A good hotel offers entrée to new experiences while providing some of the comforts of home; a great hotel does all that while also fulfilling some kind of fantasy. To satisfy most typical travelers, that largely involves offering them the temporary illusion of being filthy rich, with servants at their beck and call in vast and luxurious quarters.
For true geeks, however, the fantasy can be a little bit — or a whole lot — different. Luckily, like every other major industry out there, the hotel sector has taken note of the spending power wielded by nerds and their families. That's led to a boom in rooms aimed at satisfying the geek desire to be totally surrounded with tasteful thematic decorations and tchotchkes that transport them to their favorite fictional worlds, from the moment they wake up all the way through the time they place their heads on their officially licensed pillowcases.
For this list, the first entry in SYFY WIRE's Summer Vacation series, we're looking at hotels that do more than offer a single geeky suite — to make the cut, a location has to devote itself to a nerdy theme (or themes) in a big way. They don't have to be a 10-story Comic-Con, but they do have to go above and beyond to qualify as a landmark of geeky hospitality.
Baby Grand Hotel — Athens, Greece
There's no obvious unified theme to the Baby Grand Hotel in Athens; instead, local artists were told to "make the walls pretty," which we're going to guess is Greek for "produce images that would terrify any guests on acid."
There are several rooms with cartoon animals, one room with Spider-Man lurking behind curtains, a room with Batman art that spills off the canvas, a room with a giant cartoon Octopus telling guests to "sleep deeply," a Smurfs room, and a bizarre and trippy lobby. Oh, and the bar serves sex toys. The organic food from the owner's personal farm in Crete sounds great, though.
Gold Coast Hotel — Hong Kong
Hong Kong's Gold Coast Hotel is a luxury hotel in the center of a large, privately developed tourist resort complex, making it a bit different than many of the hotels on this list. The complex boasts adult pleasures like a yacht and country club, a massive mall, and a marina, and to keep the kids entertained, the hotel has a large number of fantastical suites.
The one pictured above is known as the Dinosaur Room; other themed suites include the Outer Space Room, Safari Room, Hong Kong Tram Room, and Carnival Room, which is surprisingly not terrifying.
The Curtis's Hyper Themed Rooms — Denver, Colorado
Right smack in the middle of downtown Denver, blocks from all the places you visit during business trips or with a friend who lives in the city and is desperate to find ways to keep you occupied, The Curtis is another hotel that features riffs on pop culture by local and national artists.
The whole place is a hodgepodge of nostalgia and pop art, from its retro-chic lobby to the installations (including a giant Lite-Brite) scattered throughout the first few floors and restaurant. It also features a number of themed suites, including a Jimmy Buffet room made in consultation with the Colorado Parrot Head Club (ensuring essential authenticity) and, relevant for our purposes, suites designed for Ghostbusters and Star Trek fans. None of them are overwhelming or cluttered, either, so you don't feel like you're in a collector's cluttered den.
Arcade Hotel — Amsterdam, Netherlands
Normally we wouldn't recommend spending an entire vacation inside, especially in a city as gorgeous and culturally rich as Amsterdam, but the Arcade Hotel makes all that indoor time quite tempting. Each room comes with high-speed internet, a Sennheiser GSP gaming headset, a subscription to cloud gaming service GeForce Now, and a retro console (they won't tell you which they're giving you, so be ready for anything). The rooms aren't big, but spreading out isn't exactly the point at this place.
Add to that a large communal gaming room with a VR corner and you've got a getaway that's a lot like your coolest friend's gaming center, minus the smell of stale farts.
Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour Hello Kitty — Johor Bahru, Malaysia
The Sanrio Hello Kitty Town theme park in Johor Bahru, notably the first Hello Kitty-themed park outside of Japan, expanded to include part of the Hotel Jen Puteri Harbour thanks to the power of cross-branding. It has three sets of four Hello Kitty-themed rooms each; one set of four rooms mashes up Hello Kitty and The Wizard of Oz, while another set gives everyone's favorite kawaii kitty a nautical theme.
Anticipating that families would provide the bulk of the guests in these rooms, they actually function as small suites, as adjoining rooms boast bunk beds for Sanrio-obsessed little siblings (or crowded bachelor parties).
Fantasyland Hotel — Edmonton, Canada
When you're a luxury hotel in one of the coldest places in North America, you've got to go the extra mile to keep guests coming during the winter months. In total, 120 of the Edmonton Fantasyland Hotel's 355 rooms have some kind of theme, and many of them qualify as nerdy, including the Space Room pictured above.
If you can't handle staying in a room that reminds you of the Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams soul-crusher Blue Valentine, there are plenty of other options, including pirate ships, ancient Rome, Polynesian escapes, igloos, western cabins, Victorian-era coaches, and a truck (this is Western Canada, after all). The hotel is also connected to an indoor water park, so you should have no problem staying entertained no matter how cold it gets outside.
Hôtel Sidi Driss — Matmata, Tunisia
Striving for authenticity? Instead of a hotel modeled after a movie set, you can stay at a hotel that also served as one of the most iconic movie sets of all time. A centuries-old Berber house built into an underground cave, it served as Uncle Lars' homestead on Tatooine in Star Wars, then used again in Attack of the Clones decades later.
Now it functions as the 20-room Hôtel Sidi Driss, with Star Wars decorations provided by a fan who wanted to help recreate the feeling of Uncle Lars' lair. While Disneyland's Galaxy's Edge offers its own immersive Star Wars experience, you don't have to make any FastPass reservations at this one.
Disney's Art of Animation Resort | Walt Disney World
Art of Animation Hotel — Orlando, Florida
Pretty much any Disney hotel could have made this list, given how detail-oriented and fantastical they all are, but we'll keep it to the one that doesn't just offer a fantastical getaway, but also honors the work of the geniuses who create the fictional worlds that Disney offers its audiences.
The Art of Animation resort at Walt Disney World is broken up into different wings, each of which boasts massive statues of characters from Disney/Pixar classics. The restaurants and rooms, too, are themed after classic animated films. It's as immersive as any hotel, but it also takes you behind the scenes of the company's hits, with sketches and storyboards that line the walls of the lobby. There's no better way to marvel at how these intimate concepts become gigantic international IP.
Woodlyn Park — Waitomo, New Zealand
Plenty of people visit New Zealand to check out Hobbiton, the standing village constructed for the Lord of the Rings movies, but if they drive a little over an hour southwest, they can stay in a house that Bilbo would find quite cozy.
The Woodlyn Park motel complex isn't so much a hotel as a set of stand-alone motel accommodations built for nerdy tourists who want to truly immerse themselves in fantasy worlds. The complex boasts an old ship that houses several hotel rooms, a train cabin, and a retired freighter plane that's been turned into a motel duplex.
The Hobbit building is a semi-underground dwelling built into the side of a hill using the sort of authentic materials that might actually annoy the less adventurous. The website says as much, warning potential visitors that "our Hobbits built underground contain natural fiber curtains and some timbers — these too reflect the natural scent of their origins."
Gracery Shinjuku City Center — Tokyo, Japan
Finally, a building Godzilla visits without destroying. The Hotel Gracery Shinjuku City Center has an impressive range of amenities and attractions, the most iconic of which is the 8th-floor terrace that boasts a massive Heisei-era Godzilla head that lights up and emits smoke every evening. It’s a great photo opp, too, as you can visit and pose with the big boy bust.
Meanwhile, inside the hotel, you'll find a Godzilla exhibit, Godzilla-themed cafe, and on the 30th floor, a very thoroughly kaiju-filled suite. The Godzilla View Room, which opened in 2015, comes with a human-sized model of Big G along with a small exhibit and a lot of swag, and windows marked up with etchings that display just how giant the kaiju would look from that height. The bathroom is also filled with Godzilla posters and images from the movies.
The room has lots of fun hidden touches, like a fake TV broadcast suggesting that Godzilla is destroying Tokyo, along with subwoofers in the beds to create the feeling that the chaos is actually happening.
As a bonus, the hotel is connected to a Toho Cinemas movie theater.
Here's a tour: