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Inside The Madonna Inn, The Wildest Hotel In America

Updated October 13, 2018 9.5k views14 items

From the inns of Santa Barbara to The Fairmont in San Francisco, from the resorts of Calistoga to the Hotel del Coronado on the San Diego Bay, there is no shortage of unforgettable accommodations along the California coast. But arguably the wildest and most memorable place you could stay is the iconic Madonna Inn. Situated along the Central Coast in San Luis Obispo, the hotel offers outrageously one-of-a-kind lodgings – and unusual bathrooms – as you will soon discover on this list of fun facts about the Madonna Inn.

The brainchild of owners Alex and Phyllis Madonna (nope, the hotel is not an homage to the pop superstar) has been around since 1958. Most guests come to stay in the Madonna Inn's weirdest rooms, all outfitted in over-the-top design schemes. But the property also offers something rare in an age of cookie-cutter rooms and cold-cereal continental breakfasts: the Madonna Inn offers an experience. 

Read on for some interesting trivia and strange stories about the Madonna Inn.

  • The Founder Reportedly Designed The Hotel On A Napkin

    Photo: Daderot / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0

    Founder Alex Madonna supposedly designed the first sketches of the hotel on a napkin. While he was in charge of the layout, he gave decorating duties to his wife, Phyllis. She later recalled:

    Alex said, "You just take care of decorating all the rooms." I said, "I've never done anything like this." He said, "You can do it." I didn't want to disappoint my husband, so I just took the bull by the horns and jumped in.

    Phyllis Madonna might have been an untrained interior decorator, but her unique tastes and vision were a success, and a decisive factor in the hotel's longevity.

  • The First Incarnation Of The Hotel Opened In 1958

    The Madonnas first opened their namesake hotel in 1958. It was a smaller affair then, with just 12 guestrooms. But a fire destroyed the property in 1966, doing $200,000 worth of damage and forcing it to close.

    The setback didn't deter the owners, however. Instead of throwing in the towel, they expanded their vision for what the Madonna Inn could be and rebuilt. The new, 110-room version opened a few years later.

  • A Lot Of Celebrities Have Stayed There

    Perhaps because of its larger-than-life scope and luxuriant excesses, celebrities have long been drawn to the Madonna Inn, either as overnight guests or diners at one of the onsite eateries. The roster of famous people who have visited the inn includes Clint Eastwood, Sam Elliott, Dustin Hoffman, Bette Midler, Dolly Parton, John Wayne, Paul Newman, George Burns, Steve Martin, and Lucille Ball.

    Macaulay Culkin once stayed in the Old-Fashioned Honeymoon room, Debbie Harry in the Country Gentleman room, and Michael Dukakis in the Romance room. 

  • It's Been In Movies, TV Shows, And Music Videos

    Video: YouTube

    The Madonna Inn has been a filming hot spot for numerous movies, television shows, and music videos over the years.

    The art-house movie Aria was shot there. Reality shows like The Bachelor, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Little People, Big World have all filmed on the premises. Grimes and Lady Antebellum are among the artists who have shot music videos at the inn.