When you think of a chain of hotels or a chain of restaurants, your eyes tend to immediately gloss over and the first thing you think of is BORING…right? You think of sterile, cookie-cutter establishments, such as Marriott, Hilton, Best Western….or IHOP, Applebees….blah, blah BLAH.
But try to imagine a chain of hotels AND pubs/restaurants where they all have a similar décor throughout, but each and every location has its own unique artwork and history. Where the hotels’ rooms are unique and inspiring…and most don’t have televisions! Trust me, you won’t need them here. Get out your laptop and take advantage of the free wifi if you REALLY need screen time. Every McMenamins hotel room has a name, proudly painted on the door, and gives a hint on what you’ll find inside.
Lodging a Cut Above the Rest
Walk into a McMenamins hotel and it’s like you’re visiting eccentric ol’ Aunt Mabel’s mansion. She’s not really your aunt, but you visited her home numerous times as a kid and even though her place was strange and weird, she fed you milk and cookies and you just kept coming back because she was cool. Where the furniture is like something out of Antique Roadshow and the walls are adorned with mystical paintings.
The only word I can use to describe the whole of McMenamins artwork is….comfortingly whimsical. Sorry, that’s two words. Right down to their logo. As you walk down the hallowed halls of a McMenamins hotel, you are transported to another time, maybe even another world with the artwork displayed not only on the walls but on the exposed pipes overhead!
Indeed, much of the artwork of each hotel is indicative of the local history, making each location a bit of a museum unto itself. McMenamin’s historians like to call the signature artwork “historical surrealism.” Most of the hotels have been converted from 100-year-old establishments including school houses, boarding houses, poor houses and Masonic lodges. A few of the hotels are even said to be haunted (more on that later.)
And Then There’s the Food & Drink!
But aside from the incredible artwork and fascinating histories, McMenamins is also known for their craft beers, flavorful ciders, and house-distilled whiskeys. And their burgers…..YUUUUUMMMMM. They do have a bit of consistency throughout all of their restaurants/pubs in that they have the same core menu and drinks, with added entrees befitting of each individual restaurant. Tasty seasonal food and drink specials are always offered. Their breweries are always offering their latest creations. Once you’re done with your meal, take a bottle of house whiskey or a growler of beer back to your house or hotel room.
For me, visiting a McMenamins is like visiting an old friend. There is a familiarity and sense of comradery here that you don’t normally experience with other lodgings. Walk down the halls of one of their hotels, close your eyes and smell the distinctive aroma of a 1920’s attic, and hear the murmurings of old friends reconnecting at the bar down the way. Or lay your head down on one of their beds and let the proprietors of ages past lead you gently into sleep until the morning.
Menmenamins Hotels – A Small Sampling
Anderson School You guessed it, this is a converted school house. As one of the newest McMenamins properties located north of Seattle, it boasts two restaurants, six bars, a beer garden, an Olympic-sized pool, a theater and community room! One of the restaurants is a pretty cool elevated (2nd floor) tiki bar that looks out over the pool.
Located in the heart of wine country in McMinnville, this town actually hosts a UFO festival every year! And…. Hotel Oregon is haunted. We stayed in the Rosie room, and my husband was convinced that he woke up in the middle of the night to see the silhouette of Rosie rifling through his wallet on the nightstand. (No, he was not robbed.) The next morning, to my dismay, he spared no detail in relaying his spooky experiences to the front desk clerk. Apparently, she’d heard this story more than once before because she didn’t bat an eyelash. We spent a night here as part of our Passport journey.
With two restaurants, three bars with live music every weekend, a movie theater, a soaking pool and spa, and disc golf on the grounds outside, this hotel knows how to entertain its guests. The thing I love about these hotels is that a few cater to the budget traveler by providing an option to rent bunk rooms with shared bathrooms down the hall. The Grand Lodge has recently renovated its attic space to include 28 new rooms that are out of this world, man!
The mother of all McMenamins hotels. This place REALLY has it all! It may sound a bit cliché, but this resort really is a destination unto itself. Located on the eastern outskirts of Portland, you can spend several days here doing stuff and not even have to leave the property. With nine bars, live music most nights, an outdoor venue for summer concerts, a brewery, a winery, a whiskey distillery, a 3-par golf course, a movie theater, a HUGE soaking pool and spa…. yeah, you’ll need to spend a while here to take it all in.
These hotels are just a taste of the 12 McMenamins’ hotels you’ll find in Oregon and Washington. (10 currently open and 2 in development, as of this writing.) So if you’re visiting Washington or Oregon, do make it a point to stay at a McMenamins property, or at least stop by one of their pubs for a pint and/or meal. You WILL NOT regret it. It is a Pacific Northwest institution that should NOT be missed.
If you’re a local and you haven’t yet participated in their Passport program…well, what are you waiting for? You have to visit every single restaurant/pub and hotel in Oregon and Washington to get a stamp at each location. Now, this may seem like a not-so-subtle ruse to get you to spend money at every location, but nay! You only need to stick your head in the door (or belly up to the bar) and ask for a passport stamp. And on to the next location, you go! To get a stamp at a hotel, they make it fun by offering a clue at the front desk, and you have to tour the hotel (self-guided) to find the clue. Once you think you have it, go back to the front desk with your guess. If you’re right, you get the stamp! (No limit to the number of guesses.) The perks at the end of your McMenamins journey are well worth the trip to every single restaurant, bar, and hotel to get all of your passport stamps. Find out more here.
If you don’t want the commitment of taking on the Passport challenge, do sign up for their frequent guest program. The folks at the front desk will treat you right. The last time we used our points to redeem a free hotel night, we were treated to a sweet corner room (subject to availability)!
As always, I’m eager to hear other’s opinions about places I know and love. If you’ve been to a McMenamins, tell be about your experience!
**Disclosure: I am doing all of this insane raving about McMenamins because I truly do love this company; there are no affiliate links and I am not being compensated by the McMenamins brothers whatsoever. Being a local, I couldn’t help but take part in their Passport program. It was so much fun and it took us about six months to visit each and every restaurant/pub and hotel. And the perks at the end were phenomenal!