8 offbeat American hotels and motels
Monday, January 22, 2018
For a variety of reasons, most RVers will on occasion opt to park their rig in favor of a hotel or motel room. What they'll find is that the majority of roadside lodging choices these days consist of cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill chain properties that, while adequate, can be underwhelming for seasoned travelers.
While predictable (read boring) may be fine in some situations, there are a few hotels and motels out there that break the mold by offering unique, entertaining and sometimes even bizarre lodging experiences. Here are eight properties that definitely qualify as unconventional.
1. Madonna Inn
San Luis Obispo, California
While it has its zany side to be sure, the Madonna Inn is a highly rated resort — complete with a pair of restaurants, a bakery, spa and boutique — that has been serving California's Central Coast wine country visitors since 1958.
Named not for the singer, but for its imaginative owners Alex and Phyllis Madonna, the inn's 110 rooms are what set it apart from the ordinary. Each room is dramatically decorated in a different theme or motif.
"Caveman" and "Rock Bottom," for example feature rock walls, floors and showers. The décor of "Love Nest" looks to have been inspired by a Hallmark Valentine card. "Old Mill" greets its guests with, yes, a built-in water wheel. Such dizzying décor prompted one reviewer to write, "It's a mecca of kitsch."
2. Queen Mary
Long Beach, California
Nestled dockside in downtown Long Beach, this relic from the opulent glory days of ocean cruising offers a hotel experience like no other in America. Built in Scotland in 1934 and launched by Cunard in 1936, RMS Queen Mary sailed the world's oceans until 1967 when she was retired and converted to a hotel, museum and dining destination operated by the City of Long Beach.
At 1,019 feet in length (considerably larger than the legendary Titanic), the Queen features several restaurants, bars, lounges and boutiques, a spa and fitness center, banquet and conference facilities, acres of museum exhibits — and 346 staterooms and suites. Replete with brass and polished wood, the ship is a masterpiece of Art Deco design. In short, it's a hotel fit for a queen.
3. Wigwam Motel
The Wigwam Motel opened in 1950 and still entertains guests who take up lodging in its 15 concrete "teepees."
Arizona's long, well-preserved stretch of Old Route 66 reveals many treasures from the past — none more iconic than the Wigwam Motel. It opened in 1950 and still entertains guests who take up lodging in its 15 concrete "teepees."
Astute observers might take issue with the fact that these 32-foot-tall structures are in fact teepees not wigwams. The latter were dome-shaped stationary dwellings, while tent-like teepees were made to be portable. Nonetheless, guests from the world over enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to spend a night in a wigwam, er teepee. Reservations are a must.
4. Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court
Shady Dell's epic story began in 1927 as a roadside haven providing trailer and camping spaces to weary travelers along Highway 80, which stretched from Savannah, Georgia, to San Diego, California. Decades later, that last-century atmosphere still prevails in the quirky Southern Arizona copper mining town of Bisbee.
Nowadays, the former layover for long-distance travelers is a popular destination for vintage enthusiasts and those who simply seek something different in the way of lodging.
Guests can choose to bed down in one of Shady Dell's 11 vintage aluminum travel trailers — from manufacturers such as Airstream, Spartan, Boles Aero and El Rey — all meticulously restored and authentically decorated with period furnishings and accessories. In keeping with the times, media accessories include old-fashioned phonographs that play 78 rpm records and televisions that broadcast in just two colors.
5. Dog Bark Park Inn
The obvious is unmistakable as one approaches this bizarre B&B: The place is shaped like a giant beagle. Making things all the more unusual, guests actually sleep inside this 32-foot-tall dog, named Sweet Willy.
A pet project (no pun intended) of married chainsaw artists Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin, Dog Bark Park is reminiscent of the roadside architecture (coffee pot cafes, etc.) popular in the early days of automobile vacation travel. Sweet Willy, decorated with canine-inspired furnishings, sleeps four guests, who enter the Beagle's body from a second-story deck and are treated to dog-shaped biscuits left on their pillows.
6. Stanley Hotel
Estes Park, Colorado
The Stanley served as the inspiration for horror novelist Steven King's 1977 bestseller "The Shining" and the 1980 film adaptation of the same title.
For better or worse, the Stanley has gained a reputation as one of the nation's most haunted hotels. With good reason, too, as it served as the inspiration for horror novelist Steven King's 1977 bestseller "The Shining" and the 1980 film adaptation of the same title. Reports of paranormal activity abound to this day.
Designed and built in 1909 by Oscar Stanley (of Stanley Steamer fame), this is a gorgeous old hotel that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While guests who harbor fears of ghosts might find the Stanley a bit unnerving, others flock to it in hopes of experiencing something weird.
7. Beckham Creek Cave Lodge
Cavemen, as we normally think of them today, would have never had it anywhere near this good. Billed as the world's most luxurious cave accommodation, the Beckham Lodge is located high on a bluff overlooking the Buffalo River Valley in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
It is a stunning example of organic architecture wrapped into a natural cavern, complete with a rushing waterfall. Deftly structured within the cave, the 6,000-square-foot lodge is comprised of a large living room, kitchen and dining area and four bedrooms — all designer furnished. This is a high-end retreat (rates start at $1,200/night) for those of means who seek a lodging experience like no other.
8. Saugerties Lighthouse
Saugerties, New York
The Saugerties Lighthouse features two rooms — the East Room, overlooking the river and the West Room, facing the Catskills. Views in all directions are spectacular.
Lighthouses capture the imagination in ways few buildings can. There are several hundred of them — most dating from the 1800s — still standing along the nation's coastlines, lakes and rivers, but only a few offer the unparalleled opportunity to spend the night. Saugerties, an imposing brick beacon on the Hudson River, is one of them.
Accessible only by walking a half-mile trail (that floods at high tide and is often muddy), the lighthouse features two rooms — the East Room, overlooking the river and the West Room, facing the Catskills. Views in all directions are spectacular.
Both rooms, located on the second floor, are furnished with simple, comfortable furniture, much as they would have been when the lighthouse began operation in 1869. Resident Keeper Patrick Landewe serves a hearty breakfast. The B&B is open to guests Thursday through Sunday nights year-round except February.
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