The Grand King room at the Hotel Grand Stark 

Perhaps you, like I, have not left the Pacific Northwest in 18 months. Perhaps you are still in need of something fun and diversionary without leaving the city — and you can't walk the Oregon Zoo loop one more time without losing your mind.

Consider the staycation: a chance to explore the city’s local hotel scene as it, too, emerges from a horrendous season of closure and hiatus. Portland is home to dozens of hotels, and of these, three recently opened properties feel purpose-built to offer a hospitable getaway experience (even if all you’re only really getting away from is your neighborhood). 

What local hotels offer, perhaps paradoxically, is an escape from city life as it’s really lived, offering instead a hyper-realized version of Portland, at once within the city and transposed above it—city life as a fantasy. A good staycation, then, is much more than an escape from home: It’s an escape from the city without ever leaving, and really an escape from ourselves. (If a hotel isn't your thing, you can also check out our guides to local vacation rentals with swimming pools and staycationing on the Oregon coast.) Here's why you should plan a staycation at one of these three Portland hotels.

The Loft Suite at the Woodlark hotel

The Loft Suite at the Woodlark hotel

1. The Woodlark Hotel

813 SW Alder St—The Woodlark Hotel opened in 2018, and occupies two separate historic buildings: The Cornelius Hotel, opened in 1908, and the Woodlark Building, built on SW Alder street between Park and 9th in 1912. Both are on the National Register of Historic places.

The hotel opened in late 2018 following a restoration and design effort led by OFFICEUNTITLED, Oculus Inc. and Smith Hanes Studio, and is home to a significant art collection anchored by the work of Portland-born photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976).

There are 150 guestrooms, each swathed in lush jeweled green and rose gold accents, with wallpaper by OMFG, marble topped consoles, wool rugs by Portland maker Christiane Millinger, and velvet furniture.

Corner rooms are drenched in light; they also look directly upon new build construction to the west of the hotel. Every room comes stocked with an Urban Ears speaker kit, bathrobes, LCD flat screen TV with DirectTV, Simmons Beautyrest Black Napa mattresses, and an LG air conditioning unit.

If it’s in the budget to splash out, lofted rooms are available, each with their own stunning spiral staircase. And two Woodlark suites contain what, to me, is the most coveted item in any hotel room: a massive bathtub.

Abigail Hall at the Woodlark

The on-site food and beverage offerings for the Woodlark Hotel are impressive. Cocktail lounge Abigail Hall—since the end of Clyde Common, the city's best lobby bar—and Texas-nouveau smokehouse Bullard are overseen by local restaurant group Holler Hospitality, with lobby coffee service by local roaster-retailer Good Coffee.

Room service is available in each room via the restaurant Bullard; all room services are available via a scan code in the room, in place of in-room menus. Abigail Hall occupies the former Ladies Reception Hall space, a suffragette hub back in the Cornelius Hotel days, and the team at Holler have transformed it into a floral, maximalist, unapologetically femme lounge, with drinks named for feminist pop stars (The Billie Eilish is neon-blue, and adorned with edible glitter) and playfully upscale retro food (outstanding shrimp cocktail and burgers).

One particularly cool thing at the Woodlark is its compact, considered gym, which includes both Peloton and Mirror brand exercise units, along with a small set of weights, medicine balls, a treadmill and cross-trainer, plus a fridge full of cool towels. Perfect.

This, combined with the hotel’s proximity to Rich’s Cigar Shop (for candy bars, magazines, and what-have-you) and Park Avenue Fine Wines (one of the city’s best bottle shops) means one could happily stay within the immediate block without need to leave for a succession of days, the mark of a true staycation. 

The Deluxe King at Kex

2. Kex

100 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd—A former apartment building from 1912, and owned for generations by the Stark family vacuum empire, it sat vacant for decades until July 2018, when the Kex hotel group purchased the space, in partnership with local restaurant group ChefsTable and Green Light Development.

Inside they found rooms full of vacuums and assorted suction parts, a third floor infested with plucky Portland pigeons enjoying the free rent, and plumbing and floors in need of a total rebuild. Cost? Some 14 million dollars (that’s USD, not Icelandic Krona).

It worked: the Kex Hotel’s main floor is a stunning, transportive lobby: 100-year-old wood floors salvaged from Fort Vancouver frame two entire shipping containers full of global ephemera, from Dutch bric-a-brac to Egyptian tile to an enormous entry leather couch from Brussels and a dozen Belgian racehorse placards woven into modern lobby art.

The end result is evocative of Europe and travel and global exchange; a visit to Kex is an international vacation for the price of a Lyft.

The hotel opened very briefly before the pandemic in 2020, before closing for much of the year and well into 2021. During this time many of the hotel’s shared bathroom hostel-style rooms were converted to private suites. Now, just six rooms are still available hostel style, bookable on AirBnB. Each and every room at Kex has an AC unit, though there is no room service, and no bathtubs. Rooms are chic and comfortable, if small, reflecting European design sensibilities through a Pacific Northwest lens. 

Kex is home to two restaurant concepts: a rooftop cocktail bar called Lady of the Mountain, and a main floor lounge and restaurant called Dottir that sprawls across 3000 square feet, offering a sort of multi-use lobby-lounge bar and all-day dining concept. The upstairs view from Lady of the Mountain is worth a visit alone—for the first time I didn’t hate the Fairhaired Dumbbell, which is ghastly from street level, but looks kind of great four stories up, offset by the rest of the new industrial Southeast construction. There is no room service at Kex, but drinks at both bars are outstanding, with Katie Stipe of Voysey (and before that, Brooklyn’s Grand Army bar) running one of the city’s most inventive and interesting drinks programs, from an outstanding Fino sherry and snap pea cocktail on the rooftop to a cheeky lobby Cosmo, or complex house Aquavit infusions served in antique European glassware like something out of Frozen. There is also, surprisingly, an outstanding kegged wine program being poured at both bars, and a compelling bottle list at the upstairs lounge. Kex’s Portland-based co-owner Sean O’Connor has personally sourced kegs of wine from Oregon winemakers including Cameron, Maloof, and St. Reginald, offering both crowd pleasers and rare one-offs. 

Some of Kex still feels like a work in progress—there will be a downstairs private dining option coming soon, and not all of the rooms were finished yet on my visit. But for a one night getaway without leaving the city, it’s easy to slip into escapism mode in the hotel’s massive, imaginative lobby lounge, a public hotel space unlike any other in Portland right now.

The Hotel Grand Stark

3. Hotel Grand Stark 

509 SE Grand St—The newest hotel in Portland, Hotel Grand Stark opened in Spring 2021, and has been much-buzzed about in hotel industry circles. It’s a 57 room property from Los Angeles hotel group Palisociety, housed in a four-story structure originally built in 1908. Known variously as both the Chamberlain Hotel and the Franklin Hotel in the early 20th century, it was the home of Schiefler Furniture for the last four decades, before being purchased in 2016 and built across the course of four years.

Hotel Grand Stark’s lobby is bright, airy, and gives off high-end art gallery vibes. Furniture in the space is by Midnight Sunlight, with rare books and objet d’art by Spartan Shop, which in the coming months will be available for sale. Anchoring the lobby is the Grand Stark Deli, which deftly combines the lobby café aesthetic with something akin to a midcentury diner, set in tones of pink, birch, and emerald.

Food here is by Submarine Hospitality, featuring coffee roasted by Good Coffee, which appears to have Portland’s hotel coffee market cornered. The deli’s big ticket item is a Katz’s pastrami sandwich, with the meat flown in from New York City. That’s fun—you’ll save on Goldbelly fees, I suppose–but the real action here is at the pastry counter, home to genuinely outstanding buns, scones, cookies, and a can’t-miss blueberry muffin. Even better, all of it is available as room service.

The Grand Stark Deli

Rooms at the Grand Stark are tastefully appointed, with pink and tartan green accents. Each room comes stocked with a Smeg fridge, exceptional in-room snacks, breakfast door hangs, Acme cups, Kassatex stoneware, and a white noise machine upon request. The Grand Stark’s rooms are also equipped with Comcast cable, which means if you’re looking for a hotel room in which to watch the summer Olympics, or the NFL draft, or the Bachelorette finale, this place is a live broadcast paradise.

A lobby bar, Bar Chamberlain, is set to open later this summer, and will feature outdoor seating along the hotel’s back parking lot. Once the bar component is open, Grand Stark’s offerings will be complete, resulting in a new Portland classic on the hotel scene.

This is not, to be clear, a “boutique hotel” — it is a hotel, no preface required, in which you can have room service, food all day, cable television and room snacks. A staycation here would be divine, but if you’re looking to truly install yourself for a series of weeks, months even, with an air of luxury and your every need catered to, Grand Stark is up to the task.

Filed under
Share
Show Comments