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Ten novelty hotels for unique getaways


Hotels today are much more than just a place to sleep—many travelers view them as an integral part of a getaway experience. With the recent boom of boutique hotels, spiffed-up budget properties, and novelty accommodations, travelers can choose a hotel that is as much a selling point as the destination itself.

Novelty hotels enable travelers to sleep in a treetop, relax underground in a cave, and even spend a night under the sea. And while such properties often cost more than an average hotel, they need not take up the majority of a getaway budget. Here are 10 unique properties to consider, as well as ways to save when choosing a novelty hotel.

  • Cedar Creek Treehouse at Mount Rainier, Ashford, Washington: For those who always wanted a genuine treehouse, to sleep close to the stars, or literally to wake up with the birds, the Cedar Creek Treehouse, 10 miles away from Mount Rainier National Park, is a bed and breakfast 50 feet off the ground in a giant cedar tree. Rates start at $250 per night based on double occupancy and $25 per person per night for each additional guest; the treehouse can accommodate up to five people. Each stay also includes a one-hour guided tour of the inn’s “Stairway to Heaven,” suspension bridge, and observatory. Spring, summer, and autumn stays are available; winter reservations are accepted on a weather-permitting basis.
  • Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, Glen Rose, Texas: Travelers who want to see the wilds of Africa, but don’t have the budget for such a trip, can instead head to Texas’ Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. Guests spend the night in a 1,600-acre nature preserve, with the choice of accommodations in the center’s lodge or camp. Both properties offer close-up views of the animals, and the center is open year-round. Rates start at $175 based on double occupancy; morning safari tours can be added on for $45 per person.
  • Golden Slipper Bed & Breakfast, Boston: The Golden Slipper provides a mix of city and seaside getaways for those visiting Boston. A floating B&B, the Golden Slipper is a yacht moored downtown at Lewis Wharf, and is open each year for stays from May 1 through November 15. Features include a galley kitchen, living room, separate bedroom, and front and rear decks. Up to four adults can stay at a time; rates start at $275.
  • Ice Hotel, Quebec: For those who always wondered what it’s like to spend a night in an igloo, the Ice Hotel in Quebec provides the answer, with many luxurious extras. Rates for one night start at $595 CDN ($503 U.S.), double occupancy, and include cocktails in the hotel bar, a four-course dinner at the hotel restaurant, buffet breakfast, insulated sleeping bag and linens, and gratuities. Tours are also available without an overnight stay for $14 per person. Additionally, the Ice Hotel often has early-bird discounts for travelers booking prior to winter’s arrival.
  • Jules’ Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Florida: Guests can sleep with the fishes at Jules’ Undersea Lodge, located 21 feet below the surface of Emerald Lagoon in Key Largo Undersea Park. Originally a research facility, the lodge now has all traditional hotel amenities, including two bedrooms, entertainment facilities, a telephone, air conditioning, and hot showers. Prices start at $250 per person per night for the European Style Package for groups of six, or $295 per person per night based on double occupancy. To celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2006, Jules’ Undersea lodge is offering 10 percent off its package rates.
  • Kokopelli’s Cave Bed & Breakfast, Farmington, New Mexico: Kokopelli’s Cave, appealing to would-be cavemen and women, is a cliff dwelling 70 feet underground near New Mexico’s Mesa Verde National Monument. Not for those out of shape, the cave B&B is accessed only by hiking. Once there, however, guests will find a hot tub, kitchen facilities, and a grill and patio. Rates are $220 for one to two people, or $260 for three to four guests.
  • The Library Hotel, New York: Book lovers may want to choose New York’s Library Hotel, located in Midtown adjacent to the New York Public Library. Each of the hotel’s 10 floors represents a branch of the Dewey Decimal System, with guest rooms also including art and books relevant to the respective Dewey category. Rates start at $315 per night and include many extras, such as a breakfast buffet, bottle of sparkling wine on arrival, free passes to the New York Sports Club, high-speed Internet access, snacks and drinks, and more.
  • Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo, California: The Madonna Inn, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco in San Luis Obispo, has 108 theme rooms celebrating many types of travelers and their interests. Guests can stay in the Buffalo, Caveman, Jungle Rock, or Pony rooms, to name just a few. Overnight prices start at $147 based on double occupancy.
  • Quinta Real Zacatecas, Mexico: The Quinta Real Zacatecas enables travelers to stay in and around a historic aqueduct and a genuine bullring, Plaza de Toros San Pedro, the second oldest bullring in the Western Hemisphere. The hotel has purified water, decorative fireplaces, and air conditioning. Room rates start at $150 per night for two guests.
  • Saugerties Lighthouse and Bed & Breakfast, Saugerties, New York: History buffs and nature travelers alike may enjoy the Saugerties Lighthouse and B&B, a historic lighthouse on the Hudson River. Accessible only by boat or by walking a nature trail, the lighthouse has been restored and furnished as it would have been in the early 1900s. There are no televisions or air conditioning, and one telephone is available for emergencies. Guests share a first-floor bathroom. The inn is open year-round; rates start at $135 per night.

Savings strategies

Here are some tips to help save money when staying at a novelty hotel.

  • If the per-night rate is more than what you usually spend, just stay one night. Call the hotel’s front desk to see what the cheapest night of the week is, and plan your stay accordingly.
  • If you can’t afford to stay at a novelty hotel, or just feel the rate is too steep, see if a tour can be arranged. Many hotels, such as the Ice Hotel, offer inexpensive tours for those who aren’t interested in spending the night, but who still want to see the property first-hand.
  • Ask about package rates, group discounts, or online-only prices.
  • Look into partner promotions with the local CVB, area businesses, or travel providers.
  • Use an online tool to sort by budget. This way you can find properties that automatically fit in your price range. The Unusual Hotels of the World website offers a budget search function so you can always find a property that’s the right price for you.

Finally, while novelty hotels can be fun and memorable, they’re not for every traveler. Treehouse hotels, for example, may not be a fun experience for those who are afraid of heights, are allergic to forest plant life, or have difficulty with altitude or climbing stairs. It’s always a good idea to speak with all travel companions to make sure fitness levels, health concerns, and personal tastes are being taken into consideration. Once everyone’s needs are understood, a novelty property can make a vacation even more memorable, and will certainly provide stories about the trip that a standard hotel never could.

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