Chasing Childhood Memories & Inspirations: The Holiday Inn Holidome

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What Happened To The Holiday Inn Holidome
Photo courtesy of CNN

What Happened To The Holiday Inn Holidome, Are There Any Left?

Many of us remember that moment we got hooked into the miles and points hobby.  It started with a new card offer, a honeymoon trip or some aspiration international destination. It usually comes out of some sort of necessity, us looking for a way to do a trip way above our weight class.  But what about your love of travel as a whole? Do you remember the moment you fell in love with all things travel?  Probably not, since it likely struck you at a young age when memories are blurry if you are getting a little long in the tooth like me.

Finding My Love Of Travel

I can’t pinpoint it exactly myself but there are some things that still stand out for me from my youth.  We did a lot of road trips as a kid and that is where my love of hotels was birthed from. Don’t get me wrong, we flew sometimes too, but I have never loved airports or airplanes (an oddity in this space I know). Ian Snyder makes fun of me often for never caring what aircraft I am on etc.  But hotels have always been there, heck I collect the soap and shampoo as keepsakes.

One hotel that does stand out clearly from my childhood is the Holiday Inn Holidome.  We hit a few during our journeys and it was always a highlight of the trip.  This was the Great Wolf Lodge before such things existed.  I have to admit, I randomly started daydreaming about my beloved Holidome this past weekend.  I thought to myself, I need to take my kids to one to see if they would love it as much as I did.  But wait, are they even still a thing?  What happened to this amazing idea full of creativity and ingenuity? Why don’t we see them around anymore? And, most importantly, are there any left? Down the rabbit hole I went…

The Holiday Inn Holidome Was Birthed Out Of Necessity

I don’t know if you were aware of this but when the Holiday Inn brand launched it was the first hotel brand to offer a pool at every single hotel.  The goal was to attract more of the family travelers and this was the feather in their cap to get it done.  But in the northern states the outdoor pool was worthless for 8 months out of the year. Talk about a waste of money!

That is why the first Holidome was created in North Dakota to solve just this problem.  Holiday Inn liked the idea so much that they started adding them across the country and that is when the Holidome name was born. Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s Holidomes were popping up everywhere, reaching to a level of several hundred locations. The interesting tidbit from CNN was that the most popular locations were actually in Florida, not the northern states, since it was like an insurance policy against a rainy trip.

If you have never been inside a Holidome it was kind of like a motel with a courtyard but the courtyard was covered. Then a pool, putt put, shuffle board, tiki bar, arcade, pool tables etc. were added in the new indoor space.  It was a backyard party but indoors. Awesome, right?

Here is a video of some of the old Holidome commercials (skip to 1:15 to get to hotel footage)

So What Happened To The Magnificent Holidome?

This place sounds awesome doesn’t it?  You have all of the entertainment of a party at Richie Rich’s house but it is all indoors and worlds away from finicky weather outside.  So what happened? Why is the Holidome pretty much extinct?

Well they were expensive, very expensive.  The maintenance costs were brutal.  The pool would create moisture throughout the Holidome area and mold and decay would be an issue. I have to imagine they just didn’t have the filtration systems like we do for indoor pools to keep up with it. Other problems would be the chemical smell of the pool seeping throughout the hotel because it was in an open air space. The design was also usually unaesthetically pleasing, looking like a pole barn roof thrown up around a motel.

Because of this, and the rise of the indoor waterpark, Holiday Inn made a pivot away from the Holidome in the early 2000’s.  There was still a little over 100 locations left but were encouraged to change over to the new waterpark set up for Holiday Inn hotels. The waterpark has not been as widely adopted though, with only 6 states having at least one hotel with a waterpark.

Are There Still Any Holiday Inn Holidome Locations Left

But the big question remains, are there any Holidome locations left?  There has to be a few holdouts out there, right?  I found an awesome write up by Adventure Animal of a recent closure of the Holidome in Perrysburg, Ohio.  This gave me a deep sadness since that is only an hour and a half from me and it closed in 2019.  I should have been on this quest sooner!  The hotel looked amazing so be sure to check out the post if you want to reminisce.

One interesting thing is it seems that some Holidomes have stayed intact after leaving the Holiday Inn brand.  I found a few examples in Michigan, one at the Ramada Inn Alpena.

What Happened To The Holiday Inn Holidome
Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor.

There is also a Delta Hotel in Kalamazoo that has some Holidome vibes. I have encountered some independent hotels here and there that were inspired by the Holidome as well.  One of our favorite such locations is the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth (Frankenmuth is worth checking out if in Michigan).  It has the open air pool, arcade, putt putt, restaurant etc. all in one open area.

What Happened To The Holiday Inn Holidome
Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor.

playhouse
Photo courtesy of Trip Advisor.

I played on that indoor gingerbread house and slide as a kid and both of my children have enjoyed it as well.  That is the essence of travel right there, sharing things with your family!

But What About A Real Holidome?

So we have found some old Holidomes that have brand hopped and some inspired Holidome creations. But what about the real thing?  I was able to find one after some sleuthing! There may be a couple more, and if you know of any let us know in the comments below.

The one I found is Holiday Inn Saint Louis West At Six Flags. This place looks like the perfect answer to my quest.  A Holiday Inn Holidome, right next to an amusement park!  Are you kidding me? Flights are being booked now 😂.  I have been wanting to take my kids to the amazing City Museum anyway so this is a dream weekend of awesomesauce.

Final Thoughts

Forget about lie flat seats and popping Krug on Cathay Pacific.  The OG travel status was getting a room that opened out to the pool area at a Holidome.  One could only be so lucky as a kid!  I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me and I hope to see you in St Louis sometime soon 😉. We have to keep the magic that is the Holiday Inn Holidome alive after all!

If nothing else at least you can now answer the question, what happened to the Holiday Inn Holidome?  Share any memories of it, or any memorable hotels as a kid, in the comments below.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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12 COMMENTS

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Frankenmuth! Now you are stoking some childhood memories. Might need to do another trip in the near future to stuff my family full of Zehnder’s famous chicken ending with ice cream sundaes topped by little plastic zoo animals LOL. We visited the Splash Village indoor waterpark about 10 years ago when our kids were toddlers. The food and the waterpark were a hit. I understand that they have expanded it quite a bit.

    • Yeah they added an entire second area with some big slides etc. so about double the space now. It is one of the nicer water park / hotels we have seen for sure. Nicer than Bavarian Inn’s hotel but I have so much nostalgia for that hotel that we end up going there more often even though it is outdated (plus it is cheaper haha).

  2. Excellent article, Mark! I didn’t know about the history of these gems. Coincidentally, I stayed at the one in Frankenmuth once on a trip to the Christmas store there. Thanks for the little mini-vacation I just took in my head. ❤️

  3. Awe the memories of youth I remember going to these along with Howard Johnson’s, and then eating at Sambos, VIPS, Denny’s and Big Boy. A&W as a treat.

  4. I wonder if the Holiday Inn Chicago North Shore, 5300 W. Touhy Ave., Skokie, Illinois is a former Holidome? They have a covered courtyard with a pool that creates a chlorine musty smell through part of the hotel. Surrounding the pool are some rooms that do not have exterior windows, only windows to the pool area.

    Two photos of the pool: http://www.hiskokie.com/gallery-hotel-amenities.php

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