Pack up the motorhome and stay a night at one of these unique lodging facilities.
By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
We love our motorhomes, and for most of us, it takes a truly special destination to make us sleep anywhere else when we travel. But every so often we find a location worth bragging about to our traveling friends. Plan ahead, because some of these places are so small they take only one family at a time.
1. Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Florida. Perhaps the most unusual overnight destination is the Jules’ Undersea Lodge, where you have to don a wet suit and scuba dive 21 feet under the surface to enter. Originally designed as the La Chalupa mobile undersea laboratory, it has been remodeled as an underwater hotel. Should you choose the Jules’ Undersea Luxury Package, you will be treated to a gourmet dinner and breakfast. The bedroom features a large 42-inch round window looking out into the surrounding mangrove lagoon, where you can watch the fish swim by (305-451-2353; www.jul.com).
2. Cedar Creek Treehouse, Ashford, Washington. If you want a bird’s-eye view of magnificent surroundings, try spending a night in a treehouse just outside of Mount Rainier National Park. The two-level cottage is built 50 feet above the ground in a 200-year-old Western red cedar tree, and all of the electricity is fueled by solar power. If 50 feet isn’t enough altitude for you, try the treehouse observatory, 100 feet up a nearby fir tree (360-569-2991; www.cedarcreektreehouse.com).
3. Kokopelli’s Cave, Farmington, New Mexico. The thought of spending a night in a cave may sound very primitive. But this cave has 1,650 square feet of living space, plush carpeting, a TV and stereo, a full kitchen, a Jacuzzi, and two ledge balconies to take advantage of spectacular sunsets or to observe hawks and eagles flying past. Carved out of a 65-million-year-old sandstone formation, this man-made cave looks down 280 feet to the La Plata River (505-326-2461; www.bbonline.com/nm/kokopelli).
4. Beckham Creek Cave Lodge, Parthenon, Arkansas. Set on a 280-acre estate, this hotel is created from an actual cave in the Ozarks. The walls and ceilings are natural, except for the decorative rock wall that encloses the front entrance. This wall contains many windows that let in outside light. Central heating keeps the temperature comfortable, and the entire cave is designed as a luxury hotel. There are five bedrooms, each with its own bath. Since the hotel is rented as a single unit, you might want to bring along some friends (870-446-6043; www.beckhamcavelodge.com).
5. Northern Rail Traincar Suites, Two Harbors, Minnesota. For railroad enthusiasts “” or perhaps those who dream of a hobo lifestyle”” what better place to sleep than in a converted boxcar? Seventeen boxcars now house bed-and-bath suites that accommodate up to five guests. The hotel office is designed as a train depot (877-834-0955; www.northernrail.net).
6. Crowne Plaza At Historic Union Station, Indianapolis, Indiana. If a boxcar sounds too modest, try the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Indianapolis. The hotel includes 26 authentic Pullman sleeper car rooms, still sitting on their original tracks. The rooms are named and decorated after famous personalities from the early 20th century, such as Charlie Chaplin, Cole Porter, and Jean Harlow. For even more authenticity, Union Station operates as a working train station, so you can feel the subtle rumbling of trains from the comfort of your room (317-631-2221; www.crowneplaza.com/ind-downtown).
7. Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo, California. Imagine a hotel with 110 rooms, each with a different theme and color scheme. The Madonna Inn has been amazing people with its variety for more than 50 years. One of the most famous rooms is the Caveman suite, with a rock ceiling and a waterfall shower. Use your imagination for the Golfer’s room, the Indian room, or the Oriental Fantasy room (800-543-9666; www.madonnainn.com).
8. Hí´tel De Glace, Québec City, Quebec, Canada. It’s a bit hard to say whether this is a hotel or an event. The Hí´tel de Glace is built of ice, and it is open for only a few months each year. While it’s too late to stay there in 2011 (it was open from January 7 to March 27), it’s not too early to start making plans for next year. Construction of the facility takes approximately a month, using 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow. The hotel has 36 rooms and suites, with a capacity to accommodate 88 people per night. If a chilly night isn’t to your tastes, there are tours every day starting at 10:00 a.m. (877-505-0423; www.icehotel-canada.com).
9. Aurora Ice Museum, Fairbanks, Alaska. This ice structure manages to stay open (and cold) throughout the year by using hot geothermal water in an absorption refrigeration system similar to that found in an RV refrigerator. The hotel rooms were created by world ice sculpting champions Steve and Heather Brice. The museum contains countless sculptures, including a gigantic chess set, life-size jousting knights, an ice fireplace, and four galleries with varying themes. According to one source, the museum is no longer allowed to advertise overnight rooms because of a dispute with the local fire marshal, but ask at the front desk for up-to-date info . . . . (907-451-8104, ext. 2; www.chenahotsprings.com).
10. Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats, Oregon. Standing 205 feet above the Pacific Ocean, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is still in operation, casting its light 21 miles out to sea. It is the brightest lighthouse in Oregon and is said to be the most photographed lighthouse in the country. The separate keeper’s house has been restored to its late 19th-century glory and now serves as an interpretive center during the day and a bed-and-breakfast at night. In this case, breakfast consists of a seven-course meal (866-547-3696; www.hecetalighthouse.com).
11. Saugerties Lighthouse, Saugerties, New York. Built in 1869 on the Hudson River, the lighthouse was restored in 1990 and is now a bed-and-breakfast. It is open year-round and features a small museum, keeper’s quarters, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. Surrounded by the river, the working lighthouse is reached by a half-mile trail (845-247-0656; www.saugertieslighthouse.com).
12. East Brother Light Station, Point Richmond, California. East Brother Light Station has been an active lighthouse for more than 133 years, but in 1980 it also became a Victorian bed-and-breakfast to help raise money to support the facility. Accessible via a 10-minute boat ride, East Brother is on an island in the strait that separates the San Francisco and San Pablo bays. Five rooms are available, and your stay includes a multi-course dinner and a gourmet breakfast the next morning. The island location provides a view of the San Francisco skyline (510-233-2385; www.ebls.org ).
13. Library Hotel, New York, New York. We can’t think of a better place to spend an evening than in a library. Someone else must have had the same idea, because the Library Hotel really is a library. The 10 floors correspond to the major categories of the Dewey Decimal System used by most libraries, and each of the 60 guest rooms has a collection of books and art exploring one of the subcategories of that floor. The Reading Room on the second floor has refreshments around the clock. Imagine “” a library that never closes (212-983-4500; www.libraryhotel.com).