It was finally time to head back home from our Spring Break trip. We left the Santa Monica Mountains and the Channel Islands behind, and started our drive to Northern California. We still had a few vacation days left, so we decided to cut our drive in half by stopping at the Madonna Inn, in San Luis Obispo.
I remember years ago when I was still living in Finland, I saw a TV show about the most bizarre hotels. There was a hotel were each room was different from the other and had a theme, and their restaurant was pink. Then later I was on a road trip with a friend when she suggested that we should stop for a restroom break in this cool hotel. Right away when we drove to the Madonna Inn's parking lot, I recognised it from the TV show. At that time we only stopped quickly, but I have always wanted to stay the night there since.
THE MADONNA INN
The Madonna Inn was opened in 1958 in San Luis Obispo, on Highway 101, and it was originally a 12 room motel. It was opened by Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis. This unique motel became a success right away and they built more rooms to it in 1966. Unfortunately a fire destroyed all the original buildings in 1966, but Alex and Phyllis re-built the rooms and chose different themes for each of them. The goal was to offer people more than just a room, and make people smile when they stayed at the Madonna Inn. Alex Madonna died in 2004 but the family still owns the business and it has only been growing.
The Madonna Inn has 110 rooms. Some of the different themes are Caveman, Romance, Old Fashioned Honeymoon, Antique Cars, Italy, San Francisco, Desert Sands, Golfer's Room, Fabulous 50s, Hearts and Flowers, and Indians. Some of the rooms have waterfall showers. You can check out all the rooms from here. The whole decor of this place is over the top and kitchy, but also kind of cool. The dominant color is pink and some of the buildings are inspired by the Alps. Our room was called China Flower and all the furniture in our room was Chinese themed. For some reason I thought the rooms would look kind of old, but ours was really neat and clean. It really was "wow"!
The Madonna Inn has been seen on TV shows like the Bachelor and the Simpsons. Many music videos have also been filmed here, like Roxette's The Center of the Heart and Lady Antebellum's Heart Break albums promotion video.
FROM A MOTEL TO A RESORT
At the same time when the Madonna Inn was growing and getting famous, they also started adding different kinds of services. Even though the Madonna Inn still operates like a motel, you can easily spend a whole day or weekend there by doing different activities. Or, you can just stop for a cup of coffee or lunch like we have done before this trip. The Madonna Inn has two restaurants, a bakery and souvenir shop. And they have live music everyday. We ate both dinner and breakfast in the Copper Cafe which is a little bit more relaxed than Alex Madonna's Gold Rush Steakhouse. It is also a lot cheaper too. You should still stop by the steakhouse since it is quite a site to see. In the middle of the restaurant, they have a golden tree and the whole decor is pink. I promise you, you haven't seen anything like this before! The breakfast at the Copper Cafe was delicious, but we thought that their dinner menu lacked for personality.
The Madonna Inn has several different buildings and usually you can park your car in front of your room, or at least pretty close. On the other side from our room there was a gate to a Secret Garden where you can go enjoy some garden flowers, play outdoor games or for example read a book. Down from the garden lies two pink tennis courts and basket ball hoops. The latest improvement for the place has been their spa section which includes anything from an infinity pool to a gym, and massages. A horse ranch next to the Madonna Inn offers trail rides or if you are into hiking, the trails leave practically from the parking lot.
After breakfast we walked around the premises just to see what all was there. They also offer some pink bicycles if you prefer to use those, or you can go for a bike ride somewhere further. The staff was driving around in some cute pink golf carts. Even the outdoor lamps were painted pink. Unfortunately we didn't have time to enjoy all the activities that the Madonna Inn had to offer, but hopefully we can come back someday. Even though some of the activities are included to the room price, this motel is not the cheapest kind. Be prepared to pay for a resort fee.
AND THEN THOSE FAMOUS RESTROOMS
Many people just stop at the Madonna Inn for a restroom break since they have heard of the crazy restrooms they have. The water fall urinal in the mens room has been on many TV shows and has become quite famous. Don't be surprised if you see women coming out of the mens room since they want to see this famous room. I also sneaked in to get a photo for my blog. Just make sure you ask someone coming out that there is no one else inside before you enter.
Also the ladies room is kind of interesting. It is completely pink and big chandeliers are hanging from the ceiling. This time I also visited the ladies room in the Copper Cafe which was kind of cool too. I think it's pretty rare for me to say to people "Don't forget to visit the restrooms when you stop!" but with the Madonna Inn, I have definitely done that.
If you want to see more of what the Madonna Inn looks like, check out my Instagram profile @paulagaston. You can find some videos under the Highlights on the front page.
From Madonna Inn we drove straight back home. It was such a nice and short drive compared to what we are used to driving. And so our Spring Break trip ended.