Here's our growing guide to essential California adventures, easy to edgy. We'll be adding to it daily all year. And we won't suggest an adventure unless one of the Travel section's staffers and contributors have tried it.
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Why : It has 109 rooms, no two alike; a preponderance of pink (because the owner loves the color); and a long history of satisfying newlyweds. If you spell kitsch with a capital K, this is your place. On Valentine's Day? Even better.
What: The Madonna Inn, a family operation since its opening in 1958, has always been an irresistible hot pink mess. Maybe you've heard of its splashes of pink paint high and low, or the waterfall in its men’s room, or the plastic flowers in the dining room, or its thematically customized guest rooms, which feature zebra-pattern carpets, poppy wallpaper, merry-go-round, etc.
Lately, the place has been getting horsier and the decor perhaps a tad more restrained. These are alarming signs.
But the overall effect is still unique. Roadside design expert John Margolies called the inn “the grandest motel of them all ... light-years removed from the almost scientific sameness of the larger franchised chains.”
Amen. In the last decade, the inn has added a pool, spa, daily horseback rides, pink tennis courts and a bike trail that connects to downtown.
As wacky as the place may seem, it's also eminently practical for long-distance drivers: It's almost precisely halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Where: 100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo, 208 miles northwest of downtown L.A.
How much: Rooms for two typically start at $209.
Info: Madonna Inn