Dining, Shopping, & Entertainment – Universal CityWalk has it All!!

Citywalk

Dining, Shopping, & Entertainment – Universal CityWalk has it All!!

Universal Orlando really had so much more to offer than I ever expected. I think we have all heard about the amazing theme park, thrill rides, and cool events ( check out all the fun we had the Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration). A few of us were familiar with Universal Orlando Resorts too. But did you know, there is an entirely separate entertainment, shopping and dining destination to enjoy too?! Universal CityWalk was one location my girlfriends and I had to check out! Also a big thanks to Universal Studios Resorts &  The CowFish for providing an amazing dining experience in both quality food and service as part of our #UORGirlsGetaway!

Dining
Cowfish Location Collage
On our first night out, we dined at The CowFish, a sushi-burger bar. “Burgushi” as its called here is a one of a kind dining experience! The Cowfish aims to offer something for the entire family. Between everyone in our group sharing, we got to enjoy a bite of practically everything! Generous appetizers for sharing,entree-sized salads, homemade desserts and a fun kid’s menu. With all the options I just couldn’t make up my mind. If you are like me, order a bento box to sample a mini-burger along with your choice of sushi roll and three side items!Cowfish Collage

Another evening we visited Antojitos at Citywalk, a Mexican dining experience! This restaurant features great drinks, a mariachi band, and complimentary guacamole made right at your table! On your way out don’t miss an opportunity to get your picture taken with the vintage VW bus!

Entertainment & Nightlife


The entertainment options at CityWalk are just as plentiful. Live karaoke, performances by Blue Man Group, a movie theater, awesome mini-golf are just a few of the nightlife options available on your visit.21_Blue Man Group Show

Golf CityWalk

The girls and I had a LOT of fun at Rising Star karaoke. Here  you get to sing with a live band and backup singers! Even though I do not ever wish to hold a microphone, this was such great karaoke. Everyone who went was having a great time!

03_Rising Star02_Rising Star

Shopping

You can’t come home from a fabulous vacation without a few souvenirs right? Lucky for you, there is also no shortage of fantastic shopping available at CityWalk either.

shopping at CityWalk

Fossil, Fresh Produce, P!Q, Element, Universal Studios Store, NBA Store, and many, many more to choose from. You can also go home with a tattoo if that’s your thing.( I can’t say the idea of getting tattoos on the girls trip wasn’t brought up – ha!) We decided visiting a few more shops for the kids was better for us on this trip. We had a lot of fun goofing off and finding unique gift items to bring home. Shopping Collage

CityWalk was such a fun part of our trip! It is something I wouldn’t have known to plan time for but I’m so glad we got to experience it. And now that you know your CityWalk experience will be AMAZING! For more information on store and restaurant hours check out the CityWalk website here.  Be sure to check out my other experiences at Universal Orlando Resort, like staying at Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration, for other insider tips.

Universal Studios Orlando – Staying at Loews Royal Pacific Resort

Loews Royal Pacific Resort Universal OrlandoI love giving  travel recommendations, especially ones that were as amazing as this! I was a guest of Loews Royal Pacific Resort during our recent Girls Getaway trip to Universal Studios Orlando and it is a location that I can highly recommend for couples, families, or even just a relaxing retreat for one! Sometimes knowing where to stay on vacation can be tricky. I always have a million questions. How are the beds? Should I pack a blow dryer? What are the food options like? What’s the pool like?  Loews Royal Pacific Resort had everything I was looking for and more!

First here are some “insider tips” : If you are looking for a great pace to stay near Universal Studios Orlando, there are some benefits to staying at an on-site hotel that you  can’t get anywhere else!! By staying on-site you have access to FREE Universal Express unlimited ride passes allowing you to skip the regular lines in both parks, Early Park Admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™, one hour before the theme park opens, complimentary water taxi rides, and priority seating at select restaurants at the resort.

Loews Collage 1

From the moment I arrived at the resort I found myself encompassed in an entirely relaxing place. When you enter the hotel after crossing a bamboo like walkway over lush foliage that encompasses every exterior view, you immediately are greeted by the relaxing interior of the South Seas. From the elephants playing in the fountains, to the distinct statutes and art work throughout the hotel and grounds, every detail made you feel like you were in another world.

Loews Royal south seas Collage

It felt this way every single day we returned to the resort! It is exactly the relaxing atmosphere I want to come back to after a fun filled day of thrill rides and adventure. Guest room Collage

The guest rooms were both luxurious and practical. They were beautifully decorated with a royal orchid design behind the beds, full length mirrors across from the closet and in the bathroom.The rooms were also equipped with several outlets with usb connections that made it easy to recharge personally and electronically.guest room 2

One of my favorite parts of the guest rooms was the lighting in the bathroom. It was The beautiful mirror and perfect lighting made it easy to get ready for the day with a flawless face. I would take permanent residence here just for this lighting alone!

Poolside Collage

The girls and I spent a lot of our free time soaking up the sun and relaxing by the pool while we were away as well. The staff at Loews Royal Pacific were amazing. We enjoyed ordering our lunch by the pool while we chatted and listened to the Australian DJ who came to play every afternoon. I had a great chat with the photographer who will capture great candid shots at no charge of you and the family as you all play together. You can also schedule a photo session on the beach area (with no sitting fee to hotel guests) if you’ve been putting off that family photo. In addition to the relaxing view the poolside staff also plan a variety of fun games each afternoon and on select evenings “dive -in” movies are shown.

Wondering about food options? There are a wide variety of dining options available at the hotel no matter what time of day you your tummy starts to rumble. I ate at the amazing Islands Dining Room for breakfast every morning and my lunch served at the pool came from Bula’s Bar & Grille. Here is a list of all the amazing food options you have  without ever having to leave property!

Wantilan Luau – live music and authentic Polynesian cuisine (reservations required)
Emeril’s Tchoup Chop – Emeril Lagasse’s take on Asian/Polynesian cuisine
Islands Dining Room – offering breakfast and dinner
Jake’s American Bar – featuring live entertainment on select nights
Orchid Court Lounge & Sushi Bar – inventive sushi and South Seas martinis
Bula Bar & Grille – poolside eatery
Room service – available 24 hours a day!!!

It’s easy to indulge while on vacation. To help keep you on track with your fitness routine during your stay, you will find a beautifully designed fitness center near the pool. A very accommodating locker room is available help you freshen up without having to go back to your room.Fitness CollageGetting to and from Loews Royal Pacific is a breeze with many transportation options available at no cost. We took the water taxi many times during our stay and laughed the jokes told by our favorite driver. There is also a walking path that is just a short walk with plenty of shade. If you get tired along the route, there are pedicab drivers that accept tips for payment only. It’s a fun experience for those that have never done it. On the way back to the airport, I utilized the private towncar from the resort. It was reasonably priced ( only $5 more than a taxi) and immediately available.Transportation CollageIt really is such a great place to stay. For more information on making reservations for your next getaway visit the Loews Hotels site for all the info. Thanks so much to the folks at Universal for providing these amazing accommodations, meals and entertainment for review during our #UORGirlsGetaway. If you missed it, be sure to check out all the fun we had during the Universal Studios Mardi Gras Celebration.

 

Hotel Ella Austin’s Iconic Landmark Boutique Hotel

Hotel Ella

As part of the Volkswagen #VWDrive event, Randall and I had the privilege of being guests at Hotel Ella.  As Austin “locals” now, it was fun to explore a new spot in our own city. After our stay, I am officially claiming Hotel Ella my favorite luxury staycation destination in Austin! It is a spot rich in local history, art, and luxury making it my ideal combination. Hotel Ella registrationFrom the moment we arrived on property, we were greeted with exceptional care and attentiveness. The hotel staff were at the ready attending to every detail. Their hospitality was so genuine and able to anticipate our every need to meet it with superior quality. When you visit I recommend planning to talk with a staff member about their favorite part the hotel, everyone has a unique story to share and are well versed in the property’s history.

hotel ella lobby

And what a history it has! Previously known as the Mansion at Judges’ Hill and the Goodall Wooten Mansion, this elegant estate stands today as an iconic Austin landmark.  The origins of the property can be traced back to 1846 when the land was first granted to Adam Mag by the State of Texas only a year after it was admitted to the union. Hotel Ella Front doorAfter undergoing a multimillion dollar renovation in the late summer of 2013, it opened as the world-class travel experience, Hotel Ella. So much of the original architecture is still intact today , including the beautifully detailed fireplace mantel and doorways seen in the pictures above.  They are an esteemed part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, as well as the Southern Living hotel collection.
Hotel Ella guestroomHotel Ella features 47 impressive guestrooms, a cabana lined lap pool, and a wraparound veranda overlooking the well-manicured lawn.Hotel Ella veranda
Around every corner you can enjoy an abundance of art pieces that are periodically exchanged. Being the art lovers that we are, we could have enjoyed walking the hallways as our personal art gallery for a portion of our stay.Hotel Ella Art

If you’re famished from your journey, you’ll be glad to know that the dining options on site have received just as much attention to detail. Goodall’s Kitchen & Bar is a local American Bistro with lovely indoor and outdoor dining options. Foodies will not be disappointed.

Hotel Ella foods

Whether you are traveling to Austin or a local resident, be sure to put Hotel Ella on your agenda of “must see Austin”.  Take a tour of the property for your next event, or stop into the Parlor Bar for signature hand-crafted cocktails( half-off during weekday happy hour 4-7 pm). After one visit, this luxe mansion estate will feel like home. We didn’t want to leave.

To see more of Hotel Ella and reserve your next stay visit hotelella.com. and follow on twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Hotel Ella|1900 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78705|800-311-1619

*We received an overnight stay on this property as part of our participation in the VWDrive event and all thoughts/opinions are solely our own. 

 

Beaches Turks & Caicos #BeachesMoms

Beaches Collage 1

Beaches Turks & Caicos,  ya’ll. Turks & Caicos. All I can think to say at this moment is I. LOVE. MY. JOB.

In 2 days, I will be heading to one of the most beautiful beach resorts in the world, Beaches Turks & Caicos. Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa offers a 45,000 square-foot waterpark; four magnificent villages, architecture and ambiance of Italy, France, the Caribbean and Key West; a 12-mile beach lapped by clear turquoise waters; 19 restaurants and bars; and endless fun activities for everyone, – all located on one of the world’s best beaches.

As fabulous as Beaches Resorts are That’s Not All! This entire trip is possible because I was selected to attend Social Media on the Sand, an invitation-only social media conference. During my stay, I will get to hear from the most amazing CEOs and experts in the field of social media. The line up is inspiring to say the least.

  • Adam Stewart (CEO, Sandals Resorts International)
  • Debbie-Ann White (Senior Vice President of Public Relations and Promotions, Unique Vacations, Inc.)
  • Maria Bailey (CEO, BSM Media | Host, Mom Talk Radio)
  • Amy Baxter (MD, CEO, MMJ Labs)
  • Lori Lorenz (Director of Marketing and Business Development, HP)
  • Stephen Paljieg (Sr. Marketing Director, Kimberly-Clark)
  • Colleen Padilla (Owner, Classy Mommy)
  • Joey Fortman (Real Mom Media)
  • and several more!!!

We have been looking forward to this for so long. The kids are ready, laundry is done,  grandmamma is on her way, passports and luggage are out- It’s time to pack! We will also be celebrating Randy’s birthday on Saturday while we are there. (This should definitely qualify me for Best Wife Ever award, don’t cha think?!?!) The next several days are going to be filled with excitement!!

The Top 3 Best Travel Websites to Search When Flying

top 3 travel websites
Remember that one time you suddenly realized you had neglected to buy airfare for two of your six family members for THE family vacation…..Annnnnnd there was say, only about a week and a half until said family vacation….Yeah, that was today. Two of our family members were about to experience their own version of Home Alone.

home alone
As you can imagine, I spent the majority of my morning matching up flight times and prices. It turns out that even in a panic, I am still extremely  budget conscious.  My frantic airline research was simplified by a few  travel search engine sites that you simplymust to know about! I’ve included my top 3 favorites for you in case you ever need a last-minute flight. Keep in mind, these are great for planning ahead too. 😉

The Top 3 Best Travel Websites to Search When Flying

Airfarewatchdog: airfarewatchdog.com This is one site I check weekly, whether I have a trip on the horizon or not.  This site will allow you to search every low fare leaving a selected city that particular day. That’s a great feature if you are itching to get out-of-town with no particular destination in mind or maybe you are up for a little weekend getaway. They will also send you an alert if a certain flight you are looking for goes on sale.

Skyscanner : www.skyscanner.com Skyscanner is a travel search engine that searches every airline and travel deal site charging no search or booking fees to you. Once you’ve found your chosen flights, hotel or car on Skyscanner, you are taken directly to the website of the travel provider to make your booking and pay directly with them. I found it pulled the lowest rate of any search engine every time.

ITA software by Google:  matrix.itasoftware.com ITA Software is a travel industry software division of Google. ITA’s airfare search and pricing system is now used by travel companies such as Orbitz, Bing Travel, Kayak.com, CheapTickets, and airlines such as American, United Airlines, US Airways, and Virgin Atlantic.

Using these sites, I was able to find and book our last two remaining flights at the lowest rate of the day. In fact, they were even lower than the original flights booked.  In my defense, I hadn’t completely forgotten about this trip. We have all been looking forward to it for a while but some of the flights had to be booked by an agent.  I had just been waiting to find that “perfect deal” for the others. I may have just cut it too close to the deadline this time.

Thanks to these great sites, I feel confident in the price I paid and all the Chases will get to enjoy the beach together. Stay tuned for more awesome travel tips, reviews, and deals over the next few weeks. It’s a big season of travel for the Chases!

Where are you traveling this year?