Shooting Star: Cool Lodging in Hot Country

Mid-century Airstream resort & drive-in movie in southern Utah

The Shooting Star Drive-In is the coolest resort ever. And in the hotland of southern Utah, any kind of cool is welcome — both culturally cool and temperature cool at this time of year. Located just west of the wee town of Escalante, Utah, the Shooting Star features accommodations in a small fleet of of mid-century Airstream trailers moored amid fields of desert plants, furnished with vintage artifacts themed from old movies and mercifully air conditioned.

Almost all the Airstreams are staggered from their neighbors for a bit of privacy. Each has a deck and a grill for cooking out. Inside, each has a small but complete kitchen too.

Each trailer is named after a different movie star and recalls trailers they might have stayed in while shooting a movie.” My three-night home is Ann’s Cabana, honoring Ann-Margret in her, um, Elvis phase.

Retro ’60s fabric on the dining area benches, but above is a 21st-century flat-screen TV. Retro goes only so far, so no boxy old Philco or RCA black-and-white TVs here.
The big comfortable bed made up with quality bedding almost takes up the entire bedroom. In the evening, when the desert cools off, open windows provide comfortable cross-ventilation in the pre-cooled Airstream.
A bathing suit in the style of Ann-Margret serves as colorful art on the faux wood panel bedroom wall.

 

The Shooting Star is a dream-come-true for Mark Gudenas, the proprietor and host of this unique resort. He says. “My earliest memory was being in my pajamas in the back seat of my parents’ Hudson at the age of two, watching ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ at the Double Drive-In on Southwest Highway in Chicago.” Since then, drive-ins, old movies and classic Airstream trailers occupied increasingly important parts of his life. He discovered Escalante in 2001 and added the place to his passions. Eight years later, he left California and bought a failing (or failed?) RV park and put in the Shooting Star Drive-In Resort. He remains a congenial and enthusiastic host.

Mark Gudenas at the popcorn machine in the concession Airstream in his drive-in.

By day, guests leave their Airstreams to explore nearby Escalante Petrified Forest State Park to hike, fish, paddle or picnic, or the fantastic Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, nearly 1.9 million acres of public land to explore on foot, on mountain bike or via 4WD vehicle. Two spectacular national parks — Zion and Bryce Canyon — are also within day-trip distance.

Wide Hollow Reservoir and Escalante Petrified State Forest are literally around the corner from the Airstream Resort.
Bryce Canyon National Park’s dramatic hoodoos are a bit father afield.

In the evening, guests return to their Airstreams to relax, perhaps fire up the grill and cook up items from a “grill pack” that can be pre-ordered and after dark, head over to the drive-in, buy nostalgia-inducing candy (Necco wafers are my faves because there are a lot of them), settle into a vintage convertible with the top down and watch an old movie. “Some Like It Hot” was playing. It was as funny as ever. But as the skies darkened a a jillion stars twinkled in the ink-black desert sky, I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the screen.

Shooting Star Drive-In’s screen and a couple of is convertibles.
Candy, snacks and toys in the Airstream that serves as the drive-in’s concession stand.

The Shooting Star Drive-In is at 2020 West Highway 12 and the mailing address is P.O. Box 290, Escalante, UT 84726. The phone number is 435-826-4440, and the Email address is info@shootingstardrive-in.com, or click on their online contact form.

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