The Madonna Inn: A Vintage Inspired Retreat

For our tenth anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a trip to the west coast. We have a lot of friends in Los Angeles, but also I have been wanting to check out this totally crazy hotel that was recently featured on BuzzFeed called The Madonna Inn. We spent a few really fun days in LA catching up with friends and checking out the best LA spots like LACMA below (featured in an earlier post) and then rented a car (ironically we were given a pick up truck – they must have seen we were from SC!) and drove North up the Coast to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

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The drive from LA is absolutely beautiful, and doing it at the end of the day watching the sun set over the mountains was especially peaceful. You can read about the full history of the Inn here, but the short version is that it was built in 1958 (possibly one of my favorite eras in design) by a highway contractor named Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis as a retreat marking the halfway point in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. With Alex’s construction knowledge and his wife’s quirky and fanciful design sense they created a quirky, fabulous and unforgettable retreat.

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And when I say unforgettable, I mean that literally. Every single room is different – each has a different theme and its own unique features (you can see them all here). We stayed in two of the dozens of rooms (one each night) and both of them had glitter wallpaper which seemed to be a common thread in many of the room designs. There was a heavy handed use of pink – their trademark ice buckets are cotton candy pink and a bottle of their house champagne was waiting for us when we arrived.

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I am not sure if “romantic” is precisely the word I would use to describe the first room we stayed in – Carin – it was more like a spectacular pink palace or a ride at Disneyworld, in a good way. There was literally a huge gold cherub hanging from the lofted ceiling – this is the room frequently used as the bridal or honeymoon suite.
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This is the full view of the glitter wallpaper – I think this was one of the original 1950s features so the Madonnas gave the glitter wallpaper industry some big business.
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Every nook and cranny of the bathroom was consistent with the room’s theme – I especially loved the sort of damask pink and white ceramic sinks (where do you begin to source something like that?!):

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We ate at the Inn’s trademark restaurant, The Gold Rush Steak House, the exterior of which is lit with rainbow lights at night and the interior filled with winding, pink tufted leather banquettes and thick, floral pink hued carpet. They gave pink balloons to us and anyone celebrating something (which turned out to be a good portion of the restaurant) and (not pictured) was a dance floor and a live band which really made you feel as thought you had stepped back in time and had sort of a Dirty Dancing vibe (remember that mountain resort?).

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The food was all really good – classics like a baked potato wrapped in foil and filet mignon. But my absolute favorite thing was their trademark pink champagne cake, which is one of their many fabulous cakes you can buy to-go in their bakery which also caters weddings and events. I mean how amazing would it be to have the Champagne Cake as your wedding cake?

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After dinner, we had a drink in The Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge and I ordered this drink called “The Pink Cloud” which is basically how you feel when you are staying at the Madonna Inn. Oh, and it’s made with half and half… Their cocktail menu was pretty great, full of vintage favorites.

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The next morning we woke up to this pretty view from our balcony. We ventured over to the stables and took a trail ride which went up the mountain next to the inn

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Basically the whole Inn looks like a gigantic, ornate cake. It is sort of “Swiss chalet meets Boogie Nights meets The Parent Trap” in its aesthetic and time period.

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It was actually really nice to be back on a horse. I rode for years and I really miss it. The horses were all named after famous singers like Johnny (Cash) and June (Carter).

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And their pool and Spa, a more recent edition to the retreat, was the perfect place to cool off and relax after a trail ride:

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Our second room “Merry” was similar to the first room but a little bit smaller and less pink.  It was kind of like being inside of a bottle of champagne…

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I love their logo/coat of arms featured on everything from their wine to their ice bucket to their golf carts. And there were just touches of pink everywhere you looked – even the lamp posts were pink!

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PINK

But the thing I most wish I could have taken on the plane was the Champagne Cake. I will be dreaming about it until our next visit because for some reason, I don’t think I can easily recreate this at home:

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These are all my own photos, it was hard to even edit them down but I highly recommend just googling “The Madonna Inn” you will not be disappointed. Really, it was a magical step back in time – to a time and place that I didn’t even know existed! Madonna Inn loyalists, like a gentleman who joined us at the bar one night, go back again and again, staying in different rooms each time. They have their favorite cocktails and collect their signature, colored wine glasses and seemed to have been bitten by the insatiable need to experience the magic over and over again. It must be something in that champagne cake, but visiting definitely makes you want to come back for more!

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