April 9, 2013 at 8:36 AM ET
Last summer, Leslie Su and her husband celebrated their anniversary by heading to the woods in Winters, CA for a romantic, weekend getaway, spending two days and two nights camping creekside. But they didn't pitch a tent; they stayed in a pop-up hotel.
"Everything was set up for us. It was like magic," Su said of the pop-up that they custom-ordered from Shelter Co. Their fully-furnished, canvas luxury shelter was 15-feet wide in diameter, with a double bed and a fully stocked kitchen based on a menu that she and Shelter Co. founder Kelsey Sheofsky created. Amenities included Pendleton blankets, cowhide rugs, and leather butterfly chairs. A solar shower, fireplace, and Adirondack chairs awaited the Sus just outside their room. The two-night stay cost about $2,000, though guests can splurge on add-on services: a full-service butler or a private yoga instructor.
Shelter Co. is not alone. Several hoteliers have created pop-up accommodations to provide one-of-a-kind experiences for their guests, sometimes in conjunction with special events such as Glastonbury Festival. And, like pop-up restaurants and pop-up shops, these temporary quarters offer customers novelty and exclusivity while garnering buzz for proprietors. Pop-up hotels in particular sometimes overlap with another travel trend—"glamping," a more glamorous, upscale version of camping.
"People ask me about my favorite hotels," said Su, who has traveled to far-flung places including Kenya and the Maldives. "Shelter's one of them. We're ready to go back this summer."
Rates vary. Visit for more information.
The Pop-Up Hotel -England
"It's very hard to deliver an exciting experience in a concrete box," said Mark Sorrill, owner and founder of England's The Pop Up Hotel, which launched in 2011. For that reason, he creates what he calls a "deconstructed hotel," a "chameleon-like" form of luxury tent lodging in which the design, amenities, menu, and guest services get "transformed every time we pop up." The hotel will appear at the arts and music extravaganza Glastonbury Festival from June 16-20, 2013. The venture heads to Osborne, Queen Victoria's country retreat, on the Isle of Wight from August 12-30, 2013: "Our guests will get unprecedented access to that estate that has never been given to anybody else," said Sorrill. The Pop-Up Hotel plans to set up camp in the Maldives soon.
Rates and availability vary. thepopuphotel.com
A Room for London - London, England
Some of the best views of London's Big Ben and St. Paul's cathedral can be seen from within a boat perched atop Southbank Centre along the Thames River. "We are intent on making our urban environment as exciting as possible," Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said in a statement. To that end, A Room for London, an art installation commissioned by Living Architecture and inspired by the river journey portrayed in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, provides a surprising sight to onlookers—and a refuge for guests in the middle of bustling London. This pop-up within a boat sleeps two and features a kitchenette, bathroom, viewing deck, library, and a logbook for guests to document their nautical adventures.
Staring at £300 per night. living-architecture.co.uk
"You're in an authentic beachfront cabana falling asleep to the sound of the waves," said Henning A. Schaub, brand experience manager for Design Hotels, of their Papaya Playa location, which went from a six-month pop-up to an ongoing project, thanks to what Schaub called an "outstanding" response from the localcommunity as well as guests.
Situated along a pristine beach, Design Hotels's Mexican outpost launched in 2011 with an emphasis on ecotourism and sustainability. "We're using local materials in the structure of our cabanas. In our restaurant, nothing is [sourced] further away than 100 km," said Schaub. Papaya Playa's earthy ethos includes unplugging from modern conveniences; they have limited electricity and wireless access. For those who crave connectivity, reboot your inner self instead by consulting their shaman.Accommodations range from rustic, shared jungle cabanas to spacious, oceanfront casitas with private decks.
$65 per night. papayaplayaproject.com