As a child growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s a highlight of any road trip on California’s central coast was a stop at The Madonna Inn. It was built in 1958 by Alex and Phyllis Madonna in San Luis Obispo as a roadside inn for travelers headed up and down the coast.The iconic inn continues to delight children and adults today. The inn is mentioned in countless travel articles and shows. The rise in vogue of all things mid-century it is making it even more celebrated. Let’s take a quick tour!
From the second you walk through the door you realize this is no sleek, Mad Men style 50’s retreat. This is over the top, pink and jewel toned, Bavarian, silk floral, carved maple work of brilliance. There are copper tables and lite fixtures, plush red leather banquettes and possibly acres of floral patterned carpet. The Madonnas had a hand in every aspect of the design from the leaded glass windows to the signature goblets. Mrs Madonna loved roses, anything pink and plushiness. A woman after my own heart.
The food at the Inn is vintage American style fare. The Copper Cafe serves burgers, sandwiches and a generous breakfast. We found them reasonably priced and tasty. The Gold Rush Steak House is a wonderful place to experience a 1960’s posh style dining experience. Take a look at the giant rock fireplace which includes real dinosaur vertebrae as you enter. We’d recommend a martini, the Green Goddess avocado toast appetizer and the local Abalone entree. They serve a great variety of local central coast wines, including their own label, and the dessert……. well dessert is one of the best reasons to stop at the Madonna Inn! The bakery is world-famous for a reason. They have a great selection of pies, cookies and pastries, but their cakes are truly amazing. We tried the pink champagne, which wasn’t pink that day due to a pink chocolate shortage (I’m not kidding) and the toffee crunch. They were both delicious and so pretty.
As a child I remember being enchanted by the tiny toilet and wash basin in the ladies room which remain today. The restrooms alone are worth a stop to the inn. The ladies rooms feature hand painted Italian tile and marble counters. It’s the downstairs, men’s room, however that is the most awesome. The giant waterfall urinal and clam shell sinks have been a lure for women sneaking into the gents for years. Ask a male companion or any man exiting if the coast is clear. Really, ladies, it’s a badge of honor and worth the potential embarrassment.
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Mrs Madonna loved roses and flowers of all kinds. There are gorgeous pink roses, fanciful wishing wells, water fountains (rare in California these days) and loads of whimsical features covering the property. Take a walk out to view the lion cage that was once home to, Duchess, the Madonna Inn lion. Rumor has it that you could actually pet her. Yikes!
We haven’t had a chance to stay at the hotel but it is famed for it’s 110 unique rooms. They are each, individually decorated to the hilt in fun themes. Personally, I’d like to try the Daisy Mae with rock floors and walls, waterfall shower and garland lights. The Just Heaven looks wonderful with spiral staircase, cherubs and private viewing tower. It would be so hard to make up my mind! Click here to get an idea of all the choices. They have a gorgeous pool, whirlpool, spa, hot pink tennis and basketball courts and horseback riding.
I love any spot you can get a glimpse of another time and The Madonna Inn is pure vintage 50’s and 60’s. What about you? Have you “time-traveled” recently?