This summer, get a room with a view—into another way of life. Play lighthouse keeper, set up camp like a Plains Indian, or bunk in a World War II battleship. Here, accommodations that are both wonderfully wacky and affordable. The adventure begins at check-in.
Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village
Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo—and a herd of Spanish mustangs—still roam. Canvas guest tipis at this camp on Blackfeet land face east to welcome the sun and block westerly winds. At night, a fire will warm your family as you sleep on the ground (in sleeping bags atop cushioned mats). By day, learn how to craft a parfleche (rawhide tote), rattle, and drum with the camp’s owner, Darrell Norman, a Blackfeet artist. Then head to adjacent Glacier National Park for some hiking, trout fishing, and horseback riding. Or go on a history hunt with Norman. He’ll show you medicine rocks—sacred sandstone guideposts for the nomadic tribe—and ancient bones embedded in the earth beneath the Two Medicine River "buffalo jump," a cliff over which hunters drove their prey. Back at the lodge, Norman and his wife, Angelika, serve a traditional feast of roasted buffalo, Anasazi beans, acorn squash, and soup made from blueberry-like saskatoons. Stick around for fireside singing and storytelling—and the chance to beat your own drum. 406/338-2787; blackfeetculturecamp.com; two-night packages $395 for two adults, plus $96 per child, including meals, outings, and entertainment.
Race Point Lighthouse
As the sky darkens, twirl up the spiral stairs and imagine a time when the glow of this Cape Cod beacon guided whaling ships through the "race," the treacherous crosscurrent roiling in the distance. Today, the light is automated, but the property looks much as it did a century ago, thanks to the American Lighthouse Foundation, whose on-site volunteers attend to the buildings and overnight guests. Choose among three old-fashioned bedrooms under the eaves in the 1879 keeper’s residence, or take over the newly renovated two-bedroom Whistle House, which once held the steam-powered foghorn and bell. There are no roads to this beachfront compound four miles out of town—in days of yore, the keeper’s children walked over the sand to school—but ALF staff will ferry you there by four-wheel-drive. Pack linens, towels, groceries, and drinking water—and don’t count on trips back to civilization. Instead, devote your days to fishing, watching for Wright whales, swimming, and snuggling into the warm dunes, here at the end of the world. 508/487-9930; racepointlighthouse.net; Keeper’s House, doubles from $150, four-person room $245; Whistle House (sleeps eight) $2,500 per week.
Napa Valley Railway Inn
With their redwood walls and shiny iron wheels, the nine steam-era railcars permanently parked in Napa Valley’s sophisticated little Yountville look as if they were stopped in their tracks at the turn of the last century. Inside is a different story. Converted to bright and tidy guest rooms, the cars offer few hints of their former function: you’d never guess that No. 4 used to carry cattle or that the skylight in No. 9 was once a hatch for ice-block deliveries. Disembark to visit Vintage 1870, a repurposed Victorian winery next door, where you can eat, shop, or hitch an hour-long ride on a hot-air balloon ride (800/944-4408; nvaloft.com; outings $220 per person). Refuel down the street at chef Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred bistro Bouchon (707/944-8037; frenchlaundry.com; dinner for four $145), in an old Wells Fargo stagecoach stop. And board the restored Pullman cars of the Napa Valley Wine Train (707/253-2111; winetrain.com; adults $49.50, kids $24.75) for a three-hour jaunt from Napa to St. Helena. You’ll have fun all the livelong day. 707/944-2000; napavalleyrailwayinn.com; four-person car $160.
In a grove of century-old white oaks in southwestern Oregon, carpenter and incorrigible punster Michael Garnier has taken the B&B business to new heights. Guests at his Treesort nest in 13 arboreal aeries—some cantilevered, some on stilts, and all with comfy beds—including the spacious Treeroom Suite (with kitchenette and full bath!) and the Swiss Family Complex, which has a playhouse connected to its sleeping quarters by a swinging bridge. No shinnying skills required: plank stairs lead to each of these roosts, the loftiest of which is 37 feet off the ground and has a pulley system for hoisting gear. Descend for a dip in the stone-lined swimming pool, fed by the East Fork Illinois River, and to take part in some of the "activitrees." There are classes on tree house construction, mosaic making, and forest ecology; guided horseback outings; harnessed tree climbs; and, for those seeking the full Tarzan experience, rides on a 650-foot zip line. Nightlife?Campfires, cosmic light shows, and the occasional owl hootenanny. 541/592-2208; treehouses.com; tree houses from $110, including breakfast and some activities.