A Gone With the Wind themed hotel. Yes, that is exactly the type of place where I would love to stay. I first learned about Tara some years ago and at the time the idea of spending $300 on a hotel room for one night seemed a bit extreme and so I pushed it to the back in my head. But time has passed, things are different, and while I still try to spend money judiciously when I travel, I have no qualms with splurging every now and then and let me say that Tara was oh so worth it.
As D and I hadn’t traveled anywhere since our Utah adventure back in early March, I was itching to go somewhere. While we normally travel on Memorial Day weekend, with our big trip happening less than two weeks later, I couldn’t justify the time or cost to hop on a plane and so I started looking locally and that’s how Tara reentered my head.
James and Donna Winner are the masterminds behind Tara. Their fortune from the invention of the Club (the anti-theft steering wheel device which my dad still religiously uses) allowed them to purchase an abandoned building that dates from 1854 in the small western Pennsylvania town of Clark. It opened in 1986 and almost 30 years later has a total of 27 guest rooms thanks to two additions to the main building and years of design evolution.
When I say it’s Gone with the Wind themed, it truly is. Ten of the 27 rooms are taken directly from GWTW (Belle’s Boudoir, Fiddle Dee Dee), although the other ones are all tied to the “Old South” and Civil War references as well. But throughout the house one will find troves of GWTW memorabilia, including photographs from the film’s set, various knickknacks, and even a parlor named after the lovable but clueless Aunt Pittypat. Bathrooms also featured a towel rack that was modeled after the character of Mammy.
Of the 27 rooms, two of them are suites, and three are premium. The rest are standard but believe me when I say they’re still exceptional. I had somewhat of a hard time (in a good way) deciding on which room to go with. I knew that I wanted one with a whirlpool tub (a few of the rooms don’t have this). I debated between the Carolinas and Hearts of the South, although I ended up going with the former as I liked the look of the room more from the pictures I saw.
Not only was the room massive, but it was just quite welcoming and stunning between the massive four poster bed, the many sitting chairs, and the lovely wallpaper found on the ceiling. To enter the whirlpool tub you actually had to climb down which was a bit awkward when testing the water temperature and eventually entering it, but nothing you can’t survive. The bathroom looked a bit outdated, and the shower itself was somewhat tiny, but for a night these things are nominal. The room featured a DVD player and at the checkin area, there was a case of DVDs you could borrow to watch during your stay. Had we been spending more than a night I probably would have taken advantage of this!
For me, one of the biggest draws (besides it being GWTW themed) was that the hotel featured not only an indoor pool but also an outdoor one. While Tara is obviously more than just a bed and breakfast due to the number of rooms it has, it still has a bed and breakfast feel to it and pools (generally speaking) are just not something you find. As the weather cooperated that day, we were able to swim outdoors and it was lovely. The indoor pool looked nice enough but nothing is as welcoming as an outdoor pool. There was also a billiards room and sauna, although we only walked by them.
On Saturdays and Sundays, tours of the inn are offered describing the history of the home as well as the antiques found there (we arrived too late to partake).
And if you’re looking for a place to simply wander outdoors, this it is. The grounds are massive and feature a slew of beautiful garden areas complete with dozens of Frederick Remington bronzes.
Food & drink
Tara is home to two restaurants (Ashley’s and Stonewall’s Tavern) along with a full service bar. Ashley’s offers diners a seven-course meal and while it is a great steal at only $75 per person, I couldn’t justify the spending since we’d be having plenty of extravagant meals on our upcoming trip (it’s also jacket and tie for the men). So we ended up going with Stonewall’s and I don’t regret my decision one bit. I’ll be posting a full review of our meal there but both Tara restaurants are open to the general public to dine at (i.e. you don’t need to be a guest in order to dine there, just make reservations in advance).
I was too tired and stuffed from dinner to grab a drink at the Atlanta lounge but I definitely will the next time I’m there.
As part of your room rate, a full breakfast (or buffet breakfast if you’re there on Sunday) is included. This is phenomenal since we’re talking full on home cooked meal here, not like the free breakfasts at hotel chain locations (I know, comparing apples and oranges). As I had to work that day, we had to leave before brunch started but thankfully for us, the regular breakfast was served on Sundays from 7-10 AM (brunch starts at 11 AM).
Our waitress was delightful (very personable and the lovely quintessential small-town person in terms of her friendliness). We had our choice of a breakfast pastry (either a danish or muffin), and then either a fresh fruit cup or broiled grapefruit. I was anxious to try the latter, although I wasn’t the biggest fan of the raspberry sauce which just seemed like overkill. We then both ordered Tara’s French Toast for our main course and it was delicious, probably some of the best French toast I’ve ever had. It came with a choice of either ham, sausage, or bacon. Other breakfast options included a seared strip steak, smoked salmon hash, pan seared catfish(!), eggs Benedict and scores more.
The standard rooms cost $250 a night (for reference, suites are $350). After our extremely disappointing stay at the Stonewall Resort last summer, I’m somewhat apprehensive to stay at a place where the nightly rates are high. However, Tara was worth every penny (and more). In addition to the lovely room and complimentary breakfast several other things were included as part of your rate:
-After checking in, we were given glasses of either apple cider or champagne
-A welcome plate in your room featured a bottle of champagne, cheese, crackers, a cookie (with our names on it), fresh fruit, and bottles of water
-Afternoon tea (on the simpler side, but still a wonderful touch)
-A hospitality hour (only on Friday and Saturday nights). We skipped this since we wanted to get in time to swim before dinner, but a nice touch all the same as it allowed you to meet with the inn’s staff and other guests
-Turn down service which included a plate of homemade chocolates-I don’t think anything tops homemade chocolate, am I right?
-Help yourself coffee service which began at 6 AM
I truly loved everything about my stay at Tara. It’s a lovely place, one of the most unique spots you’ll ever stay at, and the fact that it was only an hour’s drive for us made it all the more terrific. Not to mention, since every room is different, all the more reason to return again, hopefully soon!