Motels, usually characterized as roadside hotel stops for budget-conscious travelers, have been occasionally subject to a less-than-positive reputation over the years.
But motels make great lodging options for families—particularly families taking road trip vacations and trying to save money where they can. What’s more, motels can surprise you with their quality and array of amenities, some rivaling higher-end hotels and resorts, or even offering unexpected features.
Here are a few surprising U.S. motels that will delight both your family budget and your need for comfort.
1. Grayhaven Motel – Ithaca, NY
Located in New York’s Finger Lakes region, this 16-room boutique motel has undergone renovations under new ownership after being operated by the same family for 65 years.
Best Amenities for Families: Families love the plentiful nature trails to roam around the 11-acre property, hammocks for dozing, croquet, fire pits, picnic areas, and complimentary bike rentals. Breakfast is served on the porch of the main house, where you’ll also find a hearth-warmed living room and board games. You can even bring the family dog—there’s a nice fenced-in backyard.
2. BEST WESTERN Movie Manor – Monte Vista, CO
Attached to a drive-in movie theater, the BEST WESTERN Movie Manor goes beyond the typical chain hotel experience by giving guests a throwback cinematic entertainment option that is guaranteed to become a vacation memory.
Best Amenities for Families: It may not be fancy, but guests enjoy this clean, comfortable roadside motel with a dramatic mountainous backdrop. Your room includes a free hot breakfast, and from mid-May through mid-September, you can watch the big screen movie from the window of your hotel room, with an in-room speaker system.
3. Amish Country Motel – Bird in Hand, PA
Enjoy Amish hospitality at this simple country motel, where you can watch buggies ride by as you soak in the charms of Lancaster County.
Best Amenities for Families: On select days, you can arrange a complimentary two-hour tour of Amish farmlands. You’ll receive a welcome loaf of fresh baked bread upon check-in, and there’s a refreshing outdoor pool for the kids to splash around in.
4. Beachcomber Motel and Spa on the Beach – Fort Bragg, CA
Chock full of family-minded amenities, the Beachcomber Motel features views of the ocean along with resort-type touches such as in-room fireplaces, hot tubs and an onsite spa.
Best Amenities for Families: Spend the day exploring the coast, with bike rentals available from the Beachcomber. Watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean with your kids, followed by a late-night S’mores roast over the fire pits; S’mores kits are available in the lobby. You can also grill up your dinner on an outdoor barbecue grill. The motel is pet-friendly, with an onsite dog park.
5. Savannah House Hotel – Branson, MO
Conveniently located to several Branson attractions, Savannah House Hotel is a beloved two-star overnight option for families, with beautiful landscape features including a waterfall and a gazebo.
Best Amenities for Families: The biggest draw for kids and adults alike is the complimentary evening dessert bar, featuring two homemade cobblers, ice cream and fresh-from-the-oven cookies, plus free cappuccino for parents all day. Runner-up to dessert: two pools for kids to splash around in. Your stay also includes a free breakfast each morning.
6. Mountain Lake Lodge – Pembroke, VA
Located in the middle of a 2,600-acre nature preserve surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains, Mountain Lake Lodge is a great place for an outdoor-oriented family vacay.
Best Amenities for Families: In addition to the fresh mountain air, the onsite amenities at Mountain Lake Lodge rival those at higher-priced properties. For example, your family can book a Treetop Adventure, try archery, go swimming, warm up by the bonfire or take in one of the movie nights.
7. Wagon Wheel Motel – Cuba, MO
The cool factor of the Wagon Wheel, the oldest continually operated motel on Route 66, is that it is considered one of the inspirations for the Pixar movie “Cars.” It’s been fully renovated, but still sports its original neon sign.
Best Amenities for Families: An outdoor pool, fire pits, and spacious patio don’t add up to luxury accommodations, but something about the relaxed environment inspires kids to embrace the outdoors, trying their hand at Frisbee or chasing fireflies.
8. Comfort Inn Ludington – Ludington, MI
Located near the shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll find a highly praised Comfort Inn among family travelers for its “kids’ suites,” which are bunk beds sectioned off from their parents’ sleeping quarters, with a cabin-style design and their very own TV.
Best Amenities for Families: Besides the kids’ suites, this hotel goes out of its way to cater to families with an indoor/outdoor pool, a playground, warm cookies in the lobby, movie nights and more.
9. SCP Colorado Springs Hotel – Colorado Springs, CO
After a $9 million renovation of what was formerly a Knights Inn, the SPC Colorado Springs Hotel, described as “eco-chic,” puts an emphasis on the environment throughout its property, while being a solidly budget-conscious choice.
Best Amenities for Families: The hotel offers two pools (a kiddo’s dream) as well as interesting upcycled furnishings to explore, including hammocks, board games and a free happy hour for parents. SCP (which stands for Soul Community Planet) offers a fair trade pricing program, which means guests determine what they should pay based on their experience.
Related: 10 Funkiest Motels for Families
Cynthia J. Drake is a travel writer based in Austin, Texas, where she lives with her husband and two sons. Since becoming a mom, she’s been stranded at sea with her family, gotten lost in the Rocky Mountains, dealt with more than her fair share of public vomiting, and still can’t wait for the next trip. She writes regularly for AAA magazines, Austin American-Statesman, Texas Highways and Cruise Critic. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.