Disclosure: I received a media rate to stay at the Hampton Inn in Monroeville, Pennsylvania.
Since I had baby Ronin last year, we’ve been on one family vacation and that was a road trip to Montreal. It was our first trip out with the baby and it went quite well, so we decided to be brave and head out to Pennsylvania with our whole family. The key reason was to visit the Sri Venkateswara Temple in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, not only for our annual trip but also to conduct our son’s hair ceremony, an East Indian tradition where the baby’s first haircut takes place at the temple. The other great reason to visit the area….hitting one of our favourite outlet malls, Grove City Premium Outlets!
I love to shop! Oh yes I do!
Since we were travelling with the whole family (all 11 of us!) we wanted a hotel that was near the temple and Grove City Premium Outlets. Bonus points if the hotel included breakfast and a pool. After some hunting, we chose the Hampton Inn Monroeville as it met all of our needs.
Hampton Inn – Monroeville, Pennsylvania
After a long drive, we arrived at the hotel and were promptly checked in by their friendly staff, who advised that there was complimentary coffee, tea and chocolate available near the front desk. They also had a popcorn machine and a basket of apples to welcome us. We were already off to a great start!
We headed up to our rooms to settle in. Each room had complimentary bottles of water and packages of Oreo cookies, which I thought was a nice touch. I absolutely love it when hotels make an effort to make their guests feel welcome, it really seems to be a lost art. The beds looked comfy and inviting and my nephews promptly tested them out by jumping on them…we stopped them after a few jumps, don’t worry. Baby Ronin also settled in nicely on the bed, as you can see : )
We were starving and it was late, so dinner was going to have to be delivery. We ordered pizza from Vocelli’s on a recommendation from the front desk and it was a good choice. We got their Spring Veggie pizza and their Deluxe Pizza and both pizzas were loaded with fresh toppings. The slices were large and the crust was nice and thin. We all enjoyed it and we agreed that we would order it again next time we were visiting.
I had some time to explore the hotel after dinner so I headed down to the lobby. Along with a computer and printer for guests, next to the front desk was a small shop with a great selection of food, drinks and toiletries for purchase. I was impressed not only with the number of options they had but also that the prices for all items were very fair. Since they don’t have a restaurant in the hotel, it was great to see that they had something for guests who needed a snack or a meal in a pinch.
We were up at the crack of dawn the next day as we had an early morning time slot at the temple for the hair cutting ceremony. Sadly, we weren’t going to have a chance to try the pool! Oh well, time to hit the breakfast buffet instead : ) I was happy to see that they had a pretty wide range of items, both hot and cold, including eggs, home fries, sausage (my hubby was quite happy about this!), a waffle maker and the usual suspects including a selection of breads, cereals, yogurt etc. There really was something for everyone and we all left with full tummies.
Sri Venkateswara Temple – Monroeville, Pennsylvania
After breakfast, it was time to head to the Sri Venkateswara Temple, which according to their website is one of the earliest traditional Hindu Temples built in the U.S. My family has been making the trek to Monroeville, Pennsylvania to visit this temple for over 30 years and to this day, it still looks just as it did when I was a kid, all thanks to the staff who do an incredible job at maintaining the temple and the grounds. Everyone is welcome at this temple, so if you’re going to be in the area, please do make it a point to visit.
Photo credit: Naveen A.
Photo credit: Naveen A.
After the hair ceremony for my son was over it was time to head downstairs for one of my favourite parts of our annual visit…the food! The Sri Venkateswara Temple serves some of the best South Indian food I’ve ever had and the amazing part is that the flavours have been consistent for over 30 years. The dishes are packed in takeout containers, each costing $2 and they are filled with glorious South Indian delights such as pulihora (tamarind rice), perrugu annam (yogurt rice), sambar rice (a spicy vegetable stew mixed with rice), uppama (a polenta-like dish with vegetables), and pongal (a rice dish made with peppercorns and clarified butter). The temple is a busy place on weekends and the kitchen staff are constantly making new batches of each item, so you’re never waiting too long for the next batch to come out of the kitchen. I’m drooling as I’m writing this!
We couldn’t leave Pennsylvania without visiting Grove City Premium Outlets. We’ve been shopping at this outlet mall every year since we got married and I’m so glad that I have a husband who takes shopping as seriously as I do! : ) We spent a few hours at the mall and guess what, I don’t have any photos….why you ask? Um, because I was shopping, there’s no time for photos! However, I do have a few tips to improve your shopping experience….
How to Improve Your Shopping Experience at Grove City Premium Outlets (Grove City, Pennsylvania):
- Take your passport with you as they have a special coupon booklet for visitors, with coupons for additional percentages off of your purchase etc. The staff at the desk are great and they are happy to let you take a look at the booklet before buying it.
- A great meeting place is the food court. There’s only one and it’s pretty easy to find people there. While you’re there, be sure to take a break and have a snack and a drink in the middle of your shopping trip. Shopping requires energy!
- Park at the “back” of the mall, there is more parking and you’ll have just as easy of a time accessing the stores.
- Grab a copy of the mall map and circle the stores and locations of the stores before you head out to shop. If you’re on a schedule, this is the best thing to do to hit all of the stores you wish to visit. Otherwise, wandering around can take up quite a lot of time!
My “Go To” Stores at Grove City Premium Outlets (in no particular order):
- Banana Republic
- Columbia Sportswear
- Lucky Brand
- The North Face
- Nine West Outlet
With a ton of bags from a successful shopping trip, we stopped in at the food court for a snack before heading out. I’m thankful that Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen continues to prepare tasty pizza slices and strombolis because the spinach and cheese stromboli with extra sauce is my favourite thing to eat whenever I’m there. The trip just wouldn’t be the same without it. See you soon Pennsylvania! Miss you already XO
Hampton Inn Pittsburgh/Monroeville
3000 Mosside Blvd., Monroeville, Pennsylvania, 15146
Vocelli Pizza of Monroeville
2644 Mosside Blvd., Monroeville, PA 15146
Sri Venkateswara Temple
1230 South McCully Drive, Penn Hills, PA 15235
Grove City Premium Outlets
1911 Leesburg Grove City Road
Grove City, PA 16127