Before you book your stay at another chain motel or hotel for $250 a night, you may want to do a little more research to find out if there’s something a little more unique in your area. Hopefully this list of motels and hotels will give you some ideas. Many of these locations are in places that you wouldn’t expect there to be anything as cool or unique to stay.
The twenty options in this list range from $40-overnight stays to around $600, but each of them is a unique experience. Many of the motels are vintage from the ‘50s and the ‘60s and still retain all of the charm and style of their original era. There are also some more historic hotels that are on the pricier end, but filled with class and style from bygone eras.
For this list, I’ve decided to limit one place per state, otherwise Texas and California would make up about half of the list. I’ve also decided to not limit the list exclusively to motels, since there are a variety of B&B’s, farms, and hotels that are also interesting enough to deserve a spot.
Take notes for the next time you plan a road trip in the U.S. These are 20 of the best and most unique places to stay throughout the country that won’t (for the most part) break the bank. Whether you’re going to the Southwest or the Northeast or anywhere in between, there is bound to be a more interesting alternative to spend the night.
The Ohio House is in, guess where... Illinois! I didn’t name it. This retro motel in Chicago is right off of Ohio St. and has been there since 1960. The small 2-story place in the River North neighborhood is clearly a product of its time with a mid-century modernist design. The motel stands out in its neighborhood by being one of the few buildings that isn’t insanely tall.
In a city that has seen more skyscraper construction in the past 60 years than almost anywhere else in the world, the small motel in the middle of Chicago has become even more charming.
Prices start at around $100 a night.
Located in upstate New York, this strange little gem is the perfect getaway from the New York City life. The motel is owned by Kate Pierson and features a variety of oddities that separate it from any other motel in the world. Each of the 8 rooms has its own theme (river-tubing gnome, for example). There is also a giant saltwater Jacuzzi and the bathrooms all have hotel toiletries stolen by the motel’s namesake while she was on tour. The kitschy locale is definitely worth a stop for a unique night away. Prices start at around $155 a night.
The WigWam Motel is located on Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona. The teepee setup might seem a bit strange at first sight, but they are actually made of concrete so they’ll be just as comfortable as any other motel room you would find yourself in. There are a total of 15 teepees for you to stay in.
While it’s not the highest-quality place you could spend the night in, it’s cheap, super stylish, and right off of Route 66. Prices start at around $48 a night.
Epitomizing the ‘Everything is Bigger in Texas’ mantra, the Big Texan Motel in Amarillo definitely lives up to its name. Filled with saloon doors, animal pelts, giant Texas signs, and its own steakhouse and brewery, the motel is meant to resemble an old Wild West town in a motel. The 54-room lodging is filled with modern amenities as well, including Wi-Fi, Jacuzzis, cable, limo services and more.
Perhaps the most over-the-top aspect of the motel is the swimming pool, shaped like the state of Texas.
So, if you’re into the whole Old Western aesthetic, this is the place for you. Prices start at around $50 a night.
Another good option if you need a break from New York City, the StarLux motel is located in Wildwood, New Jersey. This is more of a motor lodge, with each room in its own tricked out, retro-designed motor home. This setup makes StarLux stand out as a one-of-a-kind location that you couldn’t really find anywhere else. If you are ever in New Jersey or in a neighboring state, it might be worth a visit to the beachside location to visit this unique lodging.
From patio tables to vintage television sets to oddly-shaped appliances, this motel looks straight out of The Jetsons.
Prices start at around $84 a night.
The Music Major in me would have ended up in this place at some point during College.
Holiday Music Motel is not only a motel and music venue, but also a home to songwriters with a radio station that broadcasts only music recorded in the motel.
This place was originally built in the ‘50s but was renovated about a decade ago. A lot of the motel still has the original décor and everything that was updated was donated by local artists. Located in Door County, Holiday Music Motel is in one the most beautiful places in the Midwest United States. Prices start at around $115 a night.
Located in Portland, Oregon, the Jupiter Hotel is located in the hipster-centric neighborhood of Lower Burnside. This is another refurbished hotel from the 1960s that, labeled as ‘a cultural boutique hotel,’ isn’t particularly expensive. The two-floor motel holds an open courtyard as well as chalkboards in every room, but still offers amenities aplenty. The rooms also feature unique local art and modernist furnishings that call back to the hotel’s origins. There is also now The Jupiter, which is a more contemporary alternative with many of the same touchstones as the original 1960s Jupiter Heritage Hotel. Prices start at around $60 a night.
Aqua Hotel and Lounge is located in the center of South Beach in Miami and holds the visual appeals that make up the 1950s look (represented by many motels on this list). Re-modeled in 2000, the aesthetic is deeply minimalist featuring primarily IKEA furniture and cement floors. The octagonal pool and trendy cocktail bar fill out the vintage 1950s look.
The hotel is right off the beach and just a couple of minutes away from Ocean Drive. Aqua Hotel and Lounge strikes the perfect balance between trendy and contemporary, making it one the most appealing motels in the country. Prices start at around $95 a night.
Going all out with the pastel theme, the Thunderbird Inn looks straight out of the ‘60s. Probably because it is. This is a cheap option if you’re driving through Georgia, and is also one of the most visually enticing motels in the country. The inn has undergone some changes, making it a comfortable and accommodating location as well as retaining a vintage appearance.
The décor and pastel walls and doors add to the notable features that have held for decades, such as the complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts and hot popcorn offered at check in. Prices start at around $89 a night.
California was probably the hardest state to narrow down to a single motel for this list, but the Beverly Laurel Motor Inn in LA came out on top in my eyes. This is as ‘50s as you can find in the whole country with blue and yellow splashes of color on everything. The entire color palette of this motel is blue, yellow, white and gray, giving it a very distinct look. There is also a diner, which is located in the motel (it serves dishes that seem to come straight from the ‘50s as well). Prices start at around $183 a night.
This adobe-themed motel located in its namesake Santa Fe, New Mexico is located in the hipster-populated Guadalupe District full of art galleries and strangely wonderful restaurants. The Boutique Inn has high quality rooms and suites but because of a lack of restaurant, pool, etc., the prices remain decent at the Old Santa Fe Inn. This location is perhaps the best combination of modern comfort with clever, punctuated design. The nearby historic plaza in Santa Fe makes this a perfect place to stay if you find yourself in the American Southwest in the near future. Prices start at around $150 a night.
If you’re a dog person, this is definitely the place to stay in Idaho. I don’t particularly know why anyone would have a desire to stay in a dog-shaped motel but apparently, some people do. If you are one of those people, then Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood is built especially for you. The dog-shaped buildings feature dog-themed rooms (obviously) and fire hydrant shaped restrooms. This is definitely one of the stranger options on the list, but definitely one of the most interesting locations. Prices start at around $126 a night.
Alright, I had to sneak one expensive hotel in this list, but it’s technically ‘vintage’ so it counts. The Liberty Hotel, besides being super patriotic, is also the oldest building on this list. Starting life as the Charles Street Jail in 1851, the hotel still retains many prison-esque characteristics. Located in downtown Boston, there are many restaurant and bar options nearby, including in-hotel options like CLINK. (seafood restaurant) and Alibi (cocktail lounge). If you are in Boston with some money to spend, then The Liberty Hotel is probably your best option, being one of the coolest hotels in the country. Prices start at around $450 a night.
Located in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Aurora express is a bed and breakfast inside an old chain of Alaska Railroad cars. That’s right, it’s a B&B inside of a train. This place also has one of the best views that you can find in any hotel, overlooking Fairbanks, the Tanana Valley, and the Alaska Mountain range.
There are a variety of rooms that embody different time periods (for example, the Gold Mine and the Arlene). There are a variety of rooms to choose from in this unique bed and breakfast. Prices start at around $185 a night.
This small family-owned motel opened its doors in 1936 and has been running ever since. This motel in Romney, West Virginia is a small, homely place in a comfortable town right around a variety of antique shops and wineries. The nearby Ice Mountain is definitely worth a visit as well if you’re into hiking, and the Potomac Eagle Train allows a 3-hour long ride through the West Virginia mountains. The Koolwink Motel is one of several small, family-owned hotels across the country that are cheaper than most chain hotels along with being more comfortable and interesting. It’s always worth taking a look at what’s around to find a small gem like this one. Prices start at around $65 a night.
This classic hotel in the heart of Memphis, Tennessee is one of the best historic hotels in the country. The Peabody is probably the largest locale on this list but combines the traditional elements of its history with modern style and convenience. Perhaps most well-known for the ducks that hang out in the lobby (and swim in the fountain), the hotel plays with this theme a lot. For example, they serve a cocktail that comes with a rubber ducky garnish in the hotel bar. There are also a variety of deals including the ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ which comes with a commemorative bottle of ‘Peabody Select’ Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel. Prices start at around $300 a night.
Designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the Historic Park Inn Hotel in Mason City, Iowa is a gorgeous modernist architectural achievement. The hotel offers full amenities and has a gorgeous library-design public area if you need to do some work.
Each of the 27 guest rooms are individualized and the hotel features its own 1910 Grille and Lounge. The bar is a modern mixology lounge that features a 100-year old billiards table.
This one-of-a-kind location is an architectural marvel and a historical experience deserving of a stay while you’re (let’s be honest) just driving through Iowa. Prices start at $121 a night.
Ruby Hotel is located right in the heart of downtown Spokane, Washington right by Riverfront Park and Spokane Falls. Being downtown, there is a massive range of choices when it comes to restaurants and entertainment. The hotel was initially built as a motor inn in the 1960’s but has since been transformed to a beautiful and quirky boutique motel. Guests have access to complimentary bikes available to explore a variety of attractions across the city. Each of the rooms is designed in a minimalist white and red color scheme featuring local artwork and views of downtown Spokane. Prices start at $95 a night.
The Exotic Feline Rescue Center is primarily a small haven for large cats who have been rescued, but it does include a guest house that can be rented out for the night. If you do end up staying the night, there are even more cats that you can see (which are not available on the standard tours). With around 200 cats ranging from tigers to bobcats, this is a very unique location for you to stay a night in southern Indiana. There are also a variety of events throughout the year so check to see if there’s anything going on while you’re staying. Prices start at $200 a night.
Winvian Farm consists of 19 cottages in the town of Litchfield Hills in Connecticut. The 113-acre location works as a quiet getaway with easy access to woods and lakes and is a higher end, warm option for a weekend getaway. Of course, this location wouldn’t be complete without its own farm-to-table restaurant, which is run by Chef Chris Eddy and Pastry Chef Jim Hutchinson, along with a beautiful and relaxing spa. Again, this isn’t going to be one of the cheaper options, but is one of the best hotels and restaurants in the entire state. Prices start at around $600 a night.