The curbside appeal is minimal at the Holiday Music Hotel, and it doesn’t help that it sits across the street from the rather posh-looking Stone Harbor Resort. But once you step inside, you quickly realize you’re in for a treat if you’re a nostalgia buff or someone who appreciates art, music and the unique.
The 18-room property (rooms run about $50-$100) opened in 1952 as Door County’s first hotel. In 2008, a group of musicians and music enthusiasts, including Jackson Browne, purchased and extensively renovated the place, keeping its retro Simmons metal furniture and bathroom tile, but adding 21st-century amenities such as flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. Rooms in the two-floor hotel are popular 1950s colors—mint green, yellow and pink—and feature rotary dial phones for fun. Dogs are allowed in some rooms, and showing your key scores you free bowling at a nearby alley. A Continental breakfast is set out each morning from 4 a.m. to noon—generous hours—in the hotel's original five-seat diner. You’ll enjoy items such as toast, pastries, oatmeal, cereal and fruit.
The hotel's musician-owners are interested in fostering the music scene in Sturgeon Bay, so during renovations they incorporated a recording studio in the hotel, and all of the tunes you hear wafting through the building were written and recorded on the premises. Each Thursday, an open-mic night is held for warbling original tunes. And in a nod to their fellow artists, the hotel features locals' artwork, including many of the building's blown-glass light fixtures.
When staying here, set aside a little time to explore. The lobby is filled with a mixture of fun and funky items, inlcuding 1950s memorabilia, a cigar-box banjo, and bed pan guitar (yes, you’re allowed to play them). Photos of Route 66 motels fill one wall; messages from guests scrawl all over the walls in a compact side room that once housed a phone booth.
Although the hotel has a slight “old” smell to it, it’s not off-putting, and the place is immaculately clean. The woodwork in the rooms is rather battered, though, and the doors don’t seem all that sturdy. Still, the place is a bargain. And odds are there’s no other hotel in the world where you can dial a rotary phone, strum a bed pan guitar and listen to original tunes before hopping into bed.