Seeking Offbeat, Non-Chain Lodging within 2 hours of L.A.
May 20, 2006 12:56 PM   Subscribe

For a late June, post-wedding escape from L.A., my groom and I would like to find an off-the-beaten-path town/hotel. Our requirements must be odd, of which

...because I've searched the archives, but haven't seen a question quite like ours here.

After our complex and batty wedding, we'll want to get away for a couple of days. We don't need to go far from L.A. (120 mile radius), or do anything especially spendy, but we do want to find a neat place to sleep with interesting things nearby to explore.

Our ideal day might include roaming around a garden, hitting a few thrift stores, grazing on carne asada tacos from some fabulous shack (or anything involving dumplings), driving around checking out old signs, hiking up to a hot spring and exploring an area that's not yet succumbed to the mallifaction of chain stores and neo-Tuscan stucco condos.

We're architecture geeks, so historic lodgings would be ideal, though we're a bit scared of frou-frou Victorian bed and breakfast decor. Weird is good: haunted, eccentric (but not boring) proprietors, pet llamas, former mental hospital, sleep in a jail cell (anyone has any experience with this place?), and similar.

So if you have any leads on neglected, charming, oddball Southern Californian destinations, we'd love to hear em. Thanks!
posted by Scram to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, LA (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could do worse than making some of the stops on The Mission Trail.
posted by paulsc at 2:04 PM on May 20, 2006



Or, heck, San Francisco...
posted by frogan at 2:22 PM on May 20, 2006

Best answer: If you can drive as far as San Luis Obispo (prob. 3-ish hours) you might find a home at the Madonna Inn. I've neve stayed there so I can't say for sure, but driving by I always got the impression that it was eccentric kitsch rather than "frou-frou Victorian."

It's close to some mellow beach towns, and about a two-hour drive/day trip from Pinnacles National Monument, which is very cool.

And it's pink.
posted by donpedro at 2:36 PM on May 20, 2006

I was going to suggest Santa Barbara but it's pretty expensive there. How about Pismo Beach?
posted by Lynsey at 3:03 PM on May 20, 2006

Have you been to Catalina?

I just got back from a road trip north to the California central coast area. Cambria just south of Hearst Castle is probably further than 120 miles, but it may be good for you. I didn't stay there. I stayed in Cayucos and then Monterey, but I had lunch in Cambria and it seemed very charming.

You might also consider San Diego. The Hotel Del Coronado is supposed to be something, and may meet some of your requirements. I think it's a bit spendy, but you didn't mention a budget.
posted by willnot at 4:04 PM on May 20, 2006

Best answer: How about good ol Ventura and Ojai? You can stay at the 50's Flat or Vickers Cottage at the Pierpont Inn, shop at the antique and thrift stores, eat fabulous tacos on Main Street ( I can't remember the name of the place we like, but its down by the thrift stores, so you should be able to find it), run on the beach, drive to Ojai (20 minutes or so), go hiking up the creek in Matilija Canyon or down in the River Bottom . Get a $25 massage at the Ojai Massage School. (Stay away from the village itself -too cute and takes itself way too seriously.) Take the back road (Highway 150) from Ojai to Santa Paula . Walk around Santa Paula. Look at the old signs and building. Eat more tacos. Take the 126 back to Ventura. Go to a wine boutique on Main Street for fruit, cheese, and a flight of wines for tasting. Order a bottle of champagne and congratulate yourselves on tying the note and finding such a great place to start your married life.

Do let us know where you end up.
posted by Skychief at 5:03 PM on May 20, 2006 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Union Hotel in Los Alamos looks pretty cool with silly theme rooms. But I'm not sure if there is much else to do in the area as I've never been there. The price is a little high, but it might be worth the experience.
posted by spacelux at 5:07 PM on May 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, which we'll throw in the hopper and ruminate upon. Skychief's itinerary is appealing, though sadly it looks like the Glen Tavern Inn partially burned in April, and while their website is still up, it's unclear if they are open for any kind of business (too bad, it's supposedly fulla haunts).

And Spacelux' Union Hotel looks like fun, with rooms that make the Madonna's look sedate.

We just learned that my mom has a $75/off coupon for Sycamore Mineral Springs in SLO, which is tempting... but please keep the ideas coming.
posted by Scram at 5:35 PM on May 20, 2006

Best answer: You could be describing Idyllwild, a mile-high town in the San Jacintos above Palm Springs, but quite different in climate and feel. It's a center for hiking, riding, and culture (including an arts school and jazz festival). Visitor information here.
posted by rob511 at 6:07 PM on May 20, 2006

The Bracken Fern Manor near Lake Arrowhead boasts of a history of mafiosi and bootlegging. Also apparently haunted, though that claim seems pretty sketchy.

Lots more: Sleeping With Ghosts in California.
posted by donpedro at 6:08 PM on May 20, 2006

Ditto on the Madonna.
posted by radioamy at 7:00 PM on May 20, 2006

Second the Madonna Inn.

But if you want something really off-the-beaten-path, you could drive out to Death Valley Junction and pay a visit to Marta at the the Amargosa Opera House.
posted by herc at 6:45 AM on May 21, 2006

I love the Madonna Inn and if you've never been there, that is definitely an excellent suggestion.

Another great little town is called Cambria, it's up highway 1 outside of San Simeon, CA, where the Hearst Castle is. Also a very weird, unique place to explore.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:49 AM on May 21, 2006

Here's The Hearst Castle's web site.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:52 AM on May 21, 2006

Response by poster: Ixnay on Sycamore Mineral Springs: the latest tripadvisor guest reviews are incredibly bad. But we are very intrigued by rob511's suggestion of Idyllwild, and will definitely head out to Santa Paula sometime. Thanks for all the great tips!
posted by Scram at 11:11 AM on May 21, 2006

I second Idyllwild. I lived there for most of my life. It's an amazing little place!
posted by samsarah at 2:34 PM on May 21, 2006

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