Some may say, “Life is all about perspective.” With that in mind, despite its small-town vibe, Portland has fared pretty well with big-city problems. Foodies will find a huge selection of endless obsession-worthy dishes, and outdoor enthusiasts will delight in Forest Park. We even have some great hotels for weekend breaks. But still, it’s good to get out of the city every once in a while, maybe to a place where you feel like you’ve stepped into the past or into an alternative life.
From a former Catholic seminary to converted grain elevators to a renovated milk truck, these unique Pacific Northwest accommodations will help you escape the humdrum of city life.
The Lodge at St. Edward State Park
This 90-year-old former Catholic seminary is nestled amid the western hemlocks and Pacific madronas that adorn Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore, Washington, just north of Seattle. Saint Edward Seminary opened in 1931 at the initiative of longtime Bishop of Seattle Edward O’Dea and was designed by renowned architect John Graham Sr. For several decades it was home to young men who wanted to become priests. A year after the seminary closed in 1976, Washington State Parks acquired the building and surrounding grounds, and for several decades the seminary remained mostly empty — save for park rangers who stayed overnight, and once when Macklemore was in the halls and knocked in the attic for a music video.
However, as of May 2021, the space is The Lodge at St. Edward State Park, a boutique-style hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant, Cedar and Elm, and a luxury spa. While there is much that is new here, the lodge pays homage to its sacred history in many ways. A hallway along the basement is lined with black-and-white photographs of construction in the 1930s, boys in the dormitories (which have been converted to guest rooms), and life when Saint Edward was in full operation. And throughout the hotel there are details reminiscent of the past – the floor tiles, stair railing and of course the impressive Romanesque Revival architecture remain unchanged.
Order a cocktail at the Tonsorium Bar, formerly the seminary’s hair salon. Visit the third floor library to play old school editions of Clue, Monopoly and other board games. Explore 326-acre Saint Edward State Park and witness a vivid sunset on the shores of Lake Washington.
Abbey Road Farm
On a road trip through the Willamette Valley, you’re bound to catch sights of rolling vineyards and acres of picturesque farmland. You might see some cows and moo at them as you drive by. Another common sight are silos used to store bulk materials such as grain, wood chips, coal and more. But you won’t find wet grain or silage in three silos at Carlton’s 82-acre Abbey Road Farm. Instead you will find the Silo Suites Bed and Breakfast.
Two of the silos were used on the farm and a third was added to complete the renovated bed and breakfast in 2003. Five suites are available for rent, each with a jacuzzi, underfloor heating and a cozy farm atmosphere. Book one or gather up to 15 friends and rent the entire B&B and adjacent ranch home for a rustic getaway.
Stroll the grounds with a glass of Abbey Road wine, feed the pygmy goats collards and soak in the farm in your hot tub. Enjoy a multi-course breakfast with host and chef Will Preisch. Hike the nearby Trappist Abbey Trails of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Breitenbush Hot Springs “Milky Way” milk truck
There are many reasons to escape the city for the Breitenbush Hot Springs in the Willamette National Forest east of Salem: to check out new winter offerings to rival the must-do summer months, and to bathing in the hot springs and pools of the same name, or spiritual tubs. In anticipation of summer 2021 guests, Breitenbush built new high tents with double beds, reading lights and picnic tables. It also offers personal retreats in a wood and stone Forest Shelter and its geothermally heated Sunial Yurt. There is also space for private vehicles and RVs. But for an undeniably unique accommodation experience, check out Breitenbush’s refurbished dairy truck accommodation, affectionately known as the ‘Milky Way’.
Milky Way accommodation is insulated and heated (perfect for winter getaways) and has a porch entrance overlooking the River Breitenbush.
Embrace the off-the-grid ethos on a meditative walk through the Breitenbush maze. Take one of the many wellness classes that focus on meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and more. Sweat the bad vibes with a trip to the steam sauna, a cedar-wood hut perched above a capped geyser.