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

A Little History While Treated Like Royalty in the Queen City

The Cincinnatian Hotel is an historic, boutique hotel in the heart of Cincinnati

The Iconic Cricket Lounge @ The Cincinnatian Hotel

If you didn’t know already, I lived in Cincinnati for 7 years.  It has a number of names – the Queen City, Porkopolis, the Nati — if you’re in school there.  For me, it was home. I fell in love with the culture and oh, THE FOOD.  I left Cincinnati in 2013 to join my now hubby in Columbus. Needless to say, a lot of my favorite people are still in Cincinnati and we make multiple trips there every year.  The cool thing about living outside of Cincinnati is that now I get to stay in all of it’s great lodging spots when I visit! So we’re going to kick off our Cincinnati post with one of my all-time favorite hotels, The Cincinnatian Hotel.

The Cincinnatian is historic.  It is one of the oldest hotels in Ohio, built in 1882.  It originally opened its doors as The Palace Hotel and was the tallest building in the city at a whopping 8 stories. It had 300 guest rooms and a shared bathrooms and it’s biggest claim to fame in those days was the addition of the elevator an incandescent lighting. In the mid-1900s, the hotel took a bit of a dive.  People lived there and it got pretty bad.  The plan was to tear it down and replace it with a parking garage.  The good news is, someone remembered what it was and knew what it could be and in 1987 after a $25 Million renovation, it reopened its doors in all the grandeur of its day.

The Cincinnatian Hotel is an historic, boutique hotel in the heart of Cincinnati

Fancy Footing @ The Cincinnatian Hotel

Now, the hotel has about half of the rooms the original hotel had and, yes, fortunately each room has it’s own bathroom (or two!). The hotel still has bits of its history sprinkled throughout – the grand staircase, which has been featured in countless Cincinnati wedding photo shoots, is the original!  If you look closely, you can see the dip in the marble of over 100 years of foot traffic. If you’re into following the footsteps of those that came before you and find yourself climbing the stairs, you might discover there is a mistake in my story.  I told you there were 8 stories, but this staircase only covers 7.  Good catch!  The 8th floor used to serve as servant’s quarters in the original hotel, so the guest staircase would never have served the top floor.  Now, the 8th floor holds a number of suites and additional guestrooms and can be accessed by the elevators and emergency staircase.

You could spend all day at The Cincinnatian, checking out the art that lines the hallways or feasting on the delicious creations that Chef Nathan Sheatzley serves up in the award winning Palace Restaurant.  On the weekends, you would be smart to enjoy a cocktail and the sounds of the Phillip Paul Trio in the Cricket Lounge. But, we were here for a wedding, so our weekend was well laid out for us.

After 7 years in Cincinnati and many return trips, you’d think I’ve seen it all.  I’ve definitely been to the Cincinnati Art Museum, watched a lot of football at Paul Brown Stadium and a lot of baseball at Great American Ballpark. I’ve crossed the Ohio River on the Purple People Bridge and I’ve sampled all of the favorites – Skyline Chili and Graeter’s Ice Cream — but it took leaving for me to discover one of the coolest things in downtown Cincinnati – the American Sign Museum.

If you're looking for things to do in Cincinnati - the American Sign Museum is an off the beaten path place to stop!

American Sign Museum

This place is SO COOL. If you’re planning a trip to Cincinnati, it’s definitely worth a visit. You take a step back in time as you pull into the parking lot. The signs they have on display are all kinds of different wonders from the past – restaurant signs, billboards, descriptions of different typeface and so much more.  One of the employees found us staring up in amazement and started giving us some fun facts.  In the middle of the main showroom, there is an enormous spinning globe.  In the opposite direction, little neon cars spin around it.  You probably could have guessed, but this used to be at an auto dealer.

If you're looking for things to do in Cincinnati - the American Sign Museum is an off the beaten path place to stop!

American Sign Museum

The employee said the piece came from Compton and while it was still there in had a bit of a run in.  It turns out if you look closely, you can see where a bullet hole entered one side and exited the other.  No reason to repair it! A little authenticity adds to the character of the place. If you have a chance to stop next time you’re in Cincinnati, I highly recommend it. They’re open Wednesday – Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Sunday 12:00 noon – 4:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for Seniors, Students, Kids and Military.

After a great night on the town, we headed back to our fabulous room at The Cincinnatian. We woke up the next morning craving a new breakfast experience before hitting the highway.  A quick google search told me of a place I’d never seen before – Cheapside Cafe.  Strange name, I thought to myself.  But, I’m a sucker for artsy pictures of baristas, so I was sold.  Within easy walking distances of The Cincinnatian and other downtown hotels, Cheapside Cafe sits on the corner of 8th St. and, of course, Cheapside St.!  Consider yourself warned, if you blink, you just might miss it. The building itself can’t be bigger than a guestroom at The Cincinnatian and the menu was just as small.  I’m

Looking for a Hidden Gem in Cincinnati? Check out this off the beaten path breakfast find!

In breakfast heaven @ Cheapside Cafe

one of those people though, that believes that great things come in small packages and boy was I right.  TJ ordered the Chorizo Egg Sandwich which was perfect and just a touch spicy. It was strangely chilly outside for summer, so I went with what was sure to be a palate pleaser – the Oatmeal Brulee. It was a fancy twist on such a simple breakfast item, but it was a little bowl of heaven.  Everything about Cheapside Cafe was great and I’d definitely go back.

We had a great trip to Cincinnati, but if I “had” to go back, which you know I will, I’d visit some of my favorite dinner establishments.  So if you make it there before me, I want to be sure you get a chance to try them too.  In no particular order –

Boca

Mita’s

Salazar

Orchids at Palm Court

Enjoy!

If you're looking for things to do in Cincinnati - the American Sign Museum is an off the beaten path place to stop!

American Sign Museum

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