10 Modern Motor Lodges Worth a Stay

Forget the penthouse suite—these retro pads are the epitome of style

Stephanie Granada
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Retro Meets Modern

Somewhere between the DIY chill of Airbnb rentals and the no-expenses-spared comforts of luxury resorts lies the appeal of the humble-but-mighty revamped motor lodge. Not long ago, travelers stayed in roadside motels out of necessity or desperation as they drove down desolate highways late into the night. The discolored carpets and limp, floral bedspreads served as backdrops for horror flicks and seedy deals. But now a budding wave of moteliers point back to the heyday of motor courts and reclaim the motels’ pre-highway luster. In these updated locales, handcrafted wares replace laminate tables, toiletries go from Costco soaps to French potions, polyester bedding makes way for bespoke blankets, and the vending machine is replaced with James Beard-worthy restaurants and trendy cocktail joints. Consider one of these spruced-up motels the ideal waypoint for your next road trip—or heck, make it the destination.

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Pioneertown Motel, Pioneertown, CA

An Instagram star, Pioneertown debuted revamped guest rooms in 2015. Interior decor toggles between gentlemen’s lodge (think leather chairs, hand-carved furniture, cowhide rugs) and desert mysticism (minimalist landscape photographs, Navajo-inspired blankets). Outside, it’s all Wild West settlement as the building and surrounding town were established in the forties as a backdrop for outlaw movies. Before venturing to Joshua Tree, hightail it to the 30,000-acre Pioneertown Mountain Preserve 10 minutes from the motel. pioneertown-motel.com

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Calistoga Motor Lodge, Calistoga, CA

Nostalgia abounds, as hints of childhood road trips show up in the form of rest-station motifs, roadside signage, vintage car vinyl, and sweet poppy shades rooted in nature. Banking on Calistoga’s storied history as a hot-spring destination, the lodge has three spring-fed pools, as well as a spa with mineral-infused baths and mud treatments all meant to detox and recharge weary travelers. calistogamotorlodgeandspa.com

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Mountain Modern Hotel, Jackson, WY

Lovers of the tiny house-movement may be tempted to move into one of Mountain Modern’s 136 pads. Modestly-sized rooms are outfitted with kitchenettes and a gear wall to keep hiking, skiing, and other mountain equipment in order. On the walls, blown-up pics of nearby wonders and topographic maps of the area point the way toward adventure. mountainmodernmotel.com

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Wall Street Suites, Bend, OR

Wall Street went from being a motel in the fifties to low-income housing, and is now back to offering hospitality. Both couples who own the property pooled together resources (personal collections, family photographs, Craigslist materials) and local talent to redesign spaces into rustic-chic rooms that are as visually attractive as they are comfy. Book a suite with a kitchen if you opt to stay a while. wallstreetsuitesbend.com

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Amigo Lodge, Salida, CO

A couple from Texas moves to the Rockies and renovates a 1950s motel, drawing inspiration from hometown hotelier Liz Lambert. The result is this friendly basecamp (Salida draws adrenaline hounds year-round for biking, skiing, rafting, and hiking). An old carport now serves as a lounge for guests, and outside, a fire pit gathers guests nightly. There’s no excuse not to leave with new amigos. stayamigo.com

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Cambria Beach Lodge, Cambria, CA

Cruising the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll find many things—dramatic bluffs jutting toward the sea, seafood shacks, architectural gems, and the dreamiest beaches imagined. What you won’t find are too many hotels that are affordable and still stylish and offering a touch of luxury. Cambria may not offer butlers and white tablecloth dinners, but the bright, tropical rooms set on a quiet stretch of Moonstone Beach hover around $100 bucks a night and come outfitted with a locally stocked minibar, Compagnie de Provence toiletries, and binoculars for naturalist-leaning guests. cambriabeachlodge.com

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The Burrard, Vancouver, B.C., Canada

The 1950s-built, recently renovated Burrard stands out for its amenities (pet-friendly rooms, free bike rentals, locavore café on-site, games, passes to a nearby gym) and location near some of Vancouver’s most happening ’hoods. In true mid-century spirit, the original neon sign still flanks the front of the building and offers plenty of opportunities for visitors to meet and mingle. theburrard.com

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Anvil Hotel, Jackson, WY

Jackson is vying for the title of hip motel capital, with two recently decked-out locales. Anvil’s makeover invokes a boys’ prep school dormitory with its two-toned walls, iron frames, wool blankets (they’re custom Woolrich), and simple wooden furniture. Communal spaces range from a café to a sleek trattoria to a bar helmed by craft cocktail pioneering Death & Co. anvilhotel.com

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Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, Waikiki, HI

With its celeb chef-helmed restaurant and stylish lobby boutiques, this could be categorized as a full-fledged hotel, but the 112 corridor-lining suites are all motor-lodge cool. Standing apart from the bevy of high-rise condos and chain properties on the island, the Surfjack depicts Hawaiian heritage through its koa-wood furniture, local illustrations, and the message “Wish You Were Here” tiled in mosaic across the floor of a centralized pool. surfjack.com

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Modern Hotel & Bar, Boise, ID

Inspired by her Basque grandmother who moved to Boise and opened a boarding house in the 1930s, the Modern’s founder converted an old lodge into a sleek crash pad with 39 uniquely appointed rooms. It’s all about the details here: Line up to man the record player sitting in the lobby bathroom or order a drink delivered to your room while you tune into the mini film festival that screens on channel 39 on every TV—a series of short films curated by the owner. themodernhotel.com