Where do I begin, in describing the Madonna Inn? It’s grandiose, fun, tacky, pink, kitschy – AKA the perfect place for Retro Roadhusband and me to stay for our wedding anniversary, as it’s a hotel that we won’t easily forget.
Despite the fact that the Inn’s neon sign – replete with galloping horses- can’t be missed as you speed down the 101 between San Fancisco and Los Angeles, this isn’t your standard “just-off-the-freeway no-tel motel” - it’s a destination.
The Madonna Inn was opened as a 12 room motel in 1958 by Alex and Phyllis Madonna, hence the name. In 1966 the hotel suffered a catastrophic fire, but was rebuilt and reopened within a year.
During that reconstruction the size of the hotel was expanded, and the landmark decision was made that each room should be decorated in a different “theme”. From baroque to farmhouse, ethereal to cave dwelling – there are 110 rooms and not one of them is decorated the same! When you make your reservation you can take a sneak peek at what each room looks like, and specify if you want a room with a rock shower, waterfall, balcony or fireplace. We got a Rock Room
The Inn building itself is quite a spectacle as well. Built with many of the rocks from the 2200 acre parcel of land it sits on, it’s part Swiss chalet, part Flintstone, with a little western saloon thrown in for good measure.
The interior of the Inn has to be seen to be believed. It’s a wonderful potpourri of class and tack, with twinkle lights and accents of red and gold wherever you go.
Golden cherubs hold candelabras aloft in the corners, or gleefully clang cymbals while surrounded a bacchanalian excess of transparent lucite “grapes.”
And you better Think Pink when you’re at the Madonna Inn, because there’s loads of it! From the fancy “dinner only” Goldrush Steakhouse to the sugar for your tea.
We declined to dine in this pretty-in-pepto atmosphere, but were more than happy to grab a pink drink at the bar and watch the local couples practicing their ballroom skillz to the accompaniment of the live band.
As the night grew later and we grew sillier we knew that we had to join the legions of Madonna Inn visitors – and visit the famous downstairs men’s room – and what an experience that was!
That capped off our night in a memorable way indeed
The next morning we took advantage of the free wi-fi in the now more sedate bar area. The technicolor furnishings were even more dramatic looking than the evening before, with the sunshine streaming through the stained glass windows and bouncing off the hand carved wood adornments.
While Retro Roadhusband caught up on his internetting I did a thorough exploration of the Inn, from the downstairs wine cellar to the fashionable loft gift shop. I got a squashed penny to add to my collection and then we headed to the Copper Cafe for breakfast, where I spied these delightfully colorful pressed glass goblets sparkling in the morning sun.
I also spied what I wanted to have for breakfast- PINK CHAMPAGNE CAKE!
Now think about it – I can have eggs and bacon, toast and tea anywhere in the world practically.
But where else was I going to get the opportunity to eat a 10 inch high slice of cake, slathered in real whipped cream and completely covered with pink “chocolate” curls?
Surrounded by hammered copper, hand carved grapes, tufted red booths, bordello-esque carpets, angels and twinkle lights, a slice of this (surprisingly delicious) cake from their famous in-house bakery seemed appropriate.
Oh, and some pink sugar in my tea, before we hit the road!
Next time we’re roaring down the 101, my sweet tooth (and kitsch tooth!) is making darned sure we stop at the Madonna Inn again!
The Madonna Inn
100 Madonna Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
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