Sophisticated Charm on the (Ohio) Edge

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

Sophistication & Charm @ The Avalon Inn & Resort – Warren, OH

It was a bright and sunny June day.  The temperature was perfect.  The sky blue with fluffy white wisps floating across the sun. If I wasn’t going to be sitting poolside, there’s only one other way I’d like to spend a day as picturesque as that, and that’s exploring a beautiful resort.  And even better? A resort in Ohio. On this gorgeous spring day, I found myself walking the grounds of the recently renovated Avalon Inn & Resort in Warren, OH.

As I entered the lobby, I found myself wondering – how did I not know this was here?  I’m in the rust belt and you would never know it. The pin-tucked, tight back chairs and sofa were striking against the marble floor and grand fireplace (not exactly what I was expecting and a pleasant surprise!). As I waited for my tour guide, I was baffled at just how many golfers were wondering around the lobby on this Friday morning, bustling between the gift shop, patio and guestrooms. My guide swept me through the crowd to start our tour outside. The Avalon Inn & Resort is a country club and an inn. Guests of the inn are permitted to use all (and I mean, all) of the amenities club members have access to. The list is extensive.  The resort includes access to three golf courses – Avalon Lakes, Avalon at Buhl Park and Squaw Creek.

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

In addition to golf, the resort offers amenities for guests of all ages, golfers and non-golfers alike. We stepped into the new recreation room – a cool, den space that includes a large TV, bar and arcade games.  Sometimes when I think of an arcade room at a resort, I picture a brightly lit room with old games and a stark, white wall/floor/ceiling combo. Not here. When the weather might turn too cool for outdoor activities, this would be an excellent place to cozy up for a movie, huddle around a table to play cards or just relax. Connected to the Rec Room are the indoor tennis courts, my personal favorite. These were in fact some of the nicest indoor courts I’ve seen! On the opposite side of the resort, if the weather isn’t quite to your liking, you can find simulated golf set up theater style where guests can order food and drinks and sit back and watch the fun.

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

I know, I know. How could you fit all of these amenities into your stay? Obviously, you’ll need to visit for the weekend, because I’m not done yet!  The Avalon Inn boasts a beautiful indoor pool with huge sliding doors to open it up in the summer.  Soon to come will be an outdoor pool and Roman Bath. But “weight”, there’s more! You know I’d have to mention the gym, didn’t you?!  This isn’t any old gym. The fitness facilities at the Avalon Inn are expansive, including more cardio and weight equipment than I’ve ever seen at any lodging facility and includes group fitness rooms and a spinning room.  In addition, there is a spa at this facility, with multiple massage rooms.

We continued our tour indoor where I was informed major changes had taken place.  The rooms at the Avalon Inn & Resort are some of the classiest rooms I’ve seen.  New furniture and wall coverings make these a step up and an example of truly unique lodging in Ohio. I’m a huge fan of the new trend to use textured wall paper – I couldn’t get enough.  The Presidential Suite at the Avalon Inn is also nothing short of spectacular. The picture doesn’t even begin to do this room justice.  The walls are lined with what almost looks like pyrite (fool’s gold).  If you look closely, you can see the sparkle!

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

It’s hard to imagine all of this could be packed into this little corner of Northeastern Ohio.  Sure to keep guests content throughout the day, The Avalon Inn has a full service bar, wine cellar and Gatsby’s, its fine dining restaurant, proudly serving up what guests are calling a “new, amazing experience,” complete with a welcome Prosecco.

Don’t worry, readers, I’ve made this easy for you.  You can make a reservation to stay, here.

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

 

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

 

Have you Heard?

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

New Hotel, New to Ohio @ Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville

There’s a new kid on the block, literally. The first hotel in the city of Orrville, OH and the first hotel of this new brand in the state.  How cool! For some of us in the “big city,” it’s hard to imagine a town without a hotel. The mayor of Orrville, Dave Handwerk, announced to the crowd on the day of the grand opening that this hotel was the first to be constructed in Orrville in 97 years. Can you imagine?

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

I want to take this opportunity to feature a story written by a former OHLA intern and recently graduate of The Ohio State University, Megan Coddington.  Megan wrote this story leading up to the opening of the property, but since, I’ve been able to gather pictures to introduce the new brand to fellow travelers, hoteliers and other industry professionals. So let’s take a look at Ohio’s first Cobblestone Hotel & Suites.

Orrville is a small town in Ohio, located about 30 miles from Akron. With a population of about 8,500, the town is not ideal for big branded hotels to settle down in. Orrville is home of the J.M. Smucker Company and other local businesses that bring in their fair share of visitors that need a place to stay. The closest motels and hotels are 20 minutes away in Wooster.

Enter Cobblestone Hotel & Suites, an upscale, mid-size hotel brand that broke ground on a facility in Orrville in June 2015 — it’s the very first to be located in Ohio. 

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites is no stranger to the Midwest having already opened about 60 hotels in the region. This exciting new addition to Ohio will bring “Big City Quality” while keeping

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

New Hotel, New to Ohio @ Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville

“Small Town Values.” It offers the same amenities that travelers would expect when staying in big-brand hotels, but meets the needs of small towns that are not near major highways. The average room size is 40 rooms and the hotels offer each guest well-appointed public spaces and guestrooms with attentive, friendly service from our hotel teams. Guests are offered free high-speed Internet, complimentary hot breakfast, convenience stores, fitness centers, business centers and on-site beer and wine bars.

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

New Hotel, New to Ohio @ Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville

The company takes pride in being a family-run business and that doing things the right way is “part of their DNA.” Orrville’s community response has been nothing but positive.  Everyone is ready to welcome the new brand to their town. 

“Business-wise I think it will be great for companies to be able to set visitors up in a very nice facility, only minutes away. It should be a great positive for our local industries,” said Orrville Mayor Dave Handwerk.  Not only will this be a positive for local business but also leisure visitors traveling to Orrville for weddings, family reunions, the newly added Heartland Rail Trailand other events that Orrville has to offer throughout the year.

Other local industries are eager to embrace the anticipated addition to their small town. The President and CEO of the Aultman Orrville Hospital, Marchelle Suppan, explains how the Cobblestone Hotel & Suites will provide a convenient location for hospital recruits and short-term staffing assignees. Suppan not only hopes to be able to utilize the hotel for meetings , but she also hopes to sponsor hospital-related events there.

Orrville isn’t the first city to have their hotel needs met by Cobblestone. Salem, Indiana welcomed the first Cobblestone Hotel & Suites in the state in the fall of 2014. Salem is an hour from Louisville, Kentucky, with a population of about 6,300 and with needs similar to Orrville’s– a convenient quality hotel.

Consistent with its values and quality of service, Cobblestone prides itself in hiring locally and using local products when possible.

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites officially opened in March with a Grand Opening on May 5, 2017.  The completed hotel offers 54 guest rooms, 8 of which are extended stay rooms with kitchenettes.  True to its word, Cobblestone has incorporated many local  products into its hotel.  They offer Smucker’s Jelly products, Smucker’s maple syrup, Smucker’s Uncrustables® and Smith Dairy milk – all produced in Orrville. The bar includes local wines and Great Lakes Brewing Company beer.

Next time you’re traveling through some of America’s great small towns, check and see if a Cobblestone is available. You won’t be disappointed!

TIP: If you were one of the lucky few to receive one of these blue coins during the opening, use it to receive 100 rewards points to your Cobblestone Rewards!

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

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

 

Summer on My Mind

Great unique lodging on Lake Erie shores - Huron, Sandusky area

Summer Lovin’ @ Sawmill Creek Resort – Huron

You know when you look back on your week and sometimes there’s just that one, single shiny moment that sticks out in a sea of gray?  That’s how my week went.  Okay, I don’t mean to sound too down and out, overall it was professionally a super successful week, but THIS WEATHER.  AH!!!!!!  If you don’t live in Columbus, you might not know that almost the entire weekend last weekend, from beginning to end, was rain.  Our backyard flooded, ruining the grass we were growing, our wedding tree (only 1 year in the ground!!) was leaning and weeping, and my spirits? Sunk. Who knew you could feel the effects of SAD in May?? On Tuesday morning I left my house in the wee hours of the morning to travel 2.5 hours to the shores of Lake Erie. There are three relatively similar routes to take to Sandusky from Columbus, two are awful and one is like a vacation in itself.  Happy to finally be free of rain and dark skies, I chose the latter and that was the beginning of a wonderful day of sun and the lake and I finally felt like summer was just around the corner.

Great unique lodging on Lake Erie shores - Huron, Sandusky area

As Memorial Day weekend is upon on us, whether you spend the weekend visiting a service, watching a parade or surrounding yourself with family and friends, you can’t help but feel long summer nights and backyard gatherings approaching.  I thought it would be appropriate to share with you a unique lodging destination in our great state that I was reminded of this week, that is worth a visit this summer season – Sawmill Creek Resort & Conference Center.  I often forget just how much I love Sawmill Creek. Tucked away off the main drag (Rt. 2), Sawmill Creek Resort sits on numerous acres among a coastal forest. My first time vising this property was a few years ago as a meeting planner.  TJ and I set out for a weekend stay with golf, Great unique lodging on Lake Erie shores - Huron, Sandusky areadinner and discovery.  The golf course at Sawmill Creek is beautiful.  It takes you from the road to the water, with beautiful homes scattered around the edges. (The resort itself also had condo units and private property in addition to the lodge itself). After a long game of golf in the sun, I implore you to check out one of the pools.  When I was visiting Tuesday, the team was just putting the finishing touches on the outdoor pool – sure to open soon for the summer season.  I loved the bright splashes of the Adirondack chairs against the backdrop of the trees and nature.  I bet you can already see yourself sipping a cool cocktail from the outdoor bar (pictured above)!

The property also has on-sight restaurants. When we stayed overnight, we got a kick out of how many people were packed into their bar listening to live music, dancing and drinking the night away.  We had ventured into downtown Sandusky for dinner, but believe it or not, the nightlife at this secluded property was quite lively, so make sure you don’t miss out on a drink at the Black Bear Saloon!

The Lodge itself has a distinct nature theme, with water features, lots of live plants and a nod to our Native American ancestors through artifacts and decor throughout the property. If you’re vising Sawmill you’re probably a nature lover like me; and, you’re more than likely making a weekend out of it – fortunately, there are soGreat unique lodging on Lake Erie shores - Huron, Sandusky area many ways to enjoy the great outdoors here.  In addition to the pools, there are tennis courts and a basketball court, but my favorite feature is a bit off the beaten path.  If you head back out to the main entrance you’ll notice a very discrete sign that reads “Nature Path.” Take the path!  This trail takes you through the Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve. It’s very quiet, winding you through the forest, all the way to the beach.  If you don’t mind off-roading a bit, you can follow the beach all the way to Sawmill’s private beach – that’s right!  One of my other favorite parts of Sawmill Creek is their private beach, a small patch of grass and sand at the far reaches of the resort’s property.  You’ll need to prepare for a fairly lengthy stroll from you room, but it’s sooo worth it.  Last year, I visited Sawmill Creek for a work function and they had organized a beach party with music, food and dancing.  If you want to enjoy the water, the resort also offers stand up paddle boards, jet skis, fishing, and more!

Next time you’re looking for a way to sit back and enjoy summer, seriously consider making the trip to Sawmill Creek – it’s a great place for family, friends or just a romantic weekend away.  So whether you’re visiting Cedar Point or the new Sports Force Park, dining out in the revitalized downtown Sandusky, or hopping a boat to one of the islands, I hope you can find a time to enjoy all of the great things happening along our coast this summer, I know I will be!

Great unique lodging on Lake Erie shores - Huron, Sandusky area

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

A Cottage in the Woods

The Oak Cottage @ Vineyard Woods – Geneva

We’re back! In Ohio that is.  And I’m here to share with you a little secret. Have you ever wished you could find a place that transported you to somewhere far, far away?  Maybe a little cottage in the woods, surrounded by vineyards and continuously flowing wine?  Guess what?! I found it.

I had the privilege of staying in one of Geneva’s newest unique lodging properties.  Nestled between vineyards and woods, this little getaway is just what everyone needs.  Come with me as we explore the Northeast corner of my great state with a wine tasting, dinner and overnight at Vineyard Woods.

When you book your stay at Vineyard Woods, there is a detailed explanation of how to find the place.  For me, this is great, because it means it’s tucked away and feels like a hidden treasure.  The long, winding entry off of the main drag takes you back behind the grapevines and into a patch of forest.  This is where I found my abode for the night, The Oak Cottage.  Across the path is The Vineyard Villa, a super cool transitional space that allows one couple or many to share a cabin in the woods.  But my cottage, was perfect for two.  When I visited, we were still dusting off the remains of an Ohio winter and the inside was warm and cozy. Owners Scott and Katie have decorated this place with unique pieces of refurbished furniture and wine accents.  The cottage comes complete with a small kitchen, fireplace and patio so that you can choose just how much relaxing you’d like to do.

Assuming you’re visiting the region for wine, it’s important to note that Vineyard Woods sits in the middle of it all.  The land itself is on 10 acres of wine grapes (Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir).  This land originally served as a Concord grape vineyard supplying Welch’s, until 2004 when it was replanted as it is today.  But those aren’t the only vineyards.  Your private cottage sits among 20+ wineries within 12 miles, just 10 miles away from Lake Erie and near 19 covered bridges awaiting your visit.

On my visit, Scott and I headed to nearby M Cellars, where the wine steward was happy to pour us a taste of some of his favorites.  We were quick to sample the Chardonnay, Dry Rose and Meritage.  You can also have some small plates while sampling wine by the fire or on the patio – might I recommend the Ohio Charcuterie & Fromage board??

But, you all know me too well. Although I devoured the cheese and cured meats, this girl needed dinner.  Fortunately for me, I had a wonderful guide to point out the best food options. I was too late to enjoy dinner at Ferrante, but I wasn’t too late to stop in at another great Ohio lodging venue – Lakehouse Inn & Winery.  The property’s restaurant, Crosswinds Grille, sits on Lake Erie with some killer views.  On this particular night, the winds were treacherous and the lake was in an evil fury.  It did make for a beautiful spectacle at sundown, though!  Crosswinds serves up all locally sourced foods and after a few glasses of wine, I needed some.  I started with a salad and ordered the White Pizza – delicious!

The Oak Cottage @ Vineyard Woods – Geneva

I made it back to my cottage with just enough time to unwind.  The rain had started shortly after I arrived back, with a thunderous pounding on the roof, making the in-room fireplace a perfect complement.

This was my first visit to the Geneva-on-the-Lake region and the bar has been set pretty high.  If you haven’t been or need a refresher (or just another glass of wine) I highly encourage you to check out the beautiful oasis Scott & Katie have created at Vineyard Woods.  With two cabins built and more on the horizon, this is soon to be a quite popular getaway.  Of course, InnLove readers get a special perk for checking out the area’s newest unique lodging. Mention the blog and receive a $25 gift card to a local winery, something special to enhance your stay!

I can’t believe it took me this long in life to discover this Ohio gem, but luckily, things are just getting started and I can’t wait to return.

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

Home Sweet Home?

Small Town, Big City Feels @ St. Paul Hotel – Wooster

You know when you’ve been traveling a lot and although you’ve seen incredible things, experienced new adventures and tasted fantastic new food, you sometimes find yourself sighing in relief as you pull into your driveway, thinking, “Ahhh, Home Sweet Home”  … well, I didn’t get a chance to do that.  As soon as TJ and I returned from our European adventure, I was thrown deep into the trenches of work travel with two back to back weeks of travel. We’re going to take a brief, one-week hiatus before diving back into Europe for the French leg of our trip to showcase one of my new favorite spots – the St. Paul Hotel in Wooster, OH.

Although I couldn’t quite sigh in relief of being home, I felt as close as I could get.  Wooster is 10 minutes from my hometown of Orrville, OH and the team at the St. Paul Hotel was gracious enough to host me for an overnight before a work meeting at the property the following day. On a gorgeous Ohio spring Sunday afternoon (a nice contrast to the chilly rain Paris chased us out of the country with), I drove to Wooster with a week’s worth of clothes and meeting materials.  I was tired before I left my house and was so fortunate to be swept up by the staff at the St. Paul.  The girl that greeted me upon arrival could perhaps sense my exhaustion, because after the quickest of check-ins she walked me to my room, a long lost art of small hotels. I arrived in one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve stepped foot in in a long time, the Grand Suite. Not only is this room unique and made with local hands and materials, but it comes equipped with a fantastic shower, cozy living area and a private deck and hot tub. If I couldn’t relax at home after a long cross country trip, this was definitely the next best thing.

I want to take a moment to walk you through some of the highlights of this hotel, because if you don’t have the time to stop and discover, you might have missed some of the cool history behind the front doors. In the lobby, you find yourself next to a beautiful fireplace.  The wood portion of the fireplace is reclaimed wood from a devastating possible tornado that ripped through the area in 2010 destroying portions of the nearby Ohio Agricultural and Research Development Center (OARDC) and Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (OSU ATI). If the fireplace hasn’t caught your eye, then you’re probably looking up at the original tin ceiling, something you certainly don’t see much anymore!

In my guestroom, the living and sleeping areas are separated by a large sliding metal door.  These doors were originally fire doors from the former Freedlander Department Store of downtown Wooster.  This local business touched the lives of nearly everyone in Wooster and the surrounding communities.  I fondly remember shopping for Father’s Day there when I was little. I was always amazed that the clerks working in the men’s section not only knew my mom, but had a little pocket sized notebook with all of my dad’s measurements. How much easier would life be if you could go into a store and not guess your partner’s sizes? In the business of customer service, this is something I so wish we still maintained.  Sadly, Freedlander Department store operated as an independent, family owned department store for 105 years (1884-1989) and it finally closed its doors in 2009. The building was recently torn down.

In contrast to the re-purposed metal fire doors in the room, there is exemplary woodwork, with custom made pieces by The Schantz Organ Company of neighboring Orrville, OH. Many other items throughout the room were sourced by local businesses and the property built by local contractors and Amish workers.  The hotel recently expanded and now has 16 guestrooms!

After a thorough tour of the property, I was ready to eat!  Fortunately, the St. Paul Hotel is in the best location for stretching your legs, located just two blocks south of the square. Surrounding the hotel are great places to eat and shop, including H2 Wine Merchants, roomScapes (shameless plug for my family’s business!), Today’s Kitchen Store and one of our family’s favorites – City Square Steakhouse, which is where I was headed!

After a great dinner and a long day, I was ready to pack it in, BUT WAIT! There’s a hot tub!  How glorious.

The next day I made my way down to the gym.  If you didn’t already see this coming, you haven’t been paying attention, I love food and fitness. I have high expectations for gyms – it’s 2017!  Luckily, this little hotel delivered. With full equipment and exposed brick, I felt like I was transplanted into a swanky NYC hotel. Hungry, after a long workout, I’m reminded of one of the best things about small operations – they are forced to get creative with breakfast.  You either don’t serve it or you come up with something awesome. Perhaps you remember from a long time ago, the breakfast in a basket concept at the Bolling Wilson Hotel in Virginia? Anyway, I returned from the gym to find my pre-ordered continental breakfast waiting for me.  This is so ideal when you’re traveling for business. I can multi-task by eating, checking email and getting ready for my day in the comforts of my own room!

With a full belly and a great night’s rest, I headed downstairs. The St. Paul Hotel hosted myself and 9 other meeting attendees, all visiting from other unique properties around the state. The boardroom on site was perfect. Catering was handled by nearby Spoon Market and the sandwiches were to die for.

I can’t thank the team from the St. Paul Hotel enough for a wonderful stay, a great meeting venue and one of the most exemplary displays of guest service I’ve experienced in a long time. For a girl that hadn’t seen her own bed in over 2 weeks, this was the perfect place to feel like I was in a Home Away from Home.

 

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

 

 

What’s in a Brand? Doubling Down

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

Have you ever thought to yourself while traveling – “ooohhh, this is a…{insert brand here} Hilton?!”  Sometimes I take for granted my vast and probably useless knowledge of hotel brands and families. If you’ve jumped on the brand loyalty programs, you probably have a better knowledge of the different brands within, say, Hilton, ChoiceIHG or Marriott (now includes Starwood!), but I’m surprised sometimes how little the consumer understands about a family of brands, so let’s talk about it!

In the past week(ish) I have spent 3 days in 2 DoubleTrees by Hilton.  It was in that time that I realized – these two hotels are both vastly different from each other. Don’t get me wrong, one of the benefits of a brand is the consistency a consumer can expect in service and quality. But it’s kind of cool when they’re unique, ya know?  Granted, that isn’t for everyone. I know some people that travel a lot like to feel like they’re “home” and the layout, rooms, etc., are identical from city to city. Don’t worry, Hilton has a brand for that too!

The first time I specifically realized I was at a DoubleTree I was a kid. This particular visit was in Nashville. The hotel there has a strange entrance.  If I remember correctly, you come in at street level, but need to go up a floor to get to the lobby. I walked up to the desk to check in with my dad.  After the check-in process, the front desk associate leaned over  and handed me a warm, delicious-smelling paper bag.  I was confused at first, but then it hit me! I looked at my dad and said, “Dad!  They do this at the Hotel Roanoke!” To which my dad, the wise traveler he is, said, “Yes sweetie, that’s because it’s a DoubleTree.”  This was my ah-ha moment whenI realized, at a young age, that not all hotels are equal. It didn’t look like the Hotel Roanoke, it didn’t feel like the Hotel Roanoke, but it sure smelled like the Hotel Roanoke – warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies at check-in – the signature DoubleTree move.

Fast forward to my life in the industry and now I understand a bit more about families of brands.  What I like about the DoubleTree brand is it used to be the solution for independent or unique properties that sought out a flagship.  And when it isn’t a branded, former independent hotel, they’re still unique. I learned recently that DoubleTree is the “conversion” brand for Hilton and this is why they are rarely alike.  Hilton will often convert and renovate a property and make it a DoubleTree. That explains a lot!

In Cleveland, I stayed at a massive DoubleTree with lots of event space.  There were standbys of the

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

SweatSesh @ DoubleTree CLE Beachwood

brand- nice gyms (my favorite treadmill made an appearance!) , the chocolate chip cookies and service Hilton stands behind.  But this hotel had a really cool copper (looking, at least) wall in the lobby dividing the lounge space from the hallways.  The restaurant, The Sanctuary, featured a fireplace and great, cozy seating. The following week, I spent two days back-to-back at a DoubleTree in Columbus.  The cookies and service were there, but not the copper wall! Instead, the wall separating the front desk from the atrium was a water feature.  This hotel lobby is enormously different

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

Bringing the Outside In @ DoubleTree Cbus Worthington

than the first, with a large elevated seating area in the middle of the hotel surrounded by big beautiful trees, making you feel like you’re outside. Both properties featured expansive courtyards, but on these particular days, I was avoiding a

typical Ohio-winter day.  These two properties had minor differences, despite the name, but some DoubleTrees have more noticeable uniqueness.

I wrote about the Hotel Roanoke a few months ago – it started as an independent, historic property and became a DoubleTree when I was a kid.  Eventually it dropped the DoubleTree flag, made a brief stint as an independent hotel again and eventually picked up the new Hilton boutique brand – Curio.  Some unique hotels, however, still rock the DoubleTree name, such as the historic Tudor Arms in Cleveland.  I haven’t had the chance yet to visit the Tudor Arms, but look forward to the opportunity – stay tuned!

If you’re still not sure what counts as a Hilton, check out their website to spot some of your favorites.  Here are some of mine: Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn, & Curio, and I can’t wait to see the new Tapestry brand!

Understanding the Hilton family of Brands - DoubleTrees & Ohio Lodging

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

Jazzy Weekend in Dayton

Discovering Ohio - Lodging in Greater Dayton

I’m an Ohio girl, born and raised.  From the Cleveland area, went to school in Cincinnati and now live in Columbus.  I tell people I get around the state quite a bit, but I definitely have had my go-to entertainment districts and up until this weekend, Dayton was not one of them.  I’ll be honest, nearly every time I’ve gone to Dayton it’s been raining and there’s construction. But a few weeks ago I had a taste of something I wanted to sink my teeth into and I had to schedule a time to go back.  Our trip centered around one key adventure – the Blue Note Bistro & Lounge.  You probably haven’t heard of it, and I’m a bit nervous to divulge my secrets, but if you’re looking for something new to try – follow me…

Miamisburg, OH is about an hour and twenty minutes from Columbus. We decided it would be best to make an overnight out of our trip to the Blue Note. Word on the street? They’ve got great music and a wine cellar – ’nuff said.  This particular Saturday afternoon was unseasonably perfect and we didn’t want a minute of it to go to waste.  We thought the best bet would be to stop somewhere on the way that we could check out – walk around, see some shops, (for TJ) drink some beer – so we set our sights on Yellow Springs, OH. I had the chance to visit Yellow Springs a few months ago and wrote about its cool new hotel the Mills Park Hotel.  That time, I didn’t get a chance to explore the town which has a huge art scene, but I wanted to. It was too cute! There are little shops everywhere and musicians on the street.  Who would have thought?

Discovering Ohio - Yellow Springs

Feeling Funky – Yellow Springs

As we’re driving, TJ proclaims that he is pretty sure there is a brewery in Yellow Springs (he would know!).  After a quick Google search I confirm this and now he is interested.  Yellow Springs is situated on a bike path (or maybe the bike path is situated around Yellow Springs, but you get the picture!) and today, bicyclists were out in full force.  Despite the crowds, we found easy parking on the street (it’s free! for all you city slickers), just across from the Mills Park Hotel. We headed to find a latte for me – very important when the sun is setting and you’re window shopping.  We found the cutest store – Oats.  They sold all kinds of neat antique pieces for the home. You

Discovering Ohio - Yellow Springs

Feeling Funky – Yellow Springs

probably could guess that we left with an old metal BEER sign for our at-home bar. After that we wound our way to the Yellow Springs Brewery and Taproom, located a few blocks from downtown.  This place was happenin’. A food truck was parked outside and nearly every seat indoor and outdoor (in February!) was full. Something a bit different about this taproom is that there wasn’t a TV in sight.  The place was filled with artwork and there was a big cart of games for people to play. A startling idea – a bar not having TV’s, but instead you walked in to the sound of conversation, laughter and glasses clinking.  We decided to have a light appetizer because our dinner reservation was late.  The food truck parked outside, Smokin’ Bee-Bee-Q, was

dishing out Mac n’ Cheese Waffles with Pulled Pork & Slaw – so we split one!  Delicious!

With full bellies, we decided we should make our way to Miamisburg with a quick pit stop at our hotel.  We were so fortunate to have been graciously hosted by the team at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Dayton Mall/I-675.  The staff was super friendly and ready to make our night a memorable

Discovering Ohio - Lodging in Greater Dayton

Holiday Inn Express & Suites – Miamisburg

one.  Our room was beautiful!  I’ve said it before, but if you haven’t been in a new package Holiday Inn recently, make sure to check one out. Our suite was spacious and beautiful.  I loved the homey accents – rounded ottomans and small lamps.  This hotel had a pool (which we didn’t have time to use) and great fitness center and complimentary breakfast. Highly recommend it!

Even better, the hotel is a straight shot to downtown Miamisburg, where the Blue Note was located. We were running a bit ahead of schedule so we swung into A Taste of

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

I’ve Got That Feeling, Inside My Sole @ A Taste of Wine

Wine for a glass of vino.  We were pleasantly surprised to see a packed house and a live band. The staff selected fantastic wine for us and we spent an hour listening to the sounds of Mind Reels.  We were walking distance to our final stop, so parking and navigating was easy.  We arrived at Blue Note just before the next show started and were quickly seated at our stage side table.  There are so many amazing things about this venue, I can’t capture it all in one post.  To begin, this space is a converted bank building, so it’s unique and in a great location.  The high ceilings and beautiful archways are a fantastic backdrop for a live music venue.  The whole place is lit by blue lighting and portraits of famous jazz musicians.  The menus? They light up!  The food was delicious.  I started with the Blue Note Salad and had the Chicken La Poire. TJ also started with the Blue Note Salad and had the Tournedos Dumas.  We split a great bottle of wine with our company, sat back and relaxed.  On stage that night was The Satchmo Show featuring Dean Simms – a Louis Armstrong impersonator. They were amazing and kept the crowd engaged all evening. After an outstanding show, good food and great company, we tucked in for the evening, but not before grabbing donuts at Bear Creek Donuts for breakfast the following morning.

One of my favorite things is discovering new ways to enjoy the great state of Ohio.  No matter how much  I travel, or how many people I meet, there are surprises around every corner.  If you haven’t yet visited Yellow Springs or Miamisburg, you are missing out on some amazing experiences. So what are you waiting for?

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

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

 

Video

Season of Love – Step it Up!

Ohio Date Ideas

All Smiles @ Cedar Point – Sandusky

I love holidays, particularly ones that give me an excuse to really wow someone – birthdays…Valentine’s Day. It’s the month of love, so I thought I’d step in to give you some ideas to really amp up your dating game or, your life experiences game. Whether you’re committed or single – these are some fun ways to get that extra mile out of love and life. Follow me as we try this, not that!

THAT – Buying chocolates

There are people in life who say, “don’t buy me flowers, they just die.” That’s depressing, but also true. Food isn’t just the way to a man’s heart – it’s the way to mine. But this time of year, stores roll out display after display of overpriced chocolates in heart shaped boxes. You could to that. Or, you could do…

THIS – (SAFE!) Raw Cookie Dough

Ohio Date Ideas

NomNomNom @ Cookie Dough Creamery

Good thing I surround myself with some pretty cool 11 year olds. I give full credit for this discovery to one of my favorite babysitees.  Next time you’re in the market for buying you’re loved one something sweet, stop by the Cookie Dough Creamery in Worthington, OH.  You can choose from containers of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (my favorite), Sugar Cookie Dough, Oreo Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough; Chocolate covered Oreos filled with cookie dough and all kinds of other delectable “raw” treats. In the event you’re worried about the safety of eating this raw dough (I certainly am not), this dough doesn’t contain eggs and they use heat treated flour.  GENIUS.

THAT – A Round of Golf

It’s OK, you can admit it.  You’re re-purposing some old Silent Auction item you won as a “super cool” gift.  Let me guess, it’s at a ritzy-titzy, exclusive course and perfect for 4!  If it’s so great, why haven’t you used it?  Because it isn’t so great. Wonder if you could recreate the golf experience in a private setting and when you’re ready to take a break from the links of Pinehurst, you can sit right down in your lounge seats, crack open a beer and enjoy a filet?  Next time, try…

THIS – Golf Simulator @ The Capital Club

What? Yes! You’ve totally been missing out. I had the chance to experience the Golf Simulator firsthand. Not just the golf simulator itself, but the opportunity to wow my Sig-O with an experience he didn’t even know existed.  We were escorted up to the Capital Club (by way of the DoubleTree Suites Columbus Downtown) to the Simulator room. We were able to select from over 20 courses.  We pre-ordered TJ’s favorite beer to the room (CBC Bodhi!) and you can even order food.  This is seriously one of the coolest dates I’ve been on. I’m pretty sure TJ has already lined up friends to join him next time. I’m thinking this would pretty cool for a Bachelor party too! Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a Capital Club member to take advantage of this place!

****Special for Followers!*** Just in time to polish those skills before golf season hits! Now through March 30, 2017, mention this blog post and receive 1 Hour of Golf & a Free Appetizer for $15! Contact Kyle to book.

Love sports but not in Columbus? Have you checked out TopGolf in West Chester, OH?  That’s next on my list! Or what about Canton’s own Pro Football Hall of Fame? Hall of Fame Village coming soon!

THAT – Wine Tasting

Don’t get me wrong, wine tasting is fun. I love wine!  There are a million great places to do a wine tasting in Ohio…but, that’s old school, what about….

Ohio Date Ideas

Bourbon Cocktails @ Buckeye Bourbon House

THIS – Bourbon Tasting

This week, I got to check out a super cool new place, the Buckeye Bourbon House. I love Bourbon. Believe it or not, this girl has been on the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail (highly recommend eating breakfast before visiting Jim Beam). The new Buckeye Bourbon House located on Gay Street in Columbus has over 50 curated Bourbons and Whiskeys (they are not the same, people!).  If you stop by, you can try a tasting and they ‘guarantee’ they’ve got something you haven’t tried.

Want more Bourbon? Try the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar in Covington, KY! I haven’t been in a while, but last time I checked, it’s still happenin’!

THAT – Date Night

It’s OK. Date night dinners are still cool, but there is something a tiny bit cooler…

THIS – Date Morning

What about fantastic brunch?  Fortunately, Ohio has finally figured things out.  People like to eat all times of day! Lucky for you, cities across the state are

Ohio Date Ideas

Brunch Farrotto @ The Whitney House

seriously stepping up their breakfast game.  So no matter where you are, there are places to brunch. Some new faves:

Hoof Hearted Brewing – Columbus, OH (Hate the name, love the food <3)

TownHall Ohio City – Cleveland, OH (Patio is perfect!)

Taste of Belgium – Cincinnati, OH (It’s been around a while, but those waffles. They still do Chicken & Waffles the best)

Blue Note Bistro & Lounge – Miamisburg, OH (On the menu next week, have you tried it??)

The Whitney House – Worthington, OH (I sold my sole for the Brunch Farratto)

Cherry Street Pub – Lancaster, OH (Christi’s pick!)

 

THAT – Shores of the Atlantic

Don’t get me wrong, I hit the Atlantic coast every year and I count down until that vacation. But, let’s get real, when was the last time you checked out Ohio’s shores? Have you even tried…

THIS  Shores of Lake Erie

When was the last time you visited Sandusky? I am not just talking about Cedar Point (but go there too). Downtown Sandusky has had a revitalization.  One can now have a fantastic dinner, settle in for a cocktail at a local speakeasy and book a night at a trendy hotel, all within walking distance.  Go. Now. Check it out.

There are so many more cool ways to experience life with someone you care about – share your favorites from around the state!

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

 

Pit Stops Ohio – All Shiny & New

New Lodging around Ohio

Twenty20 Taphouse @ Holiday Inn Canton

OK, gang, we’re getting down and dirty. Well, I guess not dirty – these places are all shiny and new!  But speaking of dirt, in the event you’ve been living under a rock, Ohio has all kinds of cool things popping up across the state. Anything from a face lift to a ground lift (new build!) there are so many hotels to be excited about.  Luckily, I’m in the biz, and have the somewhat daunting task of keeping track of all things hotel across the state. Today I’m going to take you into (or outside of) three exciting changes to our great state.  Buckle up!

The Timberlanes Inn – Salem, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Boneshakers @ The Timberlanes – Salem

My road trip started with a crazy flash back.  But before I get there, let me set the stage. I drove through winding roads and a blustery wintry-mix storm through the American Standard plant on the south side of town, finally arriving at Boneshakers in Salem, OH. I was meeting a local businessman who had taken the old Timberlanes complex under his wings, opening first Boneshakers.  Trying to avoid wet feet or hair, I sprinted into the new restaurant without much of a look at the outside. I was greeted by very friendly staff, even though I was a few minutes ahead of the opening bell.  I used my extra time to check out the new place.  I will be completely honest, I was shocked. I did not expect to see such a trendy looking joint in Salem, OH.  After a quick, yummy Cobb salad, I was ushered through the restaurant to the hotel which is still undergoing renovation.  A little history on the way – the old complex used to house bowling lanes (hence the name!) and it caught fire mid 1900s. When they rebuilt the property, they did not rebuild the bowling lanes (much to my dismay), but focused on the banquet hall, restaurant and motor inn. The Timerblanes complex was shut down in 2009.

New Lodging around Ohio

The Timberlanes – Salem

My two hosts swept me into the lobby.  As I was checking out the new guestroom furniture, I started to get this feeling…just a little something creeping through the cobwebs of distant memories.  I paused and took a moment to scan my surroundings.  The lobby is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows.  I looked outside – noticing that the valet area ran under the front and then continued along the side of the building to the banquet hall, running parallel to the street, thus serving dual purposes – valet for hotel guests and valet for banquet guests, something you don’t see everyday.  I turned back around as my hosts were explaining the inverted motel concept.  I followed their gaze through the lobby doors into the room corridors.  There’s something here and I can’t put my finger on it! I kept thinking.   We walk through the doors and I’m greeted by cold.  My host explaining that the rooms are connected by an outside corridor covered by a glass roof.  We walk into the first room and she’s saying “this room used to be greens and” burgundy, I say.  I’ve been here! I’ve been here!

New Lodging around Ohio

The Timberlanes – Salem

I blurted out.  She looks at me perplexed, “really?!”  Yes!  It has such a unique layout.  The valet. The small, cozy glass lobby, the reserve motel room layout.

And… I’m in Salem!  My memories come crashing back to me. I stayed here in high school as a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards participant.  It was a big, annual “over-nighter” hosted by the Salem Rotary Club for high school students demonstrating leadership. Of course, in high school, I didn’t drive myself there so the valet only played a small role in my memory. It was the late nights of running between rooms, gossiping and sharing stories that I remembered. Although in my high school memory, the old Timerlanes was fine, but in my adult memory, this place needed a major overhaul and Brooke & Brandy are the ones to do it.  They are moving those cool restaurant grade indoor heaters into the center space with nice patio furniture for lounging. I can picture myself cozied up under a blanket of winter snow on the glass roof with a blanket and a book. This place is going to be really neat. The lobby has been fitted with reclaimed barn wood and the new bedroom furniture has a similar feel.  Sticking to a modern, clean and simple design, Brandy is working hard to transform the space.  The banquet space is massive for any size town, but for Salem, OH and the surrounding areas, it’s a game changer, seating 400 in rounds. I’m excited to check out the hotel when it’s complete and you should be too.

Holiday Inn Canton – Canton, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Shiny & New @ Holiday Inn Canton

Yowza!  You know when you go somewhere you’ve been before and you think you know what you’re walking into, but then it isn’t anything like you remembered? That’s what happened to me at the newly renovated Holiday Inn Canton. Ask any of the staff here and they will tell you, “it’s about time!” They’ve been waiting to show off this renovation for a while and for good reason.  I was delighted that Emily was willing to take me on a full tour of the space. If you haven’t been in any Holiday Inn in a while, you might be surprised to know, the brand is making some big changes.  The new HI package is extremely modern with sleek finished, bright colors and well-placed art. Last time I was at this specific property, the lobby was in a different place, so that was confusing, but once I found my way, it was breathtaking. GOOD JOB!

New Lodging around Ohio

Shiny & New @ Holiday Inn Canton

The new lobby is an open floor plan with lots of seating for guests, computer stations and windows.  The rooms are – stunning.  I love all of the blues and silver.  One of the suites I saw has a pretty neat feature – the option to connect to a small board room. I think this would be great for groups hosting large or multi-day meetings on site.  It makes for a great private office space for meeting organizers. Or, traveling into town for an event at the Hall of Fame?  What a great place to order in and share with family so you don’t have to sit around on the beds.

The Holiday Inn Canton is in a great location – just off the highway but next to the former Belden Village Mall area. But should you not feel like navigating mall traffic for a cold beer or dinner, another addition is Twenty20 Taphouse, the new restaurant and taproom. And, you guessed it! There are 20 beers on tap for your pleasure.  Even if you’re just passing through and not looking for a place to stay, check it out. I bet it’ll wow you too!

Cobblestone Hotel & Suites Project – Orrville, OH

New Lodging around Ohio

Nearly new! Cobblestone Hotel & Suites – Orrville, OH

This one is near and dear to my heart and unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of pictures to show you. My hometown is Orrville, OH. A quaint little industrious town nestled between Canton and Wooster along historic Route 30. When I first heard news that Orrville, home of the Red Riders, Bobby Knight and this little jelly place called the J.M. Smucker Company, was getting a hotel, I was aghast.  What do we need a hotel for? I thought to myself.  But I left “home” 10+ years ago, and a lot has changed. Smucker’s is booming, industry is moving in and Orrville now has overnight guests that aren’t just family visiting loved ones.  It was a pet project of mine to find out more about a new project in Ohio – a small town hotel chain concept out of Pennsylvania breaking ground in Ohio in my very own hometown.  The new hotel will have 40 rooms, a bar/restaurant and a pool. The Cobblestone brand is built for towns just like Orrville, focusing on small town values and “big town” amenities. The hotel should be open in the coming months, but here is a sneak peek about what locals are saying about the build and the brand. For a full story on the property, check this article written by Megan Coddington, student at The Ohio State University. Cobblestone Hotel & Suites Introduction to Ohio by Megan Coddington Rumor has it, Cobblestone is already scoping out other communities across our state, one could be coming to your backyard soon!

We have some many great things happening around our state.  If you are wondering just what’s going in at this corner or if a rumor is true, let me know!  I’m happy to give you the scoop.

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

 

A Hidden Gem

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Stately Beauty @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

I am such a lucky girl.  I finally found that perfect career that allows me to immerse myself in something I’m passionate about.  I love travel, I love culture, I love experiences.  Lodging big or small, I’m a firm believer that the lodging you choose can make or break an experience.  And, over the past few months, I’ve actually had people tell me they like when I let them in, just a little bit, to come along with me on these experiences, from the comforts of their desk, their home or wherever InnLove finds them each Friday morning. Today I’m going to let you in, just a little bit more, into something I discovered this week while traveling for work.  For many of you, it’s in your backyard and it’s truly one of Ohio’s hidden gems.

As most of you know, I’ve worked in a few hotels, but what some of you might not know is that my childhood dream has been to own an award winning inn. I’ve been collecting favorite breakfast recipes for years. So when I find one that gives me so many feels…I must share it with you. This week, while making a very windy tour of Northeastern Ohio, I visited one of my favorite people, Lynne Biery at her hospitality masterpiece – Sebring Mansion Inn & Spa.

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

I’ve never been to the Mansion, but I have heard stories.  All good, of course, but THIS. I did not expect. I hadn’t heard of Sebring, OH until I learned of Lynne’s place –

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Rotunda @ Sebring Mansion

how could there be something this spectacular in a place I’ve never been? Even though the day was typical January in Ohio weather – you know the sort, gray, 33° and raining – the mansion was sparkling.  It is massive and stately, sitting

 

on the corner, beckoning me into its warmth.  I sprinted across the street, snapping a quick picture of the entrance, and ducked inside. As if he was waiting for me, I was greeted by Dick, a cheerful member of the Mansion’s team. He ushered me inside the most breathtaking foyer I’ve seen in quite some time. Once you catch your breath,

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Dining Room @ Sebring Mansion

you immediately gaze upward into a rotunda with 3 floors of views to a stained glass dome.  While waiting for Lynne, I snapped a few pictures of the foyer before being escorted into the dining area.  I was told a bride would be arriving soon and this was to be the dinner room.  The room was dripping with winter decor that made you feel

 

like you were in a fairy tale. Lynne walked me through the many rooms of the first floor including the parlor and oval music room.  The piano in the music room is original to the home!

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Oval Music Room @ Sebring Mansion

Sebring Mansion has 9 rooms with more being built.  Each room is individually decorated and is named after a famous potter. (Sebring, OH is the Pottery capital of the world!) Each room has a beautiful, hand selected bed and whirlpool.  In many of the rooms, you can be served dinner for two on the balcony or in the sitting area and each guest is greeted with a rose. No children are allowed at Sebring at this time, which allows for an indulgent adults-only retreat. Make sure to check out all of the room pictures in the 2017 Visual Adventure Gallery because there are a million!

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

Stained Glass @ Sebring Mansion

The third floor of the Mansion has another dining area where Lynne and her team had set up an immaculate dining experience for the weekend’s wedding party.  The room is surrounded by stained glass and little private alcoves. There is a built in bar to serve guests.  Lynne also tells me she hosts a number of special events such as Murder Mystery Dinners.  I think I should sign up for one of those really soon!

The lower level of the Mansion houses the spa, with a maze of rooms for massages, mani/pedis, hair, mud baths and more. All guests are able to soak in the 102° indoor or outdoor therapy pool.  Even on a dank day like the one I was visiting on, I could have easily slipped into the outdoor pool, surrounded by plants and stone walls.  Also on the lower level are his and hers locker rooms, a wine cellar and The Pub – a bar area for guests to order evening cocktails.

Sadly, I was not visiting Lynne for an overnight stay, just a quick tour and some history.  But, if anyone has ever convinced me to make a weekend out of Sebring, OH, it was Lynne, her team and this spectacular Mansion. I’ll be counting down the days until we can stay.  (Hunny, are you reading this??)

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

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