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Top 10 Quirkiest Accommodations in the Golden State

Nov. 4, 2018

In a state known for free spirits, it’s no surprise that California offers places to sleep that push the boundaries of traditional accommodations. From water towers in Mendocino and tree nests in Big Sur to a ghost ship in Sacramento and a Beverly Hills terrace tent fit for a sultan, the Golden State offers some of the most unique and adventurous lodging options.

Water Towers

In the quaint, artsy town of Mendocino, guests can sleep in a new type of penthouse suite—historic water towers! Used to supply water to homes in the late 19th century, savvy owners have transformed the towers to create unique lodging options for a romantic weekend getaway, family adventure or inspiring artist’s retreat. At Sweetwater Inn & Spa, climb the stairs up the three-story Redwood Tower with its commanding views of Mendocino Bay and the Pacific. Situated opposite the Mendocino Art Center, the Bever-Roberts Tower is the perfect spot for romance and the opportunity to take long walks on the headlands. The Grand Lady of the village, the MacCallum House, sports a jaunty tower suite with three floors of luxury accommodations and expansive top-floor views.

Tree Houses and Nests

A primer glamping destination on the Big Sur coast, Treebones Resort now offers a Human Nest and the Twig Hut, so you can be even more connected to nature. The Human Nest, a private hand-woven nest that comes with a full-sized futon pad inside, is accessible by ladder and offers some of the best views of the Pacific Ocean at Treebones. A short stroll offers access to a picnic table and outdoor cook station, along with restrooms and water access. The new Twig Hut features a hand-woven, two-story structure with spectacular northern ocean views and a full-sized futon pad inside, as well as access to a “writer’s nook” below with an outdoor love seat. The unusual wood-art in both accommodations was created by Big Sur artist Jayson Fann. Like a bird’s nest, they’re not weather proof, so Treebones recommends pitching a “just in case” tent.

Across town, the sustainable Post Ranch Inn offers a more luxurious form of “roughing it.” Guests can stay in free-standing Tree Houses, built on stilts nine-feet off the forest floor and designed around living trees. The Ocean Houses feature curved, beamed "living roofs" covered with a soft carpet of grass and wildflowers. The Cliff Houses, suspended over the western edge of the ridge, offer vast ocean views from the outdoor spa tub and large terrace, the indoor bath and the secluded glass-walled bedroom.

Antique Railroad Cars

Visitors to the mountainous Shasta Cascade region can awaken in another era aboard a historic caboose at the Railroad Park Resort in Siskiyou County. Reminiscent of the days when adventure-seekers hopped on cross-country trains, but offering all the modern conveniences, these converted antique cabooses feature surprises ranging from climb-up cupolas to clawfoot tubs. Guests can continue the experience by dining in the resort’s antique Dining Car Restaurant, which serves up American cuisine with a museum-like backdrop of historic railroad photos, artifacts and a replica of the Southern Pacific Cascade, which once plied the rails between San Francisco and Portland. The resort – surrounded by 50 rivers, 270 lakes, and 40 hiking and biking trails – is also home to a 1927 steam-driven locomotive that visitors can explore.

Safari Tents

Lull yourself to sleep with the lullaby sounds of African wildlife at Safari West in Santa Rosa, where you glamp in a luxury tent overlooking the “Sonoma Serengeti.” Located in Sonoma County wine country, Safari West features authentic safari tents sourced from Lobatswe, Botswana, upgraded with electricity, polished hardwood floors, a private viewing deck, a heated bed, ceiling fans and fully plumbed bathrooms. Each tent neighborhood offers something different, with Antelope/Giraffe Alley providing the closest views to the animal enclosures. Guests can take an educational safari of the 400-acre research- and conservation-driven preserve, filled with 900 animals including herds of wildebeest, rhinos and zebras. After the tour, guests can spend the evening enjoying dinner, sipping local wines and roasting marshmallows.

Eccentric Hotels

If everyone in your party has a different idea of what type of place to stay, then look no further than some of California’s quirkiest hotels and campgrounds with multiple personalities. The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo boasts 110 whimsical guestrooms, each with their own themes including: Caveman, featuring animal prints, a rock pond, stone-age clubs and a waterfall spilling from a stone shower; and the Love Nest, which is accessed by a quaint trestle bridge and features an enchanting staircase winding upward into a private viewing tower along with French-styled furnishings surrounded by shades of pink.

Over in the Santa Ynez Valley wine region, the Victorian Mansion Bed & Breakfast – a recently renovated 1864 Victorian – houses six incredible suites with themes including a sheik's tent, 50’s drive-in, pirate ship and gypsy caravan. Each room features themed beds, in-room hot tubs, fireplaces and hidden bathrooms, amplified by inspiring music, fragrance, hand-painted murals and tiles, movies and furniture.

Urban Terrace Glamping

Known as the iconic setting for the movie “Pretty Woman,” the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel just launched Los Angeles’ first urban glamping experience. Guests can “rough it” on the legendary Veranda Suite Terrace in an expansive tent equipped with a queen-size bed, crystal chandelier, marble lamps, fur rugs and antique nightstands. Guests will also have the opportunity to indulge in special campfire s’mores made with 24-carat gold leaf, Tahitian vanilla bean marshmallow, and a smoked 55 percent Valrhona chocolate bar crafted from the imagination of Chef Chris Ford.

Vintage Trailer Camps

For those who dream of staying in an Airstream or vintage trailer, California’s got you covered with options all around the state! AutoCamp offers glamping in custom-designed Airstream suites at locations in Santa Barbara, Sonoma County and Yosemite National Park. Santa Cruz KOA features six Airstreams that are outfitted with everything for a luxurious glamping trip – including a kitchen, bathroom, AC and heating – while the sites play up the fun, retro theme with pink flamingos and colorful vintage patio furniture. At the Alta Colina vineyard in Paso Robles, guests can camp among the vines at The Trailer Pond. With five brightly colored, refurbished retro trailers to choose from, guests can camp in style while enjoying stunning views of the famed Adelaida wine district. Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground in nearby Buellton offers the ultimate glamping experience with retro-fitted “canned ham” vintage trailers along with other themed cottages and tents. Close to many wineries, the resort offers many on-site amenities including a swimming pool, playground, bocce ball, horseshoes, a sports field, fire pits and Santa Maria-style BBQ dinners on Friday nights.

Ghost Ships

If you don’t mind sharing your accommodations with a few ghosts, make your way to Long Beach or Sacramento! The famously haunted Queen Mary in Long Beach is a floating hotel boasting 346 guest rooms and a variety of restaurants, along with fascinating exhibits and tours. The Haunted Encounters Tour explores the infamous stories of the paranormal residents that now occupy the legendary ship, which once hosted luminaries such as Audrey Hepburn, Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower. The historic Delta King riverboat in Sacramento offers guests the chance to stay in another era, when the 285-foot boat did daily trips to San Francisco, serving booze during Prohibition and offering jazz, gambling and fine dining. The hotel features 44 rooms, two restaurants and a theater believed to be haunted by the original captain.

Pioneer Wagons

Relive the spirit of the Old West and camp in a covered wagon at Virginia Creek Settlement in the High Sierra town of Bridgeport. The creek-side units are very rustic and not heated, providing guests a true glimpse into Gold Rush-era life! However, visitors are able to use modern amenities like the campground shower and restroom facility. The wagons feature one double bed, a fire ring and a picnic table. You’ll have to rustle up your own linens or rent them from the camp.

Teepees and Yurts

Speaking of the Wild West, you can sleep in a 30-foot-tall teepee at the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino. Built in 1949 and situated along the popular Route 66, the motel features 19 teepees, all of which boast a bed, TV, fridge, A/C and heat, and Wi-Fi.

To experience another type of history, try out one of the yurt experiences around California! Accompanied by jaw-dropping views, the Quaking Aspen Campground in the Giant Sequoia National Monument is a great place to start. Located at 7,000-feet in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada, the campground is open roughly May through October, offering hiking through groves of giant sequoias, fishing and other outdoor activities. A river-side yurt experience awaits along the Tuolumne, at the Thousand Trails Yosemite Lakes Resort, where you can pan for gold and explore caverns near Yosemite National Park.

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