By Peter Greenberg
Are you ready to travel after months of confinement and looking for a great alternative to the traditional branded, cookie-cutter hotel? Well, you’re in luck. More and more hotels are announcing their presence with their own distinct architecture, personality and design. The availability of lodgings listed below depend on local public health ordinances, so plan now but don’t expect your reservation to be confirmed for at least another month.
On the arid prairie around Marfa, Texas, you can go glamping in safari tents and teepees or stay the night in a sleek retro trailer.
In Cottonwood, Idaho, you can book a stay inside the world’s largest beagle – at a hotel appropriately called the Dog Bark Park Inn (and you can bring your dog too!).
If these locations sound too conventional, then consider one of the following.
A Potato and a Jumbo Jet
You can now overnight at the Philadelphia Zoo with the animals. You can also sleep at the Louvre in Paris, which includes dinner in front of the statue of Venus. Airbnb is now offering special “night at” experiences, which have included sleepovers at Fenway Park in Boston, Dracula’s Castle in Romania or even the Catacombs in Paris.
Two of my favorites are bunking down inside of a 6-ton potato, which was once used as a TV commercial prop, on 400-acres of farmland south of Boise, Idaho.
And let’s not forget the chance to sleep inside a decommissioned jumbo jet in either Amsterdam or France. Don’t expect room service or turn down service. But you might just get an upgraded seat.
Roaring and Snoring
Are you looking for an alternate to a hotel that offers a win-win cultural experience at the same time? Why not break your voluntary coronavirus seclusion by spending the night at a museum. Ben Stiller won’t be there, but you can spend quality time at your favorite haven of history or art.
The exhibits won’t exactly come to life, but in New York at the American Museum of Natural History, it’s possible to schedule adult-only sleepovers as well as family stays. And you can count sheep under the 49-foot-long blue whale.
Do you want a live animal experience? The San Diego Zoo offers its roar and snore program — that’s right — it actually calls it that — with an array of tent options all spaced at appropriate intervals.
And in Washington D.C., bring a sleeping bag and snuggle up next to the Declaration of Independence. It’s recommended for kids ages 8-12, and the National Archives’ sleepover includes a scavenger hunt, movies and a pancake breakfast.
Sleep with the fishes
Imagine waking up one morning with a shark outside of your window.
That’s the reality when you book a stay at one of the world’s underwater hotels.
In Saint Lucia, you can spend the night in the “Lovers Deep”–a luxury submarine for two. You can choose where to park your hotel for the night, and you can wake up to coral reefs or other underwater treasures.
Caution: It’s expensive. Thankfully, Saint Lucia isn’t your only option for underwater quarters.
Conrad’s Muraka Suite on Rangali Island in the Maldives is 16 feet underwater.
If you can’t decide whether you want stargazing or sea gazing, go to the Manta Resort in Tanzania, where the three-story underwater room has a submerged bedroom with a rooftop deck.
Real Social Distancing
There’s getting away for a vacation, and then there’s really getting away to hotels that promise total isolation.
The Ittoqqortoormiit Guest House, a hotel in eastern Greenland, is the most remote hotel in the world. The population density of Greenland is 0.0 people per square kilometer. The hotel’s amenities include heating, a fridge, and many 90s DVDs. If you want to use WiFi, you’ll have to go to the town’s local recreation center.
If you’re looking for other remote hotels to stay in, check out Three Camel Lodge in Mongolia. After two flights and a 90 minute drive, you’ll be in your own handmade yurt, far from just about anything or anyone.
Check out the Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland. It’s located 155 miles north of the Arctic Circle. And you can choose between staying in a traditional snow hut or a small wooden house with a sauna.
Closer to home, there’s Kokopelli’s Cave Bed and Breakfast in New Mexico. And yes, you’ll be staying inside a cave 350 feet above the La Plata River.
For total seclusion, try the Natura Vive Sky Lodge Hotel in Peru. You’ll be staying in capsules hanging on the mountain top, and room service is spotty. The hotel is only accessible by mountain climbing.
Get out of jail free card
Next time you’re considering your hotel choices, you might want to think about jail as an option. A growing number of former prisons are now being converted to accommodate a different kind of overnight guest…you.
In Australia, Pentridge prison in Victoria was one of the country’s biggest prisons and the former home of the some of the country’s worst criminals. Although the last prisoners left 20 years ago, for about $185 a night you can check it out yourself and sleep in one of the original cells–that is, if you can fall asleep. Rumor has it that the place is haunted.
In Istanbul, there’s the Four Seasons Hotel–another former prison. And what’s fascinating is that in the renovated hotel suites, you can still read the prisoners’ complaints carved into the walls.
In the U.S., there’s Alcatraz in San Francisco. The former maximum-security prison kept prisoners like Al Capone and Robert “Birdman of Alcatraz” Stroud. Today, it hosts $50-night tours and has had overnight events. For instance, on Halloween last year the visitors paid $666 to sleep in the actual cell and watch the recreation of the prison’s historical events.
Want some dark history in your lodging experience? Check in to the Liberty Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts. This luxury property was once known as the Charles Street Jail and home to inmates such as Malcom X and disgraced Mayor James Curley. And yes, you can check out once you’re ready to leave.
And in Japan, there’s the Okinawa Prison–it’s actually a jail-themed hostel–with barbed wire, iron bars, and all the usual prison amenities, at just $46 a night.
Shiver Your Timbers
Are you ready for some paranormal activity? Instead of all of the big haunted hotels you may have already heard of, like The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado location of the movie The Shining, here are some lesser known places to stay – if you dare.
At the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston elevators are known to head to the third floor without that number ever being pressed. The ghost of writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is said to be a ghost on the third floor as he would often meet for his “Saturday Club,” which included other intellectuals of the time, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Also, room 303 no longer exists. A businessman died there several years ago, and laughter could be heard by guests. Apparently, so many people complained about the noise that it had to be converted into a storage closet.
New Orleans’ Le Pavillion Hotel dates back to 1907 but was originally the site of a German theater that burned to the ground in 1887. New Orleans has more than a few haunted hotels but Le Pavillion is the most foreboding with alleged paranormal entities and ghostly experiences. Among the ghosts, there are reported sightings of Ava. She’s said to be a frequent ghost on the 9th floor, in room 930, and in the lobby. There’s a “prankster ghost” in room 225 and a “ghost couple” has been seen in room 221.
Built in 1924, the Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio was originally a medical facility that housed a morgue and psychiatric ward. Guests have reported unexpected noises as well as televisions and lights that mysteriously turn on. And then, there are floors 12 and 14, which were the hospital and surgery floors. According to guests, there’s a woman in a white dress that haunts those floors as well as phone calls that occur in the middle of the night. And you guessed it, there’s no one on the other line.
Named in honor of Brigadier General Elon John Farnsworth, the Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg, PA, has been around since 1810. And there are a few famous ghosts. Jeremy is a little boy who died during the Civil War. He is said to be an innocent spirit that interacts with guests. Then there are William, Jeremy’s father William, couldn’t cope with Jeremy’s death, and a little girl named Sissy, who died of a lung ailment. If you feel negative energy don’t say you were not warned.
Savannah, Georgia is a city known for ghost tours. Then there’s The Marshall House. The hotel was a hospital during the Civil War and survived through two yellow fever epidemics. Guests have reported sightings of ghosts in the halls and foyers as well as the sounds of children running down the halls at night. There may be ghosts in the rooms too since faucets have been known to turn on without the guests ever touching them.
Peter Greenberg is the travel editor for CBS News