Ever slept in a caboose? Offbeat lodging lures travelers
For some travelers, overnight lodging is an afterthought, chosen because of proximity to the interstate or the free breakfast buffet. For others, accommodations are the whole point of the journey. They want to know what it might be like to spend a night in a furniture store, sleep in a caboose, or bunk in a submarine.
Bed down in a store
If your idea of a fun getaway involves shopping for furniture, consider an overnight visit to Good's Furniture in Kewanee, Ill.
The company's showrooms cover several downtown blocks in the town, about 50 miles south of Moline. With 250,000 square feet of retail space to cover, shopping there can be an exhausting experience. So the owners opened a European-style inn in a corner of the complex. Now, customers can spend a day shopping in the huge complex, then "sleep on it" before coming back the next day to make their purchases.
There are four suites, each decorated with some of Good's best furniture and accessories. For more information, call 1-309-852-5656 or visit Good's online .
Bunk in a caboose
For "outdoorsy" types, Wildlife Prairie State Park near Peoria, Ill., has plenty of natural attractions. The 2,000-acre park is filled with buffalo, deer, and other wildlife native to Illinois. You can fish, hike, and bike along miles of trails or hop aboard the miniature train for a ride around the park. And there's no need to drive home at the end of a long, active day. You can spend the night in the park in a caboose!
Park accommodations include cottages, a log cabin, and some former stables fashioned into motel rooms. But the rooms housed inside the big red cabooses are by far the most unusual. Each has four single beds and includes a small kitchen and bathroom. For more information, call 1-309-676-0998 ext. 97013 or visit Wildlife Prairie State Park online .
A 'castle' in Cobden
If you'd rather be treated like a king or queen, there's the Bruce Goff Castle Dwelling B&B in Cobden, Ill. While it isn't really a castle, it (sort of) resembles one, sitting atop a forested bluff near Shawnee National Forest.
Noted American architect Bruce Goff (1904-1982) designed and built the "castle" dwelling in 1965. It uses native stones and arches to capture the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. Glass ashtrays called "cutlets" embedded into the walls cast pretty prism light patterns inside the rooms.
It's an open design, with few doors, so the property is only rented to one person or group per night. There are two master bedrooms with a queen bed and a third smaller room with a futon. Breakfast is included in the overnight price, and the kitchen is available for guests who want to cook other meals for themselves in this out-of-the-way inn. Be aware: The building is located at the top of a steep incline that can become impassible in inclement weather. Also, children under 18 are not allowed. For more information call 1-618-893-4716 or visit Bruce Goff Castle Dwelling B&B online .
The Thyme for Bed B&B in Lowell, Ind., looks different from most bed and breakfasts—it's shaped like a dome. It's also unusual for other reasons.
The Thyme, located 50 miles south of Chicago and just east of the Indiana state line, was designed to be tornado-proof, fire-proof, and hurricane-proof. Owners Donald and Sherryl Bainbridge, who built it in 1998, say the building can withstand winds up to 300 miles per hour-- a comforting thought during a year when the weather has been weird. During summer, the gourmet breakfast (included in room rate) includes herbs and edible flowers grown in the surrounding gardens. For more information call 1-219-775-1922 or visit The Thyme online .
Sleep in a submarine
Wonder what it would be like to bunk on a World War II submarine? You can find out in Muskegon, Mich., at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum.
That's where the retired World War II sub, the USS Silversides, is docked. The submarine can accommodate up to 72 overnight guests, with another 38 bunks available on board a neighboring Coast Guard cutter.
Just to make the experience seem all the more real, the accommodations are decidedly cramped; chances are good you'll be sharing the small space with groups of Boy Scouts or other youth organizations. The overnight stay includes tours of the sub.
You will be expected to bring your own bedding or sleeping bag; the sub provides only a thin mattress on a small bunk. For more information, call 1-231-755-1230 or visit Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum online .
If you want to experience what it was like to travel aboard a Pullman train car in the 1920s, head to Indianapolis' Union Station. (Indy was home to the first "union" station built in America, so named because the one station accommodated four railroad companies.)
Today, the art deco structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's a Crowne Plaza hotel that offers rooms built inside 1920s Pullman train cars. Each car has been converted into a two-room hotel suite. The cars are named after and decorated in the style of prominent personalities of the early 1900s, including Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, John Philip Sousa, Benjamin Harrison, Winston Churchill, P.T. Barnum, Rudolph Valentino, Jean Harlow, and Greta Garbo. For more information and reservations, call 1-877-270-1412 or visit Crowne Plaza online .