Magic at Chetola Resort

Okay so you know those cute Hallmark movies that take place in a small town, with so much cute charm you think “this just can’t be real”? Well guys…. I found one!! And if you followed my IG stories from earlier in the week, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Our family just had the best couple days at Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock, NC! If you haven’t been, let me convince you why this is one of the best places you could stay in the area! And let me start by saying that Chetola in Cherokee means Haven of Rest.

We have been fortunate enough to travel and stay in quite a few different places around the country, and this is the only one that that felt like home as soon as we drove onto the property. Sure, part of it is the Christmas magic, which let me tell you is abundantly bright and beautiful! We were in awe by all the beautiful lights strung up around the property, in the restaurant and around the lake. However, I think the real magic truly comes from being able to step back in time and enjoy the beauty of being at “grandmas” house. It felt warm, inviting, and like you belonged there. It brings a sense of home as soon as you walk in.

We stayed in the Quail building, which is toward the end of the property, which may I add backs up towards beautiful woods and just past that is the Tanger Outlets! Major win! We may or may not have done some last minute Christmas shopping there, and Davis’s favorite part.. getting to meet Elvis the dinosaur! Major marketing points for Doc’s Rocks, which of course we had to head to right after seeing this dino!

Anyhow… the Quail building.. it was situated at the edge of the property, so it was a short 1 min drive to the main building and restaurant. If it wasn’t winter, it would have been something we likely would have walked to but in the cold… no thanks! It was a beautiful retreat from the world, which truthfully we needed so badly! Service wasn’t amazing, there were spots up there that nothing would load on our phones, and the main living spots that we knew service would be solid, which allowed the recharge even more powerful for our family. It was a slice of heaven we didn’t know we needed.

The room!

The kitchen is equipped with a stove, oven, microwave, refrigerator, and dishwasher. It has all the workings to make a home cooked meal or heat up some late night snacks. The dining space is right off the kitchen, and that overlooks the family room and balcony. The entire main living space just breathes the ambiance of home. It has all the quaint rustic charm that you want in a cabin retreat, but with all the space and amenities that you need to be comfortable. There are two bathrooms, and two bedrooms, both with the cutest quilts! The kids room had two twin beds and a small closet, and the master was quite large with a king sized bed and a large walk in closet (perfect for the pack n play!). It all felt very clean, which I am VERY picky about! I am weird with smells, and even the appearance of dirty spaces, and I felt very comfortable to kick off our shoes at the end of the day and curl up on the couch to watch a movie or play games!

During the day we explored the area, went tubing, looked at lights and enjoyed the Timberlake Restaurant on the property. There is so much history and beauty up in this little corner of North Carolina, it’s rich with activities, quaint shops, the downtown area of both Blowing Rock and Boone are nearby and we do some of our favorite shopping in those areas!

The Restaurant is open, but are operating at a limited capacity, so if you are wanting to dine there (which I would highly recommend), I would suggest getting a reservation at least a day in advance. We scored a 4:30 reservation with one day notice, and it actually was perfect for our little family, but if you don’t want to eat that early, I would suggest reserving earlier. The staff and food were all wonderful! We tried entrees, appetizers, deserts and of course kids menu items, and all of it was so well done! Our cute waitress, Cait, went above and beyond for our family! They didn’t have coloring pages, so she went out and drew three snowmen on blank papers for them to color. The cutest right?? Plus, she totally indulged Davis in all his dinosaur facts and even taught him a new one, which let me tell you is tough to do! When people go out of their way to be kind, it just leaves a mark on your heart, and we felt that here! Hearts warm and tummies full!

In the main building, which is right next to the restaurant, that’s where our kids favorite part was… the heated swimming pool! Yes! Swimming in December is possible! Our kids were in heaven. I thankfully had remembered to bring swimsuits, but forgot any floaties or pool toys. But, wouldn’t you know, Chetola totally had us covered! They have noodles, a few toys, life jackets and puddle jumpers. All of which gets cleaned and sanitized everyday! It was a great way to burn off that extra energy right before bedtime!

All in all, I would rate this place a 10/10, 5 stars, A+… it checks all of my boxes. It is charming, clean, family friendly, delicious food, wonderful service, and allows one of a kind memories to be made and cherished forever. Chetola… we will be back! Thank you for having us and giving us a “Haven of Rest”!

Should I vacation during COVID-19?

We are all needing a little vacation at this point right?? My personal answer is a resounding YES!!! It is so good for your mental space to take time away from reality and escape for a little bit. Everything has been so overly virtual for the last 6 months, and I think we all need a dose of real life experiences! Right? So in order to do that, we as a family take precautions, follow the guidelines of the properties that we are staying on to be respectful, and be sure if we are sick to stay home! And since we could check off each of those items, we packed our bags and headed to North Myrtle Beach, SC for a 4 day, 3 night stay! Huge thanks to some wonderful neighbors sharing their experiences on this property, we found it and booked it as soon as we could!

We stayed on the Kingston Plantation, which is beautiful and wonderfully located. I have never stayed in a property that was so well equipped to stay on property or not need to use your vehicle your entire stay. There are so many different lodging and dining options, surely there is something for everyone. From condos to hotels, beach front to lake front… they literally have it all, and everything in between. We were able to stay at the Brighton Tower right beside the Embassy Suites hotel. If you saw my Instagram stories, you saw our view was amazing! It looked right over the beach, pools and water park, which we went to religiously, everyday! More on that to come! Or scroll to whichever section you have questions about!

CHECK IN

As you arrive, the check in hub is at the Embassy Suites hotel. With COVID-19, they have had to take precautions so they have signs up everywhere with what they expect from their guests. We are asked to wear masks when indoors and not socially distant. It is not required to wear masks outside! They do ask when checking in to keep socially distant, and have markers to show where to stand.

When we checked in, we were welcomed warmly by Jazmine.

She helped make sure we got where we needed to go, and made sure our room was everything we needed it to be. I was really grateful for her attention to detail which made the check in process easy and quick!

THE CONDO

Lets start with the rooms though because I know there can be a lot of hurdles when you have to select that right room for your family.

Like I said, we were in the Brighton Tower, which consists of condos. Which means, we had a full dining room, full kitchen, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. All were amazing sizes with incredible views!

early morning sunrise views!

As you walk in and go to the right, you enter the master bedroom, and bathroom. The master bedroom has an amazing balcony view of the water park and ocean. It was absolutely perfect for us. The master also had great sized closets, although not big enough to fit a pack n play entirely. If you have read my previous travel reviews, you know this is something I am ALWAYS looking at. The master bathroom, however did have an option for that if you needed. The master bed was comfortable and well supplied with pillows and blanket options. The bathroom was also well stocked and provided the necessary shampoo, conditioner, soap and towels that you might need.

Since we are in the COVID-19 pandemic, they aren’t servicing the rooms everyday, however they were sure to reiterate that if you need anything, to please call and ask and they can bring up extra towels, shampoo, or pillows.

As you continue in, you have a large dining, living and kitchen area, which also connects to the large balcony from the master. The kitchen was well stocked with all the utensils you need for eating, cooking and prepping food. It was so nice to have the option to eat out or cook something at home when we wanted something a little quicker than a dine in option. We made a quick Walmart run (which is 1.5 miles away from the property), and grabbed a few really easy dinner and lunch options. You will want to check and see if the room you’re staying in has breakfast or if it doesn’t. More on the breakfast below.

The second bedroom has two double beds, which my opinion has the best views of the condo. The boys of course wanted to share a bed (which is so tender), and they can literally lay in bed and just stare out at the ocean. It’s insanely beautiful. Their room had tons of drawer storage and closets as well. There were 11 drawers in all including the nightstand, and we used a total of 6 for the 3 kids. I love having a drawer dedicated to dirty laundry, and then the kids are using the nightstand drawers for their toys (LOL), and we only needed 3 for their clothes. They’re all pretty good sized!

The second bathroom is also massive! It’s a single sink, but lots of floor space, which is perfect for us because we could easily fit a pack n play in there. We probably could have fit 2 in there if we needed to! Also, there is a full sized working washer and dryer as well! I absolutely love when places we are staying at have washers and dryers because then we can do all our laundry before we leave, and come home with clean clothes instead of a mountain of laundry! It’s my OCD shining through, but I’m going to let it have it’s stay.

One of my favorite travel tips I have learned is to bring an oil diffuser. This is in no way related to this property, because it smelt nice, fresh and clean. But I am in such a routine with our oils and our smells at home, that it feels so homey and comfortable having our smells from home when we are traveling! Plus I think it helps the kids adjust really well that first night because the smells are familiar and help them feel safe.

BREAKFAST

The Embassy Suites hotel has a creative new take on the continental breakfast. If you are staying in the Embassy Suites hotel, it is free with your stay. However, if you aren’t it is free for kids and $13 for adults. With COVID-19 being such a big deal, they have had to take extra precautions to protect their staff and guests. They have ready to go bags with a muffin, two small doughnuts, and a piece of fruit. Plus grab and go yogurt cups too!

They also had a hot breakfast option, which included different things on different days, but it would be potatoes or hashbrowns, eggs and waffles or french toast all packaged up in a to go container.

As you made your way around, you would come to the beverage section where they had all the juices, water, coffee and sodas you could want!

how cute are they??

If you wanted any extra fruit, muffins, doughnuts or cold cereal, the last station in the line up had that available. They have someone stationed there that will box up whatever else you’d like!

The kids really loved the doughnuts, so we always snagged an extra on the way out!

POOLS

The property has a ton of pools available and open! The area that we frequented most is the Water Park and Lazy river, but we also visited another pool right next to the Embassy Suites because it was open late, and who needs a bedtime when on vacation? Not us!

The water park is insanely cool. Normally we are such beach goers, but with this water park here, we went to the beach only once and the water park has been a daily occurance (except for day 1 because we got in after they closed).

On the weekend the water park is open from 10-6, and during the week 12-5. They give the kids wrist bands based off age and height that tells the lifeguards which activities they can or can’t do. My oldest is 6 and over 40″ tall, so he could do everything on his own. My middle child is 4 and 36″ so he couldn’t do the lazy river by himself, but could with adult accompaniment. But, he could do the water slide by himself. My youngest is younger than 3 so she couldn’t do water slides or the lazy river without an adult. Hopefully that gives a reference.

The boys literally went down the water slides more than a hundred times easily, and Hallie loved it too. They lived for it! Everyday it was a countdown till 10:00 am when we could head down and get in! The water was perfect temperature, which made for a really relaxing time. I actually got to sit and talk to my husband (uninterrupted) while each of our kids were playing right in front of us for hours on end. It was some type of heaven for sure.

THE PROPERTY

As I said at the beginning, this property is insanely gorgeous! It is so lush and green, that no matter where you stay, you will have a stunning view of something…. ocean, lakes, greenery… they have it all!

look at how beautiful this property is!

We walked a lot between the Brighton Tower and Embassy Suites, and it’s just beautiful! They have palm trees are all over the place, which really elevates the experience. They have splash and dine option outside, as well as the bar. In the same area is the towel exchange, which you will need to visit for you pool towels.

Inside the Embassy Suites hotel, they have shopping, conference centers, shopping, Starbucks and their continental breakfast area. They also have a grill that’s open and you can order from and eat in, or you can have it delivered to the pool. Super convenient for those days you can’t get your kids out of the pool to come up and eat and rest. Another perk if you decide to stay at the Embassy Suites was that we got 2 drink vouchers per adult, per day of our visit which was again, really a nice touch for when you’re out in the sun all day and came up short in the drink department.

More toward the front of the property, they have a sand volley ball net up, a play set for the kids, plus lots of gorgeous walking trails for you to enjoy while walking up to the pools.

The property also offers a free shuttle service that will take you anywhere in a 2 mile radius of the hotels, which is awesome because as I mentioned before… Walmart is only 1.5 miles away. And what’s better… the Tanger Outlets are also in that radius. Tons of dining, shopping, golf and other entertainment is well within that radius, which is such an awesome perk!

FINAL THOUGHTS

We had a beautiful experience here at Kingston Resorts. They have so many options, it would be hard not to find something for everyone here. We made some beautiful memories, and the kids keep thanking us for bringing them here. I think we will need to make our way down here again, because this was a much needed breath of fresh air for us all!

Thank you Kingston Resorts, and Embassy Suites for having us and allowing us to make such great memories here!

Can you do Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens with little kids?!

We recently made the trip to the Howl-O-Scream at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA with the kids, and honestly it was so much fun! We had never been before, so we were all pretty excited and anxious about the whole experience. I had done some reading about the park and what to expect for the kids beforehand, but it’s hard to know how everything flows till you get there.

We drove up from North Carolina, and it took about 2.5 hours. The parking situation was pretty organized. You pay $20 just like you do at Disney, and they direct you to one of their several parking lots. They do a great job directing people so that the lots fill up evenly, and there’s not a lot of traffic in one spot. They then have shuttles that take you from the parking lot to the park. Now, this was one of my most favorite things of the whole trip….. I DIDN’T have to break down the stroller! Do you hear me?? I DID NOT have to unload the entire stroller, and even take out the kids! That is always the most stressful part, and we got to avoid that entirely. *happy dance!!*

You also want to know another little secret??

People that had strollers have a separate line than everyone else, and there are sections of the shuttle dedicated just to stroller families. We got to the park around 1:00, and there was quite a wait in the normal line for the shuttle, but the line for strollers was completely empty, so we got right on. If I were you, and you have kids… I would for SURE bring a stroller, even just for that part. It was very helpful!

When we got in, we already had two tickets, but we still had to go purchase the kids tickets. They have ticket booths with people in them to accept payment, but they also have automated machines to the left. I found those had no wait time, where the actual ticket booths had a little line. You can also purchase tickets online and most of the time get a discount and avoid this step all together!

After you get your tickets, you head to the security line where they check your bags, which is all pretty standard. But again, they were quick, efficient and organized, and we didn’t have to unload the kids which I really appreciated!

When you get in, immediately you can feel all the fun Halloween vibes. The kids were so excited! As you go in, they have height check stations for kids where they have someone measure you and give you a card with an assigned color on it, and a list of rides that you are eligible to ride because of your color. It’s a super easy way to know quickly what rides your kids can go on, and which ones are a no go.

They have an app you can download too, along with paper maps that help you get around the park. On the app, it also gives other information like wait times, tips, restaurants, show times, things to do for kids, and more! Both the paper map and app show kid friendly areas so you know where to stay if you have kiddos.

Did you know that they also have a super responsive first aid team? We got to experience this first hand!

As we were running from one exhibit to the next, our oldest fell down and scratched his knee. He was obviously super sad about it, and a staff member saw us pretty quickly and asked if she could call over first aid. I didn’t want to be waiting all day for a scraped knee, so I was hesitant to say yes but I did, and they were SO fast. She radioed it in, and someone was there in a matter of a couple minutes. Everyone was so sweet to my boy trying to help him feel comfortable. It was such a sweet thing to see. The EMT even gave us some extra knee band aids, which came in handy when our second son fell down too. We clearly have very coordinated kids.

We played for a bit, and then found ourselves with a massive appetite! We brought in some snacks, but needed actual food! We went to Marco Polo’s Marketplace, which is a fun Italian, Mediterranean and Asian place with tons of seating. They have each genre line for each type of food. Each style has kids meals too, which was nice to have so much for the kids to choose from. They also had fresh fruit and desserts! If you’re going to be there all day long, and like to eat, it might be worth getting their all day meal deal. We spent $60 for our family to get 2 adult meals, 3 kids meals, a dessert and drinks, which was plenty of food for our family of 5 and not terrible pricing for park food.

The quality of food was pretty surprising. In a VERY good way!! I got the orange chicken with noodles, my husband got the half chicken with potatoes, and the kids got mac n cheese. Both my husband and I commented on how good this food was! I didn’t expect that. With theme park food, you go in with pretty low expectations, but these far outweighed it we both thought!

Next on the list… more play time and rides!

Our favorite kids areas were Sesame Street and Land of the Dragons.

Sesame Street had so many cute and fun fall activities for kids including a hay maze and trick or treating, which gave some candy, and some fruit leathers and healthier options. It was a great mix I thought! They also had a craft corner for the kids to create some cute Halloween art! Besides that, they also had several rides for the kids to enjoy!

Land of the Dragons was super cool. They have a super cool Huck Finn sort of treehouse for the kids to climb and explore through the area. There are also several rides, and even a little cushy area for the littles (ie our 17 month old). She loved walking around on it and exploring the different textures and colors!

Both of these areas sadly closed at 5:00 so the staff could prepare for Howl-O-Scream.

So many of the reviews said that it wasn’t suitable for kids to stay past 5:00, and so initially we went thinking that we would have to leave at 5:00 after all the kids rides and areas closed. But when 5:00 hit, none of us was ready to leave. So we just kept walking around, checked out the gift shops and before we knew it we were starting to see fog, and hear creepy sounds (screams, creeky doors, spooky music, etc).

We kept looking to the kids to gauge how they were doing, but they were loving it! We were playing in the fog, and really getting into the suspenseful Halloween spirit. It was fun! We even got to see Jack and take pictures with him!! We didn’t go see Jack is Back (the show) without knowing how it would be with the kids, but it was fun taking pictures with him, and he was really sweet with the kids!

He really was so nice, Davis just wouldn’t give him a chance lol

The staff does get into costume and make up to create spooky characters, but they’re not gorey, just spooky. They would go around and scare people as they were walking through the park, but I was actually super impressed because *most* of them were very cautious of the kids. There was one girl that scared my son, I think by accident, but I wanted to run her over with the stroller. I didn’t, but I wanted to. But other than that, everyone else was very curtious of the kids. I would have my kids say “hi” to help them feel like these “creatures” were friendly, and I think that helped the staff know that they needed to be gentle. And they all were. They were giving high fives, and fist bumps. It was very sweet.

Our last item of business was to ride the train back to Scotland where we parked. The line again was super fast to get through and very easy to navigate. Here you do need to break down the stroller, but it wasn’t too bad, especially since it was the end of the day and we were all wearing our jackets anyhow.

All in all it was a very positive experience and we loved taking our kids here! They had a blast and all fell asleep in the car on the way to the hotel, which never happens!! Thank you Busch Gardens for a very fun filled weekend! We will be back!

Family Seeking Adventure

Wanting more from our daily life. Living intentionally to seek opportunities for an adventurous life, whatever that may look like!

When my husband and I got married back in August 2011, there were so many times that I heard “enjoy this while it lasts because when you have kids, you won’t be able to live like this”. We were poor college students, just like many of our friends, but we loved finding free adventure, where ever we could! There was even a time when we didn’t have the cash for a $5 camping fee, so we paid $3 and a IOU note (embarrassing, I know!).

Why do we want to live like this?

  • Because it changes your perspective on life.
  • Because it will help you stretch yourself and try new things that you didn’t know were possible.
  • Because it helps us feel joy, and teach our kids to be grateful for these experiences.

Adventuring doesn’t have to mean traveling.

In 2017 we decided to start our own business and started making custom home decor. We lived in a townhouse at the time, and it was HIGHLY unusual, but we started it, and we are still doing it and have expanded our knowledge and growth because of it!

My point? You can find adventure in anything! Just find something new you’re excited about and DO IT!