Guest Post: TJ Visits The Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade

Great lodging in Downtown Cleveland

Unique Architecture @ the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade

You might have seen my name appear on a few of Halle’s posts before – I’m TJ, Halle’s husband.

Hiking in Pigeon Forge

Laurel Falls Train @ Pigeon Forge, TN

(Here’s a pic of us from her Pigeon Forge post a few weeks ago!) Halle definitely gave me the travel bug. We’ve had a chance to travel quite a few places since we started dating, but this year, I got to do some solo traveling for work – so I’m here to share a bit about my experience visiting Cleveland.

As my first shot at this guest blogging thing for Halle, let me start by saying I’m anything but a hospitality expert, but I do know a unique hotel when I see one. The Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade is a unique building with some real personality, flipped into a modern day hotel in a great location. Seconds away from many downtown Cleveland destinations, this Hyatt property is packed with history and cool views. The shared space in the middle of the building makes you feel as though you are inside of an old, Victorian style shopping mall from the past. That said, it is also extremely well maintained and clean. Although there is room for additional business to move into some of the old shop spaces, there is plenty of space used by some small businesses, in addition to the Hyatt’s gym.

The rooms in this property each have their own personality as well, as few have the same exact layout in

Great lodging in Downtown Cleveland

Great lodging in Downtown Cleveland @ the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade

this hotel. Again, not being in the hospitality industry, I would imagine this is not a common occurrence, and certainly adds to the uniqueness of this venue. The staff were top notch and always wielding a large smile. In addition to the wonderful venue, the area surrounding the Hyatt is packed with things to do, all within a short walking distance.

Since I was staying for a work function, the same week the Cleveland Indians were playing the Toronto Blue Jays for their (now) trip to the World Series, the Happy Hour scene was raging. Also, since most of you reading this don’t know me, know this; I love beer. My favorite spot for a good beer in Cleveland to date, I found on this trip– Butcher & The Brewer. Right on East 4th Street, this spot has a great atmosphere for any sports lover, and a great tap list as well. Another thing you should know about me (something Halle and I do not share) is a love for technology.  If you love beer and you love technology – you’re probably on Untappd – an app to track your beer consumption, focusing on unique labels and venues.  I always consider a trip a success if I can discover

Great spot for craft beer and upscale pub dining in Downtown Cleveland

Quick Bites and Great Brews @ The Butcher and the Brewer – Cleveland

something I haven’t tried before and here, I was able to do that. They also had some great appetizers – I did a mix and match of the charcuterie and cheese pairings. The homemade beef jerky was pretty darn good.

I was visiting Cleveland for a board meeting, so then I was off to meet the group for dinner. If you haven’t been to the East 4th Street entertainment district, it is packed with options. We chose The Greenhouse Tavern right across the alley. It’s a good quiet choice if you’re looking for a low key evening. If busy and bustling is more your style, The Corner Alley is also a good option. In addition to great food, they also have many games and a full bowling alley right in house.

As I write this guest blog about Cleveland and my experience there last week, I’m sitting in the San Diego Convention Center for the American Staffing Association’s 2016 Staffing World getting my learn on. I guess you could say we both find ways to integrate travel into what we do. That said, stay tuned for another upcoming guest entry from yours truly.

Lake Erie Love in Downtown Cleveland

Pura Vida!

Pit Stops – Small Town Ohio Does Big Things

I’ve mentioned this before, I’m from “small town” Ohio.  But in 2016, “small town” doesn’t always mean small ideas or small industry.  My hometown, for example, is a town of ~9,000, surrounded by farm land, an hour south of Cleveland and 30 minutes west of Canton.  Yet, we have a Fortune 500 company and we have our own power plant.  And now, in just a few short months we will have our very own branded hotel.  If you would have told me that 10 years ago, I would have laughed at you, but now, I totally believe it.

So today, I’m going to show you a bit about what these “small towns” are doing to create big names for themselves. Although we’re talkin’ general trends in the lodging industry around the state, we’re going to be making a pit stop in St. Clairsville, OH and Yellow Springs, OH. Keep your hands and arms inside this ride, because there are lots of things you’ll want to reach out and touch for yourself!

Residence Inn by Marriott – St. Clairsville, OH

Extended Stay Lodging in Eastern Ohio

Upgraded Patio Package @ Residence Inn St. Clairsville

That’s right! That is not a picture from my back patio, this is a group seating area at the new Residence Inn St. Clairsville.  Ok, I hear you, “where is St. Clairsville?” you ask!  It is on the Ohio side of Wheeling, WV.  In my 6 years of dating my now husband, I’ve passed through it more times than I can count.  TJ is from Moundsville, WV, just across the river. It’s been amazing to watch St. Clairsville build itself up over the years and the new Residence Inn is a great example of that.  When I had a chance to visit I was first wowed by the vibrant exterior paint job that really stood

Extended Stay Lodging in Eastern Ohio

Show me the Light! @ Residence Inn St. Clairsville

out against the relatively industrial backdrop.  When I walked into the lobby, I said to the team, I do not feel like I’m *almost* in West Virginia.  This place was rocking a contemporary design that I think would shock many locals. The front desk was super sleek and the light fixtures looked like they

came straight out of a design catalog of the future!

Adam and his team were ready to give me the grand tour.  The rooms were beautiful, I’d imagine, but when I was there – they were SOLD OUT! That is amazing for this area of the state.  No city-wides (urban conventions that take up a majority of major hotels) or major concerts. This place was just plain old sold out. So I didn’t get to see any rooms, but from the public space, I could only imagine they’d be perfect.

The real show stopper of the property was the upgraded pool and patio package.  I asked Adam if they ever got locals that just wanted a “weekend away” because the beautiful pool with endless windows and landscaping made me feel as though I was on some kind of vacation that I was not

Extended Stay Lodging in Eastern Ohio

Extended Stay in Style @ Residence Inn St. Clairsville

expecting.  The way they’ve built the pool area makes you feel like your outdoors, which is very West Virginian of them. (West Virginians love the outdoors, I’ve come to learn!) Good news though, the pool is inside. So if you are joining the thousands of other people that flock to visit this region for the Festival of Lights at Oglebay, consider this an alternative place to stay.

Far from winter,the day I visited it was hot. And sunny. The patio looked so inviting.  They have grills so you can cook out and enjoy the space.  This is one of the trends I love about extended stay properties. The majority of their guests are there for long periods of time, so think about how nice it would be to get out of your room and join some other long-term stayers out on the patio for a beer and some brats.  I’m always tempted to stay at an extended stay property even for one night for this very reason. They want to make you feel like you’re at home.

What would an InnLove post be without a food mention? If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend Later Alligator in downtown Wheeling.  The menu is vast and the food is delicious.  Sometimes there can be a wait, so if you find yourself in one, put your name in and take a stroll through Centre Market. There are great pop up stands within the market itself and antique shops, coffee shops and clothing stores along the street!  We recently discovered another great place, Avenue Eats.  For the first time ever I sunk my teeth into a Pear & Bleu Cheese burger. What?! Yes. It was SO GOOD.  I wish this restaurant was a bit bigger because it too can be hard to get into, but they do have a cute outdoor patio!

With great food and a fabulous new place to stay – why not check it out?!

Mills Park Hotel – Yellow Spring, OH

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Quirky, isn’t it?  Before we get too far into this, let me tell you about where I am.  I, along with a number of fellow Dayton area hoteliers, descended upon the new Mills Park Hotel in Yellow Springs, OH. Yellow Spring is about 30 minutes from Dayton.  And it’s perfect. I cannot believe I’ve lived my entire life without visiting here. And now, they have this super cool new hotel that is getting a lot of attention.  The Mills Park Hotel opened in April. It looks historic, but it isn’t. It is newly built, but modeled after an historic home of one of Yellow Springs original settlers. This property is located in the heart of downtown and along the bike trail.  The room has an open, almost Southern feel with light paint colors and hardwood floors.  The rooms are spacious and well appointed, crisp and clean.  We were there for a meeting, so I didn’t get to have the full Mills Park experience, but I want to.  When I pulled up around 2PM on a Tuesday afternoon and there were people playing croquet on the lawn! On a Tuesday! At 2! I seriously thought I’d walked onto a movie set. Did someone plan this?

Discover Yellow Springs Ohio and Check Out the New Hotel near Antioch College

History Gets a Face Lift @ Mills Park Hotel – Yellow Springs

No, the staff was bustling, setting up for our meeting. It was beautiful. If you’re looking for a unique venue – highly recommended!  I was told that Yellow Springs has two great art/street festivals throughout the year. You bet I’ll be back next year for that.  What have I been missing?

Mills Park is nailing another new trend.  You’re close to the city, but you certainly don’t feel that way. They have all of the conveniences you need – a great restaurant, fitness center, board room and business center, set in a unique setting.

Whether you’re looking for a quick trip away or a place to host a meeting, a brand or an independent property, a major hotel or a 28 room inn; consider checking out some of these smaller town hot spots!

What small town places have you visited recently?

Discover Yellow Springs Ohio and Check Out the New Hotel near Antioch College

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

Splish-Splashing at Kalahari!

Great spot for indoor fun, year round for couples or families!

Exploring @ Kalahari – Sandusky

It’s funny, Kalahari Sandusky opened over 10 years ago, but this year was my first visit. I liked it so much I’ve been there three times since March!  Let’s back up a little bit… I’m a self proclaimed ACEr (American Coaster Enthusiast), so when I make the drive to Sandusky from Columbus, you know where I’m headed (CEDAR POINT, BABY!) I’ve passed Kalahari a zillion times, it’s pretty hard to miss.  With the exception of the gas station across the street, it sits on a relatively empty plot of land and truly makes you feel like you’ve found an oasis in the desert. On my first visit, I pulled into the massive complex on a cold, rainy day.  I was so glad I was going somewhere I could lock myself inside – it was not pretty out!  TJ was with me and I was there for a conference, but we extended our trip to enjoy the water park. The second trip was all conference and I skipped the water park, as the calendar was jam-packed with not a lot of water-time!  Those two trips happened before the blog came about, so I was excited for my third trip when I could document the awesomeness that is Kalahari.

I was hosting a meeting, so luckily I had a lay of the land because on your first trip, you definitely need a survival kit and a map.  When I tell you this place is huge, double whatever you’re picturing in your head.

Kalahari does GREAT conventions and meetings!

Exploring @ Kalahari – Sandusky

So at this time, I’ve been to Kalahari for three meetings.  Everytime, I’m always impressed with the service, the food, and of course the venue. When was the last time your cocktail reception features Ostrich Skewers or Ceviche?  They always make an effort to incorporate authentic African cuisine into your menu.  As a Certified Meeting Professional, it gives me a little bit of anxiety because so many people are SO PICKY! But, the traveler in me loves it. I enjoy trying new things and I can always count on Kalahari to create an epicurean adventure I’ve never tried before. So, if you find yourself here for a meeting, just try it.  Everything they make is an experience and something to be savored.

If you aren’t here for a meeting, or you are able to enjoy any of the other amenities – check out the water park. When I first visited, TJ and I made it a point to get there early to beat the masses. We rode all of the slides, the lazy river and the “dump buckets” as I call them.  You know, those water vortex things that spits you out a funnel? This is a fantastic place for families. It’s safe and there are a zillion different things to do for all ages.  But for us, we didn’t have kids and once the kid:adult ratio started to tip out of

Great spot for indoor fun, year round for couples or families!

Splashing Around @ Kalahari – Sandusky

our favor, we high tailed it to the adults-only hot tub.  You heard that right! Complete with swim up bar and indoor-outdoor connected, child free hot tub. It was perfect. Back in March, there was still a winter nip in the air and the outdoor hot tub was the perfect place to sit back and close your eyes.  For the record, it sounds like I will need to make another trip, because they’re opening a new outdoor slides section in 2017.  Because I’ve only visited when it’s cold and raining, I haven’t been able to appreciate all of the outdoor hot spots – water slides, a zip line course, and animals! There is a mini zoo!

We wrapped up our day at the slides and decided to go out for a night on the town.  I heard you snicker. “Out on the town? Halle, you’re in Sandusky – there’s nowhere to ” go out” to! Right?” WRONG. Sandusky is revitalized, my friends.  You heard it here. You need to get there and soon, before everyone else figures it out.  There are two amazing places that I have had the pleasure of patronizing.  One is Crush Wine Bar, where we started the evening for a glass of wine. They serve food too – I would check it out on another trip, for sure!  We had dinner reservations around the corner at ZINC brasserie and “Oh, my!” Our food was phenomenal. This is ‘big city caliber’ fine dining, folks. TJ had the duck and I went beef.  We started off with a beef carpaccio that was to die for. (apparently I was in a beef mood!)  And the dessert? A perfect Creme Brulee, toasted to perfection – one of my favorite things on earth.  Since we’ve been to downtown Sandusky, they have added a slew of restaurants, a speakeasy and a brand new, boutique hotel, Hotel Kilbourne.  I think the Sandusky shores of Lake Erie will be pulsing with even more travelers come next summer with all of these hot additions!

Not to be overlooked however, would be the numerous restaurants Kalahari has to offer its guests.  If my memory serves me right, there are six restaurants/cafes outside of the park and plenty of variety in both atmosphere and food.  If I were there for leisure travel, I’d say you have more options than you need!  The pizza is a great choice, out of the Cafe Mirage/Pizza Pub area.  Actually, that’s one of my favorite things at Kalahari (shhh, don’t tell!)

So whether you’re there for a meeting, splashing around in the water park, relaxing in the Spa Kalahari & Salon or restaurant hopping, take some time to check out the detail of this place. If you’re in just the right spot, at just the right time, they might just have you convinced that you were transported to the African countryside.

Great spot for indoor fun, year round for couples or families!

Morning Rainbows @ Kalahari – Sandusky

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

A Spectacular Start to Fall – Luxury in the Smoky Mountains

I’ve had some people comment recently that it looks like I travel a lot for work, you’ve got that right! But, I also travel A LOT in my personal life. It’s a good thing I love travel, wouldn’t you say?  The month of September was grueling for the hubby and me – between the two of us, we slept in 6 different hotels in 4 different states (South Carolina, Ohio – but not at home!, Nevada and Tennessee) in 5 days. That can get exhausting. Luckily, the end of our month of travel chaos ended in the most perfect way.  Our last stop was a wedding in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.  Backtracking a bit, the bride’s brother was married in Telluride, CO 2 years prior. We FELL IN LOVE with Telluride in the fall. My heart aches thinking about it and when I will get the chance to return.  Good news, this wedding was just as beautiful.

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

Weddings @ Brothers Cove – Pigeon Forge, TN

We drove. I’m not always a huge fan, but flying wasn’t going to be much more efficient.  We arrived late in the evening and battled a dark winding rode up the mountain side.  We were far later than we had hoped, missing the community dinner for guests not attending the rehearsal dinner. Luckily, my mom and dad were there and scavenged some food.  See, the original plan was for us to meet for dinner in Sevierville.  That plan was quickly tossed aside when my parents arrived. My mom called exclaiming, “we are not going back down that hill at night!” We laughed, because, it was night and we had to take the road she was referring to! As we entered the Brother’s Cove property, we were amazed at the size of these

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

cliff hanging cabins.  They are MASSIVE and all supported on stilts.  From the outside, I could tell these were not your typical “ruffing it” experience.  We definitely didn’t need to question if there were going to be linens provided at this cabin experience. We popped out of the car and walked into the most immaculate “living room” I’ve ever seen

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

– cabin or not. This cabin sleeps six, but apparently you can squeeze ten.  It is three stories! My mom says they gave us the more secluded room on the third floor, I assume what she meant was, we gave you the third floor room because you two have the best knees in the group.  That’s fair, we were sharing the room with my parents and a mother/daughter duo from my hometown.  The mother is probably 70 or 80, so I didn’t complain.  We climbed that spiral staircase and found the most beautiful “tree house” room.  We didn’t have a whirlpool like the others, but wow, did we had a view! It was hard to see at night, but when you woke up, you could see for miles.  The rooms were built with three walls of floor to ceiling glass. It was so beautiful. Each room also came with its own private porch.  We were there with family, so I wanted to join my parents for a hot tea in the morning, but if I were there with a bunch of friends – it would be a nice way to peacefully start the morning in privacy.

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

Wake up to this view @ Brother’s Cove – Pigeon Forge, TN

We only had a day to spend at Pigeon Forge so we wanted to make the most of it. The cabin had a full kitchen, much nicer than my own, so had we planned accordingly, we could have easily cooked breakfast for an army.  We set out to find a local place that cooked up some good Southern breakfast fair and we found it at Grandmother’s Kitchen. The sign outside advertised “Cathead Biscuits” which piqued my interest.  What the hell is a Cathead Biscuit? I was willing to find out. Turns out, “cathead” refers to the size of the biscuits.  They were colossal and delicious. If I wasn’t always concerned about not looking like I eat as much as I do, I would have eaten more than one of those!

My dad was acting as our guide.  We set off to find the Laurel Falls Trail.  Apparently one I’ve walked before as a kid, but I didn’t remember it.  You probably could have guessed, but cell phone reception is sub par in this area. Had I needed to find this place on my own, we’d probably still be looking. Luckily, I think my dad has a detailed world map inside of his head – he can always find everything. The trail was great – fairly easy for the hiking newbie, but had some elevations for sure.  The falls were lovely, although there were a lot of people there.  Sadly, I think a bus of tourists had been dropped off prior to our arrival, because they were traveling in pac…herds. My mom doesn’t make too many appearances here, so here

Hiking in Pigeon Forge

Laurel Falls Train @ Pigeon Forge, TN

you go! We made it back just in time to make a pitstop for some lunch food and to hit the pool.  If you’ve ever spent time driving down the main drag in Pigeon Forge,you might have thought for just a second! that you were in the over commercialized area of Myrtle Beach, if it weren’t for the mountains. YIKES!  It was too much for me.  Luckily, we came across a great Tennessee BBQ join that had a big smoker out front and someone was actually using it!  Boss Hogg’s BBQ was amazing.  TJ and the ‘rents got ribs and I chose the brisket.  Everything was perfect. We headed over to the pool to catch the last of the Tennessee rays before preparing for the wedding.  Honestly, I have no idea why more people weren’t at the pool. OK, it was a little chilly. I don’t believe it’s heated and by September, the nights are just too cool, but again, that view!  I could have sat there all day, but we had a wedding to get to!

In researching Brother’s Cove, I knew that weddings were the money maker for them and now I can see why. The backdrop for the ceremony was jaw dropping and the

Looking for a luxury cabin experience, great for groups and families? Check out Brother's Cove in Pigeon Forge

Weddings @ Brothers Cove – Pigeon Forge, TN

reception was top notch.  They turned out delicious food, but even if the food was awful, you wouldn’t haven’t noticed if you just stared out the windows.

Kudos to the staff and the property at Brother’s Cove.  Our visit was far more than we expected and I’m pretty sure the bride and groom were quite pleased.

We cannot wait for another opportunity to escape to Pigeon Forge and we know exactly where we will stay.  With a hottub, grill, and full kitchen all wrapped up in a luxury cabin atop a mountain with a spectacular view, how could you not come back?

Thank you for kicking our fall off with a bang.  The Smokies are truly Great!

Hiking in Pigeon Forge

Laurel Falls Train @ Pigeon Forge, TN

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