These former motels have gone from seedy to stylish.
Once a national icon, motels fell out of fashion in the late ’60s with the invention of the chain hotel, leaving many mom-and-pop moteliers stranded on America’s roadsides with nothing but a surplus of color TVs and coin-operated beds to show for their years of hospitable service. Many were abandoned, and more were demolished, but the few that survived have recently been given a second chance to shine thanks to the new wave of modern moteliers. Check out these former motels that have been transformed into super chic boutique hotels.
The Modern Hotel and Bar
WHERE: Boise, Idaho
The aptly named Modern Hotel and Bar was brought to life by the grandchildren of depression-era moteliers who purchased the dilapidated 1960s TravelLodge back in 2006 and transformed it into a 39-room updated hotel with numerous communal spaces. Hand-crafted cocktails, local beers, and killer brunch drinks are paired with cuisine created by a James Beard Award-nominated chef in the hotel’s onsite restaurant.
The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel
WHERE: Los Angeles, California
The Farmer’s Daughter Hotel is the Pretty Woman story of the motel world, where this former “no-tell motel” was given a fresh start thanks to its current owners who peered past this Los Angeles property’s scandalous history and saw the potential for an artistically upscale space. Each room at the hotel has been adopted by a different artist to tell the Farmer’s Daughter’s story through original artwork and installations.
INSIDER TIPSave some cash for the hotel’s Art-o-mat vending machine that dispenses custom-made art pieces.
WHERE: Austin, Texas
The Austin Motel’s iconic neon sign has stood erect since the motel first opened in 1938; its unmistakable shape earning the motel its nickname “The Phallic Palace.” Now under the ownership of famed hotelier Liz Lambert, the property has become more than just a backdrop for Instagram posts. The hotel’s 41 rooms are retro chic, with luxurious Sfera sheets on vinyl tufted beds, and feature fun touches like lip-shaped phones, Magic Finger vibrating beds, and striped kimono robes hung on “Wall Willy” hooks.
INSIDER TIPAsk about the synchronized swimming lessons during the summer at the hotel’s kidney-shaped pool.
WHERE: Islamorada, Florida
Casa Morada’s location was strategic when it opened as the Sunset Inn in the early 1950s, situated halfway between Miami and Key West. Back then, the motel was a place to crash on the way to someplace else, but thanks to a high-end renovation, the new owners have transformed the 16-suite hotel into an opulent wellness resort for discriminating travelers with complimentary kayaks, paddleboards, snorkel equipment, bikes, and yoga classes.
Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa
WHERE: Calistoga, California
The Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa’s new swanky vibe manages to give a playful nod to the glory days of motor travel while still offering contemporary amenities that push the envelope for even the most modern of hotels. Rooms resemble VW camper vans decorated with local artwork and retro finds while the spa encourages guests to play in the dirt with its “mix your own” mud bar.
Amigo Motor Lodge
WHERE: Salida, Colorado
The design scheme at the Amigo Motor Lodge is best described as stylishly eclectic, where Moroccan rugs line the floors beneath rattan and leather furniture, and bold textiles give a Southwestern spin on the hotel’s minimalist décor. The modern facelift came after the hotel sat relatively unchanged for nearly 60 years, but today the updated space includes a teepee, a hot tub, a sunroom, and more.
Scribner’s Catskill Lodge
WHERE: Hunter, New York
This 38-room hotel started as a motor lodge that began welcoming motorists to its perch in the Catskills back in 1966. After an artisanal refurbishment, the Scribner’s Catskill Lodge reopened in 2016 to debut its new look and redesigned layout. Clean lines meet with contemporary furnishings to create an intimate getaway for guests through its cozy nooks and spacious guestrooms. The hotel is a member of Design Hotels and offers one of the most extensive whiskey selections in the Catskills from its onsite restaurant and bar, Prospect.
Book a Hotel
WHERE: Jackson, Wyoming
Hospitality group Eagle Point Hotel Partners and New York-based Studio Tack teamed up to give this 1950s ski motel the upgrade it deserved. The 49-room Anvil Hotel’s cowboy charisma filters into the wood-fired Italian restaurant Glorietta and into the lobby and general store that both smell of freshly baked bread and hot roasted coffee.
INSIDER TIPDon’t forget to snap a pic in front of the hotel’s neon sign proclaiming, “You’re a stranger here but once!”
WHERE: Saratoga Springs, New York
The 12 rooms at The Brentwood are still lined up in the original L-shape pattern from its years as a one-story motor lodge, but little else resembles anything remotely close to a motel once guests walk through the front door. Reclaimed white oak panels line the floors, while Carrera marble, vintage kilim rugs, and hand-dyed French linens add textural touches to the equestrian aesthetic of the rooms.
Vagabond Hotel Miami
WHERE: Miami, Florida
This former motel sat empty for years, becoming the subject of juicy rumors depicting what may have taken place within the walls in the years following the motel’s opening in 1953. Although many were untrue, when the 45-room hotel reopened in 2014, fresh stories began circulating about the city’s chicest new hangout. The Vagabond Hotel’s retro-luxe remodel included original furniture and inlaid tile imported from France to aid in the restoration of the site’s original pool floor mermaid.
WHERE: Vancouver, Canada
Making coffee in the room was unheard of when The Burrard opened in 1956 as a roadside motel. Not only do all the retro-styled rooms now feature individual Nespresso coffee makers, but the hotel’s upscale upgrades also include 42-inch HDTVs in each room, biodegradable bath products, and free Brodie cruiser bike rentals for guests to use during their stay.
The Belmont Hotel
WHERE: Dallas, Texas
The neighborhood of Oak Cliff has gone through ups and downs over the years, and the Belmont Hotel has been there through it all. It took a creative owner and a team of goats to get the former motel’s overgrown garden under control, and the interior of the hotel took more than its share of elbow grease to transform the 64 rundown rooms into the stunning spaces they are today. The hotel’s lobby bar has become one of the hottest spots in Dallas to grab a drink and watch the sun set beneath the skyline.
WHERE: Savannah, Georgia
The dream of the ’60s is alive at the Thunderbird Inn in Savannah. This former motor lodge has preserved the funky fresh vibe it opened with back in 1964, only now it’s equipped with solar panels, complimentary WiFi, and its own line of dog shampoos and conditioners. Rooms are modishly minimalistic and feature retro touches like RC Cola and MoonPies in the rooms and free hot popcorn and lemonade in the lobby.
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
This former motel attracted tons of local attention when it began renovations of its 81 rooms and communal spaces in 2004. Once word spread about its edgy yet innovative offerings, celebrities ranging from Katy Perry to Snoop Dogg flocked to this Lower Burnside location to see what’s up. Over the years, amenities at the Jupiter Hotel have included an onsite tattoo parlor, 420 “Dope” packages, and exclusive brewery and distillery packages.