Who wants a standard hotel room when you can stay in a treehouse? If you're game for an unusual overnight in Colorado, consider one of these fun options.
The Caboose: Strawberry Park Hot Springs, Steamboat Springs
A former caboose now serves as the "most comfortable" accommodations at Strawberry Park Hot Springs, about a 20-minute drive (four-wheel-drive only in winter) from downtown Steamboat Springs. The renovated caboose has a gas fireplace, bathroom with shower, solar lights and a full-size futon with linens.
The kitchenette comes with pots, pans, dishes and silverware, but you'll need to bring your own food to prepare. Don't forget your swimsuit, as the hot springs here are the main attraction, though beware (or prepare): They are clothing optional after dark. No children allowed in the soaking pools once the sun sets.
The Strawberry Hot Springs area is a fun way to relax any time of day, clothing or not. These natural pools of mineral water are tucked deep in the forest along a river. The adventurous like to jump back and forth between the frigid river water and the steamy hot springs.
A Drive-In Movie Theater: Monte Vista
Drive-in movies are rare, in and of themselves. But a drive-in movie theater where you can watch the movie from bed and fall asleep in your pile of nachos? Priceless.
The Best Western Movie Manor in Monte Vista is nothing fancy, and it's not exactly located by anything else. But it's a destination, in and of itself, because of its novelty.
Every night, the two oversized screens play movies that you can see from your room, or drive your car a few feet to the parking lot, if you want the full experience. You'll find concessions there, plus an old-school, metal playground at the base of one of the screens, in case your kids (or you) want to watch while getting crazy on a creaky teeter-totter.
The Treehouse: Highland Haven Creekside Inn, Evergreen
Romantic, charming Highland Haven is about 40 minutes southwest of Denver. (It's one of the closest, easy-access mountain destinations to the big city.) The warm and elegant decor in each cabin is a far cry from your typical flowery bedspreads and dainty doilies found in many B&Bs. Plus, they're built right on Bear Creek.
But the real highlight here is a special two-story treehouse, complete with king bed, custom stone-and-iron fireplace, sparkly chandelier, two-person steam shower and "champagne bubble" Jacuzzi tub, and a Tesla charging station. The room rate here includes a full breakfast buffet that should not be missed; gourmet items include delicious egg dishes and homemade muffins and pastries.
The Former Playboy Party House: Denver
The Warwick Denver Hotel has an edgy history. This used to be home to Hugh Hefner's Colorado-based Playboy Club, where the Hef hung out with all of his ski Bunnies.
In fact, the building has one of Denver's only rooftop pools (with a nearly 360-degree view of the city). The bottom of the pool used to be clear windows that formed the roof of the 15th floor. People could hang out on the 15th floor and watch the Playboy Bunnies swimming in the pool from below.
Today, the hotel is not quite that naughty. The pool remains (and was recently renovated) but those porthole-like windows no longer exist. You can, however, rent the 15th floor for your own party (like a meeting or a wedding).
Don't worry. When you go swimming today, no one is watching you from below. But how often can you say you went swimming in a (former) Playboy pool?
A Covered Wagon: Avalanche Ranch, Redstone
The cabins at Avalanche Ranch are rustic and decorated with nifty Colorado collectibles. But for a truly unusual—and even more rustic—experience, book the Covered Wagon, Shepherd's Wagon or Gypsy Wagon.
Each has a full-sized bed, coffee maker, towels, a charcoal BBQ grill and a picnic table. They are stationed near the tiered natural hot springs, and that's where you'll use the communal bathroom and shower, too—shared with other wagon dwellers and day visitors to the hot springs. Sleeping quarters are tight, but their budget price point and opportunities for romance (and novelty) just might outweigh the discomfort in overnighting in such cramped quarters.
Plus, the wagons are painted in such bright colors (especially the Gypsy Wagon), they make great photo ops.
No more than two people can stay in each wagon, and that includes kids. With such a small size, there's no space for a separate bathroom, but you can shower and use the restroom at the nearby hot springs.
A Yurt: Tennessee Pass, Leadville
Yurts are portable, bent-dwelling structures traditionally used by nomads as homes in Central Asia. They're also a really cool lodging option at Tennessee Pass, at the base of Ski Cooper, about nine miles from Leadville.
Yurts afford the immersion in nature like a tent, but without the inconvenience of sleeping on a hard, rocky floor in a sleeping bag. They're a great middle ground between a tent and a hotel room, ideal for people who want to enjoy Colorado's wilderness but can't (or don't want to) go full-on camping.
Sleeping in these lattice-framed, tent-like structures is a cozy endeavor, especially in the winter, when they're heated by soapstone wood stoves. Each yurt sleeps up to six in double beds, plus a double-over-double bunk bed; you rent the entire yurt for the night, no matter how many people using it.
Beds are made from rough-hewn logs and feature down comforters. There's also a kitchenette, sink and fresh water, a single-burner propane stove, dining table and chairs and solar lighting. Each yurt is stocked with complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, cider and has cookware and dishware for light cooking and serving.
This is off-the-grid living, so cell service is spotty or nonexistent, and there are no electrical outlets or internet—or bathrooms. You'll need to use an outhouse, about 20 feet from each yurt.
The Haunted Stanley Hotel: Estes Park
The dramatic white mansion on the hill above Estes Park is haunted. Or at least so say the rumors. The Stanley Hotel is more than 100 years old and is the famous inspiration behind Stephen King’s book and the later movie, “The Shining.”
The hotel plays into these paranormal rumors with regular ghost tours, ghost hunts and ghost stories, a huge Halloween party and staff stories. One of the most popular rooms to stay in is room 217, where King is said to have stayed during his visit.
Ask about the other haunted rooms or get tickets for the Shining Ball, if you dare.
An Art Gallery: Denver
Art lovers and museum-goers, this one’s for you. If you’ve ever loved the creative, inspiring atmosphere of an art museum so much that you just didn’t want to leave, here’s a museum with no closing hours. The Art, a Hotel (appropriately located in an artsy district of Denver) is a full, real modern art museum that doubles up as a high-end boutique hotel.
The hotel has two art galleries, as well as original art in some suites and floors inspired by different artists. Here, you can see prestigious works of art, including pieces by Andy Warhol, Claus Oldenberg and Sol DeWitt, to name a few.
Every aspect of this hotel is artsy, from the architecture to the elevators to even the impressive light installation out front on the ceiling where you valet your car.
A Train Station: Denver
Stay in a stunning, historical—still functioning—train station right in the heart of Denver. As in you can fly into the Denver International Airport and hop on an Amtrak train that will bring you directly to your home away from home.
This is Union Station. But it’s no ordinary train station. This 1914 Beaux-Arts building houses more than a dozen restaurants and retailers, including swanky places to grab a cocktail or latte, a bookstore and one of our favorite hotels. Ever.
The Crawford Hotel is located right inside Union Station, and every room is differently appointed, reflecting various eras of the train station’s past. Pick from modern to Art Deco to Victorian atmospheres, or even these wild rooms that are designed to feel like a train’s private sleeping car.
An Old Ghost Town: Dunton Hot Springs
Here’s where you can experience ultimate luxury and history, in the ultimate Colorado mountain setting. Dunton Hot Springs is an old ghost town (from the mining days) that has been renovated into luxury cabins.
You can stay in a cabin that miners used to live in. Every cabin is different, but they’re all within walking distance to several natural hot springs, including a beautiful bathhouse with a hammock perfect for relaxing.
Dunton Hot Springs is all-inclusive. Guests join in the main cabin for five-star-level meals and drinks, which are great fuel after an active day hiking and biking. There’s even a spa. But there’s no phone service, so unplug and travel back in time.
A Tiny Hobbit House: Lyons
The mountain town is Lyons is home to the nation's largest tiny-home resort, WeeCasa. Here, you can stay in a tiny house (some around 125 to 150 square feet big) with running water, a private restroom and even mini-sized kitchens.
This quirky resort is full of interesting tiny homes, such as The Lilypad, with Balinese carved-wood accent pieces and mandala art, or The Pequod, which has a unique wavy roof shape and porthole windows.
But our favorite place to stay is in The Hobbit House, featuring round windows and a circular door, thick shingles, earth-inspired accents and even a wee hobbit doll peeking through the front window.