14 Strange and Unusual Hotels You’ll Want to Go Out of Your Way to Visit

Most people pick a vacation destination and then search for a place to stay. Here are some places that may inspire you to turn that thinking around and find fun things to do while staying in one of these unique rooms. Unlike popular theme rooms that are designed to look like intriguing locales, these hotels offer the real deal.

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Anderson School, Bothell, Washington

Kathleen Nyberg

The Anderson School, a junior high built in 1931, is an art deco building on five acres 15 miles northeast of Seattle. Here, classrooms have become hotel rooms, the woodshop has become a pub, and the pool has been transformed into the North Shore Lagoon, a Polynesian paradise complete with poolside dining. The Anderson School Brewery is housed in the former woodshop and the old cafeteria now boasts farm-to-table dining. At this School Theater, you can eat and drink while watching a movie, with service to your seat. Bothell is known as a craft beer destination and is part of the Seattle metropolitan area. During your stay, there are definitely some decorating tips that you should take note of, too.

Aurora Express Bed & Breakfast, Fairbanks, Alaska

Aurora Express

The Aurora-Express Bed & Breakfast offers a number of train cars that have been restored to various periods in history. The train cars reside on 700 feet of railroad track overlooking Fairbanks and the Tanana Valley. The interiors vary: One has been converted into four suites; another has been converted to its original use as a sleeper car. A two-bedroom suite was previously a hospital car in World War II, and the caboose has been restored to serve as a private suite-car. The latest addition to the property is the Diner Car, an 85-foot long car that seats 24. You can enjoy breakfast there, sometimes with entertainment (Blockbuster still exists in Alaska, so you might as well take advantage of that while you're there). Fairbanks, Alaska’s second-largest city, offers many outdoor activities as well as shopping and the opportunity to see the northern lights.

Beckham Creek Cave Lodge, Parthenon, Arkansas

Mallory Jane Photography

Beckham Creek Cave Lodge is luxury cave dwelling. (Fortunately, this isn't the kind of cave that you can get trapped in - like these guys did.) You read that right: The 6,000 square feet of living space offers four bedrooms, each with its own en-suite bathroom. With a full kitchen, multiple couches and chairs as well as a 75-inch TV, there is ample space to gather and there are even areas to go to have some alone time; showers and furniture are neatly tucked into cave walls. The cave is set into the side of the mountain, providing a view of both the mountains and the valley below. Only minutes from the Buffalo River, nature and outdoor adventures are just a short distance away.

Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel

The Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel offers a choice of rooms in either an authentic railcar or an adjoining building. Terminal Station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, serves as the hub for the vacation complex and is also home to an 1880 Chattanooga Choo Choo train engine, the only one of its kind in the city. With two music venues, a comedy venue, an award-winning restaurant and an upcoming exhibit that will feature a rotating collection of guitars, there is much to do without leaving the hotel grounds. While check-in is in the station, the rooms are in an adjacent building and in 48 railcars on the property. Chattanooga offers outdoor activities, as well as museums, restaurants, and a variety of art and music venues, and Tennessee is home to one of the nicest places in America.

Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, Idaho

Dog Bark Park Inn

The Dog Bark Park Inn is run by a husband/wife artist team who specialize in folk-art dog carvings. Affectionately known as Sweet Willy, the structure is reminiscent of the roadside architecture of the early days of road travel. Toby, a 12-foot tall beagle stands loyally at attention at Willy’s side. The three-story beagle-shaped bed and breakfast has two floors of living space and sleeps four. The second floor features a queen bed with 26 dogs carved into the headboard. Up in Willy’s muzzle is a loft with two fold-out futons. As would be expected, well-behaved dogs are welcome, when arranged in advance. The area is rich in outdoor activities; the Lewis & Clark Trail is nearby. Speaking of rather large dogs, here are some benefits of actually having one.

Featherbed Railroad Caboose Bed and Breakfast, Upper Lake, California

Featherbed Railroad

The Featherbed Railroad sits on the shore of Clear Lake in Northern California. Guests stay in one of nine vintage cabooses overlooking a private boat launch and pier. Each caboose is decorated with a different theme, such as the Orient Express, Casablanca or the Wild Wild West. The rooms are each furnished with a queen size bed and second story cupola; most also have a Jacuzzi tub. Breakfast is served in the nearby 100-year old Main Station. There are a number of outdoor activities, as well as wineries and museums nearby. For those with an interest (or an aversion) to the paranormal, you should know there have also been reports of a ghost sighting in one caboose. Here are some more haunted places in America.

The Grand Canyon Caverns Suite, Peach Springs, Arizona

Grand Canyon Caverns Suite

The Grand Canyon Cavern’s Underground Cave Suite calls itself “The largest, deepest, darkest, oldest, quietest motel room in the world.” This suite is truly for the adventurous. It is the largest dry cave in America, 220 feet below ground. Water is hand carried to the suite by staff and a staff member is available at the top level of the elevator to assist you during your stay. A single room built into the cavern, the suite is furnished with two double beds, a pull out queen sofa, table and chairs, a bathroom, a library of books and magazines dating back to the late 1800s, a working record player with records, and several lights. Check in and out is typically at the close and start of the times of the daily-guided tours. (The room is open, so there is little to no privacy during tour hours.) Aside from a number of cavern tours, there is also a private theater in the caverns and many above-ground outdoor activities as well.

Kennedy School, Portland, Oregon

Kathleen Nyberg

The Kennedy School in Northeast Portland opened as an elementary school in 1915 and has since been turned into a hotel with 57 guestrooms, (some of which still have the original chalkboards and cloakrooms). Also on site are restaurants and bars in the former cafeteria, boiler room, and classrooms (one cleverly called the Detention Bar), a movie theater, pool, and gift shop. In what used to be the little girls’ room, the Concordia Brewery is decorated with both the artwork of school girls and others that feature the history of brewing. Portland of course has an abundance of cultural and outdoor activities to choose from. It's also one of the best places for a solo trip!

Kokopelli’s Cave, Farmington, New Mexico

Kokopelli’s Cave

The 1700 square foot Kokopelli’s Cave is built into the sandstone cliffs overlooking the La Plata River Valley. It is accessible only by walking a sloping path and steps cut into the sandstone, so pack light! The cave entrance is southwest facing, providing a view of sunsets over four states. Besides the expected bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living and dining areas, the cave also has a replica North American kiva. Several National Park sites are in the area, including the Aztec Ruins National Monument, as well as casinos and a golf course. The town is also home to the Connie Mack World Series.

Old St. Francis School, Bend, Oregon

Kathleen Nyberg

The Old St. Francis School dates back to 1936 when it was a Catholic schoolhouse. Today the facility’s décor reflects its original character in its halls and lodging located in what were the school’s classrooms. It offers a number of eating and drinking options, including a brewpub, theater bar, and the Broom Closet, a coffee house in the morning and cocktail and blues bar from afternoon to night. Befitting its history, stained glass and tile art can be found throughout the buildings. A unique feature is the soaking pool, which has an open ceiling and is open to both guests and the public. Bend is known for its outdoor pursuits and the town also offers shopping. This city truly makes for a great summer weekend getaway.

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