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Classic American stays: stylish and offbeat motels in the USA

You’ve seen them in movies, you’ve read them in books; These roadside accommodations, with their big, bright neon signs, are one of the most tangible symbols of American culture. So what exactly is a motel and what are the differences between a hotel and a motel? Motels designed for motor vehicle users (the name ‘motel’ is derived from the words ‘motor hotel’) are low-rise buildings that usually prefer the side of highways, compared to hotels that prefer city centres. While the layout of a motel is usually designed to face outward, hotel doors often face a corridor inside the building. Now that you know a little about the subject, here is our list of 9 of our favorite motels that will make your trip to the USA memorable.

Farmer’s Daughter Hotel, Los Angeles, California

Located in Los Angeles, Farmer’s Daughter Hotel exudes a relaxed and modest vibe. The motel’s guests include mixed groups ranging from cosmopolitan tourists to budget-conscious families. The motel’s history dates back to the 1960s, when it was a meeting point for tourists, celebrities, and television executives. After an extensive overhaul in 1990, the venue attained a status between a traditional two-story motel and an extraordinary boutique hotel. While the rooms are pretty standard, you’ll wake up to a cheerful mood every day thanks to the motel’s vibrant yellow color, farm animal posters adorning the walls, country-style rugs, and comfortable rocking chairs.

Top tip: Other features of the motel include a small pool just outside the lobby, bike rentals, and a restaurant called Tart, which specializes in Southern-style American fare and serves endless Bloody Mary cocktails.

When Pennsylvania Railroads decided to sell the 19 wagons in 1969, Donald Denlinger submitted an offer. Thus, the Red Caboose Motel & Restaurant was born. Located on the edge of the Strasburg Railroad and an hour’s drive from Philadelphia, the motel offers 38 wagons in a variety of colors, all decorated with different railroad symbols. The motel also has an original dining car where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you feel the food car moving, you don’t have to worry – it’s just a simulation to make you feel like you’re eating on a moving train.

For train enthusiasts: scale model trains and various items made from train parts are also sold in the motel’s gift shop.

Ace Hotel & Swim Club, Palm Springs, CA

How about partying at a motel in the middle of the desert? If the answer is yes, you can find what you are looking for here! Located in Palm Springs, home of the Coachella summer music festival, Ace Hotel & Swim Club combines 1950s motel style with record players, turntables, art-like cocktails and a photo booth. The motel offers a range of rooms, from standard king-size beds filled with materials from Rudy’s Barbershop to rooms with terrace fireplaces or terrace gardens. All rooms feature vintage furnishings and posters, shutter-design walls, and handcrafted bedspreads.

Top tip: Still, the motel’s biggest appeal is its year-round outdoor pool with hammocks, fruity cocktails, dance music by DJs, and an ice cream cart bar serving alcoholic ice cream cones. The opportunity to party until late at the pool, which is open until 2 am, awaits you.

Thunderbird Marfa, Marfa, Texas

Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd met several architects intent on preserving the original architecture of the classic 1950s motel, resulting in a modern-looking motel with a retro feel. Locally run and with just 24 rooms, Thunderbird Marfa is a small, stylish and welcoming motel located in the desert city of Marfa, Texas. There are not many interior decoration items, but you will have no trouble noticing the comfortable platform beds, colorful bedspreads in Peruvian patterns, original works and photographs adorning the walls, and the natural light that fills the rooms.

There is also a communal pool where you can cool off outside, as temperatures can reach extremes. In addition to its standard features, the motel also offers typewriters and turntables that can be rented.

Spin and Margie’s Desert Hide-a-Way, Joshua Tree, California

Spin and Margie’s Desert Hide-a-Way motel is located on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park, which is home to Joshua trees and rocky terrain. If you are looking for a piece of color in the middle of the dusty desert, you are in the right place. Brightly colored cottages, cozy common areas, and miscellaneous items like road signs, birdhouses, and rusted tins in the motel make it a retreat you’ll never want to leave. These cottages, which are very comfortable and include kitchens, come with nice features such as deep soaking tubs and bath salts.

Kate’s Lazy Meadow, Mount Tremper, New York

Want to get away from New York and find some peace of mind? Take a two-hour drive north and spend a few nights at Kate’s Lazy Meadow. Located next to a peaceful creek near the Catskill Mountains, Kate’s Lazy Meadow is dedicated to the colorful times of the 1950s. With its tiki head symbols, atomic-age furniture, whimsical color schemes, and kitchens with vintage cabinets, refrigerators, and stoves, no detail is overlooked in the motel’s huts. Kate Pierson, co-founder of the motel and also a member of the rock band The B-52’s, calls it a ‘hut fire fantasy’.

Top tip: The motel has eight suites to choose from and three secluded cottages eight kilometers from the main building, some with pet-friendly features. While cell phones are not working here, all rooms have Wi-Fi, landlines, and a collection of old VHS tapes. So all you have to do is put a tape on the video and relax on the sofa!

Miracle Manor Retreat, Desert Hot Springs, California

You can find Desert Hot Springs, a city of hot springs, at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains. This region, as the name suggests, is rich in hot springs believed to have a healing effect. Run by a Los Angeles designer duo, Miracle Manor Retreat is a motel spa focused on natural riches and a simple aesthetic. Sage soaps, organic cotton bed linens and khaki walls will make you feel like you’re staying in the desert.

Top tip: Although staying here means a simple life as there is no TV and phone, you can consider alternatives such as contemplating life by watching the mountains, reading a book or trying one of the spa services. It is said that the best massage therapists in town also work here.

Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho

Have you ever heard of the art of carving with a chainsaw? Husband and wife Dennis and Frances have been woodcarving for over 30 years, creating various works of art and especially love to make dogs. In 2003, they opened the Dog Bark Park Inn, a dog-shaped motel in Cottonwood, Idaho, which we can say is the largest beagle dog in the world. Yes, you read it right! Predictably, this unusual place soon made its mark among the local tourist attractions. Known locally as Sweet Willy, this motel is a small and unique family-run motel. Four people can sleep inside the giant beagle’s two-story body, and of course pets are welcome. Your stay here will be made more enjoyable by the deluxe breakfasts, including granola with fruit, a family secret recipe.

If you never want to forget this extraordinary place, you can buy a miniature version of the motel (engraved, of course, by the lovely owners of the motel) from the gift shop next door.

Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo, California

The Madonna Inn is not just a roadside motel, it’s a local landmark in its own right. Located in San Luis Obispo, California, this motel is a country farm meets a pink fairytale palace. While some may find this place a bit tacky, the motel’s owners Alex and Phyllis Madonna have put in a lot of effort to create a place that defies the imagination. We can point out 110 rooms and suites with special themes as one of the many interesting features of the place. Phyllis Madonna has put in a lot of work decorating each room as creatively as she can and giving them whimsical names like Tall & Short, What’s Left, Pick & Shovel, Time of Your Life, Yahoo or Rock Bottom.

Top tip: Even if you don’t need a place to stay during your California road trip, you might take a chance to stop by one of the area’s top attractions: the men’s restroom on the ground floor of the motel houses a small rock-built waterfall that is also used as a urinal.


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