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Hotel We Love: Thunderbird Lodge, Redding, CA

By Maya Stanton
June 8, 2018
Thunderbird Lodge
Maya Stanton
A rejuvenated motel boasts vintage charm and modern amenities at a price that's right.

Just a few hours north of Sacramento and a couple hours south of Oregon, tucked away among protected parkland, volcanoes, redwoods, and more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at, northeastern California’s Shasta Cascade region is a veritable haven for outdoor enthusiasts. But you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the REI Co-Op to appreciate the area’s natural beauty—there’s a ton here for all skill levels to explore. With clean, freshly appointed rooms, reasonable rates, and a convenient central location, the Thunderbird Lodge in Redding, California, makes a great base of operations, especially if you’re planning to spend most of your time on the go.  

THE STORY

This classic roadside motel was originally part of the mid-century Thunderbird chain; today, there are only a few left in existence, and they’re all independently owned and operated. An immigrant couple from Zambia bought Redding’s Thunderbird Lodge nearly 20 years ago, and their sons and daughters-in-law took over operations in 2010. (Thankfully, the vintage sign remains the same.)

THE QUARTERS

The property was completely remodeled in 2015, and its 58 guest rooms now feature contemporary dark-wood furniture, white linens with pops of color via accent pillows, throws, and bed skirts, and flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, and microwaves, all in various configurations. Book a king, queen, or double-queen room for a short stay; if you’re planning on sticking around a bit longer, consider a kitchenette room, which comes equipped with proper cooking facilities. The ground-floor accommodations are perfectly fine, but if you can handle the stairs, book a room one flight up, where the vaulted ceilings and exposed beams offer an airier, much more spacious feel.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Located right in the middle of downtown Redding, the Thunderbird is walking distance to landmarks like the Cascade Theatre, a circa 1935 nonprofit venue that hosts concerts, dance performances, and free summer kids’ movies; there’s also an array of independently owned restaurants, breweries, and shops within a few-block radius. The motel isn’t far from the freeway either, so it’s easy to get out of town to explore the region’s outdoor attractions—it’s a quick drive from downtown to Lake Shasta Caverns, Whiskeytown Lake, the immense, 602-foot-high Shasta Dam, and waterfalls upon waterfalls upon waterfalls.

THE FOOD

There are a few vending machines on the property, and the motel offers a basic continental breakfast, but other than that, you’ll have to look elsewhere for sustenance. Luckily, there are some solid options nearby. For a no-frills, pre-hike diner meal, Corbett’s should do the trick—it’s right across the street and opens at 7:00 a.m., so you can fuel up and be on the trail nice and early. The motorcycle-themed Coffee Bar is a little further, but it’s worth the walk for the consciously sourced caffeine and tidy selection of pastries and small bites. (You’re in California, after all, so be sure to try the avocado toast.) Open only for lunch, Wilda’s Grill is infamous for its Buddha bowl, a heaping helping of beans, rice, and protein under a shower of avocado, cilantro, and shredded cabbage, a steal at $7.50. With a cheap lunch, you can treat yourself to a fancier dinner, and Moonstone Bistro serves pretty plates of seasonal, organic fare at the price point to match. Grab a table in the intimate, dimly lit dining room or take seat on the patio (the strip-mall view is terrible, but on a nice evening, the fresh air is worth the sacrifice), have a cocktail and a few appetizers, and don't pass on the bread plate. To keep things casual, beer-drinkers would do well to commandeer a spot at the bar at the family-owned Woody’s Brewing Co., order a round of tater tots—or, as my bartender more accurately described them, fried mashed-potato balls—loaded with blue cheese and bacon, and enjoy with a pint of microbrew. Final Draft Brewing Company is another local favorite within walking distance. Finally, awesomely, there’s a branch of Heavenly Donuts, a mini-chain with six locations in the western United States, just two doors down from the Thunderbird. The drive-thru window is open 24 hours, and they serve a ridiculously good strawberry-jelly donut. Consider yourself warned.

ALL THE REST

The Thunderbird is Fido-friendly, with a charge of $15 per pet per night. Parking is included with the room rate, but the space is tight and can be tough to navigate, especially on weekends. WiFi and continental breakfast are also free, and there’s a small pool on the premises that’s clean and well-maintained.

RATES & DEETS

Starting at $65.

Thunderbird Lodge
1350 Pine Street
Redding, CA
530.243.5422
thunderbirdlodgeredding.com

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The Freedom Trail runs around and adjacent to hotel's Downtown Crossing, a centrally located maze of mostly retail-lined streets, but the district, just up the street from Chinatown and Emerson College, is anything but fusty. The old-world architectural details of many of the buildings are preserved, but otherwise it's a thoroughly modern shopping area with "ambassadors" lingering on the partly cobblestone streets to guide visitors and outdoor tables for loitering in warmer months. In other words, it's a welcoming area for tourists visiting the city who want to stay in luxury just steps from American history. THE STORY The Godfrey, a small national boutique hotel chain, has its flagship property in Chicago. Boston, which has 242 rooms and opened in 2016, is the second property. Others include Tampa and LA.) It's located in two thoughtfully combined and renovated 110-year-old buildings that are listed on the National Historic Registry. Having once housed corporate textile and fabric trade offices on the upper floors and retail outfits on street level, they're credited with having had a historical impact on the city's once lively commerce. THE QUARTERS Despite being located in a densely-packed urban center, the rooms, which are appointed in neutral shades of grey, beige, charcoal and green, with tartan headboards tossed in for good measure, get plenty of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Rooms range in size from a standard size to a slightly larger double queen (two beds) to a larger studio king, which features a pullout couch, to sprawling corner suites on the top floor. Mini-fridges are not set up in the standard rooms, but they're available upon request, a thoughtful way to cut down on energy, an underlying mission at the property. The hotel pulled out all the stops where technology is concerned. Each room has a 55-inch LCD televisions with smartphone-to-TV streaming capability for your own Netflix and Hulu accounts, Bluetooth-compatible Bose wireless speakers, and Keurig coffee makers. Spacious bathrooms have a luxurious feel, plenty of counter space, and neat design touches like deep basin sinks. High speed WiFi and bottled water are free. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Suffice it to say you can’t be more centrally located in Boston than Downtown Crossing, a mix of gorgeous historic buildings and lots of familiar stores. There’s a number of restaurants and pubs nearby, and Chinatown is a few blocks away, but it’s primarily a retail district, so it’s very quiet late at night. The hotel is walking distance from the sprawling Boston Common and a stone’s throw from all four subway lines. (They’re designated by color here: the Red Line, Green Line, Blue Line, and Orange Line.) THE FOOD The Godfrey is certainly not a big property by hotel standards, but when you hear about its varied eating and drinking options, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise. First things first: coffee. A George Howell Cafe is connected to the lobby. Howell's name may not be as familiar as Howard Schultz's but it should be. In the 1970s, long before Starbucks, Howell founded the Coffee Connection and pioneered the specialty coffee movement, even coming up with the Frappuccino, which he based on the frappe, a classic New England milkshake. The drink became part of Starbucks' repertoire when the company bought Coffee Connection in 1994. Today the cafe features a range of specialty drinks and locally made pastries and sandwiches. Baristas explain the nuanced flavors of different single estate beans. The dinner option is Ruka, a creative Japanese-Peruvian fusion spot that features creative dishes and drinks in a lively, colorfully appointed space. And for a nightcap--or afternoon tipple--the lobby bar, helmed by forward-thinking barmen, offers seasonal cocktails amid the marble columns of the high-ceilinged space, which has tall windows facing the buzzy street. Belly up to the marble bar or hunker down on one of the stylish chairs or couches. ALL THE REST There's a 24/7 fitness center, but the hotel offers other outdoor options for getting active, too. You can borrow a bicycle for free or tag along with the "running concierge," who'll lead you on a fast-paced tour through the Boston Common or along the harbor. RATES & DEETS Starting at $199 The Godfrey Hotel 505 Washington StreetBoston, MA 02111 (617) 6494500 / thegodfreyboston.com

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