Secluded, Colonial-Inspired Bed and Breakfast
At age 8, Martin Mongiello was already planning elaborate—albeit imaginary—dinner parties. About 20 years later, he was at the White House, serving as President Bill Clinton’s executive chef. Today, Mongiello runs The Inn of the Patriots, named Best of the South and Best Place to Enjoy History by BedandBreakfast.com. Built in 1879, the inn once served as the home of a former Civil War surgeon. Today, it’s home to a culinary institute where you can learn cooking tips from some of the country’s best chefs or simply dine on their artfully crafted cuisine. With options three and four of this deal, you’ll attend at least one four- to five-hour BYOB cooking class conducted “Iron Chef style” with surprise ingredients.
The bed and breakfast reflects its historical roots with colonial decor and antique furniture, including queen-size sleigh beds and period fireplaces. Each of the rooms and suites has been individually decorated according to a theme. The Oceanicus Blue Dreams suite sports a naval look, showcasing an eclectic collection of items ranging from spyglasses and iron handguns to love letters from Civil War sailors to their wives. A Pacific Rim motif enlivens the golden-hued Magnificent Polynesian room, which is filled with memorabilia from Mongiello's culinary travels throughout Asia. As for breakfast, The Inn of the Patriots invites guests to wake up to the same food prepared for presidents and other dignitaries, accented by local syrups and hand-cut potatoes.
The chef's experiences also inspired his collection of cookware and fine china dating back to the Jefferson administration on display at the onsite Presidential Culinary Museum. Other artifacts include a display of James Polk's favorite recipe and a large stockpile of William Howard Taft's edible mustaches. For a living-history lesson, guided tours of the museum sometimes include costumed actors in full colonial garb.
Cleveland County, North Carolina: Small Railroad Towns and Revolutionary War Battle Sites
One of Cleveland County’s southernmost towns, Grover sits near the border with South Carolina. It's a former railroad town whose restored turn-of-the-century houses lend it a vintage look. Nearby Blacksburg, South Carolina, was the site of the pivotal Battle of Kings Mountain during the American Revolution—a battle that managed to halt the British advance into North Carolina. A monument, exhibits, and a 1.5-mile battlefield trail commemorate that victory at Kings Mountain National Military Park, located just 15 minutes from The Inn of the Patriots.
For a taste of modern-day Cleveland County, head to the award-winning Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard, where you can sample up to 12 wines (tours are only available Thursday–Sunday). Other stops show off the area's culinary prowess, with farm-fresh American fare and seafood at NiFen Bistro in Shelby and dessert at Carolina Crossing Restaurant in Grover.
Read the Fine Print for important info on travel dates and other restrictions.