Columbus’ Own – The Joseph

InnLovers – I have to admit, I have been dying to tell you about one of my favorite Columbus hotels, Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph.  Located in the Short North Arts District, the Joseph has become a visual staple in the SN since it opened its doors in 2015.  If you aren’t super familiar with the SN, most of the buildings max at 2-3 stories. The Joseph was one of the first tall buildings to grace High Street and it started quite a trend. Come with me as we step inside this SN trendsetter…

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.  When you walk into the lobby, art is

Le Meridien, The Joseph - Columbus, OH

incorporated at nearly every turn.  Over the main sitting area hangs a giant wall sculpture (probably not the right term, but I didn’t do so well in Art History class).  As I sat in a meeting just last week underneath this piece, I kept thinking it looked like a bunch of small, inverted soccer balls all stuck together, and somehow it was perfect.

After you’ve entered the lobby, if you haven’t already gravitated to SOUL, the small bar tucked around the corner, then head upstairs to check out the public art collection.  BUT WAIT! Don’t move too quickly up the stairs, or you might miss one of my favorite things at The Joseph.  There is a motion-censored art/light fixture in the stairwell. It spins! Super cool.

Upstairs you will find a wide variety of art, from paintings to photographs.  Along the back wall near the meeting space, you’ll find some super cool photos of a child, Lydie, in various Halloween costumes throughout her life as well as other pieces that were curates specifically for the hotel by 15 different artists. If you fall madly in love with any of these pieces, you can actually purchase them at the Joseph Collection.

There are so many ways to enjoy The Joseph.  Hopefully, you have the opportunity to stay overnight.  The rooms and the views of the Short North and Downtown Columbus are stunning. I was given the opportunity to sneak into a suite and the best part was definitely the bathroom. Look at that tub!  (I’ve actually stayed at The Joseph, a little more than a year ago on our wedding night.  The level of service and accommodation for special occasions is unmatched.)

Another cool feature is the introduction of the Spa Suites. No, no.  This isn’t an overnight room, this is a unique type of spa experience, where guests can relax in the Spa Suite and schedule typical spa services.  The spa suites available include a stone tiled rain shower, a heated mosaic tile bed among body sprayers and a large relaxation lounge. Services include massages, facials, body scrubs and specific services for men!

Still looking for ways to enjoy The Joseph? Of course, there is food.  Adjacent to The Joseph is The Guild House.  Like other fabulous hotel restaurants around Columbus, such as the Gallerie at the Hilton Columbus Downtown just up the street, The Guild House is not your average dining experience.  Operated by Columbus Restaurateur, Cameron Mitchell, hotel guests and locals alike can enjoy a fabulous brunch on a Saturday morning or a fine dining, special occasion dinner at night. In addition to SOUL inside the lobby of the hotel, The Guild House also has a great bar that everyone should sip some bourbon in.

If you want the whole experience, I highly recommend checking in early, spending some time in a Spa Suite before a fabulous dinner and the Short North’s Gallery Hop before tucking into a wonderful night’s rest, followed by Eggs Benedict and fresh squeezed OJ. If you do, you might just see me there.

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

 

V-Day Getaway: Part II

I’ve got a treat for you, this Valentine’s Day season!  Ok, I can’t take full credit, but I’ll take some for pointing you in the right direction.  Conveniently sandwiching Vday 2018 is a holiday weekend. Completely caught up in work and life and missed that this weekend is President’s Day weekend? Don’t worry! There is still time to take advantage and to spend some time sharing the love this weekend.  Last week was a great Part I of some fun places to spend the weekend. This week we will seek out a couple of other fun places in Ohio to spend the weekend. Let’s go! <3

Share the love of: GRANVILLE!

Unique accommodations in central Ohio, Columbus area

So there is this little town to the East of Columbus that is SO CUTE.  It’s quaint, it’s walkable and it’s romantic.  Even better, there are tons of great places to stay there.  TJ and I went to Granville for a Saturday and picked up a fabulous cup of joe from The Village Coffee Company, strolled the famous Granville Farmer’s Market (they have a winter version!) and took a long winding stroll up to the beautiful Denison University campus.  Beer fan?  You can knock off multiple stops on the Columbus Ale Trail within downtown Granville and a short drive’s radius. Obviously, with so many things to do, you’ll need a place to stay.  Luckily, there are TONS of options.

Share the love of: SMALL TOWN CHARM

If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m from a small town.  If I didn’t take the opportunity to showcase my neck of the woods for this V-Day season, I’d be crazy!  If you’re looking for a getaway to a high-end hotel, in a small town, I’ve got you covered.  Go check out the St. Paul Hotel in the heart of Wooster. Within walking distance is fantastic food at City Square Steakhouse or grab a glass of vino around the corner next door at H2 Wine Merchants .  Great news – at the St. Paul Hotel, they serve you breakfast in bed.  There is literally no reason to leave your room, specially if you book the Grand Suite, complete with a private hot tub. If I could convince you to leave the hotel in the morning, it might be to grab a delicious Harney & Sons tea and pastry from Tulipan Pastry & Coffee Shop before strolling the independent shops all down Market Street.

Share the love of: THE CITY

Not into the small town vibes?  How about you check out some of the cool places Ohio’s major metros have to offer?

Cincinnati Lodging couldn't get much more unique!CINCINNATI: Cincinnati seems to be a city of historic hotels, let’s embrace it!  Greater Cincinnati is home to not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 historic hotels. Visit the Queen City for fantastic food (still one of my favorite fine dining, foodie towns!) and check out the historic Cincinnatian Hotel or Hilton Netherland Plaza downtown, or the Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon or the Mariemont Inn in Mariemont.

CLEVELAND: Catch a show at Hilarities, dinner at Lola and stay at the award winning Kimpton Schofield Hotel or historic Renaissance Hotel Cleveland.

COLUMBUS: See the Columbus Symphony at the historic Ohio Theater, have after-show drinks at Denmark on High in the Short North and cozy up under the stars at the all new Hotel LeVeque in the historic LeVeque tower.

DAYTON: I gave you my “must do” in Greater Dayton in last week’s post. For sure you need to check out the Blue Note Jazz Club.  And have you spent time in downtown Yellow Springs yet?  Get with it! It’s super hip.

TOLEDO: What do you get when you pair an historic building and a chic brand known for incorporating local flavor into major renovations?  The Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel.  Chilly up on the banks of the Maumee River in February? You can stay inside  – grab a cocktail at R Lounge and enjoy checking out all of the art and design elements inspired by “The Glass City” or stroll along the Pedway to the Imagination Station Science Museum.

Share the love of: BACKYARD RESORTS

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

What?  I know we’re in Ohio, but we do have resorts here people!  Maybe you can’t get to Florida this weekend, but you can certainly get to one of these super cool locations that provide year-round activities and great food.

Kalahari Resort – Sandusky

Zip down a slide or two (because you know you want to!) and then settle in around the bar in the adults-only hot tub.  Grab a bite of dinner at one of its many onsite restaurants, or head into downtown Sandusky for a romantic dinner on the lake.

Avalon Inn & Resort – Warren

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

Wowing members for decades, the Avalon Inn & Resort now welcomes the public with open arms to enjoy the extensive amenities, beautifully upgraded rooms and fantastic cuisine at this year-round resort on the Eastern side of Ohio. It might be a little chilly to golf, but the Avalon Inn has an indoor pool, a golf simulator, a rec room with games, indoor tennis courts and a slew of onsite restaurants.

 

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

 

V-Day Getaway Part I

Ahhh, the month of love! Did you forget that sandwiched right in between this weekend and next is Valentine’s Day? Don’t fret, my friend, I’ve got you covered!  With two weekends for a chance to have a mini getaway with someone you love, here are some quick ideas (and places to stay from throughout 2017’s posts!) to sweep your loved one off his or her feet this year! Whether it’s with your Sig O, a best friend or just you, here are some ways to Share the Love… <3

Share the love of: DONUTS!

Enjoy Butler County’s Donut Trail! With 12 delicious places to pick up a donut along this fun trail in SW Ohio, you’ll definitely need a place to stay to break up the trip.  Check out the newly renovated Cincinnati Marriott North! Looking for something else to make it a weekend trip and work off some of those donut calories?  Take a swing at Ohio’s first TopGolf, just across the street! But whatever you do, don’t forget your passport!

 

Share the love of: MUSIC

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

When was the last time you had a full Jazz experience?  Last February, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with a trip to Miamisburg (where?? Yes!).  The Blue Note Bistro & Lounge is about as authentic as you can find, specially in Ohio.  The music, the food, and the atmosphere all equal love at first site.  Obviously, after a late night out, you’ll need a comfortable place to stay. Check out the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Dayton Mall I-675, just down the road, or make a weekend out of it! Just a little farther away in quaint Yellow Springs, you’ll find the Mills Park Hotel.

Share the love of: WINE!

Did you know the country’s Best Wine Country Hotel is in OHIO?  Yep! That’s right, according to USA Today’s 10Best Reader’s Choice Awards.  So if you love wine, share the weekend with your loved one at the Villas at Gervasi Vineyard.

Thinking you want to mix wine and water…as in the lake?  Consider grabbing a cottage in Ohio’s actual wine country in the far NE corner of the state, near Geneva-on-the-Lake.  Vineyard Woods is a new cabin property, nestled among Ohio’s vineyards.

Share the love of: MUSEUMS

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Why not just stay in one?  Did you know Ohio has a Museum Hotel? That’s right! You can enjoy it all in one. The 21C Museum Hotel in downtown Cincinnati is the best place to experience contemporary art and a beautiful overnight stay. Don’t miss dinner at one of the fantastic restaurants near by, like Jeff Ruby’s or Boca. (My personal favorites – you WILL need reservations!)

Share the love of: PAMPERING

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could escape to somewhere secluded where you could just unwind, relax and just *be*.  There is.  Enter the Sebring Mansion & Spa, in Sebring, OH. The Sebring Mansion is one of the most romantic places I have ever visited in our great state.  The guest rooms are immaculate and custom, each with their own whirlpool tub.  There is a full service spa, including indoor/outdoor therapy pools.  Sebring Manion is an adults-only facility.

 

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

 

Northern Ohio Treasures

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

Last weekend I set out for my day trip to Port Clinton (a story for later) and thought, what better opportunity to visit a member property to break up my long drive? I searched the OHLA database for stops along my route from Columbus and landed on the Victorian Tudor Inn. As a Cincinnati girl, I’ll admit that I sadly have not seen much of Northern Ohio, but now I have many reasons to return! Join me (Halle’s guest blogger Mackenzie) as I tour the Victorian Tudor Inn.

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OHI’ll start with a disclaimer, the picture above was *not* from my trip last week. As soon as I walked in the door, Richard (the Innkeeper) and I agreed we had to use a picture from his website to show the exterior given the dreary, rainy day Ohio so kindly blesses us with weekly from December to April. Anyway…I surprisingly did enjoy my drive through the rain that day. I was able to avoid the highway for the majority of my trip and explore the back roads, which always reminds me of driving home. As soon as I pulled up, I knew I would love this house. Richard told me it was considered the “prettiest in the city” and I couldn’t agree more.

Like any great Innkeeper, Richard welcomed me into his home and invited me to sit in a big comfortable chair in front of his prized limestone fireplace to ask what brought me there, and for a (condensed) version of my life story. As we talked, we realized we had a connection in that my career has mostly been focused around politics, as much of Richard’s life has in some way as well.

This leads me to our first stop in his home, but I have to mention first for those that aren’t familiar, that Richard’s house is filled with amazing antiques. He made a comment that some people may think it looks cluttered, but it felt more like a museum to me. The antiques are carefully placed around his home, and I swear he has a story for every single one. I made the mistake of only planning an hour stop; I could have stayed all day listening to Richard and the fascinating stories behind his collectibles.The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

Back to the first stop, Richard’s office. We were still talking politics as Richard pointed to a tattered sign sitting on the back corner of his desk, a McGovern Shriver poster from the 1972 presidential election. Richard told me that he had done some research on the candidates as a young boy (completely on his own by the way) and decided he wanted to go door-to-door for McGovern. His mom eventually agreed, and there we have the start of Richard’s passion for politics! He told me he had taken the sign off a pole after the election was over and has had it ever since, this might have been the most amazing part of that story to me, as I can barely keep track of a pair of sunglasses for more than a year.
The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OHNext, we entered the kitchen, which unlike some B&Bs, is open to his guests, making them feel completely at home. He stocks his fridge with beverages and sets out fresh pastries in the mornings. In addition, Richard provides a hot, made-to-order breakfast for all of his guests. And I have to mention this adorable cat lamp near the breakfast table with gems for eyes (as I blog more, you’ll pick up on my irrational obsession with cats). I’m still trying to devise a way to ask Richard if I might purchase the lamp from him some day 😊

We continued through to the dining room (where John D. Rockefeller once sat negotiating a business deal) and Richard explained more history of the home and its four owners. That’s right, only four in over a century. How cool is that?

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OHThe neighboring formal sitting room is where Richard will often host weddings (and what an elegant wedding it would be). The bright paint reminded me of touring George Washington’s Mount Vernon, where bright paint on the wall during that time meant you had a lot of extra cash. But seriously…how beautiful?

Then we were on to the upstairs to see some of the guest suites, all unique and special in their own right. The first was a nautical themed room, blue of course, a tribute to most of Richard’s life spent living near the sea. The room contained art from across the world, a hand carved bed frame from Bermuda, and a bathroom the size of my bedroom (I later learned that Richard had converted many smaller rooms and closets into bathrooms so guests wouldn’t have to share this space – how considerate!)

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

It’s hard to pick a favorite room, but if I were forced, I’d have to pick the room with a bold design and intended for friends traveling together who might not want to share a bed (something I can appreciate). All I could do was stare at that wall when I walked in. There was just something about the contrast between the elegant blush couch and every hunter’s dream wallpaper that I really loved (and may recreate in a future home of mine).

We skipped another suite on the top floor, as it was occupied by guests, and headed downstairs via the secret back stairwell for the conclusion of my tour. As I was rushing out the door for my next appointment, Richard pointed out one last antique hanging on the wall, mourning jewelry. This tiny wreath made from hand-blown glass was a Victorian-era tradition of creating jewelry that contained pieces of your loved ones who had passed (think bones and hair). Creepy…but endearing?The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

If you’re ever passing through Northern Ohio or making your way up to Cedar Point this summer, be sure you stop at The Victorian Tudor Inn, I know I will definitely be back. Thanks for everything, Richard!

 

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

 

New Year, New Experiences: Part II – Marana, AZ

After a beautiful stay in Phoenix, we knew it would be hard to top that experience. We packed up in the Mustang (yes, I left TJ alone for 2 minutes in the rental car office and we went from compact to sports car), put the top down and headed south.  One of the most surprising things to me is the difference in landscape between Phoenix and Tucson. We left patches of green golf courses and palm trees for an arid, desert terrain, just two hours to the south.  We experienced for the first time what felt like a mirage. After a few hours of driving past cacti and lots of brown, out of nowhere sprung the signs for The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain. Nestled tightly within Tortolina Mountains, sat the sprawling luxury 5 star resort that we would call home for another 3 nights.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

This resort was vastly different than the one we just came from. Dripping in luxury, sat sparkling pools and large open lounge spaces, all surrounded by mountains. The sun was blazing and it was lunchtime, so we made a beeline for the poolside restaurant, Turquesa. After a latin inspired lunch, we settled in to soak up the last few hours of warm, Arizona sun.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZWe checked into our room, only to be greeted by a beautiful view and a spread of desserts. (Someone knew there was a pregnant lady in this room!).  And the bathtub! OH! Readers, you must understand, when you have been unable to soak in a hot tub for months, a bathtub becomes your new best friend.  And one this big meant full submersion. Other room amenities included a dual headed shower, a Nespresso machine and the most perfect morning view of a sunrise, complete with a balcony.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

I made sure to spend every single morning sipping my morning tea with biscotti watching the sunrise, because that is something one doesn’t always have the luxury of doing.  Sunrise for me usually happens driving to work or on the weekends, I’ve already been up and at it for hours and it is long forgotten. Neither situation is ideal, so I made sure to enjoy it while I could.

On our first morning, we ventured out to explore the trails. The hotel is situated among 20+ miles of hiking and biking trails and you better believe I wasn’t going to miss out on that just because I was carrying a bowling ball! The concierge was a bit weary about sending us out on a trail, but eventually we were told there was an out-and-back just past the entrance that was a short, steady climb with a great view.  Little did he know, as soon as I saw that that trail connected to a more significant trail, we’d be gone for hours. We ended up hiking 2 miles that morning, snaking back and forth, up and down the mountain, taking in spectacular views of the area.

By the time we finished, I had definitely earned my lunch at the golf club.

We grabbed the hotel shuttle and headed over to The Golf Club at Dove Mountain, where our favorite on-site restaurant, Cayton’s Burger Bistro was located.  The restaurant sits on the edge of the course with breathtaking views, delicious burgers and a regular guest, a friendly little road runner. After lunch, we finally caught sight of the resort turtle, Rocky.  He was huge! And adorable.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

We spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun and enjoying the mountain views. In the evenings at Dove Mountain, there is an old tradition of playing fluted music from the mountain top, which is naturally broadcast throughout the canyon. On this particular night, we made sure to grab a seat by the fire and listen to the sounds of the flutist against the setting sun, before heading out to meet my cousin in downtown Tuscon at a great restaurant, Wild Garlic Grille.

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

On our last full day at Dove Mountain.  TJ was itching to hit the golf course and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to experience my first full spa day. I have to admit that some of the best views at Dove Mountain, came from these one of a kind experiences. If you weren’t there to golf or hit the spa, there are plenty of other activities to take advantage of including guided hikes, mixology classes (we did this, it was delicious…even my virgin cocktail!) and great activities for kids.

The Golf Club @ Dove Mountain

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZMy day at the spa was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.  The adults only, heated pool was PERFECT.  The pool at the spa was wedged into a side of the mountain, making guests feel surrounded by nature. My masseuse, Justin, was amazing and treated me to one of the best experiences of my pregnancy – a complicated contraption that allowed me to lay on my belly for my massage.  I spent the rest of the day lounging poolside, enjoying lunch from the spa menu. After a day like that, I finally understood why people *invest* in a spa day at luxury resorts.

After 3 exceptional days enjoying all of the amenities and luxuries the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain had to offer, it was time to head home.  Thank you to the staff here for wonderful food, impeccable service and the perfect way to end our babymoon. Until next time, Arizona…

The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain - Marana, AZ

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

 

New Year, New Experiences: Part I – Phoenix

What better way to start a new year than on vacation – am I right?!  If you’re in the industry, you’ve probably heard of the term “babymoon” – essentially an excuse to get in one more amazing trip before the arrival of a baby.  You can bet I was all set to take advantage of any “excuse” to travel.  Trouble was, we needed somewhere warm in January. Not hard, you say?  You forgot about Zika. Sadly, this mama-to-be wasn’t heading anywhere south of Florida and Hawaii seemed like the most financially irresponsible decision one could make before swamped with all of the costs of a newborn. So where did we decide, might you be wondering?  Sunny, dry and BEAUTIFUL Arizona. TJ’s first time to AZ and certainly not my last, we set out to make this a trip filled with grand accommodations, delicious food and luxury services.  And Arizona, my friends, did not disappoint.

What a view!  We stepped out of the car at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa and knew it was going to be a good day.  This boutique style property recently joined the Hyatt family, introducing us to our very first Unbound Collection property.  The Royal Palms is an historic hotel (my fave!) and has hosted many of the rich and famous throughout its years.  The property itself is smaller than when it was first established as a residence in 1929.

Royal Palms Resort - Phoenix, AZWe walked through the breezeway where we were greeted by a warm, sunny courtyard begging for us to kick back and order lunch. For the first time ever in my life, I was glad our room wasn’t ready.  Oprah says there is no such thing as a coincidence and on this day, she was right.  We settled into the courtyard to wait for our room and devour a delicious lunch, when suddenly a friendly, familiar face approached our table.  Little did I know, one of my friends from college, a fellow U of Cinci Hospitality graduate, was now the Director of Engineering at this beautiful resort.  You have to understand, despite Facebook, I had no idea this friend was working at The Royal Palms or even lived in Arizona!  Needless to say, Jeremy made sure this was going to be one trip we wouldn’t forget.

We checked into our (now upgraded) room and I was blown away. From the sitting area, complete with sparkling apple cider and chocolate covered strawberries, to the enormous soaking tub – the room was immaculate.  Jeremy informed us that the rooms recently underwent renovation and from my perspective, they did a fabulous job.

Even with all of the traveling I do, it’s rare I get to indulge in the luxuries a resort has to offer. But this is our babymoon, after all!  The Royal Palms has a gorgeous pool (and hot tub, but I’m not allowed in those!), a poolside restaurant, a full service spa & salon, a famous, fine dining restaurant, T. Cook’s.  Good news, I experienced it all!  We spent every day poolside, soaking up the Arizona sun, eating fresh foods and sipping fresh squeezed juices.  (One thing I love about Arizona – these people seem to appreciate high quality, natural food and healthy cooking. Everything was crisp and fresh. Even the french fries!)

When we weren’t by the pool, we’d alternate walks through the Jardin d’Amore (Garden of Love!), the Orange Grove and the Alegria Lawn.  One of my favorite parts of this resort were the pathways that led to hidden seating areas, orange groves, and flowers teaming with hummingbirds. If you stepped out in the morning before other guests were awake, a stroll to this part of the resort was one of the most romantic places you could find.

Although we didn’t get a chance to enjoy them, the Royal Palms offers daily group fitness classes, a guided History & Art Tour, mixology classes, regular live music, and games. I totally did have my eye on those group fitness classes, but I was easily swayed into a walk to breakfast each morning!

And certainly, all that walking and sunning definitely leaves you hungry.  Offsite, we found two fantastic breakfast spots within walking distance (2 miles is walking distance, right?)  La Grande Orange – a super funky, local grocery and cafe serving up amazing pizza and delicious egg dishes, and one of our

new favorite breakfast spots, O.H.S.O. – a cyclist and dog friendly brewery conveniently located on a bike trail (!) and serving up some of the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time.  We loved that nearly every diner on the outdoor patio brought a pooch. Each doggy guest received his/her own water bowl with their name.  Too bad Mr. Zeus was back in Ohio!  On property, you’ll find T. Cook’s, a famed Phoenix area restaurant.  We enjoyed a fabulous dinner there on our very first night and our server, Sasha, was extraordinary. T. Cook’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner if you visit and at dinner I’d recommend reservations.

The Mix Up Bar ultimately ended up being TJ’s favorite hangout spot and where we spent our NYE.  On this particular holiday occasion the place was glitzed up with NYE hats, beads, and decor; there was a great duo serenading us and lots of inspiring appetizers. We settled in at one of the last empty tables and enjoyed people watching and “noshing”.  To ring in the new year on our last night at The Royal Palms, we eventually retired to the courtyard where it all began and watched the guests attending the blowout party hosted by the hotel on the opposite lawn… TJ with his cigar and bourbon and me with a mocktail.

If this is how 2018 starts, I can’t wait to see how it ends.

A sincere thank you to the staff of the Royal Palms Resort & Spa for treating us to one of our most memorable and top of the chart hotel experiences.

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

That’s a Wrap! 2017 Edition

What a year! This was a year of some serious travel for me and also some big life changes.  If you missed the memo – TJ and I are expecting a baby boy in March, so we did as much traveling as we could, and hopefully you did too! If you didn’t make it to any of my favorite stops in 2017, now is your chance to make your 2018 bucket list.  Where will you be off to?  Let’s talk about some favorites from the year so you can plan to make 2018 your best travel year yet!

January

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

How can you have a bad travel year when you kick it off on a French Caribbean island?  I was fortunate enough to start the year in Martinique with my family.  It was our first visit and I’m still reminiscing about the amazing French food, beautiful beaches and perfect weather.  On this trip I also discovered Norwegian Airlines for the first time, which was definitely a highlight of 2017.  If you haven’t looked for an international trip on Norwegian yet, I can’t help but ask, what in the world are you waiting for?! They’ll spoil you rotten in the air, deliver you to some dreamy international destination and you won’t even have to pay much for it.

February

February introduced me to some great independent properties, both new and old across the state. From Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spathe massive overhaul happening in Salem, OH of the Stables Inn & Suites to the relatively new Mills Park Hotel in YellowSprings, seeing the success and growth of independent properties has a special place in my heart. One of my favorite visits was to the Sebring Mansion.  This romantic, luxurious inn and spa is tucked away in Sebring, OH.  Haven’t heard of it?  Don’t worry, neither had I.  And I think that’s part of the charm. Sebring was actually once known as the Pottery Capital of the World!  Quite a bit of pottery is still made in Sebring and you will find some at the mansion.  The guestrooms here are absolutely phenomenal, each with a hand selected bed and whirlpool.  You can’t help but feel the romance when you walk into these individually appointed rooms. This adults-only retreat should not go unnoticed. If you haven’t spend a girls weekend or a romantic night away here yet, do so in 2018.

March

March was an amazing month for me. I was able to travel to Europe for the first time. TJ and I embarked on a 2 week adventure to Italy and France.  We ate and walked (so much walking!) first through Venice, then the Cinque Terre, over to Nice and Eze along the French Riviera and finished in Paris.

There were so many wonderful memories of this trip, I have to encourage you to go back and read each post for yourself.  Some of the highlights were definitely our trip to  in NYC en route, visiting the often missed Venitian island of Burano, hiking the Cinque Terre and some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen, the richness of the French Riviera – the teas, the perfumes, the cheese, and wine, the people!! And the romance of Paris.  Even writing this recap I find myself yearning to return.  I swear I will retire one day to the French Riviera…until then…

April

After weeks on the road in March, is was refreshing to be home.  My home, but also my hometown.  If you haven’t learned yet, I don’t slow down for long and I was on the road for work within a week of our return from Europe.  Luckily, I was able to stay at the chic St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster.  The St. Paul has been around a while, but when you live next door, you don’t often know what’s in your backyard.  Two things that impressed me most about the St. Paul – the attention to detail in decor and attention to detail in service.  The lobby and rooms are filled with locally sourced and many custom pieces of furniture and decor, including the massive room dividers, headboards and case goods and the beautiful hearth in the lobby.  And the service? Flawless. I still remember how exhausted I was when I arrived at check in and the desk agent personally walked me to my room, perhaps fearing I might fall asleep en route.  I’m so proud this hotel is in my very own Wayne County, don’t miss it!

May

By May, I was already thinking summer.  I spent a good part of the month traveling around to properties

perfect for a weekend getaway, whether it’s to Ohio’s wine country or the shores of Lake Erie, this month reminded me how many great places Ohio has to offer.  I discovered for the first time Geneva/Geneva-on-the-Lake.  We have a number of great members there, yet it isn’t an area I visit often.  On this particular trip I was able to get a sneak peek at a brand new cottage style property, Vineyard Woods and have a fantastic farm-to-table style dinner at Crosswinds Grille, the on-site restaurant of the Lakehouse Inn & Winery. Set among Ohio’s vineyards, Vineyard Woods offers guests a charming, bungalow experience deep in the woods, while Lakehouse Inn & Winery sits right on the water with spectacular views.  Next time you’re up visiting for a glass or two of vino, consider staying a night or two, there are plenty of awesome places that await.

June

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

June was all about what’s new. New builds. New brands and new discoveries.  I am still super excited about the new Cobblestone brand that made its grand entrance into Ohio in my very own hometown of Orrville. This new brand only builds in small towns – what a concept!  Capping around 40 rooms with a bar, pool and some meeting space, this type of small chain is perfect for a small town that might not be able to support a large chain brand.  Cobblestone made it’s debut in May and I’m still hearing about it!

Next up on my list of faves is the makeover happening at the Avalon Inn & Resort.  I was completely unaware of this sophisticated golf and spa oasis on Ohio’s eastern edge.  Surrounded by golf courses and dripping in class, this spot needs to be on your bucket list. I was there midweek and this place was packed.  With multiple on-site restaurants, a beautiful indoor pool (outdoor coming soon!), tennis courts, a rec room, an expansive gym, spa and outdoor (and indoor!?) golfing, you could spend days here. I was only sad my time was so limited!

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

July

Great, new lodging in Eastern, OH

In July I realized that Best Westerns aren’t Best Westerns anymore, well, not what I remembered anyway.  The brand has embraced a lot of individuality over the past few years and it shows in the new projects coming online.  I visited a new member in Steubenville, OH to make this discovery.  A former BW was torn down to be replaced by a fresh one and wow! is all I can say.  The Best Western Plus The Inn at Franciscan Square is brand spankin’ new and beautiful. Throughout the lobby and rooms are subtle nods to Franciscan University which sits on top of the hill, just across the street from the inn. If you didn’t know to look for it, these small details would probably go unnoticed by your average traveler, but you my friend, are not the average traveler. Next time you’re headed to Pittsburgh, stop by and check it out, or stay a while!

August

Speaking of brands coming to life, I am just so impressed with the new concepts rolling out in lodging.  Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, MarriottFive to ten years ago, you wouldn’t have to work too hard to convince me that a Marriott is a Marriott, a Hilton a Hilton, etc. Now?  Try blindfolding someone and dropping them in a lobby of your favorite chain, I bet they wouldn’t know where they were.  I visited two vastly different chains in August, proof that the brand concept has taken a turn in a direction I quite like. First, the new Marriott concepts – I visited the Cincinnati Marriott North only to be swept off my feet by the changes. I had just been here a year or so before, right before renovations went underway and WOW.  You need to check these out.  My favorite part is the massive, jaw dropping chandelier that greets you upon arrival.  What’s even cooler though? Marriott lobby after Marriott lobby and the chandelier won’t be the same. 🙂

Historic lodging in downtown ClevelandLater in August, I got to visit a DoubleTree, but not just any DoubleTree, Cleveland’s own Tudor Arms.  You may recall that back before Curio became a thing, DoubleTree was Hilton’s go to brand for conversions and historic properties, so this brand was already taking individuality in stride and the Tudor Arms was no exception. With a massive, spectacular ballroom and a unique Romeo & Juliette style loft overlooking the ballroom, it’s no wonder this venue is jam packed with weddings weekend after weekend.

September 

September was once again one of our craziest months of travel.  Fortunately, all of those weekends included fantastic overnight accommodations and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the historic and lovely Renaissance Cleveland.  This hotel has sat on Public Square for a long, long time and it remains a focal point of beauty.  We were there for a wedding, which gave me a new perspective on the hotel, a property I have visited many times before for business meetings. Of course, the couple did an amazing job highlighting the charm of venue, but also to note was wonderful food and great service. It was also my first time dining at Sans Souci, the onsite restaurant.  My parents told me this used to be the place to go for dinner, way back when. We were there for breakfast and the buffet was seriously one of the best I’ve ever had.  The wait staff has been there since “way back when” and even if the restaurant doesn’t boast the same reputation it once did, the service staff would never let you know it.  Great food, great hotel, great people. We will be back!

October

Looking back, I’m not 100% sure what I was talking about. Every month was a busy travel month for us, and October was no exception. I’m having a very difficult time deciding which visit to highlight from October, because I got to see some of Ohio’s best properties, quite literally. Perhaps I should do that, focus on the best?  But I’m not the only one to judge, The Welsh Hills Inn in Granville, OH has others convinced too.  This property has been on the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice list for the past 5 years, even in its top spots including #1 B&B and Inn in the U.S. in 2015. HERE! Right in Ohio!  Guys, if you haven’t been, you are crazy. I was crazy, until October.  From the beautiful grounds, to the adorable house dogs to the innkeepers themselves, this B&B tucked away just East of Columbus is truly one of my most memorable visits of 2017. I hope to stay sometime soon and experience it the way so many others have.

November

By November, I’m sure you feel like you need a break from all of this travel. I sure did! I started off the month with one final trip to Cincinnati and then I took a much needed break to help prep for the reason I do what I do – a celebration of the lodging industry in Ohio at OHLA’s Annual Conference. My highlight for November really is all of you. The people who make this industry what it is, together we are stronger, and I am so proud to be a part of Ohio’s amazing travel industry.

December

It doesn’t take much to remind myself how fortunate I am.  To be a part of such a fun and growing industry is amazing. Each December, when I get to wrap my year by traveling to an inspiring & gorgeous domestic location to share with others all of the great things we are doing in Ohio, it gears me up for the year to come. I return from this trip thinking, how can I and we grow?  Who should I visit? Where should I travel?

This year, that inspirational trip took me to St. Pete Beach to an historic hotel masterpiece. If you didn’t know, visiting every Historic Hotel in America is on my bucket list… which get’s harder as more hotels are added to the registrar, but I try to notch a few off the list every year. The Don Cesar was one of the coolest hotel experiences I’ve had in a while. The history behind the oceanfront Pink Palace is one of the best love stories I’ve ever heard and you can feel it in the walls. If you missed this posting, don’t let the year end without a dive (pun intended!) into the romance and lure of the Don Cesar.

Looking back at the year, I really set myself up for high travel expectations in 2018. But, I have one small little bundle of joy that might slow us down. I’m counting on you, my readers, my coworkers and friends to make 2018 your year of exceptional travel. Where will it take you? Want to share it with the travel community?

So grab your passport, strap on your backpack – whether it’s around the corner or across the ocean, let’s experience something new…

Here’s to 2018, a year of travel experiences for all.

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

Guest Blog: CUBA – A Bucket List Must

I couldn’t help but wrap the year with a sneak peak on a bucket list item for many Americans.  I too have long awaited my chance to see the beautiful island of Cuba.  Unfortunately, with a bun in the oven, any Zika territory is off my radar.  But as you might expect, I come from a family of travelers and if my mom and dad weren’t some of the first to jump on the Cuba bandwagon, I don’t know who else would be.  To round out the year and for a quick read during the holidays, read on for some inspiration into your next trip – could it be Cuba?

It’s Linda again, back for my second guest blog!  I know it’s a busy holiday season for many of you, and as retail business owners, it certainly is for us too.  We always try to squeeze in a trip before the holiday rush hits and this year was no exception. Luckily, our plans landed us on one of our very own bucket list trips – Cuba!

Although we crossed Cuba off our bucket list, many things were left for a future trip. The necessary educational criteria that we used for this trip to Havana included a three night cultural weekend with a personal guide and bus with a professional driver. Our stay at the NH Capri La Habana, a government owned modern hotel,  was very comfortable with a rooftop pool and bar and a fine-dining Italian restaurant. The hotel was approved for American tourists and there were many tour groups using this as their base.

Several highlights included visiting Fusterlandia where famous Cuban artist Jose’ Fuster has turned his talents to creating a tourist attraction from a heavily populated impoverished neighborhood into an outdoor virtual museum of his works. His studio and neighborhood  is a colorful burst of ceramic tiles inlaid into the homes and buildings with unique sculptures and artwork tucked in every nook and cranny. Excellent private lunches are arranged with the travel companies and are served family style.

A visit to Cuba must include a stop at El Floridita, the small bar where Ernest Hemingway frequented and where mojitos originated! Go ahead, be a tourist and enjoy one with guests from all over the world. If you’re interested in touring Hemingway’s home in Cuba, you’re somewhat out of luck, so this is the next best thing.  His home on the island can be toured only from the outside because of all the artifacts and the cost to protect them!

One of the coolest things in Cuba are all of the vintage cars! One hour of cruising the streets in a ‘59 hot pink Bel Air was an absolute blast with Cuban music playing on the old radio. The cars are in tip top shape with components replaced when they are needed. The driver made sure to mention the recent celebrities who enjoyed his tours!

The Cuban country, people, culture and food are delightful. They enjoy sharing with visitors and it is a very safe travel destination. Most locals speak English a bit and with a tour guide always ready to intervene, Cuba is a relatively easy place to visit. I’m sure it’s on your bucket list, but if not, it should be!  What a wonderful experience we can’t wait to visit again.

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

The Snow Bird Life

Every December, I get a chance to flee the Ohio snow for something adventurous at our annual International Society of Hospitality Association Executives (ISHAE) Winter Summit.  Last year, TJ and I got to explore San Francisco and the Napa Valley, but since I’m not drinking as much wine these days (baby on board!) I was excited to have the opportunity to spend a few sunny days in Florida. One of the coolest parts of this annual excursion is that ISHAE does a fabulous job of showing off the country’s best hotels.  Travel with me to the Pink Palace… the Don CeSar on St. Pete Beach!

The Don, as we started to call it, is truly a masterpiece. Inspired by love and built by tears, you can’t help but feel the history seeping through the walls while you’re there.  Arriving at the Don is an experience in itself.  The entrance is a massive uphill driveway, delivering you to its impressive entrance, decked out at this time of year with a beautiful wreath.  (You know, on that note, I do always have some internal conflict about being in a warm place with Christmas decorations. It’s so confusing for me!)

Past the front doors, you’re greeted by warm smiles, more Christmas decorations and beautiful, classic decor.  I absolutely loved the chandeliers and lighting throughout the public space.  The glass orbs were hung just so to give the illusion of jellyfish! I followed the “jellyfish” to the doors across from the entrance leading out to the beach. How, oh how, was I supposed to sit in a conference room all day when this awaited on just the other side?

Pure torture.

And maybe that was the point?  The history of the Don leads you to believe it was built on something like that.  The Don’s designer, Thomas Rowe, was once madly in love. After careful plans to run away together finally came to a head, the love of his life, Lucinda, was swept off in the night by her family, claiming that this poor American boy was not good enough for her. Rowe was devastated. After years of writing to her and her family, he finally received a letter in return, containing her obituary.

In 1924, Rowe purchased land in St. Petersburg, FL where he built the Don CeSar that stands today, naming the property after the French play Don Cesar de Bezan.  This play was the basis for the opera Maritana, where he first fell in love with the female lead on stage…Lucinda.

When its doors opened in 1928, it quickly became the place to be.  Only open during January and February, the Don hosted guests such as Clarence Darrow, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Al Capone. Rowe loved his hotel and his staff, many of which were nearby neighbors, and they loved him.  They made it through the Great Depression by hosting the New York Yankees for spring training. Rumor has it, he agreed to serve the team steaks and milk every morning for breakfast!

Rowe poured his life into the hotel and the memories of his first love. So sadly, years later, when Rowe died quite suddenly in the lobby of the hotel, the property was left to his then estranged wife who let it fall into despair.  The US Army purchased the hotel during WWII and it became a military hospital and later a US Air Force convalescent center.  But of course, it didn’t function well as a hospital and eventually the property was abandoned.

In 1969 after the property was ordered to be raised, long loyal residents stepped in to save the Don CeSar. They found a hotelier who purchased the property and it reopened as a hotel in 1973. The Don is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was a founding member of Historic Hotels of America.

With all of the history, how can you not get swept up in the romance of it all? The renovations of this massive oceanfront hotel that have taken place since its reopening are nothing short of amazing.  The multiple pools, beachfront restaurant and bar are fabulous.   And like my favorite jellyfish light fixtures, the rooms also master elegance with tasteful, appropriate beach decor.

When you visit a resort like the Don, you’re never sure if the culinary efforts will match the price tag.  I was pleased to find that the food at the property far exceeded my expectations.  At one of our events, I even had a chance to have a new culinary experience.  Watch this!

And although I didn’t have the chance to relax at Spa Oceana, I was fortunate to spend a few sunny hours poolside before heading back to blustery Ohio.  And that, my friends, was absolutely worth it.

If you find yourself visiting Florida’s gulf coast, consider a meal, a spa treatment or an overnight at the Don CeSar. Since 1928, they’ve been wowing guests, and I don’t think you’ll be any different.

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

Grand Again in Downtown Toledo

With the coming of a new year, we will be welcoming loads of new hotels into the market in 2018.  The most exciting part for me is that the expanse is diverse – we’re seeing new independent properties, new brands and also new conversions.  One of the most anticipated conversions rounding out the end of 2017 happened a few months ago in downtown Toledo.  The new Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel has been brought back to its glory days with a complete overhaul and a new flag – Marriott.  If you haven’t made it to downtown Toledo since its opening early this fall, come along for a sneak peek with this week’s guest blogger, OHLA Executive Director, Joe!

A recent meeting of OHLA’s Northwest Ohio Lodging Council allowed me to stay as a guest of the new Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel, a first-class and exciting addition to this great city’s downtown hotel package.  This spectacular and monumental project brings a great upscale Marriott lifestyle brand into the site of the former Toledo Grand Plaza Hotel.

A complete-to-the-concrete $30 million renovation has resulted in a stylish and comfortable 13-story, 240 key property with 18,000 square feet of meeting space. This was shown to members of the public and special guests with great flair at the hotel’s grand opening celebration on Sept. 27.

The property takes design cues from the historic and hard-working city it serves. A prominent theme was Toledo’s role as the “Glass City.”  Entering through a prism doorway, guests are immediately presented with beautiful works from the Toledo Museum of Art.

The glass theme didn’t stop there. It was carried into the special experience the Renaissance created for the Grand Opening with a fun and funky blown-glass couture show, featuring a cadre of models who circulated among the guests throughout the event.

 

Similar touches permeate the property, from the unique flip-a-switch message board signage, to the dog tag-framed door numbers that give a nod to Toledo’s own Jamie Farr/Corporal Klinger, to the fashionable with a hint of industrial design lounge spaces.

One of my favorite things about Toledo is that it is home of the uniquely American icon, Jeep. As an unapologetic motorhead, I was blown away by the artwork which featured actual components of Jeep vehicles, and more subtle touches such as the elevator door pattern which is actually an authentic tire tread from the WWII-era Willys military jeep.

But those touches were topped with the inclusion of an authentic, vintage and near-mint condition military jeep on display right in the main lobby!

The first-floor Brim House restaurant was one of the favorite parts of my stay.

In addition to a great breakfast, the team was so welcoming and the location provided a comfortable, non-rushed place for me to catch up on messages before embarking on my day. The private dinning space features massive built-in wine racks, and a table that blended contemporary flair with Tudor castle grandeur.

The hotel’s rooms are immensely comfortable but also full of unique touches, including industrial-grade components repurposed for a more restful environment than they were originally employed.   The red iron hooks were a personal favorite and had me asking the FFE team where to place my order.

Drawing the most raves was the Renaissance’s new rooftop bar and dining experience, The Heights. This edge-to-edge venue provides true 360-degree views of the city and one of the most comfortable and usable rooftop environments I’ve seen. But it isn’t just about views.  The excellent service, top-notch food and drinks, and use of glassware from Toledo’s own Libbey Inc. made it a perfect end to a fabulous stay and off-the-chart opening event.

Congratulations to FHG President and CEO Robert Habeeb , General Manager Jeff Hassan and the entire Renaissance Toledo team for a successful opening and for all the success to come for many years.

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