by Michele Johansen
It's that time of year when families start thinking about spring break and summer vacation. There's a big, old world out there to explore that includes millions of hotels. Why stay in your typical, boring hotel when you can sleep somewhere a little different? Instead of organizing a family vacation around a location, think about planning around your accommodations! Check out these ten hotels that offer an extraordinary experience along with a place to sleep, from right here in the United States to as far away as Finland and Brazil.
Hotel de Glace
Need to chill out? Check into the Hotel de Glace, located in Quebec, Canada. Be sure to bring a jacket, though! The hotel is made out of ice and the temperature is kept at about 37 degrees. Beds are made on a solid block of ice, with a wooden bedspring and a mattress. Sleeping bags are delivered each evening that will keep you nice and warm. The hotel knows you might have some questions about what to pack, so there's a preparation guide to go over before you arrive. Not sure you want to stay at what is deemed a "snow cathedral?" No worries - you can take a tour that ends with a trip down an ice slide!
Kokopelli Cave Bed & Breakfast
Who hasn't wanted to stay overnight in a cave that's 70 feet below the surface? If you ever find yourself in Farmington, New Mexico, see if the KokopelliCave Bed & Breakfast has a vacancy. Privately owned, the views from the cliff are amazing - you can see each state of the Four Corners. Getting into the cave may be a tad bit daunting, as it requires walking down a sloping path with intermittent steps. It's worth it once you get inside. Along with the usual amenities of running water, a kitchen, and even a washer/dryer, it also boasts 65 million year-old sandstone. You won't find that at your local tile store!
Dog Bark Park Inn
It goes without saying that the owners of the Dog Bark Park Inn are dog lovers. Located in Cottonwood, Idaho, the hotel is actually a guesthouse located inside a huge beagle. Guests enter the belly of the beagle to find a cozy living space. Take some stairs into the muzzle of the dog and you'll find a loft with additional sleeping space. The decor is mostly of dogs, made by chainsaw artists Dennis and Frances (who also own the joint!). Head into the gift shop to find... dogs made out of wood with chainsaws! Seriously, if you're a cat lover, keep on driving.
Costa Verde Resort
One look at the 1965 727 Boeing jet hoisted up among the trees of the rainforest near Quepos, Costa Rica, and you may think you've walked into the premise of 'Lost.' It may have been an ecological headache getting the plane to its final location, but the Costa Verde Resort went as eco-friendly as possible when it came to decorating. The inside is floor-to-ceiling hand-carved teak harvested locally. The suite (2 bedrooms, 2 baths) comes with ocean views and a terrace to relax. Your flight to relaxation is now boarding!
Pull into the parking lot of a Wigwam Motel and your kids will probably burst with excitement. This motel has always been famous, especially after appearing in the Pixar film Cars as the Cozy Cone Motel. At one point there were seven Wigwam Motels, but now there are three. Two are located along Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona and San Bernardino, California. The third is in Kentucky. Built between the 1930s and 1980s, the motel is broken into wigwam rooms that are obviously inspired by Native American culture. These motels are part of American pop culture and have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ready for your Route 66 road trip?
There's no better way to become one with nature than to sleep in a tree. At the Out-n-About Treehouse Treesort, you can do just that but in comfort and style! This unique resort in Cave Junction, Oregon features over a dozen treehouses for your family to stay in, including a Swiss Family Robinson-themed treehouse. Some have amenities like heat and water, and some are a bit simpler with just sinks and toilets (facilitrees are nearby). With accommodations like these, it's impossible to go barking up the wrong tree.
Hotel and Igloo Village Kakslauttanen
Take a trip to Finland and make your way to Lapland's Hotel Kakslauttanen where you'll find snow igloos and igloos with glass ceilings. Forget the cold - the down sleeping bags will keep you warm. Focus on the Aurora Borealis, the Ice Chapel, or the world's largest restaurant made of snow! Need to warm up? Sit for awhile in the world's largest smoke sauna (and if you're really brave, try ice swimming before or after the sauna!). Sounds like a cool place!
The Hobbit Motel
You don't need to be a fan of Lord of the Rings to stay at The Hobbit Motel, but you'll appreciate it a lot more if you are. You'll find it in New Zealand, where the movies were filmed, in Woodlyn Park, a place that also happens to house other unique hotels like the Waitomo Express (a railcar) and the Bristol Freightor (a fighter plane). The Hobbit Motel is built into the side of a hill and looks exactly like the hobbit burrows of Lord of the Rings, with round doors and "hobbit-friendly" furniture. Whether or not you can drink a pint with Frodo, Sam, or some other hobbits remains to be seen.
RMS Queen Mary
If you've always wanted to take a cruise but couldn't because of seasickness, then the Queen Mary is the hotel for you! Anchored in Long Beach, California, this former cruise ship has been transformed into a hotel. Oh, one thing - it's not your modern-day cruise ship. It was built in the 1930s and has quite an extensive past, including transporting troops during World War II. You don't need to stay overnight to experience all that the Queen Mary has to offer. There are lots of tours available, some of which involve paranormal activity and the ship's haunted past. Ahoy, matey!
Exploranter Overland Hotel
Road trips are great, and this one will put someone else in the driver's seat, leaving you to enjoy the views and relax. Hop aboard this 25-ton truck and let your journey through Brazil begin. The Exploranter Overland Hotel has 28 sleeping berths, a lounge, and a kitchen. Depending on the package, you can drive through the mountains or rainforests. Each trip makes stops in unusual places that you wouldn't find on an ordinary trip to Brazil, like slave dungeons on a coffee plantation. Enjoy your meals outside and sit by a campfire in the evening. For once, your family and friends won't mind sitting through your vacation slideshow!
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Michele Johansen is a writer in Bellevue, WA. She is the co-creator of the Ruby Slipper Guide, a website that lists activities and events for families living east of Seattle and blog that delves into the foils of parenting.