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Budget used to mean—at best—boring in the hotel world. But today’s cheap hotels are anything but dull (or dark nor dingy). Check out these design-forward properties around the country that are becoming hot spots for travelers and locals alike.

RELATED: 10 hotels for when you’re young, broke and awesome

Photo courtesy of the Pod

The Pod Washington, DC: Washington, DC

Washington, DC can be very pricey when it comes to finding digs. That’s why the city’s two micro-hotels are welcome additions. Stay at The Pod Washington, DC, located in the heart of Chinatown in the lively Penn Quarter. Sure, the rooms are petite, but they are nice and cozy and optimized for functionality: Bringing along some peas in your pod? Grab connecting rooms with bunk beds. While the rooms are small, the public spaces are sweeping. There’s an art-filled lobby, an AM to PM diner, a rooftop bar with a spectacular view, and a speakeasy-style whiskey bar in the basement.

Photo courtesy of Aloft

Aloft Wichita Northeast: Wichita, Kansas

From the moment you walk into Aloft Wichita Northeast, your expectations of a mellow Midwest may be shattered. The Oz-like colors—bright purple, blue, orange and pink—that welcome you in the lobby may make you believe you’re not in Kansas anymore. Guestrooms are colorful, bright and breezy, with soaring nine-foot ceilings, platform beds and extra-large windows. The spacious and stylish bathrooms have inviting  walk-in showers. The hotel also has a vibrant social scene. No excuses not to partake, because the hotel provides guests with two free signature cocktails at the hip and trendy WXYZ bar each day of their stay.

Photo courtesy of Moxy

Moxy Seattle: Seattle, Washington

Moxy Seattle is perfect for the caffeinated-infused and the creative-enthused. Like its brethren,  Moxy Seattle combines fun-filled public spaces with tiny, but functional rooms. To maximize utility, rooms sport fold-away furniture, under-the-king-size-bed storage and pegs instead of closets. But why hang in your room when there’s so much going on in the lobby? Grab your laptop and head to this multi-use space, where you can  flip through stacks of vinyl or grab drinks at the bar. The hotel is located in the heart of burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood, steps away from Lake Union and its array of water sports.

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Photo courtesy of Unscripted

Unscripted Hotel: Durham, North Carolina

The country’s first Unscripted Hotel is in Durham, North Carolina. Re-imagined from a mid-century landmark motor lodge, it’s quickly becoming a community hot spot for locals and travelers alike. Unscripted Durham rooms blend retro 1960s design with modern functionality and unexpected details, like colorful murals with eye-popping geometric patterns and shapes. There are five food and beverage venues, including one on the rooftop pool deck overlooking the city. Other options for socializing include The Studio, a playful take on the classic mid-century rec room; allday, part coffee bar, part casual meeting hub; and Pour Taproom, a pay-by-the-ounce bar where customers pour their own from 60 plus taps of craft beer, wine and ciders.

Photo courtesy of Hotel Hive

Hotel Hive: Washington, DC

Hotel Hive predates the Pod. DC’s first micro-hotel sits in Foggy Bottom within an easy walk of the National Mall, Kennedy Center and Georgetown. The rooms are simple and stark, with white-washed walls and minimal furnishings.  If you are a light sleeper, stay on the higher floors—they are quieter. Although there are plenty of bars and restaurants in the area, you might be tempted by the fast-casual &Pizza located downstairs. Go on down…or order up pizza for your room.  Up on the rooftop, a bar serves seasonal cocktails for less than $10 a pop.

Photo courtesy of Tru by Hilton

Tru by Hilton: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

In the words of Spandau Ballet, “this much is tru(e).”  Oklahoma City is home to the very first Tru by Hilton. Located right by the Oklahoma River, the hotel is a quick ferry ride away from Bricktown – OKC’s entertainment district. It’s also easy to get to the Boathouse District, where RIVERSPORT Rapids provides in-town opportunities for kayaking and whitewater rafting. When it’s time to go back to the hotel, hang out in Tru’s ginormous lobby, where you can mingle with locals or play table or board games. In the morning, take advantage of the ample free breakfast. Don’t miss the toppings bar with 30 sweet and savory items so you can make anything from a healthy helping to an indulgent morning masterpiece.

Tagged: City, Destinations, Top 10 list, Types of Travel, Washington DC

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