OMG! This place should be called Kitsch Inn.
Located in San Luis Obispo on 2,200 acres of rock- and boulder-strewn land (some weighing more than 200 tons each), the Madonna Inn is one of the wackiest, tackiest, craziest and most fun places you could ever hope to stumble across.
Built by Alex and Phyllis Madonna, it opened on Christmas Eve 1958 with a total of 12 rooms. So exuberant were the rooms with the creation of their over-the-top fantasy that, in a celebratory spirit, the Madonnas treated their very surprised travelers to lodging free of charge.
It stands today as a testimony to their dream of building an inn of elegance, comfort and hospitality, where each guest room is different. No cookie-cutter highway motel for these two. Boy, did they ever succeed.
With a choice of 110 guestrooms, it’s hard to choose just one, but the room names give you a clue as to what to expect: Old Mill, Jungle Rock, Harvard Square, Edelweiss, Just Heaven, Irish Hills and Yahoo — and that’s just 10. There are 100 more, several featuring rock waterfall showers and elaborate stone fireplaces. A few of the guestrooms are grouped in themes such as the “Ren,” “Dez” and “Vous.”
Throughout this well-known motor inn, you’ll discover beautiful custom-made glass work, hand-carved adornments, Western murals, beach ball-sized pink roses, a 28-foot gold tree lighting fixture, Bavarian carvings on beams and doors, a European styled pool, a gazebo, a waterfall, an exceptional spa and the renowned rock waterfall urinal in the men’s restroom. Such a glorious mishmash.
Located along California’s Highway 101, it’s a great place to recharge your creative spirits. Stop in the Copper Café for lunch and a sample of the bakery’s delectable big, big cakes with white, pink and chocolate curlicues. Belly up to the Silver Bar outside the lobby before dining at the Gold Rush Steak House.
Then perhaps do a do-si-do or an allemande left on the dance hall floor to burn off some of those cake/steak calories. Either that, or a hike or bike ride the next morning on the ¾-mile bike path connecting Cerro San Luis Mountain and downtown San Luis Obispo.
One of these days, some well-meaning Gen-Xers may come along with a big wad of cash and decide to gentrify this gaudy belle-of-the-ball. Leaving the shabby chic stone exterior intact, they’ll replace velvet-flocked wallpaper with tastefully bleached-out white walls; swap out wagon wheel beds for stark iron headboards; pull up green shag and floral strewn carpets and replace them with light beige sisal; toss all the hob nob chenille bedspreads for ivory vintage linens; remove the oh-so-handsome cowboy paintings and hang in their place framed architectural artworks (antique map renderings perhaps); and bring in an electrician to tear down the etched copper and brass rococo light fixtures and exchange them for quintessential restoration hardware brushed metal contemporary lighting.
Oh, what a terrible shame that would be.
— Judy Crowell is a Noozhawk contributing writer, author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are her own.