Motel with motorcycle parked out front
Dave Krugman

Welcome the Return of the Motor Lodge With a Stay at These Roadside Motels

For your next road trip, pull into one of these revitalized, hipster motels for a relaxing stay with cool vibes and retro aesthetics. These sleek makeover motels are way sexier than Norman Bates—and a total overhaul of the motor lodge of yesteryear.

Below you’ll find an artsy stay in the historic MiMo hood in Miami—just a stone’s throw away from gallery-packed Wynwood Arts District. A mountain pass pit stop in Raton, part of the famed Sante Fe Trail, that’s long hosted weary travelers—a tradition the inn extends to pets for a modest $2 fee. A better best western right by Snow King, which offers a challenging, and cheaper, day on a ski hill (instead of the mobbed Jackson Hole resort) that’s shockingly close to the Anvil. A retro rocker where every room faces the heated, oval pool, and more.

The Return of the Motor Lodge

Motel pool at sunset
The first-come-first-serve passes for the swim club grant access to a 60-foot pool with a sloped “beach” entry—and a hot tub. Courtesy Image

1. The Dive Motel


Owners Lyon Porter and Jersey Banks bring the same attention to style that made a hit of their short-term rental Urban Cowboy in Brooklyn to the Dive Motel in Music City USA. By reinventing a 1956 motor inn that played host to no less than Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash in its heyday, they’ve created a retro refuge for the modern traveler. The 23 rooms range from rustic chic to 1970s-tastic, complete with shag carpet and a disco ball. Though the motel is situated just minutes from the Lower Broadway honky-tonk district, you may never make it past the onsite Dive Bar’s warmly swinging vibe, or in summer, the pool that doubles as a public swim club.

[From $199 per night;]

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Vagabond Hotel
Courtesy Image

2. Vagabond Hotel


Originally designed by modernist architect Robert Swartburg, the Vagabond opened in 1953 as a motel and restaurant/lounge swinging enough to be a Biscayne Boulevard hangout for Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Abandoned for years and at one point set for demolition, the rescued and revamped incarnation of the 42-room motel blends an uber-Miami aesthetic (lots of white and aquamarine) with the must-have hallmarks of contemporary travel ( free WiFi, gym). Don’t neglect a cocktail at the palm-shrouded pool bar, and take a dip to say hi to the mosaic mermaid at the bottom of the shallow end.

[From $159 per night;]

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Raton Pass Motor Inn
Courtesy Image

3. Raton Pass Motor Inn


Located right off I-25, in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains halfway between Albuquerque and Denver, this recently overhauled spot’s slogan is “Where the Wild West meets mid-century modern.” And sure enough, the lobby features a vintage Zenith hi-fi and a 1950s Westinghouse fridge that could be straight out of a Coen brothers period flick. It’s in the individual themes of the 15 well-appointed rooms (WiFi, flatscreen TVs) that the place really shines, though, including the Pin-Up Room, the El Matador Room, the Rodeo Room and Lucky 13, featuring classic sci-fi and horror movie posters and a shower curtain with a bloody handprint.

[From $84 per night;]

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Anvil Hotel
Courtesy Image

4. Anvil Hotel


Hope you like Prussian blue, since that’s the striking shade that coats pretty much the entire exterior of this reborn motor court in the heart of a perennial ski-bum town on the edge of Yellowstone National Park. Its 50 rooms offer a lodge-ish, almost masculine vibe, featuring high wainscoting, custom iron bed frames, globe lamps and Woolrich blankets. Blizzard raging outside? Enjoy daily happy hours and bison osso buco at Glorietta, the hotel’s own gourmet Italian trattoria that surrounds a wood-burning grill. Psst! If you hold a National Parks pass, flash it to receive a discount on rates.

[From $442 per night;]

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Pheonix Hotel
At night, you might—as one Yelper has claimed—even run into Derek Jeter just hanging out. Nick Simonite

5. Phoenix Hotel


Positioned amid the “grit” of downtown, this mid-century motor lodge was ahead of the curve when it was reincarnated in 1987, and still shines its own unique light. (Legend has it that Neil Young lived there while recording the CSNY classic Déjà Vu.) A choice of accommodations can score you a suite with its own sitting area, or a room right on the lush, palm-shaded courtyard. After a day touring the city, join transient musicians and artists in the outdoor pool, or at the upscale Chambers restaurant. But the most coveted amenity is the parking spot that comes with every room.

[From $179 per night;]

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Roadside motel
Enjoy afternoons on the patio with DJs spinning lo-fi vinyl or nights in the lounge with live music from local acts. Courtesy Image

6. The Longleaf Hotel

Raleigh, NC

Homegrown tastemakers scraped off the shell of a neglected Days Inn to find the 1960s bones of a Travelodge, one of America’s original stalwart motor lodge chains, then fleshed out a vibrantly stylish, and fully local, outpost. The exterior has been restored with authentic touches such as a beautiful neon sign and star-patterned “breeze blocks,” while the boutique-inspired rooms mix midcentury-modern furnishings with pillowtop mattresses and Bluetooth speakers. Imbibe a craft cocktail or two at the Longleaf Lounge, a low-key hangout where guests and locals alike can exchange tales from the road—or just amp up their Instagram cool factor.

[From $142 per night;]

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