Almost Heaven – In Hocking Hills

Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking HillsHocking Hills is about an hour from our home in Columbus, so this was the perfect way to getaway for a quick night.  We packed our bags and headed out.  Once you turn off the highway, cell phone coverage goes by the wayside. If you’re like me and you’re constantly hearing ding-ding-ding from your cell phone, the little ‘x’ above your reception bar is glorious. We USED A MAP to get to Conkle’s Hollow, a trail I haven’t been on before. There are two options – a paved out and back which takes you to a handful of waterfalls; or a rim trail that is a little bit more challenging.  We were running behind (too many tacos at Condado on the way out of town) so we opted for the shorter trail.  The shade and silence was so refreshing after leaving a busy morning of work behind and it was the perfect way to lay the groundwork for a fantastic trip.

Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking HillsEventually we made our way (with our map!!) to Cherry Ridge Retreat. The adults only retreat is located in New Plymouth, a few miles from Hocking Hills and a little off the beaten path.  The property prides itself in privacy and seclusion, each of its 9 cabins nestled into a perfect place in the woods.

Our cabin, Whispering Pines, came complete with a grill, fireplace, private pond, and hot tub, but my favorite characteristic was the massive picture window overlooking the forest.  I could have sat there all evening, but TJ was ready to explore.  Although the individual cabins are extremely private, there is a communal gazebo and lake meant for socializing with your “neighbors”.Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking Hills

We followed the trail from our cabin down to the lake, TJ totally prepared with his fishing pole!  The lake was amazing. For the fisherman, it is stocked with blue gill and bass and catch & release fishing is welcomed.  For the exhausted mom, sun soaked lounge chairs beckoned.Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking Hills

Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking HillsIt’s easy to work up an appetite hiking in Hocking Hills.  Cherry Ridge Retreat has a list of great restaurants in the area, but I recommend bringing your own food and cooking up a wonderful meal.  You can dine inside at the bar or alfresco at the picnic table overlooking your private pond.  We took advantage of the Fire Package providing guests with all of the tools needed for a fantastic bonfire, and in my case, s’mores!

 

As summer is slowly fading to fall and Ohio’s foliage will be at its best, consider booking a night at Cherry Ridge Retreat.  You won’t regret immersing yourself in nature with some luxury amenities. Next time I visit, I want to see The Observatory CabinCherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking Hills

(Pro Tip: Stop by Kindred Spirits at the Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls for a fantastic breakfast on your way out of town!)The Inn at Cedar Falls - Hocking Hills

 

Here are a few extra pics to share from our cabin!

Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking Hills

Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking Hills

Stay a Little…

Coming from a background as a sales manager in an extended stay hotel, I have heard it all! “Aren’t those kinds of hotels a little outdated?” “I could never stay in a hotel that long.” “WAIT! I can bring my dog?” My answer, every time… “You’d be surprised what we can offer you!”.

Extended stay hotels have made a huge splash in the hotel pond over the past several years in this upscale segment of extended stay lodging, with brands like Residence Inn by Marriott, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Hyatt House and Staybridge Suites by IHG.Staybridge Suites Polaris - Columbus, OH

I recently visited the Staybridge Suites by IGH at Polaris, located north of Columbus and celebrating their one-year anniversary! I was impressed by the design layout and overall concept. With similar amenities to its counterparts a few attributes stood out (aside from being able to see Ikea & Top Golf from their parking lot… Eek!).

Staybridge Suites Polaris - Columbus, OHFirst, you know the door hangers that say “Do Not Disturb”, “Pet in Room”, etc. that never seem to actually stay on the door handle? Staybridge has a fun way to get the message across by utilizing magnets that connect to the door frame of the room. To go with this twist, I loved the verbiage: “Taking my Sweet Time Today. Come back later.” and “Shhh… Sleeping Like a Baby. Do not Disturb.”

Second, there are storage rooms for guests to utilize! Perhaps the guest is staying for several months OR returning weekly for a night or two. The best part? This is a complimentary amenity for all guests AND if you have a group staying you can have multiple folks with access to said storage room. Now, that’s convenient.

Third, the pool and outdoor area. This property features a large indoor pool (may be one of the larger indoor pools I have seen!) and a beautiful open outdoor patio for guests to enjoy. Topped off with a fire pit and a covered grilling area with two grills.Staybridge Suites Polaris - Columbus, OH

There is a lot to be said about the Staybridge Suites brand and their efforts to make the guest truly feel at home. Through researching, I also found out that Staybridge Suites was one of the first chains to go to complimentary Wi-Fi as an amenity (what a thought!)!

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

 

P.S. I also loved these little to-go bags available at breakfast…

Staybridge Suites Polaris - Columbus, OH

10 Years of Hospitality: Hilton Polaris

I was lucky enough to intern at the Hilton Polaris during the summer of my senior year at OSU (2012). Prior to my internship, I thought I had wanted to go down the road of events. However, after spending 3 months as a full-time intern (unpaid… sigh… but what I gained and learned about the industry and myself was priceless!), I realized soon my passion for hospitality laid within the clients and quickly after graduation I started my career in hotel sales.

Hilton Polaris - Columbus, OH

Hilton Polaris just celebrated their 10th anniversary of their opening, can you believe it? I can’t! Some things have changed in its’ appearance, but the hotel still beams in the Polaris area. Many of the staff members that I knew are still active on property (which says a lot!) and the same great inspired food is still very much alive.

Hilton Polaris - Columbus, OHThe interiors have had some updates and I am loving them! The rich dark floors and walls are accented with navy, tan, gray and other neutrals. My favorite seating area is in the lobby and features plush modern navy chairs next to filled shelves with books. In the middle of the lobby stands a tall accent wall featuring a fire place. Around this there is additional seating and the most interesting coffee tables that remind me of honeycombs.Hilton Polaris - Columbus, OH

Hilton Polaris - Columbus, OHOf all the hotels in the Greater Columbus area, this property has one thing the others do not, a full-service spa, Papillon Day Spa. After getting a treatment, I would naturally head to the Bar & Patio @ 8700. The outdoor patio area is a great way to unwind with over-sized floral arrangements, two large fire pits, and strung lights. While I was visiting, the bar was advertising rose inspired cocktails. (Spa + Patio + Great Local Food + Rose = My kind of day!) Oh! I can’t forget to mention that this property is also located next door to the Polaris Mall complex; did someone say shopping?

This property has dedicated the past 10 years to delivering hospitality through their employees, events, and on-site amenities. They’ll continue to be an important piece to the puzzle of the Columbus hospitality community.

Until Next Time,

Lauren

What’s Happenin’?

Our pipeline in Ohio is quickly growing. Along with the growth, exciting new opportunity and brands are making one of their first appearances in the state. Here are three brands developing in our state…

Canopy Logo

Canopy is beginning to make its mark in Ohio with its’ newest property in the state being built by Indus Hotels on Nationwide Boulevard in the heart of downtown Columbus. This lifestyle brand began internationally and as of last year has begun to lay its domestic roots. With a passionate focus on all things local within each of its’ cities, their vision for their local culture is spread through their employees who they refer to as “enthusiasts”. Across the locations from Iceland to the U.S., each room has a ‘canopy’ bed structured by a ceiling high gray headboard with an overhang. These sleek properties will be a must visit in the months and years to come!

BrewDog LogoYes, it is really happening! Very soon we will have…. A BEER HOTEL. I know what you are thinking, “Lauren, don’t joke about things such as this.” Rest assured, no jokes here! In Canal Winchester, BrewDog opened their first brewery in the United States. The brewery alone now has 3 locations within the Greater Columbus Area with sights on Cleveland & Cincinnati next. Now, they are on to their first hotel in the U.S., The DogHouse, with rooms featuring views of the brewery, in-room beer taps, and last but not least (and the single thing my husband is most excited about) there is a beer cooler in the shower! I am looking forward to the hops based and locally produced toiletries. Opening the end of August 2018!

Graduate Hotels LogoMy inner Buckeye is jumping at the development of The Graduate hotel in Columbus on the campus of The Ohio State University. This will be The Graduate’s first property in the state. The Graduate’s décor pays homage to the university itself. Common areas may be reminiscent of items such as the main library, noteworthy architecture, academics, and athletics. For example, the common areas of The Graduate on the campus of that school up North, is mocked after their gorgeous library and their academic seal is on the headboards. As an OSU Alum, I am so excited to see this come to fruition in Columbus!

Members – Are you wondering what else is in the pipeline for Ohio? Access the myOHLA tab at www.ohiolodging.com and review our New Construction Pipeline; updated quarterly! Or contact me with questions directly at Lauren@ohla.org.

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Wellness with Westin: Across the 3 C’s

Heavenly bed. Lavender oil. Pet friendly. All things we relate to the Westin brand and their wellness initiatives. The fluffy heavenly bed always offers a comfortable nights’ rest. Now, with the lavender oil available bedside, you can soothe yourself and your mind into a tranquil state. To keep you healthy and on track during your stay Westin promotes healthy eating through their in-house menus, has a work out gear lending program through a partnership with New Balance, and the newly developed RunWESTIN program.

Equally important is mental health, so why not bring your furry friend along? Our pets are the greatest single way to relieve stress (and also to induce stress at times…). At Westin your pets will be treated just as great as you!Westin Columbus , OH

The Westin brand is a staple of wellness and community that is sewn into its’ culture at any Westin location you visit. We are lucky to have 3 equally unique Westin properties in the state of Ohio, shall we explore?

 

Westin, Cleveland

Cleveland Rocks! – I can hear The Drew Carey Show theme song chiming in my head with this hotel. In the heart of the city, The Westin Cleveland, truly encompasses the modern, vivacious, spirit that is the city of Cleveland. Everywhere you look inside this hotel is a surprise, you never know what you’ll find next. Rich wood, bright green from the exquisitely crafted Palm Painting, and unique masterpieces welcome you into the lobby. My personal favorite is the peaceful statue of an oversized head constructed out of hundreds of tree branches reclaimed from the construction of the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge in the Tremont neighborhood. It is truly an experience to walk through this property. (Click here to learn more about the Art of the Westin.) Connecting with their Cleveland roots, their restaurant, Urban Farmer, is an excellent farm to table concept in a laid-back atmosphere. The brunch is delicious!

Westin - Cleveland, OH

 

The Westin Great Southern, Columbus

Known as the oldest hotel in Columbus and a staple for its’ unrivaled architecture, the Westin Columbus surely impresses all who seek its’ charming accommodations. The lobby is enough to make jaws drop with prominent high ceilings, marble floors, the second largest living wall in Ohio, and original woodworking in all its’ beauty. The most notable feature is the breathtaking ballroom; a classic gold and white room lined with a wall of windows, stunning stained-glass features, and intricate gold leaf woodworking. Recently renovated, the Westin Columbus still offers all the modern amenities and accommodations in a very metropolitan approach to the design and overall concept. For some of you, you may remember Thurber’s Bar. Well, Thurber’s Bar is no more! I got to see a sneak peek while still under construction, Westin Columbus, will now be home to a new concept: Great Southern Whiskey Bar. I think I know where this Columbus gal will be heading for her next happy hour!

Westin - Columbus, OH

 

Westin, Cincinnati

Want to feel in the mix and not lost in a large downtown metro area? Westin Cincinnati is situated in one of my favorite areas of downtown Cincinnati, Fountain Square. Just a short walk from several acclaimed restaurants, fun nightlife, and just outside their doors a scenic community area that houses concerts, ice skating rink in the winter, and so much more throughout the year. This place is a meetings mecca with so much to offer in regards to capacity and flow. The pre-function space is extremely spacious and feels open with an atrium style wall of windows looking out at Fountain Square. Take time to sneak to Over Vine, a quiet lounge that is quite literally over Vine Street with wonderful views! Talk about location, location, location!

Westin - Cincinnati, OH

 

Until Next Time,
Lauren

 

Fairytale Destination: Sea Island, Georgia

As you drive onto Sea Island, weaving through marsh land, admiring the overgrown oak trees and low hanging moss, water views, you truly feel the southern charm of Georgia.The Cloister - Sea Island, GA

The Cloister at Sea Island is something out of your favorite childhood storybook. Remember being captivated in a love story with the prince and princess in a fairytale setting? The Cloister at Sea Island is just that, a fairytale (and our friends had a fairytale wedding too). The architecture and design of the entire resort and island is the classic southern romantic charm of your dreams.

The Cloister - Sea Island, GA

As we pulled up under the porte-cochere, we were greeted by the friendly and abundant staff. Walking in there were fresh floral arrangements, stone like walls, charming brass chandeliers, elaborate tapestries, high ceilings with a wall of windows, and a staircase (the same staircase my dear friend would see her father for the first time prior to the wedding). I was in awe! Looking directly ahead at a wall of windows I was able to look out over a marble patio to the water. Similar to the main  lobby, our suite was equally stunning with similar features.

My husband and I had the opportunity to spend some time at their spa, visit The Beach Club, and golf their championship course. The spa forever has a little piece of my heart. Upon arrival, we were each greeted with a Peach Bellini (FRESH Georgia peaches, yum!). In the middle of the spa is an atrium filled with sky lights, man-made river-like features, and naturally growing trees. We found a little nook and sat curled up in our Ugg blankets (SO comfy).The Cloister - Sea Island, GA

That evening we went to a Welcome Party at The Retreat at Sea Island. Another gorgeous indoor/outdoor venue surrounded by the rich Georgia foliage and warm breezy air.The Cloister - Sea Island, GA

The ceremony took place in the garden under picturesque trees where chandeliers hung like earrings from their branches. The reception followed within the Mizner Ballroom at The Cloister. It within itself was an extravagant, black tie, event full of love and hope for the future. The service staff was incomparable and added so much to the overall event. An evening I will not soon forget. (For my events & catering folks out there, I have included a few photos below of the ceremony and reception. Enjoy!)

At the end of the day, hospitality is what we live for and work to deliver everyday. When a hospitality professional experiences true hospitality & kindness, they know it. Now, I am going to sit here and reminisce of the breezy air, the loveliest Peach Bellini and the joy of Southern Hospitality.

P.S. Just for fun. Here is my favorite pic from the wedding…The Cloister - Sea Island, GA

 

Cheers!

Lauren

 

The Cloister - Sea Island, GAThe Cloister - Sea Island, GA

 

 

Past & Present: Hyatt Regency at The Arcade

The city of Cleveland has such a charming array of historic buildings throughout its’ downtown streets and the Hyatt Regency at The Arcade adds to the historic character that Cleveland boasts. The Hyatt Regency is nestled between the main thoroughfare that is Superior Avenue and the bustling Euclid Ave. & East 4th Street corridor.

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OHI pulled up to the Superior Ave. valet entrance and was quickly on my way to the second floor which is where the front desk and lobby is located. This hotel is a charmer! Think of an atrium reminiscent of The Titanic with a roof like a greenhouse allowing natural light to pour in through glass tiles and beam off of ornate metal working throughout the floors.

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OHIdentified as one of the earliest known indoor shopping malls in the United States, there are still active shops, a spa, a lovely coffee shop called Rising Star Coffee Roasters (which I found myself at 3 mornings in a row!).  Being inside the Hyatt Regency at The Arcade felt more like being in its’ own little time capsule of a city than a hotel.

As I walked to my guestroom I enjoyed seeing the ornate railings, stairways, and light fixtures. The walk to your guestroom is an experience as you are not walking down an enclosed hallway, but it is completely open to the main atrium. On one side the guest rooms line the wall and on the other a view of the atrium.

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OHOnce I got to my room, the first thing I noticed was the rich wood doors, the window’s wooden blinds, and the black steel mail slot in my door labeled “Letters”. I walked into our extremely spacious room that offered high ceilings along with a separate living area from the rest of the bedroom and bathroom. (I am an early riser, so the separation was so nice to have, I could head down to the coffee shop, come back and sit in the lock-off area without disturbing my husband or our friends!)

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OHLarge drum shade light fixtures hang in both the living area and above the beds. The wall separating the spaces featured a mirror and wood accents and the door knobs were ornate black metal. The room has a modern vibe while paying homage to its’ historic roots.

At night, the atrium transforms. The lights of the shops go down while the strung lights and tall lamps light your path along the open hallways. It is romantic and soothing with the soft light glistening off the elaborate gold and brass décor.Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OH

A wedding of a childhood friend is what brought us to the Hyatt Regency. What is interesting from an event perspective is that the wedding physically took place on the first floor of The Arcade lined by the closed shops. On each end of The Arcade are beautiful staircases, both were used for the wedding: one is where the ceremony took place on the staircase with guests seated on the first floor and the other was used for a “first look”. We made our way to the second floor for cocktail hour, then back to the first for the reception. It was a stunning wedding full of love, dancing, and GREAT food!Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OH

 

After the wedding, guests made their way to East 4th Street which is lined with cool restaurants, bars, and a bowling alley. This hotel has it all inside its’ doors and and within steps outside.Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OH

Planning a trip to Cleveland? Do yourself a favor and walk through the beautiful Arcade shops or visit the Hyatt’s restaurant located on the second floor. (You’ll probably want to take a selfie too!)

 

Until Next Time,
Lauren

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OH

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OH

Taking Flight at Marriott at the University of Dayton

Marriott at the University of Dayton has had an overhaul that we have been seeing across the Marriott brand. Long gone are the days of bold rich reds, golds, and purples. Hello, are the days of a modern edge with a personalized twist paying homage to the area.Marriott - Dayton, OH

The redesign celebrates Dayton’s rich history of flight experiencing tributes to Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first plane design. As you walk in the front doors, the ceiling is notable as it offers depth and an aviation-like flow to the front desk.Marriott - Dayton, OH

Throughout the property you see rounded lines, rich woodworking, and a neutral palette with accents of rich blues and green plants. I enjoyed seeing all of the working areas, nooks to relax in, and the business center. Everything is comfortable and open with an undoubted sense of pride for the city of Dayton and its’ history. One of my favorite art pieces was the plane blueprint artwork that sat behind a working area, a three-piece installation that is a creative addition.

Marriott - Dayton, OHWhat once was Sharkey’s and an amphitheater is now a relaxing courtyard with outdoor seating. In addition, their restaurant got a full makeover and is now called Dewberry 1850. The restaurant is beautiful, bright, and open and is accessible easily from the entry. The bar within serves up coffee shop beverages by day and transforms to a bar by night. The menu features American classics served up fresh with a twist. While we were visiting, I did try their special coffee beverage, an iced Blackberry White Chocolate Latte, it hit the spot on a humid morning!Marriott - Dayton, OH

The Marriott at the University of Dayton has certainly undergone a fresh redesign and will continue to serve the Greater Dayton community for years to come.

Next week we are going to explore…. a wedding at the Hyatt at the Arcade in downtown Cleveland. (I know what you are thinking, yes, I am going to another wedding!)

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

 

Marriott - Dayton, OH

 

New Perspective at Hilton Easton

I joined the hospitality community in 2012. The Hilton Columbus at Easton that I always knew was something out of a Southern inspired movie or novel. Driving up to the stately white and brick building that sat nestled within Easton Town Center and stepping inside to beautiful draperies, brass and gold, floral prints, and a spectrum of colors is what I remember. (I’ve always loved this property, can you tell?)Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH

From the outside everything is seemingly the same and pristine as ever. Once you walk through the doors, a very sophisticated modern story unfolds. All of the qualities Hilton Columbus at Easton is known for have remained: exceptional service, delicious food, and uncanny attention to detail.Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH

Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH

Through the front doors and into the main lobby we go! Ah, what a space! The front desk, soft seating (and a lot of it – there is also extensive outdoor patio seating available), and the bar and lounge is wonderfully welcoming and simply put… stunning! Lovely shades of gray with accents of chartreuse green and purple hues make a great combination.

I have a few blog posts under my belt now, and I am sure you have learned, I love light fixtures. Throughout the lobby and pre-function spaces shiny silver and crystal-like shapes draw your attention. They truly make the spaces and they are unique!Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH

I also love food and am all-in for the new concept being offered, Herb-n-Kitchen. Serving Starbucks beverages, an array of freshly crafted salads, sandwiches, & flatbreads, and all the market snacks to go along with it (inclusive of Jeni’s Ice Cream pints!). When, I travel, especially by myself, I always appreciate an option like this! Hilton Columbus Easton - Columbus OH

Don’t worry, you can still order delicious menu options in the lounge along with your favorite cocktail (try the cucumber mint mule!).

DISCLAIMER TO OUR SPORTS FANS: Easton Sports Club, formerly inside of Hilton Easton, is no longer in business. RIP.

It is easy to see that this was a renovation of intent, an intent to make the guest experience enjoyable and easy. Next time you are at Easton Town Center be sure to visit the Hilton and see it for yourself!

P.S. I didn’t get to stay the night but check out these sleeping room photos below!

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH

Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH

 

 

Summer is Here!

When you’ve spent lots and lots of time inside changing diapers and working on organized tummy time on a proper flat surface, it makes you jump at a chance to hang out with adults doing adult things, like tapas and summer cocktails at a rooftop bar.

Enter, VASO.

VASO @ AC Hotel Dublin

VASO @ AC Hotel DublinIf you’re totally behind the times, Ohio recently got its second and third AC Hotels, in Dublin and Cincinnati.  VASO is the new rooftop bar and restaurant at Dublin’s swanky AC Hotel.  This property is located in the new Bridge Park Development, situated at the busy intersection of US 33 (Riverside Drive) and Rt. 161 (W Dublin-Granville Road). From my experience, ACs seem to be popping up in areas just like this – new, hip developments that need a stylish hotel to anchor a development of unique local restaurants, shopping and entertainment. When you enter the hotel, it’s a full sensory experience.  The art and decor is fun to look at, it smells heavenly (AC branded scent – rumor has it there is a new one coming soon!), the beautiful floor to ceiling bar straight ahead

makes you crave a handcrafted cocktail before you even make it through the threshold and you can hear the buzz of conversation from the open lobby concept, offering cozy places to have private conversations or quick business meetings. Once you make it past the lobby, you head to a separate entrance for the exclusive rooftop bar… So let’s go.

VASO @ AC Hotel Dublin

I’ve only been in 3 AC Hotels, but all of them have a cool outdoor experience.  The rooftop bar concept is taking Columbus by storm, but fortunately VASO got in and set the bar high from the start.  The glass elevator sweeps guests up to the 8th floor where you’re greeted by a friendly host, who is hoping you have a reservation, because my guess is walk-in availability is slim here. We were visiting on a Sunday evening after the Muirfield Memorial Golf Tournament which brings in celebs like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Needless to say, the place was PACKED. Luckily, we made reservations about a month in advance (totally not necessary, we were just busy having a baby so you know, options are limited). Once you can look past the number of people who also thought a rooftop bar in the summer would be a good idea, you see that amazing view.

VASO is serving up Spanish-style tapas and handcrafted cocktails. Our group ordered the San Jacabo (waitress recommendation and my favorite), Patatas Bravas, Albóndigas de Cordero, Ceviche de Vieiras and Ensalada de brotes de Bruselas.  Of course, no meal would be complete without dessert.  I had the Torta de Santiago, but honestly, TJ’s Torta de toffee y dátiles was absolutely amazing.

VASO @ AC Hotel DublinWhether you sit inside or out, guests can enjoy the tapas menu with impressive views, cool music and delicious cocktails.  If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend a visit. If you’re there on a Thursday-Saturday, there is a dress code.  Kind of old school, but I like it.  Embrace the exclusivity, because at this rooftop bar, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world.  And why not make a night out of it an enjoy the accommodations at the AC Hotel Dublin?

VASO @ AC Hotel Dublin

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck