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

 

Unique Lodging in the Ohio Valley

I’ve been routinely traveling to the Ohio Valley since early 2012. “That’s specific!” you might think. It is, but there is a good reason. My sweet husband is from the Ohio Valley, specifically Moundsville, West Virginia (yes, where there is an Indian burial mound in the center of town, conveniently right next to the now-closed penitentiary).  How confusing is that?  This is how people must feel when they arrive at the Cincinnati airport and see Kentucky license plates on the taxis.  Quick geography lesson – The Ohio [RIVER] Valley is roughly made up of most of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, but also includes the SW corner of Pennsylvania, the NW corner or panhandle of West Virginia. I don’t know a lot of Columbus residents who consider themselves to live in the Ohio Valley, which is why I think it’s important to note that socially (not geographically) most people referring to the Ohio Valley mean that junction of eastern Ohio that runs along Pennsylvania and West Virginia or in technical terms the Upper Ohio Valley. Now that we all know where our adventure takes us today, let’s focus in on the remarkable work that owner Scott Dressel is doing in a town nestled very closely to the border of both WV and PA – Steubenville, OH.

I found Scott on a very warm Friday afternoon, awaiting my arrival. He had given me very specific instructions to meet him at 813 N 4th and we can “start there.”  Little did I know, Scott and his son have been restoring old Victorian homes (and much more, including the town theater) in Steubenville for years. For most B&B owners, operating the inn is their full time job.  For Scott, I sense that was an after thought.  Scott is here to restore beauty in some of the old homes that line the North Fourth Street Historic District.

Scott greets me on the massive front porch of the Westfall House, one of two of the beautiful homes that houses Scott’s B&B – Bayberry House B&B. This house has one of my favorite rooms, Myrtle & Ivy’s Room. I don’t know if it’s the colors or the placement of the window and the fireplace, but this room transports me to a palace I feel like I’ve only read about in historic fiction books.

We moved next door to the Garrett House.  This house, just a few doors down from the Westfall House really puts Scott’s restoration skills on display. The sitting area is absolutely draw-dropping.  The wood and meticulous detail is something you quite literally “just don’t see any more.”  One wall is lined with a handsome bookcase housing all kinds of interesting books, trinkets and antiques. My favorite part of this room, was the conversation… sofa? chairs?  I’m not sure exactly what you call it, but I’ve never seen anything like it! I asked Scott what he had to do to restore it and he said that he found it just the way it is! Amazing!

One of my favorite parts of the Garrett House was the kitchen. A different vibe from the rest of the house, the kitchen looks like it came straight out of a home design catalog, except the difference here? It’s authentic.  Scott told me that the crew working on the kitchen found the original hearth hidden behind a wall.  The discovery was a bit of a surprise, but Scott used it to his advantage, transforming the kitchen into a masonry-meets-wood, work of art.

I know that Steubenville isn’t on the main drag or somewhere you find yourself in many times a year, but Scott just might have me convinced it’s worth a special drive. He has convinced others.  He has regular guests that come to visit him often, traveling from across the country.  He even had a guest bring him an antique item to add to the inn because she felt it was “just what he needed.” . After stopping at Scott’s, I ventured down Rt. 7 to St. Clairsville. I was sharing with the front desk team my visit to Scott’s property and a woman there said, “isn’t what he’s doing amazing? He has restored so many places in the Steubenville community!” A friend of ours living in Columbus, but from Weirton, WV commented upon hearing of my visit, “the historic district of Steubenville is beautiful. I hear there’s a guy there that restores some of the old houses.”  For the small town of Steubenville, Scott is creating quite a reputation for it’s old Victorian homes. Next time you’re headed to the Ohio Valley or the Pittsburgh International Airport  stop by and stay a while – I guarantee you will be just as amazed as me.

“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

 

Chains are all the Same – or are they?

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Last week I had a unique opportunity. Over the course of three days, I got to visit three competitor brands.  Not only three competitor brands, but three competitors within the same class segment.  OK, now we’re getting technical – class segment?  I hope that by our 45th (!!!!!) post, you don’t honestly still think that every Hilton’s a Hilton and every Marriott’s a Marriott, etc.  First, let’s cover the basics… Hilton, for example, is a company which has many brands, including Hilton, Hampton Inn, Embassy Suites, Waldorf Astoria, etc.  You didn’t know that? You are not maximizing your loyalty points, my friend! All of those brands are separated into a chain scale or class segments – Luxury, Upper Upscale, Upscale, Upper Midscale, Midscale and Economy.  Hotels fit into these segments based on the actual average room rate. (There is also an independent chain segment, but primarily when looking at independent properties, you’re looking for where they fall within the class segment.) So for today’s purposes, it’s important to note that a Residence Inn by Marriott, a Home2 Suites by Hilton and a Hyatt Place are all part of the Upper Midscale segment.  How are they the same? How are they different? Let’s check it out with a side-by-side comparison!  Coincidentally, the properties I visited were all in the Greater Cleveland area, all new within the past 2 years.

Residence Inn by Marriott Cleveland Avon

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Residence Inn by Marriott – Cleveland Avon

Trend setter!  The new Residence Inn Cleveland Avon at the Emerald Event Center was a site for sore eyes.  Personally, I love Residence Inns.  We often choose them when traveling, because they have extra space in the rooms and a great breakfast. Residence Inns are an extended stay product by Marriott.  The intention is for a guest to stay for multiple nights, but it isn’t required. (*TIP* Choose an extended stay property when you’re looking for a hotel room in a place like Manhattan, you’re sure to get more leg & elbow room!) This particular Residence Inn though, was a show stopper.  I visited on a bright and shiny day and the cheer and good vibes followed me right into the door. The lobby had chandeliers, sexy chairs with zippers up the back (whoa!) and a swanky bar in the center of the lobby with color changing under glow.

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

I was told this build had chosen some upgrades and boy, could I tell! And, the glitz and glamour didn’t stop at the lobby.  The guest rooms were spacious, as expected, but also had a touch of the pizzazz from the lobby.  Even the floor numbers across from the elevator were large, bright prints that acted as artwork.

This Residence Inn has great meeting space and the special pool and patio package I’ve come to love at Residence Inns.  I love the upgraded patio furniture which includes fun two-person, covered chaises, massive grills and always an outdoor fire pit.  If I needed to park it in a city for a few days, you wouldn’t have to work hard to convince me!

Bonus: You can find a little something different at the Residence Inn in Avon.  It is actually connected to the Emerald Event Center, a great, large event space perfect for small conferences, weddings or special gatherings.  The event center was built to include a secondary patio, much like the one at the Residence Inn for outdoor entertaining.

Home2 Suites by Hilton Independence

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Home2 Suites by Hilton – Independence

OK, I think we can all just cut to the chase. I love gyms. It’s no surprise that my feature picture of the Home2 Suites by Hilton Cleveland Independence is of the Spin 2 Cycle Gym.  But, I’m also not a long-term stay guest and I found myself thinking, “Man, they must really have a lot of bikes in that gym! Spin and cycle!?” WRONG. Well, they do have bikes, but this clever name is a clue to one of the Home2’s features for long term guests – the laundry facility is inside of the gym. What better way to wait for your laundry to finish? Jump on the bike! Or treadmill, or free weights, or resistance machine, or balls, or matts – this gym was stacked!

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Luckily, I was staying at the Home2 for one of my overnights and I got to use the gym – this girl was a very happy camper with that setup!  Like the Residence Inn, the Home2 focuses on the extended stay traveler, but can accommodate the single night stay guest like me.  The lobby is designed to make you feel at “home” with living room like seating, lots of communal places to meet and work and even a long Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Clevelandtable for breakfast – like you’re sitting with family.  This is only the second Home2 I’ve seen and I’m totally digging the bold colors and modern twists to standard hotel fixtures and amenities. For example, why wouldn’t you have a little desk for the house phone or a TV unit with knickknacks and a clock to make your guests feel at home?

Bonus: This Home2 is near one of my new favorite Cleveland area restaurants – Lockkeepers. After a super long work day, I was ready for good food. I found a place that reviews said was a Cleveland staple.  Overlooking the Cuyahoga River, I was able to settle in on their patio for a fantastic dinner of swordfish.  If only I had room for dessert, because the entire menu looked delicious.

Hyatt Place – Lyndhurst Legacy Village

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Hyatt Place – Lyndhurst, Legacy Village

Swanky. At the Hyatt Place Lyndhurst/Legacy Village, I feel like I stepped into a James Bond movie with all of the little nooks and crannies of the lobby, perfect for quiet conversation.  On this visit day, it was rainy and dreary, but the lobby welcomed me with high ceilings, lots of natural light and the coziness of a fireside chair. The lobby has expansive space for spreading out and settling in.  This was my very first time inside of a Hyatt Place and I was shocked! I’ve been in my share of Hyatt’s with it’s regal, business-like presentation, it’s what I expected out of any Hyatt, but not here.  Another extended stay focused brand, Hyatt Place still has that all-business feel, but with the comforts of a place to call home.  The working area had small cubbies for private chats over a glass of wine while the bar area served as a social haven for guests and visitors wanting to share a bite.  Did you know that at this Hyatt Place there is a 24/7 hot and cold menu and a full service bar? That’s amazing!

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Off of the lobby, the breakfast area looks like it came straight out of a home design magazine and they’re even serving up customizable breakfast egg bowls and yogurt parfaits.

This property sits right near a walking path that winds through the trees, or you can enjoy the well equipped gym or pool.

Bonus: The Hyatt Place Lyndhurst/Legacy Village is aptly named, for it sits directly within Legacy Village – Cleveland’s premier lifestyle shopping center.  Visit upscale shopping stores, listen to a concert in the courtyard or enjoy dinner or night life at one of the many bars and restaurants, all within walking distance!

Although through brands within the same parent company you can expect the same level of service, the same amenities, and the same quality – outside of that, they aren’t all just the same.  Next time you’re traveling, consider something new. It’s not that hard to find!

Awesome, Extended Stay Lodging in Greater Cleveland

Residence Inn by Marriott – Cleveland Avon

“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

New Kid on the Block

Trendy New Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

Feeling Refined @ Hotel Covington

I’m back!  First a quick shout out to my fantastic guest bloggers – my very own parents, Jack & Linda, and fellow OHLAer, Christi.  When you surround yourself with other people that love travel, it’s never an issue finding people that want to share their experiences when you’re out discovering the world!  In the next few posts I’ll be scattering amazing photos and stories from our anniversary trip to Europe among posts from around our great state.  To kick off my return, I want to share with you one of my favorite new hotels.  Sadly, it isn’t in Ohio, but it’s so close you can smell the bourbon wafting from its bar, you can feel the luxurious furs adorning its lobby and rooms and you can see the sparkle across the river, glittering from the chandeliers…I present to you the fabulous Hotel Covington located just across the river, within Greater Cincinnati in the town of Covington, KY.

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater CincinnatiThe Hotel Covington is an example of my favorite type of hotel formula – historic space with luxury, modern amenities. If you haven’t been, downtown Covington,  has lots of great old buildings and the Hotel Covington is no exception. This building was the state’s first modern skyscraper and high-end department store.  If you didn’t know this going into the lobby you might have had an inkling – you’ll find touches of the past swept into the decor, including my favorite – a blinged-out manikin bust is the main focus of a floating wall full of fashion related knick-knacks, dividing the front desk area and the lounge.

If you’re like me, as soon as you’ve see sparkly things your eyes start to wonder, looking for more.  The public space is full of reminders of luxury – from the furs draping chairs and window seats to the immaculate lighting fixtures throughout the lobby and dining areas.  The bar sits dominantly in the center of the first floor, wrapped in dark woods with shining bottles of bourbon lining its shelves.  One of my favorite pieces on the entire first floor is the ode to our region, penned by Kentucky native, Jesse Stuart,

“If these United States are to be considered a body, then Ohio would be its Heart and Kentucky its Soul.”

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

 

 

So let’s step into the elevator and head upstairs, because the guestrooms are just as impressive.  I opened my door and the first thing I noticed was the floor. It’s not too often you’re greeted with

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

such fantastic entry flooring in a hotel room. The room was decorated in rich blues, grays and tans.  I was INN LOVE. At this point, it has been a very long day, and all I wanted to do was curl up in that amazing looking bed, but there were so many intricate details, I couldn’t close my eyes now!  The trash can was gold and looked like a

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

shopping bag; the shelves were lined with interesting local books and games; the hangers (!) had cute phrases like “simply lovely” and “hello handsome.”  I headed to the bathroom and was greeted by one of my favorite pieces of bathroom art (pictured below)- right up there with the wet dog photo at the Kimpton Schoefield in Cleveland. This piece is a picture of Cincinnati’s Roebling Suspension Bridge and it reads, “Sorry, Brooklyn, I was first.” (John Roebling built Cincinnati’s Roebling Suspension Bridge in 1866 making it the time’s longest suspension bridge, which came almost 20 years before his son built the nearly structurally identical Brooklyn Bridge.)

I wish on this particular trip I would’ve had more time to check out some of my favorites nearby Hotel Covington – the famous Mac n’ Cheese at Keystone Bar & Grill or a sip of that fine Kentucky spirit at the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar. But I guess this just means… I’ll have to go back!

Trendy New Boutique Lodging in Greater Cincinnati

 “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