3rd Time’s a Charm? Maybe with the Luck of the Irish!

Ever wonder what all of the cool kids are doing? Just stick with me, I’ve got the inside scoop!  10 years ago, the “cool” thing was to be a cookie.  You’d describe a house in the suburbs as “cookie cutter”.  You build one hotel and you copy and paste it into a zillion different locations so that a guest couldn’t tell if they were in Fort Lauderdale or Boise; because the Marriott felt like the Marriott and the Holiday Inn felt like the Holiday Inn.  The same went for restaurants. People would stick with what they knew, a taste of home.  Some security.  Fast forward to now and that has all gone by the wayside.  There is something to be said about ensuring you can receive the same type of service at a brand you’ve come to know and love, but what if you could hold on to that aspect, but truly experience a new place? GENIUS!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reporting on the new Marriott overhaul.  I recently showed you the complete renovations of two full service Marriott hotels – Cincinnati Marriott North (West Chester, OH) and Marriott University of Dayton. Did you know there are 10 Marriotts in Ohio alone? Can you imagine traveling among them and never feeling like you get to experience something new? I can’t.  I’m glad to see this trend towards diversity and uniqueness.  So, is the 3rd time a charm?  Let’s see what the “new” Columbus Marriott NW is all about!

One of the most obvious signs of change hits you the second you enter the lobby.  Each of the three Marriott lobbies I’ve visited over the past few months have been different, but of those part of Pyramid Hotel Group, PHG for short, (like the Cincinnati Marriott North), the new focal point is this custom, one of a kind chandelier. Click back to my stop in Cincinnati, completely different! And these aren’t just any chandeliers, they’re massive and definitely give the lobby that wow factor.

We set off to explore the new public space.  When the PHG Marriotts were first built, the structures themselves were, and still are, nearly identical.  It takes a lot of work during a renovation to actually make these spaces feel unique.

The open floor plan of the public space, a staple of the PHG Marriott, is hard to ignore.

At the Dublin property, they’ve filled the space with massive lamps, floating walls and super cool furniture.  Check out the new communal table, a raw-looking piece of wood fitted with outlets for laptops.

You might also be distracted by the carpet, I was.  It’s a little hard to see in this picture, but I swear it looks like a map.  I don’t think that was the intention (I’ve actually seen carpet like that before, in the dual Hampton/Homewood Cincinnati Downtown), but I could have sworn I was looking at little maps of Ireland…I think it was a clever mirage!

Another staple of the full-service Marriott is the Starbucks counter.

You can get just about everything you would at a Starbucks, but with a little local inspiration.  I couldn’t help but snap a picture of one of the employee’s artwork!

Next, we made our way into the new M Club.  You might remember me mentioning that the old “concierge lounge” concept has also gone by the wayside and has been replaced with a more desired hangout space for loyal guests.  Marriott’s M Club definitely creates some FOMO.  It is now situated immediately beside the lobby, has wine on tap and this fancy Starbucks machine… but you can’t get in without the right key card.  Imagine sitting in the lobby and seeing all of the cool kids swiping into “the club”?  That’s how you create more loyal guests. Smart move, Marriott.

Another travel trend is to ditch the chain restaurants in favor of independent food options with local fare.  Luckily, this concept wasn’t lost during the renovations either.

The Columbus Marriott NW got rid of the standard Marriott restaurant concept and re-branded its restaurant, Two Brother Bar & Kitchen.  Of course, like you’re wondering, I had to ask – Two Brothers? I guess for the two years I lived in Dublin, I wasn’t a very good resident.  It should have been obvious! Some of Dublin’s first settlers were two brothers – Peter & Benjamin Sells. The surveyor of the Sells’ family land said it reminded him of his home in Dublin, Ireland and Dublin, OH it became. The new restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a great menu.  Might I recommend the Gerber Farms (from my hometown!) Cobb Salad, the Guacamame or the Crispy Pork Belly Brussels Sprouts? The restaurant also serves Guinness on tap (duh!) and has a great selection of locally produced spirits.  Personally, I loved the displays!

The touch of Irish isn’t just found in the restaurant. The newly renovated sleeping rooms also have accents of green. 

And, if you’re really feeling the luck of the Irish, you might just stumble across this little door. After all, the Columbus Marriott NW is just one stop along the Irish Fairy Door Trail. A little port into the magical world that is Dublin, OH. Good luck!

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

The Hills are Alive

I have a lot of friends from West Virginia that have moved to Columbus.  You won’t believe how many times I hear, “Ohio is so flat.” OK, when you’re looking for mountains, sure, but really, we have a very topographically diverse state, darn it! A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of bopping along Ohio’s rural countryside visiting some independent properties hidden among Ohio’s hills. Why it has taken me this long to see one of Ohio’s, the country’s and the world’s top B&Bs which is right here in our backyard…is beyond me.  Fortunately, innkeepers Bobbi & Jeff Noe made time in their busy schedules to allow me to swing by between check in & check out for the grand tour of The Welsh Hills Inn.  Haven’t been? Let’s have a look inside.

I arrived just before check in on a crisp Friday afternoon. I was greeted by two of the sweetest hosts I’ve ever met – Ellie & Wrigley.  Tails wagging and kisses upon arrival, these two babies were ready to show off their award winning inn, with the help of Innkeeper, Bobbi. The Welsh Hills Inn has four accommodation options, each individually decorated. The guest rooms that make up the Cottage are two separate rooms which share a Jack & Jill bath.  This area of the Inn is great for families or couples traveling together.  Just minutes from two colleges (Denison University & Kenyon College), I imagine this becomes a popular choice for college visits and special weekends on campus! Or why not try the Berllan Glyn room – because look at that tub! – and for the private screened in porch overlooking the pool.

One of my favorite parts of the house is the sitting room.  At the corner of the house, this room is full of natural light.  On this particular day, at the end of a busy week of traveling, I would have paid to sit down in one of the winged back

chairs with a book and a mug of hot chocolate. Even better if I could convince someone to play a few numbers on the gorgeous grand piano!

Bobbi & Jeff have done an exceptional job outfitting the house with a diverse collection of art that challenges any guest to find at least something they don’t love. Mixed in with sculptures and modern paintings, there are touches of antiques here and there.  I quickly noticed the vintage American Hotel Association

sign displayed on the massive wrap around porch!

If you follow that porch around the front of the house, you’re greeted with a lovely surprise. I would argue that it isn’t all too common for a property of this size to boast a pool for guests to retreat to on hot days and a hot tub for cool evenings.

And this wasn’t just any pool – surrounded by sculptures, wooden deck chairs and adjoined by a pool house, this is surely an amenity that is well used.

Bobbi tells me that the pool house is a great addition because it offers guests another area to share a glass of wine and conversation, but can also double as a relaxing space to unwind with an in room massage.

Looking for some activities to fill a weekend?  The Welsh Hills Inn also has an onsite Bocci court, a fire pit, hand-constructed hiking trails on 10 acres, and a target and shooting range. Really, they’ve thought of it all.

Just under 40 miles from Columbus and less than 5 miles from downtown Granville, this getaway is perfect for a romantic weekend, a staycation with friends or why not throw a party outside on the lawn? (Bobbi & Jeff were prepping for an onsite wedding the following weekend.) However you enjoy The Welsh Hills Inn, you’re in for a treat.

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

When Old Becomes New Again

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

As you may recall, I went to school in Cincinnati.  I’m from Orrville, about an hour south of Cleveland.  What does that mean? Since 2006, I have spent way too much time on I-71.  I hate it.  It’s actually like a form of torture for me. And of course, since I travel for work and need to be in the three Cs quite often – 71 is still part of my life.  But every now and then, when I have a little extra time and I’m heading home. I take the path less traveled; the scenic route; the unbeaten path – State Route 3. Not 3 in it’s entirety, that wouldn’t be very efficient. But the stretch between Sunbury and Wooster is a true life saver.

About halfway into my trip home, I come through the town of Mt. Vernon.  It’s a cute little college town that many Ohioans probably haven’t explored. “Way back when” there was a grand hotel that sat on the town square – The Curtis Hotel.  It prominently stood on the outside of the traffic circle, welcoming visitors since 1876.  The original 3 story, 73 room hotel caught on fire in the mid 1940s.  Despite the fire, the hotel continued to operate until the 70s when it was replaced with a “motor inn.” The motor inn wasn’t all too popular and finally in 2014, the Mount Vernon Grand Hotel was constructed in its place.  The Grand is modeled after the original Curtis Hotel, but with 5 floors and 46 sleeping rooms. Much more modern than the original, The Grand boasts a fitness room, breakfast and patio space, meeting space and my favorite, a beautiful library overlooking the square.

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

When you enter The Grand, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, but only for a split second. The modern finishes and amenities are apparent right away.  Just to your right, is the library.  I’m not sure if

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

that’s what they call it, but to me, it’s a picture book version of one.  With gorgeous pieces of furniture, trinkets, rich wallpaper and books, this quaint little seating area is perfect any time of year. The view of the square is a nice backdrop for an afternoon of reading.  Another small sitting room, equally as perfect, sits next door. Now, where is the high tea service?!

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

The original concept of the Curtis is not lost on the new construction.  Keeping the hotel small and intimate, each room feels like it was individually decorated.  One of my favorite rooms is a suite and sits on the corner of the building (maximum natural light with all of those windows!!).  Little bits of the lobby find their way into the sitting area with a small writing desk and a sofa meant for a movie set.

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OHGuests can enjoy breakfast downstairs in the breakfast room (or on the porch – my choice!).

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

Not sure why you’d visit Mt.Vernon?  I’m told Mt. Vernon’s First Friday festivities May – October are not one to miss, with live music, food and shopping. Personally, I’ve bought a number of wedding gifts at the little shops off of Mt. Vernon Square! There is also the Mt. Vernon Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings 9am-12pm. But most importantly, there are good places to eat.  I recently tried the newly renovated (interior and menu) The Alcove.  (Pro Tip: Word on the street is that Columbus’ own Cameron Mitchell might have lent a hand on this one. Either way, TOTALLY WORTH THE VISIT.) My sister just this week visited Parkside Restaurant & Tavern and claims she had “one of the best burgers” she’s had “in a while.”  And when my sister throws around that kind of claim, it’s legit. She is a burger snob. And of course, if the season is right, or you just need something sweet. You can’t miss one of my *best kept secrets in Ohio* stops – The Dairy. Don’t be confused. There is a much nicer looking ice cream place next door. Don’t let the looks fool you! You are only in the right place when you think you’ve pulled into a gravel lot that goes nowhere except to a rundown building with brightly colored tables.  That’s the one. You will not be disappointed.

Good food. Great ice cream. Beautiful hotel.

When do we book?

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