Thunderbird Lodge—Riverside, California

According to American Indian lore, the Thunderbird gathers the clouds under its wings as it soars through the sky, producing thunder with each massive flap. It stirs the wind, and creates lightning as it blinks…

The Thunderbird Lodge in Riverside, California, has adopted the awesome avian as its avatar, although this gentle overnighter aspires only to provide guests with a peaceful night’s sleep. Constructed in 1960—the motel retains a magical aura worthy of its namesake. Much of the warm, feathery feeling can be attributed to its vintage neon sign, which after half a century, still welcomes travelers with open wings. The beacon’s design features the blazing bird of legend—feathered in red, blue, turquoise, and teal—topped with a handsome head of orange and yellow. Along Victoria and University Avenues, its fiery outline can be seen at some distance.

While the Thunderbird Lodge neon sign has remained unchanged over the past fifty years, the two-story, square-patterned complex it heralds has undergone numerous upgrades… all with an eye toward preserving the inn’s historic integrity. Arriving guests immediately note the  Thunderbird’s connection to the sky: the ceiling of the entrance canopy has been painted with  fluffy clouds, white and adrift in a blue firmament.