Where the Bobcats Sleep

Nestled along the scenic backdrop of the Hocking Hills is Athens, OH. Athens is most famously home to the State of Ohio’s oldest college and home of the Bobcats, Ohio University. With a stunning campus and vibrant uptown scene, Athens is frequently named a top college town in the nation year after year. Growing up in Northeast Ohio and attending college in Columbus, I had never been to Athens but was in for a wonderful experience seeing this jewel along the Hocking River.

OU Inn & Conference Center

I had the opportunity to stay at the Ohio University Inn & Conference Center, and the inn matched the classic design seen throughout the campus architecture with an all-brick exterior, white pillars and window frames.

The unmistakable university colors of white and cutler green carried through the lobby, sleeping rooms and convention spaces. The main lobby featured a beautiful mural of campus with modern seating and workspaces.

Continuing through the lobby leads you to a pair of on-site dining options Cutler’s and Bunch of Grapes Tavern. Cutler’s offers breakfast, lunch and dinner with elevated comfort food selections while the tavern focuses on lighter fare such as flatbreads & sandwiches.

OU Inn & Conference Center

When the evening arrived, I enjoyed dinner in Cutler’s dining room. It was a nice feature to be able to order from either menu (Cutler’s or the tavern) within. The university color scheme carried on through the restaurant and tavern with eclectic patterns and table accents. One area that I loved was in front of a fireplace and had winged, white & cutler green houndstooth chairs around a large square table. It is cozy space where I could see myself enjoying with friends. Locally crafted tealight lanterns adorned the tables and we were greeted with warm, fluffy biscuits.

OU Inn & Conference Center

The sleeping accommodations were spacious and comfortable with extra features such as a microwave and mini-fridge. The conference facilities were also a perfect option for a meeting or event with a full selection of audio/visual, catering and wonderful team members to support you along the way.

OU Inn & Conference Center

My trip was a short one, and I hope to return to explore more of Athens’ scenic landscapes as well as all the fun Court Street and Uptown have to offer.

Until Next Time,

Lauren

St. Paul Hotel & Wooster Explored

From a travel perspective, the past year has been devastating to the industry as a whole, and for those that feel fulfilled by traveling (ME!), the pandemic added another layer of disappointment to stay “holed up” for so long. Needless to say, after welcoming our second child amidst the pandemic in December, we were happy for an opportunity to safely get away on a one-night birthday trip to one of Ohio’s unique lodging establishments. We decided to spend the weekend shopping and eating our way around the quaint town of Wooster, OH located in the heart of Wayne County.

St. Paul Hotel
St. Paul Hotel

The St. Paul Hotel began as the CC Hotel in or around 1900, with 36 rooms on two floors and one shared bathroom on each floor. The hotel that welcomes guests today is very different than the hotel of the 1900s, known for card games and betting. The beautiful, boutique property that is downtown Wooster’s only boutique hotel was opened in 2011 after months of labor and love by local craftsmen. Visitors will notice local artwork throughout the building and each room has hand crafted and locally sourced furniture and fixtures.  

We arrived in Wooster with the hopes of catching the end of some regular season college basketball, so we stopped by a local market and lunch spot Spoon Market to get a to-go lunch to carry-in to a local brewery, JAFB. After that, we arrived a little early for check in to get settled before heading out to enjoy the unseasonably warm spring weather. Downtown Wooster has worked hard to gain more independent retailers in its downtown shopping district. We took a step back in time and found a fun souvenir for our oldest at Operation Fandom, a fun toy, collectible & memorabilia type store. We found neat kitchen gadgets and foodie favorites at Graham & Burns.  I hope next time we return to catch one of their cooking demonstrations!  Finally, we found some awesome gifts and new threads at Blue Spruce Boutique.

Downtown Wooster

After a whirlwind of shopping, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. We caught a quick workout in the gym which was perfectly outfitted, even for two gym snobs. Back in the room, we were greeted by homemade welcome cookies, heated bathroom floors and a beautiful waterfall shower. Dinner was just across the street at The City Square Steakhouse.

We rounded off the weekend by visiting a new restaurant to downtown Wooster, The Leaf. Born and raised in Wayne County and a resident of downtown Cincinnati and then Columbus for the past 15 years, I admit I have very high breakfast standards. We are a family that loves to brunch and The Leaf had high standards to meet. I was absolutely blown away by the new restaurant that took the place of a long-time neighborhood diner, The Parlor.  Most shockingly to me were menu items that I had never heard of or seen on a brunch menu. I happily ordered the Bana Crunch Yogurt Bowl and the … wait for it…Avocado Naan. What?! Two of my favorite things combined with eggs? Hands down one of the best brunch items I’ve ever had. Served up right there in Wooster, OH.  TJ enjoyed the Wet Burrito, which was also amazing.

We can’t wait to return! -Halle

Off to Athens!

Let’s shuffle off to the Southeastern part of the state and the home of the Ohio University Bobcats. There is a new boutique hotel in Athens that you just need to hear about. The Athens Central Hotel is now open for business and in the heart of Athens.Athens Central Hotel

This offers a unique option if you are in the area and lucky for you, it is just steps away from the popular Court Street and bustling Uptown Athens. If you are not familiar with Uptown Athens, become acquainted! There are great coffee shops, pubs, dining options, and nightlife excitement for all who visit the area.

Athens Central HotelAn all-white structure with sparkling silver lettering would capture any passerby’s attention and the interiors welcome much of the same aesthetic with a beautiful blue color palette. The entire property feels very European and something, well, you just might find in Greece.

Each room is unique and no two rooms are the same. One of my favorite details are the chevron laid flooring and the beautiful bathrooms. Each bathroom features shower options from waterfall to body jets and sliding glass doors.

Athens Central HotelMaybe you should plan a little staycation and take the short drive to Athens… perhaps to see the Fall foilage, OU’s infamous Green Beer Day, or to enjoy all that Uptown has to offer.

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Emerging Brands, Oh My!

Many of you are familiar with our handy, dandy, OHLA Brand Guide which offers a great breakdown of brands across all tiers in our industry. Each year the guide is reviewed, edited between tiers, new brands added, other brands removed, and every single year… we are surprised (and excited) by the changes and additions we see.

Here is a quick review of the changes we made to our brand guide for 2020:

Thompson Hotels – In October of 2018 Hyatt acquired the luxury line of Thompson Hotels and in March of 2019 the 8 existing Thompson Hotels were transitioned as part of Hyatt

Signia by Hilton – In February of 2019 Signia by Hilton was announced. This brand offers a new approach to your standard rooms to space ratio with a meetings & events focused approach.

 

Aiden – Best Western added this brand to reflect a casual, eclectic, and trendy boutique hotel to their portfolio.

 

SADIE – Also by Best Western, this boutique brand will help capture the playfulness of travel and embody the creative and unique culture of the neighborhood of where each property sits.

 

 

MOTTO by Hilton – City life encompassed within small rooms with flexible furniture set-up to offer a true urban experience.

 

Miraval – An all-inclusive wellness resort dedicated to their guests finding balance and their best selves

(In addition to these brands being added to the guide, other brands moved within their chain scale. If you’d like a copy of our brand guide to see everything in the big picture, please send me an email at Lauren@ohla.org!)

Though we aren’t seeing any of these brands in Ohio currently, it does not mean we won’t see them in the future. Just think, it was not all that long ago that brands like AC by Marriott and Tru by Hilton were emerging and here we are… with close to 6 of each within the state either opened or underway.

We are looking forward to another year of growth and new potential.

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

A Yurt Experience

2020 is here! Isn’t that hard to believe? This year is already off to an exciting start!

Professionally, OHLA recently moved offices for the first time in 40 years from the exciting Short North Arts District to bustling downtown Columbus, just one block away from the Ohio Statehouse. Personally, for those who do not know, Sean & I are expecting our first child in March.

With this being said, this blog comes to your inbox in the spirit of overwhelming excitement and positivity for this year and Sean & I squeezing in as much as we can in the few short weeks we have left as a party of two.

Another thing off of the bucket list for us… we stayed in a yurt. A beautiful, cozy, quaint yurt. You may have the same question my sister did… “What is a yurt?”. A yurt is a round structure that includes a lattice skeleton covered by a fabric-like wall covering, and a dome skylight at the center of the roof covering. The Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls recently added yurts to their options for accommodations and I just had to check it out!

Our yurt, Firefly, had a large bed, a kitchenette, a sitting area and full bathroom. My favorite part about our stay was that there was not a television. After enjoying a delectable dinner at Kindred Spirits, the on-site restaurant, we went back and played an intense and competitive game of Scrabble. A Scrabble game that seemed to have no end in sight.

I awakened in the middle of the night and was mesmerized by the moon shining in through the skylight and the pitter patter of rain drops on the yurt. It felt special and in a way comforting. In the morning, we put on the soft cozy robes and enjoyed a cup of coffee on the wrap-around porch. (Yes, we were outside, in the morning, in January… you know, it was casually almost 60 degrees.)

We wrapped our stay with a visit to the spa and were then on our way back to Columbus.

En route back home, we stopped at the Hocking Hills Inn and Coffee Emporium. If you are passing by or coming to stay, be sure to stop here! They have an extensive menu of all of your favorite coffee, espresso, and tea favorites in a beautiful café setting. They also have great grab-and-go items for a quick snack or lunch. Next time I am in the Hocking region, I will definitely need to check out the suites available at the inn, they look so beautiful!

Until Next Time,

Lauren

 

 

Refined Hospitality at Hancock Hotel

An enlightened experience.

Bringing refined hotel and dining experiences to the Findlay, Ohio landscape.

I introduce you to the Hancock Hotel located on South Main Street in Downtown Findlay. I recently visited this property for one of our many member mixers with our Northwest Lodging Council and it is impressive!Hancock Hotel - Findlay, OH

The design elements throughout the hotel are modern and tell the story and history of the Findlay community. The front entryway is glass with perfectly aligned bicycles adorned with the hotel logo. These bikes are available for any guests to rent at any time.

Hancock Hotel - Findlay, OHI was warmly greeted by the friendly team and directed to our event space. The halls have high ceilings with many windows allowing for their gorgeous light fixtures to shimmer. Every space in the hotel is a statement. I loved the rich royal blue accents throughout the hotel along with just a little bit of glitz through their light fixtures and usage of metals.

The pre-function and meeting area also offered tall windows with navy draperies in a pristine space. The team did a great job as our host and I have to say, the build-your-own bruschetta was maybe my most favorite appetizer ever… fresh tomatoes, soft mozzarella, sliced breads… the Italian in me was such a happy camper!

Speaking of good eats, Hancock Hotel is also home to Mancy’s Steakhouse. Sound familiar? While visiting, I learned that Mancy’s is an iconic steakhouse in Toledo and extremely well-known. The restaurant décor and set-up are very warm and cozy. Somewhere you’d want to take in a multiple course meal and perhaps stay for that night cap. The kitchen has a large open service window which I always enjoy, I love being able to see the operation!Hancock Hotel - Findlay, OH

The sleeping rooms are equally as beautiful as the rest of the hotel with plush bedding, stand out artwork and again a little piece of Findlay in every space.Hancock Hotel - Findlay, OH

After speaking with several of the Hancock team members, I was overjoyed to hear of their engagement and involvement within the community. They host community events throughout the year at a nominal cost to locals. From family-friendly to an evening for adults, there is a diverse selection, and each is ever so creative. A few events coming up are “A Great Pumpkin Breakfast” featuring a full breakfast buffet for the whole family and showing of It’s a Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and for the adults they will be hosting a screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show followed by a few other holiday events such as a holiday pop up market. (If you are interested in any of these events they are open to registrations on Eventbrite!)

Next time you are in Findlay, stop by and see the lovely team at the Hancock Hotel and maybe even enjoy a steak at Mancy’s!

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Are you a Thrill Seeker?!

Seeking speed? Thrills? Heights? Look no further than the ‘Roller Coaster Capital of the World’. It’s not too late to visit Cedar Point, the one-stop-shop for family fun and amusement galore. The park boasts 18 world class roller coasters plus thrill rides and you cannot forget about my favorite part, the water park.

Cedar Point - Sandusky, OhioWhen I think of Cedar Point, I have nostalgia of childhood memories… being terrified of going on the Millennium once I was tall enough, puking after riding the Raptor (some things you’ll never forget!), or riding my favorite water log ride with my parents.

There is so much to do, explore and see within the amusement park and it is tough to cram it all into one day. Don’t fret, there are great properties on the premise, under the Cedar Fair umbrella.

Castaway Bay

Castaway Bay - Sandusky, OhioCastaway Bay is an indoor waterpark oasis (OVER 38,000 sq. ft.!!) The entire property is tropically themed. Some things that I appreciate most is that the rooms offer suites with a mini fridge and microwave! Always great to have when you have your kiddos in tow. The hotel features a Quaker Steak & Lube (I grew up just a few minutes away from the original in Sharon, PA!) restaurant along with a deli serving Starbucks coffee, breakfast buffet and snack shack.

Cedar Point Express Hotel

Cedar Point Express Hotel - SanduskyCedar Point’s Express Hotel also features the family friendly mini-fridge & microwave combo and is all about guest convenience. Easy parking within close proximity of the property and a convenience shop inside! My favorite part of this property is the courtyard and outdoor pool area. It is plush and a great way to spend an afternoon. Perfect to gather and soak up the sun!

Hotel Breakers

Hotel Breakers - Sandusky, OhioHotel Breakers is exactly what you’d imagine a waterfront resort to be. A variety of rooms and suites, balconies and breathtaking views of Lake Erie. This hotel serves as a great stay-cation, with three restaurants and two bars on site!  Spend your days by the pools, water playground, engage in fun games and activities on the beach or my personal favorite, relax under the stars by the fire pits.

Lighthouse Point

Lighthouse Point - Sandusky, OhioLooking for an alternative to hotel accommodations? Hook up your RV, rent a cottage or a variety of cabins. What a great place to relax! Enjoy great amenities, outdoor seating and a charcoal grill. If you are staying in a cabin, you have to have a grill! On the grounds, you can also find an outdoor pool, on-site laundry and fun activities.

[Shout out to a few of our other members in the Cedar Point area: Knights Inn, Great Wolf Lodge, Kalahari Resort & Conference Center (home of our 2019 Annual Conference), and Sawmill Creek Resort!]

What is your favorite memory of the Lake Erie Shores & Islands? Besides Cedar Point, my family always loved going to Port Clinton and visiting Put-in-Bay and Kelley’s Island, the wineries of Geneva (and Madsen Donuts, of course!) and much more.

Wherever this summer has taken you, I hope it was enjoyable and you squeeze in a little more summer fun this month!

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

An INNvitation to Ada

The drive from Columbus to Ada is such a pleasant ride. Weaving through Ohio’s proud farmland with scenic views as far as the eye can see and a few of those “I am going to lose my stomach” hills that make sure you are awake.

Ada is the home to Ohio Northern University and the inn that operates on the campus. The Inn at Ohio Northern University blends right in with the campus buildings of brick and is a charming attribute to the campus. You know you’ve found the inn when you see the huge arch at the entry point.The Inn at Ohio Northern - Ada, Ohio

Our Unique Lodging of Ohio (ULO) Council recently met at the Inn as they are a proud ULO property. Our meeting was held within the spacious, hi-tech boardroom. One wall of windows allowed natural light to pour in and the room was anchored with a wet bar area one end and a huge television screen on the other. It was an excellent set up! The Inn offers over 3,000 square feet of space and is suitable for just about any type of event!

The Inn at Ohio Northern - Ada, OhioThe lobby is cozy and opens to a large outdoor courtyard and a pub. It felt very warm and inviting with the stone accents and piano in the space. (I can only imagine what this place is like over the holidays!) I attribute much of the coziness to the hospitality of the team. Every single employee that we came across was warm, welcoming and so hospitable. Including the audio-visual technician, our banquet server, catering manager, the General Manager and many more!

This was not an overnight visit, unfortunately, but the accommodations are unique, spacious and offer great amenities like Turkish towels, bath salts, refrigerator and a coffee and tea station. (One of my favorite items that are around the Inn are the signature orange and black speckled coffee mugs! You’ll see these logo’d mugs in the meeting rooms, sleeping rooms and in the gift shop. I should have bought one…)The Inn at Ohio Northern - Ada, Ohio

I’d say this is a great opportunity for someone seeking a retreat location, business meeting or just a little getaway.

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

 

The Inn at Ohio Northern - Ada, Ohio

Wowed by the Wallhouse

This week, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting in Amish Country within Holmes County. It was a bright sunny day with a perfect breeze in the air. Once I got off the main interstate, I rolled the windows down and proceeded through the seemingly never-ending winding roads of hills. It was a gorgeous morning to be making the drive.

My travels continued through farmland, fields and small towns. I was getting very close to my destination but saw so sign of a property. As I made my final turn up the hill and around a corner out of nowhere stood The Wallhouse Hotel in Walnut Creek. A stone and modest exterior stood tall with a neon sign spelling out the name of the hotel. (For those of you who are unfamiliar, The Wallhouse Hotel brand is a part of the Choice Hotels Ascend Hotel Collection.)

Once I entered the property, I was so surprised. Pleasantly, of course. This modern, luxurious gem in the heart of Amish Country boasted neon blue, green, and orange accents. The interiors were sleek and very urban feeling. Behind the front desk pods stood a bold black and silver wall with the statement “W” logo.

The lobby area has excellent lounge space with white leather chairs and couches, a fireplace, clear glass tabletops and shiny black flooring with those exciting and unexpected accent colors. The 62 sleeping rooms & suites carry over the same vibrant color scheme. Each bedroom sported a tall white headboard, white sheets, charcoal carpeting, an accent wall and lime green table and pillows. The meeting space was just as fresh & clean as the rest of the property. Black and white photos lined the striking robin’s egg blue walls.

If you are looking to get the big city feel without the big city traffic The Wallhouse is certainly a great option. You are bound to be – pleasantly – surprised at every turn!

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Fond Memories & a Bright Future at Cherry Valley

Cherry Valley Hotel & Event Center - NewarkThis past Wednesday, OHLA had the privilege of presenting a proclamation to honor the 21 million dollar renovation of the former Cherry Valley Lodge & Waterpark now known as Cherry Valley Hotel & Ohio Event Center located in Newark. Many community members gathered to recognize this moment. I enjoyed hearing stories and memories of the lodge and waterpark. Many enjoyed family trips, meetings and the team that once operated the property. Others shared their excitement for this redevelopment as it stood as a marker for growth and economic development.

Cherry Valley Hotel & Event Center - Newark
Rendering of main lobby/common space.

The entire property is in process of being completely renovated. All 200 sleeping rooms, common areas, new dining & lounge concepts and… no more waterpark. That’s right, the waterpark will no longer be a fixture at the property.Cherry Valley Hotel & Event Center - Newark

During the event, we got to witness the first of the water slides to go down, literally (as in… a bulldozer…). The removal of the waterpark makes room for a complete event & exhibition center.

The renovation is full steam ahead with much of the common space and a first phase of sleeping rooms being guest-ready beginning at the end of July with the full property being completed in October.

A few of the sleeping rooms were ready for viewing and they are impressive. Fresh new colors, spacious & bright bathrooms with quirky artwork of affluent deer (I loved these!).Cherry Valley Hotel & Event Center - Newark

We are looking forward to seeing the finished product and who knows… host an upcoming OHLA event within the new event center!

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

 

Cherry Valley Hotel & Event Center - NewarkCherry Valley Hotel & Event Center - Newark