Photo: Ryan Lowry

Airbnb Debuts Icons Category With Experiences Like Staying in the ‘Up’ House and Hanging With Kevin Hart

Epic Stays
by Nickolaus Hines May 1, 2024

You likely know Airbnb for its original purpose: finding a place to stay just about anywhere in the world. Maybe you also know it for the exclusive, limited opportunity stays, like a book-filled night at the Hidden Library of St Paul’s Cathedral. On May 1, Airbnb took a step toward making the latter a bigger focus with a new Icons category that puts guests at the center of major cultural locations both real and imagined.

“What I’m about to show you is a decade in the making,” Airbnb cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky said at the launch even in Los Angeles on May 1. He went on to say that 10 years ago, he went to Ikea to get furniture with his roommate and cofounder Joe Gebbia. They passed a show bedroom, and they said, “we should put this on Airbnb,” Chesky recalled. It was a hit. “So we said let’s do it again.”

The last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, was decked out like a living room in the ‘90s and tapped into a deep sense of nostalgia. After the Barbie movie, a house in Malibu was transformed into a Barbieland house complete with all the small details. These limited-time offerings and others like it proved extremely popular.

“They capture people’s imagination and step into other people’s worlds, and that’s what Airbnb does best and has always been about,” Chesky said. “So we asked, ‘what if we took this magic to the next level and you find them right in the app?’”

The inside of the house from Up recreated by Airbnb. Photo: Ryan Lowry

The update comes two years after Airbnb launched its Categories section. At the time, Chesky called the update “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade,” and it came about as a response to the mass of new location-independent workers. It opened the door for users to book a place by type of accommodation rather than destination. Over the past two years, Categories grew to make it easy to find an Airbnb by style (like tiny homes, churches, or windmills), interest (like golfing or skiing), accessibility features, and much more. There’s even an OMG! category for places that don’t seem real like an underwater bungalow or yellow submarine.

Matador’s guides to the best of Airbnb Categories:

Icons get their own category on the homepage. Each is limited, with a countdown that shows when it goes live for guests to request to book the stay or experience. While most are free, there aren’t any Icons priced more than $100 per guest (and there are “no cleaning fees,” Chesky joked at the launch event). In its inaugural year, more than 4,000 digital golden tickets will be available and new opportunities announced through October.

A new room in the Musee d'Orsay designed in partnership with Airbnb, with the Olympic torch near the bed against the clock tower. Photo: Frederik Vercruysse
The room rentable with Airbnb Icons at the Ferrari museum in Italy. Photo: Thomas Prior
Photo: Airbnb
Custom bus that Airbnb guests will stay on for a week with Feid on tour. Photo: Sismatyc
Bollywood star Janhvi Kapoor, whose family home is part of the stays on the new Airbnb Icon category. Photo: House of Pixels
Photo: Eric Ogden
A room in Airbnb's 2D X-Mansion. Photo: Holly Andres

To start, Airbnb announced the first 11 Icons experiences:

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    • Up house: A recreation of Carl’s home from Disney and Pixar’s Up, complete with more than 8,000 balloons in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The 40,000-pound house was built with input from structural engineers to be able to lift off the ground with a crane, and the Airbnb team brought the actual house to LA for the launch event. Walking inside, the home feels like stepping into the movie, from the small details (everything was made by hand to match, like Carl-sized binoculars and a rusted toy) to the balloon strings that sing like in the movie. Side by sides of stills from the movie to the real house look nearly identical.
    • Ferrari Museum: A room complete with a bed made from the same leather as Ferrari seats, as well as VIP tickets to a Formula 1 race in Emilia-Romagna and a lap with Ferrari ambassador driver Marc Gené in Maranello, Italy. Eight Formula 1 cars that have won championship races are elevated around the bed on 3,000 meters of metalwork (the same length of a track). It’s all hand-painted in Ferrari red, and straight across from the bed are the 110 trophies Ferrari has won.
    • X-Men ‘97: A recreation of Marvel’s X-Mansion in Westchester, New York. Every detail of the house was hand painted to look like walking into a comic book, even the plants, and Chesky reminded people a couple of times that they were looking at photos, not renderings. While the 2D feel is a trip, the true magic is in the details. Professional stunt coordinators are in the Danger Room to train for a mission, and the computer runs on a Microsoft operating system from the ‘90s.
    • Kevin Hart’s Coramino Live Lounge: Rather than a sold-out arena, 30 guests will get an intimate evening of tequila tasting in a custom-built speakeast with Hart and a stand-up performance from Hart and other comedians.
    • Museé d’Orsay: A stay at the art museum’s clock room where guests can watch the Olympics opening ceremony on the Seine in Paris. The room was designed by the same person behind the Olympic torch, which hands in the room near the bed. In the morning, guests get the museum to themselves with a private tour — “quite literally a night at the museum,” Chesky said.
    • Live performance with Doja Cat: A living room performance by Doja Cat highlighting her favorite songs and latest album.
    • Prince’s Purple Rain house: A stay in Prince’s iconic Minneapolis house, open to the public for the first time, complete with rare, never-before-heard tracks during an exclusive studio session and a bedroom recreated to look just like the Purple Rain movie.
    • Khaby Lame game night: A stay with TikTok famous Khaby Lame at a gaming loft he designed in Milan along with a Fortnite Battle Royale face off and pizza from his favorite pizzaria.
    • On tour with Feid: Reggaeton artist Feid has an Icon experience to join the FERXXOCALIPSIS World Tour for a week, including rehearsals, backstage access to every show, and a ride in the tour bus. He approached Airbnb about inviting fans to follow along with him and his band, and a neon-green bus was decked out both inside and out. It’s truly like going on tour, with sound checks, backstage passes, and sleeping on the bus with the band.
    • Bollywood star Janhvi Kapoor’s home: A stay at the Kapoor family home in Chennai, India, that includes beauty secrets and eating southern Indian dishes with Kapoor.
    • Headquarters from Inside Out 2: A stay at a recreation of Headquarters, where Joy will act as host and show the behind-the-scenes of emotions. “There are rooms for each of the emotions,” Chesky said. “Joy, anger, and my personal favorite emotion, anxiety.”

“Icons are just the beginning of where we’re taking Airbnb,” Chesky said. “When I was a kid most of my life was experienced in the real world. Nowadays it’s through a device. We’re focused on creating magic in the real world, and everything we do is in service to this.”

Along with the new Icons category, Airbnb updated the way that groups can book and interact with hosts and added new features to make hosting easier.

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