These motels are peak nostalgia for road trippers.

A classic car parks in front of Cuyama Buckhorn in Central California

Photo Courtesy of Cuyama Buckhorn

A classic car parks in front of Cuyama Buckhorn in Central California

To truly understand the West, you have to get on the road. And there’s no better way to do so than visiting some of California’s classic motor inns. Located in remote destinations along iconic byways, motor lodges are designed to accommodate dyed-in-the-wool road warriors. (The first of record, Milestone Mo-Tel, opened in San Luis Obispo in 1925.) Now, these mom-and-pop motels are making a real comeback as we lean into nostalgia in a post-pandemic era, with spots cropping up all over the West. Here are some of the exciting new places worth a visit.

High Country Motor Lodge in Flagstaff, Arizona is on the iconic Route 66.

Courtesy of High Country Motor Lodge

High Country Motor Lodge

The newly opened High Country Motor Lodge in Northern Arizona just off Route 66 melds vintage style, contemporary design, and an adventurous spirit. Be sure to book in for a soak in the Nordic Spa, which will help relieve tired bodies after a long road trip. There are plenty of firepits around the property, and the game room and bar are stocked with pool and foosball tables to keep you entertained while you sip on craft cocktails.

A classic car parks in front of Cuyama Buckhorn in Central California
A classic car parks in front of Cuyama Buckhorn in Central California.

Courtesy of Cuyama Buckhorn

Cuyama Buckhorn

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Built in 1952 when Cuyama was a booming oil town, Cuyama Buckhorn has recently been restored to capture the nostalgia of the West, but with modern upgrades like Brooklinen bedding, Bluetooth radios, Further bath products, and walk-in showers. On weekends, you’ll hear the thunderous groans of a herd of Harley-Davidsons pulling in for a bite at their delicious modern-diner, or a $4 beer at the taxidermy-adorned dive bar. Their restaurant, The Buckhorn, serves legit Santa Maria-style tri-tip alongside some of the best heirloom baked beans, and that’s saying a lot of this Central Coast staple. It truly is the perfect pit stop for motorcyclists, cyclists, and road trippers looking to take a load off before continuing on the journey West on Route 166, where they’ll eventually meet the iconic Highway 1 in Santa Maria.

The Egyptian Motor Lodge in Phoenix is a remodeled vintage property full of fun surprises.

Courtesy of Egyptian Motor Lodge

Egyptian Motor Hotel

The Egyptian Motor Hotel has been in Phoenix’s vibrant Arts District for over 70 years, and has recently been resurrected as one of the coolest boutique hotels that Arizona has to offer. Now, the property has 49 retro modern rooms with bunk beds (aka “stacked”) and King bed offerings, as well as an Airstream guest room stocked with throwback amenities like Marshall Bluetooth speakers and retro refrigerators. Outside, you’ll find firepits, where you can strum the complimentary acoustic guitars that come in each guest room. There’s also a 250-seat entertainment venue (pro tip: You can actually watch performances from your balcony) and a culinary program helmed by the beloved Mexican pop-up Chilte, their first brick-and-mortar location.

A chic guestroom at the Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa.

Courtesy of Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa

Calistoga Motor Lodge

Fun is the name of the game at this circa-1946 motor lodge, which was redesigned with a camper van motif by New York-based design firm AvroKO. All 50 rooms are stocked with hula hoops and jump ropes, and the lobby has board games, lawn games, and cruiser bicycles for guests to use. The hotel also hosts regular weekly maker workshops with local artisans who share their skills. Linger at MoonAcre Spa & Baths, which draws upon the mineral water for which Calistoga has become famous, and offers a mix-your-own mud bar.

A rendering of the backyard area at the Americana Motor Hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Rendering courtesy of Americana Motor Hotel

Americana Motor Hotel

Americana Motor Hotel will soon reopen in Flagstaff, Arizona, following an extensive renovation and rebrand by Practice Hospitality. Built in 1962 and reopening in July, the motel is set in the world’s first Dark Sky city, and within a short distance of the Grand Canyon and the Sunset Crater Volcano. The retro-futuristic oasis is reimagining the classic roadside retreat. Designed by Andrew Alford, the vibrant, colorful property promises pure joy. They plan on offering programming like “dive in” movies, where guests can watch films from the pool.

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