Last Updated on June 15, 2023
As much as I love any sort of hotel stay (yep, even Motel 6, I’m not fussy), it does add an extra element of excitement if the accommodation has a unique aspect to it! I share some of my favourite unique places to stay in Iowa, from glamping, to converted hotels, to sleeping with cows! Where would you like to stay?
Unique Places To Stay In Iowa
Updated: October 2021
Glamping at Spook Cave & Campground
🗺13299 Spook Cave Rd, McGregor, IA 52157
Spook Cave’s the ‘Hut’ cabin reminded me of a Hobbit hole, it was definitely very uniquely shaped! It felt much bigger on the inside than what it looked from the outside! There were 2 double beds (it sleeps 3-4 people), a table and chairs, a fridge and a microwave. Bedding is provided, but you are expected to clean it up a bit before you leave and throw any rubbish/trash into one of the large bins on the site. The Hut doesn’t have toilet facilities on the inside. Instead there is a shower block a short walk away, but this didn’t bother me. We did all our cooking on the fire pit, both breakfast and dinner. I was also surprised that the campground actually had free public WiFi.
If you are looking for some additional space and extra facilities, Spook Cave & Campground have various larger cabins, with the biggest sleeping up to 10 people!
While at the campground, enjoy a boat tour through Spook Cave for an additional fee!
Click here to read my full review of Spook Cave & Campground: A Glamping & Cave Exploration Adventure at Spook Cave Iowa!
Yurt Glamping in McIntosh Woods State Park
🗺1200 E Lake St, Ventura, IA 50482
A yurt is a type of tent used by nomadic people in parts of Central Asia. The yurts at McIntosh Woods State Park are little more basic than the Hut accommodation at Spook Cave. There’s a light, ceiling fan, one electrical outlet, a table and chairs, a fold out double sofa bed and a bunkbed (sleeps 4 – bedding not included). Again, the toilet block is a short walk away. There are 2 yurts at McIntosh Woods State Park and they are extremely popular, with many weekend dates booking up quickly early. The lakefront location is lovely and for a rate of only $60 a night. I’m not surprised that they get booked up quick each year!
The yurts are coded entry. You don’t have to worry about making sure you have the key which is nice! If you plan on staying for a while, there are barbecues and fire pits but there’s no fridge (for meat etc) which you may need to keep in mind. The town of Clear Lake is a just a short drive away. Or a little further is Mason City, which have plenty of eating options.
Click here to read my full review of staying in a yurt in McIntosh Woods State Park!
Hotel Grinnell: Stay in a converted school
🗺925 Park St, Grinnell, IA 50112
Don’t worry if you’re not quite a glamper/camper, I have some unique hotels in Iowa, for those that like all the amenities and comforts when they travel! First up is the Hotel Grinnell which is in an old converted school building in located Grinnell, an hour from Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Des Moines. The rooms are school themed, with things like: chalkboards that you can draw on, a ‘do not disturb’ door sign is an old school uniform tie, the key cards are in a hall pass wallet, there are No.2 pencils instead of pens and the hotel feedback form is a report card.
The event space at the Hotel Grinnell is pretty impressive, from the Ballroom which still looks like the school gymnasium. There’s even an auditorium with a stage and theatre style seating. The room rates also include a light breakfast. You can even book a bunk style dorm room which has 10 beds, great for groups!
Click here to read of the full review of the Hotel Grinnell!
Courtyard by Marriott: A converted John Deere factory
🗺250 Westfield Ave, Waterloo, IA 50701
Another old building converted into a hotel is the Courtyard by Marriott in Waterloo. It used to be part of the John Deere tractor factory. After it moved to a different location, the building was empty until recently when it was bought by Marriott. Although the hotel isn’t tractor themed, parts of the old building were included in the design of the hotel. For example, all the windows are original, the floors were all raised so guests would actually be able to see out of them. The ceilings are SO high too, I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in a room that has felt so big purely for this reason! The hotel also has a swimming pool on one of the upper floors. The John Deere Tractor and Engine Museum is right next door (walking distance) and is free to visit!
Related reading: Fun Things To Do In Waterloo Iowa (& Cedar Falls)
Historic Park Inn: The last remaining hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright
🗺7 W State St, Mason City, IA 50401
Frank Lloyd Wright is considered one of the best American architects, designing many different buildings using a unique style called ‘Prairie School’ architecture. He designed a total of 6 hotels but the Historic Park Inn is the last remaining one in the world. It was built in the early 1900’s but it actually stood empty for a long time after a shift in tourism trends with other hotels stepping up and providing what ‘modern’ travellers wanted. It went through a huge renovation project to restore it to its former glory but to modernise it, such as making the guest rooms larger to include private bathrooms rather than having shared bathrooms that the older design included. There are 27 rooms altogether and the hotel has a ‘Lounge’ bar, a restaurant and a fitness room.
To find out more about the Historic Park Inn and things to do in Mason City, check out this post: 11 Fun Things To Do In Mason City Iowa
New Day Dairy GuestBarn: Sleep With The Cows
🗺31000 175th St, Clarksville, IA 50619
What makes the New Day Dairy GuestBarn unique is that guests have 24/7 access to an observation loft that looks out over the dairy cow barn. Some of the cows have a colour on their back so you can track to see what they get up to during the day and night! There are 3 guest bedrooms and a wide variety of breakfast items are provided. Every guest also gets to enjoy a 30 minute welcome tour and a 30 minute farewell tour included in the room rate. During this time you can get up close with the cows and even get to see Rita The Robot milking machine in action! Don’t worry, it by no means feels like you are sleeping in a barn, it’s warm, quite and it doesn’t smell like cows!
Click here to read the full review of the New Day Dairy GuestBarn!
On The Bucket List…
Dog Creek Park’s Grain Bin Cabins
🗺Dog Creek Park, Sutherland, IA 51058
I almost had the chance to stay in a grain bin but long story short, it fell through. There are however 2 converted grain bins that you can stay in that are located in North West Iowa! These things are massive and can sleep up to 12 people! They would definitely make for a unique place to stay and are very apt for Iowa’s major industries!
Read more about staying in a grain bin on Travel Iowa!
The Highlander Hotel: Urban Resort
🗺2525 Highlander Pl, Iowa City, IA 52245
The Highlander Hotel in Iowa City used to be a popular supper club and a hotel. It recently went through a major renovation and now calls itself an ‘Urban Resort’! For me I’m drawn to the large pool area. Several of the rooms either open up straight onto the pool, or there’s a balcony overlooking it! In the summer giant shutters open up from the pool area to the courtyard area which has a fire pit and outdoor games. There’s a lending library with over 100 vinyl records which can be played on the record players. Board games are also available to borrow. The room decor looks very cool too!
Have you stayed in any unique hotels in Iowa or the Midwest?
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