I have traveled a lot over the years. My American Airlines account boasts 1.3 million miles. You can only imagine how many hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts and inns I’ve stayed in. While most have been adequate, a few were downright scary. And I can count on my two hands those I would rate with five stars.
When it comes to overnight accommodations, I don’t care that much about how pretty the lobby might be — if the place has bell service, bottles of French water or movies on demand. What I need is a hotel in a safe location with impeccable cleanliness, a comfortable bed, a hot shower, soft towels and a TV with at least a few channels.
While still living in California, we had some work done at our home, requiring us to be away for two nights. I booked a room at a nearby hotel and nearly passed out when I saw the tab: $388 for two nights. Sure, that included parking and breakfast, but come on. We’d be there 20 hours tops, 16 of them sleeping. All we needed was a place to unwind, shower and sleep. When I couldn’t get that $388 number out of my mind, I decided to check around.
In the 30 years of living there, I’d driven past Don’s Turf Motel at least a thousand times — and it made me laugh every time. A throwback to the 1950s, I could just see Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel pulling into this place on their way to Hollywood.
This is a vintage motel, where every room has an outside entrance, and the lobby is a counter marked “Office.” Behind the counter is a wall of pigeonholes with big plastic fobs and real keys on them, one for each of the 42 rooms.
I read some of the most intriguing reviews online for Don’s Turf Motel (located near the Los Alamitos Race Course, thus the turf designation). The reviews were so positive I decided to cancel the $388 reservation and booked us for two nights at Don’s. The rate currently? $75.60 per night. Parking is free.
Driving onto the property, I wasn’t impressed. It looked a little dumpy. We stopped at the office to check in. Things began to look up as we were greeted by the nicest people, who handed us our key and sanitized TV remote control. Immediately, I was taken by the sparkling pool and manicured grounds. Nothing fancy, mind you, but extremely well-cared for and inviting.
We found our room and chuckled as we walked in. No-frills here. None. Not a picture on the wall; no internet service. The room consisted of an excellent quality bed, a small table, two chairs, a desk, microwave oven, refrigerator and telephone. Each one of these items was freshly cleaned and shined. The analog TV offered a basic channel lineup.
What this room lacked in fancy upgrades it more than made up for in cleanliness. Every painted surface appeared to have been freshly painted, the sheets ironed, the bedspread freshly laundered. The commercial-grade carpet was so clean it appeared to be new.
The towels and bathmat were fluffy and pristine. The tub shower was certainly not new, but there was not a scratch, not a crack, not a hint of mildew, not a stain, not a molecule of scum or residue. The chrome shone like a new penny.
The shower curtain was squeaky clean, bright and white. The toilet seat had a paper band across it announcing that it had been 100% sanitized. We found two tiny bars of soap, one extra roll of toilet tissue and that’s it. No hairdryer, no shampoo, conditioner or body lotion; no mouthwash, shoeshine mitt, shower cap or sewing kit.
Amenities? Forget it. Don’s Turf Motel has no room service, no food options and no binders of local information. You will not find valet parking or bell staff; there’s no concierge or shuttle bus. Don’t expect frequent flyer points or breakfast. No bottles of water with $10 price tags, no minibar with $15 cashews. You won’t get an electronic key or a TV with games and movies on demand.
Absolutely no pets, partying or smoking is allowed at Don’s Turf Motel. And if you want to eat a meal, you’re on your own. But don’t worry. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance, including Costco, home of the $1.50 all-beef hot dog with large drink combo.
What you will get at this unique vintage motel is a great night of sleep, one of the cleanest rooms I have ever seen in all the years I’ve traveled, very nice staff and the services of professional housekeepers. I want to take lessons from the people who care for these rooms. They deserve awards and accolades.
And now for the bonus round: Centrally located and with a freeway close on Katella Ave. in Los Alamitos, Don’t Turf Motel is six miles from Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, nine miles from Disneyland in Anaheim and 10 miles from Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
Don’s Turf Motel gets five stars from your humble columnist for the best inexpensive accommodation in a very expensive tourist area. Now that the word’s out, I suggest you book early if you see a trip to California in your future, and this is the kind of overnight accommodation that appeals to you and your wallet. The only way to book a room is to call 562-431-6563, every day, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
If you’re embarrassed to let your friends and family know you will not be staying at one of the ultra-expensive destination hotels, don’t sweat it. Just tell them you’ll be playing by day and staying at Uncle Don’s by night.
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