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Lighthouse, Treehouse, Tiny House: One-of-a-kind Lodgings Kids Love

Offbeat overnights around the Northwest that make childhood dreams come true

Published on: May 02, 2015

Tiny homes hotel

Looking for a family getaway that your kids will be talking about for years? How about booking a weekend in a treehouse, lighthouse or Airstream trailer? The Northwest is a hot spot for fun, super-kid-friendly unusual lodgings that will transform your family's overnight stay into a memorable adventure; we've gathered 12 of the best in this article, from a treehouse in Oregon to a fire lookout in Spokane.

Offbeat places to stay are all the rage and a few of these places book out far in advance, so plan your visit well ahead of time – in fact, it's a good time to think about booking for next summer. (Note: All nightly rates are for a family of three or more.)

Caravan, the Tiny House Hotel, Portland, OR

Portland was the first to elevate mobile food carts to fancy cuisine, and now the city is a first for a different sort of pioneer on wheels. In the heart of the city’s Alberta Arts district sit six unique, custom-built tiny houses. It’s called Caravan, the first tiny-house hotel in the US. Each of the six unique abodes are between 80 and 160 square feet and sleep three to four people, necessitating clever design and creative use of the small space, from cozy sleeping lofts to hidden storage. The boutiques and breweries of the Alberta district are right outside your door (so close in fact that you may actually find a use for the provided earplugs) but you can eat in if you wish, cooking in your fully-stocked compact kitchen. Meet your tiny-house neighbors for the night in the outdoor guest “lobby” which has a firepit for s’mores and hammocks for lounging.

Rates: Rates are $125–$145

Info: tinyhousehotel.com, 503-288-5225

Out'n'About Treesort; photo credit: Nicolás Boullosa
Out'n'About Treesort; photo credit: Nicolás Boullosa, flickr CC

Out'n'About Treehouse Treesort, Cave Junction OR

Got a budding Tarzan or Jane in your family? In the Oregon Siskiyous, find a hotel in the trees, the vision of a local builder who dreamed of making a living off Oregon’s most prolific natural resource (trees) without cutting them down.

More than a dozen unique “treehouses” are scattered among the branches here, some just off the ground (great for those with a fear of heights) and others high up in the canopy, accessed by ladders or staircases and connected by catwalks. Some of them are spacious with their own bathrooms and kitchenettes, while a few are quite cozy and only comfortably sleep two people. Your stay includes a full gourmet breakfast. Kids never get bored here — the Treesort also has a swimming pool, over a mile of ziplines, giant swings, hiking trails and horseback riding.

Rates: from $180. Pair this trip with a visit to the nearby Oregon Caves National Monument.

Info: treehouses.com, 541-592-2208

McMenamins Old St. Francis hotel; photo credit: Holly Hayes, flickr CC

McMenamins Old St. Francis School Hotel, Bend, OR

Your kids might balk at the idea of spending the night in a school on their vacation, but just wait ’til they see the cool movie theater and mammoth tiled soaking pool at this eclectic hotel in downtown Bend. McMenamins is a Portland-based chain of brewpubs and hotels with a knack for rehabbing historic buildings into quirky, one-of-a-kind lodging experiences. One of their finest conversion projects is the Old St. Francis School in Bend where the wood-paneled classrooms in a 1936 Catholic schoolhouse are now 19 beautiful guest rooms. The school also houses two brewpubs, a bakery and pretty art-filled gardens. Relics of school days remain on all the walls, adorned with students' artwork and other memorabilia.

Family rates: $145-$175 nightly.

Info: mcmenamins.com, 541-382-5174

Kah-Nee-Ta Resport & Spa; photo credit:  lyzadanger flickr CC

Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa, Madras, OR

Forget any notions of luxury you may have because this place is a “resort and spa.” The quirky digs here will have you roughing it native-style — 20 large canvas teepees clustered in a grassy field, each with concrete floors and open fire pits inside. You bring your own bedding, firewood and other camping supplies. Located on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation near Oregon’s Painted Hills, Kah-Nee-Ta’s village is packed with family fun, including a gaming arcade, waterslides, huge mineral pools fed by local hot springs, and stables with horses you can take out on reservation trails. The resort hosts special events like pow wows, rodeos and salmon bakes throughout the summer. Pets welcome. 

Family rates: from $69 nightly

Info: kahneeta.com, 800-554-4786

Point no Point Lighthouse
Point No Point Lighthouse; photo credit: jimmywayne, flickr CC

Point No Point Lighthouse,  Hansville, WA

Bunk down in a cool relic of Washington’s maritime history on the Kitsap Peninsula. Puget Sound’s oldest lighthouse (built in 1879) still stands on the sandy beach at Point No Point, guiding ships of all sizes safely into Admiralty Inlet. Since the late 1970s the light in this important navigational aide has been automated, but like all lighthouses it was historically manned by a dedicated lighthouse keeper that tended to its operation — cleaning the fragile lens, replenishing fuel, trimming the wicks and so forth. The historic lighthouse keepers’ quarters at Point No Point are now a vacation rental with a full kitchen, living room, dining room, two bedrooms and a bathroom, all decked out in Victorian antique furniture and lighthouse-themed artwork. Take in the panoramic view of Puget Sound islands and Cascade volcanoes from its spacious porch, and keep an eye to the sea for seals, orcas and migrating waterfowl. Take a beachcombing stroll on the sandy beach at low tide. The rental is adjacent to an awesome wildlife habitat preserve, so bring binoculars.

Rate: $215 nightly

Info: pnplighthouse.com, jeff@uslhs.org, 415-362-7255

Iron Horse B&B
Iron Horse B&B; photo credit: ArtBrom, flickr CC

Iron Horse Inn B&B, South Cle Elum, WA

All aboard! For more than half a century, this historic inn was a rooming house for railroad workers on the Milwaukee Road, as it was known. Today its seven rooms and four caboose suites (the best bet for families) comprise a kid-friendly bed-and-breakfast, loaded with artifacts and railroad memorabilia from a bygone era, and furnished in period antiques. Kids will love sleeping in the caboose loft and playing in the gazebo. The inn’s sitting room is a great place to read a book beside the woodstove before feasting on a delicious home-cooked breakfast of waffles or pancakes. The location is perfect for train buffs, too — right across the tracks is a restored depot and railyard interpretive trail.

Caboose rates: from $145 nightly

Info: ironhorseinnbb.com, 509-674-5939

Rolling Huts, Mazama
Courtesy of Rolling Huts

Rolling Huts, Winthrop, WA

A cabin is not always just a cabin. Take, for instance, the cluster of six compact glass-and-steel shelters that comprise the Rolling Huts on a grassy slope in the Methow Valley. Designed by renowned Seattle firm Olson Kundig Architects and featured in Dwell magazine, a stay in one of these plywood-clad cabins makes you feel right at home on the range — albeit with a modern twist. The hut’s furnishings are simple but functional (bring your own bedding), though all the important amenities are there — a mod wood stove, kitchenette, wifi and spacious deck that face rugged Cascade peaks. Each hut has an adjacent portable toilet. Full bathrooms and showers are housed in the centrally located barn a short distance away.

Rates: $135

Info: rollinghuts.com, 877-223-1137, 509-996-4442

Sou'wester Lodge and Vintage Trailer Resort; parker yo! flickr CC

Sou’wester Lodge and Vintage Travel Trailer Resort, Seaview, WA

Step out of your car at the Sou’wester and you’ll immediately feel the old-school beach vibe that flows through this place like an ocean breeze. A fleet of silvery vintage travel trailers are lined up in a cute row as if they’re posing for Instagram (and only a retro filter will do). Some are small and rustic (like the darling Airstream that resembles a potato bug but lacks a shower) while others are palatial (the Spartan Mansion has a full kitchen, bathroom, living room, and even a second bedroom). All 10  are fully restored throughout, clean as a whistle, and thoughtfully decorated with funky touches like hand-crocheted throws and working turntables alongside a selection of vinyl records. The three-story main lodge, flanked by shore pines, greets you with a huge, welcoming front porch and cozy wood-paneled parlor. Rolling dunes and the Pacific Ocean are a five-minute walk away.

Rates: $95–$168

Info: souwesterlodge.com, 360-642-2542

Quartz Mountain Fire Lookout, Spokane, WA

This adventure begins with a 2.2-mile hike (“no pain, no gain, huh kids?”), then culminates at one of the most awesome offbeat lodgings in the whole Pacific Northwest — a real fire lookout in the heart of Mt. Spokane State Park perched atop the rocky summit of Quartz Mountain (elevation 5,129-feet).

The lookout is surrounded by blooming wildflowers in early summer, followed by a crop of juicy ripe huckleberries in August. Inside through the four glass walls of windows you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the north Idaho panhandle and the Selkirk Mountains. The lookout is stocked with useful amenities so you won’t need to pack too much gear in with you. Drinking water is provided as well as a stove, propane, a table and chairs, beds with mattresses, a lantern and pretty much everything else you need for a cozy overnight stay. The lookout sleeps up to four people, and is rentable in late spring, summer and early fall only.

Rates: $59–$93

Info: tinyurl.com/quartzmt, 888-CAMPOUT

Dog Park Inn, flickr CC

Dog Bark Park Inn, Cottonwood, ID

Sleep in a giant beagle! Fondly nicknamed Sweet Willy by local residents, this three-story landmark pooch makes for a perfect family road trip retreat in Central Idaho. This B&B has just one two-bedroom suite, which means you’ll have the whole dog to yourself, including the beagle’s head which is actually a sleeping loft. Kids will get a bark out of the dog-themed décor throughout, from kitchy canine wall art to board games. The adjacent gift shop sells custom chainsaw art, much of it dog-themed. Available April-October. As you may expect, pets are warmly welcome.

Family rates: $108–$118

Info: dogbarkparkinn.com, 208-962-3647

The Aurora Express B&B, Fairbanks, AK

Calling all train buffs! This unique hotel has preserved a fascinating relic of Alaskan history and invites you to come on board to step back in time for the night (and stay for a gourmet breakfast the next morning). Four converted historic railroad cars (plus a dining car) sit on a stretch of private railroad track overlooking Fairbanks and the Tanana River valley. The collection includes a rare Gold Rush-era Pullman sleeper car, a World War II medic carriage and a luxury caboose. Two of the cars welcome children. Each is beautifully decorated with themes from Alaska’s rich history, plus lots of rouge velvet and fancy fringed lampshades.

Family rates: $200–$225 nightly

Info: fairbanksalaskabedandbreakfast.com, 800-221-0073

SIDEBAR: Quirky Stays for Parent Getaways

Not all quirky lodgings are created with kids in mind. Book one of these unique digs that don’t accommodate little ones for your next romantic, kid-free getaway.

Treehouse Point; photo credit: Etsy Ketsy, flickr CC

Treehouse Point, Carnation, WA

This romantic retreat in the trees just outside Seattle features six beautifully-designed bungalows built in the canopy beside a raging river. Wake up in your hand-hewn bed to the sound of birdsong before climbing down your ladder to a continental breakfast in the lodge.

Free Spirit Spheres, Qualicum Beach, B.C.

They hang like small moons from the tree canopy on the east side of Vancouver Island, and inside each of the three orbs is a cozy sleeping space for two. A short walk away is a lodge with bathrooms, showers, a small kitchen and a sauna.

Red Caboose Getaway B&B, Sequim, WA

Each romantic, private caboose has queen feather beds, a cozy gas fireplace, whirlpool tubs for two and fluffy robes. The hosts will treat you to a gourmet, multi-course breakfast in the morning.

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