The Quirky and Historic Madonna Inn

madonna inn spring time flowers
During the spring at the Madonna Inn, the landscaping comes to life with a vibrant burst of colors as flowers bloom, and the lush greenery thrives, creating a picturesque and enchanting backdrop for guests to enjoy.

If you’ve ever wanted to stay at a hotel that’s more than just a bed and a bathroom, have I got news for you! In sunny Central California, you’ll find The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, a place that throws boring right out the window. This hotel is a sensory overload in the best way possible and is on the top of our list for unforgettable lodging in Central California!

madonna inn stainglass
Those signature stained glass roses on the door to the main lobby and steakhouse.

Rooms Like You’ve Never Seen Before

Okay, fasten your seatbelts because the rooms in this place are like something from another planet. The Madonna Inn doesn’t do normal. It has 110 rooms, and each one is like stepping into a different world. From a room decked out like an old-school Western movie to one that’s all frilly like a princess’s bedroom, each room has its own theme. Cool, huh?

old world fireplace madonna inn
The “old World” room has a rock feature with a heart-shaped cutout that gives you a view of the fireplace!

Oh man, we wish we could’ve checked out more of the themed rooms at the Madonna Inn, but during our stay, we only got to experience the “Old World” room. Let me tell you, it was like stepping into a European castle inside of a cave! Stone floors, rock shower and massive rock fireplace, antique-looking furniture, and even a chandelier. Check out our video review of The Madonna Inn room – Old World room. Still, we can’t help but wonder what it would be like to sleep in a room covered in animal prints or one that makes you feel like a cowboy. One thing’s for sure, we’re definitely coming back to try out more!

More Than Just Rooms: Amenities Galore!

You might think a hotel with such funky rooms wouldn’t need anything else to keep guests happy. But the Madonna Inn goes all out. They have a café that looks like something out of a storybook, and their cakes are so big, they’re like mountains of sugary goodness. They’ve got milkshakes, pies, and all kinds of stuff that’ll make your belly super happy.

Madonna inn at sunset
The main entrance to Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steakhouse

Eat, Sleep, Repeat: The Dining Options are Endless

The Copper Café is like stepping into a fairy tale, but instead of knights and princesses, you’ve got waiters and the tastiest food ever. The café is famous for its homespun charm, complete with copper tables and colorful stained glass windows that make the whole place glow when the sun comes in.

madonna inn copper cafe
The Copper Cafe is a casual dining experience serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

But let’s talk food. From giant burgers that you need both hands to hold, to milkshakes that are so thick your straw stands up straight, the Copper Café serves up comfort food that makes your taste buds do a happy dance. Oh, and let’s not forget about their pies! Each slice is a mountain of deliciousness that practically begs you to take a picture before diving in. Eating here is more than just a meal; it’s a must-do event at the Madonna Inn!

madonna inn bakery
The Madonna Inn bakery is located inside the Copper Cafe.

Awesome Food Beyond the Café – Alex Madonna’s Gold Rush Steak House

The Gold Rush Steak House is where the Madonna Inn turns the dial up on fancy. This place is all about big steaks, plush red velvet booths, and a vibe that makes you feel like you’ve traveled back to a more glamorous time. Ornately decorated chandeliers hang from the ceiling, casting a soft light that makes everything (and everyone!) look fabulous. The menu is a meat-lover’s dream, with steaks so juicy and flavorful, you might forget about the side dishes. But don’t, because those are amazing too—like garlic mashed potatoes that melt in your mouth. And hey, they even serve that famous Pink Champagne Cake, so you can end your fancy dinner on a super sweet note. The Gold Rush Steak House is more than just a restaurant; it’s an experience that adds a sprinkle of luxury to your stay at the Madonna Inn.

Alex madonna inn steakhouse
During springtime, the restaurant’s theme is over-the-top seasonal decor.
madonna inn flora dora and old fashion cocktails
The Flora Dora and Old Fashion were solid cocktails.
madonna inn avocado toast
The Avocado toast was off-the-chart delicious!

If you thought the Copper Café and the steakhouse were the only spots to get a delicious bite, you’re in for a surprise. The Madonna Inn also offers a delightful breakfast menu, featuring everything from hearty pancakes to nutritious smoothies. And don’t skip their brunch—the spread is unbelievable!

Sweet Treats: Why You Need to Try the Pink Champagne Cake

I can’t stress this enough: you HAVE to try the Pink Champagne Cake. Seriously, it’s a slice of heaven. The cake is fluffy and the frosting is creamy, with a taste that’s so unique, you’ll want to take a whole cake home. This pink delight has been a long-time favorite and it’s almost like the mascot of the Madonna Inn. 

madonna inn Pink Champagne black forrest without cherry
The Pink Champagne cake was delectable. The black forest (without cherries) was okay. The kitchen was out of cherries and you could tell the cake needed it.

Music and Dance Nights: Get Your Groove On

Remember when I said they have dances? Well, these aren’t just any dances. The Madonna Inn goes all out. They have live music nights where bands come and play tunes that’ll make you want to dance the night away. Whether you like country, rock, or old-time classics, there’s a music night for you.

madonna inn ballroom
Live bands play nightly at the steakhouse with an open floor for dancing. Check the calendar for the schedule and type of music.

Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge

The Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge at the Madonna Inn offers a blend of old-world elegance and modern comfort. With its lavish décor, featuring etched-glass panels and ornate chandeliers, you might feel like you’ve stepped into another era. While the bar itself might not be made of actual silver, the ambiance is definitely golden. They serve up a variety of cocktails, from classic concoctions to Madonna Inn specialties, and there’s something to suit every taste. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing environment to chat with friends or a romantic setting with your significant other, the Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge serves as the perfect backdrop for any occasion. Despite not having a happy hour, we were very happy to relax in this inviting setting after checking in to the hotel.

silver bar cocktail lounge
Pink upholstery, carved woodwork, and stained glass make for a fun and casual lounge.
madonna inn bar stained glass
Stained glass windows and plush lounge seating inside the bar.
The Madonna Inn bakery is located inside the Copper Cafe.
The Madonna Inn bakery is located inside the Copper Cafe.

Playful Competition & The Famous Waterfall Urinal

Here’s a fun tidbit about the dynamic duo behind the Madonna Inn, Alex and Phyllis Madonna. These two were not only partners in life and business but also in creativity. And guess what? They had this playful competition going on about who could design the most “over the top” bathroom. Alex created that unforgettable waterfall urinal in the men’s room that makes guys feel like they’re in a rugged mountain stream.

madonna inn mens restroom
This is where it gets even crazier. In the men’s restroom, they have a waterfall urinal. Yeah, you’re literally doing your business in a waterfall. It’s so popular that sometimes people visit the hotel just to see it. And hey, ladies, you can sneak a look too when it’s not being used.
madonna inn womens restroom
Inside the glamorous ladies’ restroom at the Madonna Inn.

Not to be outdone, Phyllis made sure the ladies’ rooms were just as jaw-dropping, featuring things like gilded mirrors, extravagant wallpapers, and chandeliers. Yup, chandeliers in a bathroom! This fun rivalry added yet another layer of charm and whimsy to the Madonna Inn, making even a trip to the restroom an unforgettable experience.

Let’s Go Shopping!

The Madonna Inn isn’t just a hotel and café; it’s also a mini shopping paradise. They have little stores that sell clothes, super interesting souvenirs, and even the eye-popping decor you see around the hotel. You can actually take a piece of the Madonna Inn back home with you, how awesome is that?

madonna inn signature goblets
Shop for the Madonna Inn’s signature goblets and a variety of boutique items in their many gift stores.

The Cellar

The Cellar at the Madonna Inn is a must-visit for wine enthusiasts. You won’t just find California favorites here; the wine selection is thoughtfully curated to include international bottles too. While you’re sampling, the knowledgeable staff can tell you fun facts about each wine, making the experience educational and enjoyable.

Staircase down to the cellar and the Gourmet and Wine Shop.
Staircase with a grape chandelier leads down to the cellar and the gourmet and wine shop.

But hey, the experience doesn’t stop at tasting. The Cellar also doubles as a wine shop, so you can take a bottle—or hey, why not a case?—home with you. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill hotel gift shop; think more along the lines of unique wine accessories, artisanal snacks that pair perfectly with a glass of vino, and even some customized Madonna Inn goodies. Whether you’re a wine pro or just getting into it, The Cellar offers a unique experience that’s as informative as it is enjoyable. So, if you’re staying at the Madonna Inn or just passing through, make sure to go downstairs and check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Outdoor Fun at the Madonna Inn

Hold on, we’re not done yet! If you think the inside is cool, wait until you see what they have outdoors. They’ve got this amazing pool that makes you feel like you’re in a castle. If that’s not enough, they even offer horseback riding for you to enjoy the stunning landscape. Like sports? They’ve got tennis courts and a basketball court. Yup, you can get your game on right here!

Madonna Inn Pool and Garden Walk

The swimming pool is heated and has a “beach entry”. The water laps above the pools edge, overflowing into grates, creating a flat dimension. A bar and fitness center is located within the pool area, as well as a gazebo and waterfall.

madonna inn pool
Amazing views of the San Luis Obispo Mountains from this hilltop location.
madonna inn path pool
Garden path from the pool to guest quarters.
madonna inn sugarbush
Taking time to photograph the plants, like this sugarbush, along the garden walk.

The Secret Garden at the Madonna Inn

This secluded area is full of flowers, cute little pathways, and the kind of greenery that makes you forget you’re at a hotel. It’s like walking into a different world. The best part? There’s a pond with a little waterfall, so you can sit and listen to the soothing sounds of water while you chill out. People say it’s the perfect spot for taking in some quiet moments or even for reading a good book. The Secret Garden is also a big hit for weddings, because who wouldn’t want to say “I do” in a place that looks like a page right out of a fairy tale? But, shhh, let’s keep this garden our little secret!

madonna inn secret garden entrance
The Secret Garden entrance at the Madonna Inn.
The secret garden at the Madonna Inn
Stroll through the Secret Garden and enjoy the artistry of floriculture.

Madonna Inn Tennis and Basketball Courts

They’ve got tennis and basketball courts that are so well-kept, you’d think they were preparing for a championship game! Whether you’re into swinging a tennis racket or shooting some hoops, these courts offer a great way to burn off that Pink Champagne Cake you couldn’t resist. Plus, the surroundings are so pretty, with hills and trees all around, that you might just enjoy the view as much as the game. So pack your sneakers and get ready to show off your skills—whether you’re a pro or just playing for fun, it’s another cool way to enjoy your stay.

madonna inn tennis court
The Madonna Inn’s famous hot pink tennis and basketball courts.

The Origin Story: How The Madonna Inn Became a Thing

History time, kids! More than six decades ago, back in 1958, a guy named Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis opened this crazy place. Alex knew how to build stuff, and Phyllis was super creative. Together, they wanted to create a hotel that was more like an experience. They wanted everyone to feel a sense of wonder. And trust me, they nailed it!

madonna inn registration building
The hotel registration is located on the bottom floor below the American flag.

Madonna Inn Through The Years: Still Rocking It

Six decades—that’s how long the Madonna Inn has been impressing people. That’s longer than most people’s parents have been alive! Over the years, the place has kept its cool factor. They’ve updated things here and there, but the original sense of fun and wonder? It’s still there. And it will probably be there for another 60 years, at least!

madonna inn registration office
Stonework, pink colors,  and that 1950’s style is everywhere.

A Closer Look at Alex and Phyllis Madonna: The Dream Team

So we talked a little about Alex and Phyllis Madonna, but these two deserve a bit more time in the spotlight. Alex was a big-time builder. The guy had his hand in making roads, restaurants, and more. Phyllis was the creative genius who made sure everything looked fabulous. You could say she was the sprinkle on top of Alex’s sundae! They put their hearts into the Inn and you can feel it in every nook and cranny.

madonna inn lobby fireplace
Large rock boulders are used for a grand fireplace in the main lobby of the Madonna Inn
madonna inn detail crafting
“It is in the details!” Everywhere you look there is some sort of design or purposeful artistry at the Madonna Inn.

Seasonal Fun at Madonna Inn

This hotel loves to go big on seasons and holidays. Imagine Halloween decorations that make the whole place look like a fun haunted house. Or Christmas décor that turns the Inn into a winter wonderland. Every season brings a new look to the Madonna Inn, making each visit different from the last.

 FAQ Section: What People Always Ask About The Madonna Inn

Before wrapping up, let’s tackle some questions our readers have asked the most:

  • Is it kid-friendly? Absolutely! Kids love the colors, the pool, and the desserts.
  • Do they allow pets? No. They don’t allow pets in the rooms or within most of the hotel areas. However, they welcome service animals as designated by the ADA.
  • Is it expensive? While it’s not the cheapest, the experience makes it worth every penny.
  • Do I need to book in advance? Yes, especially for holidays and special events, rooms fill up fast. Even more so, if you want one of those icon rooms!

Big Surprises in a Small Town

Now, let’s not forget where this hotel sits. San Luis Obispo may not be as famous as Los Angeles or San Francisco, but this small town is full of its own kind of charm. There are beaches nearby, fun shops in town, and even a bubblegum alley where the walls are covered in chewed-up gum (eww but cool!). The Madonna Inn fits right in with this town’s quirky style and just one of the unique things to do in Centeral California.

Tips to enhance your stay at The Madonna Inn:

  • Book as far out in advance as possible to get the room you want. Also, try to book during the weekdays for a discounted rate and to avoid the crowds on the premises.
  • When you check out, don’t forget to grab a free postcard of your room. It’s a great reminder of the experiences you’ve had!
  • Make a reservation at the Steak House to secure a spot for dinner (or dessert.)
  • Bring comfortable shoes and clothes for hiking, horseback, or bike riding during your stay.
madonna inn night lights
Gorgeous lighting colors the elegance of the grounds at night.

Why The Madonna Inn Should Be on Your Bucket List

If you’re looking for a trip that’s as fun to talk about as it is to experience, then you need to get yourself to the Madonna Inn. Take tons of photos, try all the food, and do all the activities. Trust me, you won’t regret it. From its crazy rooms and the famous waterfall urinal to the seasonal decorations and star-studded history, this place has got it all. The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is more than just a place to crash for the night. It’s like a mini-vacation all by itself. With all its cool rooms, fun amenities, and awesome events, you won’t even need to leave the hotel to have the time of your life. So what are you waiting for? Time to make some memories!

About our
rating of The Madonna Inn
We had a fantastic time at the Madonna Inn. While it may not offer all the modern resort amenities, it's clean, quirky, rich in history, and an absolute blast!