My family has a thing for Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We head up there for a weekend trip once a year, enjoying its family-friendly vibe and bucolic setting. It’s a place that has something to offer each of us, whether it’s a kids’ museum, an Amish farm tour, or really good Ethiopian food (seriously!).
Back in July, my husband, daughters, and my parents made the trek north, but with a marked difference this year. Instead of staying in a traditional hotel, we decided to stay at the Red Caboose Motel in Strasburg. I had heard of this place years ago and, being an aficionado of the offbeat, always wanted to have a stay there. Well, this year my wish was granted, and it was awesome.
You can read more about it on their website, but basically this guy bought a bunch of cabooses at an auction and turned them into this motel. Instead of a hotel room, you get a retrofitted caboose. There are also two retired Pullman cars that serve as their office, gift shop, and restaurant. If anyone in your family is into trains, this will be heaven for them since it is right next door to the National Toy Train Museum and just down the road from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.
About the caboose…well, how can I put it diplomatically? Everyone that worked at the motel was lovely–warm, friendly, and helpful. The cabooses were clean but in dire need of updating and some TLC. If you are someone who insists upon upscale accommodations decorated with the latest trends, this is probably not the spot for you. Our caboose had a full size bed at one end, a full bath in the center, and bunk beds at the other end so it worked perfectly for us. A good setup for a small family that enjoys adventures. Besides, how can you complain with a view like this?
Overall, the vibe is more campground-y than hotel-ish. The Red Caboose Motel has an on site petting zoo, offers buggy rides, and maintains a small arcade and collection of old “nickelodeon” style entertainments.
My Dad was particularly enamored of a player piano, which he kept feeding quarters, to my Mom’s chagrin. It was just a wee bit loud, shall we say.
An awesome feature of the motel is their old barn, which has been converted into a place to watch free, family movies each evening (our night was Frozen). You can sit in the barn, with both side doors open, watching a movie while enjoying a country breeze. The barn’s silo has been fitted with stairs and a viewing platform up top. Down at the bottom is a wooden playground.
This trinity of movies, playground, and dizzying heights created a kid-magnet area, allowing for fun after dealing with us boring grown-ups all day. One of the most magical memories from our trip was the evening our kids chased fireflies while the adults chatted beneath the setting sun. This was not an experience we could have had staying at the Holiday Inn.
So, staying at the Caboose Motel was probably a one-time experience for us, but it’s one of our favorite memories from this summer. After all, how many people can say they’ve spent the night in a caboose?
Have you ever stayed in a funky hotel or do you want to? (I know I’d love to stay in a treehouse sometime!)