The Coolest Motels to Stay at During a Road Trip

Traveling across the country can be a weird adventure with roadside attractions, pit stops, and motels bringing people face-to-face with some of the oddest places in the country. Motels are a blessing and a curse for those on the road, offering safe harbor during a driving stretch with an affordable price tag but often less than stellar amenities at times. 

Let’s look at some of the coolest motels in the U.S. and why you should make sure to book a room when planning a vacation.

  • 01 of 13
    Beckham Creek Cave Lodge
    ••• Beckham Creek Cave Lodge. Beckham Creek Cave Lodge

    At Beckham Creek Cave Lodge, you can spend the night in a cave. Caverns have been transformed into living spaces, featuring bright lighting, spa-like bathrooms, and exposed rock walls. Staying here is like stepping back into the stone age. Try watching one of your favorite action movies in the living room, letting the acoustics enhance the sound. Starting at $1,200 a night, this will set you back but it would be a unique travel experience.

  • 02 of 13
    Wigwam Motel front entrance
    ••• Wigwam Motel. Thomas Hawk/Flickr/(CC BY-NC 2.0)

    If you've ever dreamed of sleeping in a teepee, you can at Wigwam Motel. Each teepee is built in the style of the Plains Indians, and 15 of them line the property. The teepees are set up as an open rectangle, like how Indians built their villages. Wigwam Motel also features a small office, a museum, and restrooms for travelers. Booking two weeks in advance is recommended, especially during the summer months.

  • 03 of 13
    a guest walks back to her room in one of the train cars
    ••• The Aurora Express  

    Consider sleeping in a train car at the Aurora Express Bed & Breakfast in Fairbanks, Alaska. Located in one of the most beautiful country sides in North America, this bed and breakfast will bring back the nostalgia of one of the original ways people traveled from one part of the country to another. Starting at around $165 a night, you can stay in standard train cars or the caboose depending on your preference.

  • 04 of 13
    McMenamins Kennedy School
    ••• McMenamins Kennedy School. Curtis Cronn/Flickr/(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    A former elementary school, McMenamins Kennedy School has been converted to a hotel, and the chalkboards, desks, and other classic classroom items serve as decorations and furniture. It has 35 rooms, an auditorium as a movie theater, and cafeteria as a full-scale restaurant for guests. The Detention Bar is a must visit for those who love locally brewed beers and relaxing after a long day’s travels.

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  • 05 of 13
    Madonna Inn
    ••• Madonna Inn. Flickinpicks/Flickr/(CC BY-SA 2.0)

    Sometimes the coolest place to stay on your adventures is the ugliest. The Madonna Inn is a sprawling 110-room hotel that looks like every interior designer ever threw up inside. You'll find clashing patterns and mixed styles in the communal areas, guest rooms, and everywhere between. The faux-Swiss Alps exterior is the first part you see arriving at this California treasure. The Madonna Inn is the perfect base camp for adventures in central California.

  • 06 of 13
    a tiger at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge
    ••• Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

    Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge lets you get up close and personal with some of nature’s most majestic creatures—big cats! If you want to visit this wildlife preserve, consider staying in a tree house or safari tent for a unique overnight stay. From the safety of your room, you’ll hear the cats and grizzlies throughout the day and night as they interact with one another and their surroundings. The best thing about visiting Turpentine Creek is that proceeds go toward saving more animals around the world and potentially bringing them to this wildlife refuge.

  • 07 of 13
    The Peabody Memphis
    ••• The Peabody Memphis. The Peabody Memphis

    This hotel is all about ducks. Ducks in the pond, ducks in the bedrooms, ducks in the bathroom and the walkways and the lobby....you get the picture. This place is bonkers for ducks, and this time-honored tradition has been a staple at The Memphis since 1932. Daily parades of ducks in and around the hotel occur led by the jovial Duckmaster of the grounds.

  • 08 of 13
    The Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California
    •••   Supannee_Hickman/Getty Images

    The Queen Mary in California is the “cruise” for you. This decommissioned 1930s luxury cruise ship boasts all the luxuries you’d expect after watching Titanic. Package deals are available for travelers, just like you’d find when booking a cruise. But buyer beware—The Queen Mary is considered one of the most haunted places on earth.

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  • 09 of 13
    The Shady Dell
    ••• The Shady Dell. The Shady Dell

    The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court boasts 11 restored travel trailers from the 1940s and the 1950s. Each trailer has a unique story and varying rates, but they all book fast during the spring and fall months when the park is open to visitors. With vintage furnishings and accessories, take a trip back to RVing’s hay day with a stay at The Shady Dell. Every so often a new trailer is added to the collection slowly growing the available options for guests. Everything about your visit is vintage.

  • 10 of 13
    interior of Winivian Farm
    ••• Winivian Farm

    The Winvian Farm is a collection of cottages that defy architectural laws and principles to most visitors. The different lodges have themes, such as the Beaver, which is designed like a beaver’s lodge. The Golf cottage mimics a miniature golf course with the inside complete with uneven green carpeted floors. With five-star dining and a luxury spa on site, you never have to leave the comfortable grounds of this resort.

  • 11 of 13
    Out'n'About Treesort
    ••• Out'n'About Treesort. Nicolás Boullosaa/Flicker/(CC BY 2.0)

    Every kid dreamed of living in and hiding out in a treehouse in the backyard. At Out’n’About Treesort, you can make those dreams come true. These tree houses are family-sized, and each one offers a unique stay for travelers. The Yurtree, for example, is a yurt with a skylight parked in a tree. The Treezebo is six stories above the ground, so it's not for the faint of heart. Book early and consider going off-season. Prices range from $100 to more than $300 depending on which treehouse sparks your interest and when you go during the year.

  • 12 of 13
    Jules' Undersea Lodge
    ••• Jules' Undersea Lodge  

    If you’ve ever wanted to live under the sea, Jules’ Undersea Lodge makes it possible. This Key Largo lodge is located a little more than 20 feet underwater. In fact, you can only reach the lodge by scuba diving. It has a perfect safety record with guests, 24-hour onsite staff, and it's designed to let you sleep with the fishes. This unique experience should be on every ocean lover’s bucket list. Staying overnight is costly with packages starting at $800 for two people. You can also dive down for lunch if a shorter stay is more affordable.

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  • 13 of 13
    Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast
    ••• Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast. Terry Feuerborn/Flicker/(CC BY-NC 2.0)

    Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast offers a striking look at life on the Oregon coast. This lighthouse has stood the test of time since 1893 and serves as a beacon for residents of the nearby city of Yachats and visitors alike. Staying here is only one of the perks of venturing to the Heceta Lighthouse—they serve a seven-course breakfast that’s sure to keep you going all day long. Weddings and other special events are common at this bed and breakfast, so book well in advance.