One of the great things about taking a road trip isn’t just about stopping at some of the quirky and kitschy roadside attractions along the way, it’s also about staying at some of them, too. And for those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, we have a penchant here at Stuckey’s for things that are a little nostalgic and a little, let’s say, different. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at some lodgings that are a little bit of that and more.
Come Fly With Me
In 1962, big things were happening in New York. It had a new baseball team called the Mets, and their old team, the New York Yankees would go on to win the World Series that year. The popular and controversial Pop artist Andy Warhol opened “The Factory” on East 47th Street, his first of three studios that would go by that name. West Side Story, a modern-day Romeo and Juliet musical set in New York. won the Oscar for Best Picture.
However, most important to our blog today is the 1962 opening of world-renowned architect Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center at Idlewild Airport, now known as John F. Kennedy (JFK) International. The building served as an airport terminal from 1962 to 2002, and at the time of its opening, it was a critical success and a pioneering example of thin-shelled construction with elements of Futurist, Neo-Futurist, Googie and Fantastic architectural styles being used both inside and out. Critics hailed it as a “cathedral to aviation” and the “Grand Central (Station) of the Jet Age”. Indeed, to both those who passed through and those who passed by the building in its early years, it must have looked liked something straight out of The Jetsons, (which, incidentally, also debuted in 1962).
After it stopped being used as an airline terminal in 2002, there were several attempts to preserve the building in various capacities until 2015 when JetBlue and its partner, Tyler Morse, chief executive of MCR/Morse Development, brought together nearly two dozen government agencies and state and federal landmark commissions to resurrect the gull-winged flight center as both a terminal and a hotel.
In December 2016, construction began on the terminal/hotel and the structures on both sides of the head house were demolished; however, the terminal’s head house remained intact, and other structures were built around it. While the head house was being converted into a hotel, the custom ceramic floors and 486 randomly shaped windows that adorned the original building were replaced with reproductions of the originals. Even the original departure and arrival board was restored. Finally, on May 15, 2019, the doors to the TWA Hotel were opened.
From the outside, the layout can be viewed as ever-spreading wings with the wings on the right featuring Departure Hall dining where you’ll find the best of the New York’s food-truck cuisine (minus the trucks, of course). In the left wing you’ll find the hotel’s reception where front-desk kiosks take your credit card and program your room keys. In the center of all of this is the 200,000-square-foot lobby where wide stairs take you into the chili pepper red colored Sunken Lounge.
Outside of the lounge is an airplane turned cocktail lounge, “The Connie” one of the few Lockheed L-1649A Constellation Starliners remaining from the days before the Jet Age when Howard Hughes commissioned them in the 1940s. However, if you can’t resist the swaggering Jet Age lifestyle and find yourself in “The Connie” ordering yourself a cocktail while humming along to Sinatra’s “Come Fly With Me”, be sure to opt for one of the retro coach-style seats; the small, backless stools, designed by Saarinen himself, though aesthetically pleasing, are really not that comfort pleasing.
The TWA Hotel buildings (there are two of them), with their smooth, gentle arcs swathed in a glass wall 4 ½” thick for soundproofing, actually sit behind the TWA Flight Center. Entrance to the 512 hotel rooms is available through Flight Tubes that once carried travelers to their gates. In fact, at the end of one of the tubes is an elevator that still carries passengers to the Terminal 5, now belonging to JetBlue.
If you’re a retroist or nostalgic for the glamour days of aviation, then the TWA Hotel is a dream come true, as you really feel you’ve been taken back to 1962. In fact, there are no modern conveniences like outlets located in the lounges or USB ports in the rooms to even bring you back to modern life if you wanted to.
You’ll also love the hotel if you’re an aerophile as you can request a room that faces JFK’s runways where you can watch the plans take off and land in the comfort of your bed in your soundproofed room.
Speaking of beds, you’ll sleep so sound under the comfortable and warm high-end linens that you’ll never believe that you slept mere yards away from one of the world’s busiest airports.
Rooms also even offer a few magazines dating from the 1960’s for an extra added time-warp feel, along with a martini bar if you feel like doing the whole Mad Men thing alone or with your friends. However, don’t overdo it, as, unfortunately, there is no coffee pot to help you cure your hangover in the morning.
In the end, it may not be perfect, but hey, the early ’60s weren’t that perfect either. With that in mind, the TWA Hotel is a wonderful destination for both people who like Mid-Century Modern art, architecture and aviation, or for people who’d like the chance to turn back time, if only for the night.
Park Your Caboose in a Red Caboose for the Night
In 1969, Pennsylvania developer and entrepreneur Donald Denlinger bid on 19 cabooses in a Penn Central Railroad surplus auction on a dare from his friend who just so happened to work for the same railroad. Not wanting to win the auction, Mr. Denlinger placed a bid of $700 on each caboose, $100 dollars less than it would cost to scrap them. Challenge made, challenge accepted, and he thought that was the end of that.
It wasn’t the end of that however, because in January 1970, Mr. Denlinger got a call from Penn Central Railroad saying that he had won the auction and the trains were ready for pickup at Leaman Place, not far from Strasburg, Pennsylvania. The only thing was, the trains had to be moved right away because they had to open up the track for other trains; otherwise, they said, he would have to a heavy fine. So, not wanting to pay the fine and still a little shocked that he actually won the auction, Mr. Denlinger, set about finding a place to park his cabooses.
Eventually, Mr. Denlinger did find some farmland very near to Strasburg Railroad and had the cabooses moved there. Soon after, he quickly started converting the cabooses into motel rooms that he could rent out to tourists, adding electricity, running water, septic tanks and whatnot. He opened the Red Caboose Motel just five months later on Mother’s Day, May 6, 1970 when over 4,500 people passed through the demo car in just 5 hours!
Today, you can sleep in one of 38 cabooses that now sit on the property at the Red Caboose Motel. The recently renovated rooms are cozy and quaint with bunk beds for the kids in the family cars and some even have two bedrooms for a little extra privacy. Have breakfast in the Red Caboose’s restaurant known as the Casey Jones Restaurant where every so often, the train rattles and shakes a little to give you a true railroad dining car experience. Kids will love climbing the 50-foot silo for a view of the surrounding farmland or watch the trains from nearby Strasburg Railroad roll by (sometimes they can even catch a glimpse of Thomas the Tank Engine on special weekends.
Mr. Denlinger retired in 1993 and sold the Red Caboose Motel the same year. It’s been through a couple of owners since then, but today it’s owned and operated by father and son team Todd and Tyler Prickett, along with their wives, Debra and Katherine. They strive to honor the legacy of Mr. Denlinger by providing an exceptional experience for every guest, every time they visit.
Though it’s not the only place in America to stay in a caboose, The Red Caboose Motel is perhaps the most famous having been featured in National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, among others. Stop in and see what all of the whistle blowing is about. Rail fan or not, you and your family won’t be disappointed.
Rest in the Shade of the Shady Dell
Okay, so not really automobiles, per se, but The Shady Dell does offer the unique experience of spending the night in Tiki-inspired bus or one of twelve vintage travel trailers they have on site (and all, technically, on wheels).
It all started nearly 100 years ago back in the days when Highway 80 was a main line for travel and family vacations. You see, back then, Highway 80 stretched coast to coast, snaking its way from Savannah, Georgia to San Diego, California and weary traveler’s needed a place to park their campers or pitch a tent for the night, so The Shady Dell campground in Bisbee, Arizona, was born.
Originally it was just that, a wide open campsite where people could pull in, get a little rest for the night and move on in the morning. Since then, however, the Shady Dell has taken on a life of its own and become a major destination for both trailer enthusiasts and those who like something a little bit different than the shoe box brand name hotels and motels that line the highways today.
Don’t be fooled, however. Just because you’re staying in a vintage travel trailer doesn’t mean you don’t get the royal treatment with all of the amenities that come with those branded shoe boxes we mentioned earlier. Each trailer has a percolator (that’s an old-school coffeemaker for those born after the days when Joe DiMaggio started hawking automatic coffee makers for the home). The kitchens feature a fridge. You can watch old movies on the VCR provided in each trailer. Heck, there’s even some old Arizona magazines lying about the place from the 50’s and 60’s to give you that genuine retro feel. In fact, the owner of the Shady Dell, Justin Luria says that spending the night at the Shady Dell is “like sleeping in a museum”.
The only drawbacks are, first, not all of the trailers have their own bathrooms, so if going to the bathroom in public isn’t your thing, call ahead and try to reserve a trailer that does. The other drawback is that the only on-site restaurant, Dot’s Diner is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays for breakfast and lunch – something to keep in mind if you are traveling on a weekday or want something to eat before you hunker down for the night.
According to the owners, there something about the staying in a vintage travel trailer that make both young and old fall in love with the experience.
No matter where you lay your head at, don’t forget to make one of your stops along the way a Stuckey’s stop. Whether you drop in for our delicious pecan log rolls or other fine pecan candies, don’t forget to pick up some candies and gifts for the folks back home, too.
No Stuckey’s locations near you? No problem. Just visit our website and have a whole box of Stuckey’s Pecan rolls or other Stuckey’s merchandise delivered right to your front door. Go to stuckeys.com for more info!
Whether your next road trip is by car or by rail, it’s not really a road trip without taking Stuckey’s along. From our world famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls to our mouthwatering Hunkey Dorey, Stuckey’s has all the road trips snacks you’ll need to get you where you’re going.
For all of the pecany good treats and cool merch you’ll need for your next big road adventure, browse our online store now!
Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!