Ascending to New Heights in Wytheville, VA

Virginia is for Lovers

Virginia is for Lovers

We are taking this ride off-road a bit! Every now and then I actually go on vacation. Every July, my family makes a trip to one of my favorite places on Earth, Ocean Isle Beach, NC.  This was our 29th year visiting the same beach on North Carolina’s southern most coastline. When you’ve made this trip 29 times, you know you could drive it blindfolded (not that we would actually attempt that).  The trip is always the same –  who can spot the golden Charleston dome first?, a swing through Tamarack for a little shopping & lunch, and without fail, we can always spot hundreds of Ohio plates with “pods” trekking down the highway.  We jokingly call this the “Great Migration” – Ohioans traveling to the Carolina coast for vacation every summer.  Although it’s always the same journey, we find ourselves asking each year, “but where should we stay?”  We’ve made the trip in one day – 9 hours of driving doesn’t kill anybody, but we like to stay one night out on the road. The logical place to stop is just shy of the Virginia/North Carolina border.  There’s only one problem THERE IS NO WHERE TO STAY. Sure, there are your old standbys dotting the exits, but we always prefer something we can’t get at home while on vacay. But this year…we found it.  We found the holy grail.  It changed our experience.  We talked about it for days.  It made that one extra night of traveling actually part of our vacation.  Nestled in little old Wytheville, VA is the Bolling Wilson Hotel, and this my friends, is perfection.

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Ascending to new Heights @ the Bolling Wilson Hotel

The Bolling Wilson Hotel is actually…a chain.  It sure doesn’t look like it!  There has been a resurgence of the independent, boutique hotels and brands are finally picking up on it.  For Marriott, you have an Autograph Collection; for Hilton a Curio Collection and for Choice an Ascend Collection.  If you visit one of these properties, the

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Ascending to new Heights @ the Bolling Wilson Hotel

only way you will know it is part of a brand is you can a) collect your loyalty points and b) the standards of service you’d expect from one of their sister properties.  In Ohio, we don’t have any Ascend properties, so this was new to me and I loved it. The lobby is like a piece of art. Simple and to the point, but with a little pizzazz. If you aren’t a history buff and you haven’t caught on yet to the significance behind the name of the hotel, I’ll fill you in. The hotel pays homage to it’s most famous citizen, First Lady Edith Bolling Wilson (President Woodrow Wilson). If you take a closer look at the lobby, you’ll find some of the First Lady’s

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Ascending to New Heights @ the Bolling Wilson Hotel

favorites smartly entwined in the beautiful decor. Her love of orchids can be found everywhere in fresh flowers throughout the lobby and her love of canaries is displayed in the tiny birdcage, just behind registration. If you’re up at the right time in the morning, the birds wake up to greet you.

I don’t want to forget to mention the fantastic restaurant the Bolling Wilson Hotel has on site, Graze on Main. We were able to enjoy dinner here when we first arrived and I am so glad we did.  Our family loves to eat, if you haven’t gathered that from other posts.  Just like our preference in hotels, we like to find something unique when we’re dining out.  And, like our search for an ideal resting place on this long trip down I-77, we’re hard pressed to find good restaurants as well.  What a godsend that we found both in one place. I knew the week ahead would be full of carbs as most vacations are so I was wise in my dinner choice. Luckily, I saw a server walk by with a salad piled high with bleu cheese and I knew instantly what I wanted.  I had the Chopped Salad (with chicken!) and as usual, TJ indulged in a Ribeye which was cooked perfectly.  If you have a chance to stop by Wytheville and you can’t stay, I’d at least swing through this fabulous restaurant for lunch or dinner!

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

A Step Back in Time on The Heritage Walk in Wytheville, VA

What stay at an historic hotel would be complete without a little sightseeing?  I set out for my morning run as the sun

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

was coming up and was pleased to find downtown Wytheville alive with others enjoying the Heritage Walk. The trail was a mix between brick sidewalks downtown, weaving between cool, old buildings; paved paths through the park and hidden walkways.  It was a great way to start the morning and you can pick up the trail right in front of the hotel. When I finally returned to the hotel, I was warmly greeted by the front desk employee who shared with me the story of the canaries and the love story behind the Bolling Wilson Hotel.  I slowly made my way back up to my room to find my breakfast waiting for me outside the door.  The Bolling Wilson Hotel does something I’ve never seen before –

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

taking “breakfast in bed” to a whole new level. They provide these great little baskets that they fill up each morning with breakfast for guests.  In all of my time in the hotel industry, I’ve never seen this before. What a great idea for a small place that also wants to accommodate breakfast for its guests!

We are so glad we discovered the Bolling Wilson Hotel and cannot wait to make it part of our yearly migration to the North Carolina coast!

 

Great new hotel find in the middle of Virginia. Great stop along I-77!

Canaries @ Bolling Wilson Hotel

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

A Little History While Treated Like Royalty in the Queen City

The Cincinnatian Hotel is an historic, boutique hotel in the heart of Cincinnati

The Iconic Cricket Lounge @ The Cincinnatian Hotel

If you didn’t know already, I lived in Cincinnati for 7 years.  It has a number of names – the Queen City, Porkopolis, the Nati — if you’re in school there.  For me, it was home. I fell in love with the culture and oh, THE FOOD.  I left Cincinnati in 2013 to join my now hubby in Columbus. Needless to say, a lot of my favorite people are still in Cincinnati and we make multiple trips there every year.  The cool thing about living outside of Cincinnati is that now I get to stay in all of it’s great lodging spots when I visit! So we’re going to kick off our Cincinnati post with one of my all-time favorite hotels, The Cincinnatian Hotel.

The Cincinnatian is historic.  It is one of the oldest hotels in Ohio, built in 1882.  It originally opened its doors as The Palace Hotel and was the tallest building in the city at a whopping 8 stories. It had 300 guest rooms and a shared bathrooms and it’s biggest claim to fame in those days was the addition of the elevator an incandescent lighting. In the mid-1900s, the hotel took a bit of a dive.  People lived there and it got pretty bad.  The plan was to tear it down and replace it with a parking garage.  The good news is, someone remembered what it was and knew what it could be and in 1987 after a $25 Million renovation, it reopened its doors in all the grandeur of its day.

The Cincinnatian Hotel is an historic, boutique hotel in the heart of Cincinnati

Fancy Footing @ The Cincinnatian Hotel

Now, the hotel has about half of the rooms the original hotel had and, yes, fortunately each room has it’s own bathroom (or two!). The hotel still has bits of its history sprinkled throughout – the grand staircase, which has been featured in countless Cincinnati wedding photo shoots, is the original!  If you look closely, you can see the dip in the marble of over 100 years of foot traffic. If you’re into following the footsteps of those that came before you and find yourself climbing the stairs, you might discover there is a mistake in my story.  I told you there were 8 stories, but this staircase only covers 7.  Good catch!  The 8th floor used to serve as servant’s quarters in the original hotel, so the guest staircase would never have served the top floor.  Now, the 8th floor holds a number of suites and additional guestrooms and can be accessed by the elevators and emergency staircase.

You could spend all day at The Cincinnatian, checking out the art that lines the hallways or feasting on the delicious creations that Chef Nathan Sheatzley serves up in the award winning Palace Restaurant.  On the weekends, you would be smart to enjoy a cocktail and the sounds of the Phillip Paul Trio in the Cricket Lounge. But, we were here for a wedding, so our weekend was well laid out for us.

After 7 years in Cincinnati and many return trips, you’d think I’ve seen it all.  I’ve definitely been to the Cincinnati Art Museum, watched a lot of football at Paul Brown Stadium and a lot of baseball at Great American Ballpark. I’ve crossed the Ohio River on the Purple People Bridge and I’ve sampled all of the favorites – Skyline Chili and Graeter’s Ice Cream — but it took leaving for me to discover one of the coolest things in downtown Cincinnati – the American Sign Museum.

If you're looking for things to do in Cincinnati - the American Sign Museum is an off the beaten path place to stop!

American Sign Museum

This place is SO COOL. If you’re planning a trip to Cincinnati, it’s definitely worth a visit. You take a step back in time as you pull into the parking lot. The signs they have on display are all kinds of different wonders from the past – restaurant signs, billboards, descriptions of different typeface and so much more.  One of the employees found us staring up in amazement and started giving us some fun facts.  In the middle of the main showroom, there is an enormous spinning globe.  In the opposite direction, little neon cars spin around it.  You probably could have guessed, but this used to be at an auto dealer.

If you're looking for things to do in Cincinnati - the American Sign Museum is an off the beaten path place to stop!

American Sign Museum

The employee said the piece came from Compton and while it was still there in had a bit of a run in.  It turns out if you look closely, you can see where a bullet hole entered one side and exited the other.  No reason to repair it! A little authenticity adds to the character of the place. If you have a chance to stop next time you’re in Cincinnati, I highly recommend it. They’re open Wednesday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Sunday 12:00 noon – 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for Seniors, Students, Kids and Military.

After a great night on the town, we headed back to our fabulous room at The Cincinnatian. We woke up the next morning craving a new breakfast experience before hitting the highway.  A quick google search told me of a place I’d never seen before – Cheapside Cafe.  Strange name, I thought to myself.  But, I’m a sucker for artsy pictures of baristas, so I was sold.  Within easy walking distances of The Cincinnatian and other downtown hotels, Cheapside Cafe sits on the corner of 8th St. and, of course, Cheapside St.!  Consider yourself warned, if you blink, you just might miss it. The building itself can’t be bigger than a guestroom at The Cincinnatian and the menu was just as small.  I’m

Looking for a Hidden Gem in Cincinnati? Check out this off the beaten path breakfast find!

In breakfast heaven @ Cheapside Cafe

one of those people though, that believes that great things come in small packages and boy was I right.  TJ ordered the Chorizo Egg Sandwich which was perfect and just a touch spicy. It was strangely chilly outside for summer, so I went with what was sure to be a palate pleaser – the Oatmeal Brulee. It was a fancy twist on such a simple breakfast item, but it was a little bowl of heaven.  Everything about Cheapside Cafe was great and I’d definitely go back.

We had a great trip to Cincinnati, but if I “had” to go back, which you know I will, I’d visit some of my favorite dinner establishments.  So if you make it there before me, I want to be sure you get a chance to try them too.  In no particular order –

Boca

Mita’s

Salazar

Orchids at Palm Court

Enjoy!

If you're looking for things to do in Cincinnati - the American Sign Museum is an off the beaten path place to stop!

American Sign Museum

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

Pit Stops – Eastern Ohio

You know those song lyrics, “take me hoooome, country roads?”

That’s what I often find I’m singing to myself when I get to discover Ohio’s wild side. You know, the side that isn’t accessed by I-71, I-75 or I-70.  It’s so refreshing. If you didn’t know, I’m a good ole’ farm town girl. I didn’t grow up with rush hour, commutes or I-anything.  I have a special fondness for discovering these hidden getaways throughout rural Ohio and I want to share them with you.

This is the first of what will be deemed “Pit Stop” posts.  These are properties I had the chance to visit and learn the story behind, but haven’t had the chance to stay.  I’ll usually show you a handful of truly marvelous places that I hope inspire you to discover something new – take a girls’ getaway or a last minute romantic weekend away. If you’ve had a chance to stay at one of these places, please share your experience with us!

Orchard House Bed & Breakfast – Granville, OH

Our first pit stop is at the Orchard House Bed & Breakfast in Granville, OH.  Granville is the home of Denison University and famed OSU Football coach, Woody Hayes.  It is just shy of 40 minutes East of Columbus. Granville has many great places to stay including the Granville Inn and the Buxton Inn, both located in downtown Granville.  But, there is something fairytale like about the Orchard House B&B, which is just 5 minutes from downtown.

Ohio B&Bs are a great place for a weekend getaway!

Entrance to the Orchard House @ Orchard House B&B

The original part of Orchard House B&B was built in 1850. Since the original construction, the home has seen many owners and uses, but the property first opened as a B&B in the 1990s and here it

Great unique B&Bs in your backyard!

Bonne Nuit @ Orchard House B&B

stands today.  The property has 4 rooms, each named after prominent figures in the B&B’s history.  After a restful night’s sleep, you can grab a cup of Columbus’ own One Line Coffee, brewed in house on a specially maintained coffee system and your handcrafted breakfast all sourced from local farmers and purveyors, and head out to the pond.   You can stretch your legs by strolling across the 12 acres of land that Orchard House rests on.

Ever dreamed of a fairytale wedding? Check out this off the beaten path Ohio wedding venue!

Fairytale Wedding Space @ Orchard House B&B

If you like magic, I’d suggest venturing into the pine forest that runs along the northwest corner of the property. It is in that pocket of trees, where one of my favorite places of Orchard House can be found – a magical, fairylike alcove of pine perfect for reflection and peace.  It has also recently caught the attention of some brides.  You can in fact host a wedding ceremony among these tall pines and innkeeper, Dean, knows just how to make it perfect.

Landoll’s Mohican Castle – Loudonville, OH

An Ohio castle getaway - perfect for a staycation or romantic weekend away!

Feeling Like Royalty @ Landoll’s Mohican Castle

Speaking of fairytales – who hasn’t wanted to stay in a castle?  Our next Pit Stop is Landoll’s Mohican Castle. Built in the heart of the Mohican country and far removed from the hustle and bustle, it is a unique twist on a traditional castle. To access the castle, we traveled on many back country roads, soaking in the sun, sounds and vegetation. The castle’s towers appear out of nowhere and you instantly feel like Dorothy, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in [Ohio] anymore!”

An Ohio castle getaway - perfect for a staycation or romantic weekend away!

Unique Ohio Guestrooms @ Landoll’s Mohican Castle

An Ohio castle getaway - perfect for a staycation or romantic weekend away!

In-SPIRE-ing @ Landoll’s Mohican Castle

The great news about Landoll’s Castle is that you get to stay IN THE CASTLE. Sometimes a castle-style property isn’t what you think.  The castle itself is just for looks, or the inside isn’t as grand as the outside – but not here. Those towers? Some of them have rooms!  The tallest is an awesome observation deck where you can see trees and birds for miles. The property has 17 rooms, many of which are inside the castle. There are a few cottages across the grounds as well. You may be thinking – I think I’ve heard of this place before.  You probably have! Landoll’s has been featured on two different TV shows.  It made it’s television debut in 2008 on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 where it played host to an incredible Sweet 16 Party, complete with tigers, a Ferris Wheel and an entrance on the back of an elephant. More recently, Landoll’s event space was transformed in 2015 as the season 3 finale property of Gordon Ramsey’s Hotel Hell.  The production team redesigned the event space, back of the house and the menu.

An Ohio castle getaway - perfect for a staycation or romantic weekend away!

Gordon Ramsey’s Reimagined The Copper Mug Bar & Grille @ Landoll’s Mohican Castle

They also continue to provide consultation as Landoll’s Castle continues to grow its services. Now you can also check out the re-conceptualized restaurant – The Copper Mug Bar & Grille where Executive Chef Kyle Elsasser has dished up a brand new menu.

St. Paul Hotel – Wooster, OH

Great urban Ohio getaways lead us to the St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster!

Urban Sanctuary in Rural Ohio @ The St. Paul Hotel

For our final Pit Stop, we find ourselves in one of Ohio’s biggest tourist destinations – Ohio Amish Country – a region roughly defined by Holmes and Wayne counties and sections of Stark and Tuscarawas counties. When I think of Amish Country, I think of horses, quilts and baked goods; I think of home-baked comfort, cozy fireplaces and gingham. What I don’t think of is sleek, modern and urban, but that is exactly what the St. Paul Hotel in Wooster has to offer.

The original building was built in the 1800s and has operated as a hotel many times throughout its history, but not always as a valued downtown gem.  In the 1920s it became the Hotel St. Paul where it’s reputation for basement betting and card games led to it’s inevitable sale.  As with many former hotels, it was reopened as an apartment building in the late 1970s that eventually closed in 2008.  With a prime location, one block south of Downtown Wooster‘s square, there was a glimmer of hope. The hotel reopened in 2011 as the beautiful boutique property it is today.  A step inside the lobby will transport you to a big, bustling urban city center.  The great news?  There are numerous restaurants and shops, all within walking distance. Public transportation is your feet. You won’t find endless wait lists and long lines for dining, like a big city brings.

Great urban Ohio getaways lead us to the St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster!

The old and the new @ The St. Paul Hotel

So let’s take a step inside – the lobby at the St. Paul Hotel is one of my favorites.  I could sit here all day with a book and people watch.  They have

found a way to incorporate some antique pieces like the St. Paul stain glass window with contemporary furnishings and decor. The property has 12 rooms with plans to

Great urban Ohio getaways lead us to the St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster!

#Local #Handcrafted @ The St. Paul Hotel

build more.  Each room is smartly appointed and the woodwork is handcrafted by

local craftsman.  The hallways are lined with black and white photography of the local landscape – which you’ll almost forget is in the middle of Ohio’s heartland! I’m also told the property offers a personalized, complimentary breakfast which is hand delivered to your room – because let’s be honest, you’d have a hard time leaving the elegance of your guest room!

If you’re looking for a great getaway in a small town, with big city amenities, check out the St. Paul Hotel – I guarantee you’ll be blown away.

Great urban Ohio getaways lead us to the St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster!

Missing the Country @ The St. Paul Hotel

And with that – I share with you three cool places to discover in Ohio.  When you get a chance, make a pit stop. Maybe it’s to stay over night and maybe it’s not, but do report back and let me know what you think!

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