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Motels 2.0

These vintage motels are taking on a new life. 

kids play in a camp-like room at basecamp hotel, picture
Photo credit
Photo: Paul Dyer
Photo caption
A room mimics a tent at Basecamp Tahoe City.

Once the roadside refuges of midcentury motorists, vintage motels are being reimagined for the 21st century with touches that play up their legacy, nostalgic appeal, and surroundings. 

  • At the outdoorsy Basecamp Tahoe City, the Great Indoors room playfully mimics its North Lake Tahoe, Calif., locale with a faux electric campfire, bedside lanterns, and tent-draped beds. You can even buy s'mores fixings to roast over fire pits outside. 

  • Homemade whoopie pies kick off the retro fun at the Andiron Seaside Inn & Cabins in the cozy coastal town of Little River, Calif. Cabins come dressed in period decor, a central lodge offers Yahtzee and fondue Fridays, and a mini amphitheater screens movies such as Creature from the Black Lagoon on weekends under starry skies. 

  • In downtown Bozeman, Mont., the Lark features an interactive map room to help travelers chart the region’s peaks and river valleys. Out front, a vintage trailer turned food truck replenishes hikers with smoked brisket tacos or ice cream in seasonal flavors. 

  • Chalkboard doors you can draw on and bold guest room murals highlight the makeover of Portland's Jupiter Hotel. Local artwork fills a lobby gallery, and touring bands drop in nightly to perform in a log cabin–themed lounge. 

  • The Modern Hotel and Bar welcomes fans of 1950s culture to Boise with retro-cool interiors and Idaho Spud candy bars. The spiffy revamp of a former TraveLodge features a virtual short-film festival looped on guest room TVs. 

  • With a faithful restoration of its Sputnik-era design, Orbit In of Palm Springs, Calif., could serve as a Rat Pack movie set. Guests choose from rooms with names such as Atomic Paradise and BossaNovaVille, spin finger-snapping tunes on classic record consoles, and sip Orbitini cocktails from a poolside bar. 

This article was first published in November/December 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.