The Astro Motel has long been a Santa Rosa landmark, but not in a good way. Now thanks to the vision of a team of locals, a once-dismal, by-the-hour roadside dump has been scrubbed clean and reborn as a retro-chic Wine Country destination that's affordable too.
Located in the heart of Santa Rosa's resurgent SoFA (South of A Street) Arts District, the 1963 motor lodge is the recent beneficiary of a major renovation on the part of some passionate locals, including chef and restaurateur Liza Hinman and her partner Eric Anderson of nearby SoFA restaurant The Spinster Sisters, along with cycling champion Andy Hampsten.
"Into the '80s and '90s, the whole neighborhood in this part of Santa Rosa really fell into a downslide and it became known as a kind of seedy part of town. The Astro was definitely known as a place to party, a place to rent by the hour—it had a certain reputation," Hinman recalls. "But intrepid people started finding these gems of houses, fixer-uppers, in the 2000s, and started recognizing that there were these sort of hidden secrets to this neighborhood."
In many ways, The Astro 2.0 sticks to its 1960s roots—you'll find vintage books and toys in the lobby for children and child-like adults—but it also looks to a vibrant future. With a bright blue and orange color scheme, an LED rocket ship sign, and the second-floor metal railing that mimics a circuit board (both designed by local Santa Rosa artist Todd Barricklow), The Astro gives off some serious Jetsons vibes.
In a tribute to SoFA, the Astro team called upon several local artists and artisans to add stylish touches and leave their mark on the motel, including wood slab headboards, cast concrete sinks, and delightfully-tiled Insta-worthy bathrooms.
Moreover, no abode at The Astro is the same. Each of the 34 rooms is individually furnished with mid-century modern pieces—art, light fixtures, rugs, side tables, chairs, cameras, and more—collected from online auctions and shipped in from all over the country.
See something you love? Buy it and take it home. The team at The Astro will simply replace it with something else that they have stored away in shipping containers (they have so much stuff, they're planning on opening a furniture store next door). But be prepared to shell out some dough—one antique hand-tied rug, for instance, is priced at $695 (equivalent to roughly four nights at the Astro).
Inspired by Hampsten's involvement and Santa Rosa's spirited cycling community, the Astro also has a fleet of Shinola bikes available for rent and an on-site Bike Somm who can recommend the best nearby trails, help with assembly, and assist with repairs.
While you're there:
The Astro welcomes visitors to stay and support the city of Santa Rosa, which inarguably suffered the most devastation from the recent North Bay wildfires, and there's plenty to do within the couple blocks that make up the quirky SoFA. Brunch on organic and sustainable fare at The Naked Pig, where the homemade drop biscuits with wildflower honey are a must-order; walk through the sprawling Julliard Park; and meander through the many local art galleries hidden in the neighborhood alleyways. You can sip your way through Santa Rosa's booming craft beer scene—grab a pint of Pliny at Russian River (within walking distance) or visit the less-crowded HenHouse—or use the Astro as a jumping off point for a Wine Country weekend. Your stay also comes with a $15 dining credit at The Spinster Sisters, which will cover the cost of our two favorite starters: Brussels sprout chips and smoked Medjool dates, stuffed with goat cheese and hazelnuts and topped with a balsamic reduction.
// Rates start at $160/night; The Astro Motel, 323 Santa Rosa Ave. (Santa Rosa), theastro.com.