10 of the Coolest Motels and Hotels to Stay at During a Road Trip

When you drive across the country, you're bound to come across some oddball roadside attractions between the splendorous national parks and gut-busting eateries, all hallmarks of a great American road trip. Another quintessential element is the roadside motel, but these don't have to be as uninteresting and bland as you might think. If you know where to look, the country is full of cool motels and hotels, from an underwater bedroom in Florida a treetop house in Oregon, each of which will give you a unique experience worth writing home about.

01 of 10

Aurora Express Bed & Breakfast in Fairbanks, Alaska

A guest walks back to her room in one of the train cars

Courtesy of The Aurora Express  

In Fairbanks, Alaska, you can board the Aurora Express for a good night's sleep aboard a train that's not going anywhere. This motel bed and breakfast is actualy a renovated train that has been moved to overlook the Tanana River and the Alaska Mountain Range. Capitalizing on nostalgia, each room is like a time machine to the Alaskan Gold Rush. With unique decor in each cabin, you'll have a different experience whether you decide to stay in one of the standard train cars or in the Victorian caboose suite.

02 of 10

McMenamins Kennedy School in Portland, Oregon

Exterior of the McMenamins Kennedy School with green umbrellas out front

Curtis Cronn / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If you get held back in Portland, you can stay at the McMenamins Kennedy School, a former elementary school that has been renovated into a 35-room motel. The designers kept the chalkboards and desks for decoration, as well as the auditorium, which is used as a movie theater, and the cafeteria, which has been converted into a restaurant. You may not have been allowed to drink back when you were in school, but here you can try the locally brewed beers a the Detention Bar.

03 of 10

Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California

Interior shot of a red room with a stained glass windowat the Madonna Inn

Flickinpicks / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

With over a hundred rooms that each have their own unique design, the Madonna Inn is a mishmash of clashing styles. Campy, but in a fun way, this motel's mixed motifs extend from the cave-themed rooms to the red and pink lobby, and the Swiss-inspired exterior, which is quite out of place in California's San Luis Obispo. On top of that, the hotel sits on top of a 1,000-acre ranch, which also includes a steakhouse, a bakery, and a spa. Its gaudy decor may be a little overwhelming, but you'll never run out of things to look at.

04 of 10

The Peabody Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee

Children watch the ducks walk the red carpet at The Peabody Hotel, followed by the Duckmaster in his red jacket

Courtesy of The Peabody Memphis

There isn't a single room in this Memphis hotel that doesn't have at least one duck in it. However, the duck theme is more than just an aesthetic design choice. Since 1940, the ducks that live on the hotel's property have been trained to walk through the lobby to the fountain as a part of the famous Peabody Duck March. There's even a "Duckmaster" who rolls out the red carpet for the hotel's webfooted visitors.

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05 of 10

The Queen Mary in Long Beach, California

The Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California

 Supannee Hickman / Getty Images

This decommissioned 1930s-era cruise ship boasts all the luxuries you’d expect after watching "Titanic," but without ever leaving the harbor. In Long Beach, travelers can book a package to stay in one of the Queen Mary's staterooms and there's even a spa onboard. The ship has a long and interesting history that originated in Great Britain about a century ago and many people say that the boat is one the most haunted places in the U.S. The hotel even offers ghost tours, where you can learn more about the lingering spirits that never checked out.

06 of 10

The Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona

A guest sits outside a blue trailer at the The Shady Dell

Courtesy of The Shady Dell

With vintage furnishings and accessories, you can take a trip back in time to the hay day of RVing with a stay at The Shady Dell, a trailer park hotel that boasts 13 restored travel trailers from the 1940s and the 1950s. Each trailer has a unique story and is priced differently, but bookings usually fill up pretty quickly for the summer season. Every so often, a new trailer is added to the collection, slowly growing the available options for guests. To complete the vintage experience, be sure to grab a bite to eat at Dot's Diner, a classic 1950s-inspired restaurant that's on-site.

07 of 10

Out 'n' About Treesort in Cave Junction, Oregon

Deluxe treehouses fill a green Oregon forest at Out 'n' About Treesort

Nicolás Boullosaa / Flicker / CC BY 2.0

At Out 'n’ About Treesort, you can make your childhood dream of living in a treehouse really come true. With family-sized treehouses, this is a really unique place to stay and great for large groups. Just getting into the tree is part of the adventure. For example, the Majestree is 47 feet off the ground and can only be accessed by climbing three flights of stairs, crossing two bridges, and then climbing another flight of stairs, and the Swiss Family Complex House is made up of two treehouses connected by a swinging bridge. Nearby, you can explore the Oregon Caves and the nearby wineries that are common in this part of Southern Oregon.

08 of 10

Jules’ Undersea Lodge in Key Largo, Florida

The dark underwater cabin at Jules' Undersea Lodge, with a couch, television, a kitchen, and some fish-shaped pillows

Courtesy of Jules' Undersea Lodge  

If you’ve ever wanted to live underwater, Jules’ Undersea Lodge makes it possible. This Key Largo lodge is located approximately 20 feet underwater and it's the only underwater hotel in the world that you can only get to by diving, so no need to put up the "Do Not Disturb" sign. With a perfect safety record and a 24-hour staff on-site, you can sleep soundly with the fishes and live to tell the tale. Staying overnight can be expensive, but it's also possible to dive down to the lodge just for lunch.

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09 of 10

Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast in Yachats, Oregon

Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast

Terry Feuerborn / Flicker / CC BY-NC 2.0

The Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast offers guests striking views of the Oregon coast. This lighthouse has stood the test of time since 1893 and has been hosting guests in its six unique rooms since 1973. The hotel is particularly famous for serving a seven-course breakfast every morning and their wine and cheese socials in the afternoon, which gives guests some time to get to know each other.

10 of 10

Beckham Creek Cave Lodge in Parthenon, Arkansas

Beckham Creek Cave Lodge

Courtesy of Beckham Creek Cave Lodge

At Beckham Creek Cave Lodge, in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, caverns have been transformed into living spaces, featuring bright lighting, spa-like bathrooms, and exposed rock walls. It's kind of like stepping into the stone age, except you'll have indoor plumbing and all the luxuries of a hotel. With fantastic acoustics, this is a wonderful spot to settle in for the night and watch a movie in the living room.