Travel Safe!

Can you believe tomorrow is July 1?  I can’t.  I always joke that I break my year into two main events: Christmas and our family vacation to Ocean Isle Beach, NC in July, and I cannot believe we’re almost there.  BUT.  This weekend, my friends, is THE weekend to travel.

This week I’m going to take a break from blogging, because in the 1 year I’ve been doing this, I’ve only had one other week off… Christmas! So what I leave you with today, is some super cool info about travel over this holiday weekend, provided to me by my friend, Matt Robertson of AAA Home & Away Magazine.

They say it’s going to be a record breaking year. Americans will be hitting the road to visit friends, family and celebrate Independence Day together. AAA Public Relations Manager, Julie Hall writes, “This Independence Day, a record-breaking 44.2 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home, taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways to honor the red, white and blue.” So where are you and your family headed this weekend? Share with us in the comments! Let’s see who is traveling the furthest.

Maybe it’s the extra long weekend for most, or the super low gas prices. Whatever the reason, I hope that you and your loved ones travel safe and have a fantastic holiday weekend.  I know we will. I’ll see you in July!

xo

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

Sophisticated Charm on the (Ohio) Edge

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

Sophistication & Charm @ The Avalon Inn & Resort – Warren, OH

It was a bright and sunny June day.  The temperature was perfect.  The sky blue with fluffy white wisps floating across the sun. If I wasn’t going to be sitting poolside, there’s only one other way I’d like to spend a day as picturesque as that, and that’s exploring a beautiful resort.  And even better? A resort in Ohio. On this gorgeous spring day, I found myself walking the grounds of the recently renovated Avalon Inn & Resort in Warren, OH.

As I entered the lobby, I found myself wondering – how did I not know this was here?  I’m in the rust belt and you would never know it. The pin-tucked, tight back chairs and sofa were striking against the marble floor and grand fireplace (not exactly what I was expecting and a pleasant surprise!). As I waited for my tour guide, I was baffled at just how many golfers were wondering around the lobby on this Friday morning, bustling between the gift shop, patio and guestrooms. My guide swept me through the crowd to start our tour outside. The Avalon Inn & Resort is a country club and an inn. Guests of the inn are permitted to use all (and I mean, all) of the amenities club members have access to. The list is extensive.  The resort includes access to three golf courses – Avalon Lakes, Avalon at Buhl Park and Squaw Creek.

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

In addition to golf, the resort offers amenities for guests of all ages, golfers and non-golfers alike. We stepped into the new recreation room – a cool, den space that includes a large TV, bar and arcade games.  Sometimes when I think of an arcade room at a resort, I picture a brightly lit room with old games and a stark, white wall/floor/ceiling combo. Not here. When the weather might turn too cool for outdoor activities, this would be an excellent place to cozy up for a movie, huddle around a table to play cards or just relax. Connected to the Rec Room are the indoor tennis courts, my personal favorite. These were in fact some of the nicest indoor courts I’ve seen! On the opposite side of the resort, if the weather isn’t quite to your liking, you can find simulated golf set up theater style where guests can order food and drinks and sit back and watch the fun.

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

I know, I know. How could you fit all of these amenities into your stay? Obviously, you’ll need to visit for the weekend, because I’m not done yet!  The Avalon Inn boasts a beautiful indoor pool with huge sliding doors to open it up in the summer.  Soon to come will be an outdoor pool and Roman Bath. But “weight”, there’s more! You know I’d have to mention the gym, didn’t you?!  This isn’t any old gym. The fitness facilities at the Avalon Inn are expansive, including more cardio and weight equipment than I’ve ever seen at any lodging facility and includes group fitness rooms and a spinning room.  In addition, there is a spa at this facility, with multiple massage rooms.

We continued our tour indoor where I was informed major changes had taken place.  The rooms at the Avalon Inn & Resort are some of the classiest rooms I’ve seen.  New furniture and wall coverings make these a step up and an example of truly unique lodging in Ohio. I’m a huge fan of the new trend to use textured wall paper – I couldn’t get enough.  The Presidential Suite at the Avalon Inn is also nothing short of spectacular. The picture doesn’t even begin to do this room justice.  The walls are lined with what almost looks like pyrite (fool’s gold).  If you look closely, you can see the sparkle!

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

It’s hard to imagine all of this could be packed into this little corner of Northeastern Ohio.  Sure to keep guests content throughout the day, The Avalon Inn has a full service bar, wine cellar and Gatsby’s, its fine dining restaurant, proudly serving up what guests are calling a “new, amazing experience,” complete with a welcome Prosecco.

Don’t worry, readers, I’ve made this easy for you.  You can make a reservation to stay, here.

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

 

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

 

Unique Lodging in the Ohio Valley

I’ve been routinely traveling to the Ohio Valley since early 2012. “That’s specific!” you might think. It is, but there is a good reason. My sweet husband is from the Ohio Valley, specifically Moundsville, West Virginia (yes, where there is an Indian burial mound in the center of town, conveniently right next to the now-closed penitentiary).  How confusing is that?  This is how people must feel when they arrive at the Cincinnati airport and see Kentucky license plates on the taxis.  Quick geography lesson – The Ohio [RIVER] Valley is roughly made up of most of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, but also includes the SW corner of Pennsylvania, the NW corner or panhandle of West Virginia. I don’t know a lot of Columbus residents who consider themselves to live in the Ohio Valley, which is why I think it’s important to note that socially (not geographically) most people referring to the Ohio Valley mean that junction of eastern Ohio that runs along Pennsylvania and West Virginia or in technical terms the Upper Ohio Valley. Now that we all know where our adventure takes us today, let’s focus in on the remarkable work that owner Scott Dressel is doing in a town nestled very closely to the border of both WV and PA – Steubenville, OH.

I found Scott on a very warm Friday afternoon, awaiting my arrival. He had given me very specific instructions to meet him at 813 N 4th and we can “start there.”  Little did I know, Scott and his son have been restoring old Victorian homes (and much more, including the town theater) in Steubenville for years. For most B&B owners, operating the inn is their full time job.  For Scott, I sense that was an after thought.  Scott is here to restore beauty in some of the old homes that line the North Fourth Street Historic District.

Scott greets me on the massive front porch of the Westfall House, one of two of the beautiful homes that houses Scott’s B&B – Bayberry House B&B. This house has one of my favorite rooms, Myrtle & Ivy’s Room. I don’t know if it’s the colors or the placement of the window and the fireplace, but this room transports me to a palace I feel like I’ve only read about in historic fiction books.

We moved next door to the Garrett House.  This house, just a few doors down from the Westfall House really puts Scott’s restoration skills on display. The sitting area is absolutely draw-dropping.  The wood and meticulous detail is something you quite literally “just don’t see any more.”  One wall is lined with a handsome bookcase housing all kinds of interesting books, trinkets and antiques. My favorite part of this room, was the conversation… sofa? chairs?  I’m not sure exactly what you call it, but I’ve never seen anything like it! I asked Scott what he had to do to restore it and he said that he found it just the way it is! Amazing!

One of my favorite parts of the Garrett House was the kitchen. A different vibe from the rest of the house, the kitchen looks like it came straight out of a home design catalog, except the difference here? It’s authentic.  Scott told me that the crew working on the kitchen found the original hearth hidden behind a wall.  The discovery was a bit of a surprise, but Scott used it to his advantage, transforming the kitchen into a masonry-meets-wood, work of art.

I know that Steubenville isn’t on the main drag or somewhere you find yourself in many times a year, but Scott just might have me convinced it’s worth a special drive. He has convinced others.  He has regular guests that come to visit him often, traveling from across the country.  He even had a guest bring him an antique item to add to the inn because she felt it was “just what he needed.” . After stopping at Scott’s, I ventured down Rt. 7 to St. Clairsville. I was sharing with the front desk team my visit to Scott’s property and a woman there said, “isn’t what he’s doing amazing? He has restored so many places in the Steubenville community!” A friend of ours living in Columbus, but from Weirton, WV commented upon hearing of my visit, “the historic district of Steubenville is beautiful. I hear there’s a guy there that restores some of the old houses.”  For the small town of Steubenville, Scott is creating quite a reputation for it’s old Victorian homes. Next time you’re headed to the Ohio Valley or the Pittsburgh International Airport  stop by and stay a while – I guarantee you will be just as amazed as me.

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

 

Have you Heard?

New lodging option in small town Ohio, close to Akron, Wooster

New Hotel, New to Ohio @ Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville

There’s a new kid on the block, literally. The first hotel in the city of Orrville, OH and the first hotel of this new brand in the state.  How cool! For some of us in the “big city,” it’s hard to imagine a town without a hotel. The mayor of Orrville, Dave Handwerk, announced to the crowd on the day of the grand opening that this hotel was the first to be constructed in Orrville in 97 years. Can you imagine?

New lodging option in small town Ohio, close to Akron, Wooster

I want to take this opportunity to feature a story written by a former OHLA intern and recently graduate of The Ohio State University, Megan Coddington.  Megan wrote this story leading up to the opening of the property, but since, I’ve been able to gather pictures to introduce the new brand to fellow travelers, hoteliers and other industry professionals. So let’s take a look at Ohio’s first Cobblestone Hotel & Suites.

Orrville is a small town in Ohio, located about 30 miles from Akron. With a population of about 8,500, the town is not ideal for big branded hotels to settle down in. Orrville is home of the J.M. Smucker Company and other local businesses that bring in their fair share of visitors that need a place to stay. The closest motels and hotels are 20 minutes away in Wooster.

Enter Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, an upscale, mid-size hotel brand that broke ground on a facility in Orrville in June 2015 — it’s the very first to be located in Ohio. 

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites is no stranger to the Midwest having already opened about 60 hotels in the region. This exciting new addition to Ohio will bring “Big City Quality” while keeping

New lodging option in small town Ohio, close to Akron, Wooster

New Hotel, New to Ohio @ Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville

“Small Town Values.” It offers the same amenities that travelers would expect when staying in big-brand hotels, but meets the needs of small towns that are not near major highways. The average room size is 40 rooms and the hotels offer each guest well-appointed public spaces and guestrooms with attentive, friendly service from our hotel teams. Guests are offered free high-speed Internet, complimentary hot breakfast, convenience stores, fitness centers, business centers and on-site beer and wine bars.

New lodging option in small town Ohio, close to Akron, Wooster

New Hotel, New to Ohio @ Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville

The company takes pride in being a family-run business and that doing things the right way is “part of their DNA.” Orrville’s community response has been nothing but positive.  Everyone is ready to welcome the new brand to their town. 

“Business-wise I think it will be great for companies to be able to set visitors up in a very nice facility, only minutes away. It should be a great positive for our local industries,” said Orrville Mayor Dave Handwerk.  Not only will this be a positive for local business but also leisure visitors traveling to Orrville for weddings, family reunions, the newly added Heartland Rail Trailand other events that Orrville has to offer throughout the year.

Other local industries are eager to embrace the anticipated addition to their small town. The President and CEO of the Aultman Orrville Hospital, Marchelle Suppan, explains how the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites will provide a convenient location for hospital recruits and short-term staffing assignees. Suppan not only hopes to be able to utilize the hotel for meetings , but she also hopes to sponsor hospital-related events there.

Orrville isn’t the first city to have their hotel needs met by Cobblestone. Salem, Indiana welcomed the first Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in the state in the fall of 2014. Salem is an hour from Louisville, Kentucky, with a population of about 6,300 and with needs similar to Orrville’s– a convenient quality hotel.

Consistent with its values and quality of service, Cobblestone prides itself in hiring locally and using local products when possible.

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites officially opened in March with a Grand Opening on May 5, 2017.  The completed hotel offers 54 guest rooms, 8 of which are extended stay rooms with kitchenettes.  True to its word, Cobblestone has incorporated many local  products into its hotel.  They offer Smucker’s Jelly products, Smucker’s maple syrup, Smucker’s Uncrustables® and Smith Dairy milk – all produced in Orrville. The bar includes local wines and Great Lakes Brewing Company beer.

Next time you’re traveling through some of America’s great small towns, check and see if a Cobblestone is available. You won’t be disappointed!

TIP: If you were one of the lucky few to receive one of these blue coins during the opening, use it to receive 100 rewards points to your Cobblestone Rewards!

New lodging option in small town Ohio, close to Akron, Wooster

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

 

Chains are all the Same – or are they?

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Last week I had a unique opportunity. Over the course of three days, I got to visit three competitor brands.  Not only three competitor brands, but three competitors within the same class segment.  OK, now we’re getting technical – class segment?  I hope that by our 45th (!!!!!) post, you don’t honestly still think that every Hilton’s a Hilton and every Marriott’s a Marriott, etc.  First, let’s cover the basics… Hilton, for example, is a company which has many brands, including Hilton, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, Waldorf Astoria, etc.  You didn’t know that? You are not maximizing your loyalty points, my friend! All of those brands are separated into a chain scale or class segments – Luxury, Upper Upscale, Upscale, Upper Midscale, Midscale and Economy.  Hotels fit into these segments based on the actual average room rate. (There is also an independent chain segment, but primarily when looking at independent properties, you’re looking for where they fall within the class segment.) So for today’s purposes, it’s important to note that a Residence Inn by Marriott, a Home2 Suites by Hilton and a Hyatt Place are all part of the Upper Midscale segment.  How are they the same? How are they different? Let’s check it out with a side-by-side comparison!  Coincidentally, the properties I visited were all in the Greater Cleveland area, all new within the past 2 years.

Residence Inn by Marriott Cleveland Avon

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Residence Inn by Marriott – Cleveland Avon

Trend setter!  The new Residence Inn Cleveland Avon at the Emerald Event Center was a site for sore eyes.  Personally, I love Residence Inns.  We often choose them when traveling, because they have extra space in the rooms and a great breakfast. Residence Inns are an extended stay product by Marriott.  The intention is for a guest to stay for multiple nights, but it isn’t required. (*TIP* Choose an extended stay property when you’re looking for a hotel room in a place like Manhattan, you’re sure to get more leg & elbow room!) This particular Residence Inn though, was a show stopper.  I visited on a bright and shiny day and the cheer and good vibes followed me right into the door. The lobby had chandeliers, sexy chairs with zippers up the back (whoa!) and a swanky bar in the center of the lobby with color changing under glow.

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

I was told this build had chosen some upgrades and boy, could I tell! And, the glitz and glamour didn’t stop at the lobby.  The guest rooms were spacious, as expected, but also had a touch of the pizzazz from the lobby.  Even the floor numbers across from the elevator were large, bright prints that acted as artwork.

This Residence Inn has great meeting space and the special pool and patio package I’ve come to love at Residence Inns.  I love the upgraded patio furniture which includes fun two-person, covered chaises, massive grills and always an outdoor fire pit.  If I needed to park it in a city for a few days, you wouldn’t have to work hard to convince me!

Bonus: You can find a little something different at the Residence Inn in Avon.  It is actually connected to the Emerald Event Center, a great, large event space perfect for small conferences, weddings or special gatherings.  The event center was built to include a secondary patio, much like the one at the Residence Inn for outdoor entertaining.

Home2 Suites by Hilton Independence

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Home2 Suites by Hilton – Independence

OK, I think we can all just cut to the chase. I love gyms. It’s no surprise that my feature picture of the Home2 Suites by Hilton Cleveland Independence is of the Spin 2 Cycle Gym.  But, I’m also not a long-term stay guest and I found myself thinking, “Man, they must really have a lot of bikes in that gym! Spin and cycle!?” WRONG. Well, they do have bikes, but this clever name is a clue to one of the Home2’s features for long term guests – the laundry facility is inside of the gym. What better way to wait for your laundry to finish? Jump on the bike! Or treadmill, or free weights, or resistance machine, or balls, or matts – this gym was stacked!

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Luckily, I was staying at the Home2 for one of my overnights and I got to use the gym – this girl was a very happy camper with that setup!  Like the Residence Inn, the Home2 focuses on the extended stay traveler, but can accommodate the single night stay guest like me.  The lobby is designed to make you feel at “home” with living room like seating, lots of communal places to meet and work and even a long Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Clevelandtable for breakfast – like you’re sitting with family.  This is only the second Home2 I’ve seen and I’m totally digging the bold colors and modern twists to standard hotel fixtures and amenities. For example, why wouldn’t you have a little desk for the house phone or a TV unit with knickknacks and a clock to make your guests feel at home?

Bonus: This Home2 is near one of my new favorite Cleveland area restaurants – Lockkeepers. After a super long work day, I was ready for good food. I found a place that reviews said was a Cleveland staple.  Overlooking the Cuyahoga River, I was able to settle in on their patio for a fantastic dinner of swordfish.  If only I had room for dessert, because the entire menu looked delicious.

Hyatt Place – Lyndhurst Legacy Village

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Hyatt Place – Lyndhurst, Legacy Village

Swanky. At the Hyatt Place Lyndhurst/Legacy Village, I feel like I stepped into a James Bond movie with all of the little nooks and crannies of the lobby, perfect for quiet conversation.  On this visit day, it was rainy and dreary, but the lobby welcomed me with high ceilings, lots of natural light and the coziness of a fireside chair. The lobby has expansive space for spreading out and settling in.  This was my very first time inside of a Hyatt Place and I was shocked! I’ve been in my share of Hyatt’s with it’s regal, business-like presentation, it’s what I expected out of any Hyatt, but not here.  Another extended stay focused brand, Hyatt Place still has that all-business feel, but with the comforts of a place to call home.  The working area had small cubbies for private chats over a glass of wine while the bar area served as a social haven for guests and visitors wanting to share a bite.  Did you know that at this Hyatt Place there is a 24/7 hot and cold menu and a full service bar? That’s amazing!

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Off of the lobby, the breakfast area looks like it came straight out of a home design magazine and they’re even serving up customizable breakfast egg bowls and yogurt parfaits.

This property sits right near a walking path that winds through the trees, or you can enjoy the well equipped gym or pool.

Bonus: The Hyatt Place Lyndhurst/Legacy Village is aptly named, for it sits directly within Legacy Village – Cleveland’s premier lifestyle shopping center.  Visit upscale shopping stores, listen to a concert in the courtyard or enjoy dinner or night life at one of the many bars and restaurants, all within walking distance!

Although through brands within the same parent company you can expect the same level of service, the same amenities, and the same quality – outside of that, they aren’t all just the same.  Next time you’re traveling, consider something new. It’s not that hard to find!

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Residence Inn by Marriott – Cleveland Avon

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