Holiday Inn Holidomes

As you may remember, for most of my life, my dad traveled for his business. In the summer when I was out of school, there was nothing I liked more than to go with him on his trips every week. While I really enjoyed the road trip itself, most of the time it was the hotels and motels that I got the most enjoyment from.

We didn’t have cable at home, so staying somewhere that did was awesome. Being able to watch AWA Wrestling on ESPN, or catch an episode of The Brady Bunch on TBS which was a TV show that I never knew existed until I saw it on cable in a hotel room. Then there was the fact that dinner most nights while traveling was pizza ordered from Dominos, which we also didn’t have in our area. We stayed in every hotel imaginable. From Best Westerns to Motel 6’s, to mom-and-pop roadside dives, my favorite place to stay was Holiday Inns which had a Holidome.

The Holidomes were like mini amusement parks within the hotel. They all varied somewhat from each other, but some of the common features they had were things like swimming pools, hot tubs, putting greens, air hockey tables, and arcade games. A kid like me could find plenty to do in a Holidome.

The Holidome kind of came in existance in the late 60s’ or early 70’s as some of the Holiday Inn chain owners in the north searched for a solution to their swimming pool problem. That problem being that were were pretty useless nine months out of the year in colder climates. At one Holiday Inn location in North Dakota, the owner built a dome over his pool so it could be enjoyed year round. It didn’t take long for other owners to do the same, and from there it wasn’t long before those owners started adding other little attractions inside the dome to go along with the pool.

Holiday Inn itself took notice and branded these add-ons as Holidomes, and started building them big enough to not only house pools and games, but large spaces that could be rented out for buisness conferences, reunions, and whatever else required a space big enough for a large gathering of people.

After becoming a success in the north, the idea was adopted in other parts of the country too, and became quite poplular in Florida. I guess families going on vacation to Florida could book a stay at a Holidome, and if the weather outside was crap, they could still turn the kids loose in the Holidome for all kinds of fun instead.

I can remember staying at several Holidomes around the country when I was traveling with dad, but one sticks out in particular. I can’t remember the city or town we were in, but I do remember that it was in Pennsylvania. After a dinner that was most likely Domino’s pizza, I headed to the main area of the Holidome for some play time. I can’t recall everything this particular one had to offer, but I certainly remember the pool.

I didn’t know how to swim, so whenever I got into a pool I made sure to stay at the shallow end. There were no diving boards and the like for me. Nope, I pretty much just waded around in waist deep water for the most part. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I fell into the pool on this night. I can remember falling in and flailing away, and then I remember waking up with my brother crouched over me by the side of the pool and he was dripping wet. I had taken water into my lungs I guess and blacked out. He had pulled me out of the pool and pumped the water from my chest just like you see on TV shows and movies.

That event pretty scarred me for life when it comes to water, and I still haven’t learned to swim. From that point on, I never had the desire to go underwater. Hell, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the desire to go under on that night either. But I don’t hold any of this against the Holidome. I loved those places too much to hold a grudge.

Holidomes started going out of style in the late ’80s, and by the early ’90s almost all of them had seen their better days. So when I started traveling for a living in the 2000’s, even though there are still a few scattered around, there were none to be found on my travels. But if there had been, I would have surely stayed at them. ANd it would have been a great time too. Eating DOminos pizza for dinner, and then hitting the Holidome for air hockey, video games, and putting greens.

Here is a home video taken in 1991 of a Holidome in Sharonville OH

3 thoughts on “Holiday Inn Holidomes

  1. The Holidome in Alexandria, MN is still a Holiday Inn, still a Holidome, and was remodeled around 2017. And the restaurant is fantastic.

  2. Great story, Mick! At one of my previous airlines we stayed at a Holiday Inn in Albany, New York on our layovers that had a holidome! I wish I had known at the time and appreciated it more, I just thought it was a unique one off. Cool!

  3. Oh, that’s interesting! There was a Holiday Inn nearby here in Toronto that had something like that, but I didn’t know it had a name. Sadly, they tore it down sometime in the last couple of years, which really sucks — it was a nice little getaway spot for my wife and I to get out for a day or two.

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