17 of the Most Retro Hotels in America
From tie-dye and tiki to vintage signs and record players, retro details are making modern hotels feel totally fresh. Check out these destinations that capture another time.
Town and Country in San Diego, California
Courtesy Town and Country San Diego
With two kidney-shaped pools, a kitschy lawn filled with 80 plastic flamingos, and a giant wooden statue called Riki Tiki that harkens back to the heyday of tiki bars, Town & Country resort in San Diego embodies the best of the 1960s. In celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2020, the hotel will undergo an $80 million renovation that includes the addition of a vintage camper converted into a bar. Locals embrace the hotel’s quirky marquee known for its humorous messages, like “There’s no way everybody was kung-fu fighting.” San Diego is one of the 30 must-see places for families around the United States.
Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon
Families flock to Sunriver Resort every summer to reconnect over retro-cool activities like tie-dye (shirts, socks, and bandannas), lawn games (croquet, Twister, and horseshoes), and board games (Clue, Sorry, and Battleship). Opened in 1968, the Destination Hotel property celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer with live ’60s music, retro costume contests, ’60s trivia nights, and era-appropriate food and drinks specials such as Harvey Wallbanger cake and ambrosia. Find out how to make family vacations affordable.
Austin Motel in Austin, Texas
Vivid vinyl tufted beds, push-button telephones, and pop-art wallpaper adorn each guest room at Austin Motel in Austin, Texas. This place pays homage to the roots of the retro hotel, which has been in operation for 80 years. The iconic kidney-shaped pool—with mid-century chairs, and classic red and white umbrellas sprinkled around—plus the vintage sign out front cement the property’s place in Austin’s storied history. Guests can pick up a plastic key fob modeled after old room key tags in the gift shop. These are a few of the many things that hotels should have, but don’t.
Fairlane Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee
Opened in March in a historic Nashville building, Fairlane Hotel features mid-century architectural designs such as terrazzo flooring and wood paneling. A 4,000-square-foot penthouse recalls a 1970s-style crash pad, with furniture covered in ’70s-style fabrics, and an in-room record player and records available upon request. On the main level, guests can peruse Vanderbilt University yearbooks from the same decade, and a bar cart serves up glass bottles of Coca-Cola every evening.
The Edgewater in Seattle, Washington
Courtesy The Edgewater
The only waterfront hotel in Seattle, The Edgewater—a Noble House Hotel—opened in 1962 just in time for the World’s Fair. It became famous two years later when four notable guests—The Beatles—stayed there when no other hotel in town would accept them. With Beatlemania sweeping Seattle, some fans even tried swimming across the bay to reach the group. Paying homage to that time, The Edgewater’s iconic Beatles Suite was refreshed this year. Guests can stay in the same room as the Fab Four (who famously fished from its windows), and rent guitars, record players, and albums during their stay. Here are more than 50 other hotels with incredible views.
Tyler Place Family Resort in Highgate Springs, Vermont
Courtesy Tyler Place Family Resort
Guests will find an old-time summer camp vibe at the Tyler Place Family Resort, 40 miles north of Burlington, Vermont. The 85-year-old property offers ten children’s and teens’ programs that are divided by age group, including riding banana bikes (a popular style in the 1960s), fishing on homemade wooden rafts, running through the sprinkler, and playing water games. With an array of cottages and suites with up to four bedrooms, the all-inclusive resort is also a popular spot for family reunions. Check out these other 14 strange and unusual hotels you’ll want to go out of your way to visit.
Graduate Lincoln in Lincoln, Nebraska
Courtesy Graduate Lincoln
Guests can play old-school arcade games in the herringbone wood-floored lobby of Graduate Lincoln, filled with details referencing decades gone by. But the nostalgia extends beyond the lobby. Each guest room features vintage-inspired corn print wall coverings (a nod to Nebraska’s agricultural heritage), old-fashioned TV nightstands referencing the late Johnny Carson, and Marquee light fixtures, a subtle reminder of the 50-plus drive-in movie theaters that once operated in Nebraska.
Phoenix Hotel in San Francisco, California
Vintage rock ‘n’ roll concert posters and cherry-red rotary telephones adorn each of the 44 guestrooms at Phoenix Hotel, located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. The hotel was built as a motor court hotel in 1956, revived in 1987, and today is operated by Bunkhouse, the company behind some of Texas’s coolest hotels. Two of its most retro features are the lobby—decked out with wood paneling and a Shinola record player—and the pool, set amid lush gardens at the center of the property. These 16 tips will help you save money on hotel rooms.
The Drifter Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana
Courtesy Nicole Franzen for Design Hotels
Originally built as The Crescent City Motel in the 1950s, The Drifter in New Orleans reopened in 2017 with a mix of modern and nostalgic design. The exterior has the original asymmetric awning and a restored neon sign, while guest rooms feature troweled concrete walls and Oaxacan tile work. At the heart of the hotel is a tropical courtyard and pool complete with a disco ball, frequently filled with guests and locals for live music and cultural programming.
Skyview Los Alamos in Los Alamos, California
Courtesy Skyview Los Alamos
A modern boutique hotel with 1950s bones opened in a former motel off California’s Highway 101 near Santa Barbara in April. One of the most notable retro features of Skyview Los Alamos is its pool, designed to recall the glamor of old-school California pool parties. The new owners took care to retain many of the motel’s original elements, including its sign, quirky cactus columns in the porte-cochere, and actual room keys instead of key cards. Norman, the hotel’s full-service restaurant, is named for Norman Bates from the book and movie Psycho.