That’s a Wrap! 2018 Edition

2018 has been a big year for me, OHLA and our industry as a whole! I’ve had a blast telling you about my trips, site tours, overnight stays and hearing from our guest bloggers. I hope you have had as much fun as I have since I joined you in March. It has been an exciting year of personal travel (mainly wedding-related, thanks for hanging with me), exploring new brands, seeing complete renovations and meeting so many of you and your many beautiful properties.

Let’s look back through our year together…

January

Arizona

It is always fun to kick off a new year with a vacation! We started 2018 in exciting fashion with Halle and her husband TJ. Halle shared the details of their babymoon getaway to Phoenix & Marana, Arizona. Here we explored the Royal Palms Resort & Spa, which had recently joined the Hyatt family, introducing us to our very first Unbound Collection property. Then off to the The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain we went! Nestled tightly within Tortolina Mountains, sat the sprawling luxury 5 star resort. Both resorts were dripping in luxury accommodations, breathtaking views and unmatched hospitality.

February

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

The Victorian Tudor Inn (Bellevue)

First, we took a road trip to Northern Ohio and toured Victorian Tudor Inn, an eclectic inn featuring antiques & collectibles with a story for each and every one. It would have been easy to have stayed all day listening to Richard, the innkeeper, and the fascinating stories behind his many collectibles & the home itself. Next, we explored ideas for the lovebirds looking for a Valentine’s Day Getaway in Ohio. From the small towns, donuts, big city ideas, museums and pampering… it’s all here!

We ended the month featuring a Columbus hotel, Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph, located in the Short North Arts District. The Joseph is owned by the Pizzuti family, also known in Columbus for their art collection. Even if you aren’t staying at The Joseph, you can easily enjoy the space by coming in and having a drink at SOUL, or wandering up the stairs to a wide variety of art, from paintings to photographs.

 

 

March

Hotel LeVeque, Columbus, OH

Hotel LeVeque (Columbus)

We covered a lot in March… Mackenzie shared her AMAZING trip to Bangkok and the modern beauty of the Park Hyatt Bangkok. The designer of the interior space wanted to embody “livable luxury”, and it’s obvious. Her favorite feature? The pool & rooftop entertainment area (and the Thai food!). After being swept off to Bangkok we brought it back home and took a peek at the art-focused design of 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati and its lively restaurant & bar, Metropole. Off to Columbus to look at Marriott’s first-of-its-kind Marriott & Residence Inn Dual Property near The Ohio State University’s campus and the first property in Columbus, Hotel Leveque (this was also my blog debut!). Hotel Leveque has so many intricate and unique features; such a fun visit!

 

April

Marriott Columbus University Area

Marriott Columbus University Area

Mackenzie also shared her trip to Sri Lanka which was her stop after Bangkok. Since 2009, tourism in Sri Lanka has increased by 300%, and it was easy to see why. She ventured along the streets and wandered through most of the properties she passed, including the Fort Bazaar, a boutique property on Church Street. You enter through a breezy front porch with artsy tables and then enter a secluded lobby where a bar and private room are off to either side. All of these properties felt like you were walking into someone’s home, where you can wind down a hallway and discover a hidden bar or art room. After hearing about Mackenzie’s sightseeing, we learned about the historic Residence Inn Columbus Downtown (within the 1927 Buckeye Bank & Loan Company Building) and Buckeye Bourbon House, then saw the new modern ways of the Courtyard brand by visiting the Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown Akron.

 

May

South Eden Plantation - Thomasville, GA

South Eden Plantation (Thomasville, GA)

I love a good sneak peek! I had so much fun seeing the new Renaissance Westerville and sharing with you a preview of this stunning, now open, property. Then, we took it down a notch to find our inner Zen (which I found at Victorian Village Guest House). This cozy guest house and pristine garden truly is an urban oasis located in the heart of Victorian Village (super close to downtown Columbus, Short North Arts District and OSU’s campus). Oh gosh…. then came an all-time travel favorite, my trip to South Eden Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia. I can still see the winding pebble road, lined by overgrown willow trees and hanging Spanish moss, just like every picture you can imagine of Georgian charm. I closed out the month by a visit to the ultra-modern, art-centric new property in Cincinnati, The Summit, A Dolce Hotel and a part of Wyndham Hotels.

 

June

Mills Park Hotel - Yellow Springs, OH

Mills Park Hotel (Yellow Springs)

The beginning of summer calls for ice cream! My husband and I traveled to Yellow Springs where we got to experience the cozy comfort of the Hearthstone Inn & Suites in nearby Cedarville, the beautiful, detail driven Mills Park Hotel and an ice cream cone from Young’s Jersey Dairy, which came highly recommended. Well, I didn’t exactly get a cone… I got the gigantic, big-as-my-head Buckeye Sundae (no regrets, here!).

Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH

Hilton Easton (Columbus)

If you are looking for a weekend trip, Yellow Springs is such neat town! In the spirit of summer, Halle shared her evening with us from the rooftop lounge, VASO, at AC Hotel Dublin located in the new Bridge Park Development. Then, we rounded out the month with seeing the new fresh looks of the Hilton at Easton and the Marriott Dayton (they look awesome!).

 

July

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OH

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade (Cleveland)

Wedding season? Perhaps… considering two posts this month revolved around my wedding ventures. I loved writing about the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade. The architecture and history of this building is just amazing. After the Hyatt, we went south to The Cloister in Sea Island, Georgia, the most picturesque fairytale location I am sure I will ever visit (it just oozed with Southern Hospitality). Then we got centered and dove into the world of Westin, their wellness initiatives and the three Westin properties we have in our state in Cleveland, Columbus, & Cincinnati. The end of the month we got caught up on our pipeline… the ever-growing & ever-changing pipeline.

 

August

Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking Hills

Cherry Ridge Retreat (Hocking Hills)

I enjoyed spending time in the Polaris area as we celebrated Hilton Polaris’ 10th anniversary and toured the comforts of home that the Staybridge Suites by IHG offers. We then got to join Halle & TJ once again on their trip to Cherry Ridge Retreat in Hocking Hills. Halle characterizes her stay at Cherry Ridge as “almost heaven”, if you read this post, I’m sure you know why by now! August wrapped up with the old & the new.

Renaissance Toledo, OH

Renaissance Toledo Downtown

Our guest blogger & Halle’s sister, Jackie, told us about her stay at The Whitley, a part of The Luxury Collection (Marriott), located in the upscale neighborhood of Buckhead, just north of Atlanta. The Whitley was formerly a Ritz Carlton property, in her exploration through its halls she felt like they did an excellent job mixing that elegant “formal” charm (from its Ritz days) with contemporary, more casual touches that leisure and business travelers alike have come to expect. We then turned the page to the brand-new Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel. If you did not read this blog, I recommend you do so, this Renaissance certainly sets itself apart with its locale-driven décor (there is a military-style Jeep parked in the lobby!).

 

September

BrewDog DogHouse Hotel - Canal Winchester, OH

DogHouse Hotel (Canal Winchester)

BEER HOTEL. That’s all. Ohio welcomed its first beer hotel in Canal Winchester, Brew Dog’s Doghouse Hotel located on site of the Brew Dog brewery featuring beer taps, stocked shower fridge and much more. On theme of new things coming to Ohio, we looked at the projected and recently developed dual properties around the state and why they make sense from an operational standpoint. Then, I had another wedding which took me to my hometown of Warren, Ohio. I loved having the opportunity to write about The Avalon Inn Resort & Spa (literally grew up with this beautiful golf & country club in my backyard!).

 

October

The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

The Cincinnatian, a Curio Collection by Hilton (Cincinnati)

October welcomed the Fall season and a trip to Cincinnati where I had the opportunity to tour the first Curio Collection property in our state! The Cincinnatian Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton. This historic masterpiece is just gorgeous and was such a treat to tour. My favorite part was seeing all the amazing artwork and hearing about the history of the building. After seeing the first Curio Collection, I quickly turned our sights on the future as we discussed other recent openings & new brands coming to our state like Canopy, Aloft and Avid.

 

November

AC Hotel - Beachwood

AC Hotel by Marriott (Beachwood)

During my trip to Cincinnati in October, I also got to go see the Renaissance located in downtown. The sophistication, design and décor of this property was on point and effortlessly mixed with its historic past. I just loved the interior design of this property! I then had a trip to Beachwood, Ohio where I got to see the new AC Hotel Cleveland Beachwood. It was fun to learn about AC’s brand initiatives, standards and stylish design.

 

December

Our Annual Conference went off without a hitch this November, thanks to Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center. This was an easy post to pull together after I spent three days there. I loved reading about Cindy’s trip to Cleveland over the holidays and share the details my amazing trip to Maui with all of you.Maui, Hawaii

Here we are. The end of 2018… can you believe it? I can’t. This year FLEW by! Without further ado, I wish you a prosperous & joyous 2019. I look forward to meeting you and touring your property this year.

 

Cheers to 2019!

Lauren

 

P.S. I am headed to Los Angeles this weekend to cheer on the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. I can’t wait to report back to all of you about my trip & stay! (It is a brand we’ve never written about before…)

From the Land Where Palm Trees Sway…

Aloha! I just got back from a lovely getaway in the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands. I have always been a person who has said, “Why would I travel all the way to Hawaii when I can be in the Caribbean within two hours?”. Well, my friends, I am here to say it, it is just different. It is beautifully imperfect with its abundant palm trees; stunning views of land & sea and the people bring hospitality to life. After all, the pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality.Maui, Hawaii

This is going to be a fun one, let’s take a minute to hear about our trip from Columbus, an overnight in L.A., and of course Maui. My husband, our two dear friends and myself have been eagerly awaiting this trip since we booked it late this summer. It was perfect timing as the winter moves in quickly and a new year approaches.

Maui, HawaiiWe left out of Columbus’ John Glenn International Airport and spent the night in Los Angeles. On the way to Maui we stayed at the Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel and on the way back we stayed at Los Angeles Airport Marriott. Both hotels were just so beautiful, decorated festively, convenient and so hip. The Renaissance, in true Renaissance fashion, made you feel like a local celebrity. Large posh silver lion statues sat alongside the stairs leading to the elevator banks and the silver holiday decorations glimmered in the dim lighting.

The Marriott on our return was a saving grace as we were exhausted and starving. We made ourselves comfortable at Hangar 18 Bar + Kitchen to grab a (very) late night dinner and we were so thankful that it was still open! I wish I had a little more time to spend in the Marriott, but we were up and out by 5am the next day. When we were in the elevator, I noticed their floor instructions, for the meeting & event spaces, each space was named after cities across the United States (i.e. Boston, Miami, Dallas, etc.) Then, the smaller breakout spaces were named after regions in California (i.e. Irvine, La Jolla, Long Beach, etc.)

Marriott LAXOk, off to Hawaii! Our trip took us to Maui County. (I learned a lot during our visit including that Maui is Maui County and is made up of 5 islands: Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Molokini.) We were on the west side of the island of Maui on Kaanapali Beach. From the minute we touched down at the airport and walked through the open-air baggage claim, it was easy to see why Hawaii is such a favorite among many travelers. THE VIEWS. EVERYWHERE.Maui , Hawaii

Our drive from the airport along Hawaii Route 30 to our resort was breathtaking. No matter where we were our entire trip, we could look in one direction and see the West Maui Mountains and look to the other for the deep blue Pacific Ocean. The photo to the right is from a scenic lookout on our drive!

After two flights accumulating 10 hours, an overnight stay in L.A. and a 45-minute car ride, we finally arrived at our home for the next week, Honua Kai Resort & Spa. We walked in the front doors to an open-air lobby (all the hotels had open air throughout their lobby, isn’t that awesome?) and a direct view to red umbrellas, pools and the ocean. Our accommodations were perfect for four traveling together as we had a two bedroom suite with separate rooms & bathrooms along with a spacious living room, kitchen and lanai. We got to our room and we couldn’t move fast enough to get unpacked and into our swimming suits.Honua Kai - Maui

First stop: Duke’s Beach House. Duke’s sat on our resort grounds and we spent A LOT of time here. Amazing breakfast, lunch and dinner options, all open air and on the ocean, live music in the afternoons featuring your favorite holiday tunes played by the light sounds of a ukulele. At 3 o’clock each day (my husband had an alarm set on his watch… not joking.) they featured Aloha Hour (happy hour), with specials highlighting their Mai Tai and quick bites.

We were located just north of Whalers Village which had outdoor shopping along the ocean with a few restaurants (we tried them all). Leilani’s was known for their fish tacos (we now see why), MonkeyPod featured the best Mai Tai on the island (from many references) that is topped with a house made lilikoi (passion fruit) foam and Hula Grill is where we had dinner our first night in Maui. Mahi Mahi was the highlight of just about every menu as it is caught fresh daily and boy was it delicious!Maui, Hawaii

The city center of Lahaina is a quaint town along the shore with many boutique type shops, restaurants, hole-in-the-wall bars & quick bites. One of our favorites was called, Down the Hatch, the food was so, so good and was within an open-air atrium surrounded by a multi floor area of shops.

I could go on all day about the friendly people, the views, the food, etc. So, I really need to narrow it down and round out this blog with my two favorite memories: The Mill House and whale watching.

*Cue Jurassic Park theme song.* The Mill House sits nestled on a tropical plantation along the West Maui mountains. (Do you remember what Jurassic Park looked like prior to destruction? This is it. Ok, well maybe not literally, BUT, the 1993 classic was shot on Kauai with one scene on Maui.) Here we enjoyed true farm to table hospitality. The menu changes daily. I had THE FLUFFIEST gnocchi with root vegetables while my husband enjoyed shrimp dumplings in a shellfish broth. I will never forget this meal or the view for that matter.Mill House Maui

I am not a big excursion gal. I am just as happy sitting on a beach or floating around a pool. However, I’d go whale watching time and time again. It was by far one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. Though it was still a few days before whale season, we were so lucky, and saw a ton of activity. We even saw two whales breach (jump & flip out of water)! This is the most uncommon occurrence for whales to do and we saw two. If you look closely in the photo below, there is a whale tail!Maui, Hawaii

It is amazing to think creatures like these are swimming around our oceans. Whale season peaks during this time of year because the whales travel from Alaska to Maui to mate in the warmer waters. Baby whales do not have a blubber layer built up when born and cannot be birthed into the cold waters of Alaska (like I said I learned a lot on this trip).Maui, Hawaii

We also had the great opportunity to attend a traditional Polynesian Luau characterized by celebration with family (ohana). We thoroughly enjoyed the lively dances, traditional Polynesian food and the excitement that comes with a luau.

Maui has left a stamp on my heart and I hope to return. In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s keep our hospitable nature alive. Thank you for reading and hanging with us through 2018. Happy Holidays, Mele Kalikimaka and cheers to 2019!

“The state of Aloha can be created in an instant. It is a decision to behave with kindness, with generosity, wanting to give joy to another.”  – Irmgard Farden Aluli (Hawaiian Composer)

A Hui Hou (until we meet again),

Lauren

Maui, Hawaii

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Trees (In Cleveland)

Every year OHLA has a Silent Auction at its Annual Conference and Gala. I was lucky enough to win an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn Express Cleveland Downtown. (Thank you HIE Cleveland for donating!) This gave my husband and I an excuse to get out of town and see Cleveland’s Christmas lights. The next best thing to Fireworks in July has to be the lights in December, in my personal opinion.

We love historic buildings and this location had plenty of history and charm, located in Cleveland’s financial district between E. 9th St and E. 6th St on Euclid Avenue. The 19th century historic Guardian Bank Building was built in 1894. A year after our hotel association was formed!!

When we got to the the room was spacious and I wasn’t expecting hardwood floors. (Probably one of my favorite parts of this trip aside from the lights, of course).

 

We relaxed before walking to dinner toward 6th Street for excellent Italian pasta entrees at Chinato. It is a multi-regional Italian restaurant focused on traditional, fresh Italian cuisine. For dessert Greg, (my husband) had chocolate mousse and I had chocolate & pistachio gelato-Yum!

We then made our way to Public Square. The new square was completely illuminated in every color imaginable.

Even the Jack Casino exuded holiday spirit…

What would this blog be without hotel photos? So for that reason (and for no personal reasons whatsoever), we went inside several nearby hotels and captured their Christmas trees. So without further ado..our Tour of Trees:

The Renaissance Cleveland Downtown once again had a large display with nutcrackers and trees decorated by various department personnel.

 


The Kimpton Schofield hotel was equally as beautiful and we even spotted an Elf on the Shelf! Can you find him?

 

 

 


Metropolitan at the 9 outdid itself with a very beautiful, very tall (and very bright) red & gold decorated tree.


And as it is in every season of the year, Tower City was a beautiful sight all by itself!

So, no palm trees and no fireworks, but the lights will hold me over until July. What are you waiting for…go visit!

Sincerely,

Cindy

Have it All!

Hi there… I’m back! We went on a brief hiatus to execute our 2018 Annual Conference and to, of course, celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Our Annual Conference was a huge success in large part to our gracious host, Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center. For those who are not familiar, Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center (NHCC) is an independent property in Lewis Center, Ohio, near the shopping mecca known as Polaris Fashion Place.

Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center is an all-inclusive campus (15 acres!) that can cover any need you may require. The campus is made up of a hotel, conference center buildings, The Pub, dining room and of course all the amenities you come to enjoy from a hotel like a gym, a pool, room service, etc.Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center - Columbus, OH

The grounds of NHCC, no matter the time of year, are always pristine. The driveway to the main parking area is lined with black light posts that always have a seasonal fixture. In the summer they boast bountiful hanging flower baskets, during our visit this winter, lit wreaths with red ribbon bows (‘tis the season!). There is also a little walking bridge (it is so adorable!) and is currently decorated with lit garland and small red bows.

Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center - Columbus, OHThe hotel is inviting and cozy! We were warmly welcomed by a two-story wall of windows, a burning fireplace and comfortable seating. (My colleague, Carla, mentioned how she wished it was socially acceptable to come back to the comfy chair in front of the fireplace and read a book!) The high ceilings made the space feel grand though the hotel itself is very intimate. I could not wait to get to my room, I was beat! I walked in to a living room that was sectioned off from my bedroom. Vibrant navy and blues with unique characteristics such as white wooden shutters over the windows pulled the space together. I sat on the soft plush couch and caught up on a few Hallmark Christmas movies (I am a total sap!). The bedroom was lovely and I am always pleasantly surprised when I have an easily accessible place to plug in my phone charger!Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center - Columbus, OH

I woke up the next morning to make a cup of coffee. I must have been in a daze the night before because I did not notice the perfectly equipped credenza that had a Keurig, mini-fridge and microwave. I quickly made a cup of coffee and met a group for breakfast in the dining room. The dining room has vaulted ceilings and window-lined walls. Such an open space with excellent buffet offerings. Later this night, we hosted one of our receptions off of the main dining room, it was a huge success mainly because the space allowed for interactive discussions.Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center - Columbus, OH

From a conference services standpoint, the space is hard to beat! Excellent facilities for a large dinner such as our annual Ohio Stars of the Industry Gala Dinner drew hundreds of guests. The breakout spaces are flexible, and the center flows easily. One of my favorite attributes are the built-in credenzas and refrigerators for food & beverage breaks that don’t affect your traffic flow of guests.

Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center - Columbus, OHThe Pub which sits adjacent to the hotel and conference buildings is an excellent place to pass the time between sessions. Many of our folks gathered here prior to our cocktail  hour leading up to our gala. It was packed with colleagues who were taking a moment to catch up in a comfortable laid back environment.

Overall, Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center has it all for you to have your best stay, your best event or your best stay-cation.

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren