A stop along the road, a place beside the pool

The pool area – including the diving board and surrounding pool deck, catwalks and stairs — was a centerpiece of the midcentury roadside motel. Similarly, elaborate cabana courts were a glamorous feature of upscale oceanfront resorts like the Americana and the Fontainebleau. These indoor-outdoor spaces, furnished with patio furniture and beach mats, faced the beach or surrounded the pool.

Grand / Modest

It is striking how similar the poolside environment of roadside motels, and cabana complexes, really are. At the modest roadside motel, the pool was a family zone, a space to relax and engage in all sorts of fun activities. In the grand resort hotel, it acted as a fishbowl of libertine allusion, a place to see and be seen. In either environment, around the pool, tourists experienced a new and often liberating “bathing suit existence,” a chance to revert to more playful identities.


Americans criss-crossed the US in their cars in record numbers in the 1960s. The motels lining U.S. Highway 1 heading south catered to these motor-tourists, providing fun and affordable places to stay the night or the week. Here, families could park right at the door of their room, and then relax, play games, and even eat their meals in and around the pool.


In the 1950s and ‘60s, Hollywood movies celebrated the idea of the “cabana existence.” Stars like Frank Sinatra, Raquel Welch, Jill St. John and Sean Connery donned swimsuits and terry cloth rompers for comedies and dramas alike. Tourists could experience a real-life shot of easy glamour by occupying their own cabana.


These central zones of activity in both the roadside motels and the upscale resorts of the day were all about playfulness and the pursuit of fun. Follies, or whimsical structures with no practical purpose, were found throughout the roadside motels and poolside at swank resort hotels.

Exclusive Savings At Universal Orlando Resort

Pixie Dust Isn't The Only Magic in Orlando!

Discover the magic of the Universal Orlando Resort with exclusive money saving offers from Magical Journeys.

Share This