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The Grooviest Motels in the U.S.
CNN Live Today with Daryn Kagan
May 2, 2005

narrated by Daryn Kagan, (video clip coming as soon as we get it from CNN)

KAGAN: Well, you might not be getting married, but you might be thinking about getting away from it all. Ahead this hour, we have some ideas about where you can go. They’re small, unique, they’re motels.

The motel is back. Warmth and personality, maybe just a nice vacation.

Also ahead...


KAGAN: All right, Wolf, thanks for that. Look forward to it. See you in a few minutes. Thinking about taking a trip, the kind that you plan, not like the runaway bride? But you want to stay away from those cookie-cutter chain hotels? We’re going to show you some very different type of motels. Kitschy, cute, fun. Stay with us.


KAGAN: You know, motels got a bad name way back in "Pyscho" when Janet Leigh had that, well, you know, unfortunate shower mishap. But if you’re brave enough, there are some fun, funky and cheap places to say in your getaway this summer. The grooviest motels in the U.S. are featured in "Budget Travel" magazine. The editor-in-chief Eric Torkells is here with me.

Eric, hi.


KAGAN: Let’s pack our things, and get going and hit the road. First to Portland, Oregon.

TORKELLS: The Jupiter Motel in Portland is a great example of this trend of old motels being renovated as sort of quirky hipster hotspots. And there’s a bar that’s part of it, and it’s so popular with locals, that the hotel started offering a "get a room" rate of $50 after 11:00 p.m.

KAGAN: Oh, hubba-hubba.

OK, Thunderbird in Martha, Texas. Where is Martha, Texas?

TORKELLS: That is in the Middle of west Texas, and it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere, with no disrespect to the rest of Texas. But Martha’s popular on the contemporary art circuit, and there was never anywhere really to stay that was short of chic, and then this motel popped up, and you know, it’s beautiful. It’s got all the contemporary style you’d expect of a hotel in the middle of a big city.

KAGAN: Super. Kate’s Lazy Meadow in Mount Tremper, New York. What part of the state is that?

TORKELLS: That’s in the Catskills. And the owner is Kate Pierson, one ever the singers of the B-52s. Yes, it’s pretty great. She bought this as an investment and decided to do it up, buying all of the vintage stuff herself. The toiletries are actually taken from her years on the road on tour.

KAGAN: You’re getting old shampoo.

Let’s head west for the Desert Star in Palm Springs, California.

TORKELLS: Palm Springs is the epicenter of this entire trend, in that there are so many great old motels. The architecture of those is so great. And the Desert Star is one of the most affordable of the group. But you know, you just -- it’s got all that mid-century modern design that’s big in interior design right now, but that also happened to be the style back when the hotel was built.

KAGAN: Back to Texas for the Austin Motel in Austin, Texas.

TORKELLS: Austin’s such a great city.

KAGAN: Great music town.

TORKELLS: Yes, no, this is right on the strip of fun stuff, and, you know, it’s a classic. The daughter of the second owner decided to re-do all the rooms herself, one by one. And that’s what you see is, these owners are putting a lot of love into these places. It’s kind of like the B & B of the modern day.

KAGAN: Yes, that’s what I was just thinking. B & B meets motel.

TORKELLS: Yes, people who wanted to sort of have -- live the life of an innkeeper, but found that a motel works just as well for it.

KAGAN: Yes. More privacy for the guests. The Roxbury Motel in Roxbury, New York.

TORKELLS: And again, two theater vets from New York opened it up, and you, did all the shopping at IKEA and the Container Store, and just gave a little bit of style. You know, these places are under $100 a night. So, you know, there are still budget lodgings, but you know, they’ve go -- they’re not the cookie cutter thing you used to expect from a motel.

KAGAN: How about Miami Beach? The Aqua Hotel.

TORKELLS: I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you.

KAGAN: Miami Beach?

TORKELLS: Ah, the Aqua. Well, Miami also has all that great art deco architecture, which is just, you know. So this another great example of that. You know, the fabulous old building that you know, that doesn’t cost a lot.

KAGAN: And finally, the Starlux in Wildwood, New Jersey.

TORKELLS: The Starlux in Wildwood, New Jersey. Wildwood has more of these old buildings probably than anybody else. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Wildwood, but it’s just crazy with neon and family attractions and stuff. And the Wildwood actually built this three-story lobby in front of the motel that looks like it was part of the original thing, but it was actually a new addition.

KAGAN: Looks like stuff that is fun and different. And I’ll let you go, because I can tell your thing is kind of popping out there. But’s it more in "Budget Travel," in this month’s addition. Thank you so much.

TORKELLS: Thank you very much.