Destinations Inn – Idaho Falls, ID

June 23, 2008

From the outside, the building looked like any other downtown structure, nothing that would draw a second glance from anyone driving by. I stood by my car and glanced around. Had I made a mistake? Could this actually be my lodging for the night? I was puzzled. But the address was correct, and a small sign indicated I was at the right place. I was fairly certain there was a different story within the building’s walls, so I threw my overnight bag on my shoulder and headed inside.

As deceiving as it was from the outside, stepping into Destinations Inn was like stepping into another realm, one of luxury and imagination. It took no more than five seconds inside the elegant lobby to completely forget I had just been standing on a nondescript Idaho Falls sidewalk.

Built in 1905, the building that is now home to Destinations Inn has housed many businesses, including a grocery store, clothing shop, office building, and an Eagles Lodge. Run down over time, it was purchased in 2004 by Rob and Teresa Bishop, who took eighteen months to not only restore the building, but to turn it into luxury lodging. Outside this building: everyday city life. Inside: another planet altogether.

Clever in concept, the inn offers not rooms, but destinations. A visit to the accommodations page on their website leads not to a list of room descriptions, but to a map of the world. With a click of the mouse, guests can transport themselves to fourteen enticing locations.

The hardest part is choosing between the tempting options. If magnificent bouquets of rich-hued flowers and a French sidewalk cafe table sound appealing, go to Paris. For east-coasters nostalgic for the Big Apple, they’ll find the Times Square skyline, Statue of Liberty, and a red-curtained bed on Broadway awaiting them in New York. Would-be archaeologists might opt for a sphinx mural and hieroglyphics, accompanied by a full-sized sarcophagus, in Egypt – don’t worry, there will be shelves inside, not a mummy. And anyone with dreams of sleeping on a canal bridge under blue skies and bathing in a Venetian gondola can find what they’re looking for in Venice.

I was fortunate to be able to see almost all of the “destinations,” as I had arrived early and the inn allows tours during afternoon hours. Walking room to room, each seemed more amazing than the last. To say the interior design was done with attention to detail would be a monumental understatement. Furniture and linens were unique to each theme and were matched in details right down to sconces, faucets, and light switches. Wall murals picked up regional colors and geographic scenery. Color, lighting, and music were all carefully chosen. Sounds of “Guantanamera” floated across bright orange yellow and green bedding and pillows in Rio de Janeiro. Hearing “Wipe Out” upon walking into Hawaii was enough to make a traveler want to hop up on the room’s surfboard and ride a wave.

Additional features vary between destinations. Visitors to Thailand will find an aromatherapy steam shower, while those vacationing in Athens will have both a massage table and fireplace. Arabia offers a cedar sauna and guests in New York might have a personal message displayed digitally in Times Square.

I’m a log cabin sort of gal, so I chose Alaska and it didn’t disappoint. I stepped inside to find a whimsical moose welcoming me with an upbeat musical tune. Log walls and earth-toned bedding set the Northern Exposure tone. Luxury surrounded me in every direction, from the jetted jacuzzi tub with chromatherapy mood lighting to the projection television screen set to drop from the ceiling by remote command. Chilled sparkling cider and decadent cheesecake awaited my arrival, a standard procedure for all guests. A gas fireplace stood ready to provide evening warmth.

I took advantage of the inn’s video library and stocked up on movies for the evening. With the projection screen, jetted tub, fireplace, sparkling cider, and cheesecake all waiting, I wasn’t about to go anywhere in Idaho Falls that night. Luxury, relaxation, and escape were all waiting for me in Alaska.

A knock on my door the following morning at 8:30–times are chosen by guests at check-in—signaled the arrival of a continental breakfast, included with lodging. I found coffee, fresh juice, a cinnamon roll, and a granola/yogurt parfait all beautifully presented on a tray outside my door. I enjoyed breakfast while curling up on the bed, sketched out my plans for the day, and milked every last second of my Alaskan vacation before check-out time.

Unique to the experience this inn offers is not only the fact that returning guests can “visit” different destinations on subsequent visits, but that Idaho Falls locals can “travel” to exotic lands without really going anywhere at all. So complete is the sense of being transported to faraway lands that a guest could live only five miles away and still have a world-travel adventure. Without needing a passport or having to pay baggage fees, why not?

I’ve made a mental bookmark to keep Thailand in mind for a future visit, as the soothing pale green, taupe, and rose colors seemed as relaxing as the lily pond that surrounded the sitting area. Then again, crossing the drawbridge to enter England looked appealing, too, as did the lush foliage and rainforest sounds of the Congo. There’s a destination at this inn for just about any mood or desire. Perhaps I’ll just have to see where my next flight takes me.