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A Journey Back in Time: Rediscovering the Glory Days of Road-Side Motels in the Blue Ridge Mountains

As American car culture boomed in the post-World War II era, so too did the rise of the classic road-side motel.

These popular motor lodges offered a place for weary travelers to rest and refresh themselves on long road trips, with neon signs beckoning them to stop and stay a while.

Today, road-side motels are experiencing a renaissance, with a cool hip vibe and modern conveniences that recall the glory days of the motor age and classic road-side motels, which were found all over in the Blue Ridge Mountains.   Many still exist today!

Let's explore these class motels and rediscover them here small towns of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Roadside Motels - Classic and Current

Classic road-side motels were often modest, one or two-story buildings with simple, functional rooms. They were designed to appeal to motorists looking for a convenient place to stay the night, and often featured amenities like drive-up rooms, swimming pools, and in-room televisions. The motels were typically situated along major highways, making them easy to find and accessible to travelers on the go.

Today's road-side motels have taken a different approach, embracing a more stylish and design-oriented aesthetic. Rather than simply providing a place to sleep, these modern motels seek to create a memorable and unique experience for their guests. Many feature trendy decor, communal spaces like outdoor fire pits or rooftop bars, and amenities like bike rentals or yoga classes.

Despite the differences between classic and modern road-side motels, there are some similarities that have stood the test of time.

Both types of motels offer an affordable alternative to traditional hotels, making them a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers. They also offer a sense of adventure and spontaneity, with the freedom to explore new places and discover hidden gems along the way.

Challenges for Today's Road-side Motels

Modern road-side motels face a unique set of challenges that their classic counterparts did not.

With the rise of online booking platforms and the dominance of major hotel chains, it can be difficult for these smaller motels to compete. They are very often dependent upon Online Travel Agencies to attract visitors, and can spend up to 30% of revenue paying for those guests.

Gone are the days that motels could just set up in a town that has attractions and expect a constant stream of guests. With all the choices consumers have, such as bed & breakfast and AirBnB vacation rentals, the attractions of a tourist town are not enough.

Modern day road-side motels have become sophisticated and tech-savvy, unlike their predecessors.   Many are doing just that.

Rediscovering Road-Side Motels in the Blue Ridge Mountains

But the charm of a tourist town filled with motels is still not without value. People love the retro vibe of being in a quaint old mountain town with renovated motels.  

Today's modern roadside hotels in the Blue Ridge Mountains offer visitors comfortable and convenient accommodations while enjoying the natural beauty and attractions of the area and still providing that retro-vibe many are looking for.

Many of these hotels are located near major highways and interstates, providing easy access for travelers. They often feature modern amenities such as free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, fitness centers, outdoor pools, and on-site restaurants.

In addition to their convenient location and modern amenities, many of these hotels also offer spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors can wake up to breathtaking vistas of rolling hills, valleys, and dense forests.

Blue Ridge Mountain Towns with Classic Roadside Motels

There are many towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains that still have a lot of old classic motels, many of which have retained their vintage charm and appeal. Here are a few examples: 

Maggie Valley, North Carolina

Maggie Valley, located in the Great Smoky Mountains (part of the Blue Ridge Mountains) of Western North Carolina, became a popular tourist destination in the mid-20th century due to its scenic beauty and proximity to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This led to an increase in tourism and the need for accommodations, which resulted in the development of many roadside motels in the area. Additionally, Maggie Valley was conveniently located on the main highway between Tennessee and Asheville, making it a popular stopover for travelers.

Today, many of these classic motels have been renovated and updated to appeal to modern travelers while still retaining their original charm and character. The Meadowlark Motel and Route 19 are excellent examples of this

Asheville, North Carolina - Asheville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is home to a number of classic motels that have been restored to their original retro glory. Some notable examples include the Riverview Motel and the Sweet Peas Hostel.

Blue Ridge, Georgia - This charming town in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains boasts a number of classic motels, including the Blue Ridge Motel and the Skyline Lodge.

Hendersonville, North Carolina - Hendersonville, located just south of Asheville, is home to a number of classic motels, including the Echo Mountain Inn and the Mountain Inn & Suites.

Boone, North Carolina - Boone, located in the northwest corner of the state, is home to a number of classic motels, including the Greenes Motel and the Appalachian Inn.

Helen, Georgia - This charming town in northern Georgia is known for its Bavarian-style architecture and proximity to the Blue Ridge Mountains. It has several classic motels along its main road, including the Econo Lodge Helen and the Alpine Village Inn.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee - Located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg is a popular tourist destination with plenty of classic motels. Some notable options include the River Edge Motor Lodge and the Reagan Resorts Inn.

Roanoke, Virginia - Roanoke is a historic city nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia. It has several classic motels, including the Starlite Motor Lodge and the Budget Inn.

Lexington, Virginia - This small town in the Shenandoah Valley is known for its rich history and beautiful scenery. It has several classic motels, including the Economy Inn and the Virginia Inn Motel.

Winchester, Virginia - Located in the northern part of the Shenandoah Valley, Winchester has several classic motels, including the Colonial Inn Motel and the Travelodge by Wyndham Winchester.

Fancy Gap, Virginia - Located near the Blue Ridge Parkway, Fancy Gap is home to a number of classic motels like the Mountain Top Motel and the Parkway Motel.

Mount Airy, North Carolina - Known as the birthplace of actor Andy Griffith, Mount Airy is a charming small town with a thriving vintage motel scene. Notable motels include the Mayberry Motor Inn and the Snappy Lunch Room and Motel.

Cherokee, North Carolina - Located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee is a popular tourist destination that offers a number of classic motels like the Rolling Hills Lodge and the River's Edge Motel.

These are just a few examples of the many towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains that still have a lot of old and renovated classic motels.

Whether you're a fan of mid-century modern design, retro Americana, or just looking for a unique place to stay, there's something special about these vintage properties that continue to capture the imagination of travelers.

About the author

Joseph is the owner and marketer of the Meadowlark Motel with Restaurant and Bar in Maggie Valley, NC, and is building a marketing and advertising business called Galileo Tech Media based on Experiences and Artificial Intelligence. Through his work, he is dedicated to creating experiences that are both memorable and meaningful, using the latest technology to bring people closer together.

Joseph is a man of many talents and accomplishments. Born in Haywood County, NC, the Gateway to the Smokies, Joseph grew up surrounded by the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. After graduating from Duke University, he went on to work at IBM

Joseph's entrepreneurial spirit led him to build several successful businesses, including one during the first dot-com boom and another that became the biggest digital marketing services provider to Marriott before Covid brought the travel industry to a standstill. With his expertise in technology and marketing methods, Joseph has helped build the business of the World Wide Web.

Joseph is also a museum-quality artist and published poet, with a passion for the arts that is evident in all he does. He is married to a woman who is cooler than him (his words!), and together they are raising four-year-old twins in Asheville, NC.


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