A couple weeks ago, I experienced one of my life goals when I stayed overnight in the Wigwam Motel in Kentucky with my husband. The retro wigwam, or teepee motel, is a true treat for roadside attraction enthusiasts and one that shouldn’t be missed.
Nearly three years ago, when my family trekked from our home in Ohio to California via Route 66, I had one goal. To sleep in the Wigwam Motel in Arizona. It didn’t happen. Though we did stop in Holbrook to take a few photos, my family was not ready to stop for the evening, so we continued our journey.
Fast forward a few years to my 25th wedding anniversary. My husband and I were at a loss as to what to do. We thought of several hotels and resorts that were high end and romantic, but I couldn’t help but feel like those weren’t right for the occasion. And then I remembered our wedding day. Or should I say almost wedding day?
Barely 20-years old, my husband and I were broke and decided a big wedding was not for us. We decided to run away to Kentucky to elope. We also planned to visit Mammoth Cave National Park and do some cave tours while we were there for our honeymoon.
By the time we arrived the courthouse was closed. We couldn’t even get on a cave tour at Mammoth Cave NP because they were all full (July, y’all), and the door wouldn’t even close all the way on the only hotel room we could afford. Plus, it had roaches. We made the disappointing journey back home to Ohio.
In honor of our anniversary, we decided it would be appropriate to return to Cave City and hope for a better experience. This time I searched the hotels in Cave City KY and made reservations at the teepee motel. I couldn’t think of a better place to spend our anniversary and I was shocked that the Wigwam Motel in Kentucky had a last-minute opening.
The Wigwam Motel in Cave City
To say I was excited at the prospect of spending the night in the teepee motel is an understatement. I could hardly wait for our anniversary to arrive. My anticipation increased as the miles drew closer to our destination.
The Wigwam Motels were the vision of Frank A. Redford who was inspired by a teepee shaped building he saw in California that housed a BBQ stand. He began construction of Wigwam Village #1 in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Realizing the potential of a motel chain, he patented his design in 1936, built Wigwam Village #2 in 1937 and franchised his idea.
Originally there were seven wigwam motels located around the United States in Alabama, Florida, New Orleans, and California. Today, only three of those original structures remain; Wigwam Village No. 2 in Cave City Kentucky, the wigwam motel in Holbrook, Arizona and the hotel near San Bernardino in Rialto, California.
A Peek Inside our Teepee at the Teepee Motel in Cave City Kentucky
The Wigwam Motel is exactly as I imagined it to be. Stepping inside the large teepee that serves as an office and gift shop, I was greeted by a friendly young girl who offered information about the area and dining recommendations. The retro interior of the office is what I would expect from an iconic motel celebrating its 80th birthday but not all the interior remains intact. The 52-foot tall teepee was originally a lunch counter with gas pumps located outside. Though it retains its vintage charm, unfortunately, a previous owner sold the contents of the teepee at a Sotheby’s auction.
The main teepee is flanked on either side by two smaller teepees that serve as public restrooms.
Our teepee was #4 out of 15 that are arranged in a semi-circle facing the office.
Each concrete structure is painted white with fading red doors and decorative painted touches around the windows.
We took a deep breath as we opened the door, exhaling a sigh of relief at the clean interior with minimal, but original furnishings; a double bed made of hickory with a threadbare quilt, and cane furniture- a stand with a TV, a sturdy wooden chair and a vanity with a coffee pot. A single photo on the wall depicted Native American pottery.
The room had a closet to store luggage and an in-room bathroom. My husband and I adored the tile in the bathroom and the angled shower, which could be a tight squeeze for someone taller than 5’ 10”. The plentiful hot water made up for the lack of space.
A noisy window air conditioning unit kept the small space cool on the warm, nearly 100-degree, Kentucky evening and a pavilion located behind our teepee provided picnic tables and a grill for guest use. A playground in the middle of the complex appealed to the children staying in the teepee motel and parent’s relaxed in folding chairs near their teepees and watched as the kids played.
Relaxing outside, one could almost pretend that they had traveled back in time when gas cost 10 cents a gallon.
How much does it the Wigwam Motel Cost?
The Wigwam Motel No. 2 has 10 teepees with a single double bed and five teepees with two double beds. The wigwam motel rates during the busy season is $60 Sunday-Thursday and $65 on the weekend for a double bed. Add $10 more for a wigwam with two double beds. Reservations are strongly recommended.
What to eat near the Wigwam Motel
Dairy Queen Brazier (1-2 minutes from the property) 517 N Dixie Hwy, Cave City, KY 42127
Sahara Steakhouse 413 E Happy Valley St, Cave City, KY 42127
Watermill Restaurant 803 Mammoth Cave Rd, Cave City, KY 42127
What to do near the Wigwam Motel in Kentucky
Kentucky Down Under and Mammoth Onyx Cave (check Groupon for discounts) 3700 L and N Turnpike Rd, Horse Cave, KY 42749
Mammoth Cave National Park 1 Mammoth Cave Parkway Mammoth Cave, KY 42259
Dinosaur World 711 Mammoth Cave Rd, Cave City, KY 42127
Big Mike’s Rock & Gift Shop 566 Old Mammoth Cave Rd, Cave City, KY 42127
And don’t forget nearby Bowling Green
Exploring Family-Friendly Bowling Green Attractions
Lost Cave: an Overview of Kentucky’s only Underground Boat Tour
© 2017, Tonya Prater. All rights reserved.