Ohio Wine Country

In Canton, OH? OK. That Canton is Ohio’s wine country might be arguable. But! One thing that isn’t arguable, at least according to readers, is that the Villas at Gervasi Vineyard is USA Today’s 10Best Readers Choice Best Wine Country Hotel for the second year in a row. Notice what I said there.  Not Ohio’s Best Wine Country Hotel, but the United States. Beating out properties in Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena is our very own Gervasi. Whether you like Gervasi or not (not sure how that’s possible); would spend every minute there if you could; or work for a competing property, one thing is for sure – having this type of national attention turned towards Ohio’s travel industry is important to all of us.  So, what makes Gervasi so spectacular? Let’s check it out.

I was fortunate enough (or smart enough) to host a meeting at Gervasi recently for fellow independent property owners and innkeepers. If you haven’t been to Gervasi, it’s easy to miss. One minute you’re in the middle of a residential neighborhood and then BAM! the entrance to paradise. (Pro tip: follow the fence line!) Once you pass under the grand arch leading you through the vineyard and landscaping, you just know.  Today is going to be a good day. (That’s quite literally what I shared on IG when I got to the entrance to the Villa Grande. And it got so many likes because? Everyone agrees!)

Gervasi is made up of many different buildings – when following the drive back to the Villa Grande, you pass The Marketplace. This little shoppers’ treasure trove is filled with all kinds of great gifts and inspirational ideas.  I’m told Christmas time is the time to visit. Next to that is The Bistro – the onsite fine dining experience. The Bistro has lots of seating, indoor and outdoor. I had dinner there last year and was pleasantly surprised.  You never know, maybe the cooks are drinking all of the wine and not focusing on the food? Not the case, here! The food is worth the visit. You’ll spend a little time weaving through the vineyard, but once you cross the one lane bridge – you’ve made it.  The new Crush House pops up on your right. The Crush House serves up more casual fair, has a swanky bar and is popular to locals for happy hour. The road ends at the Villa Grande where you can travel on foot to your individual villa or through the grounds back to The Bistro, around the lake or to the Bocce court.

The villas are spectacular.  Each is made of four separate rooms (rented individually or as a group) and share a common area where drinks are available throughout your stay and breakfast is

served in the morning. Each villa has outdoor seating available.  Too bad I was there for work, or I might have grabbed a tea, a book and a seat outside with a view of the lake! The rooms are rich in color and texture.  My favorite is the little fireplace next to the bed.  I didn’t need it in September, but give it another month and that would be the most romantic spot in Northeast Ohio. The bathrooms are larger than my family room with a luxurious shower and wonderful smelling amenities.

When I stayed at Gervasi a few months ago, I found out the hard way there wasn’t a gym on site (you KNEW that was coming!).  Perhaps I’m the only person that wants to work out after spending an evening sipping wine, but there is something better.  The Middle Branch Trail runs right through the property, connecting two different parks sitting North and South of Gervasi. This is by far one of the best trails I’ve found.  It runs through the vineyard and eventually through open fields with flowers and tall grasses. It’s perfect.

I realize next time you’re visiting Gervasi, the running trail might not be first on your list, but the good news is, there are lots of pedestrian paths on the property you can saunter with your wine. Wondering where to spend your next romantic holiday? A weekend with friends? A staycation?  I’d consider looking up the Best Wine Country Hotel in the U.S. right here in your backyard.

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

Dazzled by Downtown Cleveland

Ah! I love when friends choose an AMAZING Ohio hotel for a wedding venue.  I was pumped to learn I’d finally be attending a wedding in the historic, Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. I’d been there multiple times for OHLA events, but this was going to be one of the most beautiful weddings of the year and the venue couldn’t be more perfect.

TJ and I arrived for the rehearsal and were ushered into the Ambassador Ballroom. All I could think was wow. How had I never noticed this room before!? Casually tucked off the main lobby, the Ambassador Ballroom had high ceilings, gorgeous molding and enormous windows with views of downtown.  I couldn’t wait to see this place decked out for the night. We spent some of our free time that evening scoping out some of the other areas of the hotel.  One can’t help but be drawn to the enormous fountain on the other side of the lobby. It’s surrounded by windows pouring natural light into the space and accented by a sparkling chandelier. The following night, we made sure to capture a picture in our finest! 

The night of the wedding, we slipped into the bar for a quick snack. Sometimes, the simplest foods are overlooked.  So when you order a standard quesadilla and it makes you drool, you know the rest of the menu has to be good! TJ was impressed with their well priced beer selection (and that they played the West Virginia University game for him all evening!). Shortly after we downed our snack, we were swept into the Ambassador Ballroom. On a personal note, the ceremony itself was one of the prettiest yet.  The newlyweds are into theater and the uplighting was magical.

The hotel managed a swift room flip while guests mixed and mingled around that unforgettable lobby fountain, only to re-enter the Ambassador Ballroom – a completely transformed space. I couldn’t wait to tuck into what was sure to be an amazing meal put on by the culinary team at the Renaissance.  I noticed a new trend in banquets – the server actually introduces themselves to your table before starting food service.  I love that! It makes the experience totally different. And the gentleman serving our table was fantastic! I wish I remembered his name, because he definitely deserves a kudos.

After dancing the night away, we were so happy to be staying at the Renaissance that evening. Our room was perfect. TJ was happy with the not-so-common well air conditioned room. But for me, it was the bed. Those pillows and triple sheeting were calling my name and it was heavenly for sore dancing feet! Sweet dreams were Renaissance Cleveland Hotel - Cleveland, OHeasy coming!

We’ve spent over a year chatting about my hotel experiences – whether personal or for work.  Please tell me you knew this was coming…

Like everyone does after a long night at a wedding, I was up by 7 and ready for a brisk walk.  Luckily, my dad was also staying at the hotel and I get those genes from him!  We both set out to enjoy the crisp, fall air and early morning sun.  We headed around the corner to one of my favorite spots in Cleveland – East 4th Street.  Usually, this little artery is clogged with people drinking, laughing and celebrating life. But on this particular holiday morning, it was just us and the pigeons.  But it was beautiful!  If you aren’t a morning person, I strongly encourage you to, just this once (!) get up early, and see the city you’re in at a different time of day.  Sometimes it’s better than at night!

Next time you’re in Cleveland check out one of the great hotels I’ve written about recently. There are so many to choose from, you can’t go wrong!

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

Side note:  I had a lot of compliments and questions about my dress featured in the top picture.  I want to give a quick shout out to the designer, Geetha Minton with GKM Design.  The hotel industry is working hard to combat human trafficking.  This custom, handmade dress helps.  A portion of proceeds from dress sales go to help rescued women in India. Coincidentally, Geetha is married to an Ohio hotelier. Together, we can impact the world.

Flying High in Dayton

Hey there InnLovers!  I’m back! A quick thank you to Megan for helping fill in. The OHLA staff has been busy, busy working hard to honor and recognize all of the fantastic industry employees that make your visit (and others’!) to Ohio the best it can be. I was excited to round out our tour of Ohio at a newly renovated Marriott – the Marriott at the University of Dayton. You’ve heard me talk about this before – for a while there, all Marriotts seemed to look the same. There has been a resurgence of  renovations among the Marriott brand and now you can find the uniqueness and individuality of each location. I recently visited the Marriott Cincinnati North and if you compare the photos – these properties are completely different.  Not what you’re used to, eh?

We arrived at the Marriott at the University of Dayton and were completely shocked at the transformation. Our team was there somewhat recently, during their renovation, so this was a site for sore eyes! I snuck a few minutes to scope out the public space and this is what I found:


A beautiful indoor/outdoor pool.  As a child (OK, maybe as an adult too), I loved swimming under the glass wall separating indoor/outdoor pools. Every time I see one, I want to jump in! The indoor area has a small hot tub as well!

Outdoor Space

It’s not very often you find expansive grounds at an urban hotel. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large outdoor patio area which included fire pits, tables/chairs and even comfortable patio seating. I immediately fell InnLove with the large seating area set among the pine trees, away from the hotel. It made me want to grab some friends and a bag of marshmallows. Who said every visit to an urban hotel needs to be for business?!

If you were there for business, you could grab your laptop and work alfresco!


As I said, gone are the days of “copy and paste” for hotels, even brands.  If you have no sense of anything Dayton, you might pass by the nods to aviation (Wright Patterson Air Force Base and of course, the hometown of the Wright Brothers! **Disclaimer: Christi wants me to point out that Wilbur Wright was not born in Dayton, but the family did move back to Dayton when Wilbur was 17. For that reason, I’m still going to say hometown!**).  I loved these pieces of art that mixed print and paper mediums.

Improved Food Options (Or so I suspect!)

The hotel’s restaurant, Dewberry 1850, features New American Cuisine that uses locally sourced ingredients.  The restaurant also boasts an extensive regional craft beer list and handmade cocktails. The name of the restaurant is actually quite interesting and unless a Dayton historian, it might be missed.  What is now the University of Dayton was once St. Mary’s School for Boys in 1850.  Before it’s time as a school, it was once a farm building on the 125 acres that made up the Dewberry Farm. The story of John Stuart and Father Leo Meyer and the exchange of Dewberry Farm can be found here.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and by the looks of it, has very creative baristas!

So much you can learn on a quick in and out trip. Imagine how much you could enjoy this property if you stayed overnight?  Next time you’re in Dayton, whether doing a college tour, checking out the National Museum of the US Air Force or catching some “waves” on the awesome Mad River Run through Eastwood MetroPark, check out the new Marriott at the University of Dayton!

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

Guest Blog: Beachfront Icon

I’m Megan, former OHLA intern! I know how busy the OHLA office can get and the team there has been on the road for two weeks straight. As any good former intern would, I thought I would lend a hand and tell you about a recent trip I made!

I’ve recently had the chance to explore the west coast. I am originally from Maine and I am no stranger to the coastline, but like many have told me and now I can confirm, the west coast is a different experience. I graduated from college in the spring and I am finally getting to travel more and now, I undeniably have the travel bug.

My trip began in San Francisco, where I was able to explore the bay area on foot. Which, by the way, I thought was impossible but 12 miles later, we did it. From there we traveled south down the Highway 1 to Big Sur and Monterey, then Venice Beach and finally San Diego. While we stayed in great places along the way, the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego was by far the most historic, luxurious and beautiful.

The Hotel Del Coronado opened in 1888 and resides on Coronado Island, right over the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, minutes from downtown. The

iconic red roof is the first thing you see when approaching the island. The grand entrance leads to a lobby of elegant original wood architecture met with a historic brass elevator and amazing service.

The Hotel Del Coronado had everything you could ever want when on vacation. Beach front, multiple pools and hot tubs, water activities, spa, five beachfront restaurants and bars and the famous Sunday brunch in the historic Crown Room (with a build your own donut bar!). We stayed in the King Resort room with a gorgeous view of the lush courtyard. Despite the cloudy day and breezy weather, we were able to enjoy the beach, pool, and hot tub before getting a front row beach view of the sunset.

My biggest thing I stress when I travel is making reservations. I spend a lot of time researching the best places to eat and drink, so I want to make sure I get to try them. Even when getting a bite in at home in Columbus, it’s always best practice to think ahead (I worked in the service industry for a long time..I know a few things!). So for our two Thursday night endeavors, I made reservations ahead of time in the Gaslamp Quarter at Searsucker and Noble Experiment.

Searsucker is upscale contemporary American fare restaurant, that featured lots of small plates (my favorite) and exquisite entrees. We devoured a savory beef tartar, a fresh salad with duck fat fries and shrimp and grits. The open kitchen, lively bar and rustic lighting was the perfect atmosphere for a relaxed dinner and a couple craft cocktails (pro tip: get the Moulin Rouge).

We made a quick pit-stop to try out a few more drinks at a bar our server recommended, Rustic Root. They had an extravagant roof top bar with a great view over Fifth Avenue and even better atmosphere. The gas fire pits, animal shaped bushes and street lamps on the roof showed character and gave a feel for the neighborhood.

The next stop is a hidden gem in the Gaslamp Quarter – literally hidden. In the back of the bar neighborhood, you’ll find a wall of beer kegs that turn out to be a large door. The Noble Experiment Speakeasy is a fine craft cocktail bar that focuses on providing personalized experiences and delicious drinks. Some friends recommended we check it out and we were not disappointed.

Their embossed 17th-century font menus featured classics and their takes on those classics. For the second round we went off menu and the bartender, Nathaniel, crafted us drinks based on what we like. We were not disappointed and even got a 10% OHIO discount!

Overall the biggest thing that stood out to me, besides the obviously beautiful view that Hotel Del Coronado offered, was the customer service. From the moment we pulled up to the Hotel Del Coronado, the staff was more than accommodating. The quick and easy bag service, fast, pain-free check-in, the friendly and helpful staff is what made our stay.

I highly recommend the Hotel Del Coronado if you’re heading to San Diego, I feel like it’s the only way to truly experience vacation. It also doesn’t hurt that San Diego was my favorite city on this trip, even though I spent the least time there. It has a lot to offer and I am eager to head back at some point to explore further!