By Nathan Ham
The small, quiet mountain town of Blowing Rock is now home to TripAdvisor’s top ranked bargain hotel in the United States.
The Mountainaire Inn and Log Cabins received this honorable distinction based on TripAdvisor’s 2018 Traveler’s Choice awards that are based on about 570 million user reviews of over 7 million rentals, flights, restaurants and other attractions.
Even more impressive was the worldwide ranking of the Mountainaire Inn. The property finished as the fourth best bargain hotel across the seven continents..
“We were very very surprised about that. That’s not really the kind of thing you can aspire to win. We knew we had been number one on TripAdvisor hotels for about four years and we’ve worked real hard to maintain that,” said Jim.
Only two properties in the United States made the top 25 in TripAdvisor’s best bargain hotels in the world category. Joining the Mountainaire Inn and Log Cabins was the Margaretta Inn in Machias, Maine. They ranked 14th on the list.
Jim and Deborah enjoyed making visits and taking vacations to the area, particularly with their daughter being a student at Appalachian State University. A friend of Jim’s in Gastonia informed him that the Mountainaire Inn was for sale in 2005. In February of 2006, the McDowell’s decided to take a trip to Blowing Rock and look at the inn. The couple fell in love with the place and purchased the property.
Jim had a full-time job in Raleigh at the time, leaving Deborah here to run the inn pretty much full-time by herself for eight years. Jim decided to retire four years ago and the couple has been here ever since.
According to Jim, the Mountainaire Inn puts a personal touch on everything, even the reservation process. Rooms cannot be reserved on third party websites, allowing for the innkeepers and their guests to put together a perfect plan for their stay.
“It may cost us some bookings, but we get to talk to most of our guests that are making reservations on the phone so we match up families and guests with what they’re looking for,” Jim said.
Being a part of the Blowing Rock community has been special for Jim and Deborah and their love for the town really shows.
“We’ve got this saying ‘living the dream,’ where you can live in town, your friends are there, it’s a small town, you know what’s going on with the town council and it’s pretty easy to find a way to plug in and contribute, help and be a part of the community,” Jim said. “Everybody is friendly, we’ve gotten to know a lot of people in Blowing Rock.”
The Mountainaire Inn has a little over 600 reviews on TripAdvisor with 97 percent of those being ranked as “excellent” or “very good.”
“Our staff works very hard to provide an enjoyable experience from reservation to checkout,” Jim said. “This is the best compliment we can hope to receive.”
Jim also praised his housekeeping staff for their hard work in cleaning the rooms and cabins and getting them turned around quickly for their next guests.
Jim’s wife, Deborah, told High Country Press that she treats the Mountainaire’s 11 rooms and 13 cabins like an extension of their home.
“It takes a whole team to do what we did,” Deborah said. “We just treat people the way we’d want when we go out.”
The Mountainaire Inn was built in 1954 and now features five downtown cabins and eight cabins that are roughly two miles from the Main Street location. The inn provides complimentary morning coffee, tea and hot chocolate, free wi-fi and numerous movies, books, games and High Country information at the lobby.
Find out more about Mountainaire Inn and Log Cabins online at TripAdvisor or on their website at www.mountainaireinn.com.
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