Stay Weird in the U.S.A.

Chattanooga Choo Choo engine

Ari and Brad Nicholson settle for the night in the most luxurious setting they’ve enjoyed anywhere. Their penthouse is lit by chandeliers and includes opulent touches like a martini bar and hot tub. The ambience is very different where Lee and Laura Hockman are bedding down.   As dog lovers, the opportunity to stay in “the world’s biggest beagle” gave them no paws (pun intended).  These aren’t the only unusual accommodations available to travelers. Opportunities abound for those seeking a unique experience when it's time to check in and turn in.

Dog Bark Park Inn 2

The ambience is very different where Lee and Laura Hockman are bedding down. As dog lovers, the opportunity to stay in “the world’s biggest beagle” gave them no paws (pun intended). These aren’t the only unusual accommodations available to travelers. Opportunities abound for those seeking a unique experience when it's time to check in and turn in.

That plush penthouse is one of 18 themed quarters at the Adventure Suites in New Hampshire. Others include a deserted island room where guests sleep in a giant oyster shell-shaped bed and a jungle hut complete with thatch roof and waterfall. For more information call (603) 356-9744.

Dog Bark Park Inn 1

Overnight guests at the Dog Bark Park Inn B&B in Cottonwood, Idaho enter a 30-foot-high beagle-shaped structure which offers the usual hotel amenities. The inn is a throwback to the kind of roadside architecture that was popular in the early days of automobile vacation travel. The unique B&B is open April 1-October 31.   For more information, call (208) 962-3647.

From rail to sail.  Train buffs who check into the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel will think they've gone to railroad heaven. Along with standard hotel accommodations, there are four dozen train car rooms. They’re lavishly decorated with Victorian furnishings, yet provide today’s modern conveniences. For more information call (800) 872-2529.

Chattanooga Choo Choo Victorian sleeper car

The accommodations are less luxurious, but equally as intriguing, aboard a World War II submarine moored along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The USS Cobia was launched in 1943 and saw action in the Pacific, sinking a total of 13 enemy ships.   Guests, who bring their own bedding, receive a guided tour and admission to the museum the following day. For more information call (866) 724-2356.

TreeHouse Point 2

Living high. Those who prefer to rise above it all also have inviting alternatives. Some choose to relive childhood memories of playing in a treehouse. At TreeHouse Point, located in a lush forest near Seattle, Washington, cabins are perched above the aptly named Raging River. The property offers, a "personal encounter with the trees and nature."   Guests access their rooms by way of stairs or a swinging walkway, and find cabins that are rustic but comfortably furnished.   For more information call (425) 441-8087.

TreeHouse Point 4

Another room with a view, the Jersey Jim Fire Lookout Tower, was built for a more serious purpose than playing in a tree house.   It's one of hundreds of structures once located around the country from which forest rangers kept a lookout for fires.   Located in the San Juan National Forest in Colorado, the cabin sits 55 feet (and 70 steps) above a meadow at an elevation of almost 10,000 feet. Inside are the original furniture and ranger log book, along with propane-powered heating, lighting, refrigerator and oven.   The tower is available from late May to mid-October.   For more information call (970) 533-7060.

Although it's 20 feet shorter than the fire tower, the Rose Island Lighthouse offers an equally dramatic, if different, view. It overlooks Narragansett Bay along the coast of Rhode Island. The base of the lighthouse is a museum which occupies rooms that have been restored as if keepers still lived there.   In fact, it's possible to become a keeper, sort of, for a night or longer.   Short-term guests take care of a few chores like raising and lowering the flag and turning on the generator. Those who opt to become keeper for a week have additional responsibilities, including checking the weather on the radio and recording and managing the wind-powered electric and rainwater gathering systems.   After completing their tasks, keepers are free to swim, fish, use the kayaks or just take in the scenic setting from the top of the tower.   The price of this unique experience for two people is $225-$350 a night and $1,000-$2,300 for weekly lighthouse keepers. For more information, call (401) 847-4242.

Staying Low.   Kokopelli's Cave Bed & Breakfast in Farmington, New Mexico is no mere hole in the ground.   Carved into a 65-million-year-old sandstone cliff face, and almost 1,700 square feet in size, the carpeted grotto includes a full kitchen and bathroom, television, DVD player and other amenities not expected 70 feet below ground. The cave can accommodate up to four people.   For more informatiion call (505) 860-3812.

Another low down experience awaits guests at Jules Undersea Lodge. Originally built as an underwater research laboratory, the mini-hotel sits on the floor of a mangrove lagoon off Key Largo, Florida. The living area includes two bedrooms and a common space that serves as the galley, dining and entertainment area. The best entertainment is provided by 42-inch round windows which look out onto a gathering place for angel fish, barracuda, snapper and other reef fish.   It's even possible to enjoy a meal prepared by a chef who dives down to the hotel and prepares a gourmet dinner.   Non-divers receive a brief introductory course that allows them to access the lodge using scuba gear which is provided. Rates are $800 a night for two people and $350 per person for three or four.   For more information call (305) 451-2353.

Back to Basics.   Some accommodations appeal to folks seeking a less exotic experience. That certainly applies to the Shady Dell in Bisbee, Arizona about 90 miles southeast of Tucson.   In 1927, it began to provide trailer and camping space for travelers along U.S. Route 80, the first all-weather coast-to-coast highway.   Today Shady Dell puts up folks in 10 fully-furnished vintage trailers.   Several of them have a toilet and sink, and group shower and bathroom facilities are available for the others.       For more information, call (520) 432-3567.

Shack Up Inn Cadillac Shack

The word “basic” certainly applies to a home-away-from-home located in the Mississippi Delta region, with refurbished share-croppers shacks and tenant houses furnished in what is described as "a flea market lover's dream." The atmosphere at the colorfully named Shack Up Inn lives up, or perhaps down, to that moniker and to its motto: “The Ritz we ain’t.”   Once guests get past the ramshackle outside appearance of the little houses, they find rooms that have been renovated to add electricity, plumbing, heat and air conditioning.   Mismatched furniture, walls adorned with old photographs and other period pieces embellish the theme.

For more information call (662) 624-8329 or: