Portland, Oregon is always surprising. You might find a food cart serving an unexpected cuisine — lunch from Guam, perhaps, or a delicious mashup of Texas barbecue and Asian rice porridge. You might stumble onto a street fair. Or discover an upscale tearoom hidden in a district of industrial warehouses.
Hotels don’t usually yield many surprises (and most of the time, you don’t want them to). Yet the deluxe Heathman Hotel in downtown Portland manages to hide a few fun elements behind its stately brick facade.
Here’s the scoop.
Built in 1927, the 150-room Heathman has all the trappings of a classic luxury hotel, from the liveried Beefeater who greets guests as they arrive to the complimentary sparkling wine offered at check in.
In the guest rooms, on floors 3-10 of the 10-story building, you’re offered a choice of bed styles, including pillow top, feather or tempurpedic mattresses. The rooms themselves range from petite queens to larger kings, double-doubles, or junior suites.
The decor feels classic but slightly funky, too, with sculpted suns rising from the beds’ headboards. All rooms have flat-screen TVs, complimentary wi-fi, mini-bars, safes, French press coffee makers, and electric tea kettles along with a supply of tea from the local Steven Smith Teamaker.
Many of the guest rooms have a two-part bathroom, with a shower, toilet, and small sink in one room and a separate vanity area with an additional sink. In some, a sculptural glass light fixture serves both as a design element and as a handy night light.
Double room rates vary, but typically range from $205-360 per night during the summer high season.
The Heathman Hotel has an extensive art collection, some of which is on view on the second floor, where many of the meeting rooms are located.
Also on the second floor is another surprise: a skylit library with more than 2,000 books. Most of the volumes are signed by their authors, many of whom have been guests of the hotel.
Guests can use several computers in the library, and Monday through Thursday, there’s a complimentary wine hour where guests can sip and mingle.
The lobby lounge on the main floor still sports its traditional dark wood paneling and classic chandelier. However, the restaurant and lounge are closed for renovation until the fall of 2016. The hotel continues to offer room service, and just off the lobby, a petite chocolate shop serves a decadent dark drinking chocolate.
On the third floor, a small fitness room has several cardio machines and a strength training unit. If you want more workout options, you can request a pass ($15) to a nearby 24-hour fitness center.
One more surprise is on the 8th floor: the Warhol suite. Named for the 1960s pop artist, this unit has shag carpeting, purple linens, vibrantly-colored walls, and several original Andy Warhol works.
Marilyn Monroe in a Portland luxury hotel? Isn’t that an unexpected surprise?
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books Moon Handbooks: Ontario (now available in a new 2nd edition) and Living Abroad in Canada. Her latest book, Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip, will be published in summer 2016. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Travel Portland hosted my stay at the Heathman Hotel.