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6 Reasons to Visit Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston Salem TavernIn all my travels I’ve never visited North Carolina. Sure, I’ve driven through the state many a time, but I’ve never actually explored it until recently. Last month my girlfriend Susan and I went on an epic six day action packed tour of the state which included Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Pittsboro.

It was a trip filled with history, gorgeous scenery and a tremendous amount of delicious bites. Each town different than the last and filled with activities for all. Today I’m going to share with you my finds in Winston-Salem. A town I found captivating. So much so that I’m actually planning a family trip back there in the very near future.

Here are 6 not to miss experiences in Winston-Salem…

1. Old Salem Museum & Gardens

WinstonSalemOld Salem Museum and Gardens is located in the historic town of Old Salem. It’s a fully restored Moravian congregation town dating back to 1766. It consists of historically accurate buildings, gardens and reenactors who educate visitors by giving them a glimpse into the past.

This is the perfect place to bring a family as there are activities for both kids and adults alike.

Adults will delight in learning all about heirloom plant varieties in the historically accurate gardens where you can watch planting, harvesting and even cooking in the kitchen of a period home.

Architecture buffs will marvel at how the homes and businesses were preserved and renovated. Be sure to visit the Single Brothers’ house to see good examples of Moravian half timber construction. It’s no wonder the buildings stood the test of time. They were solidly built. The expression they don’t make it like that anymore is highly applicable here.

All ages will find God’s Acre fascinating. A Moravian graveyard, God’s Acre is a beautiful but simple resting place of the Moravian people that inhabited Old Salem. What’s fascinating about the Moravian burial tradition is that all graves are exactly the same.

From the highest stature Moravian down to the poorest, all Moravians are memorialized with a simple white slab stone marker flush with the earth. Be sure to visit God’s Acre while you’re in Old Salem as it’s a visually stunning and moving experience which reflects the Moravian peoples’ humility and devotion to their faith.

Winston Salem VillageAll ages will thoroughly enjoy the Winkler Bakery which was established in 1800. This still working bakery is a must visit as it’s not only educational, but delicious. Guests can watch the famous Moravian Sugar Cake being made amongst other breads, cookies and treats. Be sure to head to the collocated bakery store where you can purchase all the baked goods which are baked in their wood fired domed oven just one room over. The smell of fresh baked goods is completely irresistible.

Make sure to budget at least one full day to touring Old Salem. Honestly, my next trip I’m blocking off two full days of touring as I feel like you need that much time to fully see all this historic town has to offer. There were all kinds of shops lining the streets that I would’ve loved to visit.

And if you’re looking for a family friendly place to dine, The Tavern in Old Salem is the perfect spot. The food sticks with a historical focus and offers hearty but family friendly fare. Susan ordered a chicken pot pie which was one of the very best pot pies I’ve ever tasted. The food is substantial and reasonably priced.

For more information on visiting Old Salem, visit their website which is a treasure trove of information. Some of the attractions and events require tickets, so be sure to look at hours, pricing and upcoming events.

2. Reynolda House

ReynoldaWhen I first heard that we were to visit R.J. Reynold’s family estate, Reynolda House, I thought perhaps this was going to be an in depth look into the tobacco industry. Because let’s face it, when you hear the name R.J. Reynolds, we all think tobacco. At least that was my case.

And while that is true, Reynolda house is so very much more than that. The family estate is an exquisite glimpse into a life that most can only dream of. The house itself is beautifully furnished with antiques and art. Every room holds a new treasure.

You can quite literally lose yourself in the past here. Don’t miss the lower level that holds a bowling alley, arcade, indoor swimming pool and even a bar where some fabulous parties were surely held.

Also watch for the American artwork which is prominently displayed throughout the home. American art was very important to the Reynolds family and their collection is vast. Exhibitions are held throughout the year which will delight the art lovers who visit.

The sprawling gardens are another must see and a lovely way to relax. You will see people lounging on blankets and munching on picnics as the gardens are a local favorite place to unwind.

For more information on hours and admission, check out the Reynolda House website. Children under 18, students with valid ID, and military with ID enjoy free admission.

3. Graylyn

Graylyn EstatesOur accommodations in Winston-Salem was the opulent Graylyn Estates. As we approached the property up the winding drive, we were bowled over by the majestic main house. The brick and stone structure is sure to impress anyone who makes their way through Graylyn’s gates.

Built in 1932 by Bowman and Nathalie Gray, Graylyn consists of 86 one of a kind guest rooms on 55 scenic acres. The rooms are appointed with fine furnishings, antiques and fine artwork which was clearly a love of the Grays.

Graylyn EstatesArchitectural details are sure to delight as the house is full of intricate iron work, imported Italian marble and other materials imported from around the world.

Susan and I each stayed in a suite located in The Mews which used to be the stables. Both rooms were breathtaking and lush. High thread count linens which felt like butter to the touch were fitted over mattresses that felt like they were made for royalty. If you’re looking for a romantic place to visit in Winston-Salem, Graylyn is the clear choice.

Graylyn EstatesWe also appreciated the little things Graylyn offered that made our stay there all the more memorable. Twenty-four hour access to complimentary ice cream treats made Susan and I feel a little giddy. Ice cream at 3am? Yes please!

The mini bar in our room was stocked with complimentary beverages and when I was craving a glass of prosecco, the neighboring twenty-four hour guest shop came to the rescue with my favorite La Marca prosecco available for purchase, all chilled and ready to be popped open.

It’s all about the little things, don’t you think?

Graylyn also offers an outdoor pool with tennis court, fitness facility, walking trails and dining options as well. For more information on this property, be sure to visit the Graylyn website.

4. Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies

Mrs.HanesCookiesOne of the highlights of our trip was a visit to Mrs. Hane’s Moravian Cookie Factory. This is a stop you don’t want to miss if you are a cookie lover.

Seventy-five years ago Bertha Crouch Foltz baked the Moravian cookies to help supplement the family farm income. She hand rolled and cut the delicate shapes and sold them to locals.

Her cookies were so well received the business blossomed and today they produce ten million cookies per year, by hand. Let that sink in for a moment. No fancy cutting machines for Mrs. Hanes’ cookies. Every single cookie is hand rolled, cut and packaged. Incredible!

If you take the tour of the factory, you are greeted at each educational station with one of their cookie varieties for tasting. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies come in six delicious flavors including ginger, sugar, chocolate, butterscotch, lemon and black walnut. I tried every single one and they were all delicious. Luckily they offer gift packs of the different varieties. I’d suggest trying them all!

For more information on Mrs. Hanes’ Moravian Cookies, you can visit their website.

5. Mozelle’s
mozellesAfter a long day of touring, we were so looking forward to dinner at a restaurant that’s rather popular with the locals, Mozelle’s. Known as a Southern bistro, Mozelle’s focuses on fresh seasonal foods with a decidedly Southern flare.

Trying to keep things light, I ordered a flavorful roasted beet salad with gorgonzola cheese. My dining partner Susan chose the fried chicken. While my salad was exactly what I had hoped it would be, I would be lying if I told you I didn’t want to swipe Susan’s dinner away from her. It looked that good.

And all hopes of keeping it light went out the window when I heard they had a bourbon pecan bread pudding. The diet could wait another day or so. Oh, and yes. It was worth every single calorie.

6. Mary’s Gourmet Diner

Mary's Gourmet DinerOn our last morning in Winston-Salem, we went to breakfast at Mary’s Gourmet Diner. Known for their breakfast and lunch menu, Mary’s Gourmet Diner dishes out hearty portions of Southern classics like biscuits and gravy, grits served up several different ways and tons of other breakfast and lunch fare including pancakes, French toast, sandwiches, soups and salads. All made with locally sourced foods and all cooked from scratch. Southern comfort food for sure.

Mary's Gorumet DinerI chose to forgo calorie counting for this meal when I saw they offered biscuits and gravy. I have a hard time finding good biscuits and gravy where I live and as they say, when in Rome you eat the biscuits and gravy. The Romans didn’t say that? They should’ve.

I give two thumbs up and a dozen forks to Mary’s Gourmet Diner. It was a winner. For hours and directions, be sure to visit Mary’s website.

Our time in Winston-Salem was all too brief. My next visit will be for an entire week because there’s just so much to do. I especially think this is a fine place to bring a family because not only is Winston-Salem historically rich, it’s got a lot to offer the kiddos too. Museums, family friendly dining and lots of green space to explore, Winston-Salem is a family travel destination in its own right.

If you’re looking for a  fun family getaway, Winston-Salem is a good contender. Also, for people looking for a romantic spot for a long weekend, this is a fine place to explore hand in hand. You’ll be charmed.

Disclaimer:

VisitNC.com hosted Susan and I on our trip. Thank you to all the businesses we visited, we thoroughly enjoyed your products and services. While this visit was complimentary, it was not compensated and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Mother’s Day at Running Hare Vineyard, Prince Frederick, Maryland

Running Hare VineyardYesterday was a gloriously beautiful sunshiny day. The absolute best kind of weather to celebrate Mother’s Day. All the better that we spent it at Running Hare Vineyard located in nearby Prince Frederick, Maryland. I had heard from a local that there would be live music and crafters displaying their wares on Mother’s Day and figured it would be a good time to visit. As it would turn out, it was the perfect way to celebrate the day!

An easy drive from the D.C. area, Running Hare is nestled in the woods on 300 acres of land. Purchased in 2003 by Mike Scarborough, the land was originally intended for hunting. But when Mike discovered the dry sandy soil was optimal for growing grapes, he decided to give winemaking a whirl by planting one hundred vines and seeing how it went.

Fast forward to today and Mike now has over 5,ooo vines producing several varieties of grapes which have yielded over 100,000 bottles of wine.

Running Hare VineyardsRunning Hare Vineyard is a wonderful place for adults and children alike. It’s not often that you hear that a vineyard can be enjoyable for children. It’s one of the things that makes this vineyard special. As a parent, I appreciate activities that are geared for multiple age groups and Running Hare makes that possible by allowing families to pack picnic lunches which can be enjoyed right on the property.

grape vines running hare vineyardsMike took a group of us on a tour of the vineyard and the events facility. During the tour he took the time to answer our questions about how grapes grew and gave us some general info on the winemaking process. The kids especially enjoyed seeing the tiny clusters of grapes already growing on the vines. I appreciated how the owner makes himself accessible to visitors and the time he takes to educate his guests on his passions.

Singers at Running Hare VineyardBut what the kids liked the very best was the live music. During the warmer weather months live bands perform each weekend and kids are free to dance on the spacious dance floor situated in the middle of the picnic pavilion. A beautiful way to spend the day, sipping good wine in the sunshine while the kids frolic. A winning business model for sure.

girls at running hare vineyardAnd if wine isn’t your thing, fret not. Running Hare Vineyard is co-located with Calvert Brewing Company where beer lovers can enjoy flights, sip on a pint or refill their growler!

For directions, hours and events, be sure to visit both the Running Hare Vineyard and Calvert Brewing Company websites. Events are planned throughout the warmer weather months with live music and vendors. Perfect for the whole family!

This is not a sponsored post and I paid for my own bottle of wine to facilitate my review.  

Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers Market Annapolis, Maryland

Amish donutsLately I’ve split my time between Massachusetts and Maryland houses. Packing up one and preparing the other for arrival. Amidst the chaos which is packing and preparing, I’ve spent a little time exploring my new home.

One of my favorite discoveries is the Amish culture of Maryland. Being from Pennsylvania, I’m familiar with the life of the Amish. I’ve spent time in Lancaster, Bird-in-Hand and other Amish communities, appreciating their handiwork and especially enjoying their cuisine.

So when I discovered that my new town is very close to the Amish community, I was gleeful. For the past twenty years or so, I’ve lived in areas where farm stands are few and far between, local eggs have been almost impossible to find and fresh farm butter? Absolutely nonexistent.

That’s a thing of the past as I’m now an easy drive from dozens of farm stands and local food producers. It’s a foodie’s dream come true. One of my favorite finds was the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers’ Market in Annapolis.

The market is located in a strip mall and looks unimpressive from the outside. But once you step in the doors, your senses are assaulted in the most welcome of ways. The scent of freshly fried chicken mingled with the sweet smell of fresh fried donuts will render you powerless against the calories that are sure to come.

amish girl donutsIf donuts are your thing, and how could they not be, then you’ll be in fried dough nirvana. Right in front of your eyes the donuts are freshly prepared. Bacon chocolate, Fruity Pebble topped, toasted coconut….. you name it, they make it. I was especially thrilled to find hot glazed apple fritters, my all time favorite.

Amish BakerMaybe you’re more of a sticky bun person. If so, then once again you will be beside yourself with joy as you watch the baker hand roll, cut and glaze more varieties than you even thought possible made right before you.

Amish BakerSeriously, cinnamon rolls for miles. I could watch the ladies make these for hours if I had the time. Make no doubt about it, I’ll be a regular spectator soon enough.

And if all of that isn’t enough to entice you to indulge, there are shelves stacked tall with freshly baked cakes, breads, cookies, muffins and other baked goods that I didn’t even know existed until this past weekend. If you are hankering for a sweet, I guarantee this is the place for you.

amish sticky buns

Amish Market ButcherJust to the right of the bakery you will find a large meat case full of the loveliest cuts of meat. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, this is where I’ll buy my meats because not only are the prices competitive with the local grocery stores, the cuts of meat are of a higher quality. Just one look at the steaks sealed the deal in my mind.

Amish DeliAnd then there’s the deli. Locally cured bacon, freshly made scrapple and long ropes of farm sausage. Oh, and take a look at those ham hocks. Can you say bean or split pea soup? I predict next winter will be the year of the soup for my family.

amish fried chickenAnd for the nights I don’t feel like cooking? Believe it or not, that happens on occasion. On those nights I’ll be picking up boxes of fresh fried chicken or smoky baby back ribs along with homemade potato and pasta salads from the deli. If I’m going to eat fast food, this is the way it’s going to happen.

amish cheesesAre you hungry yet? But wait! There’s more! Hidden in the way back of the market is one of the very best cheese counters I’ve ever seen. I used to think Whole Foods had the very best selection for cheeses. No longer. The Amish Market for the win. Not only do they have a vast selection of cheeses, the prices were the lowest I’ve seen. Hello epic cheese boards!

amish quail eggsNext to the cheese case is a cooler filled with organic milk, local eggs, fresh churned butter and dozens of tubs of flavored cream cheeses. A dairy lover’s dream come true.

You can also find a vast selection of bulk spices, candies, dried fruits and nuts, savory salty snacks, fresh fruit and even flowers. The only thing they don’t sell are stretchy pants which might not be a bad idea to offer right when you walk through the doors.

If you’d like to visit the market, be sure to remember that they are only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Check out their website for hours and be sure to bring your appetite. With all of the ready to eat foods waiting for you, you’re sure to satisfy any sweet or savory craving you might have.

Our Disney World Vacation

Disney CastleWe just got back from the most magical place on the planet. Well, at least in my kids’ eyes anyway. And if I were to be perfectly honest, mine too. We spent the past nine days in Disney World and it was truly magical.

Originally we were scheduled to leave Boston two Saturdays ago, but at the last minute we changed our plans and flew down a day early because Boston was forecasted to get another blizzard starting the Saturday we were supposed to leave. And it’s a good thing we made the change because our flights were indeed cancelled.

An extra day with the Mouse made everyone in this family rather gleeful. Oh, almost everybody. Aidan didn’t have February break like his siblings, so he wasn’t able to join us. Don’t feel too badly for him though. He went down right before Christmas on his own to meet up with a friend who works at WDW. So he’s had his dose of the Mouse too!

kids at disney

Shannon BirthdayShannon’s birthday fell during this trip and she was happy for it! We celebrated her birthday at Be Our Guest where she ate the grey stuff and agreed that it was absolutely delicious!

Shannon on Dumbo

Michael Mickey MouseDisney brings out the kid in all of us. And I especially loved watching Michael cut loose and be silly. 2014 was such a rough year for all of my kids, but the teens especially so. It was such a relief to see them smile and laugh. It was like a shot of much needed medicine.

Shannon Elsa

Goofy

Beauty and the Beast

Mom and Kids at Disney

Michael and Wookie

leela and wookie

The Kitchen Sink Beaches and CreamNo Disney trip is complete without a stop at Beaches and Cream for the Kitchen Sink. The biggest sundae I’ve ever seen. Leela was speechless. And yes, we polished the whole thing off.

Fort Wilderness CabinsMy favorite place to stay at Disney World is the Fort Wilderness cabins. The quiet at Fort Wilderness is such a respite from the chaos that is a Disney vacation. It’s a good chaos, of course, but a break is always nice.

We especially love the coziness of the cabins. It’s nice to end the day with a home cooked meal and space to sprawl out and chill. The girls being horse lovers were thrilled to see the horses at the stables.

And the smores campfire with Chip and Dale is so much fun for all! If you haven’t stayed at Fort Wilderness before, you ought to. It’s a special Disney property.

And a tip…

We ordered our groceries to stock our kitchen from Garden Grocer and it was absolutely perfect. All the food was fresh and delivered right on time. I cannot say enough good about this service. We saved a considerable amount of money eating some meals in our cabin.

Oh, and one more tip…

disney strollerIf you are a member of Amazon Prime, you can order food, drinks and other items from Amazon and have them shipped right to the Disney resort. We had an inexpensive umbrella stroller shipped to our resort so we didn’t have to lug our cooler around all day. We loaded the cooler and into the stroller it went. And no dragging it through the airport! Strollers are not just for people with babies!

Fort Wilderness

Disney Wishes FireworksComing back to the frozen tundra that is Boston was particularly hard, but we are so thankful for the good times we had while at Disney. Enough happy memories to keep us warm until spring!

The John Carver Inn and Beach Plum Spa, Review and Giveaway!

john-carver-innPhoto Credit Masshole Mommy

Located in the heart of the historic downtown district of Plymouth, Massachusetts, The John Carver Inn & Spa is situated in one of the very best spots in America’s Hometown. Close to Plymouth Rock, the Mayflower and a short drive from Plimoth Plantation, the John Carver Inn & Spa is an excellent choice of accommodations for tourists looking to explore the oldest municipality in New England.

John Carver InnEven though I’m a local, I’ve brought my own children for overnights at the John Carver Inn. With a theme pool, family restaurant and close proximity to area attractions, the inn is attractive to tourists and locals alike!

Beach Plum SpaAnd though I’ve visited the inn before, this visit was my first chance to check out the spa. The Beach Plum Spa is a full service spa consisting of eight treatment rooms. A wide range of services are offered which include massage, facials, manicures & pedicures, peels and waxing plus many more services which you can find listed here.

The spa also offers media-spa services such as injectables, pain-free hair removal, i-Lipo laser and Pixel Perfect Erbium laser.

Bath and John Carver InnYou don’t have to be a guest of the hotel to visit the spa as it’s open to the public. Guests are invited to enjoy the serenity room, lap pool and exercise equipment during their spa visit. Robes and slippers are provided in the changing room along with all the amenities you need to freshen up after your services.

During my visit I enjoyed a signature Warm Himalayan Salt Stone Massage which left me feeling like a pool of warm melted butter by the end of it. Hand carved heated salt massage stones were used to ease all of my tensions away. And my skin felt velvety smooth by the end of it. I highly recommend this treatment!

Be sure to visit the spa store before you leave as they have a full line of organic skincare products and specialty gifts that you are sure to enjoy.

Room at John Carver InnThe rooms at the John Carver Inn are comfortable and well appointed. Keeping with the colonial feel of the area, the rooms have traditional furnishings and artwork. There are eighty spacious guest rooms and luxury fireplace suites. Some even have jacuzzi tubs! A very cozy place to end your day of touring our beautiful town.

Pool at John Carver InnKids staying at the inn will be thrilled to discover the Pilgrim Cove indoor theme pool with a replica Mayflower and Plymouth Rock complete with 80 foot water slide which will keep the kids entertained for hours. Parents will enjoy soaking in the whirlpool while the kids frolic.

This is a great place to hold a birthday party as kids with winter birthdays will certainly appreciate the chance to splash and swim even if it’s snowing out! And in the summer time the large glass sliding windows that face the pool open up to a gracious patio where you can enjoy the sunshine!

Water Fire John Carver InnThe inn has two dining establishments. The Hearth ‘n Kettle is a full service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. With a focus on Cape Cod cuisine, the Hearth ‘n Kettle serves up satisfying traditional New England fare. This is a great restaurant for families as the menu is very reasonably priced and offers a wide range of foods that will please the young picky eaters and also the adults who might prefer a regional seafood dish of succulent lobster or maybe a crispy platter of fish and chips!

Water Fire FlatbreadFor diners looking for a more adult experience, be sure to visit the inn’s WaterFire Tavern. The tavern is situated around a unique fire pit that’s part fountain and part flame. Diners can enjoy tapas, grilled pizzas and creative entrees while enjoying craft beers and cocktails as the fire and water changes color before their very eyes. It’s a fun way to spend an evening!

The John Carver Inn & Spa has much to offer young and old alike. A wonderful place to use as your home base as you explore this quaint New England town. Be sure to visit the John Carver Inn & Spa website for rates and availability.

Giveaway!

The folks from the John Carver Inn & Spa are offering a giveaway for my readers. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below to enter to win a $50 credit which can be used towards services at the spa or for use at their restaurants. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is not a sponsored post. I did receive a complimentary spa service to facilitate my review.

Celebrating the Holidays with Mirbeau Inn & Spa at the Pinehills

Mirbeau PlymouthLast month I wrote about the recently opened destination spa Mirbeau Inn & Spa located in Plymouth, Massachusetts. I was so smitten with my experience that I paid a second visit to see the resort all decked out in its holiday splendor.

Styled after a French country manor house, visiting Mirbeau Inn & Spa feels like stepping into another country. Upon entering Mirbeau, you are greeted with a roaring fire which you can enjoy while sipping a glass of wine or a hot coffee drink. A very nice way to shed the winter chill.

Mirbeau Plymouth

Mirbeau Plymouth

Mirbeau PlymouthThere are 50 guest rooms at the resort which include suites such as you see above. Sumptuous accommodations with plush bedding, graciously appointed furnishings, glorious oversized French style soaking tubs and cozy fireplaces.

Guests will also enjoy plush robes, turn down service, luxury Mirbeau hair and body care products and high speed wireless internet. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Mirbeau Bath

Mirbeau GroundsWhile visiting the resort, guests should take a stroll around the property and enjoy its quiet comforts. With babbling brooks and quaint bridges, Mirbeau Inn & Spa is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate.

BaborAnd of course no spa resort visit would be complete without spending some time in the actual spa. During my last visit I enjoyed a massage, but this time around I had an Anti-aging Firming Facial which was a little bit of heaven. A service that is designed to firm, tone and lift skin, this facial made my face a smooth as a butter by the time they were done with me.

Melanie MirbeauAfter my facial I was treated to a makeover using BABOR products. Developed by Dr. Michael Babor, this product line was created using quality ingredients to help nourish and protect the skin. Along with a luxury skincare line, BABOR offers cosmetics which you can see me modeling above.

The Mirbeau Spa also offers blow out services which is a wonderful offering especially this time of year when everyone is preparing for holiday parties. I don’t know about you, but I just love when someone else styles my hair. That’s one skill I definitely do not have.

If spas are your thing, you will absolutely want to visit Mirbeau Inn & Spa at the Pinehills. Even if you are not a local like myself, this is a spa worth traveling to. I’ve been to many spas in my lifetime and this is a spa that I would categorize as a destination spa. Right up there with the best of them. Considering all that Plymouth, Massachusetts has to offer by the way of history and natural beauty, this is a town worth visiting.

And this is the perfect time of year to visit because Mirbeau Inn & Spa has some special holiday offerings!

Holiday Events

Mirbeau Inn & Spa at the Pinehills is celebrating the holiday season with French flair. From artfully-prepared menus by Executive Chef Stephen Coe, to an overnight escape package for those looking to de-stress, Mirbeau invites guests from near and far to make the inn their home for the holidays. On Thursday, Dec. 25, guests can relax and enjoy a Christmas Day menu including Lobster Gnocchi and Smoked Squab Breast, and entrees such as Monkfish Osso Bucco, Local Rack of Lamb, and Moularde Duck Breast. The meal will be completed with sweet treats created by Mirbeau Pastry Chef Patrick Ford. Seatings are available from 12-5 p.m.

On Wednesday, Dec. 31, Mirbeau will say ‘au revoir’ to 2014 with a New Year’s Eve fête complete with delicious cuisine and live music. Guests can choose from either dinner in The Bistro & Wine Bar from 5-10 p.m., or a five- or seven-course tasting menu in Henri-Marie, including live music by the Johnny Souza Jazz Quartet. The five-course tasting menu is available during 5:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. seatings and is $85 per person. The seven-course tasting menu is available during the 8 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. seatings and is $145 per person, which includes wine pairings, a dessert buffet of gourmet pastries, midnight champagne toast and party favors.

On Thursday, Jan. 1, Mirbeau will welcome 2015 with a New Year’s Day brunch from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. in The Bistro & Wine Bar where diners can savor an array of hot and cold dishes. These include Plymouth Grilled Oysters and Poutine Fries, to Short Rib Benedict, Croque Monsieur, Green Eggs and Ham, and an assortment of crêpes and omelets.

Those looking to celebrate the New Year in true Mirbeau-style can indulge in a mini escape with Mirbeau Inn & Spa’s New Year’s Eve Package, which includes the seven-course tasting menu, overnight accommodations in a luxe guestroom, an in-room welcome gift, and New Year’s Day brunch. The package is based on double occupancy and rates start at $799, including tax and gratuities.

Dinner and brunch reservations are required and can be made by calling 877-647-2328.

Special offer for my readers!

Mirbeau Inn & Spa is offering a 20% off room rate through the end of March 2015 if you mention Melanie in the Middle when the reservation is made. Valid Sunday through Thursday at the Plymouth location. Not to be used during holiday periods. Restrictions apply. Cannot be combined with other promotional offers or special packages. Based on availability.

Also, if you are looking for a last minute holiday gift, the resort is offering a special gift card promotion. Purchase a $300 gift card and you will receive a $50 resort voucher. This deal cannot be combined with the special reader offer above, but it is another wonderful option to consider! This is available through 12/31/14.

This is not a sponsored post. Mirbeau did treat me to a spa service to facilitate my review.

Mirbeau Inn and Spa and a Giveaway!

Mirbeau SpaThis past summer the town of Plymouth welcomed its first destination spa, the Mirbeau Inn and Spa. Located about 45 minutes south of Boston, the Mirbeau Inn and Spa is tucked into the Pinehills community which is popular for its Rees Jones golf course.

Mirbeau Inn and Spa boasts French-inspired accommodations, two fine dining establishments and a full service spa complete with resting room, heated whirlpool plunge pool and eucalyptus infused steam rooms.

As a resident of the South Shore for the past two decades, it used to be that I had to drive to the city in order to experience a full service spa. Now that one has opened in my own town, I was eager to check it out. So last month I booked a service in order to get the inside scoop!

Mirbeau Spa Serenity RoomMy day started with some quiet time in what Mirbeau calls a resting room. Spas often times refer to rooms such as this as serenity rooms. And I have to tell you, it doesn’t get much more serene than this. With a heated foot massage pool, ample beds for relaxing and a roaring fire in the oversized fireplace, I was feeling rather serene.

Mirbeau Spa

Mirbeau Spa RoomWith a full spa menu, it will be a challenge for you to decide which of the luxurious services you will indulge in. Massage, facials, nail treatments, scrubs and wraps are just some of the spa offerings. And if you can’t decide on just one, you can take advantage of one of their packages.

I chose the Mirbeau Ritual Body Treatment which included an all-natural sugar body scrub and full body massage.

After relaxing for a bit in the resting room, I was led to the spa room which was rather opulent with a roaring fire and soft playing music. Before the treatment started, I was asked to choose a scented oil from two vials that would be used during my massage. After making my choice, I climbed up onto the heated massage table and promptly forgot about any worry that was in my mind as my body was scrubbed, oiled and kneaded away.

It was utter bliss for eighty solid minutes.

Mirbeau Spa PoolAfter my treatment I took advantage of the complimentary spa offerings. The outdoor heated plunge whirlpool was a special treat on that cool fall day. I also went back to the resting room because that heated foot pool was by far one of the most relaxing things I’ve experienced. Did I mention that you can enjoy a glass of wine while you soak your feet?

And if it’s exercise you are looking for, there’s a fitness center on the property and daily yoga and exercise classes available. You quite literally could spend the whole day enjoying the facilities, there’s that much to experience.

Mirbeau Spa LunchI finished my day at Mirbeau Inn and Spa by having lunch at the Bistro and Wine Bar. Beautifully appointed with French style furnishings, the Bistro and Wine Bar is a sophisticated place to enjoy a bite to eat. Sandwiches, salads, entrees and a full drink menu are offered in their bright dining room complete with yet another roaring fireplace. I was delighted to find a charcuterie board on the menu which did not disappoint. That paired with a bowl of butternut squash bisque was a fine end to my sumptuous day at Mirbeau Inn and Spa.

If you are looking for a weekend spa getaway, Mirbeau Inn and Spa is a fine choice. Between the spa offerings, fine dining, luxurious accommodations and close proximity to an award winning golf course, this would be a natural choice for those seeking a decadent weekend away.

For more information on Mirbeau Inn and Spa, be sure to check out their website and Facebook page.

Giveaway!

How would you like to enter to win an overnight stay for one night at the Mirbeau Inn and Spa plus breakfast for two?* To enter, use the Rafflecopter entry form below. Please keep in mind that this giveaway is for a spa located in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Please enter only if you can get to this location. Good luck!
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This is not a sponsored post. However, I did receive a discounted spa service and a complimentary lunch to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.

*Gift certificate expires 10/30/15. Can only be used on Monday through Thursday subject to availability. Not valid during July, August or Holiday periods. Gift certificate does not include taxes or gratuities. Gift certificate may not be transferred, extended or redeemed as a gift card. 72 hour cancellation policies apply for all spa treatments.

Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa Review

Beaches Turks and CaicosBeaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages and Spa is an all inclusive vacation destination geared towards families with children of all ages. The property consists of four villages, Caribbean, French, Key West and Italian. And all are designed around those themes.

For my stay I was placed in the Italian village. With Renaissance style architecture, a piazza, shopping boutiques and an elegant pool with swim up bar and whirlpool, I certainly felt like I was situated smack dab in the middle of Old World charm and luxury.

Let’s check out the rooms in Italy…

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteMy room was a suite that would comfortably fit a family of five. The furnishings were exquisite dark woods with European accents. Just check out that turned wood four poster bed. The accommodations were comfortable to say the very least. If I could’ve packed that bed as my souvenir, I would have. The mattress was dreamy.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteThe kids’ sleeping area was separate from the master bedroom. It was furnished with bunk beds, plenty of storage for clothing and a play area complete with Xbox. This room was also tastefully decorated which is a recurrent theme throughout the resort, you will come to find.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SuiteThe room had a small balcony and spectacular views of the pool and the ocean just beyond. A lovely place to enjoy a cup of coffee.

Beaches Turks and Caicos Room BarOr perhaps you’d rather enjoy that view with something a little more adult. Not a problem. Just mosey on over to your personal bar which is completely stocked with soft drinks, wine and liquor. And being that this is an all inclusive, it’s all yours for the taking.

While I stayed at the Italian village, I did happen to visit all of the other villages. Each one was unique and had different restaurants and swimming areas. There were also a variety of different shops, so it’s good to walk around and check them all out.

I found the quietest village to be Key West. This village is the newest and the most adult out of all the villages. On the other hand, I found the Caribbean village to be the most kid centric. Or at least, that’s where I happened to see most of the kids.

Out of all of the villages, I did enjoy the Italian village the most. The swim up pool bar was a hub of activity that I really enjoyed. It was a great place to meet other people and the bartenders poured some seriously delicious drinks. Those folks at the bar have some skills.

Beaches Turks and CaicosAnd if you have wee folk, this is your kind of vacation. There are just so many activities for the kids. Beaches offers a kids camp where they can enjoy all kinds of fun stuff to do like scavenger hunts, magic shows, sandcastle building, water sports and of course special visits with the Sesame Street characters.

Heck, I even got a giggle from meeting my favorite childhood characters. There are stage shows, parades and meet and greet opportunities where you and your kids can meet the entire Sesame Street gang. So much fun!

There are even activities for teens and tweens such as a special nightclub called Liquid where kids can hang out, dance and make new friends. There’s also bonfires, a game room, Xbox Play Lounge and even a surf simulator. Like I said, something for every age group.

And if you want some time to go off and do your own thing like have a special dinner out with your honey, Beaches offers nighttime care as well.

Beaches Turks and Caicos KayakingOne of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was the water sports. Beaches offers all kinds of water activities as part of your package. Included are kayaking, aqua trikes, paddle boards, Hobie Cat sailing, snorkeling, windsurfing and even scuba diving.

Yup, you read that right. If you are a certified diver, scuba diving is part of your package. Have you ever paid for a scuba excursion? Let me tell you, it’s bucks. Lots of them. The same is true for snorkeling. If you were to pay for a separate excursion to snorkel, it is a pricey addition to your vacation.

This trip I took a kayak out for a whirl and I also did some snorkeling. The folks from Beaches run a boat back and forth from the resort out to a reef where you can snorkel your heart out. You’ll see all kinds of interesting sea creatures like starfish, sand dollars and even conch. One of my friends saw a reef shark. I am glad that I did not.

Beaches Turks and CaicosSo how about the food? Great question! Beaches has 19 different dining options and I tried my best to visit them all. From casual dining at Bobby D’s, a fifties style diner, to the fancier Schooner’s which served all kinds of fresh caught seafood, I tried to sample a bit of everything so I could give it a thorough review. And this is what I found…

Breakfast was by far the best at Mario’s at the Italian village. With a huge breakfast buffet offering both traditional American style choices and island fare, there truly was something for everyone. Overall I found that Mario’s buffet offered the most variety.

Lunch was little more challenging in that most of the restaurants served a buffet while I usually prefer a plated meal. My favorite lunch spot was Arizona’s where I found really good jerk chicken that was grilled right outside the restaurant by the beach. It was authentic and tasty. Inside Arizona’s was a salad bar with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies and other sides to round out the meal. So if you are looking for some authentic island food, I’d try that.

Beaches Turks and Caicos SchoonersIf you are a foodie, then dinner at Beaches will be your sweet spot. I had several stellar meals which included one at Schooner’s, a waterfront restaurant serving seafood. I started my meal with seared scallops which were cooked perfectly and placed on top of a rich béchamel. My second course was king crab legs which were also perfectly cooked and simply served with melted butter. But the jerk mahi mahi was the star of the show. Spicy and flaky. If you get the chance to dine at Schooner’s make sure to order that.

Other fine choices are Soy for sushi, Kimonos for Japanese (you need a reservation here), Barefoot By The Sea and I had a killer rack of lamb at Mario’s. Don’t forget to try a dessert at Mario’s. I had an orange mascarpone torte that I will never forget. Truly.

Melanie and JoanAnd while I completely enjoyed all of the food, activities and accommodations at Beaches, I have to tell you that the employees are the ones that made my stay special.

Every single employee had a smile on their face each and every day. Any need that I had, they were there to meet it. I’ve stayed at some lovely places in my lifetime, but I have to tell you that the service at Beaches Turks and Caicos is some of the best service I’ve ever had.

And if you take the time to talk to the folks that work hard to make your stay lovely, you’ll learn so much more about the people that are the backbone of the resort.

See the gal above? Not me. The other one. Her name is Joan and she is the restaurant manager at Schooner’s. If you ever get out that way, be sure to strike up a conversation with her. She has some gorgeous stories to share. Like this one, for example…

34 years ago Joan was working at the Beaches Resort in Jamaica which is where she’s from. On her way to work one day, she came across a six year old girl walking the streets with a snotty nose, no shoes and no parents to claim her. So Joan took the child in and raised her as her own. And today that child of hers works at Beaches. I might’ve cried while she told this story. I might’ve forced a hug on her as well.

And that’s just one example of the kind of employees that work at Beaches. Their service really does make all of the difference and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Big Bird and Beaches Turks and CaicosWhile my kiddos didn’t come with me on the trip, I do plan on bringing them to Beaches Turks and Caicos sometime in the future. I know they’d really enjoy it. And if you do any research on a stay at Beaches, you might get a case of sticker shock at first glance. But one of thing to keep in mind is that absolutely everything is included. Your food, water sports, childcare, airport transfers, gratuities, etc. A cruise doesn’t even offer all of that. And if you travel during off-season, you can get some amazing deals!

For more information on Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages and Spa, check out their website. And if you make it out that way, be sure to find Joan and tell her I said hi!

This is not a sponsored post. I paid my own way down to Turks & Caicos but the resort did give us a discount on our stay.

Social Media on the Sand at Beaches Resorts Turks & Caicos

Beaches Social Media On The SandAs I mentioned yesterday and as you may have noticed based on my Instagram feed, I spent the past weekend at the Beaches Resort in the spectacular Turks & Caicos Islands for the Social Media on the Sand Conference which was hosted by Beaches Resorts and BSM Media.

Turks & Caicos has been a bucket list destination of mine forever. And BSM Media is known for attracting the very best bloggers for their events and their sponsored content initiatives. So when I was invited to come visit Beaches and attend this conference, I was more than a little bit excited!

I have a lot to share about my stay at Beaches. But for this post, I’m just going to touch on the conference itself and some of the things that were special in my mind. Things that made it a lot different than some of the other conferences I’ve attended in the past.

Because there were so many amazing things to share, I couldn’t possibly squeeze them all into one post. So we’ll start with the business side of things and the next post we’ll move onto the playful side. And trust me, there was a lot of play!

Turks & CaicosEven though I hate to fly, I thoroughly enjoyed the view from the sky as we flew to Turks & Caicos. What an amazing way to start a trip. How gorgeous is that ocean? Paradise for certain!

Beaches MomsThe conference itself was attended by a lot of my friends which really made the experience shinier than it already was. There were sessions on video production, travel writing, social strategy and marketing and I could go on and on. The organizers took special care in making sure that the content was relevant and engaging. And they succeeded on all fronts. I have mad respect for the team that put this together. It was clearly planned with much thought and care.

Social Media On The SandThe founders of the resort spent time educating us on how much they care for their workers and the communities they come from. I was happy to learn how the Sandals Foundation has planted 9,874 trees in local communities, provides computers to local schools, provides dental and eye care to community members and has even created two marine sanctuaries. And that’s just a tiny sampling of all that they do to make the Caribbean a better place for the people that live there. I love when a local business gives back to their community.

Sandals FoundationEven us bloggers had a chance to help out. Before the trip each of us were sent backpacks to fill with school supplies that we brought with us and donated to kids in Turks & Caicos. How cool is that? There were over one hundred of us there, so that one donation really made a big difference for those kids.  Good on the Sandals Foundation for caring for their people.

Ted Baker SunglassesOf course this conference wouldn’t have been possible without the help of sponsors. Up above you see me sporting Ted Baker sunglasses that were provided by Iristocracy.  But there were many more that were generous to make this event possible.

Social Media on the Sand SponsorsA big thank you to Coppertone for keeping me from scorching while snorkeling and also a major thanks to HP for allowing us to print our photos. Just two examples of ways that sponsors took care of us while at the conference. Smart social for sure!

FlipOut Flip FlopsOh, and I can’t forget one of my favorite sponsors. Look at my super cute FlipOut Sandals. Have you seen these before? The charms can be switched out for different designs. So one pair of flip flops can look like a different pair each time you wear them. So fun! See? Neat sponsors for sure!

Daisy and George Vow RenewalOk, so the conference was awesome. The sponsors were amazing. And the venue spectacular. But my favorite part was the people. I’ll talk more about how the employees go out of their way to make your stay so very special, but I want to share a couple of conference attendees who made my stay particularly memorable.

Above you see Daisy and George. Daisy and I hit it off the moment we met at the airport. She’s very easy to love as she’s a quick to smile kind of girl. Very warm and so willing to share her knowledge about blogging which she is entirely passionate about. She traveled to the conference with her husband George who’s equally kind and smiley. We all hit it off so well that they invited me to witness their vow renewal and attend their reception dinner that was held during the conference.

I cried. A lot. It was beautiful. I still get weepy looking at this picture. They are one of my best souvenirs from this trip.

Kelly StilwellMy other special souvenir is this gal. Kelly was my roommate whom I had never met before this trip. I couldn’t have asked for a better roomie. We spent late nights talking about blogging and sharing tips on what works and what doesn’t. We also spent time drinking wine together which was rather wonderful as well. I’ve only been home for a day and we’ve already talked on the phone and exchanged tons of emails. I expect we’ll be longtime friends.

Beaches Turks & CaicosI told you I had a lot to say. And I haven’t even started sharing about the resort yet. I might’ve had a good time, ya think?

A special thank you goes out to Maria Bailey who is the founder of BSM Media. Without Maria and her team, this wouldn’t have been possible. And of course a huge thank you to Beaches Resorts for making us feel so welcome and cared for. The memories will last a lifetime.

Come back tomorrow to hear about the resort and all it has to offer. You are going to want to add Beaches Turks & Caicos to your own bucket list!

This is not a sponsored post. I paid my own way down to Turks & Caicos but the resort did give us a discount on our stay.

Great Wolf Lodge New England Review

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandLast month we spent a weekend at the newly opened Great Wolf Lodge New England. The girls were beyond excited about this weekend. Over the moon excited. You see, they’ve been asking forever now for a trip to the Pocono Mountains Great Wolf Lodge, but I had been stalling because that’s a heck of a drive from here. And then they opened a location here in Massachusetts, which is SO much more convenient. So off we went.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandFor those of you who aren’t familiar with Great Wolf Lodge, it’s an indoor water park resort. A resort filled with so much to do that you couldn’t possibly do it all in one weekend. Water slides that will thrill young and old alike, a wave pool, lazy river and an indoor/outdoor hot tub too!

But if getting wet isn’t your thing, you won’t have a hard time finding something else fun to do. Great Wolf Lodge has lots of activities that don’t require bathing suits. Bowling, putt-putt, arcade games, and live shows scheduled throughout the day. So many activities that they actually publish a daily schedule. It’s not hard to find something fun for every member of the family.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandWhile we were visiting, we got to sample some of the menu items for the upcoming seasonal events. If you are visiting during the holidays, the chefs at Great Wolf Lodge have gone all out planning special menu items for the holiday season. We sampled so many wonderful dishes like short ribs, fresh carved turkey, pastas, all sorts of seafood and more sweet treats than I care to admit.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandIf you asked my girls what their favorite activity was at Great Wolf Lodge, without a doubt the answer would be the water slides. They just loved them. But a close second was MagiQuest.  An indoor virtual scavenger hunt of sorts where the kiddos use an interactive wand to take part in video adventures which has them searching for items hidden around the resort…

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandEven though I’m not a huge fan of video games, this was rather different and fun! This game had us logging some serious miles around the resort in search of clues and answers to riddles. I have to tell you, I was pooped by the end of it!
Great Wolf Lodge New England Dunkin DonutsGreat Wolf Lodge New England has lots of dining options. From super casual pizza (which was rather good) to sit-down dining with a glass of wine. But I was especially pleased that they have a Dunkin’ Donuts. If mom is going to be on her feet all day long and into the night, she needs her Dunkies!

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandSo what did we think of the rooms? Well, at first we had wished we had reserved one of the themed suites. But I have to tell you, as cute as they are, we weren’t in our room long enough to care whether or not it was themed. Our standard suite was super comfy and still charming with rustic lodge style decor. We didn’t feel like we were missing out by not having the fancier digs.

The standard suite was spacious and comfortable. Equipped with a coffee maker, fridge and microwave, it was the perfect setup for a family of up to five people. So if you are debating between the two, don’t worry if you don’t get the fancier themed suite. You will still be very happy and comfortable in the standard suite.

Great Wolf Lodge New EnglandThe Great Wolf Lodge ended up being even better than I had anticipated. Comfortable accommodations, hospitable service, good food and more stuff to do than time we had to do it. Which of course left us wanting to come back again!

If you are thinking about visiting Great Wolf Lodge New England, there are some special events coming up that you should check out. This month they are celebrating Howl-O-Ween with all kinds of fun activities including a Monster Bash Dance Party and Trick or Treat Trail.

If you visit Great Wolf Lodge late November through the end of December, you can take part in Snowland where there are all kinds of seasonal fun including a visit from Santa, indoor snow showers and other holiday activities!

No matter when you come, you’ll be glad you did. We loved it and bet you will too!

This is not a sponsored post. Great Wolf Lodge did host us for one night of our two night stay and invited us to some planned activities. However we did pay our own way the rest of the weekend. And we’d do it again too!