Category : City Gems


I’m extremely lucky to have made my home sunny Tampa, Florida. I should probably thank my mom for that, actually, since she moved us down to the Tampa Bay area from Ohio when I was ten, but I digress…Tampa is so rich in history and such a beautiful part of our country! OK, I may be a bit biased about how wonderful Tampa is, but my hometown really IS flush with fun things to do with your family. So if you have been mulling over a trip to our fair city, I say go for it! It’s under an hour away from Florida’s finest beaches and a little over an hour from Disney World. If you need any more convincing, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite local, family-friendly, spots!

Ballast Point Tampa

Family time

I have two kiddos and when the second one came along, I struggled with the guilt I know all of you fellow mamas can relate to. I worried that my lil’ lady bean was missing out because she wasn’t getting all the one-on-one time that her brother got with us. One day it finally clicked with me that we can’t beat ourselves up over things we can’t change and although, she might not get to experience what being the sole focus of our attention is like, she does get to experience having her big brother as her fiercest ally…and that’s priceless!

little girl at Florida aquarium

After I had my epiphany, I decided that when my son was at school I was going to make the most of my alone time with my daughter, so we started taking mommy and me jaunts to various places around our city. She’s a little over 1 year old, and considering how fleeting this stage is, I want to make as many memories as possible with my lil’ bean. I used to take her brother everywhere when he was a toddler because he was my first baby and life just wasn’t as busy then. Considering that it is probably going to be quite a while before life slows down again, I’ve resolved to fit in quality time with my bambino whenever I possibly can. We may do something as simple as getting ice cream, but those memories of her going to town on a cone will last a lifetime! And speaking of ice cream…

Dairy Joy Tampa

Sweet treats

Our favorite neighborhood ice cream joint is Dairy Joy. Nestled in the heart of south Tampa, Dairy Joy is a low-key kinda place whereyou can expect to run into your friends and neighbors at any given point in time. It has been around for ages and has a very loyal following. I’ve been scoring my cones at Dairy Joy since long before my kiddos were born and I love that I get to share the experience with them now!

Ballast Point Tampa

Play time

Not too far away is Ballast Point Park. Ballast Point has everything from a pier with an insanely beautiful view of downtown Tampa, to a seafood shack, to even a playground and water play area. My lil’ lady bean just loves to race up and down the pier. It’s the perfect spot to let wee ones run off all that energy they seem to have endless amounts of!

Bayshore Boulevard Tampa

Next up is the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. Bayshore Boulevard is quintessential Tampa. It runs right along the Bay and makes for one of the prettiest sunset walks you will ever take.

Florida Aquarium

Nearby, in downtown Tampa, is The Florida Aquarium. There you’ll find tropical fish galore, fierce sharks, adorable penguins and more. Plus, they have a large-and-in-charge water park that includes a life size pirate ship with water cannons! My lil’ dude may have soaked a parent or two with said cannons. Haha! Pirates are a big part of Tampa history and each year we have a huge celebration called Gasparilla! So, anything with a pirate theme is a hit with us Tampanians.

Holy Hog BBQ Tampa

My final city gem is Holy Hog BBQ. It is tough to find good BBQ outside of the hot spots like Texas, Tennessee and the Carolinas, but Holy Hog has brought a deliciously authentic taste to Tampa. It can sometimes be hard to choose a restaurant that the whole family agrees on, but Holy Hog is always a hit with the ‘rents and our cherubs!  Try the pulled pork. It’s out of this world good!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little rundown of Tampa and if you’re ever in the area, keep my favorite spots in mind! Your kids will thank you!

About our City Gem author

bonbon rose girls-headshot-smallKristin Swenson is the fashion-obsessed founding partner of and contributing fashion editor for She lives in Tampa, FL with her husband and two children,  enjoys styling, writing, and is on a constant hunt for ways to help the girls next door — whether they’re busy career gals or harried mamas — stay hip and fashionable.

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Headed to Chicago for BlogHer 2013? Bring your comfy shoes, extra cash and schedule time for shopping. Serious shopping. Hitting the infamous Michigan Avenue is a must and designer haven with fabulous retailers like Gap, Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, H&M, Cole Haan and more….

Where you’ll really experience Chicago’s premiere shopping is in our quaint neighborhoods, just a short taxi ride from downtown. Amazing boutiques line the streets in Old Town and Lincoln Park – a savvy shopper’s paradise, whose shop owners take great pride in curating national, local and up and coming designers.

Be adventurous and venture off the beaten path to a few of my favorite shops. Short on time? Our friends at Hailo Taxi are ready to get you there in minutes. Use code SUMMERCHI for $10 off your first ride!

Sassy Moms Shop…..

Langford Market: 851 W Armitage Ave 77.327.9815

A national retailer with a boutique vibe, Langford Market offers trendy, one –of-a-kind clothing and accessories under $100. They only order six of each piece, so items rotate quickly with new shipments weekly. Filled with bright colors, fun, flirty and eye catching prints, there is something for everyone. Weekly promotions are ridiculous offering buy 2 items get 2 FREE! Say what? Yes you can walk out with four new dresses and only pay for two. Sign up for their in-store VIP program and receive member only promotions delivered to your inbox.

Disclosure: I’m so obsessed with Langford they agreed to dress me for a few BlogHer events. Follow me on Instagram @SassyMomChicago to see what I’ll be wearing.

langford market chicago

Handle with Care

1706 N. Wells Street 312.751.2929

Once of Old Town’s most popular boutiques for contemporary clothing and accessories, Handle with Care features new, up and coming designers, great denim, jewelry, handbags and gifts. Just a few clothing lines are Smythe, Alice and Olivia Camilla and Marc, KLD Signature (my go-to for trendy dresses), Free People, J Brand (best fitting skinny jeans), Rebecca Taylor, Michael Stars, Paige Denim, Nanette Lepore. You’ll find everything from going out to staying in: causal, day, night, evening, work.

Shop 857

857 West Armitage 773.525.1180

Kelli Kincaid opened Shop 857 to bring her love of New York fashion to Chicago. Find unique clothing from national and up and coming designers including Parker, Joie, Rory Beca, Addison, Amanda Uprichard and Nicole Richie’s House of Harlow.

Lori’s Shoes

24 W Armitage Ave 773.281.5655

Shop owner Lori takes shoes very seriously and spends a significant amount of time curating her collection of shoes, boots, bags and accessories shopping the markets in New York, Chicago and L.A., Paris, Florence and Milan. If you love shoes make the quick trip to Armitage, it’s worth it. Plus there are always amazing sales!

Pretty Quick

My go-to resource for booking last minute beauty appointments like manis, pedis, blow out, massages and more. How does it work? Simply tell Pretty Quick what beauty service you’re looking for and they’ll alert the best Chicago salons & spas. Think of as your personal beauty concierge!

Visiting Chicago? Use code summerchi to enjoy $10 off any salon or spa appointment!

Sassy Kids Shops….
Zara Kids

700 N Michigan Ave 312.255.8123

Zara Kids has Über hip clothes for your mini fashionista. Sure you can shop online, but pop in while you’re cruising Michigan Avenue.

Spoil Me Kidz Boutique

2nd floor of Water Tower Place 835 N. Michigan Ave 312.448.8128

Spil Me Kidz is a kids place with the coolest selection of clothing, shoes, accessories, toys, books and many more great stuff for boys 0-10 and girls 0-14.

chicago kids boutiques

Psycho Baby

1657 West Division Street 773.772.2267

Psycho Baby is your one-stop shop for cool, crazy kids’ stuff! Specializing in bringing the world the coolest personalized clothing & gifts, ages birth to hip adult. Want a rockin’ onsie or hip t-shirt for your stylin’ kid? This is the place to shop.

Madison and Friends

43 Oak Street 312.642.6403

Madison and Friends has been a long time hot spot for celebrity parents visiting Chicago to score some of the hottest designer kids clothing. Another added bonus? Moms can shop at The Denim Lounge, located upstairs, for favorite brands including: J Brand, 7 For All Mankind, Appaman, Aviator Nation, Ella Moss and Splendid.


About our City Gem Author

indexAn award-winning Certified Meeting Planner, Alison has over fourteen years experience as a professional meeting & event planner and eight years as the CEO of Metropolitan Marketing & Event Group and now So Chic Media. As the Managing Editor of Sassy Moms in the City, Alison has been featured in Chicago Baby Magazine, named “The Sassiest Mom” by TCW Magazine, Oprah LifeClass Blogger and 2011 CBS Chicago Most Valuable Blogger Nominee. Producing sold out events with 50-600 influential women in attendance at each event, Sassy Moms in the City/So Chic Media has raised over $40,000 for charity partners.

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When I tell people that I’m from Ontario, Canada they automatically assume Toronto. Not the case. Nine years ago, my husband and I moved from Southern Ontario to the Sudbury Region, jumping head first into an exciting and adventurous business endevour.

Sudbury was one of the world’s leading suppliers of nickel for years and although it’s still known for its mining, the city is now established into many other industries. Tourism is popular here as the area is rich in history, there are quite a few attractions and if you are driving west to Alberta or Manitoba, you’ll pass Sudbury along the way.

Like most people, I have my favorite stops that we visit very frequently. A couple of weeks ago, we spent the entire day visiting each one of those places and didn’t get home until dark. It was perfect.

IMG_5423First up, Science North.

This is arguably one of the most popular attractions in Northern Ontario. They have all sorts of fun and highly educational exhibits for kids and adults of all ages. New for 2013 is The Science of Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Exhibit. It just opened in March and will run through September 2013. Two headed calves, the tallest man in the world, Albert Einstein made out of toast – it’s all here. Kids can see and experience fascinating, shocking and almost unbelievable facts and history.

The regular exhibits are always a hit with a butterfly conservatory, live science shows and an entire floor dedicated to some of the wildlife you’ll find in Ontario. You could easily spend most of the day here! For the past three years we’ve purchased a family membership for the entire year as it covers both Science North and Dynamic Earth.


Dynamic Earth takes you underneath the earth (literally). In addition to their dinosaur exhibit, camps for kids and entire an entire section dedicated to rocks and minerals, Dynamic Earth has a special tour where they take you through the history of mining by traveling 110 stories underground. We took the kids on this tour for the first time last month and they loved it! They also have a large indoor playground as well as an outdoor one, so this is another spot that takes a bit of time to make your way through.


It’s not hard to spot Dynamic Earth and you can see it from the highway thanks to the infamous BigNickel located outside the building.  This is a 30 ft replica of a 1951 Canadian Nickel. Super cool!

Bell Park is one of my favorites in the city. It’s located on the shore of Lake Ramsey, has a children’s play area and you’ll find some of the summer concerts, festivals and events taking place here. It’s a great spot to have a picnic or let the kids run loose.
laughing buddha

I couldn’t possibly introduce you to my city without recommending a place to eat now could I? Laughing Buddha is my favorite lunch spot in Sudbury. Fancy, this is not, but the food here is fabulous. Everything is prepared fresh and they offer a huge array of healthy options. Some of our favorite dishes off the menu: “The Looper” Pizza with broccoli, onions, artichokes, tarragon and feta on a roasted garlic oil base, “The Sticky Mouth” sandwich with peanut butter, banana, honey, cashews and raisins on an ancient grain bread, Fried Pickles (because of course!) and the Fattoush Salad, with pita, romaine, tomato, cucumber, red onion, kalamata, feta with a honey lemon dressing.


Nadia Carriere headshot2Nadia Carriere is the founder and editor of Child Mode, a popular site featuring the latest in lifestyle trends, fashion and family travel. In addition to her expertise in high-quality products and design for families, her 14 year experience in the travel industry has given her a knack for scouting out the ‘best of the best’ for families. When she isn’t covering breaking news, writing or tweeting, Nadia enjoys spending her spare time on Instagram or with her DSLR snapping pictures of her family. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and YouTube.

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Next up in this blog series is from our Savvy Sassy Contributor Keryn, and she is taking us to Seattle, Washington.

Seattle, WASeven years in Seattle and most days I still feel like I have just scratched the surface of what the city has to offer. Food options abound, and every week it seems like a new spot is opening up. Sweet and savory offerings cover the taste spectrum making it even more complicated to figure out where to plop yourself down and take in a day’s worth of calories in one meal. I’m here to break it down for you and offer up a few of my favorites.

Ballard Farmers MarketFoodie Favorites

Ballard Farmers Market always stocks a large supply of fresh produce, artisans, and a few prepared food carts. Make an afternoon of your trip over to this westside neighborhood with the whole family. Grab lunch, plop down on a curb and let the kids run a little wild. The city’s farmers markets are extremely family (and pet) friendly, and will give you an authentic look at the residents of the Emerald City.

Pike’s Place Market isn’t just for tourists. You will regularly find businessmen and women in suits grabbing a bite over their lunch hour or produce for dinner that night. When the locals shop there you know it must be good. Yes, there are men throwing fish, but really dig into this urban farmers market, where shops are tucked into every nook and cranny, and the food is worth checking out over and over again.

The Wandering Goose

Date Night / Girls Night

The Wandering Goose hosts a Fried Chicken Friday’s night every week. It’s the ultimate in fried food indulgence in a quieter section of the Capital Hill neighborhood. Fill up you belly before you head out into the heart of Capital Hill for live music or dancing the night away. If you are more of a breakfast fiend, pop over for biscuits and jam, a fried chicken sandwich, or a decadent bowl of fruit, yogurt and granola.

La Isla serves up discounted mojitos at happy hour that are so cheap you can order a second or even a 3rd on a girls night out. The happy hour menu includes so many appetizers you may not even need to look at the dinner menu. Ordering empanadillas is a given, but give the pork wings and pernil sliders a shot too.

Cupcake Royale

Sweet Treats

Cupcake Royale and Trophy Cupcakes have created a citywide cupcake war. Families’ feud over which is best, neighborhoods are divided, and the city has been thrown into turmoil. Although Cupcake Royale is a favorite for my go-to flavors of Salted Caramel Chocolate and Vanilla Lavender, Trophy Cupcake offers up a few decadent treats like Chocolate Graham Cracker and Pina Colada. If you really want to get unique, pop over to Belltown’s Yellow Leaf Cupcake for their Pancakes N’ Bacon offering. Don’t have breakfast before you go. Just grab this sugar-loaded savory and a cup of coffee, and you will be set.

Hot Cakes is the newest hang out for Chocoholics Anonymous dropouts. Smoked chocolate in tiny little molton lava cakes housed in a mason jar may have gotten you in the door, but the S’more platter, sipping chocolate and drinking caramel, boozy shakes and grilled Nutella sandwich are what will bring you back again and again. Pace yourself ladies, there is enough for everyone.

Keryn Means- headshot 300dpiKeryn is an East Coast native living life as a freelance writer in Seattle surrounded by her two little boys and one incredible husband. When not dragging the men in her life across the globe you can find Keryn writing on her blog Walking On Travels (@WalkingOnTravel), a site that gives hope to today’s modern parent that doesn’t see kids as a roadblock to travel, but an excuse to get out the door and explore. Keryn has laughed at the naysayers by bringing her boys to far off lands like China, Hong Kong, Japan, Hawaii, back and forth across the USA, Mexico, Canada, and even across Europe. Keryn loves to encourage families to take that first step out the door, the hardest step of all.

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Next up in this blog series is from Claudia Laroye and she is taking us to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


I’ve lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, for twenty years, and I truly can’t imagine living anywhere else. In that time, Vancouver has grown into a hip, outdoorsy, and cosmopolitan west coast city. There is so much to love and enjoy about this vibrant and livable city, and I’m pleased to share some of my personal city gems.

Foodie Favorites


Food Truck revolution has hit Vancouver. There are more than 100+ plus delicious trucks and carts to choose from throughout downtown and local neighborhoods. We love Japadog, Tacofino and Fresh Local Wild.

Cactus Club is a successful local chain restaurant, with an eye to high quality, west coast ingredients and a menu the reflects the many ethnic cuisines of Vancouver. The Jack Daniels burger and chicken rice bowls are personal favorites. I’m also quite partial to their Kavorka martini.

Temaki Sushi is our go-to sushi house, in a city loaded with incredible sushi options. Temaki’s ebi mayo, freshly prepared sushi, and tuna sashimi are super fresh, delicious, and great value.

Family Time

vancouver_aquariumphoto courtesy of the Vancouver Aquarium

The Vancouver Aquarium is one of Vancouver’s favorite local attractions, and is dedicated to marine preservation and education. Families with young children can spend hours running through the facility, exploring the shark tanks, Amazon zone, wild west coast exhibits, clownfish cove and penguin point.


The Granville Island Kids Market is housed in an old industrial factory, and features more than 30 shops, services and activities for kids and families. There’s also a train caboose, pond, and tugboat to climb over, and the Island’s water park is just steps away.

Sweet Treats


Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie is the best chocolaterie in town. His artisanal chocolates, packed in beautiful ballotins, are made with the freshest ingredients, and his baked confections, macarons, and cakes will please anyone with a sweet tooth.

Lee’s Donuts satisfies everyone’s deep-down need for fried, sweet dough. Lee’s is a Granville Island institution that handcrafts its many flavors of yeast and cake donuts several times daily.

Style In My City

Walrusphoto courtesy of

Walrus Home in the Cambie Village neighbourhood features local and internationally sourced high-quality products that bring cool haute design into your home. Perfect for unique gift shopping for those tough-to-buy-for friends and family.

Lululemon was born in Vancouver, the true home and native land of the yoga pant and the ladies who love them. It’s hard to miss their top selling Groove pants around town, given that yoga wear is the daily uniform of many Vancouverites.

Holt Renfrew is the gorgeous home to every fashion mama’s dreams. This luxury retailer features international fashions grouped by designer, as well as showcasing bling, accessories, cosmetics and perfumes, many of them exclusive to Holt Renfrew, including Byredo, my personal favorite.

Date Night


Kits Beach is the best place to be for walks on a summer’s night, with or without kids. The walk along the beach offers beautiful views of Stanley Park and the north shore mountains, and goes past Kits Pool, playgrounds, the Maritime Museum, and ends up at Granville Island.

La Quercia in Kitsilano serves up an exceptional 7 or 10 course menu that changes daily. This cozy restaurant specializes in northern Italian cuisine, and each course in the prix fixe menu offers a delicious surprise of antipasti, homemade pastas, meats, fish, with a sweet finish.


FPRphoto courtesy of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel

Fairmont Pacific Rim reflects Vancouver’s casual and cosmopolitan nature. It’s the luxurious home-away-from-home for chic city visitors. Luxury suites, top drawer tech, and iPad2 devices in every suite. Plus, televisions in the bathrooms? But of course.

Granville Island Hotel is smack in the middle of everything on Granville Island. It’s also just a quick hop, skip and jump onto an Aquabus ferry for a crossing of False Creek to Yaletown, the West End and downtown.

About our City Gem author

bloggers-0164Claudia Laroye writes the travelling mom, a modern mom’s guide to travel sanity with your family. She’s passionate about the value of traveling as a family, and shares travel tips, advice, and destination guides on her site. She also writes as the Curious Travel Mama on San Diego-based She lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two teenaged sons. Find Claudia also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and Vine.

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Next up in this blog series is from our very own, Sherry Fahrenwald and she is taking us to Kailua, HI.

Kailua, Hawaii is a trendy little seaside town on the windward side of Oahu. It used to be one of those little island secrets that very few were able to experience with Waikiki being the main tourist attraction of Oahu where the majority of tourists spent there time.  However, in recent years Kailua has  gained increased popularity with tourist from all over the world for a few reasons. President Obama has spent every Christmas here since taking office so I believe that aided in putting Kailua on the map.  There is also the fact that Kailua and Lanikai have been rated the best beaches in the world. So there you have it, Kailua has been discovered.

There are endless things to love about this city but today I’ll show you a few of my favorite places to shop, eat and sit down for a cup of Joe.
Olive Boutique

Olive Boutique is a charming little clothing store tucked away on one of trendy Kailua’s side streets. The store gives off a fun fashionable beachy chic vibe with lovely window designs that are sure to  draw you in off the street. This fabulous clothing store has a variety of popular clothing lines ranging from Ella Moss, Splendid, Bobi, Dole Vita shoes and much more. She also carries a variety of fabulous jewelry lines to die for. Devin Krista Jewelry being one of my personal favorites.

On top of all the fantastic clothing brands and accessories, Olive also carries Voluspa candles (my favorite), Kai fragrance as well as a line of super adorable greeting cards.

The clothing in this store really fit the relaxed lifestyle of Hawaii while also being fashionable and timeless at the same time.

Address: 43 Kihapai St, Kailua, HI 96734 Phone: 263-9919

Prima's City Gems

Prima’s is a fun modern Italian American restaurant in Kailua, Hawaii.  However, you won’t find a lot in the way of pasta’s on this menu. They are known for using the freshest of ingredients and cooking with food that is in season changing up there menu throughout the seasons.

There are a few amazing authentic Italian pizza’s to choose from as well as many unique appetizers such as Maitake Mushroom, Winter Squash Salad, Chicken Fried Veal and a fantastic assortment of Gelato. Perfect for sharing with a small group of friends. A delicious meal can be made out of the appetizers alone.

Address: 108 Hekili St #107  Kailua, HI 96734

Chadlou's Coffee
Chadlou’s is also on a little side street in Kailua and it just happens to be right next to the clothing store Olive. How convenient is that? Shopping and coffee go so well together.

Chadlou’s has created the perfect ambience for a trendy coffee shop with its eclectic feel the moment you walk through the door. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and get comfortable on the over stuffed sofa, chairs or high top tables. Although I’ve never been there during live-entertainment they also have an open-stage which is sure to provide an amazing coffee experience.

Address: 45 Kihapai St  Kailua, HI 96734

Sherry is a freelance writer and events planner with a passion for fashion and interior design who lives in beautiful Hawaii with her husband and two kids. She enjoys lunch dates with the girls, walking the gorgeous beach of Kailua and most of all spending quality time with her family. In her free time you will find her blogging about life, fashion, interior design and parties at The Life of the Party blog or setting trends with the Polyvore community.

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Next up in this blog series is from Christine Fox and she is taking us to Carlsbad/Encinitas, CA.

If you live in Southern California then most likely you’ve been to Carlsbad and Encinitas via Legoland. Yes, Coastal North County San Diego, aka “Home to Legoland California,” which is located about 80 miles south of Los Angeles and 30 miles from downtown San Diego. While Legoland may be the main attraction to getting people to visit, my hometown has much more to offer than just building bricks.

Sweet Treats

Photo courtesy of Elizabethan Desserts

I have a weakness for cupcakes and anything that is frosted and looks way too pretty to eat. The best place to find sweet treats in Encinitas is a bakery that is hidden within a nursery and all you see hidden among the many plants they’re selling is an aqua sign that says “Bakery.” Pull into the rather large parking lot and just follow your nose to Elizabethan Desserts. While everything on the menu is delicious, you can’t go wrong with the Peanut Butter Carmel S’mores Bar ($4.25) which they flambe right in front of you like a true s’more or the Chocolate Toffee Cupcake ($3.25). They just opened up an indoor eating area too so pull up a chair and enjoy your sweets.

However if you have a hankering for pie, head north to Carlsbad where you’ll find the Village Kitchen & Pie Shoppe. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all on the menu but I say skip the meal and just eat the pie. With 25 pies to choose from you may want to choose two or three slices and share with your family and friends so you can sample all the yummy flavors like Oreo Cookie Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Sour Cream Apricot and Boysenberry.

Family Time


If you can manage to lure your kids away from the many amusement parks in the San Diego area, there are actually a lot more things to do in the area than you think. In fact, hidden just around the corner from Legoland is the Museum of Making Music, which offers you and the kids the opportunity to learn about the history of music in America all the way to how they make modern music. The exhibits are interactive and are sure to keep the kids entertained on a rainy or a sunny day.


Photo courtesy of HapiFish

In today’s day in age happy hour and kid-friendly dining are not synonymous but at HapiFish, they are! HapiFish is one of the most kid-friendly places to eat in Encinitas but not so kid-friendly that the adults feel like they’re eating at Chuck E. Cheese. A full sushi menu as well as gourmet tacos and wok bowls, the menu has something for every palate. Definitely order the signature Beach Bum roll, Fried Green Beans and the Hamachi Hapi.ness. With happy hour available every day from 3 to 7 p.m., you’ll miss the crowds and the kids will be happy, as will you.

Beauty in my City
Photo courtesy of Detour Salon

Photo courtesy of Detour Salon

You know how Cali girls are, we love to look good and Encinitas has no shortage of places to go for a quick blowout, hair cut or mani/pedi. My personal favorite is located right in downtown Encinitas just a few blocks from the beach, Detour Salon. With an adorable boutique in front filled with the latest trendy beauty items like fun nail polish colors or blouse you can wear out on the town that night, it’s just the start of your beauty experience. The salon is funky and chic and if you are dying to have the latest hair style, this is the place to get it. From ombre hair to hair extensions, Detour will get it done right.

Me Time

I’m a barre workout addict. There are so many variations that have popped up in the past few years but the method is essentially the same — isometric movements that exhaust the muscles to make them stronger. Hidden in an old shopping center is Studio Barre, a barre workout studio that is one-of-a-kind in its mix of cardio, strength and barre movements. Open seven days a week, it’s a great place to get a good workout in and you won’t get out of there without spending a few dollars in the adorable front office boutique which carries Lululemon, Suja Juices and Violet Love headbands. Instructors to look for: Charlotte, Shannon or Kris.

CFoxHeadshot_colorlowresChristine Fox is an Everyday Mama to three and a Carlsbad based freelance writer. She loves everything that has to do with shopping and being the talk of the playgroup when she finds the perfect shirt and diaper bag. Her fashion philosophy is simple, that being a mom does not mean that you should sacrifice style. You can be a mom and still be stylish! When she is not shopping or writing about shopping, she can be found playing with her three kids at the park. Her favorite stores are Target, Nordstrom and Anthropologie but when it comes to finding the perfect pair of jeans, no store is off limits. She has her own daily blog at, is style editor at and For more mom finds, follow her on Twitter @EverydayMama.

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Next up in this blog series is from Alison Ray and she is taking us to Chicago, Illinois.

Moving to Chicago in 2003 we quickly realized it could take a life time to experience the best restaurants the city had to offer. We do our best to adventure out of our comfort zone and try new places but to be honest we love supporting the places that provide great food, service and are consistent. Date nights are special to us and we love spending time together at one of our favorite eateries.


sunda chicagophoto credit: Sunda, Sassy Moms in the City

Obsessed is an understatement when it comes to why we love Sunda. It starts with the outstanding Asian fusion menu, impeccable service and chic dining space. Opening their doors in 2009, Sunda’s popularity has not slowed down. On any given night of the week it’s still the place to “be seen”. But don’t let that fool you. The menu is a foodie’s paradise and the perfect destination for date night when you’re in the mood for a lively atmosphere. The Brussels Sprout salad and rock shrimp is to die for and a must eat.

eat this: crispy brussel sprout salad, rock shrimp tempura, seared crab crusted ahi tuna sashimi, baked snowcrab handroll, kobe beef crispy rice

sip this: billy’s super fresh saketini, lychee luxury drop, peared sake

special touch: birthday diners receive a card hand signed by the staff and $10 gift certificate as a thank you for celebrating at Sunda

bonus: gluten-free menu, Brunch on Sundays, half-priced appetizers and specialty cocktails Monday through Friday from 5pm-7pm in the lounge and bar

online: http://www.sundachicago.comFacebook, @Sunda, @BillyDec, Instagram
110 W. Illinois Chicago, IL 60654 p. 312.644.0500


vivo chicagophoto credit: Vivo

We’ve been dining at Vivo for over 7 years and while I can’t remember how we stumbled across one of Chicago’s most beloved Italian restaurants, it was truly one of our best finds. An intimate space, Vivo is the perfect destination to take someone special. The atmosphere is lively and romantic with walls lined with bottles of wine, however the most unique feature is the converted elevator shaft – Table 70. A romantic table for 2 (or 4) overlooks the main dining room complete with its own private velvet curtains. I celebrated my 35th birthday in the 2nd floor private dining room and to this day my friends still talk about how much fun we had.

eat this: calamari grigliati, carpaccio tricolore, gnocchi gratinati with black truffle sauce, scallope di mare, chocolate obsession, tiramisu

special touch: reserve the romantic table 70 (elevator shaft). Restaurant is available for weddings, baby showers, birthday celebrations and private events

online:, Facebook , @VivoChicago
838 West Randolph St.Chicago, IL 60607 p. 312-733-3379


GT fish and oyster chicagophoto credit: GT Fish & Oyster, Sassy Moms in the City

It takes a lot for a Chicago restaurant to impress this Florida girl when it comes to seafood. I’m usually very skeptic but had heard such great things about GT Fish & Oyster we decided it was worthy of celebrating our anniversary. Chef Giuseppe Tentori won me over the minute I tasted the melt in your mouth oysters, I knew this was the real deal. For this reason alone, GT Fish & Oyster is one of the hottest tickets in town. The restaurant is very intimate (115 seats to be exact) so make your reservation early. The bar is lively and the menu is a mix of traditional and modern seafood in a small plates format. Don’t let the small plates fool you – you’ll walk away completely satisfied. For my full review visit here.

eat this: fresh oysters, tuna poke, sage gnocchi, lobster roll, fish & chips, cioppino, GT mac and cheese

sip this: 
 the waitlist (Grey Goose vodka, St. Germain, grapefruit, lime, bitters), Stoney island lemonade (apricot, mango, lemon, iced tea, spiked with Pimms)

special touch: live tweet with Chef GT and you never know what special treat he may send to your table!

bonus: open for brunch Saturday & Sunday, Lunch Mon-Friday, Dinner Sunday – Saturday

online:, Facebook, @giuseppetentori
531 N Wells Street, Chicago 
 p. 312-929-3501


Union sushi chicagophoto credit: Union Sushi, Sassy Moms in the City

My first Union Sushi experience was following their beautiful photos posted on Instagram. I was intrigued by the vibrant colors and unique presentation of my favorite food group. The photos reeled me in, but the food and high-energy atmosphere keeps me coming back for more. Maki rolls are showcased in unique wraps such as collard greens, soy paper, or cucumber, in addition to the traditional seaweed nori.  The menu boasts a variety of raw and cooked options along with a handcrafted, creative cocktail menu. And the complimentary bowl of chili-seasoned edamame is the perfect start to your evening.

eat this: truffled tuna with truffle oil, avocado, parmesan, chili fresco, wonton chips, soft shell crab roll, specials offered off the menu, ice cream bar or cannoli if available

sip this: Surprise + Delight – Cucumber vodka, muddled strawberry, pimm’s no. 1, lemon, simple syrup, muddled lemongrass, seltzer

special touch: The Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar Chef’s table is available to be reserved for parties of 2, 3 or 4 on Tuesday though Saturday evening. Details here.

bonus: classic sushi rolls can be ordered in half (4 pcs) or full (8 pcs). they now offer delivery service!

online: http://www.eatatunion.comFacebook, @eatatunion, Instagram
230 West Erie St. Chicago, IL 60654  p. 312.662.4888


indexAn award-winning Certified Meeting Planner, Alison has over fourteen years experience as a professional meeting & event planner and eight years as the CEO of Metropolitan Marketing & Event Group and now So Chic Media. As the Managing Editor of Sassy Moms in the City, Alison has been featured in Chicago Baby Magazine, named “The Sassiest Mom” by TCW Magazine, Oprah LifeClass Blogger and 2011 CBS Chicago Most Valuable Blogger Nominee. Producing sold out events with 50-600 influential women in attendance at each event, Sassy Moms in the City/So Chic Media has raised over $40,000 for charity partners.

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Next up in this blog series is from Katie Dillon, and she is taking us to La Jolla, California.

La Jolla Shores Beach

I often forget that not everyone knows where La Jolla is, let alone how to pronounce it. La Jolla (La-HOY-ya) is a seaside community in San Diego, California that’s known for pretty beaches and an upscale-casual lifestyle. With everything our little slice of heaven offers, it’s difficult to leave. Here are my personal favorite things to do.

Style In My City

Mimi & Red, located in Bird Rock, provides women with reasonably-priced, stylish finds from maxi dresses to fun, everyday accessories. The owners clearly have an eye for what’s in season, as it’s tempting to take entire displays up to the cash register for purchase.

Lululemon seems to power the entire La  Jolla mom community from luon pants to over-sized shirts that are both comfortable and flattering.


Tijon is a new addition to the La Jolla shopping scene. Get this: You can design your own perfume in a real lab setting. Grab a white coat, pipettes and experiment away under the direction of experts. They’ll also keep your perfume recipe on file in case you need a refill. The store is full of neat jewelry and other gifts, too.

Sweet Treats

Come On In Cafe La Jolla Desserts

Come on In Cafe! is known for casual breakfasts outside, lunches to go and half-priced bottle of wine nights on both Mondays AND Tuesdays. However, the cake is to die for. Get banana, carrot, lemon blueberry or coconut and thank me later. An entire 8″ cake is just $30 and I’ve been known to buy, slice and freeze for single-serve portions later.

Froglanders has been the popular fro-yo spot for as long as I can remember. The parking lot is terrible, but there’s  something about the silky low or nonfat treat that makes 17 three-point turns worth it. Get the nonfat peanut butter flavor.

Kids Stores

Geppetto’s is where I buy birthday presents, mainly because with locations across the county, I know the gift can be returned if it doesn’t work out. Also, they dish out excellent advice. I often run in and tell the sales person that I need a gift for, say, a 2-year-old. They pick out a popular favorite, wrap it and I’m out the door within 10 minutes. Priceless.

Hillside Artisans is an adorable,  upscale boutique geared toward kids ages 0-8 with an emphasis on the younger end. As the name implies, they focus on great design and rich colors. Skip Hop and Tea Collection are a few of the brands they carry. This might be a good stop for the mom who doesn’t have a baby registry or the kid who has everything.

Date Night

Whisknladle’s excellent yet not overwhelming wine selection plus the artisan cheese and meat cutting board tend to win us over on date night. We sit in the cozy space, chat and nibble on charceuterie. Eventually, we’ll moved on to some sort of fabulous locally-sourced specialty entree and mind-blowing dessert, like the butterscotch budino.

Herringbone Whole Fish Ceviche

Herringbone is one of Brian Malarkey’s seafood-oriented restaurants. The indoor-outdoor ambiance and earthy-chic decor almost outshine the food. I mean that as a compliment. Try the whole fish ceviche–it’s worth every penny of the $25 price tag.


La Valencia remains the belle of the ball, rich with history and luxurious amenities. It’s in the midst of a renovation, though most of the hotel is open. Situated on Prospect Street, you can walk to the best shopping and dining as well as the beach. The ocean views from the lobby and most rooms are hard to beat. Brunch at the Mediterranean Room is a must-do.

Grande Colonial offers a bit more value, while just a few blocks away from La Valencia. It’s La Jolla’s oldest hotel at 100 years old and quite family-friendly. It’s easy to walk to the Cove and you can see the famous seals lounging from some rooms. Room service comes from NINE-TEN, one of the best restaurants in the city. Order the half-baked chocolate cake and the lemon ricotta pancakes.


La Jolla Shores Hotel rests right on the big, flat, white sand beach called–you guessed it–La Jolla Shores. It’s here where most of the surfing, kayaking and other water sports take place. Kids can spend ages on the beach and playground here and if you forget to pack anything, the boutiques on nearby Avenida de la Playa can hook you up. The hotel is newly renovated, but doesn’t have much of a pool. You won’t need it with the beach just steps away. The ocean breezes here are amazing.

The big question:  If I’m planning a trip to San Diego, should I visit La Jolla? The answer is that it depends on your budget, time on the ground and whether or not your family is of the power-tourist variety.  If the latter, maybe skip it. But if you’re looking for family-friendly lodging that skews slightly upscale, gourmet eats within walking distance, ocean views, and boutique shopping, definitely put La Jolla on your itinerary.

125headshotKatie Dillon writes La Jolla Mom, a lifestyle site dedicated to luxury travel, parenting, food and local happenings. When not traveling, she lives in La Jolla, CA with her husband, daughter and dog. She freelance writes for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Trekaroo, 10Best (a division of USA TODAY Travel) and Red Tricycle. Find Katie also on Google +, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

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The first up in this blog series is from Valerie Rowekamp and she is taking us to Dallas, Texas.

I have been proud to call Dallas home for my entire life.  It’s a city with southern charm, rich history, diversity, sophistication, and is the No. 1 visitor and leisure destination in Texas.  Here are just a few of my personal favorite city gems!

Foodie Favorites

Screen Shot 2013-02-16 at 12.20.34 PM
photo credit Dallas Observer Blog

Velvet Taco is where fresh, gourmet, made-from-scratch tacos are created and consumed until the wee hours of the morning.  I can guarantee you that you’ve never experienced a taco (or sangria) quite like they serve up in this funky little Dallas taco shop.

Food Trucks can be found all over the metroplex serving up unique gourmet goodness on wheels.  We stalk the trucks on social media and hit them up when we’re at events/festivals.  Some of our favorites are Nammi Truck, Trailercakes, and Jack’s Chowhound.


Texas Rangers Ballpark playground

Family Time

Dallas Zoo is the largest zoological experience in Texas and a great place to play, learn, and see animals.  I love that my children get to see and feed animals in their own natural-looking habitats and they love features like the Children’s Zoo (with a playground, interactive petting zoo, bird habitat, and splashing stream.

Dallas Zoo giraffe and penguins

Texas Rangers games in the Ballpark are one of our favorite sports venues because it has an amazing baseball themed indoor playground and activities for little baseball fans.

The Blues Jeans Bar - Dallas

Style In My City

The Blues Jeans Bar is a pub-themed boutique where a “bartender” will help you find the perfect pair of jeans.  I discovered this gem of a store when a local mom’s group hosted a shopping party and I was blown away by how enjoyable shopping for jeans could be when you have an expert to ensure the perfect fit.

NorthPark Center is a luxurious retail masterpiece featuring shopping for any budget with lots of art, great food, a sculpture garden, and children’s library.  The sculpture garden is better than any indoor play area I’ve ever been to because it’s in the center of the mall yet still outdoors and you can dine on the patio of a restaurant while the kiddos frolic in poop-free grass.

Late Nights at Dallas Museum of Art

Date Night

Dallas Museum of Art hosts Late Nights once a month where the Arts District stays up late with live music, food, wine, and activities.  It’s perfect for a date even if you have kids in tow because there are activities for all ages like pajama yoga for the kids and films for adults.

Grapevine is a historic town just outside of Dallas that is famous for it’s small town charm, restaurants, and wineries.  It’s the Napa Valley of the DFW area and also home to Grapefest wine festival.


Omni Dallas Hotel is a luxurious (and kid-friendly) downtown hotel that boasts local flavor and spectacular views of the city.  Original art by Dallas artists is featured in every hallway/room and I really love Texas Spice, the farm-to-table restaurant in the hotel.  My kids adored the “Little Explorer” backpack they received with tools and goodies on our arrival.

Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge is an indoor waterpark resort that is fun for the whole family.  Seriously, the kids tired out before we did during our stay and I can’t remember the last time we had so much fun!

Dallas is a city with something for everyone (especially families).

Have you been to Dallas?  Do you live in Dallas?  What are some of your favorite City Gems?

Please share in the comments below!

Valerie Rowekamp - www.CharmedValerie.comValerie Rowekamp is a free-spirited former pro-cheerleader who shares style tips and inspires viewers to live beautifully through her blog CharmedValerie and YouTube channel.  Valerie lives in the Dallas area with her adventurous husband and two beautiful little boys.

You can also find her on facebook, twitter, pinterest, instagram, and google+.

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