Five Hotels Serving Up Serious Vintage Vibes

by Janean Flowe
Mother Earth Lodge

By Kristy Tolley

The saying everything old is new again certainly holds true in the world of hospitality. More travelers are seeking out the kitsch and nostalgia that hotels and motels from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s provide. From revamped classics to new hotels paying homage to stays from “back in the day,” here are five worth checking into.

Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort | Orlando, FL

This hip, retro-inspired resort is a nod to popular beach resorts from “back in the day.” Classic cars filled with vintage luggage are parked out front to add to the ambiance and toiletries (V05 shampoo and Zest soap) are even packaged as they might have been seventy years ago. With spacious standard rooms, family suites and two-bedroom family suites, it’s an ideal pick for families.

Enjoy two huge pool complexes — a 10,000-square-foot pool in the Atomic Courtyard with a sand beach, iconic dive-tower water feature and slide and a 6,000-square-foot pool in the Lazy River Courtyard. Guests can also enjoy the 10-lane bowling alley, Galaxy Bowl (with a full-service restaurant). The Jack LaLanne Physical Fitness Studio features cardio equipment, medicine balls, rubber dumbbells, as well as memorabilia from the “Godfather of Modern Fitness.”

The Dive Motel and Swim Club | Nashville, Tennessee

Owners Lyon Porter and Jersey Banks breathed new life into a rundown motor inn called Key Motel (the building was constructed in 1956). Fresh and funky, this ‘70s-themed motel harkens back to the time when roadside motels were the hallmark of family travel in America. Choose from 23 individually themed rooms and suites where retro decor ranges from furry pink bedspreads and bold geometric patterns to antler coat hangers and wood paneled walls. Every room features their signature Party Switch that spins a disco ball to “Dive Radio” tunes.

The Dive Bar is decked out in wood paneling, vinyl booths and barstools, vintage artwork and tchotchkes galore. Take a dip in the 60-foot pool or hot tub or relax in one of the poolside loungers complete with bright red side tables that double as coolers.

Mother Earth Motor Lodge | Kinston, North Carolina

Built in 1963 as Kinston’s Mid-Town Motor Lodge, this motel was the overnight spot for road-trippers and out-of-town shoppers. Visiting performers like James Brown even stayed there. Today, the lovingly updated lodge is named for its sister company Mother Earth Brewing and is registered as a National Historic Building by the United States Park Service. Accommodations include 45 standard rooms and suites, each dressed in vibrant colors and Pop art patterns. Kinston’s thriving art scene is well represented here. More than 60 original art pieces were commissioned for the motel. Surrounded by tall palm trees and freshened by water fountains, the motel’s three-ring pool is the place to be. The pool courtyard includes a miniature golf course, shuffleboard, ping-pong tables, grills and picnic tables. When the sun dips below the horizon, the palm trees glow with green, red and blue lights.

Thunderbird Inn | Savannah, Georgia

If you want to immerse yourself in Savannah history, what better way than to stay in a renovated 1964 motor inn? Located in Savannah’s Historic Landmark District, Thunderbird Inn was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010 and even earned a preservation award for their renovations.

The rooms are a midcentury mod-lover’s dream — minimalist furniture with pops of color throughout. Don Draper would be pleased. One room even features a working vintage typewriter, paper and envelope for you to create your own retro souvenir. Complimentary amenities include fresh hot popcorn and lemonade on arrival and a MoonPie® on your pillow. Each morning, guests are treated to free locally made doughnuts from Baker’s Pride and coffee. In addition, the inn is pet friendly and features an enclosed dog run. Front desk staff will also give you the skinny on Savannah’s best pet-friendly shops, cafes, tours and parks to visit while you’re in town.

TWA Hotel | New York City, New York

A Frank Sinatra soundtrack on repeat. Minibars stocked with Tab sodas and Big Hunk candy bars. A Roll-A-Rama outdoor skating rink on the airport tarmac. Everything about TWA Hotel celebrates the dawn of the Jet Age in all its mid-mod glory.

Located in the restored 1962 TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport, the hotel features 512 guestrooms with thick floor-to-ceiling windows, midcentury modern Knoll furnishings, terrazzo-tiled bathroom floors and old Hollywood-inspired vanities with bubble lights. Grab a martini in the meticulously restored 1958 Lockheed Constellation airplane turned cocktail lounge. The hotel even boasts a Twister Room, where you can play a wall-to-wall version of the iconic 1960s game. Spend time exploring the more than 2,000 artifacts donated from former TWA employees and curated by the New-York Historical Society. Some items include a selection of flight attendant uniforms from the 1940s to the 1990s; retro travel posters; and vintage furniture from the TWA headquarters. If you’re just flying through New York City, you can still enjoy the TWA Hotel with their Daytripper option — check in to swim, dine or just soak in all the ‘60s fabulousness.

NEXT STEP: Visit AAA.com/GoTravel or call 800-424-3751 to plan your ultimate vintage vacation!

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