These Kitschy US Hotels Belong On Your Bucket List

Mary Frances Knapp
·5 min read

Bathe in a champagne glass. Sleep in a giant clam. Lock your lover in a ye olde dungeon, (if that’s your thing). When it comes to kitsch hotel experiences, the trompe l'oeil sky is the limit. Now more than ever, we’re jazzed at the prospect of escaping daily life, if only for a night, with a stay at a room whose number is merely "Rainforest Suite."

Alas, the world of over-the-top hotel sleuthing can feel daunting. So we consulted kitsch hotel expert Margaret Bienert, who test-runs the kitschiest hotels across the US with her husband, Corey, and airs all the deets on the couple’s Instagram and (addictive) YouTube series, “A Pretty Cool Hotel Tour.” Her pro tips? Firstly, bed bug-haunted reviews are a deal-breaker. However, "if the biggest complaints are that the towels are a little crusty and there's a stain on the carpet," she says, "I go ahead and pack my bags, but everyone is different!” Do “be mindful of what your cleanliness standards are, and read reviews if you can find them. Kitschy hotels tend to be vintage and will appear ‘outdated’ to some, which means you're going to notice more wear-and-tear than you might at a normal hotel. If you're a fan of retro decor, hopefully, that wouldn't be enough to scare you away!"

That’s the magic of kitsch hotels. They’re the ultimate mental escape! They push homespun creative design to the absolute edge, and always with an indulgent ethos that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Consider the following seven hotels — which are a sparkling blend of Bienert’s hot recs, and our own tried and true faves – as the kitschiest hotels to add to your (Covid-19-minded) travel bucket list. See you in the gladiator’s love chariot!

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you make a booking from a recommendation on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

<a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g33026-d81740-Reviews-Madonna_Inn-San_Luis_Obispo_San_Luis_Obispo_County_California.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Madonna Inn" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><h2>Madonna Inn</h2></a><strong>Location:</strong> San Louis Obispo, California<br><strong>One night starts around:</strong> $185<br><br>The Madonna Inn is so sprawling in its kitschy grandeur, it has its own freeway off-ramp in San Louis Obispo, California. "[It's] just a dreamland of color and pattern play!" says Bienert, "The decor plus the pink champagne cake they're famous for are reason enough to plan a visit.” Each room in the Mid-Century hotel also has an unforgettable theme, from Cave Man to Love Nest; Matterhorn and, our personal favorite, "What's Left," which is a self-proclaimed "a patchwork of fabrics, carpet and wallpaper collected from other rooms to create this masterpiece." The real star of the show? That screaming pink dining room.<br><br><em><strong>Book or read more reviews about Madonna Inn on </strong><a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g33026-d81740-Reviews-Madonna_Inn-San_Luis_Obispo_San_Luis_Obispo_County_California.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Tripadvisor" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong>Tripadvisor</strong></a><strong>.</strong></em>

Madonna Inn

Location: San Louis Obispo, California
One night starts around: $185

The Madonna Inn is so sprawling in its kitschy grandeur, it has its own freeway off-ramp in San Louis Obispo, California. "[It's] just a dreamland of color and pattern play!" says Bienert, "The decor plus the pink champagne cake they're famous for are reason enough to plan a visit.” Each room in the Mid-Century hotel also has an unforgettable theme, from Cave Man to Love Nest; Matterhorn and, our personal favorite, "What's Left," which is a self-proclaimed "a patchwork of fabrics, carpet and wallpaper collected from other rooms to create this masterpiece." The real star of the show? That screaming pink dining room.

Book or read more reviews about Madonna Inn on Tripadvisor.
<a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g32652-d1016731-Reviews-The_Victorian_Mansion_at_Los_Alamos-Los_Alamos_California.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:The Victorian Mansion at Los Alamos" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><h2>The Victorian Mansion at Los Alamos</h2><br></a><strong>Location:</strong> Los Alamos, California<br><strong>One night starts around:</strong> $255<br><br>A charming 19th-century mansion on the outside, and totally bonkers B&B on the inside. This Los Alamos, California gem is just a 45-minute drive south of the Madonna Inn – and it also offers rooms with highly curated themes, ranging from Ancient Egyptian grandeur to a gladiator's night in heaven; French artist's attic, and pirate ship. The biggest swoon award goes to the room with the 1956 Cadillac convertible bed. <br><br><em><strong>Book or read more reviews about the Victorian Mansion at Los Alamos on <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g32652-d1016731-Reviews-The_Victorian_Mansion_at_Los_Alamos-Los_Alamos_California.html" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Tripadvisor" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Tripadvisor</a>.</strong></em>

The Victorian Mansion at Los Alamos


Location: Los Alamos, California
One night starts around: $255

A charming 19th-century mansion on the outside, and totally bonkers B&B on the inside. This Los Alamos, California gem is just a 45-minute drive south of the Madonna Inn – and it also offers rooms with highly curated themes, ranging from Ancient Egyptian grandeur to a gladiator's night in heaven; French artist's attic, and pirate ship. The biggest swoon award goes to the room with the 1956 Cadillac convertible bed.

Book or read more reviews about the Victorian Mansion at Los Alamos on Tripadvisor.

Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?

14 Amazing Fall Weekend Trips

2021's Most Popular Travel Destinations

14 Cozy Airbnb Cabins To Book For Your Next Escape