By Katie Foote
At its most basic, a rented room only requires four walls and a place to sleep; but for those looking to have a memorable vacation, shouldn’t this also include the accommodation? This round-up highlights a variety of properties providing immersive stays; experiential hotels where you’ll dive right into local life and gain a new perspective on your surroundings. Whether you’ve always wanted to eat in an igloo, stay in a Native American earth lodge, explore the Wild West on horseback or make your own bacon in an English village, these amazing hotels might end up being the highlight of your trip!
1) Stay with A Thai Family (Udon Thani, Thailand)
Ever wanted to ride a buffalo? Plant rice? Hunt field mice? Your local hosts at a family-run accommodation will happily help you make your wildest Southeast Asian dreams come true. The Prachack Residence in Northeast Thailand can sleep up to six and includes a private saltwater pool and extensive tropical gardens with bananas, papaya and mango where you can pick your own fresh fruit for breakfast while the kids hunt for geckos. The family cooks your meals and arranges Thai tractor rides, boat rides in the lotus lakes, Thai cooking lessons, Thai massages, trips to the Ban Chiang World Heritage Site, crafts village visits and more. This is an amazing opportunity to customize your time in a non-touristy part of Thailand and gain valuable local insight.
Rates start at $270 per night. Click here for more information.
2) Stay In A Swiss Mountain Hut (Pontresina, Switzerland)
If you’re looking for the perfect place to practice your yodel, look no further than renting an alpine hut in Pontresina, Switzerland. The wide open spaces and spectacular scenery will inspire you to run through fields of wildflowers, roll down hills and breathe invigorating mountain air with no one around to judge your jubilation. The Grand Hotel Kronenhof rents out their Alpine hut for families who want to be surrounded by wild pastures. The hut is 10 kilometers (six miles) from the hotel, high in the mountains and close to the Bernina Pass with a variety of hiking paths, mountain bike trails and lakes to choose from.
To help remove any stress from your mountain retreat, the Alpine Hut Package includes transfers to and from the hut, as well as a rustic three-course menu prepared by a private chef. If you wish, you can join the Chef to visit local markets and learn about regional produce and how to cook it.
The Alpine Hut package is valid for a minimum of two people and costs from $221 per person. Click here for more information.
3) Go Hog Wild At A Working Pig Farm (Compton Bassett, England)
If your picture of paradise is an English village complete with thatched cottages, quaint churches, farms and the local pub, look no further than a Bed & Breakfast at Buttle Farm in Compton Bassett, England. The working pig farm has been converting old barns into B&B rooms and a two-bed holiday cottage that will be ready by Easter 2016.
In addition to luxurious accommodations that honor the historic structures, Bassett Farm is home to a rare breed of British traditional pigs in an extensive, free-range setting. Guests are invited to help feed and work with these adorable creatures, who spend their days rooting, digging holes, taking mud baths and napping. You can also spend a half-day learning how to make bacon, stuff salami or even how to butcher a whole pig. You can either bring custom-made bacon home to share with friends or bring friends to the farm. The site can be rented out to accommodate eight people in four rooms, and you can take full advantage of the spit roast, wood fired oven and barbecue on the terrace.
Rates are around $145 per room, per night. Click here for more information.
4) Wander Casco Viejo With Reformed Gang Members (Panama City, Panama)
If you want to have the best of both worlds during your stay in Panama City, consider the Westin Playa Bonita. It is located on a one-mile stretch of private beach just minutes from Panama City, which makes it one of the only beach resorts with easy access to downtown. The resort’s three gorgeous infinity pools immerse you in your setting with views of the ocean, rain forest and even ships waiting to enter the Panama Canal.
For a truly unforgettable experience of Panama City, the hotel can arrange for guests to see a very different side of Casco Viejo, a World Heritage Site. As a part of a local fundraising organization, you can join ex-gang members for a tour of the once crime-filled neighborhood of Panama’s “old city.” With these tours, Esperanza Social Venture Club allows reformed gang members to share memories about their former stomping ground, earn money to support their families and safeguard this once-dangerous area. The tour ends with food and drinks in the “el callejon,” or the alleyway, that they converted into an open-air food court.
Rates for a room start at $175 per night. Click here for more information.
5) Dine in A Mini Igloo Village (Arosa, Switzerland)
Enhance your Swiss Alpine ski adventure by heading to Arosa, a lesser-known ski resort area in the Swiss Alps. The five-star Tschuggen Grand Hotel will make your stay truly unforgettable with its eccentric Swiss style rooms and spa built into the mountain. After hitting the hills, refuel at an igloo dining area at the foot of the mountain on the hotel’s property. You can sit on chairs blanketed in warm furs as you munch on traditional Swiss fondue or treat yourself to Champagne- and truffle-infused fondue.
If you’re interested in catching a bite in after a day on the slopes, hit the causal gourmet restaurant called The Basement. Hotel guests arrive to the restaurant via the the Tschuggen Express, the hotel’s private enclosed lift. You eat in a bib, though your causal attire does not compromise the quality of your meal.
Winter rates start at $352 per night and include a buffet breakfast and access to the hotel’s mountain railway. Click here for more information.
6) Become Part Of History At America’s Oldest Seaside Resort (Cape May, New Jersey)
Participate in one of America’s greatest traditions with a summer by the shore in Cape May at Congress Hall, the USA‘s oldest seaside resort. In the early 1800s, the idea that anyone would want to swim in the sea was preposterous, but Congress Hall helped change that.
Over its 200 years of existence, it’s survived fires, storms, economic crises, wars, massive renovations and a changing clientele — with some famous visitors including Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Pierce, Chester Arthur and James Buchanan. The property invites guests to become part of the hotel’s legacy by collecting items to bury in a time capsule. Celebrations in 2016 will peak on Memorial Day, the 4th of July and Labor Day with lobster and clam bakes, a flag raising, concerts, lawn games, fireworks and other festivities; however, any time you visit you’ll feel history come alive with surroundings that honor the hotel’s past and weekly history tours.
Room rates start at around $125 per night. Click here for more information.
7) Go Cliff Camping (Estes Park, Colorado)
Thanks to Kent Mountain Adventure Center, you can sleep overnight in a tent, fully suspended in the air even if you aren’t a hard-core athlete or rock climber. From May to September, up to three guests can cliff camp at a height of their choice from 50 to 500 feet off the ground in Estes Park. The tent base can also be converted into an open-air platform for a high altitude picnic and a 360-degree view of the Colorado Rockies.
Rates for overnight accommodation starts at $1200, while an extreme picnic starts at $350. Click here for more information.
8) Stay In An Earth Lodge (New Town, North Dakota)
Thanks to Native America Travel, you don’t need to leave the USA to experience a completely different culture. For example, at the Ford Berthold Indian Reservation near New Town, North Dakota you can experience the ancient traditions of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara peoples. These three affiliated tribes of the Upper Missouri River Valley perfected the construction of earth lodges over centuries of living on the harsh Northern Plains. You can stay in these sacred structures at the reconstructed Earthlodge Village on the edge of the breathtaking Lake Sakakawea. In addition to spending the night, you can take a trail ride, hear stories of the tribes from cultural interpreters, and attend pow wows and other events throughout the year.
Click here for more information.
9) Experience The Wild West (Tucson, Arizona)
Connect with nature and your inner cowboy or cowgirl at Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. The country’s largest working dude ranch occupies prime territory with 60,000 acres between the Rincon Mountains and Saguaro National Park. The sparse but serene mountainous desert setting will transport you to the Wild West, and the Santa Fe-style resort capitalizes on this nostalgia. There are no TVs in the rooms so guests are encouraged to take advantage of all the ranch has to offer, like horseback rides, hikes, mountain biking tours, fishing and more. To relax from a busy day outdoors, visit the spa, shop for local handicrafts or unwind with a “Prickly Pear Margarita” at their Doghouse Saloon. The Ranch also offers Cowboy Cookouts where you can enjoy campfire s’mores, live music and line dancing under a spectacular night sky.
All inclusive rates start at around $600 per night. Click here for more information.
10) Live Like A Local (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)
If you want your trip to Cape Cod to delve deeper than enjoying the beaches and browsing popular shops, consider the Platinum Pebble Boutique Inn. This Inn prides itself on helping guests “live like a local” with their adventure packages. Experience the “real Cape” with an oyster farm tour, learn how to shuck oysters and pair them with wines, or go clamming and crabbing. You can join a captain for a seal watching experience, and if you’re lucky, maybe spot a great white shark. Active adventurers can learn a little bit about the area’s history as they go kayaking, surfing, or stand-up paddleboarding with a local guide through some of the Cape’s best back waterways and breaks.
Rates range from $149 to $349 depending on the room and season. Click here for more information.
11) Spoil Your Car & Yourself (Bowling Green, Kentucky)
If you’re a car lover who wants to spoil the wheels that got you to your destination, try Spongie Acres Bed & Breakfast in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This auto-focused bed and breakfast is also nicknamed “the toy house” due to its massive 9,750 square foot commercial garage, housing your car alongside Corvettes and hot rods. Members of car clubs visit regularly because they know their cars will be safe from bad weather and prying eyes. The lighting is also ideal for minor repairs and final polishing before the show.
Bowling Green attracts car lovers from near and far. It is home of the National Corvette Museum and the GM Corvette Assembly Plant, where every Corvette in the world is produced. It’s also located right near Beech Bend Raceway, where you can enjoy stock car racing, run racing, NRHA drag racing and national automotive events throughout the year.
Rates start at $129 per night and include a home-cooked country breakfast, homemade cookies every afternoon, a fitness room, game room and Mr. Steam room. Click here for more information.
There are many amazing hotels around the world for those wanting an experiential stay. Which is your favorite? Please share in the comments below.
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