4.20.2017

Fit for a Queen: Afternoon Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel in Charlotte

Charlotte, North Carolina is known as the Queen City so it is only fitting that The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, a member of Starwood's Luxury Hotel Collection, serves afternoon tea fit for a queen. The Ballantyne, a resort hotel with a top-rate spa and championship golf course, offers a different type of tee-time for the public on Wednesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It's traditional afternoon tea delights with a local culinary twist. It's gearing up for its annual Mother's Day tea next month. 


#OutaboutNC: Afternoon Tea at the Ballantyne Hotel


Served in the hotel's cozy lobby, this special reserved tea time at the Ballantyne is in a picturesque setting and was a highlight of my time spent at the hotel. The hotel features a variety of loose leaf teas from Harney & Sons.

The Ballantyne’s creative culinary team pairs sandwiches, savory treats, and confectioneries to complement the tea selection. Signature menu items include black forest ham with local, cheddar cheese, sliced English cucumber with dill cream cheese and free range egg salad as well as sweets such as Chantilly swans, chocolate bonbons, and fruit tarts. My favorites were the sliced cucumber dill sandwiches and the scones, of course. Nothing is better than a freshly made scone with jam and clotted cream.

Afternoon Tea is served in the cozy lobby


The menu is under the direction of the hotel's Gallery Restaurant and its distinguished chefs.

In addition to regular tea service, the hotel serves themed-inspired teas as well throughout the year.  The annual Mother's Day tea is always a highlight. This summer, the hotel will host a summer-themed tea with a slight notch away from tradition. The Queen-City will celebrate Queen Elizabeth's birthday with a special tea in June, and this fall, there will be a Wizard-Inspired (Harry Potter themed tea).

And of family interest, the Ballantyne is close to uptown Charlotte and the Carowinds Amusement park. 

Learn more about Charlotte, N.C at Charlottesgotalot.com.

If spending the night at this luxury hotel is not in your budget, the Ballantyne area offers several other accommodation options including a Staybridge Suites, which I  also experienced with friends several years ago, an Aloft property, and the Courtyard by Marriott property.

This post contains affiliate links. 

4.18.2017

#OutaboutNC Travel Destination: CAROLINA BEACH

In North Carolina, we are blessed to have many wonderful beaches to choose to visit on any given day. And honestly, if you talk to different people from various parts of North Carolina, you will get lots of favorite beach towns simply based on where people live in the state.

Carolina Beach Waterway


As we gear up for beach season, we'll look at some of the highlights of Carolina Beach, N.C. This beach town boasts a state park, a historic fort, an aquarium, a fresh lake, a fishing pier and a boardwalk. It is reminiscent of beaches from yesteryear.  Hotels are more limited on the island, but condo and home rentals are bountiful at affordable prices.

Extended families usually take beach vacations together, and Carolina Beach is a good spot to appeal to all ages.
Courtyard by Marriott at Carolina Beach


Where to stay:

Carolina Beach offers a variety of rental homes that are well suited for large groups. Choose from the amenities that are most important to your crew – including oceanfront, pet-friendly, on-site pool, nearby public beach access and more. Bryant Real EstateIntracoastal Vacation Rentals, and Network Real Estate are all good places to start, but if you want more options, there are nearly 150 Airbnb properties in the area that sleep five or more people.

If you are there for a long weekend and want more of a resort vacation with multiple rooms then the Courtyard by Marriott (Oceanfront rates begin at $313 for Marriott Members and does not include breakfast) or the Hampton Inn and Suites Oceanfront Resort (Oceanfront rates begin around $339 and includes breakfast.) I've not personally stayed in either hotel so I can only recommend based on the brand and not on personal Carolina Beach experiences.

Carolina Beach is filled with those family-run inns with the vacancy or no-vacancy signs. It's the epitome of hotel travel of generations before us. They are basic, affordable and can provide a traveler a weekend getaway without paying over $1,000 in a hotel for three nights. Visit Wilmington beaches for a complete list of properties. 


Time to bond


For those days when you want to find one activity for everyone to enjoy, consider coordinating a kayak or paddleboard group tour from Paddle NC at Carolina State Park. Looking for something more fast-paced? Take a group surf lesson from Tony Silvagni Surf School, which is owned by professional surfer and Olympic Gold Medalist Tony Silvagni himself. For those who prefer land, a self-guided bike tour lets you go at your own pace while learning about important Civil War and other historic sites at Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. Wheel Fun Rentals offers single and double surrey bikes, as well as tandem bikes and kids trailers. Customize a group excursion through one of 20 available fishing charters or explore Carolina Beach’s waterways with one of several cruise offerings from Winner Party Boats, including moonlight dance cruises, narrated sunset tours and educational tours.

Fun at the Carolina Beach Boardwalk


Families reign supreme


When it comes to a family reunion or other family getaways, it’s important to consider everyone from the smallest tots to grandma and grandpa. A “tot lot” playground at Ocean Front Park in neighboring Kure Beach is specially designed for children ages 3 to 6. Adventure Reef, an outdoor interactive play area and fossil dig at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, is also ideal for younger travelers. The seaside swings and benches at Ocean Front Park are popular picks for older travelers, as are Fort Fisher State Historic Site and Museum – the second most visited tourist attraction in North Carolina – and the North Carolina Military History Museum. And lest we forget about those hard-to-please teens and tweens, the Carolina Beach Boardwalk has more than enough donuts, ice cream, fudge, amusement rides and live music to keep them occupied during the summer months.

Out and about town


The Tiki Bar at Carolina Beach


Groove to live music with friends at one of Carolina Beach’s live music venues like The Fat Pelican ranked as one of the top “Diviest Dive Bars in America” by Impulcity.com, or The Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar, named one of “America’s Best Beach Bars” by EndlessVacation.com. There are plenty of great nightlife options at Carolina Beach, all possessing that low-key beach charm that makes everyone want to loosen up and stay awhile.

Craft Beer. In the mood to try out a delicious selection of craft beers? Head over to Carolina Beach’s Good Hops Brewery. Stop in for a free tour and tasting at the ale-focused brewery with more than two dozen varieties of beers for distribution to local bars, restaurants, and hotels. Good Hops Brewery is also one of the stops on the Port City Brew Bus – a bus tour that travels to breweries in the Wilmington area educating riders about the craft beer scene.


Don’t sweat it



Like the familiar sound of beach music tunes that float along the ocean air, Carolina Beach has a laidback, casual vibe that encourages regulars and first-time visitors alike to relax and be carefree, just like the locals. Plan your next tribe vacation to the island where flip-flops, tank tops and board shorts are widely accepted almost anywhere, every hour of the day is happy hour, and travel via golf carts is widely seen about town.

Thanks to Wilmington Area Beaches for contributing to this #OutaboutNC Carolina Beach Guide 


Carolina Beach Courtyard by Marriott Resort


Book Carolina Beach Courtyard by Marriott

3.30.2017

#OutaboutNC: REGIONAL Grand TASTE 2017 EVENT Ticket Giveaway

No doubt. Southerners like to chow down on some good food. We've been known for our basketball for a long time, but North Carolina is making a name for itself in the culinary world, too.  Each year, we have numerous restaurants and chefs that receive James Beard Award Nominations. That's like the Oscars for the food industry for those who may be wondering "James Who?"

Food at Grand Taste Experience in Durham, NC


North Carolina is a top agriculture state, and our local chefs get down to our amazing roots. They source seasonal, local ingredients. These chefs are creative and innovative with the merging of flavors from ingredients. As a tourism state with both the mountains and the coast, dining is not about just getting something to eat. Instead, it's a tasting and cultural experience.

TOPO Organic Spirits Crafting Cocktails for TASTE Event in Durham


Each year, North Carolina celebrates the food experience through a four-day food festival in Durham, N.C with portions of the ticket sales going to charity.  It's now in its fourth year and TASTE 2017 will be the biggest yet with the Regional Taste event that will include Southern chefs, food and beverage outside of the Raleigh-Durham and Chapel Hill area.

The Grand  Regional Taste Experience will be held at the Durham Armory on April 22


This new tasting event will be held Saturday, April 22 from 12 pm to 2:30 at the Durham Armory and will put more than 30 chefs under one roof for the regional grand tasting experience.

Delicious and local food at the Grand Taste Experience every April


In a media partnership with Durham Magazine,  Chapel-Hill Magazine, and Chatham Magazine, I am giving away two tickets to this April 22 event. Two tickets are valued at $140. Single tickets are $75. 

Good luck. This is a four-day foodie weekend with many of attractions and events from April 20-April 23. Here are a few highlights and you can see all the events and purchase tickets on the TASTE2017 website.

The Grand Taste Experience is a 4-day foodie experience


April 20

Grant Taste Event with Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill Chefs

April 21

Whole Hog Demonstration 
Cider Class and Tasting
The Ultimate Gluten-Free Dinner 

April 22

The Seasonal Chef Class
Regional Grand Taste Chef Experience  (Enter our Giveaway for two tickets below)
Wine vs. Beer
Tacos Y Tequila Night at Dos Perros 

April 23 

JazzBrunch at NanaSteak (Six Seatings)
Salt and Smoke: Taste2017 Style at the Rickhouse

To learn more about the event and purchase tickets, visit TASTE2017 official website. 

CONTEST OVER


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