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!
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 the 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 DŌ 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.
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!
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. Five 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. 🙂
Later 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