Skimbaco Lifestyle | online magazine » SKIMBACO TRAVEL Skimbaco Lifestyle, online magazine inspiring you to live life to the fullest. Travel, home, food, fashion, family. Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:23:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Southern Food: Savor the South Weekend in N.C. Wed, 10 Sep 2014 10:06:46 +0000
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Savor-the-South Event in Greensboro

Peaches, biscuits, bourbon, sweet potatoes, okra, buttermilk, tomatoes, pecans, pickles, preserves, and good ole’ Southern holidays. These are the foods that define the South. As a Southern girl, I’m really partial to biscuits, tomatoes, and okra. Oh, how I wish I could fry okra like my grandmother did.

Skimbaco has been invited to cover the Savor the South Weekend in  Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 26-28. I’ll be traveling to Greensboro,and checking into the O’Henry Hotel to  meet the  authors behind the Savor the South cookbook series and experience some of the recipes in the series.

The event is sponsored by O’Henry Hotel and Our State Magazine. Limited space is available for this once in a lifetime foodie weekend so I hope to see you in  Greensboro. Be sure to follow @HinesSightBlog on Instagram for this special weekend.

Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Family Getaway Idea: Williamsburg, Virginia Tue, 09 Sep 2014 04:39:55 +0000
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The great thing about traveling to the South in the fall  is that temperatures remain warm during the day well into November. The perfect spot for families to explore the fall season is Williamsburg, Virginia. It’s a good place to have fun, but it’s also filled with history, which provides an exceptional learning opportunity for your children during the school year.

Jamestown Indian Village

You cannot visit the Williamsburg area without visiting the Jamestown settlement because they know how to make history fun.  Here, you explore America’s beginnings. This is the site of the first English Colony, founded in 1607 and 13 years before Pilgrams came to Massachusetts. Explore the the Powhatan Indian village, based on archaeological findings at a site once inhabited by Paspahegh Indians.

Jamestown Replica Ships

Learn about Pocahontas, and board three replica ships, The Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, for a hands-on educational experiences that familiarizes you with the four-month transatlantic voyage that settlers had to take to come to America. The three ships carried 105 passengers, and 39 crew members to Jamestown. 

Jamestown Fort

Kids will love the James Fort. Inside the triangular wooden palisade are wattle-and-daub structures topped with thatch roofs depicting dwellings, an Anglican church, a court of guard, a storehouse, a cape merchant’s office and a governor’s house. 

Skimbaco Jamestown Gardens

Outside the fort, it a variety of crops, herbs, and vegetables that the settlers grew while living in Jamestown.  One thing you will not find in this garden is tomatoes. A historian tending to the garden told me that Thomas Jefferson discovered the joy of tomatoes during his travels, and brought the plant back to his home at Monticello in the early 1800. Many Europeans and Americans thought tomatoes were poisonous so it was quite a shock when he served them to guests at the President’s House in 1806.

Jamestown hosts events all year for families.

Colonial Williamsburg Fun

Families can also experience hours at Colonial Williamsburg. And if you are a parent over 40, it’s not the same Colonial Williamsburg you visited as a child either. Colonial Williamsburg is now called  Revolutionary City, and it’s filled with excitement. The tradespeople, shopkeepers, political figures, women, and the enslaved that call Williamsburg home interweave you into their story.You learn their hopes, struggles, and fears as they live  in uncertain times.

You are part of the story in Williamsburg

In the Revolutionary City, you can join angry mob as it storms the Governor’s Palace to demand the return of the colony’s gunpowder. While there, you can take part in the events and everyday life of Williamsburg, and meet famous patriots as well as lesser-known heroes.

Williamsburg Soldier camp

Kids can train to be a soldier in the militia, they can get their hands dirty in the brickyard, learn how children must behave at dinner at the Powell House, or accept a mission as an undercover spy in an episode of RevQuest: Save the Revolution! It’s also fun to dine in the Colonial taverns. I had some of the best chicken salad at Shield’s Tavern I had ever tasted. 

Colonial Williamsburg offers many events throughout the fall and winter.

Busch  Gardens Griffon

When traveling with kids, it is always fun to mix your vacation with some thrills. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is a fabulous place to let down your hair, and experience your adventure side. Busch Gardens has something for everyone, especially the little ones with Sesame Street Forest of Fun.

Busch Gardens Tea Cup

Busch Gardens Williamsburg has beer and wine tastings, and special events throughout the year.

Skimbaco  Busch Gardens

Where to Stay:  Williamsburg has places to stay for a variety of family budgets.  For our trip, we chose the Williamsburg Lodge, which is owned and operated by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. I liked the fact that I could walk to Revolutionary City, and that I had a complimentary shuttle to Busch Gardens, and Jamestown, if needed. It is a full-service hotel with room service.  For a less expensive family option, consider The Holiday Inn and Suites, Williamsburg-Historic Gateway. With rates under $150 a night, a good location, great reviews, a heated indoor pool, and a restaurant on-site, it is quickly becoming a family favorite for the area.  The Kingsmill Resort, a Preferred Hotel and Resorts, offers luxury resort accommodations for families who seek 1, 2, or 3-bedroom suites in a resort setting  with golf course and spa.




Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Ireland and Wild Atlantic Way through Photographer’s Eyes Tue, 02 Sep 2014 06:41:03 +0000
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Brian Cooney Photography

It has been fascinating to follow someone I once knew first through the kayaking and outdoor scene in Ireland, moving on to the world of photography and starting to create images of the places I love, or places I want to fall in love with. First these photos started to appear here and there almost sneakily, slyly beckoning to be noticed, but pretty soon they were there to manifest the artist behind them with his own distinctive style.

As I am cycling here in Ireland at the moment, slowly making my way by bicycle along the 2500 kilometres of Wild Atlantic Way from Derry up north to Kinsale down south, I revisited a conversation I had with Photographer Brian Cooney late last year explaining his motivations, inspiration and obviously why not only Wild Atlantic Way but Ireland is such an amazing place to visit. Not that I need convincing, but what about you?

Photographer Brian Cooney

Meet Brian Cooney, a Dublin-bred fine art photographer who now resides in the small rural village of Easkey in the west coast of Ireland, right along the Wild Atlantic Way. For Brian, photography is a form of self-expression with a deeper meaning. Although he is careful to label himself, fine art photography, where the photographer produces art with the camera to tell an interesting story, whether it is related to landscape or people, is something he relates with.

His images are both beautiful portraits of Irish landscapes and timely descriptions of what is going on, or not, in Ireland, and his personal story is one of having the guts to change your direction completely and take the chance to follow your dreams and ambitions. “I could never do that, this is the path I have chosen” is a sentence he has repeated few times in his past, only to reverse that sentiment later by leaving behind his secure future in the family business and following a different path altogether.

Brian Cooney Photography

The interest in photography for Brian grew through travel, and after working in the family business straight from school and training as an electrician, he headed to South America. There, shooting lots of slides, he enjoyed the way photography made him slow down and look. Rewind several years later and at forty, realising that his heart was really not in what he was doing, Brian started to look for other alternatives. Photography, was a natural choice.

Now, while working on his degree from the Open College of Arts in UK, Brian runs photography workshops and courses in the locations he loves around Ireland and even without him saying it’s easy to see – he’s bursting with enthusiasm.

Brian Cooney Photography

What inspires Brian the most is everyday life, and through photography he wants to make something interesting out of the everyday and mundane life. Many of the projects that interest him are very personal, and photography has let him rebuilt and see the change over time in places that are familiar to him.

For Brian, it’s all about Ireland. “You don’t have to travel half way to the other side of the world. I think it’s the same advice that goes for writers: photograph what you know”.

What is so unique about Ireland, then, for a photographer? “It’s the history, culture and people. People coming here have been blown away by how approachable the Irish are. And I love he sea, it’s big part of it as it is ever changing. Also, nobody really comes here for the suntan. For a photographer it’s the amazing light, and the fact that you can have four seasons in a day…”

Brian Cooney Photography

According to Brian the Wild Atlantic Way has been a great success as it is already bringing, and will bring even more business and people to the part of Ireland that is so incredibly beautiful, but that has been badly hit by the recession.

I really wanted to find out what are the locations for a photographer along this scenic road to add to my ever going list of places to stop, but Brian had difficulty in naming just one or two. “There are great photographs everywhere, all you have to do is to be open to see them. Among my favourite places are Black Head in the Burren – especially with a big westerly swell rhythmically beating up onto the rocks and filling all the rock pools with spray.  Or just after a big shower passes by and as the dark stormy clouds clear and you’re covering in the shade of the old light house you see a beautiful rainbow on the rocky headland behind you as the sun comes out again.  The Aran Islands are one of my favourite places in Ireland.  My best sunrise this year was watching the sun light stretch itself across the green fields on Inis Mór and light up the stone walls one by one.  Even if I didn’t have a camera with me I would have rejoiced at the sight of it and to be privileged to see it.  I also love the mix between the traditional and the modern on the Islands – we often want to escape modernity for the wild, but there is always a balance to be struck and the Islands do it well I think.”

What can I say. I’m already gutted that I won’t have enough time to see it all, but at the same time I’m sure we will find plenty of spectacular locations to practise our photography skills along the route, if we just stop and look around us.

What does living the Skimbaco Lifestyle mean for Brian then? “Rather than any one thing, it is when you give what ever you are doing 100% , and no matter what comes your way or how difficult it feels you keep on going and don’t give up.” 

To see more of Brian’s photography or to sign up to one of his workshops in Ireland, head over to and to read more about this adventure along Wild Atlantic Way, have a look at all the recent posts in Destination Unknown.


destination unknown, travel blog, adventure travel

I love to explore the world to new destinations. If you love traveling as much as I do, please subscribe to Skimbaco Travel weekly email and never miss a travel post.

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Luxury Check-in: Fearrington Village in Pittsboro, N.C. Mon, 25 Aug 2014 04:10:45 +0000
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If you are looking to slow down, eat some of the best food in America, and sleep in luxury then we’ve found the perfect place for you.

Fearrington aerial

It can be found in Pittsboro, N.C. in Fearrington Village, a tiny European-inspired village about 30 minutes away from Raleigh-Durham International airport.

Fearrington Gardens

I checked into the Fearrington House Inn, a luxurious Relais & Chateaux property, for a long weekend sans children. Fearrington Village is very family-friendly, but sometimes, you just need to get away with your spouse and reconnect, relax, and not have to parent. My stay at the Fearrington House Inn, which I hightlight on the HinesSight Blog, was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Fearrington_Pack Your Bags Feature

For two centuries, the Fearrington farm dotted the landscape in rural North Carolina between Pittsboro and the University town of Chapel Hill, N.C.  The area is not that rural these days, but when you walk onto  the property at Fearrington admist floral gardens, silos, and rare Belted Galloway cows, you immediately feel peace and tranquility. The hustle, bustle, and stresses of daily life melt away.


Local shops like McIntyre’s Books, an independent book store, offer services that big chain stores don’t. If you’re an avid reader, you can spend hours in the store reading what staff say about each book. It has one of the best children’s section that I’ve ever seen, and because of the helpful staff recommendations, I was able to leave the store with a little more confidence that my son may actually like the chapter book I purchased.

Fearrington_book store

Haven is a luxurious spa boutique in the village with top European skincare products, frette linens, elegant sleepwear and handmade soaps.  The soaps made a perfect thank you gift for my sister-in-law who graciously kept my children so I could have this tranquil adult time at Fearrington.


The Spa at Fearrington caters to Inn guests and village day guests.  It is open daily and is my favorite day spa in the Triangle.  It has a shabby chic casual vibe that makes you want to pop-in for a pedicure then enjoy a leisurely lunch with wine at the Goat, the village’s coffee shop and deli.


The cuisine found in Fearrington Village though, is what makes this area one of the top places to dine  in North Carolina.  Under the culinary leadership of Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef Colin Bedford, culinary masterpieces are created nightly at the Fearrington House Restaurant and in the more casual, Granary Restaurant, which serves one of the best twice-baked goat cheese souffle I’ve ever tasted. The food served in Fearrington Village draws locals, day visitors, and guests from all over the world.


The Fearrington House Restaurant, which changes its menu seasonally and never repeats an entree, is the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in the U.S. to be green certified and to be ranked a top 10 restaurant in America. Yes, it’s really special.


Because of the uniqueness of  Fearrington Village,  Relais & Chateaux, founded in France in 1954,  has selected the North Carolina village as one of the places to celebrate its 60th anniversary.  Fearrington’s Executive Chef Colin Bedford will be joined by Grand Chefs Raymond Blanc, Gary Jones and Benoit Blin from Relais & Châteaux Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, England for a culinary feast.  The special anniversary evening in October will include a 7 course tasting menu with a 60th anniversary cake finale.  

Doesn’t that sound scrumptious?

Fearrington cuisine

Visit the Fearrington Village website to learn more about its shops, restaurants,  hotel and events. 

Photo Credit: Fearrington Village and Leigh Powell Hines. This story was made possible by a media visit




Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Halfway there – Satu has already biked half of the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland! (watch the video) Fri, 22 Aug 2014 10:12:36 +0000
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Skimbaco Lifestyle is the main media partner for Ride Wild 2014, as what could better encapsulate this whole adventure than Skimbaco’s motto “Live life to the fullest”!

wild atlantic way

Have you been following Satu’s #RideWild2014, the 2500-kilometer bike ride of the Ireland’s scenic coast, the Wild Atlantic Way? Watch the video of the start of the trip, and follow Satu along.

Satu is already half way through, and it’s safe to say from watching her, that she is having an experience of a lifetime. She has discovered that in Ireland you often say hello with a handshake and good-buy with a hug, and the bike ride has turned into so much more than an athletic adventure.

She knows Ireland well, or at least she thought she did before this trip, after all she has lived in Ireland before, and visited annually ever since. However, the trip where she has everything she needs in a saddle bag of a bike, and the daily biking hits around 100 kilometers a day, she has learned and experienced Ireland in a completely new way, even for her.

I will let her to return home, and tell all of the stories from the road, but I think it is safe to say: she is more in love with Ireland than ever before.


From the photos we can see that Satu and her friend Anne-Marit have been enjoying other fun outdoor activities too besides bicycling! Ireland really offers everything from exotic curragh racing to sea kayaking to stand up paddling to climbing the cliffs and yes, biking the gorgeous green scenery.


And even after three weeks away from her family she still agrees: moms need to do more adventures on their own, and her head is already spinning for new ideas what kind of adventures to do the next! This weekend will be special for Satu – her family will be joining her in Ireland, and the adventure continues with the loved ones.

Here are the latest Instagram photos from the #ridewild2014 and remember to follow Satu on Instagram as ToDestinationUnknown


Follow Satu’s trip:

In all social media you can search for #RideWild2014, and don’t forget to check the Wild Atlantic Way section of – it is beautifully done and may result in a spur of the moment flight booking to Ireland’s west coast…

Follow our journey also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Ride Wild 2014 is supported by Ireland Tourism, North West Adventure Tours, Skimbaco Lifestyle and Birk Sport, see all the partners here.

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Grab a Table at Dan’l Boone Inn in Boone, N.C. Mon, 18 Aug 2014 06:56:47 +0000
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Boone, NC

When we find a culinary gem, we love to tell you about it. If you ever visit, Boone, N.C., which is located in the Blue Ridge mountains, you may want to dine at the Dan’l Boone Inn Restaurant.

Trust me, you will not want to miss this one. Usually, there are lines out the door, but my family walked right in at 2 pm, and boy, we were in store for a treat.

Family-style restaurant in Boone, N.C.

This family-style restaurant has been a High Country area culinary staple for 50 years, making it the oldest restaurant in the area. Each meal begins with a salad with homemade dressing, followed by ham biscuits, fried chicken, country-style steak, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, baked apples, coleslaw, biscuits and the best black cherry preserves I’ve ever tasted.

If you really love something, the waiter will kindly bring you more. But, you must save room for dessert. We had a choice on this day of banana pudding, chocolate cake, and strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry Shortcake at Dan'l Boone Inn Restaurant in Boone, NC

Yes, the strawberry shortcake was as delicious as it looked.

The restaurant also serves a family-style breakfast on the weekends. For lunch and dinner, the cost is $16.95 per adult. Children 3 and under, dine free.

Be sure to stop at the bank for cash. Debit and credit cards are not accepted.

The Dan’l Boone Inn Restaurant is located at 130 Hardin Street in Boone.

Family Fun at Dan'l Boone Inn

Kids may want to take home a coon skin cap. And yes, the restaurant is named after Daniel Boone. The famous frontiersman lived in the area before making his home in Kentucky.

Visit Explore Boone for more information on the area and Dan’l Boone Inn Restaurant for hours and history.





Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Two moms, 1500 miles of Ireland’s coast – #RideWild2014 bike tour is now on! Fri, 08 Aug 2014 11:35:24 +0000
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Satu jumping

Jumping out of joy, four days of biking along the Wild Atlantic Way behind and legs are still working! Exciting day ahead with high cliffs and spectacular views to come… “

greets Skimbaco Team member Satu her Instagram friends with this picture last night.

The Ride Wild 2014 is now on, Satu and Anne-Marit are on their fifth day of biking the Wild Atlantic Way, the coastal roadway of the coast of Ireland.

Watch the video of the moms training in Norway just a few weeks ago – and Satu’s “minis” cheering mama to “go, go, go!”

Satu’s wild ride has already gotten an amazing amount of press in Europe, including in Norway, Finland, and in Ireland, as the locals and travelers who love Ireland alike are watching closely as Satu and Anne-Marit are biking the coast, one mile at the time!

A few press links are here, if you want to check them out!

Interview with Satu –
Finnish Travel Blogger to Cycle Length of Wild Atlantic Way – FFT
Top Finnish travel blogger to cycle entire length of Wild Atlantic Way over five weeks – Hotel & Restaurant Times
Top Travel Blogger Takes On “Challenge Of Her Lifetime” – To Cycle The Entire Length Of The Wild Atlantic Way – Travel and Tour World

In Finnish:
2500 kilometriä rantatietä – maailman pisin maisematie löytyy Irlannista – Rantapallo
Vihreä saari houkutteli seikkailijan satulaan – Kainuun Sanomat

In Norwegian:
Småbarnsmødre sykler 100 mil på to uker –

Photos from the road… and stay tuned for more from Satu, and follow the journey with the #RideWild2014 hashtag and Satu on Twitter as @SatuVW, Instagram as @ToDestinationUnknown and on the Destination Unknown Facebook page – and of course, more on Satu’s blog Destination Unknown.

Do you have what it takes to be an adventurer?

Inspired by Satu, we created a quiz for YOU to test how adventurous you are.
Test if you have what it takes to be a dreamer and a doer, who lives life to the fullest. What kind of an adventurer are you? Take the quiz.

Skimbaco Lifestyle’s mission is to inspire you to live life to the fullest and find your own “skimbaco,” how you enjoy life where ever you are in the moment. For ideas for travel, home, food and fashion, subscribe to weekly Skimbaco Lifestyle feed on Mondays and I hope you get my newsletter that I send out sometimes on Fridays.

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6 Amazing Travelers to Follow on Instagram (that you might never have heard of before) Thu, 31 Jul 2014 04:01:54 +0000
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6 amazing travel accounts to follow on Instagram

I always say, shared joy is a doubled joy. Maybe that’s why I like Instagram so much, I love following the small moments people enjoy and share of their everyday life, and I love seeing the big moments and incredible experiences shared how they look for the person through the lens. Above all, I love connecting with people, and discovering the world through Instagram photos.

Today I would like to feature 6 amazing travelers on Instagram who inspire me. I am thankful that they all found me first – and they were inspired to use the #skimbaco hashtag and that’s how I met all of them! In all honesty, the collective #skimbaco photo stream is my favorite thing on Instagram. You can always find the latest tagged photos on the side of this website and at I hope YOU will join these amazing 6 Instagrammers and me and share your photos of living life to the fullest – where ever in the world you may be.

If you have the privilege already to know many of these six Instagrammers, you are lucky. If not, it is my honor to introduce them for you.

6 Amazing Travelers to Follow on Instagram

Note: the titles and each photo are linked to their profiles so you can follow them.

1. rmblnboy

This multicultural and multilingual family travels around the world, and the photos are a mix of happy family snapshots, landscapes and cultural sights. Beautiful professional photos of a picture perfect family.

Photo by

Photo via

2. justinmguerra


Justin has been using Instagram since the beginning of the year, but his photos are anything but novice. He is a traveler, writer, archaeologist and above all a world citizen whose pictures in Asia have captivated me.

instagram: justinmguerra

instagram thailand by

3. blessingsbyfad


Blessings By FAD is run by France Malvar & Ami Guibone, who also sell handmade bags at Etsy with the same name, and 5% of profits go to those in need. Their bags travel around the world on their Instagram account, but it’s much more than a promotional business Instagram account. The photos take us to beautiful places and I always get a serene feeling from Blessings by FAD.

relaxing hammock by

blessings by FAD

4. nsynke


Synke takes us around Berlin and around the world. She captures small things that bring joy, and moments of living life to the fullest. This summer I loved traveling to Southern Italy through her photos.

instagram berlin

instagram travelers

5. jaysoncarpenter


Jason is also a professional photographer, and his professional work is high caliber. However, it’s his travel photos from India that take my breath away.

instagram travel india by

instagram travel photo taj mahal

6. nomadicnewlyweds


Last but not the least… my absolute the favorite newer Instagram friend is the NomadicNewlyweds. I think the handle says it all, their photos are a testament of love for each others, and love for global exploration. Their photos give hope for happy ever afters, and they make you want to have a honeymoon with your spouse immediately (or second or thirds honeymoon).

nomadic newlyweds


There is more…

I hope you already read my book about Instagram (get it for free, just sign up on the bottom of this post) and you will find a few chapters just dedicated to great people to follow on Instagram. Of course – get connected with me as well as Skimbaco.

My friend Nienke, The Travel Tester, recently also created some great Instagram lists of 20 top Instagrammers to follow, and 20 up and coming Instagram accounts to follow, and there are some great people and photographers on both lists. Many of the people in the lists are also travel bloggers.

Leave in the comments who are your favorite people to follow on Instagram!

IGTT Traveling Linky

Read more Instagram Travel posts from these new blog posts this week and add your own blog post.


Not a blogger? Not a problem. Join us at Instagram by using hashtag #igtravelthursday and share your travel photos.

Bloggers! Join the Instagram Travel Thursday and Host the Linky!

Bloggers, join us! Add your blog post to the Linky above, and you can also take the Linky code and add the Linky widget in your blog!

Get the InLinkz code for your post.

Copy and paste the following rules and the banner image when you host the Linky widget:

Join us for Instagram Travel Thursday! Instagram Travel Thursday is a weekly blog post collection with a purpose to promote the great travel experts on Instagram and Instagram as a source for travel inspiration. Add your Instagram Travel-related post to the Linky.

Here are the Linky rules:
Link to a new Instagram travel post and use the permalink of your post, not the homepage URL.
Only new posts from the week of the linky and no giveaways, other linkys or sales pitches.
No links to your Instagram profile, only links to your blog.
Link back to one of the Instagram Travel Thursday Linky hosts.
Visit a few other posts in the linky and show them some love (comment, tweet, Pin etc.).
Links that do not follow the guidelines will be removed.

More information at Skimbaco Lifestyle’s Instagram Travel Thursday page.


Also get my ebook Instagram as your Guide to the World – How, What and Who to Search and Follow on Instagram to Help You Travel the World FOR FREE when you subscribe to my newsletter.

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Family Travel: Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach Opens Brand New Water Park Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:01:22 +0000
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Crown Reef Resort in South Myrtle Beach, S.C.

With an International airport and 29 nonstop airline markets on its daily schedule, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, welcomes families from all over the world to its Grand Strand. There are 100 golf courses, Broadway-style entertainment, tons of shopping, and All-You-Can-Eat Buffets. One could say there is an activity within every square mile. But most people come for one attraction only.

Crown Reef Resort in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

People fly from everywhere to dip their toes in the surf and have some fun in the sun.

The Crown Reef Resort, one of the largest Myrtle Beach resorts with the most oceanfront rooms along the Grand Strand, is under new ownership after 20 years. The property has been undergoing a $7.5 million renovation since last fall with room upgrades and a new town center with a coffee shop, arcade, and oceanfront restaurant. However, the main attraction, which will set this resort apart from other family resorts, is a brand new $2 million water park.

Crown Reef Resort with new waterpark

Skimbaco was invited to experience this brand new water park in action. With my being the closest to Myrtle Beach on the team, I took my two kids and the same family who accompanied me on a fun trip to Charlotte, N.C., last summer. Unfortunately, construction delays prevented the opening of the water park on our visit, but our kids still had fun with the lazy river, oceanfront pools, and beach. We had plenty to do.

Crown Reef Resort waterpark

The two enclosed water slides launch from four stories high. It looks huge from the pool deck. The two-person “EXPLOSION” tube slide pumps more than 2,500 gallons of water per minute. “The ‘EXPLOSION’ is a two-person, serpentine-style ride with many left-to-right turns in 54-inch enclosed flumes,” said Nik Paas of ProSlide Technology Inc.

“There are tight-radius, 360-degree turns where the fiberglass enlarges and explodes into a 72-inch diameter to provide a change of speed and direction and add an all-new experience to the ride.”

Crown Reef Waterpark

The second “TWISTER” slide, a one-person body slide, pumps 800 gallons of water per minute, while the “KIDZ Twister” slide sits 8 feet tall and 20 feet long.

This water park will be enclosed in the winter and open year-round for all to enjoy. Room rates dip to less than $50 sometimes during the winter months, so talk about a bargain.

The Resort Rooms

Oceanfront resorts receive a lot of wear and tear through the years. The Crown Reef Resort has a 20-year history, and a lot of family memories have been made here. With three towers, and 514 oceanfront rooms, efficiencies, and suites, the new owners had a lot of work to do. They’ve done a good job for the price point. During the summer, an oceanfront room that sleeps eight with a full-kitchen is about $200 per night. Just to give you a comparison, a midscale to upper-midscale chain hotel down the street with a comparable layout is more than double the price, and it doesn’t have a new water park.

Crown Reef bedroom

Before the renovation, the rooms had peeling, dated wallpaper and kitchen appliances that had seen better days. Rooms now are more modern with new comfortable queen bedding, new TVs, new tables, couches ,lamps,  freshly painted walls, and a kitchen with granite countertops. Artwork is coming to help give it a more residential feeling.

Crown Reef kitchen


As you know, money doesn’t grow on trees, so the flooring is the same in the rooms, and the dining room furniture remain the same from past renovations. The bathroom is small and still dated, but has a modern mirror and new shower curtain. It’s crowded for eight people to use, but families can do it. The rooms are not perfect with decor, and average at best, but from my perspective, the rooms are clean and nice for this price point in the Myrtle Beach area.

The New Town Center

Crown Reef food

With an oceanfront restaurant, Loco Gecko, that serves good food, an arcade, a coffee shop, and ice cream shop, the new town center is fabulous. I was impressed with it. Prices at the restaurant are reasonable.

Drinks are good, and it’s just fun to dine here by the ocean.

Crown Reef Margaritas

This new town center is a fabulous addition to this resort and really helps take the vacation up a notch. There is also a live Fire and Hula show for families on Wednesday.

Kid’s Activities

Crown Reef activities

The Crown Reef Resort also offers daily kid’s activities. Some things have a small fee; other events do not. The staff is friendly, and my daughter enjoyed having her hair braided. I think this is something that kids will enjoy in between swimming and the waterpark.

The New Tiki Bar and Pool-side Dining

Crown Reef Drinks

The resort was still putting the finishing touches on the brand new Tiki Bar and pool-side dining feature, so this amenity was not open yet when we visited. We brought a few drinks down from Loco Gecko to the pool to enjoy, and staff sold some drinks and frozen ice poolside. I think this will be a really good addition to the pool area.

Crown Reef pool

Our kids loved the lazy river and the pools.

All in all, the Crown Reef is an affordable family resort where kids can be kids.

Crown Reef kids

For more information on the Crown Reef Resort and rates, visit the resort’s website. Crown Reef is a member of Vacation Myrtle Beach, a collection of affordable family vacation properties.

This story was made possible by a media visit.




Leigh Hines, hotel and family travel expert | Skimbaco Lifestyle

I live like a tourist in my hometown and my dream is to travel the world one luxury hotel at the time. If you love traveling as much as I do, subscribe to Skimbaco Travel, and never miss any travel content from our site.

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Photo essay of visiting back home to Turku archipelago in Finland Thu, 10 Jul 2014 13:20:42 +0000
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30 photos of summer in the Turku archipelago in Finland by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

Going back home… our trip back where I am from in 30+ photos

I am doing something different this Instagram Travel Thursday. The past 3 weeks I have been posting photos from our trip to Finland on Instagram, and instead of republishing all of the same photos here, I am posting some the same photos, but as non-cropped full images, and adding a few more pictures not seen on Instagram yet.

nightless night in Finland during midsummer in Turku archipelago. Photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

Instead of the Greek islands… we went to Finland

I admit, I have been dreaming of going to Greece for years, and this spring we spent numerous hours (days really), doing travel research for a dream island vacation in Greece. Then right somewhere between trying to figure out travel budgets, trying to book any hotels for a family of five (where we could actually stay in the same room so it would feel like an actual entire family vacation), and especially the fact I really missed my family in Finland, we decided to forget about the Greek islands for now, and headed to Turku archipelago in Finland instead.

I'm on a boat! Kids on Viking Grace going to Finland

And of course, all of our three children have dual-citizenship and are both American and Finnish, so we had to take our little Finns to Finland – to the most special archipelago in the world. I wanted my family to see more of the area where I grew up, and spend time with my family in Finland.

Turku archipelago

Weather report

When you talk about vacationing with Scandinavians, your vacation report usually starts with the digits. Not the number of the days you were gone, not the number how much your vacation cost, but the temperature degrees. It only makes sense that when spoken about a vacation in Finland, I mention the summer weather.

Finnish summers are short, and I think the essential feeling of the entire Skimbaco lifestyle comes from a perfect summer day in Finland. You know there are not many warm days in a year, and you will do everything in your power that you will enjoy the sun in the summer time, and bank on the warmth and the vitamin D for the upcoming dark winter. Summer gives you urgency to enjoy life, and the midnight sun and nightless nights are a constant reminder of life to be lived fully. Even many of my Finnish friends who travel multiple times a year, they try to stay at home in Finland as much as they can during summer. You can always catch some sun and warmth in Italy or Spain even outside the hottest summer months, but the Finnish summer is so short that if you travel for a week, you just might miss it. Or if you happen to be in Finland for the wrong week, you will also miss it. As happened with us.

Finnish summer cottage decorating: flowers from the forest. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

I am looking at the weather broadcasts in Finland this week – and it is around the perfect 27C/80F, warm enough to want to swim (even in Finland) but not too hot that you can’t tolerate to be outside. During our first week in Finland, when we were in the Turku archipelago at my parent’s summer house, the temperature was at the highest at 14C/57F, the entire week! In fact we witnessed something like a natural wonder, which has not happened in 30 years: snow during midsummer. (We didn’t see the snowfall, but saw snow on the side of the road while driving on the morning – most of it was already gone). It’s needless to say – we didn’t swim in the sea much. It didn’t stop my nieces and nephew from swimming though, and we watched in amazement as the kids enjoyed summer fun on the beach, regardless of the temperature digits. At least we went as far as put on our swimming suits, and took a dip in the water, but it wasn’t enough to earn even bragging rights.

nightless night in Finland - the famous midnight sun. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

While the sun might not be as warm in Finland as in the other parts of Europe… the sun is up all day and all night long. There is about 2,5 hours in the between sunset and sunrise during the summer time and the few hours of night are dusk and dawn, filled with the most beautiful light you’ll ever see anywhere. The above photo has taken around midnight.

We escaped to the summer house

My parents invited us to their summer house in the Turku Archipelago, only about 30-minute drive from the city center of Turku. It was the best kind of escape we could have asked for. We were by the sea, watching the boats sail by, no Wifi, and even the TV wasn’t turned on many times. Kids sat in the outdoor swing reading books, when they were not fishing with their grandfather, my dad, or picking up sticks with the cousins for the next fire we built by the shore.

I admit, I didn’t take enough photos. My job requires so much photo taking, that when we were at the summer house, I didn’t even pull out my camera every day. I once forgot to check my phone for over 24 hours. I never opened my laptop during the entire two week trip. I unplugged in the best place in the world.

Thankfully my husband (follow MattPresnal on Instagram) caught the picture of Gabriella catching a fish. And when I took kids rowing on an inflatable boat… one at the time. When I was a kid, the inflatable boat was on the back of my dad’s motorboat, but sadly now it’s the only boat left.

It was the perfect Finnish summer escape. The kind of families in Finland do each weekend and if lucky one month each summer. We played cards, and warmed up the summer cottage sauna almost every night. We cooked on open fire (even though the house has a full kitchen and a propane grill). We picked flowers from the forest and put them in a pitcher to decorate the summer cottage.

We spent time with my family, and I was trying to come in the terms that what Finland, and home are today, and how much many things had changed since I left 17 years ago – and yet how so many things had not changed. Above all this trip was for our family to be in touch of our Finn-side. Although – everyone enjoyed how we did bring American traditions to the Finnish summer house – like how our kids taught their cousins how to make s’mores.

smores at summer house. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco


I grew up in Paimio, about 25 minutes from Turku, in a large farming town, and we lived next to an apple orchid. I have warm childhood memories of being home with my family, and living next door to my grandmother, and playing in the woods, but I never quite felt home in Paimio, but I’ve always loved Turku and its archipelago, where we sailed every summer when I was a kid.

Visit Turku, Finland. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

It was great to share more of Turku with my family, and we did small outings from the summer house. One day we toured Ruissalo island, a large recreational island just 10 minutes from downtown.

Ruissalo island is picturesque in Turku, Finland. Photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

The island has a picturesque camping ground, beaches, golf course, yacht club, botanical gardens and much more. The above house is a coffee shop and a B&B next to the camping grounds and the beach.

One of the most unique venues on island is the Honkapirtti, a restaurant and a cafe in a house built in traditional Karelia style. Karelia is an area where my grandparents are from, it was a part of South-Eastern Finland, but we lost it in a war for Russia. Knowing and living many of the Karelia traditions was still part of my childhood, and I wanted to take my family to the Karelia house, the Honkapirtti, in the honor of my late grandmother, whom my family unfortunately never got to know.

Honkapirtti, Karelia style restautant and coffee shop in Ruissalo island in Turku. Photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

In the traditional Finnish way we had peasoup and pancakes. Finnish comfort food at its best.

Pea soup and pancakes in Turku, Finland. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

I tried telling as much about Turku and its history to my kids as they would listen, and we went to outdoor museums to learn more about the city’s past as an important port on the Baltic Sea.

Käsityöläis museo in Turku, Finland. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

The best about the city of Turku is the Aura-river that splits the city in half. The river is full of river boat restaurants, and the biking and walking path right by it is loved by locals and tourists alike.

Aura-river area in Turku during summer. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

Aura riverside in Turku is buzzing with people during summers. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

There are several bridges on the river, and one ferry that keeps ferrying people from the other side of the river to this side of the river. In Turku, you always know which side is “this side of the river” – even when technically you’d be on the “other” side.

Aura river in Turku, Finland. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

We took the ferry, called “Föri” to the other side of the river, and continued walking and watching the boats.

Föri in Turku. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

On the far end of the river is the maritime museum and the Suomen Joutsen ship, a famous landmark of Turku.

Suomen Joutsen. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

Ferry from Sweden to Finland

Speaking of ferries and ships… My visit to Finland would not be complete without setting onboard at least one boat or ship.

Viking Grace. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

I would love if getting to Finland was easier than it is. Or let’s rephrase it: getting to Finland is easy, but time-consuming. It takes me almost as many hours to get from Linköping, Sweden, to my hometown Paimio in Southern Finland, as it takes me to fly from here to New York City. The reason: there is a 12-hour ferry ride in between Finland and Sweden.

Viking Line Viking Grace

Good news is that the ferries offer entertainment, plenty of restaurants and the cherry on the top: tax free shopping. The ferries also make it very easy and inexpensive to extend your visit to Finland if you are visiting Stockholm. (Or the other way around.) You can take a two-night cruise from Stockholm to Helsinki, and spend a day visiting Helsinki on your trip to Stockholm. I highly recommend it, and a two-day cruise will cost you far less than two nights in a hotel in either city.

Viking Grace. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

When traveling between Stockholm and Helsinki, I like the Silja Line’s Silja Symphony, the Instagram Travel Thursday trip was on that ferry last winter, and it has now gone through massive renovations. However, the newest ferry sailing between Sweden and Finland is the Viking Grace by Viking Line, and I wanted to see how the newest ship measures up, so we chose Viking Grace for our trip to Finland. The Viking Grace goes between Stockholm and Turku, and I highly recommend it for the Stockholm-Turku route.

Viking Grace. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

I really liked the Viking Grace for the design and architecture. The ship is designed in a way that you can see outside as much as possible, so the beautiful archipelago or the sea is much more prominent than in many other cruise ships/ferries.

Viking Grace. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

There were stylish and comfortable places to hang out both inside and outside on the decks to enjoy the gorgeous views.

Viking Grace. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

If you have been on luxury cruise ships, the ferried between Finland and Sweden do not measure up, but you can get a luxury experience. The Viking Grace has a spa with a snow cave, saunas and jacuzzis. My favorite was the laid back champagne bar, I could have sat there for a few hours just sipping champagne and watching the sea views.

Viking Grace. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

One of the most popular things on board the ferries is dining in the ever so popular buffet, and the trip is typically worth it just for the seafood part of the buffet. The dining options during the daytime on Viking Grace were pretty limited, and we did think the buffet was probably the best option, but the food selection was not nearly as good as what we had just experienced on the competing ferry line, at Silja Line, a few months before.

Viking Grace. Travel photo by Katja Presnal | @skimbaco

More on Instagram

More of my photos from Finland on Instagram. Follow me as Skimbaco for travel photos and KatjaPresnal for food and family photos.

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