Columbus’ Own – The Joseph

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

The Joseph is owned by the Pizzuti family, also known in Columbus for their art collection.  Even if you aren’t staying at The Joseph, you can easily enjoy the space.  When you walk into the lobby, art is

Le Meridien, The Joseph - Columbus, OH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


V-Day Getaway: Part II

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

Share the love of: GRANVILLE!

Unique accommodations in central Ohio, Columbus area

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

Share the love of: SMALL TOWN CHARM

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

Share the love of: THE CITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share the love of: BACKYARD RESORTS

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

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

Kalahari Resort – Sandusky

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

Avalon Inn & Resort – Warren

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

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


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


V-Day Getaway Part I

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

Share the love of: DONUTS!

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


Share the love of: MUSIC

Discovering Ohio - Miamisburg

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

Share the love of: WINE!

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

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

Share the love of: MUSEUMS

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

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

Share the love of: PAMPERING

Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spa

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


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


Northern Ohio Treasures

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH

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

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

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


The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH


That’s a Wrap! 2017 Edition

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio


Great, new lodging in Eastern, OH

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Again in Downtown Toledo

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back into the {Holiday} Swing of Things!

What a November! I can’t believe it’s been a month since we last adventured together.  November is annual conference month at OHLA and it was all hands on deck.  If you’ve ever put together a conference for nearly 500 people, including 50 exhibitors, over 30 speakers, political figures and a recording artist from Nashville (all with a full time staff of 4) you know it can be a bit hectic.  If you haven’t planned an event like that, now is not the time to start. It’s the holidays after all, and it’s time to get focused, because it’s my favorite time of year!

To put anyone in the proper holiday spirit you need cookies, decorations, cookies and cookies. For the past two years, TJ and I have made it a new holiday tradition to visit Ohio’s Amish Country for the Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns. It’s a win-win for me because I get to visit many of my members who are hosting thousands of visitors while enjoying the holiday spirit with my family. The tour continues to expand with new participants and fun ways to enjoy the weekend.  So let’s experience a #FlashbackFriday to the 2016 tour and see what’s in store for 2017 to get you ready for what will hopefully be a new tradition in your family. I have made note below of new additions to the tour!

Berlin Grande Hotel

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Always one of the hot spots on the tour, the Berlin Grande Hotel was pulsing with holiday spirit and people! The tree that greets you in the lobby is nothing to contest with. One of my favorite decorations on the tour was what we playfully called the “Winter is Coming” room (Game of Thrones – anyone?). The white fur blanket on the bed was a luxurious touch! At this point in the tour, I was ready to cozy up for a nap with that blanket. This stop is also the hub for the shuttle that takes you to two more stops – onward!

Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Talk about competing with your siblings. The Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek and Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek were battling it out for most over the top, awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping holiday display. The Christmas tree at the entrance to the Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek was impressive to say the least. Actually, the cool thing about this place was there were many entrances. We came in from the “bottom” level and were greeted by a secondary lobby display where we were able to snap an official blog picture (Check out that shirt!). Carlisle Inn Walnut Creek is a big property and they made sure not a corner went unturned. Every inch of the property was dressed for the holidays.Thank you for a great back drop!

Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek


Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

Not to be outdone by its sister property, the Carlisle Inn Sugarcreek had an even more impressive tree and lots of them. I have to give them kudos for my favorite room of the day. I took so many pictures of this room and immediately turned to TJ and asked, “could we do this?” to which he rolled his eyes and said, “No. We’re missing a Jacuzzi tub, a four-poster bed, a fireplace and a miniature lamb.” SHOOT. I wasn’t the only one taking pics of this room. The photos say enough. Nice work.

NEW THIS YEAR! Comfort Inn Dover

Comfort Suites Berlin

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

It’s a funny feeling when you think you know what something will be like and you’re wrong. That is exactly what happens every time I visit a Comfort Suites, particularly the one in Berlin. With so many great lodging options around the area, the Comfort Suites Berlin has made sure you have a unique experience while enjoying the comforts of brand recognition. I absolutely loved what the staff did for the holidays. The rooms were festively decorated in different ideas of Christmas – from blue, gold and all things glitter, to a classic farmstead Christmas with plaids and wood. The Comfort Suites Berlin always does a great job of showcasing local businesses in the area at the end of the tour too – those cupcakes were phenom!

NEW THIS YEAR! Country Inn & Suites Dover

Guggisberg Swiss Inn

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

If someone blindfolded you and dropped you at the Guggisberg Swiss Inn you would think you were in Switzerland. Holiday décor aside, innkeepers Julia and Eric Guggisberg have done an excellent job of making this inn feel authentic. One of my favorite aspects of the inn, although I didn’t get a chance to snuggle them this year, are their horses. They roam free on the property and are happy for a pet or to take you on a trot around the property. Decked out for the holidays, the Guggisberg Swiss Inn is exactly where you picture yourself with a warm mug of hot chocolate and a book. As always, at this stop, you can taste some of their Doughty Glen Wines!

Inn at Walnut Creek

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

I was pleasantly greeted by the new innkeeper’s mother who was handing out handmade French Madeleine’s – YUM. I was on my way out of the Welcome building when I overheard someone getting a room tour – so I jumped in line. The guestrooms were classically decorated for the holidays with festive wreaths and Christmas trees. This place is a great stop for a visit to Amish Country – centrally located, easy to access and great hospitality.

Oak Ridge Inn at Walnut Creek

One of our last stops in 2016, I was exhausted by the time we reached the Oak Ridge Inn. But, the crew

Ohio Amish Country Lodging Council Christmas Cookie Tour

here was ready to save the day. Not only did they have our cookies, but little containers of grapes and cheese. After all, it was almost dinner time and we were working hard! I have visited several Nivea Hospitality properties, but the Oak Ridge Inn was something different. Right around the corner from the ultra-modern Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek, this quaint little inn is tucked back off the main drag. The guest rooms here are massive with big Jacuzzi tubs and fireplaces waiting to help you unwind. Definitely worth a longer visit (and soak!) next time I’m in town.

NEW THIS YEAR! Sugarcreek Village Inn

BACK THIS YEAR! Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek

Unless you’ve been completely living under a pile of Christmas cookies, you know that the Wallhouse Hotel hosted our group last year. I highly recommend staying at one of these great places and enjoying dinner somewhere nearby!  I’m glad to see the Wallhouse back on the tour list for 2017!

NEW THIS YEAR! Zinck’s Inn

At the end of my post in 2016, I made it a point that we would buy 2 day tickets next time. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one who thought this, as this year all tickets are 2-Day passes.

The 2017 Christmas Cookie Tour of Inns kicks off on December 9 at 1 p.m. This year marks the tour’s 10th year of celebrating the holidays and giving back to local charities.  Proceeds from this year’s tour benefit the Holmes County Education Foundation and LifeCare Hospice.  Spending a day or two on this tour is the perfect holiday tradition – hope you can make it one of yours and support Ohio’s Amish Country Lodging!

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



AC Everywhere!

You may have heard, but there’s a new brand in town and it’s popping up everywhere!  A little over a year ago, the first AC Hotel in Ohio opened – the new AC Hotel Cincinnati Liberty Center, just north of Cincinnati. Since then, the AC Hotel Dublin opened in September 2017 and just this week the AC Hotel Cincinnati at the Banks opened.  In the pipeline, we count at least two more, slated to open within the next year. So what is an AC Hotel? Marriott says, “It’s an experience that feels stylish, yet efficient. Alluring but purposeful. Every detail is considered to provide just the beautiful essentials.” With the slogan AC Hotels. A New Way to Hotel. So. Shall we see where it all began? At least in Ohio anyway…

To start, all of the AC Hotels are new construction, no conversions here.  The AC Liberty Center isn’t the only thing new, the entire development it’s in is new.  That’s also true for the other properties that have opened in Ohio – Dublin & Cincinnati. So, if you like to be a trendsetter, this is where you should be.  The lobby embraces the open floor plan concept with a floating staircase right in the middle of things. Many hotels are now embracing the communal lobby concept, encouraging guests to come hang out.  This philosophy holds true for the AC vision, but not in the lobby. Don’t worry, if you want to chill in the lobby, there is seating, it’s just not where all of the cool kids are.

If you choose to ascend the staircase, you’ll find them! On the second floor is all kinds of unique space.

Check out the different seating arrangements and places to be seen or to hide out with a coffee and your laptop. Pictured left is the AC Lounge which serves up small plates and has a full bar including signature cocktails and craft beer.


Just past that room is the breakfast area where guests can select from delicious European-inspired items on the breakfast buffet. Don’t miss the Starbucks and Nespresso drinks!

During this trip though, I got to head out of the hotel and check out Liberty Center, an area I haven’t spent much time in.  There are plenty of restaurants and shopping nearby, including one of my faves from Columbus, Northstar Cafe!

After an evening of appointments and a long day of driving, I was ready to dive into bed.  The rooms here are just as trendy as the public space.  With a sleek, no BS approach to the design, I felt like I was stepping into the future of hotel room design.  I was a big fan of the night light feature and the “under glow” along the walls.  (Pro tip: if a hotel is willing to shed extra lighting underneath furniture…it has to be spotless! This room would easily have passed a white glove test.)

With all of the opportunities for food, I needed to ensure I got in a good workout!  The gym was awesome – with floor to ceiling windows and plenty of equipment. Too bad I forgot my swim suit on this particular excursion, because this property boasts a beautiful stainless steel pool and indoor/outdoor hot tub.

My trip to the AC Hotel Cincinnati Liberty Center was too quick, but I’ll be back! Which AC have you visited recently?

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


3rd Time’s a Charm? Maybe with the Luck of the Irish!

Ever wonder what all of the cool kids are doing? Just stick with me, I’ve got the inside scoop!  10 years ago, the “cool” thing was to be a cookie.  You’d describe a house in the suburbs as “cookie cutter”.  You build one hotel and you copy and paste it into a zillion different locations so that a guest couldn’t tell if they were in Fort Lauderdale or Boise; because the Marriott felt like the Marriott and the Holiday Inn felt like the Holiday Inn.  The same went for restaurants. People would stick with what they knew, a taste of home.  Some security.  Fast forward to now and that has all gone by the wayside.  There is something to be said about ensuring you can receive the same type of service at a brand you’ve come to know and love, but what if you could hold on to that aspect, but truly experience a new place? GENIUS!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reporting on the new Marriott overhaul.  I recently showed you the complete renovations of two full service Marriott hotels – Cincinnati Marriott North (West Chester, OH) and Marriott University of Dayton. Did you know there are 10 Marriotts in Ohio alone? Can you imagine traveling among them and never feeling like you get to experience something new? I can’t.  I’m glad to see this trend towards diversity and uniqueness.  So, is the 3rd time a charm?  Let’s see what the “new” Columbus Marriott NW is all about!

One of the most obvious signs of change hits you the second you enter the lobby.  Each of the three Marriott lobbies I’ve visited over the past few months have been different, but of those part of Pyramid Hotel Group, PHG for short, (like the Cincinnati Marriott North), the new focal point is this custom, one of a kind chandelier. Click back to my stop in Cincinnati, completely different! And these aren’t just any chandeliers, they’re massive and definitely give the lobby that wow factor.

We set off to explore the new public space.  When the PHG Marriotts were first built, the structures themselves were, and still are, nearly identical.  It takes a lot of work during a renovation to actually make these spaces feel unique.

The open floor plan of the public space, a staple of the PHG Marriott, is hard to ignore.

At the Dublin property, they’ve filled the space with massive lamps, floating walls and super cool furniture.  Check out the new communal table, a raw-looking piece of wood fitted with outlets for laptops.

You might also be distracted by the carpet, I was.  It’s a little hard to see in this picture, but I swear it looks like a map.  I don’t think that was the intention (I’ve actually seen carpet like that before, in the dual Hampton/Homewood Cincinnati Downtown), but I could have sworn I was looking at little maps of Ireland…I think it was a clever mirage!

Another staple of the full-service Marriott is the Starbucks counter.

You can get just about everything you would at a Starbucks, but with a little local inspiration.  I couldn’t help but snap a picture of one of the employee’s artwork!

Next, we made our way into the new M Club.  You might remember me mentioning that the old “concierge lounge” concept has also gone by the wayside and has been replaced with a more desired hangout space for loyal guests.  Marriott’s M Club definitely creates some FOMO.  It is now situated immediately beside the lobby, has wine on tap and this fancy Starbucks machine… but you can’t get in without the right key card.  Imagine sitting in the lobby and seeing all of the cool kids swiping into “the club”?  That’s how you create more loyal guests. Smart move, Marriott.

Another travel trend is to ditch the chain restaurants in favor of independent food options with local fare.  Luckily, this concept wasn’t lost during the renovations either.

The Columbus Marriott NW got rid of the standard Marriott restaurant concept and re-branded its restaurant, Two Brother Bar & Kitchen.  Of course, like you’re wondering, I had to ask – Two Brothers? I guess for the two years I lived in Dublin, I wasn’t a very good resident.  It should have been obvious! Some of Dublin’s first settlers were two brothers – Peter & Benjamin Sells. The surveyor of the Sells’ family land said it reminded him of his home in Dublin, Ireland and Dublin, OH it became. The new restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner with a great menu.  Might I recommend the Gerber Farms (from my hometown!) Cobb Salad, the Guacamame or the Crispy Pork Belly Brussels Sprouts? The restaurant also serves Guinness on tap (duh!) and has a great selection of locally produced spirits.  Personally, I loved the displays!

The touch of Irish isn’t just found in the restaurant. The newly renovated sleeping rooms also have accents of green. 

And, if you’re really feeling the luck of the Irish, you might just stumble across this little door. After all, the Columbus Marriott NW is just one stop along the Irish Fairy Door Trail. A little port into the magical world that is Dublin, OH. Good luck!

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

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