In a world full of chains, it can be daunting to find something truly unique. It’s no wonder why cities are vying to be known for keeping it weird. While every B&B is unique, certain accommodations have emerged with something so unique, so evocative, that they deserve special commendation.
We’re talking about inns run by fifth-generation psychics keen to review your past lives, board game utopias set in castles or former houses of ill repute with impressive doll collections. After staying in one of our picks, you may never return to the status quo.
Looks Can Be Deceiving: Victorian Outside, Themed Wonderland Inside Victorian Mansion Bed And Breakfast, Los Alamos, California
Depending on circumstances, saying “I can’t find the bathroom” is often accompanied by a look of terror. Not at the Victorian Mansion, where the “hidden bathrooms” are part of the fun, and you can sleep on a restored 1956 Caddie convertible or enter your room through a massive stone slab. This is next-level fantasyland stuff, with scents pumped in and room-specific soundtracks — forest noises in the “Gypsy” room — designed for maximum immersion. All six suites feature theme-appropriate hot tubs and fireplaces, plus a bottle of wine awaiting your arrival.
If you do decide to break the spell and brave the outside world, it won’t be so bad: The B&B is near three California wine trails as well as numerous antique shops, charming art galleries and outdoor activities.
A B&B With A Little Lagniappe: Voodoo And Bordello Past Lives, 1870 Banana Courtyard French Quarter New Orleans, Louisiana
Located a bead’s throw from the French Quarter, this one-time voodoo priest’s home, and one-time bordello, has more New Orleans flavor than a Mardi Gras Indian eating a po’ boy. Common spaces are filled to the cathedral ceilings with ephemera, including art, books, a stuffed peacock and plenty of those old dolls that seem to stare back at you.
Accommodations are creatively themed and drunk with history. Take the Cannonball Room with its nearly 200-year-old bed, or Madame’s Steamboat room, which features one of the host’s more unusual family heirlooms: an antique chamber pot (not to be confused with the modern bathroom).
After a morning, afternoon or evening of indulgence, guests can recuperate in the lush tropical courtyard, dominated by Cuban-born 40-foot banana trees with yet another story to tell.
Past, Present And Future: Mildly Haunted And Psychic Readings, Ancient City Inn, St. Augustine, Florida
Fatefully located in the oldest continuously occupied city in the Continental US — conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés planted the Spanish flag in 1565 — the Ancient City Inn has a special energy. Innkeeper and spiritual advisor Rev. Carri is a fifth-generation psychic offering readings, past-life regressions and intros to dowsing.
The place is also “pleasantly haunted” — the innkeepers’ words. Some guests report visits from Martha Lee, the daughter of the original owners, and her ghost cat, Toby. Guests are even known to bring gifts for Miss Lee, and her favorite sweet, butterscotch candy, is kept on hand. On the more practical end, each room has a kitchenette. Or snag the separate cottage with full kitchen for more space.
Ancient City Inn’s ideal location is another reason you were meant to stay there: It’s a quick walk to downtown St. Augustine, with its colonial architecture, 17th-century Spanish fort and museums.
A Castle with Knights: You'll Find More than Chess at this Gamer Haven, Ravenwood Castle, New Plymouth, Ohio
Welcome … to Ravenwood! Comically grand introductions definitely fit this ivy-covered, battlement-topped inn surrounded by dense forest. If the trees seem like an army patiently waiting to besiege the castle, you’ll have more than enough to do to pass the time. The venue has become a stronghold for board gaming; it’s armed with 150+ classic and new titles, from “Alhambra” to “Zombie Dice,” where you devour your victims’ brains — or are stopped by the shotgun’s blast. The dedication to gaming runs deep: There’s also a life-size outdoor chess board, regular murder mystery events and even gaming mini-conventions.
Rooms, cabins and cottages are cloaked in Middle Ages themes — the Silversmith’s House, Duke’s Dungeon, the Spinster’s Cottage — and there’s no cable or Wi-Fi and only very spotty cell coverage. When guests aren’t gaming, the Great Hall serves breakfast victuals (included) and tasty buffet dinners (extra fee) alongside suits of armor and stained-glass windows. One can revel in victory or nurse defeat at the onsite pub offering ciders, microbrews and cocktails.
Those eager to get the blood flowing after an epic 10-hour Risk battle will find nearby hiking trails to stunning caves within the Hocking Hills State Forest.
Time Warp: 1950s Coolville, Summer Nites, North Wildwood, New Jersey
Don’t let the unassuming exterior fool you. You’ll flip your wig, as the Greasers say, when you enter the Jersey Shore’s blast-from-the-past Summer Nites bed and breakfast.
Were the ‘50s really carefree? Who cares when you can enjoy a gourmet breakfast in the retro chrome-and-vinyl “diner,” complete with booths, neon accents and a jukebox playing the latest post-war chart toppers. Thirsty for more nostalgia? Grab a Coke in a bottle from the vintage machine.
Common areas feature classic pinball machines, a pool table and black-and-white Jersey Shore photos in lieu of wallpaper. There’s also a mini-loveseat shaped, appropriately, like lips, among other Art Deco furnishings. Themed rooms honor Elvis, Marilyn and ‘50s film and music, with memorabilia and original murals to match. Not all progress from the last six decades is considered a drag — there’s Wi-Fi and in-room TVs with DVD players.
When you’re ready to (sort of) face the modern world, the inn is just two blocks from the beach and boardwalk. Or snag one of the free bicycles and head to myriad Wildwood attractions within a mile.
Not for Philistines: No Tickets Needed for this Concerto Stone House Musical B&B, Natchez, Mississippi
This period-perfect antebellum home has been the enduring protagonist in proprietor Joe Stone’s family story since 1877, when it was acquired by great-granddad Joseph Newman Stone. It’s hard to find a better fit for a stay in Natchez, a Southern river town preserved in amber.
Rare antique maps, books and prints (many of which are for sale) accompany rich, dark woods, heavy drapes and ornate floral wallpaper. A photogenic antique billiard table sits in the oldest portion of the home, what was once a stand-alone social space for the architect’s family. The style blends seamlessly into the primary bedroom and two-bedroom cottage, with marble-topped dressers, mahogany furnishings and rosewood beds.
Stay two nights or more and you get wine and a private piano recital from the host, who, in addition to being an erudite Southern gentleman, is a classically trained musician. You also get more quality time petting Precious, the affable canine co-host.
By Dan Askin