Family vacations are often more stressful than they are relaxing. There is a divide between what children want to do and what adults want to do, and every day involves compromise and and every activity involves someone dragging their feet, constantly wondering what time it is. This fate can be avoided by going to a hotel that has a theme the whole family can get behind, be it technology, Star Wars, astronomy, scuba diving, or medieval castles.
If you are a fan of Apple, and find yourself in New York, you should visit the Tribeca Grand Hotel. Among the many amenities offered are access to Apple’s products, such as iPads and iPods. Some rooms are even equipped with iMacs that are fully loaded with software for video editing.
The hotel is, like everything in New York, pricey, and a night’s stay with kids could run you $350.
If your family loves anime but can’t afford a trip to Japan, then this is the best ersatz vacation spot. Located in Japantown in San Francisco, Hotel Tomo has anime themed rooms with art and furniture inspired by manga and cartoons. It also has in-room vending machines, because we all know that Japan is the Land of Snacks. The hotel’s restaurant serves all-you-can-eat shabu shabu. Prices start at $149 per night, which is inexpensive by San Fransisco standards.
This hotel is actually underwater. You scuba dive 21 feet to get to the entrance, then enter through hatchways to reach breathable air. Rather than overlooking a grim parking lot, the windows look out onto the Emerald Lagoon, which is a habitat for all sorts of fish, sponges, and anemones who swim around the windows.
The hotel started off as a research station, and as such has all the amenities necessary for a few days’ stay underwater: hot showers, hot food, and all the scuba gear you could need.
Going farther afield, you can find even more hotels abroad that are geeky and educational. In Chile’s Norte Chico region you can find the Elqui Domos, one of the world’s only astronomical observatories that is also a hotel. The rooms have transparent ceilings that allow you to look up at the stars from bed. Tents in the shape of geodesic domes with removable roofs are also available. The hotel also sports an observatory with two electronic Schmidt-Cassegrain type telescopes, where guests can take a tour of the cosmos. The lounge has manual telescopes for guests’ use.
If your family is interested in astronomy, then this is the destination to take them.
If your family’s geekery is of the medieval bent, and Renaissance faires just aren’t authentic enough, then you can take your family and stay in an actual castle. One such castle is in Bavaria, Germany, in an area known as Castle Row. Schloss Sommersdorf was built in the 14th century. Unlike the village around it the castle survived the Thirty years War. It fell into disrepair in the 19th century, but has since been repaired and upgraded. This does mean that it no longer has a drawbridge, but it still has stone columns, wooden rafters, chandeliers that house actual candles, and gardens for wandering. Rooms start at 68 Euros per night.
Italy also boasts a castle that doubles as a hotel. Castello delle Quattro Torra in Siena, Italy overlooks olive groves and steep, rocky cliffs. Its courtyard and gardens are original, and the castle retains its medieval feel despite, as its website states, the “unfortunate episode” in which “the extravagant furnishings Giovanni Bichi had filled it with were lost.” Rooms start at $50 per night.
Two movies trilogies define two generations of geeks: Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. For both movies, part of the set has been turned into a hotel.
In the desert of Tunisia, you can find Hôtel Sidi Driss, which is Luke’s home on Tatooine. This area has a few troglodyte hotels, that is, hotels carved directly into the ground. Tunisia being hot and, shadeless, underground is the best place to keep cool. This particular hotel was otherworldly enough to represent one of the world’s most famous other worlds.
A similar style of hotel, namely, a building carved out of the earth, can be found in Woodlyn Park, New Zealand. This hotel is a remake of the shire, where the hobbits lived. Its doors and windows are portholes, and its roof is the grassy ground above it. Cow filled meadows surround the hotel, giving it a charming, bucolic feel. Rooms contain their own kitchens, so the hotel is a functional living space.