Are you eager to travel again, but not quite ready to tackle lobbies, elevators, and hotel corridors?
Many families who are exploring again are booking vacation rentals, to minimize contact with staff and other travelers. Here’s another idea: Ditch the predictable four walls in favor of a quirkier option that lets you easily stay distanced—while also wowing the kids. Around the world, you can find unusual accommodations that also happen to be free-standing, from decked-out caves to luxe Airstream resorts to train cabooses-turned-suites.
We rounded up some unconventional, quirky hotels around the U.S. Many are in lesser-known spots, but you can find wacky places to stay in more popular destinations, too. Use our list as inspiration for your next search.
Cozy Up in an Airstream in Cape Cod, Mass.
Book a vintage Airstream a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean at AutoCamp Cape Cod. Each of the 88 customized Airstreams is nestled in nature and set at least 15 feet apart from the others, so social distancing is inherent in the physical layout. These streamlined pieces of Americana sleep up to two adults and two kids in a queen-size bed and a convertible sofa. Cushy amenities include a walk-in rain shower, modern bathroom, and flat-screen cable television. The kids should enjoy romping in the Adventure Zone, a timber play structure with swings, climbing holds, and balance beams. It’s just a five-minute drive to the beaches at Falmouth and Woods Hole where you can catch the ferry for a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard.
From $139 a night, autocamp.com
Ride a Conestoga Wagon in Torrey, Utah
Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park is a wonderland of majestic canyons, red cliffs, and soaring spires. It’s not as crowded as some better-known national parks, which makes it a good fit for current times. Capitol Reef Resort is located on 58 acres at the park’s doorstep. The resort has standard guest rooms and cabins, plus the more exciting option of spending the night in a Conestoga wagon (June through September). Based on 19th-century designs, each of the 18 wagons is water-resistant and sleeps up to six in a king-size bed and two sets of bunks. A private bathroom is located just outside of the wagon. The property also has a heated pool and hot tub, and offers guided horseback riding excursions.
From about $300 per night, capitolreefresort.com
Sleep in a Teepee in Westgate River, Florida
See another side of Florida just 90 minutes south of Walt Disney World. Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo is a western-style escape that hosts a Saturday evening rodeo, archery lessons, and pony rides. Families can bed down in one of their 10 spacious teepees, which sleep up to four in a king-size bed and fold-out sofa. Creature comforts include a fireplace, bathroom with walk-in shower, fridge, and microwave. (There’s also an ADA-compliant teepee with exterior ramps and a bathtub with handrails.) If a teepee isn’t your style, book a glamping-style tent, cabin, or wagon. The social distancing policy limits the number of participants, so booking activities in advance is suggested. Certain activities are currently virtual, including family yoga and magic lessons.
From about $500 a night, westgateresorts.com
Perch in a Treehouse in Hocking Hills, Ohio
With 10,000 acres of forests, waterfalls, caves, and natural bridges, Hocking Hills is a bucolic Midwestern escape. The area has a robust array of unusual lodging options, including geodomes, container homes, and teepees. For some, sleeping in a treehouse is a childhood dream lifted from the pages of Swiss Family Robinson. If your kids are at least 5 years old, bring the fantasy to life and reserve one of three treehouse cottages at Among the Trees. T These lofty abodes offer frills such as private decks, bathrooms, heat, air-conditioning, kitchenettes, and hot tubs with panoramic views to elevate the experience. The two larger treehouses sleep up to four guests.
From $220 a night, amongthetreeslodging.com
Have a Barking Good Time in Cottonwood, Idaho
Being in the doghouse is a good thing at Dog Bark Park Inn, where what looks like a giant beagle is actually a comfortable guest suite. It’s a nostalgic nod to the early days of automobile vacation travel, when roadside lodges often took unusual and attention-getting forms. Inside, you’ll find cozy quarters with plenty of canine-themed bric-a-brac and puppy-shaped cookies left on the pillows. It sleeps four in a queen-size bed and separate sleeping loft with two twin-size mats. Enjoy views of the seemingly-endless prairie and the starry night sky from the second story deck. This corner of Idaho is an excellent base to explore the Nez Perce history and culture, horseback ride, and hike. You’ll be the only family staying here, so it’s easy to maintain physical distancing.
From $152 a night, dogbarkpark.com
Board a Caboose in Dunsmuir, Calif.
With 23 cabooses that have been converted into guest accommodations, this throwback resort in a historic trainyard in Northern California is a must for locomotive buffs. Railroad Park Resort has several family-sized cabooses that sleep up to five in a variety of bed configurations; they include full bathrooms, high-speed Internet, and air conditioning. The resort is near the iconic Pacific Crest Trail in the shadows of Mt. Shasta, alongside Little Castle Creek. Wade in the creek, hike, and breathe in the fresh mountain air. An outdoor pool, hot tub, game room, and 1927 Willamette Steam Driven Locomotive also help keep the kids entertained. Eat on-site at the Dining Car Restaurant, located inside several restored antique railroad cars.
From $135 per night, rrpark.com