8.30.2015

A Visit to The National Zoo with The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. Family Package

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.

Washington D.C. is a great destination for families because so many of the attractions do not charge admission, and that can help your vacation dollar go a little farther.  The Smithsonian National Zoo is one of those attractions. We spent an entire day exploring the zoological park.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


In fact, the female panda, Mei Xiang was pregnant during our visit which we found out in August when she gave birth to twin cubs. I think it was a surprise to all. Unfortunately, one cub did not survive, but the other cub, a boy, is doing well. The #PandaStory and updates are on the zoo's website and social media. Live photos of Mei Xiang and her cub are available for viewing on the zoo's social media account. 

The national zoo was a quick UBER ride from our hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. and our fare was about $6 to get there.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


No doubt, the zoo was a great family fun, but the "Lions, Tigers, and Bears...OH, MY! Family Package" with the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. made our zoo experience even more special.

During our day at the zoo, we could walk by all the stuffed animals at the zoo for sale because our five-year-old was already showered with new stuffed animal friends at the Ritz Kids check-in. She was given a backpack to hold her beloved Cinderella Bear, Elsa Kitty, and all the new friends she collected in D.C.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


There were also more zoo animals waiting for my kids in our room after we checked in along with the classic movie, "Wizard of Oz."  This was our DVD to keep as a souvenir.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


As if she had not had enough, Liza received another bear from the hostess at dinner at the hotel's signature restaurant, WestEnd Bistro.  For a while, I wondered if we were going to need a bigger car to take all of these animals back to Raleigh. She named everyone, and it truly upped the game with our vacation experience and memories that she will hopefully remember for a long while.





We also could pass by the candy at the zoo because we knew we had special zoo cupcakes waiting on us in our room, too.



The kids had so much floor space at over 450 square feet that they actually played and entertained themselves.


Yes, the zoo was great fun, but at the end of very long, tiring and hot day, it was wonderful to go back to our luxurious and large room at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C and relax. Jack has allergies so our room was defeathered, which is why the beds don't appear as fluffy as normal.



Our family package included valet parking, an in-room movie, and breakfast for four in the dining room or in-room dining.  Rates for this package start at $329.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


I don't know if you look at hotel rates in the Washington D.C. area for fun like I do, but let me break it down for you. The Ritz-Carlton is a five-star full-service luxury property while its next door neighbor, although new, is a limited-service 3-star property.  Rates start at the 3-star property at about $300 for a room equivalent to our room in size that we had at the Ritz and that rate does not include parking, in-room movie, and breakfast.

You know me. I am practical, but I also know a great luxury deal to share with you. I found it at the Ritz-Carlton.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


My hotel also had a champagne check-in.

And a red wagon filled with gifts for the kids.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.  The Red Wagon is a favorite amenity for children.


Presidential cookies were served in the afternoon. Eisenhower loved shortbread and President Ford loved a double chocolate chip cookie. We loved both.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo. Every night, the hotel serves Presidential cookie favorites.


And the best part of all, the luxurious Ritz bathroom.  I know it may sound silly to talk about bathrooms. But, regular hotels cannot compete with luxury hotel bathrooms.




The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. is a regal jewel in the Foggy Bottom area of the city with tree-lined streets.



Famous people stay here. Presidents. Dignitaries. Even Prince Harry.

And they, too received monogrammed pillowcases at turndown.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.  The Hotel has a pillowcase library for VIP guests.


Ok. I admit it. I got a little VIP treatment on that one. That's not standard issue, but the story is pretty amazing. The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. has a pillowcase library. No, I'm not joking. There is a library filled with pillowcases.

They let me have ours as keepsakes because I'm not a true VIP by guest standards.  Typically, frequent guests on Washington D.C. business will have a monogrammed pillowcase made, and it is used each time the guest check-in.  More than likely, Prince Harry received one and it is waiting for him on his return.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


Rates for VIPs are certainly higher than the one for the family package we experienced, but one thing I can say with certainty as a Ritz-Carlton guest is that we were all treated the same.

Every level of the Ritz-Carlton staff aims to please.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


An example of this really shines with a story about our waiter at breakfast. I ordered the huevos rancheros, which was the best thing I've ever tasted on our first morning there.  It was simply fantastic. In fact, I still talk about how good this dish was, and I want to learn to make it at home.

On our second morning of our stay,  the hotel showcased its breakfast buffet. It is spectacular, too, but I chatted with our waiter and told him that even though I was ordering the buffet, I almost got the huevos rancheros again because they were that good.

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.  Huevos Rancheros is a great breakfast dish.


He replied, "Yes, it is a great dish, Mrs. Hines." They have a knack of remembering your name which also amazes me.  As soon as I got back from my seat after visiting the buffet, our waiter came to our table with a salad plate size serving of huevos rancheros.  He said, "This is for you. The chef knows how much you like them."

This is why I love the Ritz-Carlton so much. They help make a vacation a priceless experience. If you stay in this hotel during the  blooming cherry blossom season, this mural will showcase cherry blossoms falling from the trees, and in the winter, it drops lighted snowflakes. The mural was a custom piece by de Gournay. It was hand-painted and imported from Europe  

A traveler's look at family-friendly hotel packages at the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. The Lions,Tigers, Bears...Oh My! Package ties in with the National Zoo.


The Ritz-Carlton, Washington D.C. is located at 1150 22nd Street, N.W.  The hotel is both kid-friendly and pet-friendly. While there, the Lobby Bar area was undergoing renovations and is expected to reopen this month with expanded seating, a new look, and expanded bar menu. The hotel's signature drink is a cocktail named after President Lincoln. Lincoln's picture also graces the cover on the chocolates during turndown service.

View the latest Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C Hotel packages so you can make wonderful vacation memories with your family.

Want to Go:
Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. 
1150 22nd Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C.

Be sure to tell them that the HinesSightBlog sent you.

Disclosure: My trip to Washington D.C was part of a curated media stay. Opinions about this hotel are my own, and as always, I did have my own expenses and did receive complimentary rates and special rates. 

8.24.2015

Classic Back to School Style: #JordWatch Wood Watch Review

It was back to school for the Hines kids today. Yes, this little one is starting kindergarten. She was one when I started this blog. Jack moves on to the 4th grade this year.  While they got new notebooks and pencils, I got a new watch for the start of the school year. I have no excuse for being late now. This school year,  I'm wearing a luxury wooden watch by Jord. 


Back to School classic style: #Jordwatch Wood Watch


I can now finally read the face of a watch. It's been a joke in my family, but I have guessed the time for the past 15 years. In 2000, I bought a Gucci watch while in Italy. The watch was gorgeous, but it had no numbers.

#Jordwatch luxury wood watch: Fieldcrest series

I have either been an hour behind or an hour ahead for the past 15 years. Truthfully, I don't think I ever knew what time it was when I wore that Gucci watch.  It is valuable today, and I will continue to wear it for a more formal dress, but I'm quite happy to have a new every day of the week watch thanks to JORD.

When JORD contacted me about working with them, I was intrigued. I knew nothing about wood watches. It was all very new to me.  I like a classic style and when I browsed the website, I liked what I saw.

I was immediately drawn to two styles: Cora and Fieldcrest.  I ended up choosing Fieldcrest in Zebrawood.
#Jordwatch Review: Zebrawood and Maple from FieldCrest series


I like the uniqueness of the wood pattern of maple and zebrawood plus the simplicity of the design. It seemed very timeless and classic like the Rolex watches I admire. Each JORD watch is handcrafted and is sized especially for you when you place an order.

JORD has an online chat to help you with sizing. Unfortunately, I failed in sizing. Because I wanted a looser fitting watch, I overestimated my size, and when my watch arrived, it was way too big so I could not wear it immediately so I wasn't able to wear it in Washington D.C. for my hotel tours like I had hoped.  The new shoes went, though.

#Jordwatch is handcrafted in the U.S.


The good news is that a reputable jewelry store can help you with sizing so I took my watch to a store I know and trust in my hometown. It was ready for wearing in 20 minutes.

I love my watch. The price is right, too. My watch retails for $120 and shipping is free. Zebrawood is native to West Africa and is considered a luxury hardwood. JORD uses only whole wood stock to create the Zebrawood watches. The hard maplewood used for the watch face comes from Northeastern North America. JORD uses the outer rings, known as sapwood for its designs.

I've not cleaned my watch yet, but it is recommended to use lemon or orange extract oil such as an essential oil.



#Jordwatch, handcrafted in the U.S. Classic and luxury wood watches






And this little one had a great first day of kindergarten. I picked her up right on time.



Enter below if you would like to win a discount coupon to purchase your own watch.  The prizes are a  $75, $50, and $25 coupon for JORD
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclosure: I was given a complimentary watch in order to write this story. As always, opinions are my own. 
Luxury Wooden Watch

8.14.2015

As a Mom-Owned Business Owner, I'm Ready to Flip the Calendar to September and Start the Next Chapter

Summer is a wonderful time of year..... that is if you are wealthy and can vacation at least two weeks out of each summer month the kids are out of school, can afford to have them in camp at least one week each month that they are out of school, and that leaves you only one week a month to be just lazy and carefree. 

With one non-structured week a month in the summer, you don't mind that you have to pack your entire house to go to the closest pool every other day to entertain the kids. It's a joy to sleep in and have no schedule, and because you've stayed busy the other three weeks of the month with traveling and camps, you don't feel guilty for letting your kids have a YOUTUBE marathon daily while you try to get some work done. If that is your agenda then summer is absolutely blissful.

But, that is probably the agenda of just the one-percent. If you are like most of us then summers are hard. Very hard. They are fun in the beginning. So much fun. They are still good in the middle, too. You may get agitated a little with the kids, but it's nice to not have a schedule. But, then comes August 1 and then what?

Shop this beach bag  in my Great.ly shop


The summer honeymoon is over, folks! I am on the verge of craziness. 

I am broke from eating out way too much for lunch. I am broke from vacationing. I am broke from trying to entertain the kids at places that charge admission. I am just emotionally broken down. 

My husband's vacation time is tapped out, and he is working 24-7 to make up the two weeks we've already taken to let me work a little by traveling. 

I also want to backtrack a little and say that my husband and kids vacationed in July. I technically was working in my dream job as a travel writer which means I now need to find some time to produce travel content in a timely manner in between getting snacks, barking orders, and interrupting sibling fights. 

I am so done with August. I am ready to get some balance back in my life. I am ready to write and work again. I am ready for a new year where kids are in school. 



I am ready to have a work day where I turn off my computer when the kids come home, and not juggle trying to produce content while they watch YOUTUBE.

I love my children. I do. It has been such a privilege to be home with them all of these years. It is a privilege to have the flexibility of being on the PTA at their school. It is a privilege for being able to be there for them when they get home from school. It has been a privilege to get groceries during the week when no one else shops. It is a privilege to be able to not worry about missing work if one of them is sick. This has been a precious time in all of our lives. I have been blessed. I know that and appreciate that. I also appreciate my husband for working hard to let me stay home, and for supporting all the hours I put on the side for this blog. 




We did sacrifice, too. We lived off of one income for nine years. In those nine years, I did not contribute to our retirement as I am reminded often. My husband worries. Are we saving enough? Probably. It never feels like enough. But, we're older parents. Our children are younger than most people our ages. We are both over 45. While some people may be planning weddings and sending kids off to college, our youngest child will not go to college until I'm almost 60.  She is just starting kindergarten this year. 




Yes, I am ready for a new month and a new chapter. After nine years of being a stay-at-home parent, both of my children will now be in school all day, five days a week....that is until next summer. 

I am ready to move forward with my own publishing company and grow my brand as someone who knows hotels, family travel, adores simple, farm fresh food, and someone who believes in wellness and a healthy lifestyle. I've worked hard to build an online community, and now it's time to write those city and destination guides and work to provide you with information you like to read, and of course, have the time to talk to you more here and just write from the heart which is what I'm doing today. 

I miss this space, and it's purpose that I started in 2011. Yes, I created it  to be my online portfolio, but it has become so much more.  I miss writing to write, and the opportunity to tell a story. Blogging will never be like traditional media because we share our lives, and honestly, that is why I love the platform so much.

During my time here,  I've tried to make extra money being a freelance writer which, unfortunately, took time away from this site. I only had so much time to give.

But now, it's time to nurture my professional life and I'm starting with a BANG.



I've been asked to be a break-out speaker for Illuminate 2015 on why businesses should build an online community.

The community that I have built around this blog and now with #OutaboutNC is what has made me NOT GIVE UP with my passion and dreams these past few years. Your comments or your own passion for North Carolina has given me the reason to plow forward with very little money. 

In a cocktail party setting, ask a blogger why they blog and most will tell you because the subject is their passion, and they get their energy from the community they built around social media. 

An online community is what drives success in blogging. I am not a power blogger. Many more people are way more successful than me, but being a blogger is now my passion, and if I let myself, I would work 24-7 because I'm doing something that I love, and it doesn't feel like work. I enjoy connecting with my own online communities. I have several. OutaboutNC is strictly North Carolina travel and tourism. HinesSight Blog is more lifestyle with my travel writing, hotels and my myself as the focus. If my written words, Instagram photo or tweet can touch just one person then I feel as if I have achieved success.

I have accepted a position with the NC Blog Network as Director of Campaign and Tourism Development.  I am passionate about being an advocate for blogging campaigns and informing people that professional blogging is an actual career, not just a hobby.




Sure, we sometimes write for pleasure or tell our own story like I'm doing right now. But, we also get a lot of emails thinking that we have all the time in the world and would we share a local business's tips on the "best of Raleigh" with our readers. 

Would a newspaper publish that? Yes. It is called an ad and they would expect payment. Writers/bloggers need to be paid for their time. A marketing professional would not work for free then why should a reputable blogger.

We are the new media. We are our own publishing houses. Yes, it may be on a smaller scale than what it used to be decades ago,  but thanks to the internet now, former journalists, communication and marketing professionals have found a way to be their own boss, assignment editor, and business owner. 


I would not trade my past experience of going on drug busts, covering murder trials, or being in the middle of a hostage stand-off for one minute, but my current beat of informing people on places to go and stay is where my passion thrives. Testing out champagne check-ins is nice, too. 


The bloggers I know are college-educated individuals who have taken their education and fitted it into their life as a modern parent. Not all are parents. We are also not writing to tell people what we ate for lunch and what sale item we picked up at Tory Burch. We give our readers glimpses of our lives, but our goal is to not talk about us, but rather deliver our audience information. I like to refer to it as modern-day reporting with our own niche and focus.

I am ready for September, school, and putting money toward retirement again. I am also ready to have business meetings, and writing time without being interrupted to see if someone's backside is entirely clean. 

I'm ready. If you are in Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill, I hope to meet you at Illuminate 2015. 

I'll be back next week with my latest travel feature. 

CONNECT with me:
@HinesSightBlog on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter
@OutaboutNC on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter















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