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The quirkiest accommodations in America

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For those who shun the comfort of the chain hotel, there is nothing quite like the once-in-a-lifetime experience of spending the night in a quirky hotel. And America, with it's independent spirit, has many eccentric digs to choose from.

But it can be a bit of a gamble. Unlike, say, the Holiday Inn, unique theme hotels with quirky amenities can turn out to be more than you sign on for.

For those who love the unusual, TripAdvisor, a website in which real travellers rates thousands of hotels worldwide, has provided a list of the coolest, quirkiest U.S. hotels. From sharing a bedroom with King Tut to waking up among tigers, these properties offer truly unique places to stay. And TripAdvisor travellers seem to enjoy unusual lodging: 76 per cent who described a hotel as quirky also rated it either 4 or 5 out of 5.

Quirky appears to be 'in' in 2010, with these offbeat properties among the most beloved by our members, said Christine Petersen, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor in a release. From uniquely themed villas to wacky dog-shaped inns, these odd accommodations can be a really fun way to spice up a vacation.


MCMENAMINS KENNEDY SCHOOL, Portland, Ore. - Average rate: $104

Catching a snooze in class was previously frowned upon, but no longer: guests are encouraged to snooze and relax at this elementary school-turned-quirky hotel where the guestrooms were once classrooms -- still complete with chalkboards today. The auditorium is also now a movie theatre. And at an average of $104 a night, it's an inexpensive education. According to one TripAdvisor traveller, It was filled with wonderful old furniture and had huge windows and the requisite chalk board. The entire place is a work of art!


DOG BARK PARK INN, Cottonwood, Idaho - Average rate: $88

Man's best friend becomes traveller's best friend at this very unconventional Idaho inn where not only is the entire building shaped like a giant dog, but carved dog statues made by the owner, a headboard covered in carved dogs, and plenty of real furry friends all make this a truly canine-oriented lodging treat. One TripAdvisor traveller said, The head is a loft bedroom filled with games, the body is another bedroom and bathroom, and you're the only ones in it!


KOKOPELLI CAVE BED AND BREAKFAST, Farmington, N.M. - Average rate: $240

No dank, dark quarters here -- in this unique sandstone lair carved out of the side of a cliff, travellers can have their cave and heat it, too: the earthy atmosphere is paired with warm, inviting accommodations and the luxuries of home. According to one TripAdvisor traveller, The cave was very comfortable, spacious, and equipped with just about everything we could need. We really enjoyed grilling our dinner on the patio, eating with a sunset view, and then watching the ringtails and other critters that would visit after dark.


VICTORIAN MANSION AT LOS ALAMOS, Los Alamos, Calif. - Average rate: $293

The eccentric suites at the Victorian Mansion at Los Alamos range from Gypsy to Pirate to Fifties themes. Adorning the Egyptian Suite are Persian rugs, images of the desert, and even a life-size sarcophagus of King Tut himself, hiding a surprise for guests. One TripAdvisor traveller recalled, I laughed every time I pulled King Tut's beard to open the hidden bathroom.


TURPENTINE CREEK WILDLIFE REFUGE, Eureka Springs, Ark. - Average rate: $87

Not for the faint of heart, Turpentine Creek gives travellers the chance to get up close and personal with nature's big cats.

The animals are housed in enclosures right outside several of the rooms, giving travellers access to incredible sights ... and sounds! As one TripAdvisor traveller recalled, It's truly an amazing experience to wake up to the carolling of the big cats -- and Cheyenne the resident coyote -- in the morning.


WIGWAM MOTEL, Holbrook, Ariz. - Average rate: $51

Have you slept in a Wigwam lately? asks the Wigwam Motel's front sign, enticing travellers to spend a quirky but comfortable night in one of the motel's Wigwams along Route 66. According to one TripAdvisor traveller, Even if you are the sort who prefers the Marriott (and frankly I normally fall into that category), step outside your comfort zone and experience little places like the Wigwam Motel.

ADOBE GRAND VILLAS, Sedona, Ariz. - Average rate: $512

Travellers nostalgic for the Wild West will enjoy sleeping in a covered wooden wagon in the Wagon Wheel Villa, or enjoying the enormous and aptly-named Hacienda Villa, complete with whirlpool tub beside a terracotta fireplace. To top it off, this quirky accommodation has breadmakers in each of its 15 unique, historical villas. One TripAdvisor traveller recalled, We stayed in the French Quarters ... the room looks like you stepped into a little French town.


SHADY DELL RV PARK, Bisbee, Ariz. - Average rate: $92

In Bisbee, Arizona, there are nine small places where the 1950s are alive and kickin' -- nine vintage travel trailers outfitted to look like an authentic 1950s diner, a Polynesian Palace, a yacht, and more. With LPs spinning on the old record player and lawn flamingos out the door, this property turns back the clock. One TripAdvisor traveller said, What a fabulous and funky step back in time... blond wood panelling and deco-style lights, phonograph with vintage records, black-and-white TV and retro horror flicks.


WINVIAN, Morris, Conn. - Average rate: $1,700

A night spent in a true tree house? Sleeping in a 17,000-pound restored U.S. Coast Guard helicopter? Travellers can do either at this property nestled in the Connecticut countryside, home to a total of 18 whimsical cottages designed by innovative architects. One TripAdvisor traveller said, Next door was the Helicopter' cottage, with a vintage Sikorsky helicopter in the room. Incredible.


-- Canwest News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 29, 2010 E2

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