Erika Preval - Simply Put

Tag: family travel



It was around this time, a couple of weeks ago, that the girls and I decided to take an overnight trip to Birmingham. Not being our first visit, there were already a couple of favorites we looked forward to stopping by, but we wanted to try some new restaurants, too. There’s plenty to do in Birmingham, but if you’re looking for places to eat after your trip to the Science Museum and Civil Rights Institute, here are my picks for good eats on a casual road trip (with or without children).


No trek to Birmingham is complete without a stop by Continental Bakery. Our first visit to this Mountain Brook treasure was thanks to a Google search for crepes years ago. This whimsical bakery has delicious coffees, cakes and a fridge full of noshes from it’s dine in option Chez Lulu. It’s their variety of croissants that has the girls smitten, though. Top picks: Nutella and Cinnamon Sugar croissants and the daily frittata.



Pulling into Birmingham, we opted to delay checking into the Westin and drove straight to El Barrio. There’s a full bar and some booths, but you’ll likely be seated at a communal table. The girls loved their steak tacos – everything is on the side; a build your own experience that’s great for my “picky” eaters. My veggie quesadilla was super yummy, as was the salad accompanying it. The churros are perfect for sharing and delicious, so you’ll want to save room for them.


Before heading back to Atlanta, we enjoyed lunch at Southside’s FIVE Restaurant and Bar. Unassuming on the outside, this place is a total feast for the eyes once you open the door with artwork and chandeliers galore. The menu is simple, and they created a virgin version of their Strawberry Lemonade for the girls. Shared the fried shrimp sandwich with one daughter; the other had chicken bites from the kids menu. Both were perfection! Enjoy the cocktail menu. Skip the dessert.



Staying overnight, you’ll likely have only one dinner in Birmingham. Wait till dusk, and head to the Avondale neighborhood’s Post Office Pies. You’ll find a chalkboard menu of their pizzas and salads on the wall. Choose your pie and order a local beer from neighbor Avondale Brewery and one of their craft sodas for the younger guests (Coffee Vanilla Bean and Orange Rosemary are the girls’ favorites). This place is no frills, so anticipate eating your slices on Kraft paper – not plates. Adults only? Enjoy the music and nightlife after dinner.



Birmingham has no shortage of great bakeries. Savage’s, one of our favorites, has been around since 1939 and you’ll find it in Downtown Homewood. If you’re considering an impromptu picnic their deli has you covered. I’m a fan of their cinnamon rolls and cheese straws (and red & white striped bags), but always grab one of their signature Smiley Face cookies for photo ops.


Edgewood Creamery was a new find that the girls are still talking about. A cozy space filled with options to put inside of your waffle, cake or sugar cone, this was a fun stop before heading over to Vulcan Park for a closer look at the icon you’ll see throughout your stay in the Magic City..



A last minute trip to the beach (literally booked the day before) lead us to a three-night stay on Hilton Head Island (HHI). Only a 4-hour drive from Atlanta, it’s surprising that my family waited over a decade to revisit. Our experience was definitely better with the girls as teens rather than toddlers, although you shouldn’t hesitate to head over with your little ones. It’s easy to see why Travel & Leisure has voted HHI the #1 Island in the Continental U.S.


Booking a stay during the week of Independence Day can be a challenge, so do plan ahead! Fortunately, we were able to find accommodations within the Palmetto Dunes Resort Community at the Omni Hilton Head Island Oceanfront Resort. This luxurious Lowcountry property is beautiful and the staff most welcoming. Upon check-in, anticipate glasses of champagne for the adults and cookies and mango lemonade for the younger guests.

The girls are a bit older now, so we opted for the Luxury Oceanfront Suite, which gave us ample room both inside and out on the balcony. This resort has daily activities available to keep you on property, and an Old Skool burger my family raved about, but we decided to explore a bit.



Arriving just after 3pm, everyone was looking forward to a late lunch. The first request was for something “easy” so I suggested heading to Java Burrito. You’ll quickly find that building codes restrict any blaring signage for businesses, so use Waze and keep your eyes peeled for the outdoor shopping plaza that houses Java. If you’ve been to a burrito bar like Chipotle, you’ll know what to do upon entering. Just know that, no matter the toppings you choose, this is going to be way better! Everything is extremely fresh, locally sourced and sustainably raised. In fact, I spied a bushel of unshucked corn behind the register. Coffee is available, too, hence the name. Arrive between 4-6pm and enjoy the freshest margarita you’ll find on HHI during Happy Hour.

If you’ve come to HHI in search of fresh seafood, don’t mill Skull Creek Boathouse. There will likely be a wait for those coveted outside tables beneath a canopy of mossy trees. Aim for a late lunch. If you don’t time it right, parking will be farther and the line will be longer. That being said, it’s more than worth the wait. The food is fabulous, service top notch and the atmosphere is very laid back, so relax and take in the live music and beauty of the marina and be glad you’ve dodged the touristy spot (we didn’t) and found a treasure the locals enjoy.

Near the hotel, you’ll find the newly built Shelter Cove Town Centre which houses Poseidon. Consider this your go-to if anyone in your group has food restrictions. Seafood and cocktails are at the ready, but there are plenty of gluten free options and a kids menu to satisfy the most challenging palette. Don’t miss their tomato pie!


As for the first meal of the day, we tried a few places, but enjoyed our first and last the most. Watusi is a charming restaurant and the perfect choice for a healthier breakfast and great coffee. Harold’s Diner offers no-frills but very tasty and budget friendly breakfast classics coming hot off the griddle — cash only and do follow the rules.


Situated between the Calibogue Sound and Atlantic Ocean, Hilton Head gets a bit steamy; you’ll want to pace yourself with outdoor activities. There are three championship golf courses at Palmetto Dunes. The hubby enjoyed one designed by Robert Trent Jones while the girls and I shopped the outlets. The carts are air conditioned, but I strongly urge you to reserve the earliest tee time available so that your game isn’t affected by the heat.


Want even more golf? There are lots of options for playing putt putt. We found lots of shade and a fun but challenging course at Legendary Golf. You can’t hide from humidity, so be sure to drink water and grab one of my favorite frozen treats, a cherry flavored Screwball, from their cooler before hitting the links!

My family loves going to the movies, and I was able to find a theater with the same reclining seats we’re accustomed to in Atlanta. Now, the theater is much smaller, but four adults can catch a matinee for $30 with online ticketing. Head to Park Plaza Cinema if there’s rain in the forecast or you don’t want to miss a new release.

Of course, back at the hotel there are pools to explore, sugar sand beaches to wander and s’mores to be made. If planning your first trip to Hilton Head, don’t miss going the iconic red-and-white-striped Harbour Town Lighthouse. With all we did during our 4-days at HHI, we left plenty of items on our to do list for the next time we need a beach getaway. And something tells me that with our oldest headed into her senior year of high school, that will be sooner rather than later!







nashville sign

A three-day weekend is quickly approaching! In case you’re looking for a great road trip destination, do allow me to suggest a drive to Nashville, Tennessee. Should an aversion to country music have you thinking it’s not the ideal destination, know that the Music City has far more to offer. If you enjoy good food and good times, Nashville is one of the hottest places to visit in the South, and just keeps getting better. Here’s a snapshot of all that you can get into with three days to spare.


Although it sells out quickly, do your best to reserve a room at the Omni Nashville. Located in downtown Nashville within walking distance of the hubbub of Broadway, this unique hotel has multiple restaurant options, rooftop pool, and impeccable service. Sold out? Make your way to Union Station Hotel – a bit more demure but absolutely charming.


pancake pantry

Breakfast: You don’t want to leave Nashville without having a proper biscuit. A bit of a drive will lead you to Loveless Café. If you’d prefer staying near downtown head over to the food truck offshoot Biscuit Love in The Gulch. Don’t question it – order the bonuts for starters.  Arrive early to avoid the (long) line at Pancake Pantry; it’s definitely worth the wait. Or simply head downstairs to the biscuit bar at Kitchen Notes in the Omni lobby.


Lunch: Options for lunch are endless, but you won’t go wrong making your way over to East Nashville for burgers and tots at The Pharmacy. You’ll find another former food truck, Mas Tacos Por Favor, right across the street. Beyond tacos, be sure to order their chicken tortilla soup (chicken can be omitted) and elote. Cash and checks only. Feeling nostalgic? Head over to Puckett’s Grocery. A doable walk from the hotel, make a pit stop at the Goo Goo Shop for a sweet treat after dining at this historic meat and three.


Dinner: When traveling, we tend to sleep in a bit, which throws off a typical three squares a day timeline. Those times we were hungry enough for a full-fledged meal, we headed to Husk’s Nashville location (the original is in Charleston), which never disappoints. If you’re lucky, you’ll dine next to Elvis at Demos’ Steak and Spaghetti House. Order any of the amazingly generous and yummy pasta dishes, but not steak. Trust me.


pinewood social

Reserve a bowling lane at Pinewood Social. These book up weeks in advance, but opting for an early evening time might work to your advantage. The Escape Game is also a fun family-friendly activity for tweens and teens. Once the kids are settled in with the sitter, head to The Patterson House for superbly crafted cocktails in a speakeasy setting. Get there early to avoid a wait.

Do share your Nashville favorites (don’t miss shopping in downtown Franklin, TN) and travel safely!