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Several years ago, my husband and I spent our anniversary in the Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky. An overnight in the Wigwam Motel in Kentucky with my husband was one of my life goals. The retro wigwam, or teepee motel, is a true treat for roadside attraction enthusiasts that shouldn’t be missed.
Since our stay, the motel has been sold and is currently undergoing a 5-year, $500,000 renovation that is sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Interior to authentically restore the buildings and property to their original location. Sound exciting? I think so! And I can not wait to stay at the Wigwam Motel again. Please keep in mind that while I share my experience, many updates have been made though the original cane furniture, red and white bathroom tile and other elements remain.
But first, a little background.
Nearly eight 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 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 ran 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. The cave tours were full (July, y’all), and the door wouldn’t close on the only hotel room we could afford. Plus, it had roaches. It was an unforgettable experience.
The Wigwam Motel in Cave City
In honor of our milestone 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.
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 History of the Wigwam Hotel
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.
How Many Wigwam Motels are There?
Originally, there were seven wigwam motels in Alabama, Florida, New Orleans, and California around the United States. 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 arranged in a semi-circle facing the office.
Each concrete structure is white with fading red doors and decorative 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. A pavilion 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 parents 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 the Wigwam Motel Cost?
The Wigwam Motel No. 2 has ten teepees with a single, double bed and five teepees with two double beds. The wigwam motel rates range with the single wigwam running around $100 a night and the double around $200. Reservations are strongly recommended. View the website for more information ——-> historicwigwamvillage.com and call 1-833-WIGWAMS 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. CST to make reservations.
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