Travel: Inn Walden Makes for Blissful Weekend Getaway
Maybe it was the fact that when we arrived, we were greeted at our car by name (don't ask about the magic, just relish it). Perhaps it was the tea service in the library we had to ourselves, where we snacked on pastries and, for the first time in years, played a game of checkers (which was somehow still enjoyable despite the fact I lost).
It could have been the couples massage that included a whirlpool, a fire, a billion-head shower and even (be still my heart!) a bite of chocolate. Or the fact we were driven (in a luxury car) to the property's restaurant, which is hidden in a renovated barn about a mile away.
It might have been the moment we returned from dinner, when the flames in our fireplace were a flutter, wine was chilling and puffy robes were atop the bed (which was, of course, turned down). Or the next morning, when breakfast was delivered to our room and we feasted on omelets, applewood smoked bacon, fruit, yogurt, freshly squeezed OJ and homemade granola (that I would crave for weeks after).
But somewhere along the way, Walden won me.
(It apparently won my husband too, who liked it better than The Greenbrier and has asked repeatedly when we will return.)
I'm obviously not alone: Inn Walden-which is nestled in the pasture-laden countryside of Aurora, Ohio, about two hours northeast of Columbus-is the state's only AAA Five-Diamond rated hotel.
With 23 rooms and an at-your-service staff, it's the heart of the 1,000-acre Walden community, which also includes Spa Walden, a country club, a golf course, three restaurants, horse stables and homes.
Walden is like a boutique resort-or staying at the private estate of the wealthy-but-pleasantly-down-to-earth aunt you didn't know you had. It is first class but not fussy, extravagant but relaxed. It touts itself as an exurban oasis inspired by Henry David Thoreau's credo for happiness: simplify. And it delivers.
"We're not an ostentatious place; we're not a pretentious place," said Walden's managing partner Rob Rosencrans, whose family has long run the community. "We're a comfortable place."
Walden was born in the early 1970s with a country club and nine holes. Nine more soon followed. Then a clubhouse (inside what is now The Barn). The inn was built in 1998, and the spa in 2008.
It's a popular destination for weddings and high-end corporate retreats. And I see the allure for using it as either.
But it is spectacular for a couple's getaway-even if just for a night. (Romantic bonus: You can reserve the 70-seat theater, free of charge, and bring your movie of choice-be it a blockbuster or a home video of your wedding.)
And that's all the longer we spent there-one day-checking in on a Friday afternoon and leaving Saturday. But it was 24 hours of bliss.
I'll credit my parents for discovering Walden: They stayed here and raved. Then, my sister and her husband escaped here for a night and loved it, too. And if my two favorite gals give it two thumbs up, I obviously can't be the only one at family parties who isn't in on the secret. So up we went. At 16 years old, the classic inn décor may not knock your socks off. But most everything else will-from the flawless service to the muffins hanging on the hook beside your door in the morning.
This. Is. Spectacular. When Rob Rosencrans and his crew decided to build a spa six years ago, they visited about 50 spas not just around the country, but also around the world. They wanted to see what they hated and what they loved. They found two consistent negatives. One: sharing a public bathroom. Two: finishing a treatment and then getting only a minute to relish it, since the provider was, as promised, just outside the door. "Those two things were such a distraction," he said. "So we created a concept of privacy and time." Our 60-minute couples' massage actually lasted two hours. We sauntered in our robes from the inn to the spa, where we were taken to a private room. A whirlpool was prepped. A fire was on. And a tray of bottled water and a couple of chocolates awaited us. (Note: I may or may not have failed to mention the chocolates to the hubs, as I ate his too.) We had a half hour to soak before the massage therapists arrived. Then, when our hour massages were complete, we had another half hour to rest/drink/cleanse in the aforementioned billion-head shower. Dreamy.
You can golf, play tennis, practice yoga, swim or ride a horse. You can also take a run outside or workout inside. (Or, you can grab the game of Scrabble from the library, take it to your room, and play it like the competitive, word-loving nerd you are.)
There are three restaurants at Walden, but your dinner choice is easy: The Barn. It's elegant, old-school, no-jeans-allowed fine dining in a restored 175-year-old barn. We enjoyed a lovely meal there, including good conversation with the wine aficionado tending the intimate bar and excellent service. But the true food highlight for me arrived the next morning, when we opted for breakfast in our room. (Goat cheese, fresh orange juice, granola. Oh my!) Skip the Blue Ribbon Café and eat in a robe. Because you can.