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The Madonna Inn

02/24/2011

We just returned from a trip down the coast to visit relatives. One of our stops was a night at the Madonna Inn, in San Luis Obispo. This over-the-top hotel is one of those places that travelers pass by, wondering what it’s all about. The candy-pink exterior probably scares off just the right people, because the Madonna is all about excess. If pink makes you crazy, this is definitely not the rest-stop for you.

The men’s room in the lobby area is particularly special, as the urinal is a large waterfall triggered by stepping inside. I had to send a spy in to take photos of the amenities—which, I have to say, are way cooler than those in the women’s room. The men also get nifty waterfowl tiles on their bathroom wall. By comparison, the women’s room is boring.

Of course, the craziest element of the Madonna is that each of its guest rooms are differently themed. From the elaborate, signature Madonna Suite to popular “rock” environments like the famous Caveman Room and lofty romantic turret-rooms like Carin and Love Nest, each space is different. And not all of them are pink.

This is probably a good time to mention that the Madonna Inn isn’t cheap. Even the smallest rooms are pricey. But the more expensive rooms usually accommodate several people. If you’re going as a couple and don’t need a suite, you’ll pay more for extras like rock walls, waterfalls, fireplaces, and balconies.

But the cost is also buffeted by many small details. Aside from the obvious entertainment value of the place, everything included in the experience is a delight, from scented branded soap and chenille robes to a free postcard of your room photo. And if it’s an anniversary stay, the staff will leave free champagne in your room.

We stayed in Yosemite Rock, which was our first time in a “rock room,” and I have to say that showering in a faux cliffside was fantastic. Great water pressure, cool setting—oh, and the toilet offered fancy bidet features. I’m personally not big on the bidet, but it’s a bonus for folks who love them.

The Madonna Inn certainly isn’t for everyone. Between its gloriously tacky decor and the expense it will run you, this central-coast landmark is bound to turn some people off. But it’s worth a stop on your travels just to check it out. You can sit at the bar, walk the premises, eat a giant pastry, learn a little local history, and perhaps bring home a colorful, fifty-pound goblet as a souvenir (we did).

But don’t be surprised if you hear the Madonna’s siren song after you leave.

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From → Travel, Weird Things

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