Southern Hospitality Rules At Washington Duke Inn, a Resort in Durham, N.C.

Durham, N.C., the epicenter of the Research Triangle Park, is not known as a resort destination. But, nestled on the campus of Duke University, is a tranquil peace of resort heaven, known as the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club. It transports guests away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and opens its door for you to enjoy a slower-pace oozed with Southern hospitality.

The stately inn, nestled on 300 acres on the edge of Duke Forest, is owned by Duke University. Some weekends, you will be hard-pressed to find a room available at the  Washington Duke Inn, which could easily be mistaken for a country English estate in Durham, England, not North Carolina.

But, the good news for you is that sometimes the hotel is less busy such as when Duke University students are not on campus or when the Duke BlueDevils are not playing a home game. Summer is one of the less busy times for the hotel and as a result, you will find incredible rates and packages that every local or seasoned traveler should experience.

Under the culinary leadership of Jason Cunningham, I've been a fan of the Washington Duke Inn tea service for several decades now. They have the best scones in the state and an elegant tea service. It is also a perfect experience for kids. My son had his first tea in the Fairview Dining Room when he was seven.

Every time I have dined at the Washington Duke Inn restaurant in the past, I have had an exceptional dining experience.  I am a huge fan of the Fairview Dining Room, which is the official name of the AAA four-diamond ranked restaurant.

One of the best local secrets is that the Washington Duke Inn menu features the special Dinner at Dusk Menu, offered from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at a special price of $35 for three courses. The value alone in that meal is crazy good.  The Washington Duke Inn is also known for its weekend brunch so it's a popular spot for Duke students, alumni, and their families.

As you know from my past travels, I do not shy away from dining in fine restaurants in hotels with my kids. In non-hotel restaurants, I'm a little more cautious. The reason why I am comfortable choosing hotel dining with kids in tow is that hotels are used to dealing with children

Chef Cunningham has younger children than my two so he understands the struggles parents have when traveling. Parents, like myself, want great food, but here is Liza, who lives off of buttered noodles, a cheeseburger, and an occasional nugget. Meanwhile, my soon to-be-13-year-old is a self-exclaimed foodie, and we have to limit him or else, we will have to get a bank loan on his choices.

The Washington Duke Inn also operates the Bull Durham Bar for more casual salads, burger and sandwich options which is a perfect choice for families who need a less quiet atmosphere. I've dined here for lunch with the kids when we visited the nearby Duke Lemur Center.  Despite the numerous times I've dined at the Washington Duke Inn through the years, I had never stayed overnight and experienced what it would be like as a resort guest until this year.

Staying as an Overnight Guest in the Family Suite at the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club

Even though Durham is only 45-minutes away from Raleigh, just getting out of the house for one night with the kids felt like a vacation this summer. As you know, I'm fine with just enjoying resort amenities and never leaving a property if it is for a short amount of time.  One-night away was the perfect subscription for genuine family bonding.  Even though the Washington Duke Inn is pet-friendly, Andy and my husband stayed home. Will had to work the next day and I thought I would be brave enough to take the kids to a hotel alone.

Washington Duke Inn chose the family suite for us and it was a special treat for the kids. It was a king bed with an alcove area with two bunk beds plus an awesome child-sized chess table. You book this suite for the fun and not the view. It is more expensive, but larger in size than a regular double room. Don't fret though, you will have the same ambiance in a regular room if the cost per night is more than your travel budget allows. This type of suite runs about $50 more than a regular double. Room rates start at $200 at the Washington Duke Inn during non-peak times. 

Best Scallop Dish Ever Tasted in Washington Duke Inn Restaurant 

I've already mentioned how much I like the food at the Washington Duke Inn in the Fairview Dining and the Bull Durham Bar, but I cannot write this piece without mentioning the scallop dish that is currently on the seasonal summer menu. It was pan-seared diver scallops with grilled silver queen corn, piperade, Spanish bacon, local basil aioli, and organic carrot puree. Thank goodness for google because I did have to look up the definition of piperade.  Simply put, it's French Basque dish, a saute of peppers, onions, and tomatoes. This particular dish is not on the special, lower-cost Dinner at Dusk menu though.  My husband is so tired of hearing how good the scallop entree was at the Washington Duke Inn that's for sure.

Swimming at Night and Drinks on the Green 

The Washington Duke Inn has a gorgeous indoor pool which is fun for kids year-round. I personally love the grounds of the hotel because it overlooks the Washington Duke Golf Course. Guests at the hotel get a special discount for golfing and there is a great golf store on site. The club also offers lessons and week-long courses. Every time, I go to a golf course, I say I want to take up lessons. 

But, for now, I 'll settle for a sparkling rose overlooking the green. This terrace is a wonderful spot for a casual dinner or just drinks before a performance at DPAC in downtown Durham.

Luxury Hotel Perks You Will Enjoy at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, N.C. 

*Complimentary coffee is served in the Bull Durham Bar every morning, but there is a Keurig  Coffee Maker in each room
*Room Service from 6 a.m. to Midnight
*Bull Durham Bar open until Midnight
*Fitness Center and walking trail 
*Indoor Pool
*Luxury soaps and lotions (Gilchrist and Soames of London)
*Luxury bathrooms ( I wore mine down for early coffee, but I was the only one)
*Make-Up Mirror
*Good TV (Always a plus with children)
*Valet parking, but good old free parking, too
*Bellman to help with all those stuffed animals that your kids bring with them
*Chocolates on the nightstand, and turn-down service for those who request it. I was special. I got it without asking and I have to admit that I do think turn-down service is one of my favorite things about luxury properties
*Comfy high-end bedding. Mattresses are somewhat firm.
*Great water pressure and shower heads
*Pet-friendly, but pets are not allowed in all parts of the hotels and they have certain entrances. You will need to go over that with the front desk at check-in
*Drools in Southern hospitality, and if you ask me, that's a good thing!!!!

#NorthCarolina #FamilyTravel #Travel #LuxuryHotels

The Sister Hotel: The JB DUKE Hotel 

And just when you thought this story could not get any better, the Washington Duke Inn has a sister hotel less than a mile from the Inn called the JB Duke Hotel.

This contemporary property near Duke's Fuqua School of Business and Duke's baseball stadium is also a four-diamond rated, but has a completely different tone and feel that Washington Duke Inn.  Due to the hotel's relationship with the business school, guests typically stay longer (think meetings and conferences) at this property, but it does attract the leisure guest, too. I had breakfast at the JB Duke Hotel and toured the property with staff.  There is no pool, but it has an awesome fitness center and amazing suites. Package rates typically start below $200 at this property. This fall, I'll tell you more.

Disclosure: I was a hosted media guest of the Washington Duke Inn, but this is an editorial piece and opinions are my own. Only a few people knew I was media so my experience resembled any other family. 


Keeping the Tradition of Customized Paper Invitations for Baby and Wedding Showers Is a Must in this Digital Age

This opinion piece was curated and sparked by Basic Invite, home of the truly custom invite.

Twenty years ago, I had a reputation for being the fastest thank you note writer, possibly in the entire state of North Carolina. Some guests at my wedding had their thank you notes arrive at their home the Monday after my Saturday wedding. Fast forward to my life today and I'm now the worse thank you, writer, on the planet. 

What happened? Kids happened and the quick ease of sending an email happened. I am to blame, but I also blame the digital age. I feel as if my Southern manners have gone to pot, which is not a good thing. I still love customized stationary though and I like to have a stash in my antique secretary desk for when the need arises. I buy personalized stationery for myself and even for my children, who would rather get their fingernails peeled off than write a thank you note these days.

Despite the complaining, it's my job to teach them to do the right thing expected of a recipient of a gift. I want them to grow up and know that handwritten thank you noteson proper stationery are a part of life. I'm also instilling in their little brains that if they are to ever host a wedding or baby shower then they better order paper invitations for the event. 

I certainly get why online invites for kid's birthdays or quick potlucks or neighborhood parties are popular. It's easy, and sometimes, things are done impromptu. Trust me, I live an impromptu life now. It keeps the cost down for an event and it works for those occasions. But, I beg you to please keep the tradition of paper invitations alive for wedding and baby showers.  These are such wonderful milestone events in someone's life and embracing some of the past in this technology-ran world is nice. 

You can order customized printed invitations online instead of making the trip to a local store these days, but whatever route you decide to do it's so considerate to celebrate milestone events with paper invitations. 

I went through a dry spell where I was not invited to a wedding shower or a baby shower in many years. But, I have moved into a neighborhood with friends younger than me and I have a baby shower to attend for my neighbor next weekend. I received a paper invitation in the mail and I loved it. I love paper invitations because I can hold it and put it on a bulletin board as a reminder. This invite didn't get buried in my email where it typically takes me a long time to find it again. I also promptly RSVP'd for the event. I've been known to forget to RSVP online invites because I don't do it right away then I forget about the invite in an email. 

The hosts for this baby shower chose an animals baby shower invitation design and apparently that is the biggest trend right now for baby shower invitations. Of course, I spent an hour or so looking at the designs and one of my favorite designs is in the baby showers for girls templates. It's for twins and it's two smiling peas. It's adorable. I also like this template below for craft brew loving parents-to-be. 

When I was pregnant with Jack, some friends of ours hosted a couple's shower. I think in today's world, it's nice to keep the tradition of paper, but think outside the box when hosting an event. The invitation pictured would be perfect to host at a local brewery, just make sure you have some sparking punch on hand for the mom-to-be. 

I'm entering a new stage of life, and some of my college friends now have children getting married or are having babies. Will's aunt, who is at never at a lost for words, said this past weekend that fifty plus is truly the golden years. I believe it. It's fun to have milestone events on the calendar again instead of birthday parties at the local jump place. Of course, when she turned 50, her children were out of the house and grown. We've got a ways to go on that empty nest front. 

I'm not hosting an event anytime soon, but I did order some new business cards from Basic Invite and I love them. Ordering and customizing them was a breeze. They are two-sided cards. The ordering process would be the same for online invitations or stationery.  I recommend the company for your needs. Here are a few things that set this company apart from other online stores. 

Almost Unlimited Colors - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers almost unlimited color options with instant previews online. Once you select a design you can change the color of each element on the card to over 180 different color options so you can make sure the card is exactly how you want it down to the littlest detail. 

Custom Samples - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their actual invitation so you can see exactly how it will print as well as the paper quality before you have to place your final order.

Over 40 Different Colors of Envelopes - Basic Invite is just as colorful with envelopes as it is with its invitations. Customers can choose from over 40 different colors when it comes to their envelopes so that you can make your invitation stand out even before it is opened. All of Basic Invites envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be quickly and securely closed.

Address Capturing Service - Basic Invite offers an address capturing service that allows customers to simply share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media to request their friends and family’s addresses which will be stored in the customer’s account and can then be selected during the design process. Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at no cost on all Christmas card orders.

Foil - Foil cards are available in gold, silver, and rose gold. Customers can choose flat or raised foil on all of Basic Invite’s foil designs.

I will definitely use Basic Invite again for stationery or any future events I may host.  If you re hosting an event in the future, this coupon code of 15FF51 is valid for 15% off for a limited time. 

How do you feel about printed invitations and customized stationery? Are you a fan like me? 

FTC Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Basic Invite. The conversation was sparked by their sponsorship of my writing, but opinions of this company are my own. 


8 Great Lunch Spots Near NC State University

This conversation about lunch spots near NC State was sparked and sponsored by HireScene, an app that will change the way you work. 

If you're a food lover and you are coming to Raleigh, North Carolina, you will be glad to hear that you are in luck. Raleigh has its share of good places to eat almost on every street corner.

For this post though, we are going to concentrate on lunch spots near NC State University. For those of you who may be visiting North Carolina State University or Raleigh for the first time, the good news is that you can get to a lot of local great restaurants (think downtown, North Hills and even Cary, NC) quickly, but I wanted to pinpoint a certain area. We are concentrating on places near Hillsborough Street, Western Boulevard, and NC State's Centennial Campus for great lunch breaks. We could add more to this list, but I had to stop somewhere. Here are eight local favorites.

When visiting Raleigh, the State Farmer's Market is a must-experience when in town. It's adjacent to Centennial Campus and the wide-open area houses a hot dog stand, a seafood restaurant, and the biggest draw of all, the State Farmer's Market Restaurant.  It's only open for breakfast and lunch, serving until 3 pm. It's one of the few places in Raleigh where you can get breakfast all day.  No matter when you go, it's always packed so be prepared for a short wait. It's first-come, first-serve. 

This Japanese fusion restaurant with top-notch sushi is located in Cameron Village Shopping Center. It offers indoor and outdoor patio seating and attracts visitors with its specially-priced lunch menu for under $10. You can get two sushi-rolls, miso soup and a green salad for $8.95. For sushi fans, you know that is incredibly reasonable, but the best part of all, the sushi is delicious.  HireScene employees gave me this lunch recommendation and I tried it for the first time this month. I'll certainly be back. I adored the crunchy salmon roll. Lunch is served from 11 am to 4 pm.

sushi in Raleigh

This family-owned Mediterranean-Lebanese restaurant, located on Beryl Road (Near the NC State Fairgrounds) has been a Raleigh staple since 1989. Using family recipes, the deli offers daily lunch specials along with fresh sides, vegetables, kabobs, and shawarma.

When the Saleh family immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, they brought with them their passion for bread along with their mother's recipes. The brothers opened Neomonde Baking Company in 1977, a wholesale bakery and later moved that operation to the Beryl Road location. Neomonde has another restaurant location in Morrisville. My favorite is the stuffed grape leaves.

lebanese food in Raleigh, NC

The Player's Retreat, known as PRs, to the locals has been a popular spot since 1951. With lots of gourmet burgers on the menu, it's a hotspot from daytime to late-night. Burgers are a $1 off at lunch, ground from Angus beef on site, and its home to the Wolfpack Burger, either 4-ounces or 6-ounces, served with mustard, chili, and slaw. The menu has a variety of cuisine and all lunch specials are under $10.

This quick-service restaurant off of Western Boulevard that sources local offers free chips and queso with a meal every Tuesday. With a cool salsa bar with condiments and tacos in two sizes, it's easy on the wallet for a lunch-time break. My favorite taco is "Fish Called Wanda" Taco. It's crunchy breaded Alaskan pollock, Mexican slaw, ancho-honey, pico-de-gallo, and jack cheese. Wicked Taco will open a second location at Morgan Street Food Hall in downtown Raleigh later this year.

Nothing screams NC State like Amedeo's Italian Restaurant on Western Boulevard. It's a shrine to NC State athletics. This college staple serves a daily lunch special from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays. My favorite entree is spaghetti and meatballs, but they have solid pizza, too.


Cloo's Coney Island is so retro, it doesn't even have a website. What it does have though is food from a hot grill that will make you drool. Known for its hot dogs and chili-cheese fries, this little restaurant tucked away in Mission Valley Shopping Center off of Avent Ferry Road has been around for 30 years. You can also get cheesesteaks, burgers, gyros and fresh salads. It's open from 11 am to 8:30 pm.

The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area has an awesome food truck scene. You can find food trucks parked at breweries, businesses and on NC State's Centennial Campus. NC State Dining has two food trucks parked on weekdays on Main Campus Drive from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. HireScene employees tell me that they mark their calendars for the days when American Meltdown arrives on campus. That's a day not to miss, apparently.

Hunt Library_Centennial Campus_NC State

These NC State lunch break ideas were recommendations from my OutaboutNC community and employees of HireScene, which is a Raleigh-based company.  While at their office on Centennial Campus, we did some live interviews about their favorite places in Raleigh and I received a demonstration on how this new employment app for the hospitality industry works. Developed by NC State Alumni, it's available for download on iTunes and the Google PlayStore. I was impressed with it and the best way for me to describe it is to compare it to Uber. Hire Scene is a mobile app, headquartered on North Carolina State's Centennial Campus, that has changed the way people work. Hire Scene has partnered with multiple hospitality venues in the Triangle that post to the app when they have a gig available. App Members are notified and get to pick where, when, and how often they work.

It's the perfect situation for students who need to work around their school schedule, retirees and people who want to earn some extra money, but need that flexibility.

FTC Disclosure: This post was sponsored by HireScene. Hire Scene is a mobile app, headquartered on North Carolina State's Centennial Campus, that has changed the way people work. Hire Scene has partnered with multiple hospitality venues in the Triangle that post to the app when they have a gig available. App Members are notified and get to pick where, when, and how often they work.

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