The Button King Museum, Bishopville, South Carolina

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By far my favorite roadside attraction from our southern road trip, the Button King Museum represents the eccentric life’s work of 84 year old Dalton Stevens, the self styled “Button King.” 
In 1983, when insomnia kept him awake far after TV programming cut off at 2am, Steven’s search for entertainment led him to start sewing buttons on a denim suit, the beginning of a prodigious button sewing (and gluing) career. His museum sits in front of his house, off a country road near Bishopville, South Carolina, and houses the original denim suit, two cars, an outhouse, a coffin (that he hopes to be buried in), and more button covered odds and ends.
The museum seems to be open pretty much any time Stevens is home, and he was quick to come down and say hello when he noticed we’d stopped. He was incredibly sweet, happy to answer questions and pose for photos after donning his button uniform. Not at all media shy, he offered to sing a song and encouraged me to record it. (Check out the video at the bottom of the post). 
The walls of the museum are covered with memorabilia from his media appearances, at its height in the late 80s and early 90s. He was even sent on a promotional tour of Japan by the Iris Button Co! Now a widower and less active in the media, he says he loves the company from visitors to his museum…seriously, go visit this man!
  The coffin that Stevens hopes to be buried in. He damaged his first button coffin when he accidentally locked himself in after climbing in for a nap!
The Button King Museum
Address: 55 Joe Dority Rd, Bishopville, SC
Hours: no formal hours, the museum seems to be open whenever Stevens is home. Roadside America says you can call 803-236-6096 to check before you visit. 
Admission: free, but donations are accepted

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

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Grand Budapest Hotel Lookalikes

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

I walked out of Wed Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel dying to take a trip to the fictional (but why?!) Grand Budapest, as it was in the 1930s. While there is no “real” Grand Budapest to journey to, production designers took inspiration from real historic hotels– and I’ve dug up some great lookalikes!

In no particular order, 6 amazing real-life hotels that will help fill the Grand Budapest shaped hole in your heart:

1. Taleon Imperial Hotel

Far from the alpine setting of the Budapest, the Taleon Imperial Hotel sits on the Moika River in St Petersburg, Russia. This luxury hotel boasts a salmon pink facade and predilection for red in the interior design that can’t help but bring to mind our imaginary hotel.

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

2. Grandhotel Pupp

Cited by the production designers as one of their sources of inspiration, the Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic has retained much of it’s historic elegance, though sadly you’ll find neither 30s nor 60s design in the sleek and modern baths.

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

However, you will find a dead ringer for the Budapest’s deer overlook in the town of Karlovy Vary!

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

And, if you needed a little more inspiration to visit Karlovy Vary, check out the facade of the Bristol Palace Hotel, almost certainly a source of inspiration for the Grand Budapest:

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

3. Hotel Gellert

The stunning thermal baths are the draw at Hotel Gellert in Budapest, Hungary, as the guest rooms seem to have been mostly recently updated in the early 80s. Day visitors can pay to use the baths (which are actually run separately from the hotel), so stay elsewhere, bring your swim cap and hope that Ralph Fiennes will be there waiting for you ;)

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

4. Grandhotel Giessbach

The historic Grandhotel Giessbach sits high above Lake Brienz, in Switzerland, and offers access from the pier below via a funicular railway! (In retrospect, I ought to have prioritized the list and made this number 1, purely on the strength of the funicular.)

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

5. New York Palace

Part of what makes the Grand Budapest Hotel feel so grand is the multi-story open atrium lobby. The second Budapest hotel on the list, the New York Palace, has a similarly stunning atrium lobby. (If you like the atrium lobby concept, check out my post on West Baden Springs Hotel here in the US.)

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

6. Hotel Miradouro

If you’re looking for the 1960s vibe that Jude Law’s young writer encountered on his visit to the Grand Budapest, Hotel Miradouro in Porto, Portugal is just the ticket, with some pretty fantastic original 60s decor!

Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey
Searching for the Real Grand Budapest Hotel: 6 Amazing Real Life Hotels Worth the Journey

Joe Ley Antiques, Louisville KY

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Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Housed in a sprawling three story former schoolhouse, Joe Ley Antiques in Louisville, KY is a visual feast and a tourist destination in itself.

With nearly every spare inch crammed full, our hour spent there was hardly enough time to fully explore, but the parking meter (and dinner) were calling. Even if you’re not out to purchase anything, the eclectic selection makes for fun browsing.

Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight
Joe Ley Antiques | Thought & Sight

Address: 615 E Market St, Louisville, KY 40202, USA

Website: http://www.joeley.com/

Cost: free to browse

The Historic West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort

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A Stay at the Gorgeous West Baden Springs Hotel

After an hour on a two-lane state route winding through the country– accompanied by much anticipation– we rolled up to the magnificent West Baden Springs Hotel, nestled just outside a small town in the rolling hills of Southern Indiana.

In the hotel’s heyday in the 1910s and 20s, it offered a host of entertainment options including mineral springs baths, two golf courses, bowling, a theater, and a covered two-story bicycle track! Nowadays, with the springs sealed over and entertainment options rather more limited, the grandness of the hotel feels a bit out of place.

Restored after years of dilapidation and neglect, today the West Baden Springs hotel is part of a resort complex that includes a second historic hotel, casino and golf course, and is a mere hour’s drive from Louisville.

Clearly it would be unfair to imply that there is nothing to do in the vicinity of this historic gem; for us, the hotel was a destination in itself.


The stunning domed atrium. All that gorgeous natural light!

West Baden Springs hotel was opened to great fanfare in 1902, advertised as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and boasted the world’s largest free span dome (an achievement not overtaken until the 1960s by Houston’s Astrodome).

When the depression hit 27 years later, the hotel limped along for several years, until it was closed and then sold to a Jesuit seminary for just $1.

Rooms at West Baden Springs Hotel

The circular hotel offers rooms that overlook the domed atrium, as well as rooms with exterior views. We got a balcony room overlooking the atrium, which was well worth the splurge.

The view was gorgeous, and even with the cold winter weather outside, it was surprisingly warm and cozy out on the balcony.

And our lovely room! (continuing my grand tradition of never remembering to take hotel photos until I’ve messed up the bed).

I love having a separate water closet!

The Lobby and Amenities at West Baden Springs

If you can pull yourself away from your balcony, the large lobby is beautifully restored, with plenty of spaces for lounging.

Looking out into the atrium from inside the cozy hotel bar.

The indoor pool. There is a second pool out the doors just to the right…and it did look like it was heated, but we weren’t keen on venturing into the cold to try it out!

The hotel even has a small museum, with historical information and items like the original hotel china.

Above, the exterior entrance to the dining room. While the majority of the restoration of the restaurant was unremarkable, the ceiling was quite lovely, and I wish I’d thought to snap a photo with my dslr, but see my Instagram here.

The Hotel Grounds

The grounds are no doubt prettier and much more pleasant to explore in the summer (which, not coincidentally is the hotel’s high season), yet there’s something really wonderful about basking in the warmth and abundance of natural light in the atrium in the middle of the winter. Still, we took some time to explore the grounds before retreating back into the cozy atrium.

Above and below, two of the original springs houses. Sadly, the springs were sealed over by the Jesuit school that occupied the hotel for three decades, in part because they were prone to flooding.

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source

The building and grounds in their original splendor, and then in disrepair in 1995 after enduring wear and dismantling at the hands of the school, followed by nearly a decade of abandonment.

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source
West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source

And a couple more to illustrate the incredible amount of restoration work that had to be done!

West Baden Springs Hotel at French Lick Resort  | Thought & Sight
photo source

A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio

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A Christmas Story House

Did you know that the house from the A Christmas Story movie is fully restored and open for tours in Cleveland, Ohio? Just in time for Christmas, we made the trek to the original A Christmas Story house to drum up some Christmas cheer! Despite the movie being a holiday tradition for us, and growing up in Ohio, I’d somehow never made the pilgrimage till now.

We weren’t the only ones looking for some last minute Christmas fun, but the line stretching down the block moved fairly quickly.

A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio

A glimpse of the infamous leg lamp in the window while waiting in line.

A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio

And finally welcomed into the house, you’ll see the “fra-jee-lay” leg lamp shipping container sitting right inside the front door.

A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio

And of course, the main photo-op spot, the glorious leg lamp. They told us this sadly isn’t the original from the movie, but it makes little difference for that leg lamp selfie you’ll be instagramming!

A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio
A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio
A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio

The ill fated turkey in the cute, retro kitchen.

A Christmas Story House in Cleveland, Ohio

Naturally, there were bunny jammies for the whole family and leg lamps available in the gift shop. Nowhere near Cleveland this holiday season? You can still snag a leg lamp and bunny suit for your loved ones on Amazon.

If you’re thinking about visiting the house, they’re currently open 7 days a week, year around, but be sure tocheck out their website to verify details and plan your visit.

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Redstone, Colorado

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While exploring the area on our hot springs trip, we drove past these beautiful, crumbling coke ovens in Redstone, Colorado.

 Intended as “enlightened industrial paternalism”, the little village of Redstone was created for employees of John Cleveland Osgood’s coal mining business in the late 1800s. The original town, complete with an inn, library, school, bathhouse, theater and clubhouse, included 84 cottages– many of which are still in use today.

Nowadays, the village is fairly heavy on the commercial quaintness, so I didn’t think to grab a picture, which I regretted once I read up on the place and wished for a comparison photo to post! Here’s a photo of some of the original cottages:

And the coke ovens when they were in use:

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

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Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs and Cabins

If you follow on Instagram, you’ve already gotten a preview of our trip to Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs. After months of work in Colorado Springs, it was wonderful to get out to gorgeous Western Colorado, and wow, was it worth it!

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

The view from pretty much anywhere on the grounds was gorgeous, and while it was rainy for a good portion of our stay, I was lucky enough to wake up to fluffy snowflakes on our last morning. I snapped some photos, then promptly jumped in the springs for one last soak.

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

There is a top tier with two small pools that cascade down into a larger (but cooler) pool in front of the barn. The springs are open to day visitors, but guests have 24 hour access. The area is minimally lit at night (so I couldn’t snap any good nighttime photos), and incredibly relaxing and romantic. And because our stay was mid-week when they’re not too busy, we had the pools completely to ourselves at night!

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

Right in front of the gate to the pools is this little cabin with a wooden soaking tub. It’s a bit of a chilly dash from the springs pools, yet completely worth it once you’re ensconced in the tub!

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

We stayed in a cabin, but they also have these cute gypsy wagon campers, which looked like they’d be a ton of fun for kids.

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

Our Cabin at Avalanche Ranch

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

Our cozy cabin (we got the “Cider House”) was so cute!

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

The view was amazing! As you can see, it was rainy and snowy during our visit, but not too cold, making for perfect weather to soak in the hot springs.

Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs
Avalanche Ranch Hot Springs

The hot springs pools are open 24 hours for guests, and our little red stove was fantastic to come back to after a late night soak!

Now that I’m leaving Colorado, I’m wishing that we’d made it out to the gorgeous Roaring Fork valley earlier! Since we won’t be here long enough to take advantage of ski season, I’m already dreaming of coming back later this winter…

Denver Botanic Gardens

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  Denver’s gorgeous Botanic Gardens are among the nicest I’ve been to, and with all the autumn colors on display right now, I can’t imagine it being any more beautiful in the summer. As always, I want to lock myself in the tropical greenhouse come December and refuse to leave until spring! Luckily, it was sunny and nearly 70 during our time there, so I didn’t need any coaxing to explore the rest of the grounds:

Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico | Thought & SightWe took a quick weekend trip to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico last weekend…
 While Taos was lovely (with an unbelievably blue sky!), you’ll notice that I don’t have any photos from Santa Fe to share with you. Both are tourist destinations, yet what I saw of Santa Fe was just too commercial and sterile to be compelling (I am, however, happy to report that if you’re in the market for a goth-wild west-prostitute costume, or cheap, clunky southwestern jewelry, Santa Fe has you covered).
Taos, on the other hand, charmed me with it’s reassuringly narrow, crumbling sidewalks, and an abundance of character. In the face of so many twee, bland towns that are barely distinguishable from a large shopping mall, I find that I take sincere delight in something as silly as a poorly kept-up sidewalk. While not a large town by any means, we spent a pleasant art and food filled afternoon wandering around Taos:
Taos, New Mexico | Thought & Sight Taos, New Mexico | Thought & Sight
The small, but beautifully curated Harwood Museum.
Taos, New Mexico | Thought & Sight
 Fantastic food on the patio at La Cueva.
Taos, New Mexico | Thought & SightTaos, New Mexico | Thought & Sight
Taos Cow ice cream! I had the Sweet Cream and the Lavender, both of which were delicious.