have a little retreat to the mountains, without kids. While in Asheville we had a lovely time visiting with friends and exploring western North Carolina.

As we were planning our vacation I knew I want to stay somewhere off the beaten path that would allow us some peace and quiet. With 3 little kids peace and quiet is pretty hard to come by. However, we didn’t want to be too far away from the wedding activities that were located in Weaverville or the great dining options in Asheville. So I started looking for small rental cottages when I came across the Slow Living Cottage on Airbnb.com.

slow living cottage The Slow Living Cottage was located just outside of Asheville in the small town of Alexander and it hosted by the super sweet Marlis. Marlis greeted us at the cottage upon our arrival and showed us around the property and instructed us on how to use the hot tub.

The cottage had a small kitchen equipped with most things you would need to cook a few small meals, a seating area, bathroom and sleeping area. The only thing we had trouble with was the wireless internet. I’m assuming it was the signal from their home (locate just a short walk up a hill) therefore the signal was very weak and only worked in a small percentage of the cottage. Luckily was have pretty decent data plans on our phones where heavily used looking up various destinations we wanted to visit.

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There were 2 sliding doors off the front of the cottage that lead to small decks, one of which had a small covered sitting area where you could sit and enjoy the beautiful sounds of nature and watch the birds come to the bird feeder. Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 1.43.45 PM

There was also a nice hot tub just outside the bedroom area that was prefect for winding down after a long day. There was also a small fire pit located a few steps from the hot tub. I was surprise at how cool it outside especially in the evening. There was little need for air conditioning and I frequently wished I brought a jacket.

We has such a wonderful time at the Slow Living Cottage. It was a nice retreat from our busy and loud lives at home. We would definitely return to the Slow Living Cottage.

goodbyecottage I received no compensation or discount in exchange for this post, just want to share a great place to stay in the North Carolina mountains.

Small Children love the Georgia Aquarium {Giveaway}

Over the weekend we took a family trip to Atlanta, Georgia to visit the Georgia Aquarium. We stayed one night at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta which is located right next door to the aquarium. The boys loved staying at the hotel and we all did surprisingly well sleeping in a room together. They really love taking a late night (8pm) swim at the hotel’s indoor swimming pool.

The next morning we walked next door to the aquarium. To be honest I was a little nervous about how well the little ones would do but I prepared well and they did wonderfully.

Georgia Aquarium My tired guys after a long day at the Aquarium.

Tips for Taking Small Children to the Georgia Aquarium

Brightly Colored, Matching Shirts – There are a lot of people that visit the aquarium including a lot of school groups. It’s easy for little children to get lost in the crowd so I dressed all three boys in bright green shirts so I could easily find them if we got separated.

Pack Snacks – There are a lot of tables and seating areas in the common spaces where you can sit and take a small break. They have on-site food but sometimes you just need a little snack to calm the cranky little ones.

Avoid a Stroller – If possible don’t bring your stroller. Because the aquarium is busy it’s hard to maneuver the stroller. I recommend bringing a baby carrier. We actually brought both since we have 2 little ones that get tired of walking and tend to wander. We were able to use the stroller if a few exhibits but had to utilize the stroller parking for others.

Use the Stroller Valet Parking Station – If you must bring a stroller utilize the stroller parking if you need to store your stroller. They tag your stroller and give you a ticket to pick up your stroller. You know your stroller is safe in the Stroller Parking Area.

Take Your Time – Don’t feel like you have to see every thing right away. Some exhibits will captivate the children while others might be a little too advance for young children.

Let them interact with the sea life – There are a few interactive spaces throughout the aquarium where children can touch sea creatures and play. Giving children a hands-on experience will keep them interested and entertained.

tired from all the aquarium fun Sleepy Simon enjoys riding in the baby carrier.

We took a behind-the-scenes tour which was very insightful and a lot of fun. At 10:30 AM we got to watch the marine biologist them feed the whale sharks. Jude had a lot of questions about whale sharks and we learned they are the largest sharks but have tiny throats. We also got to see the beautiful beluga whales and the amazing wave machine in the Tropical Diver exhibit (and much more).

Watch the slide show below to see some of the exhibits we loved.

We knew the boys probably wouldn’t last all day so we picked some of the more interactive and entertaining exhibits for young children (Tropical Diver, Ocean Voyager, Cold Water Quest, and Georgia Explorer). We even took time to see the AT&T Dolphin Tales show which was extremely fun and entertaining for the small children.

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One of our favorites was the Whale Sharks in the Ocean Voyager Exhibit. I could have watched them swim around all day but the little boys were on the move.

Jude has already asked to go back to Georgia and the aquarium. I hope we can take the boys again soon because we didn’t get a chance to see everything on our first visit and I would love to see more. It was a truly a trip will not forget.

Special Offer

The Georgia Aquarium is offering a Southern Hospitality Discount.
Residents of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida can receive discounted admission of $29.95 +tax when they show a valid ID verifying residency at the ticket window only. Offer Ends June13, 2014.

Giveaway

One lucky reader will win a Georgia Aquarium Family Prize Pack (includes: four tickets, a behind-the-scenes tour and a parking voucher). Use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. Giveaway Ends 5/28/14

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway ends on May 28 , 2014. The winner will be chosen using random.org and announced on this post. Entrants must be 18 or older. Winner to be chosen at random. Winner will be notified by email and has 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. See giveaway rules for more information.

I was provided admission and lodging free of charge for review purposes. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and not influenced by the company. Thank you to the Georgia Aquarium and Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Atlanta.

Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium

Sea Life Charlotte

Joe and I took the boys on a little day trip to Charlotte last week to visit the new Sea Life Aquarium. The Sea Life Charlotte-Concord is located at the Concord Mills Mall.

sealife1 The Sea Life Aquarium is specifically designed for kids with a touch pool, an interactive quiz, a 180* ocean tunnel & learning about our marine conservation program.

We learned about a variety of new fish from the interactive touch screens located by each tank.

sealife2 The kids really enjoyed getting their hands wet and touching some of the sea life like star fish, hermit crabs and more.

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They even got to go “inside” the tank for the full underwater experience.

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I think Noah’s favorite exhibit was the large tank with rays and small sharks. He was captivated by the ways the stingrays moved around the side of the tank.

sealife5 Jude thought the tunnel was pretty magical. I think everyone else would agree as it was the most crowded spot in the museum.

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We even got to visit with Neptune.

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We also took a backstage tour where we learned how the aquarium operates, how take care of the animals and what they eat. The kids weren’t as interested in this part but I found it very interesting.

sealifetour At the end of the Aquarium just before the gift shop is a large play area for kids to discover, color or eat a snack.

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The Sea Life Aquarium was a lot of fun and the kids really enjoyed getting to see all of the different fish and underwater creatures. It certainly isn’t the biggest aquarium that we’ve been to but it had a great variety of sea life and is a great place to take kids to learn about many of the wonderful things that live under the sea.

Sea Life Aquarium Concord, NC

We planned our visit for a Friday morning hoping it wouldn’t be super crowded and we were right. I would recommend visiting first thing after they open to really take in the full experience. It took us a little over an hour to go through the whole aquarium which was ideal for young children that don’t have a very long attention span.

Location:
Concord Mills
8111 Concord Mills Blvd, Concord, NC 28027

Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-9pm
Sun: 12pm-7pm

Connect:
Follow @sealifecc on Twitter
Like Sea Life Charlotte/Concord on Facebook

Disclosure: I received tickets to the featured attraction in exchange for my honest opinion. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and not influenced by the company.

Downtown Durham Food Tour from Xperience Days

The other night Joe and I took a walking food tour of downtown Durham. We booked our tour though Xperience Days. Xperience Days is an online activity guide for cities across the US. They help connect you with different types of tours/activities that are available at your destination.

Weather you are planning a trip or are just looking for a new experience in your city Xperience Days offers a variety of fun activities. They work with existing event producers to bring you some of the best of each city. We took a day time walking food tour offered by Triangle Food Tours and it was a blast.

Triangle Food Tour by Xperience Days Our tour started at 2:30pm on Saturday and lasted about 3 hours. There were 12 people in our tour, which is a little larger than the standard size but was totally manageable. Our tour guide was great, she was very welcoming and did a great job keeping everyone entertained, informed and fed. We visited 6 very different downtown Durham restaurants.

Our first stop was Fishmongers, a seafood restaurant and oyster bar. We got to sample fried cajun catfish, slamon and bbq shrimp along with their curry dipping sauce.

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Then Lilly’s Pizza was our next stop. I didn’t know there was a Lilly’s Pizza in Durham, we frequent the Raleigh location and love it. We got to sample my favorite pizza, The Buddha and tried a new-to-me pizza, the Super Duper. I loved both pizzas and wanted to eat all of everything.

lillys pizza Then we visited Little Dipper, a new fondue restaurant. I’d never tried fondue so this was particularly fun. We got to sample their Tuscan Sun-Dried Tomato Cheese Fondue. It was a fun experience but I wasn’t terribly excited about the cheese. I would like to try more fondue someday.

little dipper Afterward we took a short walk through downtown Durham to Old Havana Sandwich Shop. This was our favorite stop as we love Cuban food. We got to sample their Havana sandwich and maduros.

old havana Then over to the Cupcake Bar we went for a taste of sweet. I’m a little over cupcake shops but the Cupcake Bar proved to be one of the better ones I’ve tried in the area. We got to try their Chocolate Mint Chip cupcake and Lemon Cream Cheese cupcake. I liked both but was really surprised by the lemon cupcake.

cupcake bar And our final stop was 604 at West Village. I was really excited about their menu but was pretty let down by the sampling we received. They gave us an appetizer style sampling of watermelon topped with beets and chicory. It was certainly an interesting flavor pairing but I don’t think it was representative of what they really offer.

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Overall, we had a really great time. The tour wasn’t the best food tour we’ve taken (we could have eaten more and there was no alcohol) but it was a really fun experience. I like being able to try new restaurants but since we don’t get out often because of the little ones this was a great way to sample a few places so we have some new places to eat on date night.

If you are going to be visiting a new city or just want to explore more of your own, check out Xperience Days and see what fun activities they offer.

I received the featured product in exchange for my honest opinion. All opinions stated are my own

Our trip to the South Carolina Aquarium

This past weekend we took a short trip to Charleston, South Carolina to visit Joe’s family. While there we visited the South Carolina Aquarium. Visiting the aquarium was on my Summer Bucket List but I imagined we’d just go to the NC Aquarium which is nowhere near as large as the SC Aquarium. Aside from one meltdown we all had a great time… just look at all of these pictures. No seriously, there are a lot of pictures.

Jude thinks we should get a water wall like this for our house… I agree.

“Look Mom, fish.”

Don’t tell Joe he’s sitting on a giant snake head.

Jude navigating through the fish finder to identify the fish we saw.

Watching Ships. (Not really sure what he’s looking at since we didn’t put in any money!)

Noah loved the giant fish tank. He even made friends with one of the divers.

This is the best family photo we could manage.

If you are in the Charleston, SC area I totally recommend checking out the SC Aquarium. It is a little pricy but there are so many awesome things to see and do.

Maternity Fashion at a Blog Conference

Over the weekend I went to Chicago to attend the Brands and Bloggers Summit.

As an expecting mom with 2 young children to take care of I don’t get out much to go shopping for myself. I also don’t have a lot of money to spend on maternity clothes. But Borrow for Your Bump was gracious enough to sponsor my maternity wardrobe.

Borrow for Your Bump is a site that lets you rent designer maternity clothes for a fraction of the cost of purchasing them. (And if you really love the item you are renting you can buy it!) I love this idea and think it’s particularly useful especially if you have a special event to attend, like a blog conference, but don’t have a big budget to spend.

maternity stripe shirt On day 1 I went sightseeing around Chicago and wore this super cute Nolan striped t-shirt by Nom and comfortable Jimmy Jimmy in Rebel by Paige maternity jeans. This outfit is totally my style, comfortable and casual.

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On day 2, the day of the conference, I stepped outside of my comfort zone a little with this Coral Chiffon Print top by Lilac and was very surprise by how much I loved it. I received many compliments on this top and will certainly be wearing it again. I paired it with a comfortable pair of Paige Jeans.

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Later that evening I attending the after party and wanted to dress up a little so I wore the Ink Print Maxi Dress by Lilac. I loved this dress. It’s so comfortable and so flattering.

One of my favorite things about renting maternity clothes is it affords you the opportunity to try out clothes you like but might be afraid to purchase. I often go for very practical and timeless pieces and steer clear of trendy maternity clothes just for the sake of my investment. But you can go a little wild an rent clothes you might not actually purchase but would love to wear for a short time.

If you are pregnant or expecting to become pregnant at some point you should totally check out Borrow for Your Bump!

Connect
Follow @borrow4yourbump on Twitter
Like Borrow for Your Bump on Facebook

A huge thanks to Borrow for Your Bump for being my maternity sponsor for the Brands and Bloggers Summit this year. They supplied me, free of charge, with all of the clothes featured above. The opinions are my own and not influenced by the company.