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American Road Trips

10 Fun and Unique Places to Stay on a Southwest Road Trip

Bed down in these quirky hotels — some haunted! — throughout the region

The Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada

Leigh Green / Alamy Stock Photo

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There are plenty of trusted hotel chains in the American Southwest, but the arid desert landscape and rich regional history also allow for some unique and unconventional places to stay. From a vintage trailer park in Arizona to a sandstone cave in New Mexico, these offbeat and occasionally off-the-wall hotels will add a little whimsy and fun to your vacation.

1. The Clown Motel (Tonopah, Nevada)

The world-famous Clown Motel is creepy, kitschy and supposedly full of ghosts (it’s billed as “the World’s Scariest Motel”), but it’s also friendly, historic and surprisingly charming. Clowning around since 1985 (now under new ownership), the pet-friendly property is home to a collection of more than 2,000 images, statues, toys and other tchotchkes featuring clowns, all on display in the lobby. A two-story circus clown named Jolly welcomes guests to the colorful, polka-dotted building, which is located directly next door to another gem, the Old Tonopah Cemetery. Behind each brightly painted motel room door is a clean, comfortable room with clown art or distinct clown-based horror themes, such as Stephen King’s It. From $70; theclownmotelusa.com; 775-624-9098.

2. Paradise Ranch Castle Bed & Breakfast (Austin, Nevada)

Originally built as a home by a husband for his queen, Paradise Ranch Castle Bed & Breakfast sits on 160 acres in the Reese River valley, 4 miles off the 300-mile “Loneliest Road in America” (U.S. 50) and 12 miles from Austin, Nevada. The outside resembles a castle with rooftop turrets and thin, rectangular windows. Inside, there’s a master suite, two standard rooms (with shared bathroom) and a secret, hidden room without windows, as well as a “dungeon” with a cash bar, pool table and jukebox. Enjoy mountain scenery by day and stars by night, then wake up every morning to a homemade breakfast. From $115; paradiseranchcastle.com; 440-781-8768.

Gold Hill Saloon & Hotel

Richard Cummins / Alamy Stock Photo

3. Gold Hill Hotel (Gold Hill, Nevada)

Dating back to the late 19th century, and possibly haunted by a lady of the night, Gold Hill Hotel is the Silver State’s oldest, built in 1859, five years before Nevada achieved statehood. That same year, miners uncovered the prosperous Comstock Lode nearby, turning the area into a booming mining hub. Nowadays, Nevada’s first hotel draws paranormal investigators and ghost hunters. Its rumoredto-be-haunted rooms, some more antique than others, were featured on the TV show Ghost Adventures. There’s also a restaurant and saloon on-site. Be sure to take a steam or diesel train ride up the hill to Virginia City. From $145; goldhillhotel.net; 775-847-0111.

4. Kokopelli Cave Hotel (Farmington, New Mexico)

Make like a caveman (but with plumbing and Wi-Fi) in a man-made, dynamite-blasted cave built into 60-million-year-old sandstone cliffs high above the La Plata River valley. With the temperature at a comfortable 65 to 68 degrees when open (March through November), the 1,700-square-foot cave has a bedroom, living and dining areas, a full kitchen and a bathroom, as well as two porches for watching the stunning Southwest sunsets above the Four Corners, where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado meet. Guests may also spot wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks and hummingbirds. The entrance is situated down a sloping path with stone steps, so pack lightly. Breakfast is included. From $340; kokoscave.us; 505-860-3812.

5. Treehouse at Highland Haven Creekside Inn (Evergreen, Colorado) 

Treehouses aren’t just for the grandkids anymore. In fact, the Treehouse Suite at Highland Haven has its very own Tesla charging station. The swanky two-story, 850-square-foot space also boasts a chandelier, king-size bed, fireplace, wet bar and two-person steam shower. Built among towering blue spruce trees and joined on the property by cozy cottages, rooms and suites, the Treehouse is a romantic private hideaway for couples. Breakfast is served at the luxury inn every morning, and nighttime brings a free happy hour. $560; highlandhaven.com; 303-674-3577.

6. Anniversary Inn (Salt Lake City, Utah) 

Those seeking fantasy, romance and adventure will find it at the Anniversary Inn, with two locations in Salt Lake City, less than 2 miles apart. A charming Victorian-style mansion houses the South Temple location, which was built in 1889 and is listed on the National Historic Registry. The Fifth South location, meanwhile, is housed in a more traditional building. Suites at both inns are completely decked out with unique themes and oversize tubs. The romantic Romeo and Juliette Suite, for instance, features a sweeping staircase leading to a second-floor balcony, while guests in the tropical Hawaiian Hideaway sleep beneath a grass hut canopy. From $189; anniversaryinn.com; 800-324-4152.

7. Zions Tiny Oasis (Virgin, Utah) 

At Zions Tiny Oasis, guests experience a peaceful, sustainable stay in an adorable tiny house, complete with air-conditioning, full kitchen, bathroom, TV, Wi-Fi and private outdoor hot tub, barbecue area and firepit. Each fully enclosed, insulated house was custom built in a different style, with floor plans ranging from 289 to 488 square feet. Located atop a mesa on the west side of Zion National Park, near Springdale, the property provides a luxury glamping experience, expansive views and easy access to outdoor adventure. From $469; zionstinyoasis.com; 435-817-3730.

8. Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile (Kanab, Utah)

Cats and dogs are king at this Kanab hotel, located five minutes from the no-kill Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (accessible via a free shuttle), 30 minutes from Zion National Park and just over an hour from Bryce Canyon and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Spoil Fido with pet-walking services, treats, washing stations and a dog park with a splash pad. As for finicky felines, ask about a cat-friendly room. The rooms and suites are modern with human-friendly touches like free Wi-Fi, Bluetooth-capable HDTV and USB charging stations. Food and pet necessities are available for purchase in the Mercantile. From $199; bestfriendsroadhouse.org; 435-644-3400.

Shady Dell vintage trailer park

Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

9. The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court (Bisbee, Arizona)​

Travel back to a simpler time with a stay in a retro trailer. From a 1947 Airporter Tiki Bus to a 1959 Boles Aero, each funky midcentury RV at The Shady Dell is thoughtfully restored with vintage decor, like coffee percolators and record players, and equipped with air-conditioning, space heaters, bathrooms, linens, towels, refrigerators and kitchenware (but no Wi-Fi). Aimed at guests 15 and older, it’s only open during the spring and fall. The ’50s-style Dot’s Diner serves mouthwatering comfort food on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. From $85; theshadydell.com; 520-432-3567.

10. Tombstone Monument Ranch (Tombstone, Arizona)​

Live your own Western at Tombstone Monument Ranch, located in the Tombstone Hills, less than 3 miles from the famous O.K. Corral. The 19th-century working cattle ranch was reborn in 2009 and rebuilt to resemble an Old West town. Guest rooms and suites, with names like the Marshal’s Office and Jail, line the dirt streets, and each is equipped with modern amenities, including satellite TV, air-conditioning, heat and free Wi-Fi. Work the cattle, ride on a trail or shoot guns and arrows, then swing in and sidle up for whiskey and card games at the saloon. From $169; tombstonemonumentranch.com; 520-457-7299.


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Aleza Freeman is a longtime Las Vegas travel and tourism writer. Her work has appeared in Haute Living, the Los Angeles Times, Nevada Magazine, Vegas.com, Las Vegas Magazine and other publications.​​​

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