December 4, 2022

7 kitsch theme motels and hotels in California

Getting away for the weekend in California is a great way to take advantage of the awesome weather, escape the hubbub of the cities, and spend time with friends and family. And sure, you could just hop over to the beach and stay at the closest Hilton or Hyatt, but where’s the fun in that?

Make your next getaway even more unforgettable by staying somewhere with a heck of a lot more personality. Have you ever wanted to stay in a spaceship in Joshua Tree? Or maybe you’ve always dreamt of waking up in an Airstream in Santa Barbara. No? Just me? Weird. Just kidding, I know it’s not just me, you’ve been itching to experience these things too.

Well have no fear, because California is chock-full of all sorts of fun places to stay that you won’t soon forget. So let’s take a look at the best kitsch hotels and motels in the state. 

Best kitschy motels & hotels in California

Hicksville Pines Bud & Breakfast – Idyllwild

Hicksville Pines Bud & Breakfast

Hicksville Pines Bud & Breakfast

Expedia

A little off the beaten path up in the mountains of Idyllwild sits one of the best kitschy hotels in California: Hicksville Pines Bud & Breakfast. Made up of a number of different little A-frame cabins around the property, this option has all sorts of themes that appeal to people of all interests. This includes, of course, a 420-friendly A-frame that allows you to smoke inside.

Hicksville Pines Bud & Breakfast

One of the coolest things about this hotel is that it’s a perfect example of something that’s wildly popular among those who know about it, but much less so than you’d think. This is largely due to its strict photo/video policy that bans all shoots use for personal or brand promotion. In other words, this property is touted as an “anti-influencer”, which likely doesn’t help them draw up any more business, but it’s great for those of us who go there to actually enjoy it!

Madonna Inn – San Luis Obispo

Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn

Without a doubt, the most famous place to stay on this list, next up is the world-renowned Madonna Inn located in San Luis Obispo. Open for over half a century now, the Madonna Inn is well known for its vibrant pink dining room and themed rooms with all sorts of different décor, amenities, names, and more. 

Madonna Inn

madonnainn.com

I could write an entire article about just the Madonna Inn that goes into the details of each room, so this certainly isn’t all-encompassing. But just to give you an idea, some of my personal favorite rooms include “Cloud Nine”, “Love Nest”, “Caveman Room”, “Safari Room”, “Jungle Rock”, “Just Heaven”, and more.

The Gingerbread Mansion – Ferndale

The Gingerbread Mansion

The Gingerbread Mansion

The Gingerbread Mansion

This one might not be quite as out there as some of the other options on this list, but I couldn’t write about quirky California stays without mentioning the Gingerbread Mansion located in Ferndale. Designed to offer a romantic getaway in the heart of town, this property will help you and that special someone glimpse into the High Victorian Era. 

Gingerbread Mansion

gingerbread-mansion.com

All 11 luxury suites have private bathrooms with enclosed showers so you have all the privacy you want, and plenty of amenities so you’ll never feel like you’re missing out on anything. Plus, it’s the only 4-Diamond property in the county, and arguably the nicest (in terms of luxury) location on this list!

The Whale House – Santa Barbara

The Whale House

The Whale House

paradiseretreats.com

One of my personal favorites on this list is located out in Santa Barbara and falls within the Paradise Retreats portfolio of luxury vacation rentals. Built to roughly resemble its namesake animal on the outside, The Whale House is a four-story home designed by architect Michael Carmichael, who also was the first owner of the property in 1978.

The Whale House – Santa Barbara

paradiseretreats.com

The general idea behind the house is that a massive whale swallowed a ship of voyagers, and this was the result. Every level of the house has something special and unique to it, including things such as an in-home 75-foot pool, over 250 stained glass windows, winding staircases, and more. You could spend a day on each floor and feel like you’re staying somewhere new every night!

Area 55 Futuro House – Joshua Tree

Area 55 Futuro House

Area 55 Futuro House

airbnb.com

Just because I’m a huge space nerd and I love everything about it, my personal favorite place on this list is the Area 55 Futuro House in Joshua Tree. According to the Airbnb host who has this property listed, it’s the only similar adobe to this one in the world that you can stay in, and it just looks like such a fun place that I’m tempted to book it myself as I write this.

Area 55 Futuro House

airbnb.com

This property is entirely off the grid, so don’t head here if you’re planning on staying inside and catching up on emails. But if you want a quiet, secluded place to relax, spend time with that special someone, or just take in desert views, this is the perfect place for you.

The Victorian Mansion – Los Alamos

The Victorian Mansion

The Victorian Mansion

The Victorian Mansion

If you’re looking for a place like no other that you can come back to again and again while getting a different experience every time, then The Victorian Mansion in Los Alamos is for you. There are currently six themed suites to choose from: 50’s, Gypsy, Roman, Egyptian, French, and Pirate.

The Victorian Mansion

thevick.com

So at the very least, you can have a different experience at least six times. But since each suite is so different from the next, you won’t even feel like you’re staying at the same place. What is the same in each suite, however, is the amazing service and incomparable amenities that put The Vick at the top of any kitsch hotel list.

Santa Barbara Auto Camp – Russian River

AutoCamp

AutoCamp

autocamp.com/

Rounding off our list is another fun stay located in the Russian River. But instead of staying in the massive Whale House, we’re downsizing a bit and suggesting that you stay in an Airstream. But these aren’t just any old Airstreams.

This is AutoCamp

autocamp.com

The Russian River Auto Camp is packed with luxurious Airstreams that will make you feel like you’re still road-tripping even when you’re relaxing. In short, these RVs have all the creature comforts and amenities of a luxury apartment while still giving you the feeling that you’re in the great outdoors, camping among the wilderness. 

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