Modern Gibson Girl
Review of Madonna Inn
A Modern Look at the Kitschiest Hotel in America
Madonna Inn was created by Alex and Phyllis Madonna in 1958 in San Luis Obispo, California. The 12-room motel immediately grew in popularity and the property expanded to 40 rooms in 1959. Today, the property includes a grand dining room, bar, coffee shop, pool, horse stables, and 110 rooms that can only be described as FABULOUS.
The exterior decor of Madonna Inn is like something out of an intricate fairytale. I remember passing the great pink structure as a kid and always being impressed by its unashamed kitsch. The Swiss-Alps inspired main building is surrounded by the guest rooms, which appear to be part gingerbread house, part castle, and part mystery cave. It doesn't really flow, but it doesn't matter. Everything about it whimsical and happy.
The grand exterior is what brings people in, but the the outrageous rooms are what make people stay. All the guest rooms can be viewed online, and they range from whimsical, to lavish, to downright eccentric. Each room has its own theme and is entirely unique; some have rock structures, spiral staircases, fireplaces, stained glass windows, and most have some form of ridiculous wallpaper. We chose a mildly understand room, #165, the "Go" room. I loved the hot air balloon chandelier and grand wingback chairs, and even loved the sparkling wall paper that glittered in the moonlight. But my favorite was actually the bathroom. Beautifully detailed and complete with a stone wall shower, I felt like fairytale royalty.
Even more grand than the rooms is the Gold Rush Steakhouse. Completely decorated in gold and pink, the Gold Rush Steakhouse is a sight to behold. If you are not able to stay the night at Madonna Inn, I highly suggest at least stopping by for dinner or a drink, just to experience the grandeur of this room. Or, if you are traveling with children, they are open for breakfast and lunch as well. Is it over the top? Yes. Is it still awesome? Absolutely.
Copper Cafe is the less formal dining option located right next door, and is famous for its bakery items, especially the Pink Champagne cake. We popped in for a late night bite and were seated next to a roaring fire and surrounded with kitschy old-school chandeliers and colorful Madonna Inn glass goblets. Honestly, I was not very impressed by the cakes, too sweet and dry for me, but the atmosphere was still fun and inviting and perfect for a family outing.
The best part about Madonna Inn is the horses grazing in the pasture directly in front of the guest rooms. Happy, healthy horses just hanging out. The hotel also offers trail rides which I would have absolutely done if we had more time. The pool and hot tub are also a nice touch, located at the top of the property and overlooking the grounds.
The only people who wouldn't enjoy Madonna Inn are grumpy old curmudgeons and hard core minimalists. Is it over the top? Absolutely. And that's why it's so wonderful. So much love and detail has gone in to every part of the inn, and it shows. It's a place to relax and enjoy, and giggle at the quirky decor. If you are a couple traveling together, stay one night to experience the Gold Rush Steak House and guest room. If you are a family traveling with young ones, stay for a weekend to let the kids fully explore this wonderland. Alex Madonna summed up his vision best when he stated, "I want people to come in with a smile and leave with a smile."And in that mission, he has definitely succeeded.