February 2007 Issue
Trips for 2
Where in Ohio can a couple kick back and enjoy each others' company, as well as some spectacular surroundings? We scoured the state and came up with nine great spots for a romantic getaway.
This Valentine's Day, steal away to one of Ohio's
By Linda Feagler
Anne Castle was worried. She was living her dream but wasn't sure if her guests shared it. Newly divorced after 27 years of marriage, Castle had achieved her goal of becoming an innkeeper. It took her two years to get The Inn at Cedar Falls in Logan ready for occupancy, overseeing every touch toward perfection. Now, though, it seemed as if she was the only one reveling in it.
A couple in their 70s, celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, had just checked in, but the wife had doubts.
She didn't think her husband would agree to stay, since he insisted on listening to news radio every morning, and this place - located in the heart of the Hocking Hills - had no reception.
"Why not stay the night?" Castle nervously suggested, promising to refund their money if the couple didn't like their accommodations.
The next morning, the wife approached Castle with tears in her eyes. The innkeeper sheepishly waited for the criticism that was sure to come.
"My husband and I talked more last night than we have in the 50 years we've been married," the wife said with a quaver in her voice. "We'll be staying."
It is with a mixture of bittersweet regret and pride that co-innkeeper Ellen Grinsfelder recounts this anecdote, which happened 20 years ago. Her mother, Anne Castle, died in 1991, four years after the Inn opened. But her vision remains true. Grinsfelder and her husband, Terry Lingo, make sure of that.
"Mom knew she was creating a peaceful place, where people could leave the essence of the city behind," Grinsfelder explains. "We are continually reminded of that."
And so are the guests. Cell phone service isn't an option here, and there's not a television or radio to be found. (A phone in the office is available for emergencies.)
The Inn at Cedar Falls is tailor-made for those who love the out-of-doors and crave solitude - whether it's while hiking in nearby Ash Cave or waiting for the meteor showers clearly visible in a sky not marred by tall buildings or streetlights. But plenty of pampering is also at hand, starting with the accommodations. There's the two-story, nine-room inn itself, furnished with country antiques, rockers and a wood-burning stove that exudes all the charms of a bed and breakfast. Five renovated 1840s log cabins feature whirlpool tubs, kitchens and a cozy sitting area with couches and chairs grouped around a gas-log stove. Intimate cottages, also with gas-log stoves, are furnished with queen- or king-size beds, two-person whirlpool tubs and undercounter refrigerators.
Amenities are everywhere, from the plush terry robes, towel warmers, lotions and soaps in the bathroom to the freshly baked peanut butter cookies awaiting guests upon arrival.
Dining options are opulent. Days begin with a hearty breakfast that includes dishes ranging from baked blueberry pancakes to egg strata. Lunch features an array of soups, salads and sandwiches. Dinner is a four-course extravaganza starring such entrees as tenderloin medallions with wild mushroom demi-glace; crab-stuffed Atlantic flounder accompanied by a lemon-dill Chardonnay butter; and white Peking duck roasted with fresh herbs, orange, thyme, lavender and honey.
Last year, Grinsfelder and Lingo unveiled their newest addition, the Spa at Cedar Falls, which has quickly become a destination for couples ready for a bit of rekindling. Cares are left behind as guests enter the lavender-scented retreat filled with inspiring messages that encourage them to Dream, Laugh, Live Simply, Smile and Love. The signature treatment features a salt scrub, body wrap and massage.
Winter getaway packages include "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," two weeknights in a room at the inn, dinner one night and full breakfasts both mornings; "Couples Cookinn" weekend Feb. 23-24, featuring soup, stew and sauce how-tos; and "Valentine's Day Dinners" Feb. 10, 14 and 17. All lodging on Valentine's Day is 25 percent off.
The Inn at Cedar Falls, 21190 St. Rte. 374, Logan. 740/385-7489. www.innatcedarfalls.com
By Wendy Pramik
Downtown Columbus' newest hotel is part Donald Trump, part Julia Roberts. Thanks to a $15 million renovation by the Marriott family trust, The Columbus, a Renaissance Hotel, manages to combine convenience for the business traveler with romantic touches for couples seeking a getaway.
The Columbus is just a couple of blocks from the Ohio Statehouse and offers plush, pillow-top mattresses; an intimate restaurant; and a living-room-like lobby with cozy seating and a fireplace.
The hotel's 408 renovated rooms are relaxing yet ritzy. There are 32 suites that would be right at home in a well-furnished house - with mixed-and-matched table lamps, couches with throw pillows and a flat-screen TV. The furniture was custom-designed, and the color palette has a Midwestern flair, which Marriott calls "tomato and wheat." The lavish State and Capitol suites provide phenomenal views of downtown from their 21st-floor perches.
Other room highlights include a small refrigerator, perfect for stashing wine and cheese, and Marriott's signature bedding. In warmer months, the fourth-floor pool is the hotel's shining star. Located on the ballroom roof, it's surrounded by red market umbrellas and teakwood recliners with bright-red cushions. Cocktails are served from a nearby cabana-style bar. The pool deck - which measures a whopping 11,000 square feet - appears small against the backdrop of towering skyscrapers.
Locals and visitors alike are lured to Latitude 41, the hotel's refurbished restaurant. On a recent Friday evening, executive chef Tony Miller prepared American fare in the open kitchen. One specialty is Hawaiian tuna, which arrives fresh four times a week. "It's phenomenal," Miller says. "I can look at my watch and tell you how long that tuna has been out of the water." Dishes like Georges Bank haddock are artfully presented with Peruvian purple potatoes and wilted baby greens.
Couples can reserve the chef's table, where Miller will introduce the dishes and suggest the appropriate wines while the guests watch their meals being prepared. "It's a great romantic dinner," Miller says. "Guests who sit at the chef's table get the royal treatment."
Across the hall is Bar 41, an ultra-swank setting combining rich fabrics with Chihuly-like glass sculptures. Signature drinks include the Blackberry Mojito served with fresh blackberries and the Passion Fruit Martini made with a fruit puree and habanero pepper.
The hotel's location is ideal for couples. It's within easy walking distance of the Ohio Theatre and Palace Theatre, as well as the trendy Arena District. The Columbus Museum of Art, German Village and the Short North are just a short cab ride away.
The Columbus, a Renaissance Hotel, 50 N. Third St., Columbus, 614/228-5050. http://marriott.com/property/propertypage/CMHBR
By Eric Pfeffinger
There's a lot of wood.
After the briefest of strolls through the sprawling first floor of the Mansion View Bed and Breakfast in Toledo's historic Old West End, even the most timber-apathetic visitors may find themselves making inordinate amounts of conversation about wood. And meaning it. Those soaring ceilings in the hallway - you say those are red oak? And this warm, ruddy paneling in the dining room -is that cherry? No? Honduran mahogany, you say. Who knew?
Suddenly, caring about wood is understandable. Inescapable, even. You just don't see carved wood ceilings that much any more - they're probably expensive, and all the fancy wood is probably endangered by now. But the 10,000-square-foot Mansion View was built in 1887. Hence all the wood. And the leaded glass. And the Victorian gardens, and the griffin on the roof, and the terra cotta ridge caps.
Mansion View serves as an event center in addition to renting out four distinctive and spacious rooms, each with its own bathroom (one with a claw-foot tub), one with a kitchenette. But it's unusual not only because of its size and age, but also because of its business model. Sure, like many bed and breakfasts, it's run by an energetic and attentive pair of resident managers who've lavishly furnished the place with their own antiques as well as cool old stuff they've scored on eBay. But what makes it uncommon is that it's owned by a not-for-profit organization, the Old West End Association, dedicated to historic preservation. Guests who stay in the whimsically floral Libbey Room or the lushly elegant Secor Bridal Room aren't just experiencing historic resources but are helping to protect and promote them. You want history? You're soaking in it!
Also distinctive about Mansion View is how embedded it is in the Old West End, a community of passionate and creative neighbors whose own homes are often as old as Mansion View, if not as mansion-like. When the bed and breakfast started operating last summer, innkeepers Don and Brenda Spurlin occasionally invited neighbors over for breakfast to help keep guests company when the rooms weren't filled to capacity. Word of the Mansion View's full gourmet breakfasts quickly spread, and soon neighbors were sidling up to Don at social events angling for invitations. And if the timing is right, guests will have the option of dropping by one of the periodic jam sessions that draws jazz lovers to the parlor.
A short walk from the nationally celebrated Toledo Museum of Art and its new Glass Pavilion, Mansion View frequently hosts out-of-town couples drawn to the museum's celebrated line-up of exhibitions. But the Mansion View's clientele is diverse - writers, doctors, professors, wedding parties. One weekend the Green Institute - the think tank for the national Green Party - swept into town and filled the mansion's rooms. No word on what they had to say about all the wood.
Mansion View Bed and Breakfast, 2035 Collingwood Blvd., Toledo, 419/244-5676. www.mansionviewtoledo.com
By Jenny Pavlasek
Before there was the Inn at Rainbow Hills there was Rainbow Hills Vineyards, a winery that Joy and Lee Wyse opened nearly 20 years ago in the northeastern bend of Ohio's Appalachia. The winery draws crowds of more than 300 on weekends without advertising, allowing buses or even having a Web site. That can't be chalked up to convenience, since a sparsely populated dirt-and-gravel county road leads to their place. And it's not as though there isn't competition, what with five other wineries in the area. The appeal of the winery and surely the B&B rests in its owners, who have put so much of themselves into this property it hardly feels like a business.
The inn sits adjacent to the winery on the couple's 82-acre plot, a combination of woods, grapevines and greenery that stretches "clear back to the next county road," according to Lee. Guests enter through the kitchen, which glimmers with stainless-steel appliances and gooseneck faucets. Yards and yards of maple countertops (sourced from unwell trees on the property, Joy stresses) and an uphill view from nine glass windows lining the room's back wall stir up an instant case of kitchen envy.
A portion of the inn's structure comes from an old log cabin that sat abandoned on the property before the couple salvaged portions of it and added the kitchen, living spaces and bedrooms. The cabin dates to 1831, which, along with the rest of the home's history, was discovered by talking with people from the area. "That's how we learned the history of a lot of the property," says Joy.
The largest and most secluded of the four rentable rooms is in the attic, outfitted with a majestic walnut bedstead that belonged to Joy's grandfather. Joy says she pulled lots of pieces from her own attic to furnish the B&B, a collection she's "picked up along the way" at one sale or another.
Each room has a private bathroom, and three of the bedrooms have secluded porches that hang like box seats overlooking the winery's picnic areas. "It's a way for guests to come, enjoy dinner, then take their bottle of wine and come here," says Joy. "You're still part of the party, but you have some privacy." And some time to admire each porch door's intricate stained-glass work, which Joy customized herself.
On the ground floor, a sitting area with a wood-burning fireplace, two plush armchairs and a comfy sofa is an inviting spot for guests to relax. It's also a study of how Joy and Lee have crafted the living areas into not only extensions of the outdoors, but also of themselves.
The dining-room table frame, for example, was constructed from one of the property's red elms. Six solid wooden steps connect the first- and second-floor sitting areas, the spoils of a lightning storm that felled one of their red oak trees. Watercolors from Canton-based artist Bob Davis, a longtime friend of the couple, hang along the walls and above a sturdy desk that Joy and Lee brought back with them from New South Wales, where they lived for five and a half years.
The ambiance is a definite draw and something to be savored again and again. "At one cookout this summer, there were so many familiar faces - people who have been coming here every year for so many years - I felt like I was having a wedding," says Joy.
Inn at Rainbow Hills, 26349 Twp. Rd. 251, Newcomerstown, 740/545-9305.
By Betsa Marsh
It was the most modern of romances, a man and woman who lived in the same town yet linked up only through the Internet. And now they stood before Julie and Larry Chmiel's Rookwood fireplace and said their vows.
For the next three days, the Chmiels cosseted the Dayton couple with private dinners and gentle wake-up breakfasts, away from well-wishers and their new blended family. Yet they were still close to home, just south of Dayton at Miamisburg's English Manor Bed and Breakfast.
"It was so much fun just to cater to them for three days," innkeeper Julie Chmiel says of her honeymooners. "It's neat for us, too."
An aura of romance swirls around this grand old Tudor, a dowager duchess with a stately profile on her fine-lawned corner. The mansion, now in its 83rd year, was the dream house of Bertha and William Schieble.
William Schieble was a Dayton toy manufacturer who made his fortune with friction toys, the little cars and trains that rev up when children rub their wheels over a carpet or floor. The family lived here for decades, cherishing the gleam of the red oak floors, stained-glass windows and four fireplaces.
Most honeymooners and returning anniversary couples choose the four-poster bed in the master bedroom, named for the Schiebles. Pale blue Rookwood tiles surround the fireplace, and couples are welcome to light its candles. They often ask for Julie's chocolate-dipped strawberries and champagne to enjoy in that romantic glow.
Julie, a 25-year hotel manager, and Larry, a wine distributor, are the perfect hosts to craft a private dinner - maybe filet mignon with crabmeat or chicken cordon bleu. Breakfast might be quiche or eggs Benedict, with banana nut bread or the house specialty, extra-cinnamony French toast. It's served on Czech floral china either in the formal dining room or on the sun porch.
The dining room itself is daintily romantic, with cabbage rose wallpaper, pink lace curtains and aristocratic touches - armorial crests set into leaded glass windows and dangling from the chandeliers.
The Chmiels are just the fifth family to own this grand Tudor, a loving continuity that is the heart of its conservation. They bought it in 2001. Since then, the couple have won City Beautiful Awards from Miamisburg for both their holiday decorations and landscaping.
The Chmiels did make one bold change to the grande dame, however. When they heard that The Loretta, a Dominican residence for women in Dayton, was to be demolished, they salvaged the chapel's rich, dark wood. They brought it home to English Manor to create - what else? - a bar.
The basement English pub now has a stained-glass ceiling and the chapel's misericords from the choir stall as extra seating. Depending upon the mood, couples can say their prayers or shoot darts together.
English Manor Bed and Breakfast, 505 E. Linden Ave., Miamisburg, 937/866-2288 or 800/676-9456. www.englishmanorohio.com.
Epitome of Elegance
By Linda Feagler
If you're blue and you don't know where to go to, why don't you go where fashion sits â€¦ Puttin' on the Ritz.
The reasons why the legendary hotel was immortalized in song 77 years ago by Irving Berlin remain fresh today: Ritz-Carltons around the world represent the epitome of elegance, and Cleveland's is no exception. The pampering begins immediately upon entering the marble lobby, which even in mid-winter is replete with the heady scents of mimosa and freesia, courtesy of the $25,000 budget the hotel allocates each month for floral displays.
"There's romance around every corner," promises hotel marketing coordinator Dana Stulberg, as she points out the Egyptian cotton Frette linens imported from Europe adorning each bed, and the lush terry bathrobes and slippers found in every room. "The Ritz strives to be the meter in luxurious service."
Although the hotel adjoins Cleveland's stately Tower City Center shopping mecca and is located only five minutes away from the city's Theater District, guests need not leave their rooms to experience one-of-a-kind ambiance. Snuggle up and enjoy the panoramic city views visible from each of the 206 guest rooms. Stow your favorite brand of bubbly in the mini-fridge and order an intimate dinner for two from the 'round-the-clock room-service menu with its eclectic array of entrees, ranging from pan-roasted Casco Bay cod with fingerling potatoes and lobster chowder sauce to tournedo of beef with soft potatoes. When it's time to turn in, select one of the Ritz's lavish baths, prepared in your room by your own personal butler. Choices include the Passionate Romance Foam Bath, filled with red rose petals, set amid candlelight and featuring massage oils, chilled champagne and sensual music; the Relax and Rejuvenate Bath, with its aromatherapy towels, candles and choice of custom bath salts; and the Soft Lavender Bath, infused with scented oils, along with succulent lavender chocolates, chilled wine or champagne and mood music.
A visit to the Ritz-Carlton isn't complete without sampling the amenities the hotel is known for.
Venture downstairs to Muse, the brand-new, small-plates restaurant and wine bar located off the main lobby, which features such organic specialties as Grey Goose orange-cured Arctic Char, bison tenderloin carpaccio and no-nitrate bacon-wrapped Medjool dates.
Unwind with a massage selected from an array that includes a deep-tissue treatment designed to ease sore muscles, and a hot-stone regimen guaranteed to "aid body energy flow and promote inner balance."
Now's the ideal time to discover the joys of the Ritz-Carlton, since the hotel offers a variety of seasonal packages. A sure cure for the winter blues is "Uncommon Cold," which includes deluxe accommodations; an in-room movie; specialty coffee, hot chocolate or tea for two by the fireplace in The Lobby Lounge; and the hotel's signature Chocolate S'mores Tart dessert. Or surprise your sweetheart with the "Ultimate Valentine's Package" (available the weekend before and after the Big Day), a decadent indulgence comprised of a four-course dinner at Muse, deluxe accommodations strewn with rose petals, a chilled bottle of champagne, gourmet truffles and breakfast in bed.
The Ritz-Carlton, 1515 West Third St., Cleveland; 216/623-1300. www.ritzcarlton.com
By Linda Feagler
At The Inn at Brandywine Falls, winter's lullaby is au naturel - from the rustling of wind through the hemlocks in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park where it's nestled, to the hypnotic sound of the 67-foot waterfall, for which it is named.
The allure is so powerful, say innkeepers George and Katie Hoy, that guests can't wait to return.
"In the 18 years, 6 months, 10 days, 16 hours and 38 minutes we've been here, we've had 30,000 guests, which translates into approximately 62,000 stays," George says. "How great it is to have a job as I do where the thought of retiring is really a dumb idea."
The dwelling that's now home to the inn was built in 1848 by Ohio entrepreneur James Wallace, who also operated a grain, lumber and woolen mill on a site across the lawn near the waterfall. Thanks to the Hoys' painstaking renovation efforts, the house remains true to its Greek Revival roots, furnished in period antiques with the addition of modern private baths and mattresses and, George says with a laugh, electricity.
Inside the Inn, four guest rooms bear the moniker of local historical figures. The most romantic is Adeline's Retreat (named in honor of James' wife), a sweet little suite with double sleigh bed and Victorian-themed bath.
Outside, the estate's original carriage barn has been converted into two suites with king-size beds, wood-burning stoves and, says George, oversize Jacuzzi tubs "so two people can practice their backstroke at the same time."
"I would say that between 75 and 80 percent of our guests are here to escape their kids and have a romantic time away, or celebrate an occasion that will be an anniversary someday," he adds. "The idea is to get the world to stop. Oh, we have a little TV tucked away in a closet in case anyone misses it. But we don't haul it out very often."
Every day could be Valentine's Day at the inn, since candles and fresh flowers adorn every room. Breakfasts, consisting of homemade granola, fresh fruit and George's signature omelets - made with fresh spinach, bacon and cheddar cheese - are served by candlelight. On February 14, the Hoys give each couple a long-stemmed red rose and prepare a special dinner featuring salmon or fillet of beef, roasted asparagus and heart-shaped Chocolate Decadence Cake.
After that, it's up to nature.
"You can't look out any window and not have a gorgeous scene in front of you," George says. "We don't have any convenience stores or commercial buildings in view, so all you see is squirrel or deer."
Adds Katie with a wink, "I'm thinking of hosting a reunion for all the Inn children."
The Inn at Brandywine Falls, 8230 Brandywine Rd., Sagamore Hills, 888/306-3381. www.innatbrandywine falls.com
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