A lot of people associate Portland with adjectives like “quirky,” “unique,” and “weird.” Well, those adjectives are on full display at McMenamins Kennedy School. McMenamins took over the abandoned school property (which was built in 1915) and repurposed it as a hotel, where you can “have a pint in a classroom, enjoy an aged whiskey in detention, [or] enjoy a movie in the old auditorium.” Only in Portland.
The 51 guestrooms (or should we say former classrooms?) at McMenamins Kennedy School are scholastically-inspired, with literary quotes adorning the walls, with some rooms retaining the school’s original chalkboards.
Each room comes with its own private bathroom stocked with all the essentials you’ll need to feel comfortable during your stay, including bath products.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The bathrooms at McMenamins Kennedy School are a tight squeeze and the furnishings are pretty bare bones. If you’re looking for a spa-like experience with your bathroom, you should definitely look elsewhere.
The lobby of McMenamins Kennedy School has high ceilings, arched doorways, and an announcement board that will take you all the way back to grade school. There isn’t, however, a lot of seating, so this probably isn’t a space you’ll spend much time in after checkout.
While the lobby might not be the best place to hang out, you’ll definitely want to head over to the auditorium, which houses a movie theater - which you can access for free during your stay.
McMenamins Kennedy School has an outdoor soaking pool in the garden courtyard that’s the perfect place to unwind after a long day at “school.”
It might be housed in the cafeteria, but you won’t find any questionable meals served on lunch trays at Courtyard Restaurant. Instead, you’ll enjoy high-quality pub fare - and a beer if the mood strikes you (which definitely wouldn’t fly in your grade-school cafeteria).
Depending on your style, grab a whiskey and smoke a cigar with the other hooligans in the Detention Bar or mingle with the A-students over a glass of wine or a classic cocktail at the Honors Bar.
Portland has an excellent public transportation system, and you could easily navigate the entire city without ever getting in a car (in fact, there’s a bus stop directly outside the hotel). If you do decide to bring a car, there’s free parking, but it’s first come, first served.
If you need a break from in-school dining, head to DOC Restaurant (7-minute walk), an intimate spot that serves up Italian dishes infused with traditional flavors and ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. Bernie’s Southern Bistro (7-minute walk), which specializes in home cooked Southern fare, is another neighborhood favorite (make sure to try their fried pickles!).
Portland is a mecca for great beer. Head to Concordia Ale House (3-minute walk) to try some of the brews Portland is known for; with 30 beers rotating beers on tap and 120 different varieties by the bottle, you’re bound to find something you like. NEPO 42 (13-minute walk), a neighborhood bar with solid happy hour deals and a weekly trivia night, is another great place to grab a beer (and bonus--they’re dog-friendly!).
WHY WE LIKE IT
McMenamins Kennedy School might be the only opportunity you have to sleep in an elementary-school-turned-hotel. That’s reason enough to check it out - but when you add in the movie theater, the soaking pool, and the other quirky amenities, you’ve got everything you need for a truly unique (and fun!) hotel experience for your next visit to Portland.