The Shady Dell, Bisbee

Sleeper Hits: Arizona's Unusual Accommodations

By: Bryn Bailer and Edie Jarolim

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August 11, 2019

From underground caverns to railroad cabooses, lodging options in Arizona surprise even the most seasoned traveler.

About the author

Bryn Bailer and Edie Jarolim

Bryn Bailer is a native Tucsonan and an award-winning journalist and former reporter whose work has appeared in both national and international publications. Edie Jarolim is the author of three travel guides whose career includes editing for Frommer's, Rough Guides and Fodor's. As a freelance writer, her work also has appeared in numerous national publications.

There's nothing wrong with a traditional hotel or a charming bed and breakfast. But if you have the chance to bed down in an underground cavern outfitted with modern amenities, or atop an observatory underneath millions of stars, you'd take it, right?

For those whose tastes go beyond the ordinary, here are 8 Arizona accommodations to book now.*

Park in the dark


65 million years in the making, northern Arizona's Grand Canyon Caverns are subterranean lodgings courtesy of Mother Nature.

Just off historic Route 66, among the largest dry caverns in the country, you'll find the Cave Motel Room. Located 220 feet below the surface, the single "Cavern Suite" sleeps up to six and includes 50-foot natural limestone ceilings, two double beds, a living room, library and bathroom. Should your needs during this once-in-a-lifetime stay extend above ground, you'll find assistance from a 24-hour on-call personal attendant topside.
Reservations: gccaverns.com, (928) 422-3223; $900/night (avg.)

Celestial sleep


The dark expanses of southern Arizona are renowned for stargazing—and Kitt Peak National Observatory is one of the premier sites in the nation for studying the stars. Go behind-the-scenes with the Overnight Telescope Observing Program, which features private, personalized tours and nighttime viewing through research-grade telescopes. Your cozy, mountaintop dormitory normally hosts research astronomers from around the world. For one night, it can be (mostly) all yours.
Reservations: noao.edu/kpvc/Prog/oto.php, (520) 318-8000; $785 for up to two adults, room and board are extra. Requests must be submitted at least 30 days in advance, and nights are unavailable July thru August.

Vintage digs


The former copper mining town of Bisbee is known for its colorful Wild West history, but visitors can also relax in 1940s and 50s style at The Shady Dell. Step into an era of mid-century Americana with overnight stays in hipster-approved travel trailers, each restored and decorated in high-kitsch accouterments. Think pink flamingos, black-and-white TVs, checkerboard linoleum and leopard print bedding. Continue the nostalgia with a stroll into town, which is enjoying its new life as an enclave of artists and other free-spirits.
Reservations: theshadydell.com, (520) 432-3567; $65-$85/night, depending on the trailer; $95/night for the 38' Chris Craft Yacht

Radical architecture


Arcosanti, a self-described "urban laboratory in the Arizona high desert," celebrates the work of Italian architect Paolo Soleri (himself a student of American architect Frank Lloyd Wright). Visitors to this site 70 miles north of Phoenix come for guided tours, architecture exploration and the modestly priced, simply decorated guest rooms. Each boasts Soleri silt cast designs on the ceiling and sunrise views of Agua Fria National Monument, itself worth a visit. Book the Sky Suite for more space: a living room, kitchenette and two small bedrooms.
Reservations: arcosanti.org, (928) 632-7135; $35-$70/night (rates vary depending on single or double occupancy and rooms with shared vs. private bathrooms)

All aboard


You can bunk in two 1929 Santa Fe Railway cabooses, each of them suite-size, at Canyon Motel & Railroad RV Park in Williams. You'll enjoy a plush queen bed and perks such as Wi-Fi, a microwave and a refrigerator. Or opt for the classic 1950s Grand Canyon Railcar with three separate rooms. Continue your ride on the rails with a trip on the nearby Grand Canyon Railway to—you guessed it—the Grand Canyon. Caboose bonus (or not): Previous guests have claimed Caboose #2 is haunted, with some people spotting a ghostly conductor.
Reservations: thecanyonmotel.com, (800) 482-3955; call for rates

Route 66 kitsch


Not only can you sleep in a teepee on old Route 66 at the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, but each of the 15 pointed-roof lodgings is fronted by a beautifully restored classic car. Each teepee room is relatively spacious, complete with sloped walls, double beds and a private bathroom. Opened in 1950, the motel closed in 1974 when Route 66 was bypassed, but it reopened in 1988 thanks to members of the family who built it originally. Holbrook is a popular midway point for travelers on their way to Flagstaff or Monument Valley Tribal Park farther north.
Reservations: By phone only, (928) 524-3048; $79-$86/night

Head of the class


At Noftsger Hill Inn in Globe, you won't get in trouble for nodding off in the classroom. That's because the building, which opened as a school in 1907, found a new purpose for its classrooms as comfy and spacious accommodations. Each guest room enjoys decor from the owner's private collection of mining-era antiques and art, plus sitting areas, original chalkboards, a private bathroom, fireplaces and Wi-Fi. Booking tip: Front rooms offer panoramic views of the beautiful Pinal Mountains, while rear rooms look out onto the haunting Old Dominion Mine and park.
Reservations: noftsgerhillinn.com, (928) 425-2260; $100-$150/night

Hospital stay


In Jerome, the United Verde Hospital opened in 1927 and now operates as the Jerome Grand Hotel. The rooms are no longer institutional, and are, in fact, stately and elegant, with those on the valley side offering expansive and dramatic vistas. Like many older properties, rumors abound about the property's former "guests" and whether they still linger on as ghosts. Haunted or not, guests will find the menu at the hotel's Asylum Restaurant far nicer than any hospital food.
Reservations: jeromegrandhotel.net, (928) 634-8200; $165-$295/night for rooms, suites are higher


 

If You Go

Arcosanti
13555 S Cross L Rd, Mayer

Canyon Motel & Railroad RV Park
1900 Rodeo Rd, Williams

Grand Canyon Caverns
115 Mile Marker AZ-66, Peach Springs

Jerome Grand Hotel
200 Hill St, Jerome

Kitt Peak Observatory
SR 86 (Ajo Way)/Junction 386.
Top of the mountain on Rte. 386 on the Tohono O'odham Nation, 56 miles southwest of Tucson

Noftsger Hill Inn
425 E. North St., Globe

The Shady Dell
1 Old Douglas Rd., Bisbee

Wigwam Village Motel
811 W. Hopi Dr., Holbrook

 

* Rates listed are accurate at the time of publication but do not reflect potential changes due to seasonality or high occupancy. Please confirm all prices and fees with the property when booking.

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