They say travel is about the journey, not only about the destination. But if you’ve ever arrived at your destination to find out that your hotel room is dirty, dirty, and miles away from all the action, it’s time to take matters into your own hands. An increasing number of hotels are positioning themselves as more than just a place to sleep – they are the action. You may have heard of the ice hotel in Sweden or even hip places like Dog Bark Park in Cottonwood, Idaho … but here are a few more unusual hotels to inspire your next trip.
1. To the lighthouseLove all things nautical? Try sleeping in a lighthouse. There are dozens of lighthouses throughout the world that welcome overnight guests, but at Brown’s Point Lighthouse in Tacoma, Washington, you can be the lighthouse keeper. This 30-foot concrete structure is located on Commencement Bay and the goalkeeper’s house (right) has recently been restored for overnight stays. Guests participate in the ‘goalkeeper program’, in which they maintain the lighthouse and give public guided tours. This track is designed for a minimum of two people and a maximum of six, making it a great educational experience for families. Rates range from $500 – $700 per week.
2. Go climb a treeIf the days of children clambering trees and running around outside seem to be a thing of the past, skip the sitting vacations and force them out – and up. The Cedar Creek Treehouse is a private mountain retreat in the forests of Mt. Rainier, located 20 feet up in a 200-year-old western red cedar tree. Owner Bill Compher built the treehouse himself, making it large enough to accommodate up to five people. There is a bathroom, kitchen, and dining area, not to mention skylights and a 30-meter high observatory with great views all around. Although it is a safe climb, children under the age of 10 are not allowed in the treehouse. Rates are $250 for two people and $25 for each additional guest.
3. All aboard the Romance TrainTo evoke the romantic days of train travel, why not settle down in a real train wagon at night? The Northern Rail Train car B&B in Two Harbours, Minnesota, consists of connected rail cars with 18 rooms. The Porter Suite can accommodate two people and has a dinette and private bathroom for $109 – $139. Located on 160 acres of wooded land (about 25 minutes outside of Duluth), you have access to Lake Superior and Gooseberry Falls, plus outdoor activities such as hiking and golfing.
4. Did you grow up in a barn?Located on the Puget Sound, just a ferry ride away from Seattle, a quirky spot has been designed for two. The Big Red Barn Getaway is a real barn built in the 1890s and has been renovated into a small inn. You’ll be surrounded by miles of pristine nature (and maybe even see an American white-tailed eagle). The historic Victorian seaport of Port Townsend is a 10-minute walk away and Fort Worden State Park is just two minutes away, with beautiful beaches and numerous hiking trails.
5. How about a Yurt?Have you ever slept in a yurt? Do you even know what a yurt is? These round canvas houses were made over 2000 years ago by Mongolian nomads; it’s an ingenious construction that stands firmly on the ground and can often hold several people at the same time. Treebones Resort in Big Sur, California, has 16 yurts along the ridge above the Pacific Ocean, four of which are suitable for families. You have the best room overlooking the ocean in town. Rates are $170 – $270 for two to four people, including a waffle breakfast.
6. Hopping around in a caveYou may not know that there are several underground hotels in Cappadocia, Turkey (a region in the middle of Turkey, not far from Ankara), but the most acclaimed is the Gamirasu Cave Hotel, which is located in a restored, thousand-year-old Byzantine monastic retreat. There are 18 beautifully decorated rooms, some of which were monks’ cells, carved into the cave, or built with volcanic rock. Don’t worry, there is running water. Room prices range from about $110 for a double room to about $500 for a deluxe suite.
7. Digging the Dug-OutThe Australian outback is filled with palm mines and dugouts in abundance – so dive in and experience first hand at the Desert Cave Hotel, set in the sandstone of Coober Pedy. The hotel has 19 underground rooms and about 30 rooms above ground for those who prefer not to live in the caveman style. Also underground are casinos, shops with locally mined opals, and Aboriginal arts and crafts. Rooms are about $150 per night, excluding meals or a tour of the cave.
8. Sleeping in the PipelinesIf you ever wanted to brag that you slept in a drainpipe, read on… Daspark Hotel in Lintz, Austria consists of three concrete drainpipes in the middle of a park. Inside each room is a teenager’s room built for two people, with a double bed, a lamp, a small storage room, and even sockets. Food, toilets, and showers are all nearby. If you are worried about sleeping in a public park, you can be sure that the drainpipes are all closed with a security code. And best of all, you can set your rates.
9. Sleeping with the fishNow that both China and Dubai are building underwater hotels, called the Hydropolis, sleeping underwater seems to be the wave of the future. China hopes to have the HydroTower component on land open for the Olympics, but if you can’t wait until then, visit the Jules Verne Undersea Lodge.
10. Doing timeThe new Liberty Hotel in Boston makes headlines like a former luxury hotel in prison. After a five-year renovation program that costs more than $150 million, the prison on Charles Street has retained some precious features that are a tribute to its history – like a restaurant called Clink and a bar called Alibi in the former “drunken tank. ” But if you’re looking for a more, well, authentic prison experience, you should fly to Latvia to Karosta Prison. Located in Liepaja (about three hours west of Riga), this former Soviet prison was once known as the “prison from which no one escaped”. Nowadays (if that’s the right word) it welcomes visitors to spend the night for about $16. Guests play the role of a prisoner, complete with ex-Soviet military guards scolding you and sending you around, cold iron beds, and toilets that remain uncomfortably close to their original state.