Themed hotels aren’t easy to pull off without veering into the absurd.
In the case of the president-themed Kilmarnock Inn, I can only imagine what owners with less tact and taste would have included in this small-town Virginia bed-and-breakfast.
Thankfully, there are no cardboard commanders in chief, no Madame Tussauds-like wax figures here. Mostly, the nod to America’s leaders is subtler, such as the presidential seal carpet that I walked right over on my way to the registration desk.
The biggest concession to the theme are the names of the buildings that make up the inn. The main building, a circa-1884 white house (ha!), contains the restaurant, a lounge and a few guest rooms. It’s called the Wilson House, after Woodrow.
The rest of the rooms are in a small village of six other cottages, named for the other Virginia-born chief executives — Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Harrison, Taylor-Tyler (they share one building) — prettily arranged around a central courtyard.
Signposts with presidential trivia sit in front of each room. (Example: “The father of fifteen, the most children of any president, Tyler was playing marbles when he learned that he was to be president.”) Because we’d decided to bring along our two Shih Tzu mixes, my husband and I reserved the Taylor room, one of several pet-friendly options.
Our room’s decor is simple but attractive. A few pieces of water-themed art — Kilmarnock is on Virginia’s Northern Neck peninsula, near the Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock River — hang on teal walls. The fishing rod-shaped lamps are cute but not too kitschy. I liked the ample seating — two armchairs and a desk chair.
The bathroom had thoughtful touches that you don’t often see, including a makeup mirror that folds in and out of the wall.
Some kind of caked-on stain on the comforter caught my eye. I returned to the Wilson House and requested a new comforter. An employee promptly set out to make the switch. When I came back, I noticed that the replacement was not pristine either.
After dinner, we popped into the Jefferson cottage to check out the “gathering room,” the centerpiece of which is a massive flat-screen television. There’s also a karaoke machine — just like they had at those rowdy Monticello parties, I bet.
In the morning, we sat down in the Wilson House for breakfast in a room with a hint of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in the white walls capped by a royal blue stripe. We chuckled at the Washington-themed entree names — the “Votes Are Stacked” pancakes, the “Filibuster French Toast.” What I really loved, though, was the fact that our room rate not only included breakfast, but also breakfast of our choosing from the restaurant’s full menu. Just like having a personal White House chef! Almost.
After breakfast, we decided to flout the cold on the inn’s five-hole putting green. Camp David it’s not, but my husband enjoyed taking a few swings.