It takes more than a bed to make a home, and the following hotels have gone above and beyond to create elegant, unique and creative hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts for a night in a near-paradise deserving of America. Visitors who do the road trip thing, attention-ho: these unique hotels will have your night sorted.
What happens when two dog-loving chainsaw artists fall in love and open up a roadside inn? They open up the Dog Bark Park Inn, of course! This giant beagle-shaped bed and breakfast has windows for an eye, a loft space for a brain, a toilet in the tail and a belly chock full of human-friendly amenities such as a full bathroom, hair dryer, clock radio and coffee maker. Hearkening back to the old Americana road trip days where the highways would present such surprises as giant novelty milk bottles hocking ice cream or gas stations shaped like coffee pots, the Dog Bark Park Inn actually allows families to kick back and relax among the 26 carved dogs on the queen headboard and enjoy dog-shaped pillows presented on the pillows. The next time you’re rolling past Cottonwood in north-central Idaho, take a night off and sleep soundly in the world’s coolest dog house.
Visitors to Farmington, New Mexico, who want to lay low for a while – like, really low – should check into Kokopelli’s Cave built 70 feet below the surface in the vertical cliffs of Tertiary Ojo Alamo, looking out into the breathtaking La Plata river valley. The man-made cave is appointed with all of the regular luxury amenities – and lots more. Visitors get a full kitchen with a barbecue grill, a rock-wall bathroom with a waterfall shower and Jacuzzi tub, two recliners, flat-panel TV, a replica kiva with a woodburning fireplace and the best view over La Plata Valley and Shiprock from its porch just outside the bedroom. The cave sleeps six. There’s no elevator and the path to the cave is long, jagged and cut into rock, so visitors are encouraged to pack lightly.
For 120 years, this beautiful and painstakingly restored Boston Granite-style building in Beacon Hill was home to the area’s most notorious criminals. Now, the preserved jail cells and bars work as a design element to a upscale casual restaurant called Clink, the old catwalks in the 90-foot central rotunda connect guests to the Catwalk bar and other hotel services, and the former exercise yard is a manicured courtyard which now holds free yoga sessions. The times change, and so does luxury. Visitors can now stay in these reformed cells with large windows that peer out of the ornate wrought-iron work to the rest of the city. There is also a 16-story tower behind the old Charles Street Jail building to accommodate more guests. Located in the hotel are two restaurants and three bars, each suitably named Clink, Alibi, Scampo ("escape" in Italian), Liberty Bar, The Yard and Catwalk. Architectural fiends in Boston will adore the chance to stay in this brilliant piece of truly Bostonian mid-century architecture.
It’s exciting enough to get to stay in a cottage for a weekend, but guaranteed, most people haven’t been to a cottage like the ones at Winvian in Litchfield Hills, Connecticut. Comprising 19 different surprise-filled architect-designed cottages sprawled over their 400 acres of forest. These are not your grandfather’s cottages, either – design details include undulating golf greens and antique putters in the Golf cottage, a large solarium over the living room with windows that nearly touch the sky in the Green Room cottage, a Treehouse supported by a giant oak tree, and even a restored 1968 Sikorsky Sea King Pelican helicopter in a hangar-shaped cottage that guests can kick back and watch TV in. Each cottage comes with two complimentary bikes for easy exploring, and the main building houses a deluxe spa and restaurant.
Most adults would shudder at the thought of going back to school, but that’s only if they haven’t seen the Kennedy School. This preserved 1915 elementary school in Northeast Portland has retained its schoolhouse charm, with blackboards and themed rooms, using original anterooms and teachers closets as updated decor details. But it’s not just the old bookshelves and wooden desks that set this hotel apart – the original auditorium has been transformed into a movie house and music venu, showing second-run feature films and more, and the Kennedy School houses a Detention Bar, an upscale and intimate antique-laden cigar bar that serves fine single malts, bourbons and fine wines. The Concordia Brewery was upcycled from the former little girls’ room of the school, and the former playground is now a private outdoor courtyard surrounding a gorgeous ceramic heated pool. Back to school never felt – or looked – so cool.
Deep in the San Juan Mountains of the Colorado Rockies, the Dunton Hot Springs provides a beautiful and highly amenable to place to enjoy all of the outdoor activities of the area all year round, including horseback riding, helicopter skiing, mountain biking, snowshoeing, hiking, camping and all kinds of boating and then coming back to soak in muscle-melting hot springs. The hot springs used to provide rest and relaxation for the miners of the area in the days long gone, but now it serves as a spa and resort – guests get their own cabins and they can spend the day hanging out in the restored 19th-century bathhouse or outside at the source in various pools. Located on the premises is their signature winery Sutcliffe Vineyards, a Saloon and Dance Hall which features a rustic wooden bar with the names of Butch Cassidy and Sundance scratched into it (originals, they say), a library and an open-air chapel beside a 40-foot waterfall. For a real cell-phone-less escape into the gorgeous aspens of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, the best place to unwind is Dunton Hot Springs.
This art-exploded labyrinthine brick palace in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, is actually a 23,000-square-foot colonial mansion comprising six intertwined townhouses dating back over 300 years. A day walking around the space is a sightseeing tour in itself – down steep stone steps, through gardens, courtyards, art studios, verandas and pool all filled with rich tapestries, recovered and painted moldings, antique and found furniture, the sculptures and paintings by the owner, founder and resident artist, Jan D’Esopo, visitors feel as if they’ve entered some kind of dreamscape art factory rather than a hotel. Nothing about this place is typical – where some inns might keep a cat, the Gallery Inn is home to a number of colorful guard parrots (as well as a cat); some inns have restaurants, and the Gallery keeps a dinner service every night at 5:30, tapas on the Rooftop Wine Deck. There’s no elevator, so guests who can’t handle steep steps or screeching birds or a room without HBO are encouraged to find other accommodations. However, visitors who love art, and exploring color-splashed crawl spaces, exotic birds and staying at an authentic if not eccentric home in Old San Juan will adore the Gallery Inn.
The 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, seeks to update Southern Hospitality with modern art everywhere. From the red penguins beckoning each visitors in to the art installations in nearly every nook and cranny, this place is a living, breathing art gallery. The rooms all feel modern in design – shocking whites, dramatic blacks, clean lines and minimalist decor save for colorful paintings and media hung on the walls. The museum in the complex itself is popular among the local community, highlighting local and international artists. Guests at the 21c Museum Hotel won’t want to miss a meal at their award-winning Proof on Main restaurant – delicately assembled fine-dining plates pair perfectly with house-developed cocktails and their long list of bourbons. Proof on Main is another living art space – exhibits and art pieces are swapped in and out on the regular, and they become a vital part of the dining experience. Art is everywhere, but 21c just helps bring it to the forefront.
There’s no shortage of sea air at the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Guests can stay at one of the last remaining light keeper’s cottages on the Pacific Coast, allowing for a stay in maritime heaven with dreamy views out onto the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon Coast. Guests wake up with the tide and enjoy a decadent seven-course breakfast prepared by the in-house chefs before relaxing on the cottage’s wraparound porch taking an excursion into nearby Newport or Florence. After the sun sinks down is the ideal time to go up the lighthouse to watch the coastline and mountains and follow the light until it disappears into the earth’s curve. A night on the coast has never felt breezier than at the Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Doesn’t everyone kind of have an innate fascination with treehouses? Anyone who has ever crawled into one of the wooden crawlspaces knows. It has something to do with being in a protected space held aloft by Mother Nature’s own earthly emissaries – no matter how precariously nailed together the spaces themselves are. Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort in Cave Junction, Oregon, brings out the excitement once again. Their five wooden suites are decked out with more or less the same amenities as the Hilton. At night these impressive custom treehouses are exquisitely quiet, high atop the Douglas Firs, but during the day, the adventure begins. The 36 private acres of wood of the Treesort contain a Morgan Horse breeding ranch, a riding horse stable, zipline adventure course, river raft tours by the staff and arts and crafts programs for kids and adults.