The Hills are Alive

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

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

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

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

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

sign displayed on the massive wrap around porch!

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Old Becomes New Again

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

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

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

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

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

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

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

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

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

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

Mount Vernon Grand - Mt. Vernon, OH

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

Good food. Great ice cream. Beautiful hotel.

When do we book?

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

 

 

Ohio Wine Country

In Canton, OH? OK. That Canton is Ohio’s wine country might be arguable. But! One thing that isn’t arguable, at least according to readers, is that the Villas at Gervasi Vineyard is USA Today’s 10Best Readers Choice Best Wine Country Hotel for the second year in a row. Notice what I said there.  Not Ohio’s Best Wine Country Hotel, but the United States. Beating out properties in Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena is our very own Gervasi. Whether you like Gervasi or not (not sure how that’s possible); would spend every minute there if you could; or work for a competing property, one thing is for sure – having this type of national attention turned towards Ohio’s travel industry is important to all of us.  So, what makes Gervasi so spectacular? Let’s check it out.

I was fortunate enough (or smart enough) to host a meeting at Gervasi recently for fellow independent property owners and innkeepers. If you haven’t been to Gervasi, it’s easy to miss. One minute you’re in the middle of a residential neighborhood and then BAM! the entrance to paradise. (Pro tip: follow the fence line!) Once you pass under the grand arch leading you through the vineyard and landscaping, you just know.  Today is going to be a good day. (That’s quite literally what I shared on IG when I got to the entrance to the Villa Grande. And it got so many likes because? Everyone agrees!)

Gervasi is made up of many different buildings – when following the drive back to the Villa Grande, you pass The Marketplace. This little shoppers’ treasure trove is filled with all kinds of great gifts and inspirational ideas.  I’m told Christmas time is the time to visit. Next to that is The Bistro – the onsite fine dining experience. The Bistro has lots of seating, indoor and outdoor. I had dinner there last year and was pleasantly surprised.  You never know, maybe the cooks are drinking all of the wine and not focusing on the food? Not the case, here! The food is worth the visit. You’ll spend a little time weaving through the vineyard, but once you cross the one lane bridge – you’ve made it.  The new Crush House pops up on your right. The Crush House serves up more casual fair, has a swanky bar and is popular to locals for happy hour. The road ends at the Villa Grande where you can travel on foot to your individual villa or through the grounds back to The Bistro, around the lake or to the Bocce court.

The villas are spectacular.  Each is made of four separate rooms (rented individually or as a group) and share a common area where drinks are available throughout your stay and breakfast is

served in the morning. Each villa has outdoor seating available.  Too bad I was there for work, or I might have grabbed a tea, a book and a seat outside with a view of the lake! The rooms are rich in color and texture.  My favorite is the little fireplace next to the bed.  I didn’t need it in September, but give it another month and that would be the most romantic spot in Northeast Ohio. The bathrooms are larger than my family room with a luxurious shower and wonderful smelling amenities.

When I stayed at Gervasi a few months ago, I found out the hard way there wasn’t a gym on site (you KNEW that was coming!).  Perhaps I’m the only person that wants to work out after spending an evening sipping wine, but there is something better.  The Middle Branch Trail runs right through the property, connecting two different parks sitting North and South of Gervasi. This is by far one of the best trails I’ve found.  It runs through the vineyard and eventually through open fields with flowers and tall grasses. It’s perfect.

I realize next time you’re visiting Gervasi, the running trail might not be first on your list, but the good news is, there are lots of pedestrian paths on the property you can saunter with your wine. Wondering where to spend your next romantic holiday? A weekend with friends? A staycation?  I’d consider looking up the Best Wine Country Hotel in the U.S. right here in your backyard.

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

Dazzled by Downtown Cleveland

Ah! I love when friends choose an AMAZING Ohio hotel for a wedding venue.  I was pumped to learn I’d finally be attending a wedding in the historic, Renaissance Cleveland Hotel. I’d been there multiple times for OHLA events, but this was going to be one of the most beautiful weddings of the year and the venue couldn’t be more perfect.

TJ and I arrived for the rehearsal and were ushered into the Ambassador Ballroom. All I could think was wow. How had I never noticed this room before!? Casually tucked off the main lobby, the Ambassador Ballroom had high ceilings, gorgeous molding and enormous windows with views of downtown.  I couldn’t wait to see this place decked out for the night. We spent some of our free time that evening scoping out some of the other areas of the hotel.  One can’t help but be drawn to the enormous fountain on the other side of the lobby. It’s surrounded by windows pouring natural light into the space and accented by a sparkling chandelier. The following night, we made sure to capture a picture in our finest! 

The night of the wedding, we slipped into the bar for a quick snack. Sometimes, the simplest foods are overlooked.  So when you order a standard quesadilla and it makes you drool, you know the rest of the menu has to be good! TJ was impressed with their well priced beer selection (and that they played the West Virginia University game for him all evening!). Shortly after we downed our snack, we were swept into the Ambassador Ballroom. On a personal note, the ceremony itself was one of the prettiest yet.  The newlyweds are into theater and the uplighting was magical.

The hotel managed a swift room flip while guests mixed and mingled around that unforgettable lobby fountain, only to re-enter the Ambassador Ballroom – a completely transformed space. I couldn’t wait to tuck into what was sure to be an amazing meal put on by the culinary team at the Renaissance.  I noticed a new trend in banquets – the server actually introduces themselves to your table before starting food service.  I love that! It makes the experience totally different. And the gentleman serving our table was fantastic! I wish I remembered his name, because he definitely deserves a kudos.

After dancing the night away, we were so happy to be staying at the Renaissance that evening. Our room was perfect. TJ was happy with the not-so-common well air conditioned room. But for me, it was the bed. Those pillows and triple sheeting were calling my name and it was heavenly for sore dancing feet! Sweet dreams were Renaissance Cleveland Hotel - Cleveland, OHeasy coming!

We’ve spent over a year chatting about my hotel experiences – whether personal or for work.  Please tell me you knew this was coming…

Like everyone does after a long night at a wedding, I was up by 7 and ready for a brisk walk.  Luckily, my dad was also staying at the hotel and I get those genes from him!  We both set out to enjoy the crisp, fall air and early morning sun.  We headed around the corner to one of my favorite spots in Cleveland – East 4th Street.  Usually, this little artery is clogged with people drinking, laughing and celebrating life. But on this particular holiday morning, it was just us and the pigeons.  But it was beautiful!  If you aren’t a morning person, I strongly encourage you to, just this once (!) get up early, and see the city you’re in at a different time of day.  Sometimes it’s better than at night!

Next time you’re in Cleveland check out one of the great hotels I’ve written about recently. There are so many to choose from, you can’t go wrong!

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

Side note:  I had a lot of compliments and questions about my dress featured in the top picture.  I want to give a quick shout out to the designer, Geetha Minton with GKM Design.  The hotel industry is working hard to combat human trafficking.  This custom, handmade dress helps.  A portion of proceeds from dress sales go to help rescued women in India. Coincidentally, Geetha is married to an Ohio hotelier. Together, we can impact the world.

Flying High in Dayton

Hey there InnLovers!  I’m back! A quick thank you to Megan for helping fill in. The OHLA staff has been busy, busy working hard to honor and recognize all of the fantastic industry employees that make your visit (and others’!) to Ohio the best it can be. I was excited to round out our tour of Ohio at a newly renovated Marriott – the Marriott at the University of Dayton. You’ve heard me talk about this before – for a while there, all Marriotts seemed to look the same. There has been a resurgence of  renovations among the Marriott brand and now you can find the uniqueness and individuality of each location. I recently visited the Marriott Cincinnati North and if you compare the photos – these properties are completely different.  Not what you’re used to, eh?

We arrived at the Marriott at the University of Dayton and were completely shocked at the transformation. Our team was there somewhat recently, during their renovation, so this was a site for sore eyes! I snuck a few minutes to scope out the public space and this is what I found:

Pool

A beautiful indoor/outdoor pool.  As a child (OK, maybe as an adult too), I loved swimming under the glass wall separating indoor/outdoor pools. Every time I see one, I want to jump in! The indoor area has a small hot tub as well!

Outdoor Space

It’s not very often you find expansive grounds at an urban hotel. I was pleasantly surprised to find a large outdoor patio area which included fire pits, tables/chairs and even comfortable patio seating. I immediately fell InnLove with the large seating area set among the pine trees, away from the hotel. It made me want to grab some friends and a bag of marshmallows. Who said every visit to an urban hotel needs to be for business?!

If you were there for business, you could grab your laptop and work alfresco!

Individuality

As I said, gone are the days of “copy and paste” for hotels, even brands.  If you have no sense of anything Dayton, you might pass by the nods to aviation (Wright Patterson Air Force Base and of course, the hometown of the Wright Brothers! **Disclaimer: Christi wants me to point out that Wilbur Wright was not born in Dayton, but the family did move back to Dayton when Wilbur was 17. For that reason, I’m still going to say hometown!**).  I loved these pieces of art that mixed print and paper mediums.

Improved Food Options (Or so I suspect!)

The hotel’s restaurant, Dewberry 1850, features New American Cuisine that uses locally sourced ingredients.  The restaurant also boasts an extensive regional craft beer list and handmade cocktails. The name of the restaurant is actually quite interesting and unless a Dayton historian, it might be missed.  What is now the University of Dayton was once St. Mary’s School for Boys in 1850.  Before it’s time as a school, it was once a farm building on the 125 acres that made up the Dewberry Farm. The story of John Stuart and Father Leo Meyer and the exchange of Dewberry Farm can be found here.

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and by the looks of it, has very creative baristas!

So much you can learn on a quick in and out trip. Imagine how much you could enjoy this property if you stayed overnight?  Next time you’re in Dayton, whether doing a college tour, checking out the National Museum of the US Air Force or catching some “waves” on the awesome Mad River Run through Eastwood MetroPark, check out the new Marriott at the University of Dayton!

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

Historic Charm in Cleveland

You know how my heart goes flippity-flop for historic properties, and this week, I got to see two in one week! One of my all time favorites is the Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel in downtown Cincinnati, and that’s where I got to start my week.  If you missed my post about the Netherland Plaza, you can read it in the post, “A Hilton Like No Other.” To wrap up the week, I got my first glance into the Tudor Arms Hotel – a DoubleTree by Hilton. The Tudor Arms is located just east of downtown Cleveland, near Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic.  There’s so much history to this place, but don’t let that fool you, the 21st century amenities guests are accustomed to are all there. So let’s jump in!

Historic lodging in downtown Cleveland

While offering the 21st century hotel experience, the pre-Depression era property is soaked with a rich history that includes lavish parties, massive, beautiful ballrooms, lively jazz music and ornate gargoyle statues. Speaking of parties, we were visiting for one of our own – the OHLA Greater Cleveland Stars of the Industry Event! Doesn’t that ball room look BEAUTIFUL??

Historic lodging in downtown ClevelandBuilt in 1933 by Frank Meade, a notable architect credited with a number of historic Cleveland properties, The Gothic-revival property was built to be a luxurious head-turner – bursting with ballrooms, a pool, bowling alleys and elegant, expensive decor. Then, it was called the Cleveland Club, a place for grand parties and celebrations.

The club wasn’t exempt from the Great Depression, and as it recovered it slowly took on a jazz club vibe, eventually transitioning into its current Tudor Arms name. At that time, it became a venue for notable musicians – think Lawrence Welk— as it carried on through the mid-century.

By the time the 21st century hit, the property had fallen into that “it needs some work” stage after undergoing very little restoration throughout its

Historic lodging in downtown Cleveland

lifespan. Through some ownership changes that included use as dorms for Case Western grad students, it eventually landed in the hands of some Cleveland developers in 2011 and went under a massive renovation to become the DoubleTree property it is today.

Historic lodging in downtown ClevelandThe history was properly preserved to maintain its status on the National Register of Historic Places. When you check in and take a bite out of that warm DoubleTree cookie, you’ll still be surrounded by the high ceilings, colorful interior rooms and intricate architecture that greeted guests of the Cleveland Club some 80-plus years ago. It’s a cherished gem with 1930s charm that stands to delight the contemporary hotel guest.

I can’t wait for my chance to return an stay overnight in this beautiful historic gem, close to the hustle and bustle of the newly invigorated downtown Cleveland.

Historic lodging in downtown Cleveland

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

Get Outdoors!

Today, I write to you from Mohican Lodge & Conference Center where I’ve been enjoying the state park for the OHLA Board Retreat. In honor of our theme today, the Superpowers of Life is Good, I’m going to stick to SIMPLICITY and tell you that if you haven’t checked out one of our State Park Lodges this summer, you still have time to enjoy the great outdoors at one of these fabulous places!

Burr Oak

Deer Creek

Hueston Woods

Maumee Bay

Mohican

Punderson

Salt Fork

Shawnee

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

What’s in the Pipeline?

Image result for banzai pipeline

Not that pipeline!!

Even as I started typing the headline, my thoughts immediately redirected to that famous Hawaiian scene, but maybe that’s because I spent my lunch hour reading about expected drops in rates to Hawaii in 2017 (please! please! please!).  But, my head isn’t too far in the clouds, because in Ohio, there’s a lot in our pipeline – our hotel pipeline that is!  Every day I receive emails about new properties being built across our great state, but today I heard a really crazy one. OK, not too crazy, but I saw headlines like Schott-topia, Schottenstein Resort, etc.  And, if you don’t know Columbus, you might not immediately associate Schottenstein with OSU.  Did you know there are three hotels on the table to be built near downtown Columbus as part of Schottenstein’s proposed “Grand Central” complex?

And that’s just the beginning. From proposed/planning to just opened, let’s surf through some of Ohio’s pipeline.

New Brand Properties

A few weeks ago we talked about Cobblestone, a new brand for Ohio. If you’re living under a stone – ahem – rock, you can read more about that here. But, they aren’t the only ones.  Soon in the Short North, Columbus’ Arts District, we’re expecting to see ground breaking on Moxy, a Marriott brand that claims to be “a boutique hotel with the social heart of a hostel.” This property is moving in where the former Haiku Restaurant once stood. (Expected opening: Spring 2019).

And speaking of new brands, what about Cincinnati’s new The Summit Hotel, the first of Wydham’s Dolce Collection to enter the Ohio market?  This is a much anticipated project for the Cincinnati town of Madisonville. In addition to new meeting space for the area, this new property comes equipped with a roof top garden and an option for an “all inclusive stay” – breakfast, lunch and dinner included. (Expected opening Spring 2018)

Curio CollectionMoxy & Dolce are coming into the Ohio market slowly and quietly.  But Curio is making a huge splash (you’re thinking about Hawaii again, aren’t you?). My records show at least three Curio by Hilton properties under development in Ohio right now.  Curious about Curio? There’s a lot to know! Curio is a new-ish brand for Hilton, replacing the former DoubleTree model for historic renovations and independent conversions. I’ve had some experience with Curios in other states and I’m super pumped to see them finally making the Ohio market.  Some of these are rumored to be Curios, but bear with me! On the docket are: Curio by Hilton Cleveland Huntington Bank Building, Cleveland (2018); Curio by Hilton Hall of Fame Village, Canton (Summer 2019); The Hayden Columbus, Curio Collection by Hilton (unknown).

Not to be outdone by the modernness of Moxy or the rush of Ohio

Tru by Hiltondevelopment of Curio, comes another addition from the Hilton family of brands that came into Ohio with jackhammers blazing.  Tru says it is “vibrant, affordable and young-at-heart.” With super bright colors and a funky exterior, you won’t be able to miss one of the five properties making their way to Ohio. Soon to open it’s bright doors to “something different” are: Tru by Hilton Cleveland (2019); Tru by Hilton Grove City (unknown); Tru by Hilton Columbus Airport (unknown); Tru by Hilton Huber Heights (2018) and Tru by Hilton Dayton Beavercreek (proposed).

New Independent Properties

Now, don’t get too stuck on the brands battling their way into Ohio.  There are plenty of new independent properties also making their way onto the scene. Personally, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of Findlay’s Image result for marathon petroleumHancock Hotel, being built by Marathon Petroleum and managed by First Hospitality Group (Hotel LeVeque, Columbus & Renaissance Toledo). This hotel has been on the books for a while and will hopefully open February 2018. At opening, the hotel will be complete with not-so-common independent amenities such as a ballroom which can accommodate 360 people, a full service restaurant, Mancy’s, and an impressive presidential suite with a rooftop terrace. Read more, here.

Some of our new independent properties are new builds, others are

Image result for ohio city logoimpressive renovation undertakings and some, are both.  Take Cleveland’s recently announced Hulett Hotel, the first lodging accommodation of its kind to open in the vibrant Ohio City. The Hulett Hotel is a 25-room project nestled in the heart of Ohio City in the former Luthern Metropolitan Ministry building. The project is in planning stages, but the Ohio City resident and owner/developer plans to have the property open for business by Summer 2018.

Finally, I’d be remiss (and my husband will lecture me for hours) if I didn’t mention the much anticipated BrewDog hotel, The DogHouse, in Canal Winchester. Truly independent in nature, in just two months, BrewDog raised over $300,000 through a crowdfunding effort to help kickstart the hotel and sour beer brewing facility. Beer fanatics, like my husband, were quick to scour the contribution levels which guaranteed investors perks such as a flagship stay, a trip to the beer spa, or even a soak in the beer hot tub. I’m not 100% sure how that’s all going to work, but I’m sure happy to watch it develop in my own backyard. Meanwhile, TJ will just be daydreaming of his flagship stay and soak in the beer tub, the crowdfunding shutdown abruptly when anticipated funding soared past their goal of just $75,000.

Needless to say, we’ve got a lot going on. By my count, there are at least 100 hotels being planned or executed in Ohio as I write this blog.  Are you in Ohio and wondering what’s being built around the corner or on your drive to work? Just ask!

Who ever said Ohio isn’t the hippest place to be?  I’ll tell you what, in Ohio, you can find it here.

Image result for ohio find it here

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

 

 

 

WOW in West Chester

Don’t you hate when you have your heart set on some event or activity and then it gets ripped away by another calendar intrusion? OK, OK. I can’t completely complain because I was on vacation, BUT, for the first time since I joined the association family, I missed the Ohio Society of Association Executives (OSAE) Conference a few weeks ago.  Guys, this was a big miss. Why, you ask? Because.  There was an evening filled with whacking golf balls off of a deck zillions of feet in the air at Topgolf. There was a DONUT TRAIL. And, we would be staying at the beautifully renovated Cincinnati Marriott North (CMN). Fortunately, I have the job I do and I got to recreate at least part of the missed conference and stayed at the property this week. It was a big deal for me because after so many dedicated nights away from home and travel time, I finally got to enjoy one of the <75 M Clubs in the country, I got to experience one of the most bad-ass treadmills I’ve ever ran on, and I got to see one of my favorite good friends and his amazing team. Let’s go!

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

As some of you know, Marriott has a new package it’s rolling out for many of its properties.  And I won’t be the first one to say it… FINALLY! For a while there, you could have dropped me in 100 different Marriott lobbies and I wouldn’t know where I was because they all looked the same. The Cincinnati Marriott North is all moody and thoughtful with grays, blues and greens as its theme. (The new Marriott Columbus University Area sticks to reds, for example).  There are of course some things you can always expect with a Marriott, exemplary service, fantastic amenities and a really good night’s sleep.

My room was beautiful.  I checked in late, so I was ready to catch some Zzzs. I wasn’t surprised to see the new design following some of the trends I’ve seen of new-builds: clean lines, less clutter, Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriottminimal desks, multi-purpose trays and spaces. One of the other changes I’m a huge fan of is no more of that stock artwork.  My room had two photos of Cincinnati – one of the historic Union Terminal & Cincinnati Museum Center and the other of the tree-lined park by the Ohio river. Another fun thing I’ve noticed at other hotels and that I saw here was an opportunity to go green.  If you’re like me, you really don’t leave a mess when you travel. Actually, I presume I’m every housekeepers favorite. I keep all of my trash to one can, pick up all of my used towels and place them on the top of the toilet and rewind the hairdryer and place it neatly back in place. So why not be rewarded?!

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

Now, you can hang a little tag outside of your door at night to inform staff you don’t need housekeeping the next day. The reward? Loyalty points! Genius.

After a great night’s sleep – you know where I’m headed. I walked into one of the *BEST* gyms I’ve been in in recent memory.  It was my dream come true. Compact, efficient, big mirrors, AC set below 68 and oh, those beautiful treadmills. I know, you are literally laughing at me right now. But have you seen one of these new LifeFitness gems?  Did you know you could run along the beach in Monterey, CA and wave at fellow runners from all over the world, right from Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriottthe comforts of your very own (OK, the CMN’s) treadmill? I didn’t think so! I know it’s a little hard to understand from my photo, but see that little green, human-looking blob in the middle? It is a human! It’s a woman, in London, running with me on the beach. I can even see her picture. Crazy. You should have seen me kick it into high gear when I saw a pack of runners I could actually pass.

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

After I entertained myself for over an hour with all of the fun gym toys, I needed to eat. This was my moment of glory.  The M Club. If you’re a Marriott Gold or Platinum member and you’re lucky enough to be at a property with an M Club, you receive a hot breakfast each morning, hors d’oeuvres and desserts at night, plus a fancy Starbucks machine and 24 hour access for working, Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriottsocializing, etc.  If you aren’t a Gold or Platinum member, you can pay to upgrade your room. This M Club was created using space from the former restaurant and is located on the first floor. It’s truly an awesome perk and from a business perspective, a way better concept than the former concierge lounge, tucked away on whatever floor.  Think of when you walk through the airport and

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

pass the XYZ Airline Lounge where you’re longing for free high speed wifi and cocktail service without a bunch of screaming children?  It creates FOMO. If you put this on the first floor, guests see it and want to be part of it. If for some reason the M Club isn’t for you, there’s a fantastic looking breakfast buffet available at the new Butler’s (formerly River City Grille). Cool new heating and cooling technology makes the buffet look sleek and inviting. Would they have minded if I ate twice?

I did my best to make the most out of my quick trip to Butler County and the fantastic Cincinnati Marriott North. After months and months of renovations, it’s no wonder their staff recently jumped to the top 25% of all Marriott’s in Customer Service. Now they’ve got a product to really be proud of. Can’t wait to see where they go next!

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

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

What’s Best about the New Best Western?

First, I have to give a quick shout out to Suman for helping me with a guest blog while I traveled to our annual family vacation in North Carolina.  It’s so great to be surrounded by peers that also love to travel! Suman, THANK YOU!!

This week, we’re on to our next adventure.  How many times in life have you had the AH-HA moment when two different stories come full circle and the light bulb goes off?  I had one of those recently and it just so happened to include one of our newest members.

My parents love music. I swear they would go to nearly any concert just to hear live music. A few years ago, they did what every 50-something does on a week/work night and drive 2 hours from home to see Jimmy Buffet. (Sometimes I wonder if my parents are actually my parents!). The next day I call my mom to see how the concert was and she tells me it was “great” but the best story was about the hotel. See, they are 50-somethings and they get up really early, regardless of their bedtime. My mom begins telling me about how they realized after heading down for the hotel breakfast and noticing that the hotel was deserted, despite being sold out with concert go-ers that perhaps they were getting a little “old” for the Jimmy Buffet crowd because in fact, everyone was still sleeping off their hangovers or whatever they might be desperately seeking sleep after. As she’s telling this story she breezes over one tiny detail which is the start of my light bulb circuit – she tells me, “We always stay at the Best Western there by the university, but now it’s across the street! We had no idea! We thought we must be getting old, but it turns out they built a new one!”

A few weeks later and I’m talking to a potential member on the phone when she explains that we need to update our address because they recently moved and built a new Best Western across the street.

**LIGHT BULB**

I ask the potential member, “Are you near a venue where Jimmy Buffet plays?” “YES! First Niagra (KeyBank Pavilion)!” And here we are.  A few months later and I finally got to visit this new member, the Best Western Plus The Inn at Franciscan Square.  So come check out one of my parents’ favorite places to catch some shut eye after a concert at the fabulous KeyBank Pavilion. Like the brand Best Western itself, this property didn’t just get a face lift, it got an overhaul.

Great, new lodging in Eastern, OH

When you enter the lobby, you suddenly don’t feel like you’re in Steubenville anymore. The property sits at the foot of Franciscan University of Steubenville and subtle hints of the University find its way into the design and decor.  One of my favorite pieces was this painting done by Ohio artist Dave Barnhouse.  Dave was born in Richmond, OH and has lived in small towns scattered across

Great, new lodging in Eastern, OHthe state. He is known for his paintings of “Rural America.” This particular painting is done on wood and depicts some of the highlights and landmarks of the University which sits on top of a hill just across the street from the property.

Great, new lodging in Eastern, OH

When we stepped into the guestrooms, I was pleased to find they had taken on the trend towards sleek, simple designs, yet still found ways to incorporate the local flavor, with neat wooden nature dividers and in each room hung a photo from the campus.  Of all of the room photos I saw, I loved the one in the photo to the left – it’s of the old building sitting in the snow on a frosty, Ohio morning with the bright sun shining through the winter landscape. The guestrooms come in all shapes and sizes and include suites and connecting rooms!

What every hotel needs though, is a good gym and a fantastic pool and the Inn at Franciscan Square delivers. We know I’m a gym rat and even for a small property, they didn’t let the gym features fall short.  Next to the gym is an expansive indoor pool with comfortable furniture, showers and windows surrounding the pool deck. In addition to all of these amenities, the hotel has a great amount of meeting space for the area with hopes to expand in the future.

Great, new lodging in Eastern, OH

Personally, I don’t get to this side of the state too often. But next time your planning a trip to/from the Pittsburgh International Airport or you’re joining my parents at the next Jimmy Buffet concert (or any other event) at First Niagra/KeyBank Pavilion, look a little further down the road and you will be beyond pleased with what you find at the Best Western Plus The Inn at Franciscan Square.

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