Home Travel USA McMenamins Grand Lodge: A Hotel with a Flair for the Fanciful

McMenamins Grand Lodge: A Hotel with a Flair for the Fanciful

McMenamins Grand Lodge (Mic MIN i mins) in Tualatin (T’WAL-i-tin) Valley, Oregon (OAR-a-gun) – you get the idea – gives new meaning to the word funky – also whimsical and droll and quirky. Oh yes, and historic. But if you’re looking for glitz or glamour – not to mention basic amenities such as a TV or a dresser – the hotel is not for you. If you want a little bizarre, you’re in the right place.

one of the hallways at the McMenamins Grand Lodge
Photo courtesy: Victor Block
writer entering a secret room at the McMenamins Grand Lodge
Photo courtesy: Victor Block

The hallways are sensory overload. Photos and paintings crowd the walls along with kitschy sayings and names on every door from the recognizable to the never-heard-ofs.  The seemingly random décor appears with little explanation though I later learned the basement is devoted to musicians, the first floor American history, the second landing local history and the Attic, to books. Not surprising, there you will also find reading nooks in hallway crannies, with incongruous chair-like replicas and Victorian reading lamps – again not your usual furniture configurations.

Not a wall, column, ceiling or molding is left unadorned, including pubs, restaurants and guestrooms. For instance, our room was named Atfalati, named after a local Indian tribe, with descriptive messages surrounding the walls inside. All the restaurants ooze a cozy and clubby ambience. The Doctor’s Office, a downstairs pub, boasts extensive hours – and the pool tables, pinball machines and table shuffleboard are all “instruments” in working order. Plus the usual vintage photos and inscrutable sayings – and also – dare I say it? Televisions!

Surreal is the word that most often comes to mind. There is a “Hallway Tour List” but even with that it is frustratingly difficult to identify what you’re looking at. It’s easier just not knowing. Every inch of wall space is intriguing but as my husband remarked at one point: “I’d trade a few of them in for so much as a hanger in the room…”

bizarre picture adorns a wall and a door inscription, McMenamins Grand Lodge
Photo courtesy: Victor Block

Did I mention the secret doors?? Of course, there are. But you have to go to the top floor, negotiate the cavernous hallways until you find an over-head blue light. Push on the wall and voila – an ominous secret room. The first, an eerie subterranean grotto with painted stalactites and stalagmites. The second, not as sinister – just a smaller room rimmed with pictures of gigantic toadstools. At some point, I stopped trying to make sense of any of it.

Jacuzzi soaking pool at Ruby's Spa
Photo courtesy: Victor Block

The all-organic, full-service Ruby’s Spa actually seemed normal. Its highlight, though unconnected to it, is embodied in a free-form outdoor Jacuzzi soaking pool in a very secluded bucolic setting surrounded by rocks and greenery. Not much about the rest of the hotel can be classified as bucolic. The sign at the front desk, “Escape the Ordinary” barely does the hotel justice! You will never be able to stay in a Holiday Inn again! For more information, visit McMenamins Grand Lodge.

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