2016-06-01 / Features

Out of Town by Sundown

Four Funky Airbnb Accommodations for a Great Getaway
Jill Gleeson | Photos by Matt Fern

Somewhere between a vacation and a staycation lies one of adulthood’s greatest treats: the overnight. Whether you’re one-half of a couple looking to fan some flames, part of a girlfriend posse out to bond with a wine-fueled PJ party, or just craving a little solo time to reflect and recharge, an overnight getaway — and the doubly delightful weekend retreat — is good for the spirit. And anyway summertime, as we all know, is funnertime, the perfect time of year to get while the gettin’s good, even if it’s just across town.

To help get you stoked for your sunny season sabbatical, we scoped out four properties on Airbnb, the online marketplace for people to list and book unconventional accommodations — and it’s just a taste of what’s out there. All offer pleasures so unique they’ll make you think twice about that old adage that getting there is half the fun.

The Healthy Hideaway
Tucked away just outside of Huntingdon on 80 acres of forests and fields is a delightful anomaly: a spot-on replica of a traditional Norwegian farm outbuilding called a stabbur. Built in 1998 by Dr. J.J. Henry and his wife, Jane, out of timber harvested from trees Henry planted himself, the log cabin most closely resembles an oversized birdhouse. Inside are two levels. The first includes a bathroom, shower and sauna; the second a living room, kitchenette and two ultra-cozy full-sized bed nooks. Although the stabbur garners rave reviews from guests, the Henrys, who own the Inn at Solvang on the same property, were long reticent about sharing their personal haven with the public.

“Dr. Henry’s family was Norwegian and he lived in Norway for several years — that’s what inspired that building,” Stephanie Fisher, the Inn at Solvang’s innkeeper, explains. “Right after it was built, people who were staying at the Inn started asking if they could see the inside of it. I kind of talked Dr. Henry into letting certain visitors tour it, and then he agreed to open it up as a rental to our tried-and-true guests. Last fall we began offering it through Airbnb, and it’s been a great success.”

The Lowdown: The stabbur, which is about 35 minutes from State College, is equipped with a television, DVD player and DVDs but no WiFi. Use the time you would have spent online to decompress in the sauna, an experience every Norwegian will tell you heals body and soul. In the morning, enjoy a self-catered breakfast with homemade specialties including baked goods and eggs to prepare in the kitchenette, or see if the innkeepers might have room at the table in the big house. Finish off your wellness weekend with a hike on the trails that crisscross the property, or try your luck in the nearby fishing streams.

The Upshot: The word is out about this supremely relaxing Scandinavian-style cabin — weekend nights, which go for $229, can sell out months in advance. Weeknights are $199; there is a two-night minimum stay, a cleaning fee of $40 and a 15 percent weekly discount. After two guests there is a $25 upcharge per night.

Pro Tip: Fans of the written word will want to while away significant hours reclining with their favorite tome in those snug nooks, which boast not only bookshelves, skylights and privacy curtains but reading lamps as well. For more information, visit

The Railroad Respite
Pretty much guaranteed to drive the train enthusiast in your life absolutely bonkers with glee, this vintage 1941 caboose makes for a festive night away for everybody else, too. Owned by the Clinton County Historical Society, the caboose rests on decommissioned tracks in Castanea, next door to Lock Haven and 40 miles from State College. The site also features a train station that dates to 1884, a re-creation of a 1932 railroad water tank that serves as an information kiosk, and a box car from the early 1950s. The star of the show, however, is the sweet little caboose, manufactured by the Pennsylvania Railroad in Altoona and lovingly restored over several years by former CCHS President John Gummo and his wife, Joyce.

The Gummos gifted the caboose to the historical society, which has been renting it seasonally from about May to October since 2013. The interior remains much the same as it was when conductors used it as private quarters but for the modern toilet and shower, tucked discreetly behind sliding doors. The caboose sleeps two on individual berths and draws guests of all kinds looking for a little adventure. “Fathers have come with their sons for Little League World Series,” recalls CCHS President Jo Ann Bowes, “and two women used it for a reunion. One lived in Philadelphia, the other lived in Pittsburgh, and so they met here. We also had a wife who surprised her husband on their anniversary — he loved trains so they came here.”

The Lowdown: Bring the Scrabble board, or settle in for an evening of chatting — the caboose is without a television, WiFi or any kitchen equipment beyond a microwave, small refrigerator and coffee maker. But with accommodations this unique, who wants electronic distractions? Also be sure to pack towels, linens, blankets and pillows, which aren’t provided; sleeping bags to pad the very firm sleeping berths might be your best bet.

The Upshot: For a mere $62 weeknights and $72 a night weekends, with a 15 percent weekly discount, why wouldn’t you want to spend the night in a real caboose? Just be sure to reserve early; weekends get booked up fast.

Pro Tip: Before leaving the area, hit up the Train Station restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall joint located a block from the caboose and open for breakfast and lunch. Prices are cheap, portions plentiful, and the food — which includes homemade Pennsylvania staples like scrapple — is incredible. For more information, visit

The Romantic Retreat
This lovely little two-story cottage, built in the late 1800s and beautifully renovated from top to bottom by owners Sarah DePasquale and her husband, Jim Baughman, fairly hums with happy life energy.

Located alongside Elk Creek in Millheim, graced by a bevy of wildlife including great blue herons and wild ducks, the property features two honeybee hives on the upper deck and occasional ladybug visits in the master bedroom. From time to time you might even catch the gentle clip-clop of passing Amish buggies over the water’s gurgle. The home’s joyous vibe no doubt also comes courtesy of DePasquale’s vocation; a midwife, she sometimes sees clients in the house, which doubles as her office when she doesn’t have guests.

The entire place is charming, but most beguiling is perhaps the upstairs, which includes a bathroom with a soaking tub overlooking the creek and antiques like a queen-sized sleigh bed. “My folks moved to a smaller house and they were just getting rid of a lot of it — this is the furniture I grew up with,” notes DePasquale. “The floors on the second level are the original attic flooring. You can’t find wood like this anywhere for any amount of money; you just have to luck into it. I believe they’re hemlock. People really seem to appreciate the cottage.”

The Lowdown: While the cottage’s soothing solitude — cell service is spotty, though WiFi is available — makes it an ideal romantic hideaway, it can sleep up to seven comfortably thanks to a second bedroom and bath as well as a foldout couch and futon bed. There is a hammock, fire pit and picnic area beside the creek. DePasquale provides coffee fixings and healthy baked goods for breakfast, but guests are welcome to avail themselves of the full kitchen.

The Upshot: At $150 a night, this property is worth every penny. DePasquale, who has been renting out the cottage since about 2012, offers a weekly discount of 15 percent and, should you be unable to tear yourself away from that sleigh bed, a 25 percent discount for a month or longer stay. Prices go up $10 a night for more than three people; there is a $30 cleaning fee and $200 security deposit, which is held in PayPal until after checkout.

Pro Tip: Bucolic downtown Millheim, about a 30-minute drive east of State College, is a short walk from the cottage. Don’t miss Elk Creek Café & Aleworks’ superb food and Americana-flavored entertainment, and keep an eye out for special Sunday breakfasts at the Fire Hall for a slice of small-town life at its most delightful. For more information, visit

The Inspiring Intermission
Feeling a little lackluster these days? Need a good dose of youthful creative energy? Book a night or two in the guest quarters of the, an “intentional community” of 20 college students and young professionals ensconced in a renovated 1920s boardinghouse on East Nittany Avenue in State College. A kind of commune for people who hope to be “changemakers,” the, which was founded three years ago, is about fostering ingenuity, imagination and achievement through mentoring and support. The residents’ interests run the gamut from philanthropy to entrepreneurship, sustainability to health and wellness, and most are eager to discuss their projects and passions with visitors.

“We always encourage the residents to interact with anyone coming through the house,” says house manager Dustin Betz. “If you read the Airbnb profile, it’s very clear that this is an alternative student living situation, and we’d like you to interact with the people who live here. There are definitely guests, especially during football season, who are just here for the room, but we also have people who come and hang out with us.”

The Lowdown: The guest suite, located up a very steep staircase in what used to be the servant’s quarters, sports a quirky cave theme. There’s a pick ax hanging in the hallway, a shower with stalactites and a sink that resembles a mini-gold panning operation. The 400-square-foot bedroom offers a twin daybed with a trundle bed underneath, making the accommodations suitable for two people. There’s also a Keurig coffee maker in the room, but the kitchen is accessible to guests. WiFi is available.

The Upshot: A flat $99 nightly rate no matter the season with just a $5 cleaning fee, the’s cave room goes for $500 for a week. There may be no better value come football season in all of Happy Valley, but be aware the house is surrounded by fraternities and student apartments, so ear plugs and a sleep mask are a must for those who like to retire early.

Pro Tip: On Wednesdays and Sundays the residents serve up a house meal and guests are enthusiastically encouraged to join in the food and fun. The also hosts speakers, concerts and other special events that guests are welcome to attend. For more information, visit •SCM

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