BBOnline Member SINCE 1996

Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn

5825 N. Jefferson Street, Burlington, Kentucky 41005
Innkeeper(s): Nancy & Bob Swartzel
  • Introduction

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn front of inn


    12 minutes from Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport, 20 minutes from downtown Cincinnati & Covington and 25 minutes from the Newport Aquarium

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn kitchenWelcome to Burlington's Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn. Experience a taste of sophisticated charm and relaxed country living at the edge of this small rural town. We encourage you to stay at our inn as part of your travel plans and to explore the town and country feel of the surrounding historic area. Choose between our two masterfully restored early and mid-1800s buildings: the 1850s William Rouse log cabin and the 1830s Willis Graves Federal brick homestead.

    For leisure and business travelers, our accommodations go far beyond traditional hotel lodging. Details such as triple sheeting with luxury linens, down comforters, extra pillows, plush robes and towels, and fresh baked cookies are already in place when you arrive. For your convenience, guests may also enjoy wireless high-speed Internet, cable television and DVD players, and our comprehensive movie collection.

    In every detail, from the luxurious whirlpool baths and steam showers to our full gourmet breakfast served on individual tables dressed in white linens, your comfort is our top priority. Explore our website to learn more about our amenities, additional pampering is available upon request.

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn fireplace

    Other intriguing 19th century landmarks and the "big city" lights of Cincinnati, Ohio, await you just moments away. Skiing, riverboat gambling, Newport Aquarium, historical museums, shopping, fine dining, and other attractions are all within close proximity to our inn. Click here for more information about area attractions and things to do during your stay.

    Our pledge is to make your visit as enjoyable as possible and to help you get the rest and relaxation you need. We hope you will find yourself returning again and again.

    Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn is your ideal Northern Kentucky lodging choice whether you select one of our rooms or suites, the inn offers luxurious surroundings for rest and relaxation.

    It is our hope that guests leave with a desire to return again and again. Because your comfort is our main concern, we provide steam showers, air-jet whirlpool bathtubs, fireplaces, top quality mattresses, fine luxury linens, and soft robes. Both residences have central air-conditioning and heating to maintain comfort year round. For your convenience, we also provide high-speed Internet access, televisions, DVD and CD players, and telephone service.

    The Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn offers an exceptional value in Northern Kentucky lodging.

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn couches
    Pampering - Our pledge is to make your visit as enjoyable as possible and to help you get the rest and relaxation you need.

    Each room includes:

    • Plush cotton terry robes
    • Thick, thirsty towels
    • Mattresses and bedding of the highest quality
    • Homemade cookies on your pillow
    • A full gourmet breakfast individualized to meet your dietary needs
    • A variety of DVDs, magazines, and books for your entertainment

    Special add-on options are available to enhance your stay and may be added to any reservation request. Visit our Specials & Packages page to learn about various selections such as chocolate covered strawberries, in-room massage therapy, picnic lunches, and fresh flower arrangements.

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn snow

  • Insider's Info

    Travelers are always looking for memorable and relaxing experiences. Let’s discover more through the words of our innkeepers. Many thanks to Nancy Swartzel for sharing her own secrets with!
    Why do most travelers stay at your inn?

    Anniversary or Birthday; They love the full breakfast, great bathrooms and excellent service.

    What are you best known for? What makes your inn unique? What do you love most about your inn?

    Our breakfast, Crème Brulee French Toast, unique 1850 restored log cabin.

    If someone has never been to your city, what is the #1 reason to come visit?

    Cincinnati has lots to offer... pro sports, great place to dine, historic sites.

    What’s the best compliment you have ever received about the inn?

    "My husband and I stayed here after dropping off our son at college and becoming 'Empty Nesters'. The Inn is as quaint as promised and a collector's dream. The perfect place for the antique lover with an occasional outdoor antique market going on right down the road. Great and playful collections are tastefully displayed everywhere and keep your eyes wandering. Nancy provides a very welcoming atmosphere where you feel you can be as private or public as you wish. We stayed in Mr. and Mrs. Graves’s suite which is the perfect culmination of the old and the new with luxurious linens and a state of the art bathroom. We could choose to sit on a private porch or sit on the communal porch on the back of the house. We did both. I guess Nancy is a natural innkeeper. She is a vibrant, fun and outgoing person who makes you feel at home immediately. The women that help her were carefully chosen, I am sure. Breakfast was amaaazing. I am so looking forward to our next stay and try out the room in the cabin. We will be back!"

    What’s the best kept secret about the area?

    We don't keep anything good a secret.

    If a traveler is staying at your inn for 4 nights, what should he/she do in the area?

    Visit all of the historic sites in Boone County; eat at the Tousey House several times along with fine dining in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
    Use the park just down the road to, great bike paths and walking trails. Enjoy relaxing and doing nothing or watch a movie from over 400 movie collection.

    Is there anything within walking distance of your inn?

    The England Idlewild Park, the Boone County Fairgrounds, and the small little historic town of Burlington.

    What is your favorite restaurant/food in the area?

    The Tousey House Tavern located just around the corner.

    Any good area guides/websites that travelers could reference?

    Our website has good information.

    How many rooms does your inn have?

    We have 5 rooms; two of them are suites.

    Do you accept pets?

    We do not allow pets. We recommend our vet's own pet day spa, Erlanger Day Spa.

  • Breakfast

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn

    Breakfast at this Northern Kentucky Bed and Breakfast is Special for many reasons. Maybe it’s the antique wooden tables dressed in white linen tablecloths and blue china. Perhaps it’s the rich, hot coffee aroma from freshly brewed French Roast or possibly the soft music playing in the background. Whatever the reason, breakfast at the Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn is a perfect compliment to your stay.

    Your choice of a full gourmet or quick continental breakfast is included each morning.

    You can choose among such favorites as crème brûlée French toast, lemon waffles with blackberries, baked eggs and mushrooms in ham crisps, or a side dish of fresh fruit arranged in rainbow colors with homemade granola. All our dishes reflect our effort to present your meal with an artistic, attractive flair.

    We have a wide and varied menu and do our best to accommodate your dietary requests. If you are interested in recipes visit our blog at or contact us to purchase a copy of Room at the Table, the new Bed and Breakfast Association of Kentucky cookbook.

  • About the Innkeepers

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn snow Things have a way of working out. If Nancy and Bob Swartzel had to guess early on, they would have never dreamed they would be living in Boone County or running a bed and breakfast. After the complete restoration of the Federal house in 1995, Nancy's parents became the innkeepers. By 2001, it had gotten to be too much for Nancy's parents to run. Nancy and Bob had to make a decision.

    Nancy and Bob lived in Edgewood, Kentucky (suburbia), a no weeds in the yard kind of place. They knew that they didn't want an empty house. Their two children, at the time in college, were not living at home. Nancy and Bob asked them what they thought about selling the house that they were raised in, and they were fine with the idea. (Now the kids say, "Never sell the bed and breakfast.")

    The decision to become innkeepers came at the perfect time. Years before, it would have been difficult to sell the house in Edgewood with so many memories, but one day it became the right thing to do. They don't regret selling the house, maybe because the bed and breakfast has so many memories as well. It was an easy adjustment - Nancy says the hardest part was getting rid of all the stuff that accumulates over the years.

    These days, life sure is different compared to living in Edgewood. Nancy says that innkeeping requires 3 major things: You need to be a morning person, like people, and have lots of energy. Everyday these three things are necessary, along with a multitude of other skills.

    Their daughter, who now lives in a big city, says that everything smells "green and good" when she comes home. Their son, who is in the Navy, helps with just about anything mechanical. He is responsible for the pleasant sound of music all around the house, inside and out, along with other home improvement projects. His Weimaraner, Lola, lives with the Swartzels.

    Nancy and Bob's kid's rooms may be long gone, but there are plenty of rooms for guests visiting the bed and breakfast, many of whom find themselves returning again and again to this special place.

  • Guest Comments

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn walkway to inn"You have restored the Americana I have long admired in an authentic and gracious way. Thanks for making my weekend!" - Terre Haute, IN

    "Lovely retreat and absolutely beautiful breakfast."- Lima, OH

    "I love your place. Thank you so much for making us feel so welcome."- Warren, OH

    "This was absolutely perfect. Very friendly, clean, quiet and romantic. The nicest little getaway."- Cincinnati, OH

    "Beautiful and historic, charming and quiet. I feel spoiled! Thank you!"- Portland, OR

    "I've stayed in five-star hotels in Asia, Europe, and the USA, but would rate this as the best any day".- Chicago, IL

    "I travel on business a lot and finding a place like this to call home for a night is more than one could hope for."- California

    "This place is amazing feels more like a vacation than work. I will be back."- Lexington, KY

    "And I've been staying in a hotel for 2 years!? What a nice change, I'll see you next week."- Princeton, IN

    "We look forward to coming back, and each time your home is more beautiful. And of course, the food is always excellent."-Santa Ava, CA

    "vWhat a fantastic place for our wedding night. Thanks for making our night special."- Cincinnati, OH

    "Thank you kindly!"- Bonnieux, France

    "This is by far my favorite place to stay. Thanks for making it so special. Hope to be back"- Hilo, HI

    "Wonderful hospitality. A home away from home, thank you."Windermere, England

  • Leisure Traveler

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn

    Here's just a few of the many reasons to choose the Burlington's Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn as your Northern Kentucky vacation getaway:

    • If you live in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area, we offer the perfect place for a last minute reservation or mini-vacation
    • Wish an upcoming birthday, anniversary, or reunion could be truly memorable? We can help
    • Perhaps you are just married, about to ask, or are finally empty nesting. Our guests tell us we provide a truly romantic getaway
    • Our inn property is traversed by a meandering little creek and borders the Boone County Fairgrounds. The annual county fair, several horse shows, and seven nationally known antique shows take place at the fairgrounds each year
    • The Cabin Arts and Quilt Shop, around the bend from our inn, is one of several small merchants who do business in the quiet town of Burlington
  • Business Traveler

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn business

    At our Kentucky bed and breakfast inn we understand what business travelers need. But don't just take our word for it, read what other Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky business travelers have to say about the Burlington’s Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn:

    "This escape into an evening of luxury and comfort was the perfect medicine for a frequent business traveler. I travel weekly in various states and the generic hotel chains make the nights away from home seem long. This evening was a sheer treat. Thank you for all the big and small touches that add to make an evening at your B&B a delight. I will look for a reason to return and refer others. This was a welcome night which gave me the refreshment I needed."

    "I’ve stayed in five-star hotels in Asia, Europe, and the USA, but would rate this as the best any day." - Chicago, IL

    "I travel on business a lot and finding a place like this to call home for a night is more than one could hope for." - California

    "This place is amazing…feels more like a vacation than work. I will be back.” - Lexington, KY

    "And I’ve been staying in a hotel for 2 years!? What a nice change, I’ll see you next week." - Princeton, IN

    Please call us or visit our website for the current corporate travel rate. It is valid for any room Sunday through Thursday, single occupancy.

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn teaConsider how it will feel to stay somewhere that offers the following:

    • Fresh baked cookies on pillows
    • Excellent coffee and teas
    • Full menu including heart healthy options
    • Whirlpools, steam showers, and fireplaces
    • High-speed Internet access/and plug in
    • Desk for writing and computer use
    • Fan in each guest room
    • Iron and ironing board
    • Excellent furnishings and top quality mattresses
    • Cable tv and DVD player with free on-site movies
    • CD players in all rooms
    • Refrigerators and microwaves
    • Triple sheeting
    • Down comforters or alternative type
    • Two types of pillows
    • Soft robes and towels
    • Flexible check in times
    • Choice of a quick continental or full gourmet breakfast
    • Early breakfast times available, guests dine at their own table or in suites
    • Private parking lot
    • Owner/innkeeper live on property in their own private innkeeper’s space (not shared with guests)
    • Historic Town and Country atmosphere
    • A dog on property (in owner/innkeeper's private living space)
    • Relaxing porches
    • 9 miles to Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati International Airport
    • Taxi and laundry service just around the corner
    • Restaurants and shopping within minutes
    • Perfect location for small meetings
    • Frequent guests may take advantage of the Golden Quill Loyalty Travel Program offered by Select Registry
    • Helpful Innkeepers
  • History

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn front sign

    History of Burlington's Willis Graves

    Originally founded as Craigs Camp in 1799, the settlement was renamed Wilmington in 1800. Around 1816, it changed to Burlington and became the county seat of Boone County, Kentucky.

    Willis Graves was a prominent political figure in county government at the time, and served as county clerk during the new century's early decades. Sometime in the 1830s, he built an attractive federal brick home that featured Flemish bond brickwork and federal style mantels. This was the future home of Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn.

    Diamond in the Rough

    For many years, Cincinnatians Nancy and Bob Swartzel routinely passed the Willis Graves home, without a glance, on their way to the Burlington Antique Show at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

    By then, the house was sporting dirty, white siding and a hip roof over the front porch.

    One day a "For Sale" sign appeared in the yard and they took a closer look. In December of 1991, the Swartzels bought the property and began renovation under the direction of Master-carpenter Bob Brames.

    Brames and his wife Jean (who are Nancy's parents) worked with Nancy and Bob as they all poured sweat and determination into the project. In August 1995, the inn opened for business. It was declared a National Register of Historic Places Home on June 19, 1979.

    Cabin Rescue

    About ten years after purchasing the Federal house, the Swartzels made another purchase - for $1 - to salvage a second historic landmark. This time it was an 1850s log cabin, originally owned by farmer William C. Rouse.

    The cabin sat squarely in the middle of a proposed runway at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. It was wrapped in battered white siding and lined with layers of faded wallpaper. Nancy and Bob arranged to have the two hundred and sixteen poplar logs dismantled and hauled on flat bed trucks over four miles to their inn. After two years of reassembly and renovation, their log cabin getaway opened to guests in November 2004.

  • Holidays at Burlington's Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn snow day

    During the holidays, there is no shortage of decorations at Burlington's Willis Graves Bed and Breakfast Inn. It takes everyone almost two weeks to decorate the main house and log cabin. Rooms are available during the holidays unless otherwise posted.

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn living room

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn

  • Area Attractions

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn burlington

    Please visit our Local Attractions page at a list of area activities and web site links.

  • How to Find Us

    Burlington's Willis Graves Bed & Breakfast Inn

    From I-75

    • Our exit number from I-75/I-71 is #181. If traveling south on I-71/75, the exit before our exit is #182 and is called Turfway. If traveling north on I-71/75, the exit before our exit is #180 and is called Union
    • Take KY 18 West to center of Burlington
    • Turn right on Jefferson Street (Route 338)
    • Follow to bed and breakfast (at 2nd bend in road on the left)

    From Airport

    • Take I-275 West to Route 237 and go South
    • Continue to KY 18 and turn right
    • Go to center of Burlington and turn right on Jefferson Street (Route 338)
    • Follow to bed and breakfast (at 2nd bend in road on the left)