A Western Rose Motel :: Cody, Wyoming

Some men surprise their girlfriends with glittery rings or elaborate marriage proposals. Mark Kearney surprised his by buying her a motel. 

Six years in, Brenda and Mark are now quite comfortable in their classic horseshoe-shaped enclave on the main drag in downtown Cody, population 9,800, where the streets have names like Red Butte and Stampede, and US Highways 14 and 20 beckon travelers to drive “the most beautiful fifty miles in America” to Yellowstone National Park.

“This is a motel from long ago where you can park right outside your door,” says Brenda. “Nothing special about our rooms. I think it’s us. We’re present, we care, and we interact with our guests. Once they walk through that door, they’re our friends. They have our number in case something happens to them.” 

Today, A Western Rose Motel is, according to its owners, “the highest-rated and lowest- priced motel in downtown Cody.”

“We’re not just a place to sleep, but a part of the destination experience,” explains Brenda. “A place to ‘come home’ to.”

Crystal Beach Motor Inn—Wildwood Crest, New Jersey

Sue Sykes casts her memory back to the 1980s—a time when amusement piers at Wildwood, New Jersey, rocked her childhood with rides, and every step along the boardwalk was instilled with new magic. Her family vacationed at the Brigadoon Motel. One day, her mom told her they could stay and operate a motel of their own.

The rest, as they say, is history…

With a mere half-block walk to the beach, immaculate rooms that have earned rave reviews online, and diehard annual visitors taking photos under the “palm” trees just like their grandparents did with them, the Crystal Beach seems well positioned for the future. Indeed, while some classic Wildwood lodging places have succumbed to the bulldozer, Sykes says that will not be the fate of the Crystal Beach Motor Inn.

Alpine Trail Ridge Inn—Estes Park, Colorado

There wasn’t much in the way of pit stops in 1948, but one notable exception was Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hoerner’s place, the Sundeck Restaurant, a log-cabin eatery perched on Moraine Avenue, one and a half miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park’s eastern entrance. Digging into the eatery’s signature goulash, prime rib, Rocky Mountain trout, and Dutch apple pie, customers could relax on an open deck and contemplate the evening sun slipping behind the mountain peaks of Taylor, Otis, and the Twin Sisters.

Now for the good news: Today’s customers still can.

Not only is the old Sundeck still open, but today it forms the centerpiece of the forty-eight-room Alpine Trail Ridge Inn. During the family’s sixty-eight years of ownership, the Hoerner family added a seventeen-unit rustic roadside motel—originally called Trail Ridge Inn. It was the  first motel to open in the town of Estes Park and the Hoerners expanded it to the complex travelers enjoy today.

Lake Powell Motel—Page, Arizona

Lake Powell is named after the man who may have been the Southwest’s greatest nature writer. He was Major John Wesley Powell, famed geologist, explorer, and one-armed Civil War veteran, who in 1869 became the first man to lead an expedition through the Green and Colorado Rivers and through the Grand Canyon. Powell wrote about his red rock adventures—mapping previously uncharted territory—publishing his work under the title of Canyons of the Colorado in 1895.

Readers won’t find mention of Lake Powell in the book. The man-made reservoir, which today contains some 4.4 billion gallons of water, was created almost a century later, on March 13, 1963, when Glen Canyon Dam began operations. The Glen Canyon Recreation Area was also formed at that time. Not long afterward, businesses began popping up to serve tourists. Among the early lodging properties built to accommodate vacationers was Lake Powell Motel—previously named Bashful Bob’s.

Li’l Abner’s Motel—Slade, Kentucky

Li’l Abner’s Motel was constructed as a traditional motor court, modeled after its predecessor and year-round parent, the Abner Motel, in nearby Stanton.  at older roadside rest for the weary was built by father Harding D. Abner in 1955 to accommodate visitors to the area’s scenic Red River Gorge.

Harding’s son, Billy D, grew up tending to the motel. In 1969, he decided to strike out on his own. He opened Li’l Abner’s Motel near the entrance to Natural Bridge State Resort. At the time of its opening, Li’l Abner’s boasted twelve rooms and a restaurant. In 1975, more rooms and a pool were added, and in 2010, ten two-room suites were built—including one with ADA handicap facilities—and a house with three beds and two baths was constructed to accommodate the growing number of outdoor enthusiasts who can’t get enough of this country.

Twin Rock Motel—Ontario, New York

In New York state—on the outskirts of the decidedly all-American town of Ontario—travelers  find a pair of twin rocks, too. But these stony sentinels remain open and welcoming day and night.  They stand on either side of the driveway that serves the Twin Rock Motel—a classic road haven that exists to help travelers who find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

Each guest room stands ready to transport weak and weary wanderers to a warm and wonderful place.The Twin Rock is tiny—its J- shaped building houses a modest nine units— but what those spaces lack in size, they more than make up for in comfort. Proprietors Bob and Nancy Miller run a tight and trim ship; they pride themselves on keeping their property clean and their guests pleased.  The décor is unencumbered. Light colors dominate. Modern amenities such as satellite TV and in-room coffee makers share space with beds covered with  flowering prints that bring to mind the Land of the Lotus Eaters. A nature painting on the wall may or may not depict a mountain resting behind pines. It could just as easily be one of the Symplegades rolling over trees in a crushing quest to rejoin the sea.

Magic Beach Motel—St. Augustine, Florida

Here, amazed eyes behold a trick with light that is hard to top: a white neon rabbit leaping out of a blue neon magician’s hat. The surprising sight appears on the marquee of the Magic Beach Motel, and it’s hardly the only wonder in the property’s repertoire.

Built during the 1950s—and opened as the Vilano Beach Motel…Hollywood film scouts spied it in the late 1990s. A little abracadabra mixed with the talent of set designers…the Vilano Beach Motel was transformed into the Magic Beach Motel to serve as a filming location fort he Warner Brothers television series Safe Harbor.

Today’s travelers find the exterior of the Magic Beach Motel still decorated with pastel paint, pink flamingos, and that enchanting neon sign. Inside, guests discover 1950s décor and restored wall murals. These works of art survived multiple owners and add extra charm to a stay at the Magic Beach Motel.

Hawaii Volcano House Hotel—Volcano, Hawaii

The only hotel inside Volcanoes National Park, where active lava flows are adding between   fifteen and twenty acres a year to the Big Island of Hawaii. Overlooking the giant caldera of the active volcano of Kilauea, it’s one of the most dramatic spots on the planet.

Built in 1846, the original native wood and grass structure was replaced by a four-room, wooden frame building in 1866. Today the Volcano House offers thirty-three rooms, a gift shop, dining room, snack bar, and a lounge. It’s the perfect base for exploration of the park, which is open twenty-four hours a day, year-round, including all holidays.

Oceana Beach Club Hotel—Santa Monica, California

The parade of comedians who made their pilgrimage to the Oceana Apartments reads like a chuckling Who’s Who: Jerry Lewis. Marcel Marceau. Dick Van Dyke. All aspired to give the world the giggles in the early 1960s. And all came to glean advice from the king of clowns who resided inside Room #203.

Stan Laurel lived in Room #203 until the day he passed away in February of 1965. Years afterward, the Oceana was refashioned as a resort hotel.  Room #203 was split into two during a 2007 remodeling, and in 2013, the Oceana Beach Club Hotel renovated its lobby and courtyard, adding modern sophistication and a new color palette of cool blues, grays, and whites. Two-star Michelin Chef Josiah Citrin opened Tower 8 restaurant onsite.

“I’d rather be skiing,” Laurel reportedly said on his deathbed. “Oh,” his nurse asked, “are you a skier, Mr. Laurel?” “No,” he replied, “but I’d rather be skiing anyway.”

Aztec Motel—Wildwood Crest, New Jersey

The Aztec was opened in 1960 by Maria J. Martinis. Originally, the façade of the motel hardly reflected any of the ideas, themes, or designs of the Aztec people.

But when Adamo Pipitone Sr. bought the Aztec in 2001, he decided to give the motel and its annex upgrades that thematically matched their moniker. The most striking of all the Aztec’s ornaments is its brilliant vertical neon sign of red, yellow, and turquoise.

The Aztec Motel remains particularly popular during the summer months. It stands little more than a modest walk from the beach and a mere two blocks away from the start of Wildwood’s famous Boardwalk.