February 2008 Issue
Choose your escape, from a relaxing, historic inn to a big-city B&B surrounded by arts and culture.
Mariam Carey, Betsa Marsh and Eric Pfeffinger
Even the most enthusiastic warm-weather reveler has to appreciate February. When else but during this month does the calendar encourage us to while away the day keeping warm with the ones we love?
Thankfully, Ohio boasts plenty of places where travelers can escape both winter's chill and life's stresses on Valentine's Day, if not longer – from cozy spots with rich histories in Mason and Grand Rapids, to attractive retreats with intriguing surroundings in Cleveland and Granville.
Pampering, entertainment and alone time are a given at the four B&Bs and inns we spotlight here. The newfound affection you'll develop for our state's getaways is simply a bonus that's perfect for the season.
A House With History
There are so many comforting features at the Kirkwood Inn in Mason, it's hard to choose the best one.
For couples eager to rejuvenate, it's likely the amenity that begins with a gentle rap on their guest-room door, followed by a greeting from husband-and-wife massage therapist team Jan and Greg Plummer. While simultaneous couples' massages are a luxury that can be hard to find at overnight spots around the state, the soothing treatment is commonplace for the many honeymooners who flock to Kirkwood Inn.Â
However, for those who simply long to escape the frantic pace of home and work, setting foot on the grounds of the combination inn and farmhouse is luxury enough.
The modern world falls away at the establishment – and not just because of the Williamsburg-style fabrics, furniture and artwork that decorate its interior. This spot has welcomed travelers on U.S. Rte. 42 for more than two centuries, ever since Judge Jacob D. Lowe first opened the doors of his 1799 farmhouse to the region's many stagecoach passengers.
“His son, Ralph, loved to hear the horn blow on the stagecoach, hoping it was Congressman Henry Clay,” says Sandra Eves, Kirkwood's innkeeper (along with husband David) and an amateur historian. “He was the boy's favorite overnight guest.”
Today, Kirkwood maintains its time-honored hospitality, while also supplying the touches of comfort and convenience modern travelers expect.
The inn features 48 elegantly appointed rooms and deluxe suites, including some with Jacuzzis and others with cozy fireplaces – perfect for snuggling up with a significant other on a winter day.
Additionally, the Kirkwood Inn offers a range of packages that cater to romantics, including “Enchanted Evening,” which includes a private dinner prepared by Kirkwood's personal chef and elegantly served in the property's Historic Kirkwood House; the “Sweetheart Package,” which promises breakfast in bed, as well as chocolate-covered strawberries and fresh fruit; and “Fit for a King,” which includes a couple's massage, a night's lodging in one of the Jacuzzi rooms, and a gift certificate to the Montgomery Inn, a nearby restaurant known for its slow-roasted, tangy ribs.
In the morning, guests are lured to the Historic Kirkwood House, reserved as both a party center and breakfast spot, where they indulge in hearty meals of scrambled eggs, country ham, quiche, biscuits and poppy seed bread with homemade peach preserves.
But the Kirkwood House isn't just the site of the tasty morning spreads. Like most of the property, virtually every room recalls the past.
“Stand here and you have three centuries,” Sandra marvels just inside the Kirkwood House door. She notes that the hearth and kitchen date to the 18th century, the dining room recalls the 19th century, and a back room was built in the 20th.
Surrounded by such rich history at the Kirkwood Inn, it's no wonder so many vacationing couples enjoy spending the rest of their day together prowling the numerous antiques shops in nearby Lebanon, Waynesville and Springboro. – Betsa Marsh
Kirkwood Inn, 4027 U.S. Rte. 42, Mason, 800/732-4741. www.kirkwoodinn.com
Noteworthy Stops Nearby …
La Comedia, 765 W. Central Ave., Springboro, 800/677-9505. www.lacomedia.com. The only professional dinner theater in southwest Ohio and one of the nation's largest, La Comedia produces six Broadway shows a year, with a gourmet buffet served before each performance.
Fort Ancient State Memorial, 6123 St. Rte. 350, Oregonia, 800/283-8904. www.ohiohistory.org/places/ftancien/. Visitors can walk the scenic trails and view the remains of earthen walls built 2,000 years ago by American Indians, then peruse the museum's 9,000 square feet of exhibits.
Waynesville, “The Antiques Capital of the Midwest,” 513/897-8855, www.waynesvilleshops.com. Older than the state of Ohio, Waynesville has long been known for it wealth of offerings for antiques hunters. Its charming Main Street alone is home to more than a half-dozen popular antiques shops.
Escape in the City
When covered by a blanket of snow, the winding streets of Cleveland's busy University Circle beg couples to slow down.
But that relaxed pace this time of year belies all that's available to visitors. Fifty arts and cultural institutions call this east-side neighborhood home, including the Cleveland Botanical Garden, Severance Hall (home of the Cleveland Orchestra) and the Western Reserve Historical Society – not to mention a grand little place to stay called the University Circle Bed and Breakfast, which offers a cozy launching point for a weekend spent exploring the area.
The section of East 108th Street on which the B&B is located hugs the campus of Case Western Reserve University and features a lovely lineup of turn-of-the-19th-century mini-mansions. Originally built to house the wealthy, many now serve as offices for nonprofit institutions. Thanks to a renovation in 2001, the 108-year-old University Circle B&B displays its original Victorian grandeur.
Guests enter through a courtyard and deck and stroll into a formal dining room, an area whose air of sophistication is enhanced in the evenings when the owner sets out delectable wines and cheeses. A 12-foot beamed ceiling looms overhead, oak wainscoting abounds, and, at this time of year, icicles glisten while melting in the daylight outside the windows of a sunroom – an intimate spot for a private breakfast.Â
A familiar yet charming creak is heard as visitors make their way up a wooden staircase to the second floor's five bedrooms. There, guests are greeted by an antique décor – largely furnished by items found in the Larchmere-Shaker Antique District – four-poster beds, and such convenient amenities as personal robes, mini-fridges and wireless Internet access.
It's just a short walk from the B&B to all those surrounding cultural amenities. In mid-February, grab your warm coat and hat and head for the Cleveland Botanical Garden's Orchid Mania show, which offers a much-needed dose of color and light in winter. And, if your stay at the B&B falls on a Wednesday, don't miss a romantic opportunity to gaze at the night sky at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History: Its observatory operates on Wednesday nights through the end of the month.
Of course, any day of the week is a fine time to take in the museum's amazing gem collection – particularly for couples looking for gift ideas and meaning in special stones. – Miriam Carey
University Circle Bed and Breakfast, 1575 E. 108th St., Cleveland, 866/721-8968. www.universitycirclebedandbreakfast.com.
Noteworthy Stops Nearby …
Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Blvd., Cleveland, 216/721-1600. www.cbgarden.org. This facility, located in the heart of University Circle, includes 10 acres of gardens and an 18,000-square-foot conservatory.
Cleveland Museum of Natural History, 1 Wade Oval Dr., Cleveland, 216/231-3600. www.cmnh.org. From skeletal replicas of a triceratops and tyrannosaur, to an observatory that houses a 105-year-old telescope, the museum attempts to instill a deeper understanding of nature.
Barking Spider Tavern, 11310 Juniper Rd., Cleveland, 216/421-2863. www.barkingspidertavern.com. Jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass â€” all manner of live music is served up seven nights a week, along with an extensive selection of beer and wines.
Typically, the goal of a quick weekend getaway is to simply provide a change of scenery. But a number of Ohioans who hop in the car for Valentine's Day expect much more from their lodgings – everything from pampering spa treatments to delicious gourmet meals.
And the shorter the distance from their guestrooms, the better.
Fortunately, the Granville Inn, 30 miles east of Columbus, more than meets the challenge. In addition to its 27 handsome rooms and three suites, the stunning 1924 English manor – listed on the National Register of Historic Places – features both a spa that specializes in therapeutic treatments and a full-service restaurant and pub that's become well-known among food lovers in central Ohio.
The sprawling manor invites couples to individualize their stays, beginning with selecting one of the uniquely decorated rooms. Each may have its own distinctive furnishings, wall treatments, carpeting and architectural elements, but all share an English-countryside theme that lends a dose of romance, as well as posh feather beds and fine linens.
Couples are lured out of those comfortable spaces by the Granville Inn's opulent attractions. The Newkirk Spa, conveniently located next door, offers couples ways to beautify and breathe easy â€” from facials, manicures and pedicures to the 90-minute Fusion Stone Massage, which blends warm basalt stones with the benefits of a Swedish massage. The spa even offers make-up applications and a hair salon for guests who want a new look before lunch.
Visitors can choose from three main dining areas at the inn: the restaurant, a formal dining room where the most popular seats are near the oversized fireplace; the pub, featuring an atmosphere that's both casual and upscale with stone walls and round, copper tables; and a screened-in patio. Whether you choose the popular New Zealand king salmon, coq au vin, or gnocchi francaise, make sure to complement the meal with one of the more than 120 selections from the Granville Inn's wine list.
Those in the mood to stray from the inn soon discover a town with irresistible appeal. Granville maintains a commitment to keeping itself historic yet fresh, and offers a variety of welcoming retail shops along Main Street. Couples eager to revel in a romantic mood can traverse Granville in vintage style. The Granville Carriage Company offers the old-fashioned experience of viewing the vintage town from the seat of a fairy-tale carriage. – Miriam Carey
Noteworthy Stops Nearby …
Sledding at Infirmary Mound, St. Rte. 37, three miles south of Granville, 740/587-2535. www.lickingparkdistrict.com. The Licking County Park District property – named for the prehistoric Infirmary Mound that resides there – features 326 picturesque acres, ripe for winter recreation.
Reader's Garden, 143 E. Broadway, Granville, 740/587-7744. This quaint bookstore completes the charming, small-town setting, letting visitors lose themselves amid a diverse selection for a relaxing afternoon.
Denison Museum, Broadway and Cherry streets, Granville, 740/587-5713. www.denison.edu/campuslife/museum. Located in Denison University's Burke Hall, the museum's collection consists of nearly 8,000 objects, including textiles, rubbings and ceramics from Asia, as well as Spanish holdings that include prints from Salvador Dali and Joan Miro.
“Please be patient after ringing the bell. The innkeepers live upstairs, and they walk slowly.”
So reads the sign on the door of the Mill House, a homey, red-brick structure on the Maumee River, nestled in the northwest Ohio town of Grand Rapids. Yet, very shortly after ringing the bell, innkeepers Kathy and Ron Munk both quickly appear – suggesting that the sign is just one of the many artifacts from the Mill House's long history. Or, if not dating back to the building's construction in 1898, at least to a time when innkeepers were less quick to tend to a guest's every need.
Although the Mill House has been a bed and breakfast since 1992, its original purpose is hinted at in its name. The building began life as a steam-powered flour mill, and, over the course of more than a century, it has weathered everything from raging fires to great floods. (And, during its relatively brief tenure as a tavern, likely quite a bit of rough language and a watered-down drink or two.)
Now, however, it's devoted to hosting travelers, including visiting couples who appreciate authentic touches as much as they do exploring Ohio. Proof of its past is appealingly evident in such quaint accents as striking gaslight fixtures. All four of the B&B's guest rooms feature exposed brick on the walls and massive wooden beams on the ceilings. Meanwhile, the building's unique history and renovations allow guests imaginations' to run wild at the sight of other distinctive details, such as speculating if the floors – with their long, thin wooden slats – were salvaged from a duckpin bowling alley.
In the B&B's Edward Howard room (named for one of the first settlers in the small village), visitors unwind in the king-size bed or in front of the four-season fireplace. Those in the Garden Room wake up to a scenic view of the Mill House's gardens, the Sidecut Gilead Canal and the Maumee River.
Such attractive features account for the Mill House being a destination for wedding parties from neighboring Nazareth Hall, as well as more than a few cyclists (guests enjoy direct access to the towpath that runs along the Maumee River). But this time of year, visitors ringing the Mill House Bell are more likely to be amorous couples from around Ohio, seeking a secluded escape for the night, and a leisurely day of enjoying attractions in Grand Rapids and nearby Toledo. – Eric Pfeffinger
Mill House, 24070 Front St., Grand Rapids, 419/832-6455. www.themillhouse.com.
Noteworthy Stops Nearby …Dandy's Lane, 24164 Front St., Grand Rapids, 419/832-6425. www.dandyslane.com. A two-story, turn-of-the-century Victorian building that carries literally thousands of collectibles and conversation pieces, as well as decorative furniture and more than 50 flavors of fudge.
The Kerr House, 17777 Beaver St., Grand Rapids, 419/832-1733. www.thekerrhouse.com. The health retreat offers soothing individual treatments in a Queen Anne Victorian Manor, including LaStone Therapy and Citrus Exfoliation Massage.
Angelwood Gallery, 24195 Front St., Grand Rapids, 419/ 832-0625. Arts lovers and avid shoppers delight in everything from homemade pottery and paintings to jewelry and sculptures.