The historic Madonna Inn is arguably the hidden jewel of the Golden State. Located off Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Madonna Inn was built specifically for the image-obsessed Instagram-era we live in.

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Exterior view of the Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo. Photo courtesy of Madonna Inn

However, this property has been around since 1958. With its 110 rooms all uniquely designed and themed, the late Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis’ colourful, quirky and kitschy hotel has already been immortalised in pop culture (the Caveman room inspired an episode of The Simpsons) and music history (“Weird Al” Yankovic referenced the waterfall urinal in a song and both Grimes and Foxes filmed music videos in various rooms).

The tongue-in-cheek themed rooms that have ensured the Madonna Inn’s long-standing popularity include Love Nest, Irish Hills, Cloud Nine, Hearts & Flowers, Rock Bottom, Safari Room and Jungle Rock. Other rooms are also grouped in themes - Merry, Go, and Round are three separate rooms that are all inspired by an amusement park.

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Caveman Room. Photo courtesy of the Madonna Inn

According to Audrey Pearce, Assistant Marketing Manager, social media has led a whole new cohort of curious visitors to the fun-filled hotel, which is almost exactly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. “Instagram has most definitely helped a new generation discover the Madonna Inn in a way that never existed before,” she said. “Social media, in general, has opened up a new way for guests to interpret and re-invent the Inn’s decor through their own creative photos, videos and events.”

“We have seen a tremendous uptick in lifestyle and fashion shoots in our guest rooms,” Pearce confirmed. “Twenty years ago, the music video and fashion shoots that took place at the Inn were typically seldom and very large-scale. Today, media shoots take place regularly and cover the spectrum of large-scale, household name-type projects to more casual lifestyle blogger stays.”

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The Silver Bar. Photo courtesy of the Madonna Inn

Hundreds of photos are uploaded every single week, tagging the @MadonnaInn1958 Instagram in an array of strawberry milkshakes, pepto-bismol pink room interiors, floral carpets, and umm.. that very infamous waterfall urinal that “Weird Al” sang about. (Side note: this urinal has been voted by the public as the best rest stop in the US numerous times. Yes, really.) She noted that the pink and blue tennis courts are also gaining steady popularity as photo backdrops as they “Provide a wonderful pop of colour for the camera”.

As Pearce points out, the Madonna Inn’s original intention - to provide a unique, whimsical, sensorial experience - was long cemented before Instagram (or rather, the notion of being ‘Instagramable’) arrived. “Madonna Inn continues to thrive 60 years after its inception by staying true to its original concept,” she said. “We have always been novel, amusing and photogenic! It seems that this is part of the Inn’s draw - our guests are able to discover or rediscover the charm that has made us stand out all these years and know what they’re experiencing is authentic.”

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Madonna Suite. Photo courtesy of the Madonna Inn.

Rooms start from $109/€95 a night. The photo opportunities, of course, are priceless.

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