The Alamo Motel
Combine the phrases, "remodeled 1950s roadside hotel" with "Georgia O'Keeffe as muse" and I'll quickly snap to attention. Few things capture my interest faster than a creative renovation aimed at retaining the structure’s original character, so when I realized that The Alamo Motel had been thoughtfully redone by the husband and wife duo behind Shelter Social Club, this was an easy lodging choice for our weekend getaway. You can’t miss the retro neon sign marking its place in the center of Los Alamos.
“The Alamo Motel is a quintessential 1950s motor court motel which we are extremely attracted to and wanted to get our hands on in order to preserve and bring back to life,” says SSC co-founder Chris Sewell.
The room-by-room refurb, branding efforts, and savvy social media marketing of this 1950s motel were another success by Shelter Social Club, first known for the Ojai Rancho Inn and later for Santa Barbara’s Agave Inn. Each boutique property combines tasteful updates with unique touches from local artisans that seamlessly blend past and present. With a vibe I’d describe as lumberjack hipster in the desert, The Alamo Motel keeps with this tradition by including brass fixtures from LA’s Atelier de Troupe (swoon), textiles commissioned from Marissa Macias, and a curated gift shop full of leather goods, candles, and bath products from Santa Barbara artisans.
Bare bones in the sense that the renovation stayed true to a minimalist 1950s roadside motel, you won't find lavish extras complicating the minimalist furnishings. Flush with O'Keeffe's southwestern influences (she who captured the beauty in skulls-as-art long before today's hipster crowd loved it into Target's inventory), the furniture and flooring will make you wonder just what else you might craft out of plywood. In rooms 9 and 18, you’ll find a gorgeous claw foot tub that demands a glass of wine and a soak. Much to my delight, the tub was long enough for all 5’9” of me to fully submerge in (a rarity.) You can buy some bath salts from the gift shop if you don’t come prepared. There’s no minibar, but you’ll find a curated selection of locally-sourced snacks and a several bottles of Muni wine in the room (If you run out, the Muni tasting room is on-site.)
The motel complex is shaped like a “U” (admittedly reminiscent of the Bates Motel, sans Norman, of course) with festoon lights adorning a communal fire pit located behind the Muni Wine tasting room. There’s plenty of adirondack chair seating, several oak tree swings, and picnic tables, all perfect for striking up conversation with like-minded travelers. Shelter Social Club is known for its community building efforts, so watch for creative pop-up shops, movie nights, and themed dinners.
With rooms ranging from $90-$249 depending on the season, the Alamo Motel won’t break the bank. You can snag an even better deal using the Hotel Tonight app, though I suggest booking earlier if a room with the clawfoot tub is a must because there's only two (ours was 18.) I find Hotel Tonight to be useful for weekday room searching but less so for weekend trips.
Like all things Central Coast, I’d recommend visiting in the fall when the weather is still warm, fall color is spreading over the grape vines, most tourists have returned home, and you have the benefit of off-season pricing. A March visit would be equally enjoyable when the surrounding hills transform into a beautiful emerald green after the rainy season. The weather will be a little cooler (mid-60’s to mid 70’s) but you can still sneak in before the summer crowds and count on mostly sunny skies.