North America's Most Uncommon Lodgings
By Ann Waigand, GoNOMAD LODGINGS GUIDE
Mother always told you not to eat right before you went to bed or you'd have strange dreams. Makes you wonder what these designers had on their dinner plates to inspire them to design these mighty unconventional places to lay your head. From railway cars to grain silos, sod houses to wigwams, spend the night in the wildest, weirdest, wackiest accommodations in North America-and see what dreams may come.
Want to stay in a property listed on the National Historic Register? Don't expect a stately Victorian mansion when you book this historic property, fifteen teepes arranged in a semi-circle, constructed in 1937 near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Though the designer, Frank Redford, went on to build seven teepee motels around the U.S., the only remaining Wigwam Villages are the one here and a sister property in California. Families come to pow-wow in wigwams still furnished with 1930s-vintage beds. There are no telephones but, alas, each unit has its own 25" color TV. Singles $25 - 45, doubles $35 - 55, depending on season.
Sod House on the Prairie
Life on the prairie wasn't as easy as Michael Landon made it look when he transformed Laura Ingalls Wilder's books into the hit series, Little House on the Prairie. Settlers usually lived in dugouts, built into a bank or dug right into the prairie like the dirt-floored sod house exhibit on the same property as this unusual B & B. The Sod House on the Prairie has been considerably upgraded but retains the two-foot-thick sod walls that helped keep pioneers warm and cozy. Making the stay truly authentic, overnight guests use oil lamps, a wood-burning stove, and an outhouse and have the chance to dress in clothes from the period. Twenty miles away, in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, you can pay $3.00 to visit the site of the dugout that housed Laura and her family. Prices start at $100/night for a couple; $130/night for a family of three (each additional person, $10; the house will accommodate five people).
Sod House on the Prairie
If your childhood dream was to live in a lighthouse and help guide ships at sea, the Rose Island Lighthouse offers you a chance to be a working lighthouse keeper. As their "Keeper of the Week," you will be responsible for raising the flag each morning, recording weather, electric, and water data, and helping with overall maintenance and upkeep of the century-old structure. Life at the lighthouse is itself a lesson in conservation; rain water is stored in a basement cistern for bathing and cleaning and accessed by a hand pump, and a wind turbine provides electricity. Small appliances are available to guests but operational only if Mother Nature cooperates. Although weeks are booked up into 2003, cancellations do become available. You can also opt for an overnight in the keeper's two-room apartment, part of the on-site museum. Keeper of the Week rates range from $700 - 1600/week, depending on time of year. Museum room rates start at $120/night
Rose Island Lighthouse
Remember making a doll cradle out of a Quaker Oats box? If you could do that, reasoned hoteliers in Ohio, then why not turn an old oats factory into a hotel? Thirty-six, century-old, concrete grain silos and their companion mill form the Inn at Quaker Square. The rooms are circular; the restaurants serve oatmeal. But can they guarantee the mattresses won't be lumpy? Prices start at $99/night.
Crowne Plaza Quaker Square
Where do old cabooses and mail cars go to retire? This family motel grabbed a number of the Pennsylvania Railroad's outmoded, 25-ton train cars, lined them up along three rows of tracks, and opened them to families and couples (there's even a honeymoon caboose). A Victorian dining car serves up family-friendly meals and views of Amish horse-and-buggies, and summer brings a petting zoo, buggy rides, and country-western shindigs in the motel's barn. Couples cabooses range from $39 to $85, depending on day and season; family cabooses range from $53 to $104, depending on day and season.
The Red Caboose Motel and Restaurant
Nestle down between slices of bologna and tomato after a refreshing Jacuzzi in your giant coffee cup, just one of several wacky options at West Bend, Indiana's Fantasuite hotel. If the Happy Days Café Suite is not your cup of tea..er, coffee...try the Continental Suite, where the bed is a 1964 Lincoln Continental pulled up at a drive-in theater (your own wide-screen television), or your own private grass hut, medieval dungeon, Gemini space capsule, or Viking ship waterbed. Prices start at $99/night.
The bar is a riot of hot pink kitsch. Your room has rock walls and its own waterfall shower. This seeming mish-mash of styles and decor is also an artful use of found and recycled materials. Put together over a span of several years, Madonna Inn is made of building supplies left over from constructing the Pacific Coast Highway. Prices start at $137/night.
Sweden's famed ice hotel idea arrived in North America in 2001 in the form of this ice palace with walls carved out of 4500 tons of snow and 250 tons of ice. Ice beds receive a blanket of deer pellets and guests use arctic-rated sleeping bags to keep warm in an accommodation that maintains an average temperature of -2 to -6 degrees Celsius. Thankfully, a heated bathroom is accessible from inside the ice structure. The hotel was open from January 1 to March 31 in 2001 and plans similar opening dates in 2002. Of course, you won't want to miss the ice sculptures or the Absolut ice bar. Prices start at CAN $150 per person/per night.
Hôtel de Glace Québec-Canada Inc.
Ice was the enemy in the Alexander Henry's former life. The ship served as an icebreaker on the upper Great Lakes until 1984 when it was retired to the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes in Kingston, Canada. From late May to late September, the ship accommodates up to 48 guests in quarters ranging from the crews' bunks to the captain's suite. Guests get continental breakfast, served in the officers' mess, and free admission to the museum, and accommodations fees help support ongoing maintenance of the ship and museum. Prices range from $20 for a single bunk to $70 for the captain's quarters.
Alexander Henry Bed and Breakfast
For more unique lodgings in the U.S. and Canada, search the GoNOMAD LODGINGS LISTINGS
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