Quirky Society Hotel in Portland, Oregon Review

The Society Hotel in Portland was actually my second choice for a three-night stay before a Columbia River cruise. My first choice was standard downtown brand-name hotel, mainly for walking convenience.

But its hefty price tag was refused by my travel companions, a couple in their early 80s. So the inexpensive and out-of-the-way Society Hotel was booked. Two rooms for three nights.

The Society Hotel, Quirky and Cute, But Not For Everyone

I was perfectly content to take ride-shares around town and save money on the off-path hotel. From the photos, The Society Hotel looked quirky and cute. And it had a rooftop lounge with a happy hour.

However, I was a little reluctant to have my friends stay at The Society Hotel. They’re in the 80s and used to convenience and comfort. Two weeks before our arrival, I found space at the Marriott in downtown Portland, walking distance to restaurants, shopping and the famous food truck square. 

It was more expensive, and being a tradition chain hotel brand, there wouldn’t be any surprises for my friends. But they said, “No.” They preferred to stay at the Society Hotel and save a few hundred dollars. 

On the Amtrak Train to Portland

This trip out west once again began aboard the Amtrak California Zephyr from Chicago to Sacramento. At midnight on the second night, I boarded the Coast Starlight for the last leg to Portland. My friends flew to Portland and we planned to spend those three days touring the city before our river cruise began.

It’s lunchtime in the dining car. I’m on my second train, going north to Portland, weary from a midnight boarding in Sacramento. My phone rings and it’s my travel companions. They already arrived into Portland and were checking in at The Society Hotel.

“This place is horrible,” she said, without mincing words. “We have to change hotels!” I quickly reminded her in no uncertain terms that I had offered to do that two weeks ago for the Marriott but she had said, “No, that is too expensive.” I clearly heard the anger in her voice and I was to blame.

Two months earlier, I when found The Society Hotel, my friends checked out the hotel photos online and totally approved. The modest rooms looked very neat and tide, the lobby and lounge area well-kept. 

I reserved an en suite deluxe room for them. For me, I’d try a less expensive room with a shared bath down the hall. Heck, when in Portland, right? Quirky seemed the norm. And at an historic hotel, too.

Right after that phone call, I called the hotel from the train. I wanted to speak to the manager and learn what exactly was so horrible as to cause their angry reaction. The manager sounded somewhat peeved, but offered a slight discount on my friends’ room as well as finding me an ensuite room for a smaller than usual upgrade fee.

The Society Hotel Review and Photos

With all the kookiness that you’d expect in Portland, a little off the beaten path and in a neighborhood of night clubs and empty storefronts, the Society Hotel seemed like a kitschy place to call home base for a few days. From its website, the hotel looked clean, contemporary and safe. And it was priced right, too. I didn’t realize that none of the rooms had a TV or phone.

So here’s the wrap-up on our stay at The Society Hotel. You decide.

Society Hotel Portland Oregono

As you walk in the door, there’s a small sitting area, a reception desk and of course, a coffee bar. 

Society Hotel Reception Desk

Even after having to deal with my friends, the front desk staff were very friendly and helpful.

My perfectly fine double-bed room with an en suite bath. Clean and tidy. Just no phone or TV. 


I managed to find rooms again at the same Marriott, but the rate had gone up from earlier that month. Nevertheless, the next day, we would change hotels.

Conclusion and My Personal Opinion

The Society Hotel was a nice place. Especially if you are between 21 and 34 yrs old, travel with a backpack, wear hiking boots as everyday shoes and are on a budget. There are several shared hostel-type rooms there, too. It was clean, minimalist and people were friendly. The neighborhood needed improvement.

The following morning, as we sat in the small café enjoying a fresh-brewed Portland coffee and locally-baked pastry for breakfast, the calm was broken by the sound of an explosion. Across the street, someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail at a palm tree and kaboom! Fire. It didn’t last long. Within minutes a fire truck arrived and put out the blaze.

My favorite feature about the hotel…the rooftop deck.

Onto the Marriott, a slightly cookie-cutter property, but really convenient for tourists. And the food trucks. The place I wanted to change to earlier but was voted down. I would stay again at the Society Hotel, but only if I was traveling with friends in my own age range, younger or similar travel-mindset.

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