Unusual or downright weird places to stay are always a winner with kids – much more so than any five-star hotel room. America, being the far-out place it is, is perhaps the world’s best hunting ground for quirky accommodation, but we’ve picked out something all over the globe to tempt every adventurous family.
Dream Cave Hotel
A lovely place to spend a couple of nights, this budget B&B in Goreme, Cappadocia, has some of its rooms inside the region’s famous ‘fairy chimneys’ (conical rock formations).
This ramshackle but rather special place in Olympos on the Mediterranean coast, a mass of charming treehouses, bungalows, dorm rooms and a campsite, with two bars and a seafood restaurant and snackbar, has a charismatic owner and a friendly backpacker vibe.
Home to all manner of unconventional luxury accommodation, this 113-acre estate a 2hr drive from New York City, in Connecticut, offers a variety of cottages with a different theme. The hangar-like ‘Helicopter’ contains a restored Sikorsky Sea King kitted out with a widescreen TV, bar and wood-burning stove, while the Greco-Egyptian style ‘Secret Society’ has a glass canopy for a ceiling, for stargazing. It’s not cheap, but under-5s go free and older children get discounts on the many ‘Family-Friendly Dates’. Free activities and amenities include snow-shoes, leisure and mountain-bikes, canoeing; extras include yoga, horse-riding, and campfire roasts.
Another famous American landmark, this mid-19th-century (but still operational) redbrick lighthouse on the Hudson River in New York State, with wonderful views down to the Catskills, is a rather special 2-room B&B. Located on a remote shoal and accessible only via a 1km trail, it’s a great place for communing with nature. Note that it gets booked up months, even years, ahead.
Dog Park Bark Inn
This whimsical B&B ‘inside the World's Biggest Beagle’, built as an homage to America’s old-time roadside architecture, will invoke lots of jokes about your kids being in the doghouse. Located in Cottonwood, Idaho, it has just one room, sleeping four (kids get fold-out futon mattresses in the loft)
Old Faithful Inn
A famous landmark in Yellowstone Park in Wyoming, this lovely old wooden building is right beside the geyser of the same name, so you can eat your enormous American breakfast with the spray in your face. Most rooms have two double/queen-size beds.
Beckham Cave Lodge
Set in a 280-acre estate Arkansas, this self-catering lodge cleverly built within the impressive Orzak Caves has five bedrooms and a recreation room so makes a great venue for a quirky holiday with friends or family. On-site activities include spelunking, rock-climbing, hiking and nature trails, mountain-biking and horse-riding.
This famous, well-loved hotel within the Amazon rainforest delights families with its 6km of wooden catwalks 20m up in the treetops, connecting the bedrooms to the dining room, and with its monkeys, birds and butterflies – who seem as comfortable here as the human guests. There are wonderful tours up the Amazon if you can tear yourselves away from this ultimate treehouse.
Magic Mountain Hotel
This hotel looking for all the world like a mountain out of a fairytale, complete with waterfall cascading from its pinnacle roof and accessed via a ropebridge, will delight kids. Set in the Hulio Hulio reserve, it has 13 rooms plus 11 cabins for 4–6 people. Look out for condors and eagles in the skies and pumas on the ground.
This wonderful, bohemian, boutique hotel offers individual cottages created by a theatrical designer, including family villas with up to four bedrooms. Situated near a little fishing village and with its own stretch of beachfront, it can arrange nannies so that you can take advantage of its spa and yoga classes.
KumbukRiver Eco Resort
This eco-lodge 250km from Colombo will blow kids’ minds – it’s within a giant straw elephant, and you sleep in the belly! Guests might also spot real-life elephants in the moonlight, or glimpse peacocks roaming at sunrise, and can explore the fascinating riverfront and miniature island, trek on the other side of the property (Yala, Sri Lanka’s most famous wildlife sanctuary), take a guided tour to the wildlife parks and historical sights, go night-driving to spot animals, or simply relax in the herbal plunge pool.
This famous mining town amidst the sandstone of South Australia gives you the chance to sleep underground in the kind of cave that opal-miners used to build to get away from the desert's searing heat. Accommodation includes triple rooms. There are also subterranean shops and opal-display areas, and tours let you noodle for your very own piece of opal.
You wake to the sound of parakeets when you stay in one of the six two- and three-bedroomed treehouses within this 100-acre private wildlife sanctuary in ancient rainforest in Queensland. You might see cassowaries, rare Lumholtz tree kangaroos, endangered green possums and shy platypus, while red-legged Pademelon wallabies abound and coppery brushtail possums will visit your balcony every night.
A hobbit motel is just the latest addition to this unique, in-your-face farm-stay two hours from Auckland, where artist Billy Black brings Kiwi culture to life on stage – there’s also a train motel, a plane motel and a boat motel. Activities available include caving adventures, blackwater rafting, 4x4 bike-riding, and horse-riding.
Poseidon Undersea Resort
Not yet open at the time of writing, this resort built underwater in the South Pacific will transport guests by helicopter and submarine to the middle of an enormous lagoon then down by lift to its guestrooms complete with acrylic transparent walls so that you can watch the marine life around you. Special family programs are promised.
See also our features on Unusual Places to Stay in Europe and Unusual Places to Stay In the UK.