Hermann Hill Vineyard Inn

By Elizabeth Hey

From the moment we curved up the hillside driveway to Hermann Hill Vineyard Inn, we knew that this bed and breakfast competes with the best. The expansive eight-room inn sits above the terraced vineyard and, further below, the historic German town of Hermann that snugs up to the Missouri River like a postcard waiting to be sent. Every room showcases the view.

Guests can also choose the private River Bluff Cottages, where my husband and I stayed. Perched directly above the river, they lack for nothing with full kitchens, fireplaces, heated floors and spacious decks with hot tubs and grills. In either location, service is delivered with flourish by the inn’s 30 employees.

Celebrating 24 years as owners, Terry and Peggy Hammer have thought of absolutely everything. Numerous room amenities, some based on guest surveys, include king beds with three pillow types, steam showers, hot tubs, jetted tubs, flat screens with DVD players, binoculars for eagle watching, constellation maps and more. After check-in, we were offered the daily soup that was available all afternoon, plus champagne, a cocktail from the margarita machine and assorted beverages.

“It’s all about couples here, and we’re obsessive about the details,” says Terry.

Delivered to guest rooms between 9:30 and 10 p.m. each evening, vanilla ice cream and the inn’s signature port chocolate raspberry sauce crafted from Hermann’s Norton grapes accompanies heart-shaped shortbread chocolate chip or white chocolate chip cookies. In the cottages, the full-size kitchens stock this evening treat, plus milk for homemade granola, waffle mix, hot cocoa, tea, coffee beans and a grinder.

Guests can have breakfast delivered to their room. Six entrée options, chosen by email prior to arrival, can be toasted with a complimentary bloody Mary or mimosa. At the cottages, delivery came via a tiffin—stacked metal compartments clipped together that kept everything piping hot. Each month, a breakfast side dish features a different fruit or ingredient, such as blueberries or asparagus, alongside three printed recipes to take home.

Activities range from two scavenger hunts that include tasting coupons and the chance to earn a gift certificate by taking selfies at each stop, spa treatments, biking the Katy Trail and a three-mile historic town walk with guide book. A short walk delivered us to Stone Hill Winery, one of the area’s many award-winning vineyards, which offers tours and tastings.

Couples staying two nights receive a picnic lunch, checked tablecloth and $10 in Hermann bucks, redeemable at merchants and wineries. And for those looking to get married in wine country, Hermann Hill’s wedding coordinators can plan an outdoor wedding for up to 350 guests on the bluff overlooking the river or in the 300-seat chapel with a reception afterward.

Visit HermannHill.com for more information.

Gelbach Manor, Warrensburg

Besides a terrific location in the heart of Warrensburg, the drawing card of this craftsman-style home is its lovely backyard and patio.

In winter, guests can unthaw in the hot tub and, if weather permits, relax around the fire pit. Opening early in the season and closing in late-October, the heated pool boasts fountains, a slide and diving board. Guests can walk to downtown shops, restaurants and the Amtrak station. In the opposite direction, the University of Central Missouri campus and stadium lie several short blocks away.

In the early 1900s, the house was built for Margaret Maguire by her banker father. Margaret led a lavish lifestyle, and her home became a hub for Warrensburg’s social life. Silent movie star Charlie Chan, who was born in Warrensburg as Sidney Toler and a close friend of Margaret, stayed here when he traveled to the Midwest. Married five times, Margaret left the house to her only child, Charlene.

Doug and Rhonda Gelbach purchased the sandstone property in 1988 and raised their children here. Doug, a general contractor, eventually built an extensive addition on the back with both guest and private spaces. In 2006, Gelbach Manor opened its doors as a bed and breakfast. Rhonda warmly welcomes guests and oversees the bed and breakfast, which is decorated in a formal, traditional style.

Leaded and stained glass windows and oak woodwork grace the original house. Three bedrooms on the second floor share a bath while a fourth on the third floor contains a private bathroom. Each room has a flat screen television, cable and wi-fi. Off the patio and pool, the sunroom invites lounging on the comfy couch with a flat screen nearby. Baskets filled with beach towels cater to guests. Rhonda enjoys gardening, which is evident in her lovely flower beds and additional wisteria-covered side patio with a porch swing.

As a licensed caterer, Rhonda whips up a hearty breakfast starting with fresh fruit, an egg and meat dish and a baked item like a cinnamon roll, homemade banana bread or muffins. She also likes to serve biscuits and gravy, waffles, pancakes or French toast. Homemade jams and preserves, such as triple berry or cherry from local fruit, round out the menu.

“My mom was an excellent cook, and I love to experiment in the kitchen,” says Rhonda. “I really enjoy hosting and cooking for rehearsal dinners and showers.”

The Manor can accommodate up to 50 people using both inside and outside seating.”

Visit www.GelbachManor.com for more information.

Weston B&B, Weston

A world away but only 30 minutes from downtown Kansas City, the Weston Bed and Breakfast makes a welcome getaway.

Weston has become an artists’ haven where tree-shaded streets lead to a main thoroughfare lined with boutiques, galleries and several top-notch restaurants. Add to that several wineries and the Holladay Distillery tour, and there’s plenty to do in this charming river town.

Dick and Dotty Emery, both chiropractors by profession, bought the Victorian-era grand dame when they were living closer to Kansas City proper. Dotty had inherited antique furniture from her parents, which had been in storage for many years. It was time to sell or use it; the Emery’s chose the former. Today, Dotty’s favorite piece is a marble-topped light oak sideboard in the dining room.

“Our previous home was furnished Southwest-style, so we sold it all and bought this rather neglected 1895 house that would look great with our antiques,” says Dotty.

Renovations began immediately, which included refinishing the original pine floors found under the green, shag carpet. The house contained original hardwood trim and beveled glass windows.

In 2005, the Emery’s opened the bed and breakfast with two upstairs rooms. Eventually, they added a third room called the Celebration Suite. It’s often reserved for special occasions. A private porch overlooks the yard, and the faux-painted barrel ceiling and bathtub alcove are truly unique.

“Initially we’d only planned to have the alcove faux-painted,” says Dotty, “But the artist kept going, and, before we knew it, she was balancing on a board between the beams while painting the ceiling and faux pillars.”

The two-bedroom cottage next door was acquired by surprise when the Emery’s neighbor passed away and left the bungalow to them. Dotty enjoys flower gardening and, in season, brings blooms into the house and cottage.

In the mornings, coffee and tea, plus scrumptious cinnamon crispies from a secret recipe are served at 7 a.m. in the downstairs parlor. A three-course breakfast is served at 9 a.m. in the dining room or on the deck in nice weather. Recipes often come from local ladies who occasionally stop by with a new dish.

When my friend, Diane, and I visited for a girlfriend getaway, the main course was a sausage scramble, tossed red onions and halved grapes alongside scrambled eggs and mini hash brown casseroles.
After breakfast, we walked downtown for more shopping before heading back home. Just a note, do check store hours online, because many businesses are closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Visit WestonBedAndBreakfast.com for more information.

Hawthorn Bed and Breakfast, Independence

Beautifully constructed of Missouri limestone, Hawthorn Bed and Breakfast sits regally on two acres located near historic Independence Square. It’s an easy ten-minute drive to downtown Kansas City and Kaufmann and Arrowhead Stadiums.

Owners Jim and Wendy Allen warmly greeted my husband and I upon check-in and showed us around the 8,500-square-foot mansion.

Built in 1900 by John A. Gallagher as the family’s country home, it features hand-painted murals in the music room and two staircases—one for the family and the other for servants. The original ten-acre estate included a barn, pastures, livestock and numerous Hawthorn trees that inspired its name. The Gallaghers raised four children here, and Florence held socials for notable Independence women’s groups. After John’s death in 1923, she sold the property. Eventually, the mansion was used by the Westminster Presbyterian Church for 40 years.

After a restoration in 2000, Hawthorn opened as a bed and breakfast. Period furnishings, wicker on the cheery sunroom and wrought iron on the front terrace completed the renovation. Rooms were named in recognition of past owners.

In 2006, the Allens purchased Hawthorn. As avid travelers, they had stayed at B&Bs across the U.S and Europe. They added a $250 million expansion with a professional kitchen and owner’s quarters in order to “totally surrender the mansion to our guests.” The third floor Bibler Suite, their former living quarters, still contains personal items such as Jim’s father’s favorite chair.

“While we raised our children, I worked in human resources for 30 years. But I’d always wanted to run my own business,” says Jim. “It was Wendy’s desire to own an older home, so we fulfilled both of our dreams when we acquired Hawthorn.”

Wendy lends her green thumb and creativity to the lovely landscaping and the many events held on site. Jim happily relies on his hotel and restaurant management background and passion for cooking that began as a boy when he learned to cook alongside his mother.

For breakfast, small tables in the dining room and sunroom offer privacy and individual service. Jim’s three-course breakfast starts with a choice of six juices and seasonal fresh fruit topped with yogurt and granola. Next, the couple serves Jim’s raspberry muffins—a closely guarded secret recipe. Entrées change daily and, during our stay, cheese and sautéed vegetable omelets came with sausage and Jim’s seasoned potatoes like his mother cooked on the farm.

Guests often return several times throughout the year for Royals and Chief’s games and other happenings. Hawthorn hosts about two dozen weddings annually, plus parties, teas and numerous luncheons and dinners for up to 40 people. At the holidays, Wendy lavishly decorates the house and guest rooms, including 18 Christmas trees, a nod to her New England roots.

Visit HawthornBB.com for more information.

Napoleon's Retreat, St. Louis

Minutes from the St. Louis Arch, Napoleon’s Retreat offers the perfect getaway in the National Historic District of Lafayette.

Just down the street, picturesque Lafayette Park is surrounded on all four sides by the nation’s largest collection of Victorian-era homes. The park’s tall, black iron fence and surrounding painted ladies, is reminiscent of a scene straight out of Mary Poppins.

Within three blocks of the bed and breakfast, guests can choose from eight restaurants. Square One microbrewery sports a lovely, outdoor patio. Upscale 1111 Mississippi makes the perfect choice for special occasions. And Bailey’s Chocolate Bar has been rated one of the nation’s top ten dessert places by USA Today.

Owners Brian and Stacy Kistler bought the home in 2011 after relocating from Wisconsin ten years ago for Brian’s engineering job. When they were ready to buy, Stacy was driving to a business lunch and saw the “For Sale” sign in the yard. That evening, she talked to Brian about purchasing the property.

“Our first bed and breakfast experience was on our honeymoon in Ireland, and we loved it and talked about eventually owning one,” says Stacy, a former contract negotiator for consumer products. “Ironically, six years before we bought the inn, we actually stayed here in the Napoleon room for a week while we explored St. Louis.”

As the third owners, the Kistlers have remodeled most of this 1880s home. Sumptuous period furniture and antiques, high-quality linens and ultra-modern bathrooms make it a show-stopper. Among the contemporary conveniences added were flat screen televisions, on-demand cable and high-speed wireless internet.

Upon arrival, guests can enjoy complimentary, local beer on tap. In the morning, breakfast becomes a gourmet adventure. Stacey constantly looks for innovative recipes and buys her spices at the Soulard Farmers Market. She served my husband and I an egg roulade (egg roll up) filled with oven roasted tomatoes, bacon and gruyere cheese—so savory and beautifully presented that I asked for the recipe and served it this past Christmas morning. The accompanying chocolate strawberry shortcake also looked straight out of a photo shoot. Fresh fruit, juices, house-blend coffee and an assortment of teas are standard. Special dietary needs can be accommodated with 72-hours notice.

For additional pampering, Napoleon’s Retreat partners with MorganFord Salon & Spa to offer in-room massages. Stacy can arrange for a “welcome” bottle of wine or champagne, even a cupcake bouquet. For that ultimate celebration, a dozen roses, chilled champagne and chocolate truffles can be waiting in the room for $99.

“I remember the notable bed and breakfasts that we’ve stayed in, down to the details of what we ate,” says Stacy. “And I want Napoleon’s Retreat to be equally memorable to our guests.”

NapleonsRetreat.com for more information.