Sophistication in the Queen City

Sophisticated. Timeless. Modern. Historic. All words that I would use to describe the Renaissance located in the heart of downtown Cincinnati. You know the feeling when you enter a swanky place and you immediately feel the vibe and you get a little excited? That’s how I felt walking into the Renaissance.Renaissance Cincinnati, Ohio

It was a blustery day during my visit to the Queen City, so I was happy to have grabbed a piping hot bowl of tomato bisque and the best caprese salad at the Renaissance’s restaurant D. Burnham’s (the name pays tribute to the building’s architect, Daniel Burnham).

I was led down a short hallway with lit floor boards into a cozy and amazingly chic spot with a fabulous dining atmosphere on one side of the bar and a lounge-style space on the other. There is an array of seating options from free-standing sofas to high top tables. Various fabrics and pillows in different colors contribute visual interest. I enjoyed having a moment to savor my fresh lunch and plug-in to catch up.Renaissance Cincinnati, Ohio

Known as the Bartlett Building and the former Union Trust Building, the Renaissance has a refreshing take on mixing the old with the new. Previously a bank, the hotel boasts gorgeous gold elevator bays, marble walls, and distinctive pieces of its’ past. The arched ceiling of the ballroom with exposed gold metal balconies brings home this spaces’ glory. The modernization of the building is evident through the seating areas, light fixtures and artwork.Renaissance Cincinnati, Ohio

Pictured below is by far one of the coolest seating areas in a lobby I have ever seen (…my favorite color is also black, which is likely why I am obsessing over these chairs and generally all the décor in this place!). Key attributes are the original gold vent detailing, the extra large black lamps and of course, the chairs. Also found along the hallways are contemporary black and white portraits of kings and queens paying homage to city’s nickname, the Queen City.

Renaissance Cincinnati, OhioThe sleeping rooms are just as chic with a mix of lighter gray and white tones with splashes of black, metallic silver, and fun patterns. The bathroom is noteworthy. One wall covered in a funky wallpaper and a frosted design on the mirror really makes the design exciting.

After exploring this contemporary hotel, I got the “behind the scenes tour” of areas of the original bank that remains within the building. It is just incredible. I am so happy to see another hotel being designed and built within a historic building. I’ve shared two photos from the bank below. I’m mesmerized by the past and present of this building. If only the walls could talk…

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Renaissance Cincinnati, OH

Renaissance Cincinnati, OH

Curiosities at The Cincinnatian Hotel

Since 1882, this building has been a landmark hotel and is included on the registry of Historic Hotels of America. This property has withstood the test of time and is most recently known as The Cincinnatian Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton, which stands as the first Curio Collection property in our state.The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

The gem that is The Cincinnatian is polished and shiny all over again. Throughout the hotel, reminders of Cincinnati’s history and the remarkable architecture of the property is preserved. Walking in there is an atrium-esque lobby area. However, it was not always an atrium, I learned that there was an interior fire some time ago and to maintain the property, the interior damaged rooms were removed. (Crazy, right?) Now the atrium, has made way for a vast skylight, which allows natural light to overflow the space.

Let’s back up for a second and talk about the lobby. The décor is impeccable. With unique pieces of furniture, bright colors, and Cincinnati related artwork. Several pieces struck a chord with me: a horizontal colorful image of the Cincinnati skyline that was folded to create dimension, a fun & bright rendering of President William Howard Taft and my favorite a wall of 90 framed beverage napkins. (Yes, I said beverage napkins! We will come back to this one.)The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

I could have spent most of my day admiring the fun artwork but I also had to pop my head into their dining options. First, their grab & go or made to order outlet, Hannaford Market. A great place to grab breakfast or lunch with white tile lined walls and the menu featured on a floor to ceiling chalkboard. Gliding barn-like doors opened to extra dining space or a potential private area. Within this space was my favorite piece(s) of art. Time to circle back to the wall of 90 framed beverage napkins.The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

Each napkin featured a hand sketched Cincinnati-related piece of art, such as a three-way from Skyline Chili, a queen’s crown representing the Queen City or Fiona the famed premature hippo born at Cincinnati’s Zoo. It was so unique and interesting that I had to take a few minutes and look at each individual sketch for its meaning.

The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OHAt the busy intersection of Vine Street & Sixth Street, sits the very new Brick & Mortar, an upscale gastropub with a locally-influenced menu. The concept revolves around a large 4 sided bar surrounded by a mix of seating options. Again, the decor is perfect! Comfortable couches and ottomans under an array of various light fixtures, offer a great place to relax or catch up with friends.

The front desk is just as colorful as the path I took to get there (my path was the long way). Behind the desk is a floor to ceiling custom mosaic tile that is a replica of the ceiling from the historic Cincinnati Union Terminal featuring vibrant shades of orange and yellow.The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

I made my way  to see the updated accommodations that featured a great mix of balance between a peaceful subdued palette with splashes of color through more art. As I made my way back down to the lobby, instead of the elevator, I opted for the stunning, original oak staircase which is such a statement.The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

It is safe to say, The Cincinnatian Hotel is back in its glory and has set the bar high for other Curio Collection hotels that will follow. Curious about other Curio properties? Log-in to MyOHLA for the New Construction Pipeline!

Until Next Time,

Lauren

The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH

Wellness with Westin: Across the 3 C’s

Heavenly bed. Lavender oil. Pet friendly. All things we relate to the Westin brand and their wellness initiatives. The fluffy heavenly bed always offers a comfortable nights’ rest. Now, with the lavender oil available bedside, you can soothe yourself and your mind into a tranquil state. To keep you healthy and on track during your stay Westin promotes healthy eating through their in-house menus, has a work out gear lending program through a partnership with New Balance, and the newly developed RunWESTIN program.

Equally important is mental health, so why not bring your furry friend along? Our pets are the greatest single way to relieve stress (and also to induce stress at times…). At Westin your pets will be treated just as great as you!Westin Columbus , OH

The Westin brand is a staple of wellness and community that is sewn into its’ culture at any Westin location you visit. We are lucky to have 3 equally unique Westin properties in the state of Ohio, shall we explore?

 

Westin, Cleveland

Cleveland Rocks! – I can hear The Drew Carey Show theme song chiming in my head with this hotel. In the heart of the city, The Westin Cleveland, truly encompasses the modern, vivacious, spirit that is the city of Cleveland. Everywhere you look inside this hotel is a surprise, you never know what you’ll find next. Rich wood, bright green from the exquisitely crafted Palm Painting, and unique masterpieces welcome you into the lobby. My personal favorite is the peaceful statue of an oversized head constructed out of hundreds of tree branches reclaimed from the construction of the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge in the Tremont neighborhood. It is truly an experience to walk through this property. (Click here to learn more about the Art of the Westin.) Connecting with their Cleveland roots, their restaurant, Urban Farmer, is an excellent farm to table concept in a laid-back atmosphere. The brunch is delicious!

Westin - Cleveland, OH

 

The Westin Great Southern, Columbus

Known as the oldest hotel in Columbus and a staple for its’ unrivaled architecture, the Westin Columbus surely impresses all who seek its’ charming accommodations. The lobby is enough to make jaws drop with prominent high ceilings, marble floors, the second largest living wall in Ohio, and original woodworking in all its’ beauty. The most notable feature is the breathtaking ballroom; a classic gold and white room lined with a wall of windows, stunning stained-glass features, and intricate gold leaf woodworking. Recently renovated, the Westin Columbus still offers all the modern amenities and accommodations in a very metropolitan approach to the design and overall concept. For some of you, you may remember Thurber’s Bar. Well, Thurber’s Bar is no more! I got to see a sneak peek while still under construction, Westin Columbus, will now be home to a new concept: Great Southern Whiskey Bar. I think I know where this Columbus gal will be heading for her next happy hour!

Westin - Columbus, OH

 

Westin, Cincinnati

Want to feel in the mix and not lost in a large downtown metro area? Westin Cincinnati is situated in one of my favorite areas of downtown Cincinnati, Fountain Square. Just a short walk from several acclaimed restaurants, fun nightlife, and just outside their doors a scenic community area that houses concerts, ice skating rink in the winter, and so much more throughout the year. This place is a meetings mecca with so much to offer in regards to capacity and flow. The pre-function space is extremely spacious and feels open with an atrium style wall of windows looking out at Fountain Square. Take time to sneak to Over Vine, a quiet lounge that is quite literally over Vine Street with wonderful views! Talk about location, location, location!

Westin - Cincinnati, OH

 

Until Next Time,
Lauren

 

Take me to The Summit! Part 2

I was honored to be a part of The Summit’s Grand Opening celebration and am so happy I attended. The morning after, we (OHLA) hosted our Greater Cincinnati Lodging Council meeting here too. I got to be a guest and a host within 24 hours!

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OHLet me tell you, The Summit, knows how to throw a party. From the lobby to the 4th floor restaurant and event space, there was action. The staff was certainly on their toes for the event but I could easily tell they were thrilled to have guests and their hospitality was outpouring.

Wow, the hotel looks great! What a difference a month makes! (Those of you who have opened a new hotel, know how the little things sometimes take a couple weeks to fall into place!)The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

At the time of my last visit the art exhibition event space had no art quite yet. They do now! I walked through and took a peek and took a few photos to share with all of you! I just love that this is inside of a hotel. After checking out the art, I continued to walk through the lobby to their first floor nourishment hub of sorts. It was decorated with Victorian styled hats, reminiscent of a vintage tea party. Here they had a local tea company featuring their hot beverages along with mini bundt cakes (Nothing Bundt Cakes, of course!).The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

Though I was enjoying my time wandering around the first floor, from what I heard, the main event was in their ballroom. I hopped onto the speedy elevator and up to the 4th floor I went! I was greeted with a cocktail, lovingly named Maxine. (Remember, I mentioned Maxwell? We are getting there.) It was a local twist on the classic French 75.The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

The ballroom was lined with local vendors who are also featured in their menus for The Market and Overlook Kitchen and Bar. Everything I had the opportunity to taste was fresh, innovative, and LOCAL. The service staff was on their toes and extremely warm and inviting. I always appreciate true hospitality. There was a DJ and local BBQ on their outdoor space. (The Summit has more outdoor space than many hotels I have been to. It is ideal for lounging, working, or an event!)The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

After trying EVERYTHING, it was time for bed. I moseyed  into my room and realized there was something new in my room (Pay Attention! This is about Maxwell.) that I did not have during my last visit. Maxwell, the cutest gold statue of a balloon animal dog.

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OHThe golden mascot was named after the hotel owner’s beloved golden retriever. Upon his passing, his owner made a donation to a local nonprofit in his honor. Maxwell is joined at the hotel by his trusty red companion, Maxine. (Best part? The adorable statues are available for purchase and 10% of all purchases are donated to the United Pet Fund.)

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OHRise and shine! The next morning, I went to breakfast in The Market which offered so many amazing choices including salmon, strawberry French toast (Yes, topped with cream and fresh strawberries!), eggs, and the list goes on. Sadly, I am relatively boring, and had fresh fruit, yogurt and coffee. Our meeting  was soon underway and I cannot say enough about the attentive team! Our space was perfect with a lot of windows and natural light.The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

 

I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to visit The Summit again and take it all in. I still did not get to dine in their (now open) Overlook Kitchen & Bar, however, it looks like I have an excuse to start planning my next visit!

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

 

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

Take Me to The Summit!

As I left my car with valet, I turned to face the property and I was able to get my first peek inside this new gem. I was quickly drawn to the bright colors in front of me; a wall of what looked to be carefully placed paint strokes and splatters in an array of colorful notes. I soon realized that art is a key feature throughout the hotel.

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

In front of the accent wall, a gold metal staircase twisted its way up to the next floor. Hanging down the center is a light fixture of bare light bulbs with the black cords exposed. I had the opportunity to meet with a team member who explained to me that the original structure of the hotel was derived from the Rainbow Parking Garage. The gold staircase I referenced? Original to the garage! In the main atrium and throughout the property exposed cement beams support the open space. The Rainbow Garage was colorful, and there are tributes to the rainbow throughout the hotel.

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OHOff of the main lobby there is a large art exhibition room. The focal point of the space is a standing, circular, structure that has video boards around the inside, and if you stand in the middle you feel you are a part of the movement.

The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OHWalking through the hotel, I couldn’t help but to take a minute to have a seat in one of the many lounge areas. Everything is artfully placed by mixing colors, textures, lighting, and of course, pieces of art! The seating areas are inviting, and you feel there is a greater community vibe in the air.

Now, let’s talk about food. The Market offered a full variety of options from several hot selections, to locally sourced cheeses, and a variety of fresh options like fruits and greens. My personal favorite… drum roll please… the gelato bar! A selection of local gelato flavors and quite a mix of toppings. Though the other dining option was not open yet, I got to have a sneak peek of the beautiful Overlook Kitchen and Bar. Let’s just say, it’s on my list to try out next time I am in the area.The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

Last, but certainly not least, the sleeping rooms did not disappoint. As I walked in, the colors and décor rejuvenated me. The fun wallpaper, area rug, and furniture just made the room pop. One of my favorite features was the in-room safe. I know what you are thinking, I am a nerd, but hear me out… An ENTIRE drawer served as the safe within the greater dresser. Ladies, my WHOLE purse, laptop, jewelry, etc. fit!The Summit, A Dolce Hotel - Cincinnati, OH

This visit was my first visit to a Dolce brand of hotel and I am totally loving it! If you are in the area, stop by for a bite or explore the art exhibits throughout the hotel. A quick visit to this vibrant location will have you singing a happier tune.

Until Next Time,

Lauren

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

 

WOW in West Chester

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

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

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

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

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

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

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

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

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

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

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

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

Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, Marriott

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

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

 

 

Taking on the Queen

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

Whew! I’m back in the saddle and on the road again (how many cheesy phrases can I use?). I kicked off 2017 in the Queen City – visiting one of my standbys and checking out something new. It’s one of our unspoken traditions that we spend New Year’s Eve in Cincinnati.  This year was

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

exceptional because so many friends traveled in from afar to be there. We checked in at my Alma Mater’s hotel – Kingsgate Marriott located in the

Uptown/University Area of Cincinnati. Kingsgate is perfectly situated for access to the University of Cincinnati Main Campus and Medical Campus, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Xavier University and just a short ride to downtown Cincinnati.  I have stayed at Kingsgate many times and it’s the phenomenal staff that keeps me coming back. Usually around New Year’s Eve it’s a quiet place, but not this year. With a wedding in house and a much anticipated Cincinnati Bengals game, the place was packed!

We checked into our corner suite to get ready for the big night out.  As tradition, TJ always makes a trip down to the Bearcat Lounge for a drink

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Feeling at Home @ Kingsgate Marriott

while I get spruced up for NYE. The same bartender has been on duty for 4 years running.  In an industry with a lot of turnover, it’s amazing to see staff there year after year. You know this is because the hotel treats its employees well.  Not only is the bartender a familiar face, but many of the banquets staff and front office team are the same.

Finally! It’s time for a night on the town! We had big plans. I love holidays and planning one in the Queen City is my forte.  We met up with friends for dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants, Mita’s.  Chef Jose Salazar knows how to wine & dine his guests. I could have sat there for hours, sipping bubbly, passing tapas and people watching. Mita’s is situated on the corner of 5th & Race with floor to ceiling windows.  And on New Year’s Eve? EXCELLENT people watching. We shared a Cheese plate consisting of Manchego, Valdeon and Murcia al Vino. YUM. Then we passed around an Ensalad Mixta and an Ensalad Jicama Y Mango – both delicious. We opted for a round of Tapas in lieu of entrees and shared the Coles de Bruselas Asadas (brussels sprouts!); Pulpo Gallego (galician style octopus!); Arepa Con Queso Fresco Y Chorizo (Cheese & chorizo cornmeal cakes!) and the special of the evening – Blood Sausage.  We each had a favorite – obviously we either all have exceptional taste or Jose only makes awesome dishes (or both!). We wrapped up the evening with an Olive Oil Rosemary Cake for dessert.  If you haven’t been to Mita’s, you’re missing out. BIG TIME. And they’re open for lunch!

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

After Mita’s we met up with friends at 21C Museum Hotel.  I’ve been to

21C before, but this time I had a chance to check out some of the aspects that make it unique including the “body art” in the shower and the beautiful art display on the guestroom floors. One of the signature’s of the 21C brand are the fun little penguin mascots.

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Art in the City @ 21C Museum Hotel

We left 21C and headed to our final destination – a new cocktail lounge in The Banks called The Stretch. The Stretch is swanky with double bars and a narrow space that allows for an intimate atmosphere. It was packed for NYE, but the outdoor space was a nice retreat from the sweat of the dance floor with fire places and cozy furniture on a chilly Ohio winter night. I’d love to come check it out on a regular weekend night – I guarantee it’s just as busy!

Believe it or not, after a night on the town, I’m still hitting the gym in the morning.  I told you before, this was not my first rodeo at Kingsgate, so when I walked into the all-to-familiar gym I was ECSTATIC at what I found.  I’m a gym snob, we know this.  Rarely do I come across one of my

Excellent lodging in Cincinnati

Fitness Center @ Kingsgate Marriott

favorite pieces of gym equipment. I love it so much that even if I wasn’t planning to run, I do. I’m totally going to geek out on you guys for a second.  LifeFitness makes these super cool treadmills with courses you can run all around the world! It is seriously the coolest invention.  If you haven’t been on one, try it. If you run a hotel, get one!

But honestly people, what would this trip be without a final food suggestion?  I’m not much for hotel breakfasts and normally I head somewhere else, but I knew that the breakfast buffet at Kingsgate would be just what I needed on New Year’s Day. Those omelettes…OH!

If you find yourself in Cincinnati, check out one of these two great hotels and most definitely eat at Mita’s – you’d be a fool not to.

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

A Hilton Like No Other

Cincinnati Lodging couldn't get much more unique!

Rookwood Pottery Fountain @ the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

Full disclosure – this week’s hotel is another one of my favorites.  I’ve eaten there, I’ve slept there, I’ve drank there, I’ve been a meeting attendee there, and I’ve worked there.  In every instance, they never cease to amaze me.  This week, I’m taking you inside the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza (HNP). Grandly situated on the corner of 5th & Race in downtown Cincinnati, the HNP has sat for 85 years.  It is one of Cincinnati’s (and Ohio’s!) oldest hotels.  I think the team at the HNP would appreciate that I’m actually going to kick this post off talking about the food.

This hotel is massive.  When it opened its doors in 1931 it had 7 restaurants and 800 rooms.  But these weren’t just any old restaurants – the Restaurant Continentale (now the Continental Ballroom) had an ice skating rink and the Pavillion Caprice (now the Pavillion Ballroom) was a nightclub that featured Doris Day for her professional debut.  Today, the restaurants at the hotel still aren’t just any old restaurant. Orchids at Palm Court is one of my favorite places for a formal dinner.  Chef Todd Kelly and Pastry Chef, Megan Ketover, have been wowing guests for years.  Megan might sound familiar, she can be seen on the rooftop harvesting honey from the hotel’s beehives or on Bravo’s Top Chef: Just Desserts! Not only is the food absolutely amazing and creative art, but the service is impeccable. If you’ve ever wanted a crash course in fine dining etiquette, you’ll learn it here. Now, if you’ve had a chance to actually take your face out of your plate (I’m kidding, that would not be acceptable restaurant behavior) you might have noticed the beautiful murals on the

Cincinnati's 5 Diamond Restaurant - the Definition of Fine Dining

Orchids at Palm Court @ the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

ceiling. The hotel, and more specifically Orchids, has an interesting history.

Would you believe some, pardon me, idiot covered that up in the 60s?  That’s OK, there were lots of questionable design decisions in the 60s. When the hotel underwent a 2 year, multi-million dollar renovation in the 80s, the paint was scraped from the woodwork, the murals restored and the original marble uncovered.  What you see now is very similar to the original hotel design, classic art deco elegance (You can read more about the hotel’s history here. When you work there, you know these things!).

Speaking of elegance, the entire hotel is a walking museum and it’s gorgeous. You can quite literally get lost wondering the hallways.  Actually, back when I worked there, you could ask the desk (or anyone with a uniform on) for a walking history guide (highly recommended!).  So let’s start with the entrance.  If you enter the hotel from the doors on 5th or Race you’re greeted by a sweeping, marble staircase that ascends to the lobby. There are elevators, of course, but take the stairs – they are part of the experience.  You’ll notice Orchids and the Grille at Palm Court off to your right.  If you have a chance to eat here, do it.  It is so worth it.  Just passed the Grille, it’s hard not to notice the beautiful wall fountain. If memory serves me right, this fountain was a contribution by another historic Cincinnati business, Rookwood Pottery! Just behind that is a long room that runs East to West along 5th St, this is the Continental Ballroom. If you close your eyes, you can imagine the ice skating rink!

Cincinnati Lodging couldn't get much more unique!

Everything is Grand @ the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

Take the stairs to the right of the Continental Ballroom. When you come out of this hallway, you might notice all of the wood on the walls.  I think this section of the hotel is the best representation of the Brazilian Rosewood.  These trees are endangered, so you better believe the staff takes really good care of the walls, they aren’t easy to replace.

Keep climbing the stairs and you’ll find yourself on the 3rd floor, home of the famed Hall of Mirrors.  I dreamed I would have my wedding here one day, that didn’t happen, but you can!  This room can house hundreds of guests.  I was fortunate to witness a miracle once while working at the HNP.  That was to watch their staff flip

Cincinnati Lodging couldn't get much more unique!

THE Hall of Mirrors @ the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

from a wedding ceremony to a formal reception in less than 2 hours. There were tables rolling and linens flying, but this team at the HNP has this down to a science.  There is a ton of history and many famous people that have set foot in this room, and plenty of ghost stories. If you ask the right people, you might learn about The Lady in Green, a famed ghost of the hotel who is still searching for her husband who was killed during the construction of the hotel. In the time I worked there, I never saw her, but some swear by it!

 

If you have a chance to continue discovering the hotel, you might find this staircase between the 3rd and 4th floors.  It’s super cool.  In the daylight, you might think the paint job is a little obscure. If you’re ever in the hotel when the

Cincinnati Lodging couldn't get much more unique!

Everything is Grand @ the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza

electricity goes out, you can follow the glow from the windows in this painting – it glows in the dark!

You know, whenever I’m at the Hilton, I always walk around, hoping to discover something new.  My trip this time was a whirlwind, in and and out in about 12 hours.  While I was there, I was able to enjoy a perfectly set meeting, a good breakfast and excellent service.  One thing that continues to amaze me is the retention at this property. The hospitality industry is notorious for turnover, but the HNP has many of the same managers from 8 years ago when I was there and a lot of the same staff. Kudos to them, because their dedication to staff shines through in how they treat their guests.

So, you’ve walked around the hotel, but you certainly haven’t burned off that exceptional meal at Orchids.  If you’re like me, and you need a little more out of your day, hit the streets. Cincinnati is by far one of the most walkable cities I’ve ever visited and walk you should. I woke up that morning and ran, what I call, “the bridges.”  It’s a great 3 mile loop from the hotel which takes you into Kentucky and back.  If you take a moment to look over your shoulder, you’ll see the Queen City in all of its glory.

Enjoy!

The Queen City

The Queen City from the Purple People Bridge

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