Live it up at these hotels (and Airbnbs) in California.
Flying to another country isn’t always necessary to get away—a truly special lodging can make even staycations seem like you’re in another world, even when you’re only 30 minutes away from home. We’re not talking about your usual nice hotel room here. From a whimsical cave room to a futuristic bubble tent in the desert, here are the 10 most unique lodgings you can book for a weekend escape in California.
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Cave Rooms at Madonna Inn
WHERE: San Luis Obispo
The Madonna Inn’s pink dining room and kitschy-themed hotel rooms made it into one of Central California’s landmarks. The 110 rooms are all uniquely decorated. The most popular room type, though, is arguably the cave rooms. The Caveman Suite, for example, is surrounded by rocks from floor to ceiling and features a rock pond and—the best part—a rock waterfall shower. Wooden clubs and animal prints adorn the room, taking guests back in time, but the cavemen here sleep comfortably on king beds. The inn’s downstairs men’s restroom is also well-known for its waterfall urinal.
Airstream in Joshua Tree
WHERE: Joshua Tree
The silver Airstream is an icon of American travel culture, especially among campers and RVers. Some of these airstreams have found new life as hip lodging and Airbnbs, including this Flying Cloud Airstream in Joshua Tree. It’s a newer Airstream which also means a roomier shower, AC, and an entertainment system. Dine inside the Airstream or convert the dinette to a full-size bed to sleep a larger group. There are other Airstreams in Joshua Tree, but this one is particularly appealing because of the stock tank dipping pool outside—perfect for that hot desert weather.
A Cottage Built From Glass Bottles Near Death Valley
In the small town of Tecopa (population 150) near the southern end of Death Valley National Park, is Villa Anita, an artist compound with several cottages available to rent on Airbnb. Each cottage is decorated with artworks from the resident artists and their friends, but the most unique one is the bottle cottage. The cottage is built using various glass bottles and gives the same effect as a stained-glass window as sunlight shines through. You may have seen bottle buildings in some of the area’s ghost towns like Rhyolite since empty beer bottles were much more plentiful than normal building materials, but this is your chance to actually sleep in one.
Hobbit House in San Diego
No need to head to New Zealand to see a hobbit house when you can stay in one near San Diego. The attention to detail they’ve taken to build this secluded hobbit house is impressive, from the round door, rock walls, cedarwood beams, to the rocking chairs in front of a wood-burning stove that Bilbo Baggins would certainly enjoy. The roof is a living roof that guests can sit on to enjoy sunset views over the valley. There’s no electricity, but bring supplies for the YETI cooler and fire pit BBQ to keep you well-fed like a hobbit. If you really need to leave Middle-earth, take a short walk to the main house to access electrical outlets, Wi-Fi, or the hot tub.
Glamping in a Wagon Near Yosemite
Although Yosemite National Park isn’t on the Oregon Trail, you can still pretend you’re a pioneer when you’re glamping at Yosemite Pines, located about 20 miles from the park. Yes, you can stay the night inside a Conestoga covered wagon, which can either sleep four or six, depending on the wagon size. Unlike the 19th-century travelers, though, your wagons have all the modern creature comforts. Each wagon contains a king-size bed and bunk beds, a refrigerator, a microwave, and they’re all equipped with air conditioning and a heater.
Tree Nest in Big Sur
WHERE: Big Sur
Big Sur is home to camping and glamping resorts but there is one particular campsite at Treebones Resort that takes it up a notch. This campsite comes with a human-sized, hand-woven nest created by a local artist. Climb up the wooden ladder into the nest for sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. You can set up camp below, but the nest comes with a full-size futon pad, so bring pillows and sleeping bags and you can actually spend the night inside the nest. Be warned this is a walk-in campsite so you do need to haul your gear.
Vintage Railroad Cabooses Near Mendocino
WHERE: Upper Lake
Cabooses were used in the 1800s to provide shelter for train crewmen. These railroad cars became obsolete in the 1980s thanks to new technology, but you can sleep inside that piece of history in northern California at Featherbed Railroad Bed & Breakfast. You wouldn’t be sleeping like the railroad crew did, however. Each caboose has a unique theme and they all feature queen-sized featherbeds—some even have a jacuzzi. This bed and breakfast is located on the shores of Clear Lake and you can enjoy a view of the water from the private decks on some of the cars.
Haunted Stateroom at Historic The Queen Mary
WHERE: Long Beach
Historic British ocean liner the Queen Mary has seen a lot in her days, having sailed her maiden voyage in 1936 and then later transported Allied soldiers during World War II. Moored in Long Beach, you can now tour the Queen Mary as a museum, but why not also sleep inside one of the 347 staterooms, featuring original 1930s wood panels and artworks? If a historic stateroom and its portholes aren’t exciting enough, check into stateroom B340. Guests staying in this stateroom have complained of paranormal activities, and it has been featured in Ghost Hunters. The room even comes with special amenities: your own Ouija board, tarot cards, and crystal ball.
Note: The Queen Mary is currently closed due to COVID-19.
A "Trailer Pond" in a Vineyard in Central California
WHERE: Paso Robles
The pastel-colored trailers at Alta Colina Vineyard, lined up between the grapevines and the pond, are aptly called The Trailer Pond. Staying at one of these adorable trailers gives you access to the whole property, including hiking around the vineyards and enjoying the sunset from the deck over the pond. You can also book all five trailers for a group getaway. Each trailer has a double bed and an icebox, and most are also equipped with a stove. There are no bathrooms in these vintage trailers, but you can use the bathrooms a short walk away. This is a winery after all, so guests also receive a complimentary wine tasting with their stay.
Stargazing Bubble Tent in Joshua Tree
WHERE: Joshua Tree
Joshua Tree is one of the best places to see the stars thanks to the lack of light pollution in the area and the altitude of this desert region, and what better way to enjoy the stars at night than from a comfortable heated mattress inside a bubble tent? The transparent portion of the front and top of the bubble lets you enjoy the desert scenery during the day and stargaze at night. If that wasn’t enough, there is even a bathroom inside the bubble and a cowboy tub outside. The bubble tent is bookable with an adjacent one-bedroom ranch style house.