Morgan Night in 2017, in the game room at Hicksville Pines. Many upgrades to the property have been made since this photo. File photo
One of 10 themed rooms, this one is the Haunted Mansion.
Photo courtesy Morgan Night

In 2017, Hollywood writer, director, actor and entrepreneur Morgan Higby Night made a bet — that imagination and a spirit of fun, playfulness and adventure could turn a rundown Pine Cove motel into a travel destination.

His bet has paid off in spades — Night’s Hicksville Pines Chalet Bud and Breakfast in Pine Cove won a place in Fodor’s Travel Guides Top 100 Hotels in the World for 2018.

Hicksville Pines is one of only 15 in the United States to be chosen and one of only two in California in Fodor’s top 100. The other California hotel is the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, a grand dame of great hotels. When it was built before the 1906 earthquake, it was the largest and most expensive hotel in the world, according to Fodor’s.

For Hicksville to join the Palace reveals a bit about Fodor’s approach to guiding travelers to special destinations.

Not singlehandedly, but with imagination and determination, Eugene Fodor began introducing tourists to travel destinations with the publication of his first guide bguidebook6. He started publishing travel guides in Europe because those he found were, in his words, “boring.” His first publication was a book — “On the Continent – The Entertaining Travel Annual.”

“Entertaining” is the key word in this title. In “On the Continent,” Fodor showed his own playfulness in writing about Rome. “Rome contains not only magnificent monuments, but also Italians,” he winked.

And in selecting the top 15 hotels in the U.S. for 2018, editors used terms to justify their U.S. choices such as “cool factor,” “cultural vibes,” “flamboyant,” fabulous,” “outdoorsman appeal” and “dazzling architecture,” demonstrating their continuing commitment to fun and entertainment as part of their recommendations.

In the intro to their 2018 list of Fodor’s Finest, editors wrote, “We hear it year after year: The number one thing our readers want when they travel is a unique experience … something new, something undiscovered. You want to be surprised and swept away. The 100 properties on this list are certainly some of the best hotels in the world, but they’re also some of the dreamiest, most swoon-worthy and sometimes, most unusual this world has to offer.

“We also wanted to pay special attention to pricing. What’s an incredible experience if you can’t afford it?”

Pines rooms are in the ballpark of common Idyllwild inns’ pricing, making their affordability a standout with other featured Fodor hotels.

Prior to opening Hicksville in August 2017, Night brought in chosen friends to help decorate themed rooms, each room occupying an iconic place in Night’s childhood and upbringing. From David Lynch to Disneyland to John Waters to Dolly Parton to burlesque, to bong celebrants Cheech and Chong, there is something of Night as a young child, as an adolescent and as a man-child in each of these 10 rooms.

“It feels great to be on this list,” said Night in interview. “But any list without the Madonna Inn [San Luis Obispo – with its over the top kitsch factor] may be suspect,” he laughed.

Night said he had no idea Hicksville was being considered by Fodor’s for their top 100 world list. “We get lots of photo requests,” he remembered. “We sent some in. There was no interview request.” Night noted it is especially satisfying that Hicksville was honored given its marijuana-friendly vibe and, as one of the first “bud and breakfast” establishments, part of Night’s objective to build a community of guests who feel welcome in a growing subculture. “I feel so grateful that Hicksville has become a place of community rather than just a place for people to stay.”

Each of the 15 U.S. hotels on the 2018 Fodor’s list has a tag line. For the Palace in San Francisco, it is “tried and true.” For Hicksville Pines in Idyllwild/Pine Cove, it is “weird and wonderful.”

Night noted that his guests, not just on the Hill but also from his Joshua Tree Hicksville Trailer Palace and Artist Retreat, are repeat guests who become entranced with the locales and communities. “So many of Hicksville Pines first-time guests said they had no idea Idyllwild was here,” said Night. “Now they’re regulars and introducing others to the Hill. The comment I hear is that Idyllwild is ‘adorable.’ Soon they’re picking up real estate brochures for properties here, just as I did.”

Night is planning improvements this year, including a plan to add a meal service café to the property — a sit-down breakfast and lunch café catering to guests and locals. Knowing that county permitting can be stressful, he offered, in his typical upbeat assessment, “I’ll just be patient and keep my fingers crossed.”

For more on the Fodor 2018 top 100, visit www.fodors.com/worlds-best-hotels.

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