travel

Where to Eat, Stay & Play in Gatlinburg

A few months ago I took a trip to Gatlinburg (my first time!) and got to experience this little gem. Gatlinburg is one of the best cities to visit if you are looking for outdoor activities. There are so many family-friendly experiences to be had and the weather is perfect this time a year. 

Stay

Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park is the perfect place to stay for families, girl/guy trips or couples. Located within minutes of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, downtown Gatlinburg, Dollywood and Anakeesta. They have a spa, zipline, mini golf, playground, pool, indoor waterpark and food & beverage options and communal grills, making it the perfect one-stop destination. I cannot wait to bring the kids back here and know they will love it! Westgate really in the perfect location because it’s smack in the middle of Downtown Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The property is secluded which I appreciated because the hustle and bustle of Pigeon Forge and the downtown Gatlinburg area can get a little busy, so it’s nice to have a quiet place to retreat to. 

The rooms are huge and each comes with it’s own balcony for fresh air and beautiful views. Ours had a full kitchen, pull out sofa, spacious bathroom and closet and two balconies. You can view all the accommodations here, there is definitely something for everyone, from a single suite to a five bedroom villa. The fire pit at the top of the resort was one of my favorite places to visit at the end of each day. The views are breathtaking and it was the best way to wind down. 

To enhance the health and safety of guests and team members, Westgate Resorts have launched the progressive WestgateCARES program, featuring new protocols and best practices for social distancing, hygiene techniques, housekeeping policies, food & beverage experiences, and more. For more information on the WestgateCARES program, please click HERE.

Eat

Located inside Westgate is their restaurant, Southern Comfort, and let me tell you how incredible every meal was. Breakfast and Brunch is my favorite meal of the day and they killed it each morning. Their dinner and snack options are phenomenal as well. A few standout dishes – Deviled Eggs 3 Ways: deviled eggs topped with bacon, pimento cheese and a spicy sliced pickle, Freshly Made Pork Rinds: tossed in your choice of Buffalo, Salt and Vinegar, BBQ or Cajun Spice. Served with a cool ranch dipping sauce, Chicken and Dumpling Soup and Fried Green Tomatoes. The staff at Southern Comfort went above and beyond to make sure we were taken care of and accommodated. They were personable, shared some of their life with us and were such a pleasure to be around. They really felt like friends by the end of the trip. 

Crockett’s Breakfast Camp – Some of the best home cooked breakfast in the Smoky Mountains. 

Maddog’s Creamery & Donuts – A full selection of hand-dipped premium ice cream, soft serve, sundaes, banana splits, milkshakes and funnel cakes.

Ski Mountain Pizza – Authentic Italian New York style pizza that is homemade in-house using the freshest ingredients.

Delauder’s BBQ – A hole in the wall family BBQ spot that is outside the touristy area of Gatlinburg.

Play

There are tons of mini golf places, wineries and museums in downtown Gatlinburg and everything is close together which makes exploring by foot so easy. Here are a few standout places. 

Anakeesta – This outdoor family theme park is known for its panoramic smoky mountain views. They have treetop adventures that included a zipline and mountain coaster. You’ll also find dining, shopping, and seasonal special events featuring live music and family-friendly activities. 

Serenity Spa by Westgate – When all that hiking and zip-lining has you feeling a little sore, relax at the Serenity Spa with a massage. Located within Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort this spa offers a variety of body treatments (including couples massages and pregnancy massages), facial treatments, nail services and waxing. 

Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies – This state of the art aquarium has over 10,000 exotic sea creatures in 10 themed galleries.

Gatlinburg Space Needle – A  407’ observation tower that overlooks beautiful Gatlinburg and the surrounding Smoky Mountains. Ride over 400’ on two glass elevators to the observation deck for a 360° view of the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg. Also at the Space Needle is Arcadia, a 25,000 square-foot playground.

Hollywood Star Cars Museum – This museum is home to 40 authentic vehicles featuring the best of Hollywood movie, TV and real life. Open daily 9am – 9pm.

Gatlinburg SkyLift Park – The longest pedestrian suspension bridge in North America and the most spectacular experience in the Smokies.

The Village Shops – A collection of 27 unique shops and eateries set in a quaint European village atmosphere. 

Thank you to Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Water Park for this amazing stay! I cannot wait to return!

Traveling in Style

Very seldom do you hear the words “luxury” and “parenting” in the same sentence. When it comes to my luggage, I have two requirements: a bag that can fit a whole lot of things and still be stylish. For over ten years, Storksak has been making luxury products for parenting. Their entire line of bags are stylish and functional. I cannot wait to use my new Cabin Carry On for our upcoming Austin trip. By far my favorite feature is the smart hanging organizer inside which allows you to pack, hang up, and use without unpacking. I love when good design is also practical!

This combination cabin and carry on bag is the ideal traveling companion when you’re on the go. Its wheeled design allows you to easily switch back and forth between rolling and carrying a comfortable duffle. This bag can hold enough for a weekend getaway with the girls and is also well suited for a business traveler. I am obsessed with their entire line of travel bags, especially this backpack.

If you’re a parent to be needing a hospital bag, this is the ideal one for you. I wish I had this for both of my hospital stays because it would have fit everything we needed and then some. I love the gender neutral colors of grey and black, which make them perfect gifts for your husband, father, or brother. Be sure to check out their Black Friday sale happening today until Monday. A few of my favorites are the unisex Aubrey MessengerJuliette in black, and Lucinda in taupe. These bags can all transition from a diaper bag to a sleek every day bag.

I hope everyone had an amazing Thanksgiving filled with yummy food and loved ones. Have you scored any Black Friday deals yet? 

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The Dwell Hotel, Chattanooga

Before visiting Chattanooga I had researched a few hotels in the area. My husband and I love to stay in boutique hotels when possible because they are usually independently owned and provide more intimacy over a larger chain. The Dwell Hotel is newly renovated and reopened in 2016. It’s the brainchild of Seija Ojanpera, a worldwide traveler with a background in the service industry. The hotel is now head to toe mid-century modern with a touch of old Hollywood glam. 

Conveniently located to several restaurants and Warehouse Row, The Dwell Hotel offers exceptional service, a friendly staff, valet parking and incredible attention to detail. The bright colors and pleasant decor throughout the hotel bring instant happiness.   
Each room is uniquely designed and different. With the original floors and bones of the building still intact, it feels like you’re staying in a bed and breakfast. We stayed in the New Yorker King Balcony Suite which has a sitting area, gas fireplace, downtown views, a soaking tub and a stand alone shower. I immediately fell in love with the bright orange and green colors that filled the room. There was even prosecco waiting for us upon our arrival (it was our anniversary weekend). I spent a good hour soaking in the amazing tub and sipping champagne nearly every day. I loved the overall relaxing vibe from our room. 
Not only were we thrilled with our room and the wonderful service, but the downstairs bar and restaurant were equally as inviting. Matilda Midnight offers several specialty cocktails and appetizers that definitely hit the spot before a night out or as a night cap. I highly recommend the Pommes Frites and Spinach & Goat Cheese Cigars. The Magician craft cocktail definitely caught my eye with melon vodka, honeydew shrub, cocchi rosa and blue curacao. I love that the bar sits so conveniently hidden behind the lobby and gives guests a sense of privacy from the outside. 
Located on the main floor of the Dwell is Terra Mae. With an adorable mix of retro furniture and beautiful paintings, the decor is almost as good as the food. Their menu aims to please and has everything from Belgium Waffles to Pork Cheek Benedict. Brunch at Terra Mae had me wish I was staying another night so I could indulge just one more morning. Another plus side to staying at the Dwell, the amazing breakfast is included in your stay. 
If your travel plans take you to Chattanooga anytime soon, you must stay at The Dwell Hotel. It was by far the highlight of our entire trip and one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed at. I cannot wait to return! 
*Our stay was in partnership with the Dwell Hotel. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

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Local Eats: Stir, Chattanooga

For our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband and I took a short weekend getaway to Chattanooga. Our first night there we had the privilege of eating at an amazing restaurant called Stir. Located on Market Street, Stir offers modern American eats, craft cocktails and a full Oyster bar. They use farm fresh, local ingredients and make everything from scratch in-house.

Stir is known for their artesianal ice and they demonstrate the process right at your table. The ice melts at a slower pace so your drinks stay colder and stronger for longer. The spherical ice ball maker is so fun to watch in action and if you have kids in your group, they will love it. All of the bartenders are so knowledgable about what they’re serving and really put in the time to make sure each drink is quality. Stir could easily survive as a craft-cocktail establishment. I started off with the Whiskey Bramble (bourbon, cherry amarascata, lemon juice, orange blossom water and sugar can syrup). I could have enjoyed them all night because those flavors together were impressive. My husband stuck with the George Dickel Barrel select and water. The drink menu at Stir is astounding. With over 300+ liquors, wine, and beer to choose from, there is something for everyone. buy tenormin online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/tenormin.html no prescription

Our appetizers were the Fried Oysters Casino (bacon, parmesan, green onions, garlic, shallot and butter atop fried oysters) and the Crab Bisque (crab, sherry, basil oil, crostini, celery leaves and micro greens). Even people who don’t like oysters and crab will love these small plates. The bisque was rich, creamy and filling: perfect as a starter and for sharing. And anything with bacon, parmesan, and garlic is a win in my book. For some fun while waiting the food at the restaurant, visit dadu online and play some of their games, buy tricor online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/tricor.html no prescription
If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you know that I cannot say no to anything with scallops. Naturally, I chose the Scallop & Shrimp Mac and Cheese (cavatappi pasta, asparagus, and white truffle oil) and was blown away by all the rich flavors. The pasta dish has a generous amount of seafood and the noodles and cheese combination was out of this world. This is one of those recipes where all the ingredients truly mesh well together. I cut up the shrimp and scallops so that each bite had a little bit of everything. If I lived closer to Chattanooga I would have to get this dish once a week. My husband chose the Seared Tuna with kale, bacon, red onion, farro, basil, and sriracha potato crumbles in a citrus soy sauce. Like all their other seafood, the Tuna was fresh and seared nicely. The kale salad was phenomenal and my husband and I are not even huge kale fans. We loved the unique pairings of that dish more than anything else we tried. buy valtrex online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/valtrex.html no prescription
If you are local to the Chattanooga area or plan on taking a trip there, do yourself a favor and indulge in Stir for a meal you won’t forget.
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Stir. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

Loews Hotel, Atlanta

For our five year anniversary, my husband and I decided to do a mini staycation at the Loews Hotel in  Atlanta. We were excited to experience all the hotel has to offer: prime location in the city, an incredible room service menu, a fabulous restaurant, a Starbucks in the lobby, and an amazing spa. We really struck gold with the Loews and had the most wonderful time. Everyone was so helpful and kind and really made sure that our anniversary was special and all of our needs were taken care of. Located in the heart of Midtown, the Loews Hotel is within walking distance to nightlife, amazing restaurants, attractions, and landmarks.
We checked in around 3pm, had some drinks at the lobby bar and then headed to our room. We stayed in the Grand Luxury King Suite which overlooks Midtown with beautiful corner views and floor to ceiling windows. There is a separate living room with dining table and a huge bathroom with a soaking tub. I cannot tell you how long it had been since I was able to relax in a bath without hearing kids crying and dogs barking. It was nothing short of amazing and so needed. When most parents have the luxury of getting away, even for a night, most want a nice king size bed, cozy sheets, great pillows and a relaxed environment. The Loews provided all of that and more for our anniversary and we really felt pampered throughout our entire stay.
After relaxing for a bit we headed down to Exhale Spa, located on the 7th floor of the hotel. This spa has a few locations around the Atlanta area however this was our first time visiting. We had a couples massage with two female therapists which were beyond excellent. I’m usually not a fan of massages because they always seem to hurt me more than relax me, but my masseuse Monica was amazing. She listened to my concerns and was really experienced in the art of therapeutic massage. If you are an Atlanta local, you need to request her for your next visit. When we were finished with the couples massage we headed into the dry steam room to further relax and clear our minds. It can be so hard to unwind after a long week of working, taking care of children, pets, households, etc, but I have realized these past few months that self-care needs to come before anything else. We can’t expect to take care of everyone else if we don’t put ourselves first. buy prevacid online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/prevacid.html no prescription
Parents need their time together (and alone) to really be the best version of themselves. Even escaping for just 24 hours helped me get centered and focused again. After our wonderful visit to Exhale, we got ready for our anniversary dinner at Saltwood, the hotel restaurant. Before heading down we were treated to an amazing charcuterie platter and bottle of champagne. The presentation was so beautiful that it was hard to eat, but I’m so glad we did because it was delicious. You can read my full, detailed review of our dinner experience here. It was one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten.
After getting a full, uninterrupted night of sleep, we woke feeling refreshed and energized. Sleeping in is something we never get to do and it was one of the aspects we were looking forward to the most. We visited the fitness center at Exhale Spa before heading back to our room to indulge in a beautiful hotel breakfast spread. From the Belgium waffles to the eggs benedict, every piece of our meal was to die for. Ordering a hotel breakfast is one thing we cannot stay away from when traveling. We were so impressed by how amazing everything looked and tasted. buy priligy online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/priligy.html no prescription
Our experience at Loews truly made our anniversary memorable. Even if you don’t have an anniversary or special event to celebrate, I encourage you to take time and escape!  Where is your favorite escape?
Thank you to the Loews Hotel, Atlanta, for hosting us. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. buy proair online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/proair.html no prescription

Local Eats: Saltwood, Atlanta

This past Sunday, my husband and I celebrated our 5 year wedding anniversary (!!) We were lucky enough to have a night out alone and had a mini staycation at the Loews Hotel in Atlanta. Tucked inside Loews is Saltwood, a wonderful charcuterie and bar. They serve the best selections of fresh cheese and meats which can only by topped by the beautiful presentation of each platter. They are carefully put together and almost look too pretty to eat. All of their cheeses and meat are locally sourced, which makes this farm to table style of dining work so well. A few of the local artisan cheese companies that Saltwood works with is Sweet Grass Dairy, Woodsman & Wife Cheese, and Calyroad Creamery. We had one of their beautiful cheese boards for an appetizer in our room before heading down to the lobby for dinner. The decor and style of Saltwood is modern, cozy, and sleek. There are plenty of tables in four separate dining areas, including the patio.
We arrived just before 7:30 and were welcomed by a lovely host who was more than accommodating throughout the entire evening. The staff have a warm, approachable attitude and make sure you’re taken care of without being obtrusive. We ordered some delicious cocktails and two appetizers: fresh burrata and the Gulf Coast seafood. The burrata was nothing short of amazing but the standout of the two was hands down the Gulf Coast seafood. Fried oyster, shrimp, snapper, okra with an escabeche aioli set the stage for only amazing dishes to come. My favorite cocktails of the night were the Contingency Plan {Tito’s Vodka, Fresh Lemon and Lavender} and the Summer Break {Peach Ciroc, Fresh Lemon & Lime}. buy proscar online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/proscar.html no prescription
It’s not uncommon for the chef to come out and greet you while your dine, ask if you have questions about the menu and offer his suggestions. We loved getting to know Jeremy and hearing about how much love and dedication goes into making each meal at Saltwood. He also informed us of some exciting menu additions coming in the next few months which we will definitely be checking back in to try. My husband decided on the Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloin with potato purée, roasted mushrooms, date, and cilantro chimichurri. The infusion of all these ingredients was excellent and the pork was cooked to perfection. Pork is not something I tend to lean towards when ordering dinner, however, I would definitely order this for myself next time. After speaking with the chef, I was set on ordering the Southern Paella. This seafood wonderland included pan seared red snapper, scallops, mussels, and andouille sausage which sat upon a bed of amazing Carolina gold rice. Paella is a dish that originated in Spain but has evolved throughout the years and I love seeing the southern spin on this old classic. buy reglan online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/reglan.html no prescription
Our dinner at Saltwood was one of the highlights of our anniversary. We cannot wait to come back and try out the amazing brunch menu. Breakfast tacos, chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, cold pressed juices … the list of plates I want to try is endless. If you work around the Midtown area, are in town for the night, or just want to try a new place, I can not recommend Saltwood enough. You will not be disappointed with your visit and it will quickly top your list of favorite places to dine at! buy remeron online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/remeron.html no prescription
*Our meal & drinks were provided by Saltwood. As always, all opinions expressed are my own*

24 Hours in Athens, GA {with kids}

Last month, we packed up the car and made the short trip to Athens, GA for a quick weekend getaway. This was our first time staying in a hotel with the kids and traveling for the sake of getting away instead of having to make a long drive to see family. We arrived in Athens Friday afternoon and left Sunday morning so it was a pretty short trip, but felt like the right amount of time. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo, which was located right in downtown {full review} and since we visited during the summer, most of the college kids had left so it was pretty laid back.

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Friday night we had dinner at Ted’s Most Best. Not only is their pizza divine, but it could not be more kid friendly. There is a huge sandbox right outside on the shaded patio with a ton of toys for kids to play with. My husband and I were actually able to enjoy our dinner since the sandbox entertained the kids. Since we ate there early, we also partook in happy hour, which is basically like Heaven on Earth for parents.

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Saturday morning, we headed to Mama’s Boy for breakfast {read my full review here}. Be sure and get there early to beat the line! You will not be disappointed and it really is the best breakfast food in town. After induldging in some delicious southern eats, we ventured to the Sandy Creek Park so the kids could burn off some energy, get some sunshine, and swim before naptime. The playground and park are so well maintained and the kids loved it. Be sure to pack your sunscreem because there is not much shade around the beach.

After washing sand off of everything we own and napping for a few hours, we were craving some margaritas and headed to Taqueria Tsunami. This is basically taco heaven and they have something for everyone. Portion sizes won’t put you into a food coma and they have a kids menu too. We finished our meal and headed to Sanford Stadium to see the grounds and let the kids get out energy, again. Traveling with kids usually goes something like this: food, run, sleep. Repeat 1000 times.

On your way out of town, be sure to stop at Ike & Jane for some of the best donuts you’ll ever taste. If you follow me on Instagram (@chanelvanreenen), you know that donuts are a weekly must for our family. I love tasting new flavors and seeing the designs people come up with. buy tegretol online https://blackmenheal.org/wp-content/languages/new/tegretol.html no prescription

If you live in the Atlanta area and want to get away with the kids for a weekend, Athens is an amazing place to visit. My husband and I definitely want to come back this Fall for a game when the weather is cooler *fingers crossed*. Can you believe this is the last week of August? I cannot wait for September and cooler temps. We head to Chattanooga in a few weeks for our yearly anniversary trip and could not be more excited. I hope you all had a great weekend. Happy Monday, everyone!