If you love teak wood, simple lines, and pops of color, why not satisfy your mid-century modern fix while on vacation? Whether you prefer the sleek lines of International Style city skyscrapers, the integration with nature of Frank Lloyd Wright, or the the kitschy 50s resort style, you can find it in its original or restored glory around the country.
The destinations below have loads of examples of mid-century architecture and design to explore, and places to stay that reflect the style of the 1950s.
The desert oasis of Palm Springs has been treasured since it’s first inhabitants, the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians, arrived 2000 years ago. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was an exclusive playground for Hollywood’s stars. After World War II, when the Indians who had been granted moat of the land in the area were finally permitted to sell their land for a profit, there was a development boom just as a new modern style of architecture took hold.
The gorgeous mid-century architecture has been reclaimed and revitalized without going too far into the realm of kitsch. You can find residential and commercial gems by John Lautner and Donald Wexler and Richard Neutra’s iconic Kauffman House via a self-drive tour or guided tour.
For places to stay in Palm Springs, try The Parker, a mid-century resort that once belonged to Gene Autry, or the recently renovated L’Horizon, where you can live like one-time guest Marilyn Monroe. If you prefer a rental, try Vacation Palm Springs.
The east coast version of Palm Springs lies on the Atlantic Ocean, but residents only recently thought to capitalize on the kitschy “Googie” architecture that flourished there in the 1950s and 60s. As a result, many of the mid-century hotels have been demolished in favor of more contemporary developments in the popular resort town.
Today, though, the city promotes it’s “Doo Wop” architecture as a tourist destination, along with its classic New Jersey boardwalk. The bright neon, the courtyard pools, and the over-the-top colors are now celebrated even as modern development grows up around it. The city is promoting other mid-century and vintage events throughout the year to bring travelers to the area in the off-season.
For places to stay in Wildwood, try the Bel Air Hotel or the Caribbean, both relatively well-preserved examples of the Doo Wop style.
Three of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations, including his masterpiece of Usonian architecture, Fallingwater, are within a couple of hours of Pittsburgh. If Fallingwater is the critical favorite, Kentuck Knob is the sentimental second for its warm woods, cool stone and walls of glass overlooking nature and and the Youghiogheny River below.
You can even stay in one of Wright’s creations at Polymath Park Resort in the Laurel Highlands. Set among wooded trails, the Duncan House features many of Wright’s signature elements – warm wood, built-in cabinetry, natural stone and neutral colors make the home feel like a part of the woods.
For places to stay in Pittsburgh, try the Kimpton Hotel Monaco or the Ace Hotel in a former YMCA building downtown.
Chicago offers a full menu of 20th century American architectural styles, and the Chicago architecture tour by boat is not to be missed.
One midcentury building you will not miss is Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina Center (pictured above), whose poured concrete curves are a direct reaction to the sharp angles of the stark International Style skyscrapers of Mies van der Rohe (though Goldberg was a student and a fan of Mies).
If you’re a Frank Llloyd Wright fan, Chicago is where you will find the highest concentration of his buildings, including Unity Temple, the Robie House, the Rookery, and his own home and studio. Many tours are available by foot, by bike, and by motor through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.
For places to stay in Chicago, try the Langham, a five-star hotel housed in a skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe, or the Park Hyatt, with a subtle midcentury style.
Do you have favorite mid-century modern destinations in these cities or others that we’ve missed here? Let me know in the comments below.
This post is part of Trip.com’s Underdog City campaign.
Thanks to our guest author Karen Schwarz of Essaymom.net for sending us this story about her family’s trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
We’re just back from a great spring break trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California with our daughter, and wanted to spread the word about this fun and fascinating family destination that will not suck your wallet dry.
This is truly nature’s playground, where kids and parents can spend a relaxing couple of days clambering over enormous but do-able piles of boulders that dot the park’s beautiful 60 by 30 mile desert landscape. Each boulder formation has a unique and otherworldly look, depending on the volcanic action that created it millions of years ago. Our faves were Skull Rock and Hidden Valley, where nineteenth century cattle thieves grazed their stolen herds.
Joshua trees grow nowhere else in the world and they dominate vast stretches of the park, equidistant from each other, as if a landscaper planted them on a miles-wide grid. It’s a bizarre sight. Take the 20-minute drive up to Keys View for a quick lesson on earthquakes. From this perch you’ll see a portion of the infamous 700-mile San Andreas Fault. Also visible is Signal Mountain, which is 95 miles away in Mexico!
Joshua Tree National Park is 45 minutes from the airport in Palms Springs, and 2 ½ easy hours or less from airports in Ontario and Burbank, California. As you traverse the desert, you’ll pass 4,000 windmills that churn out enough energy to power the entire Coachella Valley. Find out how that works on a tour with Palm Springs Windmill Tours or Best of the Best Tours.
Planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park
For value and local feel, rent an AirBnB in the town of Joshua Tree. Locally owned restaurants are good, friendly and inexpensive. They get crowded, though, so try to be early for breakfast and dinner. For lunch, pack a picnic to enjoy in the park, as there’s no food available inside.
Inexpensive chain hotels and fast food joints are plentiful in Twentynine Palms. For the shortest wait entering the park, buy your car pass (just $20 for a week) at the Visitor Center the day before you plan to tour the park. Enter the park through the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, which tends to be less crowded. Access to the popular sites is just as easy as from the more heavily travelled West Entrance in Joshua Tree.
I tend to hibernate in winter. The cold just makes me bitter about not being able to go outside in sandals and a t-shirt, and I bury myself in blankets. It’s not unusual for me to spend days in my pajamas in winter (a perk or a problematic result of being a writer), but even for me, this was an extreme case of introversion and antisocial behavior. Plus, I had bronchitis. It was ugly.
As a travel planner and writer, I should have had a plan to escape to warm and sunny places this winter, but after my last-minute junket to Martinique in December, I did not one bit of traveling outside of the Richmond-DC-New York corridor. And if you’re keeping count like I am, that means nearly 4 months in one place.
So naturally, now that the first signs of spring are here, I’m filling up my travel calendar for the months ahead. And for the most part, it will be solo travel.
Solo travel for a mom
I love being a mom. And I love to travel. I love to travel with my kids, which we did for a good long time, but now that they are in high school it’s nearly impossible to find a time that we are all free to travel together. Since my work as a travel planner and travel writer involves, um, travel, I have found myself traveling alone quite a lot in the past couple of years. And I have to say I kind of love it.
A cross-country rail adventure to a travel writing conference
I have taken a lot of overnight trains in my travels (with mixed results), and covered a lot of distance, but I’ve never taken the train across the United States. So when I heard that Amtrak was covering train transportation for attendees of the North American Travel Journalists Association conference in Oxnard, California this spring, wheels started turning in my head just like those big old steel wheels on the train. Could I really use that to go across the country? Yes, I could! In a private “Roomette,” even!
So later this week I’ll board the Crescent from my home town of Alexandria, Virginia and travel overnight to New Orleans, where I am not unhappy to spend a Friday night before boarding the Sunset Limited for a 48-hour, 1,995 mile trip to Los Angeles.
A mother-daughter weekend in Banff
Not solo, but without my husband and kids. My mom has been talking about wanting to go to Banff for as long as I can remember. Last Christmas, my sister and I decided to give her a trip there as a gift. Though she was appreciative, she said, “Well, mostly I just like to say the word, ‘Banff.'” But isn’t that as good a reason as any to go the jewel of the Canadian Rockies? We are planning for hikes in the mountains, soaks in the hot springs, a spa day at the historic Fairmont Hotel, and just some good, quality, family time. And next time we might invite our other siblings. 😉
Contemporary Art in Italy
I’m very excited to lead a tour to see Christo’s latest installation, the Floating Piers, which will be up in June for two weeks only in Lake Iseo in northern Italy. Of course, I’m looking for people to go on the tour, so I hope I won’t be solo for this one!
Travel blogging conference in Sweden
Though I’m moving away from travel blogging and doing more travel planning and writing for other outlets, I love going to the TBEX travel blogging conference each year. I really enjoy the camaraderie with other people who are passionate about travel, and love learning about new places while I’m there. When the organizers announced TBEX would be in Stockholm in 2016, I knew I had to work that into my plans for this year. So this is solo only in that I’m flying over there alone. Once I get there, I’ll be with old friends and new.
So what about my family?
Yes, I have a family, and no, they are not coming with me on any of these trips. This is my business, and traveling is how I keep up to date in my line of work. Of course I enjoy the travel, even (sometimes especially) the solo travel. But I do hope that between sports, summer jobs, camps, and swim team, we will find time to have some family travel this summer.
I know we’ll have some family travel adventures soon, because we will be heading out on a lot of college visits over the next 24 months, and you know what that means: FAMILY ROAD TRIPS!
We’ve all heard the famous Mark Twain expression, “the coldest winter I have saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.” And it’s true, July can be downright blustery and damp, especially by the water. But travel just a few hours to Yosemite, and it’s a totally different scene. It’s not unusual for summer days to peak in the mid-nineties and it’s a dry, dusty heat.
We just took our third trip to Yosemite with the kids and, as we expected, temperatures soared. We were only there for three days and decided to base our hikes and outings on places we could cool down with a swim or at least a good splash. Here were our three favorites:
We’d visited the Rainbow Pools a few years back and made it a point to go back on this trip. It is THE BEST swimming hole we’ve ever been to and it definitely has a local vibe. The last time we were there years ago, we swam and watched daredevils jump and dive off the rocks lining the deepest pool. And this time, my two oldest boys and husband joined the crazies and took the plunge. Bring a swimsuit, a towel and a picnic and do not use the restrooms. Trust me. The Pools are outside the main entrance to Yosemite, off Highway 120.
The entrance to Carlon Falls is in Stanislaus forest, outside the National Park, but your 3-mile roundtrip hike to the waterfall takes you into the park itself. It’s a relatively easy and very shady hike along the Tuolomne River. You might pass a couple of locals fishing in the river with their canine companions. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts by some gentle falls cascading down into several shallow pools, just perfect for dipping and chilling out a while before your hike back to the car.
This is hardly a “best-kept secret” as it’s in the heart of Yosemite Valley, which sees over a million visitors each summer. We started our Vernal Falls hike early in the day, to beat the heat and the crowds. The hike up is extremely steep and dusty but well worth the climb for the views of the falls, the valley below, and the mountains above. What kept us going through the hottest climbs (and kept Jeremy somewhat sane after two rattlesnake sightings) was the thought of a refreshing swim in the Merced River when we climbed back down.
Find more things to do and places to stay in Yosemite on TripAdvisor.
We’ve stayed in some pretty unusual places with our family over the years. Our favorites? The earthship in Taos, New Mexico, the converted medieval bakery in France’s Loire Valley, the creepy castle in Germany, and a working farm in Costa Rica.
Here are some other super cool accommodations for the adventurous family. Can you tell I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust?
1. Lighthouse on a deserted island in Sv. Ivan, Croatia
If you’ve had Robinson Crusoe fantasies, this might just be the place for you. Eat what you catch, enjoy the private beach, and be on the lookout for pirates. It’s a 45 minute boat ride to shore.
2. Restored Ruins of a 15th Century Fort-Palace in India
This hotel has it all: luxury rooms, awesome pool, ziplining, and history in every stone.
3. Ski-in yurt in New Mexico
This one has been a “favorite” on my computer for years and my boys go nuts every time they see it. It’s a cozy ski-in (or hike in in the summer) yurt near Taos, New Mexico.
4. Designer Treehouses in Sweden
Can you see it? You’re lying cause it’s invisible. We love this mirror-walled tree house that blends into the forest perfectly. But then how will the forest gnomes find us?
But wait, check out another room at the Tree Hotel: the UFO room! These are just two of the rooms designed by some of Sweden’s best architects.
5. Fantasy Construction Camp: Crane Hotel in the Netherlands
My six-year-old Jeremy, who is obsessed with trucks, would just die to spend the night in this crane hotel. That’s right! You can rent the one room in this working crane. There’s a small elevator to help you get up there. Sadly, it only sleeps two.
6. Wigwam Motel on Route 66, California
It’s “Cars” come to life! This is the quintessential Griswald-type road trip stop over. And really, how could you drive by it and not stop for the night?
7. Yunak Elveri Carpadoccia Cave Hotel
A little bit of Star Wars cave action and astounding scenery. The cave rooms in this hotel date back to the 5th and 6th centuries!
How about you? Where’s your wanderlust taking you? Have you googled (or stayed in) any unusual hotels lately? We’d love to hear about it.
Be sure to check out our Pinterest map board of quirky hotels for more fun accommodations.