Hotels schmotels. If you want to make your vacay extra-extraordinary (and COVID safe)—you’ve got to make your overnight accommodations as much a destination as any place else. So whether you want to spend the night on a battleship, sleep on a big cat refuge, or hunker down on your own private island, there are oddities galore when it comes to Airbnb vacation rentals. Read on to find out about some of the coolest spots to book with your brood.
Star Wars House - Orlando, FL
If you're planning a trip to a galaxy far, far away, Airbnb has the perfect place for you to stay in Orlando, Florida. Twelve Parsecs is a 9-bedroom house located just 15 minutes away from Disney World, making it the perfect place for a family of Jedi warriors to rest their heads while visiting Galaxy's Edge. The home includes a heated pool and resort amenities at the Champions Gate Oasis resort that include a water park, two golf courses, splash pad, game room, theater and more. The hosts have also left behind 16 Star Wars Easter eggs for guests to find. Read more here.
Bedrock Homestead - Boulder, UT
Live out your Flintstones dreams at this hydroelectric homestead and working farm. You'll have an entire west wing to yourself and a shared kitchen and common rooms. Climb to the top of the cave to see the expansive stars and enjoy your morning coffee up there. The area has numerous options for hiking, mountain biking and exploring.
Area 55 Futuro House - Joshua Tree, CA
For a totally "out of this world" adventure, book a few nights at this restored Futuro House in Joshua Tree. This totally off-the-grid home has fresh water in the outdoor shower and a fire pit where you can eat under the stars. Solar power is available to charge your small electronics but there's no WiFi, just board games to enjoy in this gorgeous area of California. Check out our guide for ideas of what to do in the area.
Pirate Ship Adventure Cabin (Lyndon Station, WI)
Ahoy, me hearties! Pirate-loving littles will definitely want to spend a night aboard the “Passing Wind,” outside of Wisconsin Dells. The unbelievable Pirate Ship Adventure Cabin has room for six and is guaranteed to make memories. A slide, swing set and tons of pirate décor add to the fun. Parents should know that the ship’s two bedrooms are separated by a short 15-foot walk across an outdoor lower deck, and bathrooms are a short walk away.
Fillmore Treehouse with Farm Stay—Fillmore, CA
Drive about an hour north of LA and you'll discover this secluded treehouse in an orchard of orange and avocado trees. It's located on a working farm, complete with chickens, goats, ducks and more—which makes it an ideal spot for a parent-kid getaway (only two guests are allowed). The recently built treehouse boasts a comfy queen bed, cute kitchenette and a full-size shower. Watch the sunset from the large deck, complete with a fire pit to satisfy your s'mores fix. After dark, you and your little one can enjoy some stargazing far from the city lights.
1940's Gas Station—Gallatin, TN
You'll love staying in this restored gas station that's 30 minutes from Nashville. The inside has an open floor plan with a rafter ceiling, full kitchen, Full bath with tiled shower and a washer/dryer. You have a large back porch to relax after a day and evening in downtown Nashville. This crib sleeps four with two queen Murphy beds.
Sleep in a Train Caboose - Joseph, OR
Wake up to this gorgeous view in your green caboose. The caboose is located behind an original Train Depot built in 1906 which used to be located in Enterprise, Oregon. It was moved in 1980 to its present location, one mile north of the town of Joseph, to serve as a residence. The caboose is completely self-contained with a small fridge, electric stove top burners, table and stools, a shower with rainfall shower head, linens and towels, cooking utensils, and an RV style toilet room. There is one main bedroom with a full size bed with a memory foam mattress. There are two twin bunk beds which are separated from the main bedroom with drapery.
Check out all the other train cars you can sleep in here.
Off-Grid UNIMOG Zombie-Proof Adventure - Kimberly, AL
How cool is this Airbnb? This 1966 UNIMOG was used as movie prop in the Hunger Games and the Walking Dead. Two people can sleep in the UNIMOG and there are spots for additional people to sleep on the open-air sleeping loft. You are totally off the grid at this spot as you'll drop your car at the farm's goat pen and throw your belongings in the back of the UTV. Staff will drive you what will seem like a hundred miles away from society onto the 105 acre sanctuary. You will hike beautiful scenery, play in the river and chill in your lounge chair on an observation deck that lets you truly escape the world below.
Sleeps: 4 but more can be accommodated. Dogs allowed.
Private Island Log Cabin - Monmouth, ME
If you REALLY want to get away from society, this is the Airbnb for you. Your cabin is on its own private island which you access by private pontoon ride from the mainland. Spend your days fishing, boating and swimming while you enjoy this fully off-grid adventure. Island concierge service is available if you need to have any supplies restocked during your stay. Unwind by the campfire, watch the sunset, and listen to the loons as they settle in for the night.
Adventure Treehouse in Paradise - Mt. View, HI
If your idea of a vacation means starry night skies and the soothing sounds of the jungle all around you, this cozy Hawaiian eco-cottage is the place to be. Designed to be as off-grid as possible while still maintaining a sense of luxury (meaning there's running water, wifi and electricity but the whole place has a tiny ecological "footprint" and is solar-powered), this small home was featured on HGTV's "Tiny Paradise" and boasts unique (and repurposed) features in every nook and cranny. Perched eight feet above the ground, the home comes complete with a full kitchen, bathroom, living room and loft space bedroom—as well as a swinging bridge that leads to a quiet sitting area in the trees. There's also a jungle zip line (!), outdoor shower and ground-level hangout space. The entire place may be small, but with two doors and 18 windows overlooking the surrounding Ohia and Hapu'u forest, you'll have plenty of space in the views.
Note: This home is recommended for kids seven and up because of the inherent risks associated with the loft, swinging bridge and zip line.
Sleeps: 4 guests
Cost: $99/night and up
Stay In an Historic Lighthouse - Cape Cod, MA
For a true New England vacation with a killer view, you can have this entire historic lighthouse and its adjacent home all to yourself. Located at the tip of Wings Neck Point along the western coast of Cape Cod, the lighthouse was built in 1849 and completely renovated in 2003. Formerly a U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse, the light tower still stands next to the original three-bedroom keepers home. Kids will love climbing the whirling stairs and subsequent ladder to reach the glass top of the lighthouse, where they'll get a 360-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean and the adjacent rocky shores. And, when just looking at the water isn't enough, there is a private sandy beach nearby where kids can swim in the gentle waves of the bay.
Underground in a Hobbit House - Santa Fe, TN
Lord of the Rings fans will geek out at the opportunity to stay a night in a hobbit house. These underground pods—located on a crop farm near Nashville, Tennessee—look like little hills from afar; but get closer and see the wooden walls and the giant round doorways. There are two pods for sleeping (for up to four guests each), with separate pods for the kitchen and dining rooms. Communal barbecue and sitting areas are located around the eco-farm to bring people together. Kids will love exploring the trails and looking for waterfalls (there are two of them) across the farm's 15 acres. There's also a chicken coop where you are free to collect fresh eggs for breakfast.
The Earthship—El Prado, NM
The Phoenix Earthship (which is located near Taos, NM, not Phoenix, AZ) is a work of art and guaranteed to make a unique family vacation the kids will never forget. The greenhouse makes a lush environment in the high mountain desert, with banana trees, grapevines, birds, turtles and a fish pond. The entire property is off grid, sustainable and unique. There is also a food garden, chickens and views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Part of a massive 630-acre Earthship subdivision, the only official off-grid subdivision in the world, you'll find stars for days. It's also driving distance to artsy Taos.
Dome Dwelling - Woodridge, NY
Got a whole crew in tow? Check out this amazing dome for a group vacation in the Catskill Mountains, located in New York. There’s a communal outdoor kitchen, an outdoor shower and bath, fire pit, pizza oven and bathroom available. Kids will love swimming in the pond and adults will enjoy watching from the wood-fired cedar hot tub. The property, perfect for multi-generational families, also has bunnies, sheep and goats.
Castle with a Pool—Los Angeles, CA
For your little knights and princesses, this newly restored 1920s castle is straight out of a storybook. Original details like stone turrets, gothic arches and exposed beams abound. It's a splurge, but so worth it. The grounds are completely enclosed by stone walls and offer a private courtyard off the master, a built-in fire pit and a spacious pool to play in.
Sleep in a Silo at Laughing Llama Farm—Troy, TX
Located near Waco, Texas and about 20 miles from the downtown area, this expansive farm stay includes an incredibly unique converted grain silo with all the amenities, including a sleeping loft, full bathroom, kitchen and a fishing pond on site. Visit with the sheep and llamas and relax in the peace and quiet.
Go Rustic in a Navajo Earth Hut - Page, AZ
Have you ever thought about how cool it would be to stay in a Navajo hut, with an earthen floor and a wood-burning stove? This rustic Native American-owned traditional Navajo hut near Page, Arizona accommodates four family members and has a fully-stocked bathroom nearby and an outside fire pit is where you’ll cook your dinner under the moonlight. The best part: you’ll wake up to a traditional Navajo breakfast complete with blue corn porridge, fresh fruit and ranch coffee or tea sourced from the land. Keep a look out for roaming sheep, sheepdogs and horses before you set off for a visit to the nearby Grand Canyon.
Fall Asleep On the Water - AZ or CA
If you've got a brood of super-swimmers and are looking for a trip that'll get you off-land for a while, a houseboat rental is a perfect way to give your kids their sea (or lake) legs. Not sure where to go? This West Coast rental company offers a huge fleet of houseboats for rent in serene and quiet lakes across California and Arizona, including docks in Lake Powell, Lake Mead, Lake Oroville and Lake Havasu. The boats range from 50-footers that sleep four to 6-bedroom luxury boats that'll sleep 14. All of the boats have kitchens, living rooms, above-deck seating and waterslides to make for fun plunges into the water—as well as canopied top levels so you can relax and watch those little swimmers in style.
Rates start at $2,625 for a 3-night stay.
A House Devoted to Candy - Orlando, FL
The littles will forget all about Disneyworld when they step foot into this gigantic Orlando-area vacation rental that is, basically, every kid's dream come true. Whether they're swimming in the ice cream cone-shaped pool, hanging in the ball pit bedroom, or doing karaoke in the disco, your kids will pretty much be in heaven here. The 10-bedroom home has everything a kid would want (and then some), including an arcade, movie theatre, mini-golf course, and life-sized backyard Candyland game. The pool has a giant chocolate bottle squirting water down the waterslide; there's a carnival-themed room complete with games and prizes, and a laser tag room that lets kids battle it out.
Rates start at $3,816 for a 2-night stay and vary by date. (It may seem exorbitant, but considering that the home sleeps up to 52 people, it could be do-able if you split the cost with the group.)
Go Back in Time - San Luis Obispo, CA
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in the late 1800’s? Well, you can actually stay at an old townsite in San Luis Obispo, California. At Old Edna Townsite, you can meet the mayor, Pattea Torrence, and roam free around the historic, flower-filled town. You’ll see a large farm and garden, the Macgregor Vineyard, a creamery, the Blacksmith shop, the Bluebelly Barn, Almas Reading Room and Sextant Wine Tasting Room, among other lovingly restored buildings. Spend the night at the Suite Edna Guest House, a lovely, well-decorated three-bedroom farmhouse, built in 1908.
Safari West—Santa Rosa, CA
Come to Santa Rosa for the exotic animals and stay for the one-of-a-kind overnight glamping experience at the Safari West wildlife preserve. The heavy canvas tents—imported from Africa—hardwood floors (albeit polished), and the sounds of wildlife give the feel of camping, while heaters and ceiling fans provide home comforts. While the luxurious bedding is nice, the highlight of the experience for all ages are the more than 800 animals that roam these acres. (Note that the tents are separated from the wildlife for safety reasons.) Take a 3-hour tour of the property on open-air safari Jeep (must be age 4 or older for this). The on-site Savanna Grill offers indoor and outdoor dining and wines from area vines, as well as Africa.
Play All Day at a Gaming House - Orlando, FL
This 15-bedroom mansion devoted to games will wow grown-ups as much as it does their little gamers. Built by the same couple who made The Sweet Escape, this bastion to all-things-playable lets guests walk inside their favorite board and video games. It's a gamer's paradise: There's a LEGO room covered in foam blocks; a Ms. Pac-Man room that'll make you feel like it's 1985 (it comes with a multi-cade arcade machine and an Atari 2600); and a CLUE room that also works as an escape room. There's also a huge pool with a lazy river and waterslide; a human whack-a-mole game that's just begging for social media likes; a human bowling game that puts people inside Zorb balls to knock down giant bowling pins; and a giant dartboard that uses Velcro soccer balls instead of darts.
Rates start at $1,395 a night (sleeps up to 54 people).
Overnight on a Battleship - Corpus Christi, TX
Ahoy, sailors! Grab your sleeping bag and pillow and spend the night aboard the U.S.S. Lexington, a retired aircraft carrier that has been docked in the Corpus Christi harbor since 1991 as a living history museum. Overnights on the battleship mean a unique first-person lesson in history: Not only will you get to bunk in the crew's original quarters; you'll also get a behind-the-scenes tour of the ship and hear stories from its past (the ship was heavily used during World War 2). Overnighters are also treated to a nighttime scavenger hunt, a movie in the 3D MEGA Theater, a few good old-fashioned ghost stories, a flag ceremony and two trips through the chow line.
Hint: The ship is large and there are stairs, so wear comfortable shoes.
Rate: $55 per person (for one night). Kids must be five and up to attend the sleepover.
Take a Safari in the States - Eureka Springs, AR
Does the idea of sleeping a stone's throw from a lion (without being in any danger) excite you? Then Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a sprawling animal rescue center that specializes in big cats, should be next on your bucket list. The 450-acre refuge, which calls itself the "Africa of the Ozarks," is home to almost 100 wild felines, including lions, tigers, cougars, bobcats and leopards (there are also bears, a monkey and a macaw). The refuge's mission is to provide a home for abandoned, abused or neglected big cats, with its visitor program (including its overnight experiences) contributing to this cause.
The refuge offers walking tours of its facility and grounds, but it's the overnight stays that make this a destination for people from all over the country. The safari-like accommodations—you can choose from suites, tents and a treehouse—all let you sleep within earshot of the resident carnivores, with several of the abodes actually overlooking the animal habitats.* So while you might be just 15 minutes from the town of Eureka Springs, you'll feel more like you're in Kenya than Arkansas. Overnight stays also come with two complimentary tickets to the refuge, where you and your kids can take a guided tour and attend keeper-led classes or talks.
Rates start at $125 per night.
*Hint: We recommend booking the Siberian Suite or the Treehouse, both of which overlook Floyd and Tigger's habitat. Kids must be over five to stay in the Treehouse.
Stay in a Haunted Hotel - Cheyenne, WY
If you're going to stay in a hotel, you may as well make it a haunted one! In downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming, you’ll find the beautiful Historic Plains Hotel, a National Historic Landmark, built in 1911. This hotel is full of local Wyoming art, stained glass, and several websites claim paranormal activity at the hotel—including Trip Advisor reviews. Visitors to Cheyenne can embark on a Cheyenne Trolley Ghost Tour to learn more about the Historic Plains Hotel ghost activity and the cowboys and Indians of the wild west. Jill Pope, who has worked for Visit Cheyenne and the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, has written two books on haunted Cheyenne and she leads tours and lectures that include the Historic Plains Hotel. Whether you believe in ghosts or just love hearing folklore, a night at the Historic Plains Hotel will be a night to remember.
Slumber in the Nicest Cave Around - Parthenon, AR
This is no bat cave. Beckham Creek Cave, a luxury cave dwelling (!) deep in the Ozark Mountains, features everything you'd expect in a modern villa—only it's inside a cave. This means you'll have four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a full gourmet kitchen, and multiple living areas with lofts and balconies ... plus exposed rock walls all around and a heck of an echo. Originally constructed as a fallout shelter, this upscale abode now rents for up to $1,600 per night and has been featured by media outlets worldwide. Watch TV on a 72-inch flat screen bolted on the rock wall; shower in the luxurious rain showers; or just hang on the couch after a day of Ozark mountain hiking, horseback riding or canoeing—you'll feel like the coolest caveman (or woman) ever.
Note: One Yelp reviewer warned that it does get cold, despite the online promises of "thermal heating," so bring warm clothes. This is a cave, after all.
Rates start at $1,200 per night.
—Kate Loweth, Melissa Heckscher & Wendy Altschuler