Our Dixie Chicks Staycation at The Embassy Suites The Woodlands

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We love staycations.

Taking a one or two night stay somewhere not too far from home has become our solution when we start climbing the walls and need a change of scenery. We love to travel, but time and money prevents us from taking a full week trip somewhere far away more than we’d like. And with a soon-to-be high school freshman who is in band and plays sports, our time and …. gulp, money are going to become even harder to come by.

We’ve taken several staycations at The Woodlands. It’s only 30 minutes from our house in Northwest Houston, but if feels like we have truly gotten out of town. When I heard that The Dixie Chicks were coming to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on August 6th, I knew I had to get tickets and make it a last summer vacation outing for our family.

We were very excited to be invited as guests to stay at the Embassy Suites by Hilton The Woodlands at Hughes Landing for an evening so we could see the new property (they opened last December 2015). It was perfect to combine our stay with our concert plans so we could relax and not have to make a late night drive home after the show.

We’ve stayed at several different Embassy Suites hotels over the years…most recently at The Embassy Suites Irvine when we took an Orange County vacation earlier this summer. We love that all the Embassy Suites hotels offer large, comfortable 2-room suites, complimentary drinks at a reception in the evenings and free made-to-order breakfast in the morning.

The Embassy Suites in The Woodlands is just minutes from the The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion and within walking distance of Restaurant Row. After we checked-in at 4:00 p.m., we walked down the street and had appetizers at Del Frisco’s Grill and macarons at Macaron by Patisse. Other restaurants right by the hotel include California Pizza Kitchen, Escalante’s, Starbuck’s, Blue Fish, Local Pour and Fogo de Chao. While we were there we noticed they have free evening movies overlooking the lake. A fun family activity within walking distance of the hotel – but we already had plans!

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Back at the hotel, the kids wanted to take a quick swim – Because – hello infinity pool!

Located on the third floor, the pool is small but elegant and it wasn’t crowded. A glass wall over looks the lake and restaurant row and they had several lounge recliners that we hung over the side of the pool so we could relax in the water. The kids didn’t want to leave, but we had to head to the room to get ready.

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While many of the Embassy Suites hotels (and all the ones we’ve previously stayed at) have a large atrium in the middle of the hotel in which all the rooms overlook, The Woodlands location is designed like a traditional hotel. Our room on the 9th floor was on the corner and had a living room and bedroom with large, beautiful windows and a balcony.

Seriously.

Look at this view.

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While standing on our balcony, we saw some people kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Woodlands  (wait – what? We LOVE to SUP!). You can rent them at the near-by Riva Row Boat House and we will definitely be back to do this when it cools off in the fall.

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Before going to the Pavilion, we stopped by the lobby for free drinks (a glass of wine for mom and soft drinks for the kids!) and snacks…we weren’t the only Chicks fans there. While the Pavilion isn’t far, it’s a bit long for a late night walk. Many people took a cab or called Uber, but you can also drive. We were “Dixie Chicks Serious” about getting to the show on time!

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photo courtesy of Ken O’Quinn, Storyteller Communications

The concert was so crazy, fun. This stop on the DCX MMXVI World Tour is the first time they’ve been back to Houston in nearly a decade.

They’ve been a long time gone.

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photo courtesy of Ken O’Quinn, Storyteller Communications

Annie plays the violin so she loved watching Martie fiddle. I’ve been a fan for a long time. I used to sing Godspeed to the kids when they were babies to help them drift off to sleep at night. The crowd went crazy when they played a tribute to Prince (Nothing Compares 2 U), Wide Open Spaces and Cowboy Take Me Away – but we lost our collective minds with Goodbye Earl and their first encore, Not Ready to Make Nice.

We had a great time, but were hot and tired and so thankful we only had to travel 2 minutes to get to our comfy beds at the Embassy Suites. The next morning we had our complimentary breakfast in the lobby. Scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, french toast, bacon, sausage and biscuits with gravy. They also offered made to order eggs and omelets and had fresh juice and coffee.

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In addition to the water fall in the lobby in the picture above, check out this fountain in the courtyard by the restaurant. I love water features like these. So calming.

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We talked to several people in concert t-shirts about the show before heading to the pool for another swim. While we hated to leave, work and Jackson’s all day band practices that started the next day were calling us back to reality. But we’ll be back to The Embassy Suites to SUP on the lake or when another band comes to town we want to see.

Or when we just want to live life on the edge…. relaxing in the pool.

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We were guests at The Embassy Suites and received a free night stay in order to review the property. No other compensation was received and all thoughts, opinions and sore throat from singing too loud at the concert are my own!

 

 

 

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Mind, Body, Spirit…Be Determined

Be determined

I’m driving to Galveston tomorrow morning to attend the 2016 Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce 9th Annual Celebrating Women: Mind, Body, Spirit Conference. Initially I was motivated to attend because of the keynote speaker, author – Gretchen Rubin. I met her several years ago and am a big fan of her books, especially The Happiness Project.

Several of my colleagues are attending and I’m excited to see them, too. The energy and support I receive simply by being around them always helps me along my journey towards personal and professional development.

But after diving into the rest of the agenda for tomorrow, I think what I am really looking forward to learning about … is finding out what I need to learn more about.

Does that make sense?

I’m intrigued by sessions like Caring – Let’s Get to the Heart of It, The Food and Mood Connection and Living From the Heart. I feel like these topics are speaking to me right now. I don’t know exactly where each of these sessions will lead me – but I know I want to go there.  I suspect I might just scratch the surface of some topics that I’ll want to dive deeper in to. I’m determined to learn more.

And that’s pretty exciting.

There are also a couple break out sessions for physical fitness (hello hip, hop cardio – I’m coming atcha!) and a session lead by Jentry Kelley, owner of Jentry Kelley cosmetics where I’ll learn her quick, eight-step makeup process. I need this in my life! I’m 45 years old and I still don’t know how to put on eye make up. It’s embarrassing, ya’ll.

I hope you’ll follow me tomorrow on my social media channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. I’m looking forward to sharing what I learn along the journey.

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Free Small Business and Blogger Summit in Houston – 11/17/15 #VZWHoustonSMB‬

 

nov 17 event picture

I get asked often by readers, colleagues and friends how they can start their own blog. It’s wonderful to hear from those who have been inspired by Still Living The Dream to go after their passions and I love to point folks towards resources that will help them be successful.

As a small business owner (I am also a social media strategist, freelance writer and owner of J.Patrick Communications, Inc.), I have been helped by many others, too. I’ve found that the blogger and small business communities are extremely supportive of those who work hard to realize their dreams.

I love working with companies who give back. Verizon is a company that gets “it”…they know what businesses need and believe that it is important to support them as they grow.

I’m excited to announce that Verizon is hosting a FREE Small Business and Blogger Summit in Houston on November 17th. This half-day event from 8:00 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. at the JW Marriott Houston on Westheimer includes panel discussions, keynote presentations and networking with a focus on how Small Minority-Owned Businesses can achieve personal and professional results, manage their business to new heights and share best practices with peers.

Attendees will hear from speakers including Linda Alvarado, President & CEO of Alvarado Construction, Inc., Emilio Gonzalez, Executive Director For Strategic Alliances at Verizon, Alex Davidson, CEO of Securranty, Carol Guess, General Counsel at The Guess Group, Inc., Alex Lopez Negrete, President/CEO of Lopez Negrete Communications, Inc, Laura Oldaker, CEO/Executive Director of By Your Side Senior Care and Nelson Reyneri, Senior Vice President, Sales & External Affairs at Liberty Power Corporation.

There will also be a blogger workshop during lunch co-led by Byrdie Franco and Eric Tung where you can learn tips about how to successfully work with brands and generate income from your blogging activity. Eric is a superstar in the industry (just ask one of his 154K followers on Twitter!) and I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him speak at conferences on a couple occasions. I’m looking forward to meeting and hearing from Byrdie for the first time at this event. You won’t want to miss this.

This event is free to attend, but you need to sign up ahead of time.

Verizon is also helping those in the community by giving two small to medium businesses $5,000 each to donate to charities of their choice. You can find out more about that here and will be given the chance to apply when you register for the event.

I can’t wait to hear more about trends and topics that are currently top-of-mind for small business owners and bloggers including technology that will help me improve MY business. Hope to see you there!

This post was sponsored on behalf of Verizon #vzwhoustonsmb

 

 

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Inspiration Where You Least Expect It

Tonight my nine-year-old daughter told me to get on my running shoes and come outside with her. I begged her to go upstairs and play. I didn’t want to go outside. It’s like Mars in Houston right now and I’ve been feeling bad about myself for skipping work-outs. I have had a hard time keeping up with my running group….a bad start to a new running season. So I thought I should watch Big Bang Theory re-runs and eat chocolate instead.

The truth is I’ve felt bad about myself about a lot of things lately. I had an incredible experience at an oil and gas company leading a group of extraordinary people over the last year. I was in awe of their talent each day and I think I made a difference, too.

But I didn’t see my kids. I was missing school functions and even when I was home. I wasn’t home. Things slipped through the cracks. My health wasn’t good. And other things at home weren’t good either.

So I took a leap of faith and accepted a contract position which allows me to work from home and will give me more time to be with my family. To take care of myself.

To blog!

So there’s a learning curve and I’ve fallen a couple times over the past couple of weeks. But I’m getting my sea legs…figuring out my cadence….finding my new normal.

Still – I didn’t want to run tonight. But Annie told me to run with her. So I put one foot in front of the other and before we knew it – we ran 2 miles together.

Here’s the thing – the inspiration I didn’t realize I had has been sitting on her canopy bed down the hall reading Judy Moody chapter books to her stuffed animals and turning cartwheels where ever she can find six inches of clear space.

Annie.

She talked to me the entire two miles. Telling me that I was awesome. And that she admired me because I keep running even when it hurts. Even when I’m tired. Even when I feel I can’t. That I take the longer route because while it’s harder, it’s worth it.

She told me that running is like having a lemon aid stand to earn money to buy a camera (hint, hint – she wants a camera!) You can’t just have one lemon aid stand and expect to earn all you need for the camera you want. You have to have a lot of lemon aid stands….and you know – it just kinda all adds up.

What?!

When did my daughter get all smart and insightful.

And damn. When did she become a good runner?!

So maybe I’m not in the best shape after our little run tonight – but I’m better.

And also…I’m back.

 

 

 

 

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Massage Envy Spa (Giveaway for 1-hour massage in Cypress, Texas!)

Did you happen to see my Sprint Tri recap post last year? I talked about how a massage helped me prepare for the race. I’ve competed in several triathlons since then, and massages are such a huge benefit to help me prepare and recover from these athletic events.

But I’m learning that massages are really a good thing for me to experience on a more consistent basis. I was reminded recently why I love Massage Envy and how I need to sign up as a member so I can take advantage of the therapeutic benefits (relieve stress, relax muscles and improve range of motion) at a cost so much more wallet-friendly then other spas.

massage envy

The Massage Envy Cypress location off of 290 invited me to see their newly renovated space and treated me to a fabulous hour-long massage. It was incredible. They recently moved a stone’s throw from their previous location into a much bigger facility; a 15-room, 4200-square-foot spa which includes four upgraded spa rooms, two couples’ rooms and a large tranquility room.

When I arrived, I filled out paperwork so my therapist, Jessica, could understand exactly what I needed and wanted to get out of the session. My wellness coordinator, Kathy, asked further questions to be sure I knew all my options. I wanted a deep tissue massage with some stretching. Kathy suggested the Deep Muscle Therapy, warming and cooling thermal products to provide deep muscle pain relief from injuries and chronic conditions or limited mobility due to athletic training, to enhance my experience. 

I was relaxed the minute I walked in, so I didn’t take many photos – but I did get a couple of the tranquility room. Look at that beautiful stone wall.

massage envy

Jessica brought me back almost immediately and the session was amazing. The Deep Muscle Therapy was wonderful and so worth the extra $12.00. She made sure the pressure was comfortable and immediately found the spots on my neck that needed to be worked out and helped stretch my legs and arms. I felt like a million bucks when I was finished and I can’t wait to go back to see Jessica again. I felt like she really cared about my health and both Kathy and Jessica were so helpful and caring…it was like I had my own wellness team!

Massage Envy offers members a great rate of just $59.99 for a monthly massage and additional massages during the month are only $39.99. They also offer Murad Healthy Skin Facials, which I would love to get sometime soon!

Do you leave in the Houston/Cypress area? Want to win a free one-hour massage at Massage Envy to try it out for yourself? Be sure to enter the giveaway! For more information about Massage Envy in Houston, check them out on Facebook!

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I was given a complimentary massage in order to write a review. No other compensation was received and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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Salata Eat Light at Night Promotion (free salad or wrap!)

Salata logo

I’ve shared with you my love of Salata before.

Salata Salad Bar high res (1)

Salata, The Next Generation Salad Bar, offers over 50 toppings including my favorites: grapes, strawberries, black beans, crab and the absolute best fat-free mango dressing EVER (which is 0 Weight Watchers PP – BTW!) They also have wraps, soup and some of the best iced-tea and lemonade flavors.

Salata Wrap high res

So naturally, I was thrilled when Salata recently invited me to enjoy a complimentary meal to learn more about their current Eat Light at Night Promotion and awesome offers for free food items for their mobile club members.

I often visit Salata during the day to eat, but salads aren’t just for lunch. In fact, a good salad with lean protein makes a great dinner.

A recent article on Healthline.com recommends eating lean proteins, veggies and fruits in the evening and specifically avoiding starchy carbs three hours prior to bedtime to maintain weight. Melissa Lanz, founder of The Fresh 20, said in a HuffPost Healthy Living article that “nutritionally, dinner should be a light, well-proportioned meal that is under 500 calories.”

Salata ELAN

On September 8th, Salata began offering mobile club members  in participating Texas, California and Illinois locations a coupon every other week for free items, complimentary protein upgrades and add-ons.

I know, I know, it’s way past September 8th….but it’s not too late to get in on the deals. 

How to become a Salata Mobile Club Member

To join – just text “Salata” to 777111. You’ll get a a coupon that’s good for a week. New members will also receive a buy one, get one free salad or salad wrap offer immediately!

Score!

Do you love Salata? What are your favorite toppings?

I was given a complimentary meal at Salata in order to review and share news about their Eat Light at Night promotion. I didn’t receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions (and favorite salad toppings!) are my own!

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Color Fun Fest 5K – November 1st in Houston (Discount tickets!)

color toss with logo

I love attending local fun runs and have participated in many over the last several years. I can’t believe I haven’t had the opportunity to experience a color run yet. I was going to go to the Color Fun Fest last spring, but the event date conflicted with the kid’s swim team meet, so I couldn’t go.

I am so excited that the Color Fun Fest 5K is coming back to Houston this Fall for a Halloween Edition on November 1st and that they invited me to be their guest to join in on the fun.

My kids participated in two triathlons this summer and Jackson is on his school’s cross country team, so you could say that races are starting to “run” in the family. (I know, I’m terrible. I just couldn’t help it!) So we are all going to do the Color Fun Fest together. The best part is, kids 12 and under participate for FREE!

Since the event is the day after Halloween, costumes are encouraged. They have two runs; a day run at 5:00 p.m. and an evening run at 7:00 p.m.

This is a fun run so it’s not timed. The 3.1 mile course includes:

  1. 5 color stations along the run with thousands of pounds of color to shower runners (made of vibrant food-grade cornstarch that is safe and natural)
  2. High energy music along the course to keep families pumped up
  3. Night run features industrial strength blacklights and visual effects
  4. 2 water stations on the course
  5. A course with enough lighting to safely run at night
  6. Post run celebration with vendors, food and live entertainment

 

Color fun fest w-logo nighttime

Event Details:

November 1, 2014 : 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm. Day Run starts at 5:00 PM / Night Run starts at 7:00 PM. Event concludes at 10:00 p.m.

Sam Houston Race Park – 7575 North Sam Houston Pkwy W, Houston TX 77064

Discounted Tickets:

Join the fun and get your tickets now. Still Living The Dream readers can score tickets for an epic discount….just $20!

Use discount code: LIVINGTHEDREAM when you register here. 

Not in Houston? Color Fun Fest events are happening all over the country. Check them out online for a city and date near you!

I am receiving complimentary tickets to the race on November 1st in return for promotion of the event; however, I’m not receiving any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Weekend Getaways Close to Home – Our #Staycation at Woodlands Resort

Sometimes you just need to get away!

Taking a break from the worries of work, schedules and your normal routine can be such a great way to gain a new perspective and relax, but it can also be hard to carve out time to go on a long vacation. Plus, organizing and financing a trip far from home can be time consuming and pricey when you take into consideration flights, activities, hotels and meals.

We’ve taken several “staycation” mini breaks at home over the years, both over  the summer but also when school is in session when I find that schedules are beginning to run our life. Blocking out a weekend or even one day to spend together as a family can help us get reconnected and we’ve gone on picnics and museum trips and even just stayed home for games or movie marathons.

But it’s hard to really “get away” and be present with your family when you are at home looking at the loads of laundry, dishes and bills that need to be dealt with. Then there’s the lawn that needs to be mowed and wait…what? Is that the roof leaking?!!!

The Woodlands Resort seemed to sense we were in panic mode recently and called to see if we would check out their new lazy river and be their guest for an overnight retreat. We were thrilled to be offered this opportunity. Just about 45 minutes away, The Woodlands Resort is close enough to make it an easy trip, but far enough so that we put some distance between us and the work that was at home.

We actually stayed at the Woodland Resort in the spring, but that was before the lazy river was built and it happened to rain the entire time we were there (check out my post “How To Make the Best of a Rainy Vacation“). We still had a great time, but we really missed being in the water.

This time we arrived early Saturday morning to take advantage of all the poolside activities. Even though check-in isn’t officially until 3:00 p.m., The Woodlands Resort allows their guests to come earlier on the day of arrival to enjoy the property. Just stop by the desk and they’ll give you your bracelets. You can start sipping cold lemon-aid and racing down the water slides and they’ll call you when your room is ready!

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We picked a seat by the back pool and water fall, so relaxing! But all the kid’s activities were happening at the front pool by the Cool Water Cafe.

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Annie was excited about the line-up of activities scheduled for the day. She definitely wanted to get her face painted, get a balloon creation and take part in the hula hoop contest.

Woodlands Resort

We had a great meal by the pool from The Cool Water Cafe. Then at 3:00 p.m., we got a call that our room was ready! Our door was right by the pool and the back patio overlooked the lazy river. What a perfect view! The kids took a small break while I got ready to head over to The Spa at the main building.

spa

The Spa is very quaint, quiet and relaxing. The therapist I had was wonderful. She asked me if it was ok if she worked out some of the kinks in my shoulders during my Swedish Massage. Yes, please! The hour flew by and I left feeling more relaxed for sure, but also more alert and energized!

cool water cafe

We were going to take advantage of the kids eat free deal in the Woodlands Dining room, but we were having so much fun by the pool, we decided to eat dinner poolside at the Cool Water Cafe again. They have a nice menu, so we were all able to get something different then we had for lunch.

lazy river

After dinner, we made S’Mores at the Fire Pit and circled around the lazy river a couple times before the movie. Their new, 1,000 foot lazy river wraps around the Forest Oasis Pool and guest rooms. With music playing along the way, we relaxed as we floated (the current isn’t too strong, very easy going) and then had a blast sliding down the new two-story water slide.

cookies and milk

When we returned to our room after the movie later that night, we had a surprise waiting for us…a cookie cake and carafe of milk. The kids felt so fancy! What a perfect way to end the day.

After a great night’s rest, I got up early to run. The fitness center is open 24/7, but I wanted to check out the property and run outside. They have a bike and run trail that surrounds the resort, but I just ran throughout the property and saw the golf course and tennis courts.

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There is a lot of construction going on at the resort right now, but once you are back by the pool area – you hardly notice anything is going on. The $60-million expansion and renovation began last year and includes a new 184 guest room wing, the new (and now open!) lazy river and a new steakhouse along with an update to the resort’s conference center. We stayed in one of the 200+ renovated guest rooms at Fairway Pines, and they are really nice! The beds were comfortable and the furnishings were pretty with a modern Texas vibe. (Just be sure to ask for a room with a refrigerator if you think you’ll need one during your stay. Not all rooms have one right now.)

We will definitely go back to the Woodlands Resort again soon. It was one of the most relaxing overnight stays I’ve ever had and because it was so close to home, getting there was stress-free! The Woodlands is such a great area and there are plenty of stores and restaurants located close by, but they have everything you need right at the resort so there’s really no need to ever leave the property once you arrive. We didn’t…and we can’t wait to do it again!

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I was invited to stay at the Woodlands Resort with my family in order to review the property and resort amenities. I did not receive any other compensation and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

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LG G3 SmartPhone – Verizon Event #LGG3

I love technology that makes my life easier (who am I kidding, I love ANYTHING that makes my life easier!) so when I heard about the chance to get the new LG G3 smartphone from Verizon (and the opportunity to share how you can score one for free, too ) – I jumped at the chance! Disclosure – it was actually more of a hop-skip type motion…but jump sounded better.

 

LG G3The countdown for the LG G3 release is on and Verizon is hosting special events to introduce you to features and benefits of the LG G3 intuitive operating system including:

  1. 4x the resolution of HD, with a 5.5” Quad HD screen
  2. Crisp photos using a 13 MP camera with Laser Auto Focus and Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)+
  3. Smart Notice adaptive notifications
  4. Simply tap to unlock with KNOCK Code, utilizing over 80,000 lock combinations
  5. 2.5GHz Snapdragon quad-core processor on The Fastest Nationwide 4G LTE Network

Vlad Savov with theverge.com calls the LG G3 “a phone worth waiting for.” Savov wraps-up his review (you can view the entire article here) with this assessment – “Whether it’s the fun of a quick, laser-guided camera, the reassurance of a long-lasting battery, or the fast performance of a mature Android OS, this phone does everything well. 

You can also check out this video to see it up close.

I personally can’t wait to try out the camera on the LG G3. As a blogger (and a mom!) I take most of my pictures on my smartphone, so it’s important to me that I capture photos that are sharp and clear – especially when I’ll be using them with posts online. I’m also crazy excited about a long-lasting battery. I’m on my phone all. day. long. and my current phone’s battery drains quickly. This one promises to outlast the rest.

Do you live in the Houston area?  You can get a new LG G3 for FREE!

Verizon will be giving away a free phone to the first 20 people in line at the Clearlake Store located at 19222 Gulf Freeway, Suite A in Friendswood, Texas (2 year Activation Required) on July 17, 2014, at 11:00 a.m.

They will be offering drawings for other LG G3s as well as other prizes throughout the day and tech representatives from LG Mobile will be on hand to answer questions. 

This event is part of the LG G3 Countdown, a week-long series of online and in-person special events to help introduce the world to the new LG G3 smartphone. Check out other areas outside of Houston hosting similar events and giveaways here

So go ahead…jump, hop, skip or go old school and just drive down to the Verizon store tomorrow and get yourself one of those free phones. Because…awesome!

I will receive a LG G3 so I can experience the newest smartphone first hand; however, I did not receive any other compensation for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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