Certain hotel amenities are essential for families: Swimming pools, adjoining rooms, kids’ menus, the list goes on. But what about a herd of giraffes? Or a jumbo jet dashboard? Or a pack of wolves right outside the bedroom window? These are just a few of the extremely uncommon extras available at the following hotels that cater to clans.
Wolf Cabin, Parc Omega, Montebello, Que.
Park Omega’s new Wolf Cabin is ideal for families with children not named Red Riding Hood. Its wall-filling windows in the bedroom and terrace bring occupants face-to-face with dozens of wild grey wolves. Starting at $439 a night for four guests, the ensuite log cabin is equipped with a kitchenette as well as a wood-burning stove.
Steps from the front door, the Wolf Observatory features a glass-enclosed ground-level viewing area and tiered rooftop platform from which attendants hurl scraps of meat during twice-daily feedings and interpretive presentations.
Should the brood tire of wolves, the surrounding wildlife park offers many other interactive nature experiences, such as feeding deer and elk by hand on a drive or walk through the bucolic 890-hectare property and following a trail that explores 11 of the First Nations of Quebec.
Jumbo Stay, Stockholm, Sweden
Think family time on an airliner has to be dull and uncomfortable? Think again. Jumbo Stay’s decommissioned Boeing 747-212B never leaves the grounds of Stockholm Arlanda Airport, with its 450-seat passenger cabins having been converted into 33 rooms that start at around $180 for a four-bunk family dorm with shared bathroom. The plane’s jet engines, meanwhile, have been converted into four “engine rooms” with double beds.
Families seeking additional aviation ambiance and comfort can book the “Cockpit” and “Black Box” accommodations, both of which include ensuite facilities. The former’s double bed is tucked right up against the jet’s dashboard, while the latter provides some extra legroom at the rear of the aircraft. There’s even an onboard café, along with an outdoor observation deck in case junior wants to live his dream of standing on a jumbo jet’s wing.
RMS Queen Mary, Long Beach, Calif.
Before retiring from transatlantic service in 1967, the Queen Mary was the site of numerous murders, drownings, fatal naval accidents and other grisly happenings. This earned the 311-metre-long ocean liner a reputation as a paranormal hot spot long before she was permanently moored in the Port of Long Beach. Five decades and dozens of televised investigations later, the 347-room hotel and labyrinthine entertainment complex draws ghost hunters of all ages with tours, shows and special events such as the hour-long “Haunted Encounters,” the “Illusions of the Passed” theatrical séance, and “Dark Harbour,” the week-long haunted-ship extravaganza that runs over Halloween.
Assuming anyone can get to sleep, the Queen Mary’s family staterooms contain two queen beds, or a king and a twin, and start at US$127. Most lodgings come with portholes, and many sport nautical wood panelling and original art-deco flourishes. Another scarier option: Sleep over in Stateroom B340. According to the ship’s logs, occupants have reported extensive paranormal activity there. No wonder it comes equipped with a ouija board, tarot cards and crystal ball.
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya
After spending the night in one of this historic lodge’s luxurious suites, where all-inclusive rates start at US$565 for adults, up to five guests can breeze downstairs for breakfast. Along with pancakes, made-to-order omelettes and other standard-issue fare, something truly remarkable is often passed around: Bowls of treats for endangered Rothschild’s? giraffes. That’s right: At Giraffe Manor you can feed the world’s tallest mammal over the breakfast table, from your suite’s window, or at the front door.
The stately manor’s breeding program aims to expand the gene pool of the Rothschild’s giraffe and ultimately reintroduce the animals into the wild. As well as meeting giraffes in and around the manor, guests can take guided strolls through the surrounding 12-acre sanctuary, visit the nearby David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – an orphanage for elephants and rhinos – and drive into wildlife-filled Nairobi National Park. As part of the Safari Collection of lodges and hotels, the property also serves as a jumping-off point for longer excursions into the wilds of Africa.
Parc Aventures Cap Jaseux, Saint-Fulgence, Que.
Can’t decide whether to stay in a treehouse, suspended tree sphere or geodesic dome? That’s not a problem at this riverside nature resort just east of Saguenay, which offers families all three types of overnight quirkiness starting at $220.
Secured to the trunks of towering pines, the rustic treehouses come with one queen bed and two twins, a kitchen table with four chairs, dishes and utensils, and a propane barbecue on a deck overlooking Saguenay Fjord. There’s no power or running water, with battery-powered lanterns illuminating the treehouses, a dry toilet nearby and full washroom and laundry facilities 250 metres away.
The tree spheres resemble the treehouses in terms of capacity, location and amenities, but that’s where the similarities end. The two fibreglass orbs – one swathed in mossy material, the other sheathed in reflective plastic – are tethered to the treetops with cables, while supporting wooden platforms allow guests to enter and exit.
The deck-fronted domes cater to families who prefer to sleep on solid ground, with a third of their six-metre-wide surface area made of glass so guests can admire the fjord by day and the stars by night.
The Hobbit Motel, Woodlyn Park, Waitomo, New Zealand
One of the few downsides to the North Island’s enthralling Hobbiton Movie Set is that visitors can’t enter – let alone sleep in – any of the 44 Hobbit Holes dotting the meticulously recreated village used in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. An hour’s drive southwest, however, Woodlyn Park fills this void with two Tolkien-themed Hobbit units built into a grassy, sheep-dotted hillside.
The two-bedroom ensuite lodgings both start at around $260 and can accommodate up to six guests with a queen bed in one bedroom and four singles in the other. They also include full kitchens and cater to human guests with human-height ceilings.
Not into Hobbits? Not to worry: Woodlyn also offers five suites in a permanently dry-docked ship, two in a Bristol Freighter aircraft, and room for a family of five in a restored 1918 rail carriage.