I inadvertently stumbled into the “Winter of B&Bs.”
I like to think of myself as an indiscriminate traveler: I’m not committed to one type of accommodation. I like to stay at the place that magically fits my own secret formula made of “Instagram worthiness,” “affordability because I pay too much on rent back home,” and “luxury I feel like splurging on because YOLO.” Most of the time, I’ll grab a hotel or Airbnb, and occasionally, I’ll splurge on somewhere nice when I’m traveling with Mr. Valise. I am *shudder* a millennial traveler, obvs.
It was therefore a bit of a surprised when several business partnerships allowed me the chance to travel and stay almost exclusively in bed and breakfasts this winter. Maybe you feel this way too, but I guess I had never thought of myself as the target traveler for the B&B style of accommodation.
I’m not the only one thinking this way: research is coming out of the internet’s ears about attracting millennial travelers, proprietors who have success are studied by their colleagues, and savvy B&Bs are tackling the issue head on.
In the course of staying in bed and breakfasts, talking with fellow guests and hosts, and examining my own misconceptions about these accommodations, I’ve realized that saying “B&Bs aren’t for me” usually means something else. Something like “I want more privacy,” or “I’m too adventurous for that,” or “the food is going to suck.” Wrong.
I didn’t set out to prove you wrong, but I can say it now: there are bed and breakfasts all over the U.S. doing some amazing work to make guests experience the intimacy, privacy and hospitality of a B&B along with catering the adventurous and foodie obsessed traveler of any age.
Here are five amazing properties to prove my point. Each of these is a Select Registry property, meaning they meat certain qualifications of excellence – and I whole-heartedly agree that they do. They may not all check every box you’re looking for in accommodation, but I hope they’ll challenge your perception of B&Bs for your next trip.
For the Privacy Cravers: Colette’s Bed & Breakfast
I can easily imagine that one of the biggest concerns millennial travelers have about bed and breakfasts is of wanting privacy. Somewhere in the mythology of B&Bs, a few horror stories went around about hosts that hovered over your shoulder, shushed your every sound, and didn’t let you relax for a moment while vacationing within the confines of their home.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth at any of the bed and breakfasts I’ve now stayed at, but Colette’s Bed and Breakfast in Port Angeles, Washington exemplifies this in a way I didn’t even know was possible.
Driving down the narrow lane to the property, you get the sense of immediate, purposeful, designed isolation. Unlike nearby properties with great sloping lawns clear of trees, the trees and grounds at Colette’s are pressing in around you. There’s even a deer fence you have to pass through, which protects the beautifully manicured grounds from foraging fawns. A private path lead to our room past bushes and a resting buddha head and through a grove of trees. We could have been miles away from anywhere.
I felt like we had the run of the joint; managers Clif and Dae were available at a moment’s notice from their private quarters within the main house, but after showing us around, we could come and go as we pleased, indulging in the beautiful leather sofas in the main room, or sneaking to our room (in a nearby building) as we wished.
Our room itself was resplendent: a huge king-sized bed, private sound system and fireplace, and a picture window looking out over the backyard and sea beyond. I felt insulated from the world, capable of enjoying myself in a way I’ve never found in a hotel – and I never heard a peep from the neighbors next door – also something I’ve never experienced in a hotel.
There were other guests, and I was surprised to find they too were millennials: a couple from Bellevue said they had found out about the property word-of-mouth from friends, whereas the other couple craved privacy so much that they skipped the wine happy hour, and breakfasted at a later time to avoid the necessary conversations.
Colette’s scores high on food and luxury too, as evidenced above. At the end of our stay though, it’s hard to deny that it completely disproves the idea that staying in a bed and breakfast is an invasive experience as a guest or host. If you crave privacy, don’t assume your hotel with paper thin walls will give it to you: bed and breakfasts can – and do – do it better, and in a more intimate way.
The Details: Colette’s Bed and Breakfast can be found at 339 Finn Hall Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362. Rooms start from $195 per night, with breakfast and wine happy hour included.
For the Luxury Lovers: George Washington Inn
Another common complaint that could be made about bed and breakfasts is the lack of luxury, but let’s be honest, you can’t tell me every Airbnb is going to be luxurious. I’m planning a trip to Europe using that site right now, and I’ve seen some terrifying options. There are bad apples in every bunch. On the whole though, bed and breakfasts have sought to be recognized, accredited, and rated by companies like AAA and Select Registry. Just like you’d look for a star-rating for a hotel, you can find five-star luxury bed and breakfasts all over the world.
The George Washington Inn in Port Angeles, Washington is one of them, and it was clear from the road that we were in for a different kind of experience than other B&Bs we’ve stayed at. Stunning white columns shone in the fading light against a periwinkle sky as we drove up the long driveway past orderly rows of lavender. I mention the lavender for a reason – it’s a fundamental part of the experience you’ll have at the Inn.
Modeled on Mount Vernon in Virginia, I felt out of place in my jeggings and hoodie from the moment we were greeted at the door. While owner Dan was plowing a lavender field, his wife and co-owner Janet showed us the estate. A quick glance at the stunning central staircase, grand piano, and beautiful outdoor veranda were transportive. I almost wished for a corset and wig to justify the high class indulgences naturally built into the property.
Not being a luxury writer, I have a hard time describing what it’s like when you learn the bathtub has a built-in jet bubble system or that all of the soap products are made with lavender grown right on the farm. Or how to properly describe the blissful feeling of sinking into big, four-poster bed with heavy quilts that would fight off an Appalachian chill – or in this case one from the Olympics.
Luxury, done right, is ephemeral, and inadequately described no matter which words you use. What you notice is not the presence of luxury, but its absence when you leave it. The George Washington was committed to its historic spirit, but also met every need I didn’t know I had.
We didn’t dine on the veranda the next morning, due to a ferocious wind and rain storm brewing to the West, but breakfast was an equally indulgent series of sweet and savory courses. When we checked out, Mr. Valise drove the car up around the circular drive to pick me up, and I tried to settle into the car seat with any semblance of the comfort we had just left. Like all the others on this list, the George Washington Inn takes special pride in making sure guests are comfortable. If you’re staying at a B&B that’s not, you’re doing it wrong, because there are so many out there who do it so right.
The Details: The George Washington Inn can be found at 939 Finn Hall Rd, Port Angeles, WA 98362. Rooms start at $235 per night, and there is a two-night minimum.
For the Adventurous Ones: McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast
In this all-to-real scenario where travelers are unwilling to stay at B&Bs for a variety of reasons, let’s address the one about how B&Bs are for boring, slow-moving retirees looking for a break from all that RVing and cruising they’re up to. If this sounds like a wild generalization of older travelers, it is – it’s also a wild generalization of B&Bs.
The McCaffrey House Bed & Breakfast Inn in Twain-Harte, California puts this stereotype to bed. Unlike most of the properties I’ve included, staying at McCaffrey House has touches of ‘home’ that make it feel much more like the B&Bs of lore: photos of the McCaffrey family, family art, and accolades adorn the walls.
Simultaneously, the McCaffrey House has an unbeatable setting: mere miles from the border of Yosemite, you have quick access to the stunning landscapes preserved therein, and equally quick access back to a cozy bed and delicious home-cooked meal. With their Irish heritage so proudly displayed, arriving back to the McCaffrey House from a day’s hike or just dinner in tiny ‘downtown’ Twain-Harte down the road ticked all the boxes in my memory of entrancing Irish roadhouses on the Emerald Isle.
Upon arriving, Stephanie greeted us with warmth and enthusiasm to share her knowledge of the nearby park – even though we were but day-travelers to the resource she was so proudly steward of. Our room was cozy, especially with the gas fireplace turned on (three-for-three on fireplaces makes this traveler a very happy B&Ber).
Taking her suggestion, we kept the extra quilt on the bed overnight, the fire turned down low, and cracked the window in the bedroom to hear the wind singing in the cedars right outside the window and the rare sound of water running through the creek on the property. I enjoyed the kind of deep, dark sleep you just can’t get in the city. I could have slept the day away, but El Capitan and Half Dome were calling as the sun rose.
As expected for a day of adventuring ahead, breakfast was hearty and Irish: news flash! Bread pudding isn’t just for dessert (and I’m so glad of it!). Stephanie and her team prepared an amazing meal, and stopped by throughout the meal to continue sharing gems of knowledge about the area, the best ways to get to Yosemite, and our other plans.
If adventure calls you to travel, hotels can be wonderful, but sometimes they just can’t give you the location or intimate knowledge of someone who lives in the area – and provides recommendations to travelers on a regular basis. Luckily, bed and breakfasts like the McCaffrey House are happy to oblige, with the extra inspiration of that photo of several generations skiing together hanging in the stairwell.
The Details: The McCaffrey House Bed and Breakfast Inn can be found at 23251 California Highway 108, Twain Harte, CA 95383. Rooms start from $169 per night.
For the History Buffs: The Groveland Hotel
I’m not sure why this would be the case, because I think it actually is a stereotype that B&Bs are just antique buildings full of antiques, but for some reason, some travelers assume that’s a bad thing. Man, have you never cracked a history book? Some really cool stuff happened! You can sleep in the same place as important people, walk the same streets, learn about their history and figure out what it means to your life! As you can tell, I am one of the History Buffs described in the title of this section.
Thus, I loved The Groveland Hotel. I didn’t know when I arrived that when we talk about the “gold rush” and the “49ers,” we’re talking about Groveland, California. A small-town, once overrun by miners in the mid-19th century hoping to strike it rich. Now, it’s home to the oldest operating tavern in the state of California, and the Groveland Hotel across the street seems dropped out of a history textbook. If you want to live amongst history without sacrificing comforts and amenities, bed and breakfasts like The Groveland Hotel are a pristine example.
At the Groveland Hotel, our room was cozy, the floor was creaky, and the details of the furniture and fixtures was from a time when these kinds of details were preferred over square shapes and chrome finishes. The wrap-around balcony, connecting the original building (1849) to a new one (1914) that can host the full population of guests that fill the hotel during the summer, offered great views down the main street in town.
Innkeeper Peggy was recovering from a recent medical issue, but provided a warm welcome and invitation to investigate the history she works to preserve. I loved exploring the property, seeing the names of famous characters from Groveland’s heyday emblazoned across the door to each guest room. We stayed in the Sierra Nevada Phillips room. (You can learn more about her here!)
These names are those of the people who shaped the town during its boom of nearly 10,000 residents – now it is home to only 600. The few businesses who thrive on tourism during the summer months when Yosemite draws crowds are some of the few ways to actually experience this chapter in the history of the West, and the Groveland Hotel looks and is the cornerstone of that experience.
We took both meals in the restaurant downstairs; The Cellar Door is an understandable point of pride for Peggy, and draws tourists and visitors from neighboring towns and properties. Surrounded by art celebrating Yosemite, we enjoyed both dinner and breakfast with impeccable service, and I tried to imagine how many different people from different walks of life had sat in this room and taken in a meal or two. It made my humble writing craft seem small, and I kind of like it.
To be fair, not every bed and breakfast can have the kind of historical significance that The Groveland Hotel imbues. But, many of the oldest residential buildings in the country that have been preserved and open to the public are inns and B&Bs, so if you, like me, nerd out about that stuff, there is plenty of opportunity to do so.
The Details: The Groveland Hotel can be found at 18767 Main St, Groveland, CA 95321. Rooms start from $145 per night.
For the Foodies & Oenophiles: The Shelburne Inn
In case you’re still reaching for reasons to not stay at bed and breakfasts – which at 2,000 words in, let me tell you, is a reach on your part –, let me put the final one to rest: the food at bed and breakfasts is wonderful. Whether enjoying dinner in the restaurant downstairs or sharing breakfasts with our hosts, we found that the food is something that each and every proprietor took great pride in. They understand that food is a crucial part of the hospitality experience, and that my generation of travelers is even more obsessed with food than perhaps past generations have been (thank you, Instagram and #foodporn).
The Shelburne Inn in Seaview, Washington was a great example of a bed and breakfast that understands the importance of ‘wooing the foodies.’ And don’t even get me started on the wine. No really, it’s not my speciality, but David who runs the restaurant has an astounding knowledge of wines, and a wine list to back it up. Over an outrageously indulgent three-course dinner (I had fresh crab ravioli, and we had two desserts), David stopped by the table frequently to check on our experience; he also joined us at the table the next morning to talk food, ingredients (he forages), and marketing to millennial travelers.
In between, we rested in one of the Shelburne Inn’s historic rooms. Dating back to 1896, the inn was in disrepair with some bad re-design decisions when Laurie and David took the helm in the 1970s. They have since restored it to its former glory with antique furniture nestled in alongside modern amenities – but no TVs (a welcome respite from the ‘noise,’ if you ask me).
The reality is that marketing to millennials is hard; there is so much vying for our attention in our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of the new, modern, and hip. But in the small towns where I often indulge in the B&B accommodation, owners like Laurie and David provide it all: delicious food, amazing wine, whiskey tastings in the bar, and a homey place to rest my head after all that indulgence. I’ve eaten in my fair share of hotel restaurants, and they’re definitely improving too – just don’t write off a bed and breakfast when the ‘breakfast’ part is likely to knock your socks off.
The Details: The Shelburne Inn can be found at 4415 Pacific Way, Seaview, WA 98644. Rooms start from $149 per night.
So what do you think? Are you a B&B fan, or willing to try now?
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This post was created in partnership with Select Registry and Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau. Many thanks to the hosts who provided complimentary stays during my travels: Clif & Dae, Dan & Janet, Stephanie & Michael, Peggy, and Laurie & David. The opinions expressed in this post are my own, in no way affected by my partnership with these brands.