School is back in session, but we promise this isn’t your normal K-8 classroom. It’s the Kennedy School, and for those of you who haven’t been to the Kennedy School in awhile or maybe ever…carpe diem. The elementary-school-turned-indoor-playground is filled with hotel rooms, restaurants, bars, a brewery, movie theater and a live music venue. There is literally something for everybody and it’s all cozily enclosed under one large and very dry roof. Heads up social calendar coordinator of out-of-town peeps; their new English Wing of twenty-two local author-themed guest rooms with king sized beds and private baths just opened to the public at the end of 2012.

Don’t Skip This School
Let’s start with the movies. These matinees are designed for moms, dads, nannies and grandfolks to bring the kiddos. No one will flinch if the wee ones cry, run, snack or jump. The movies are second run (out of theaters and likely soon to be released on dvd) and uber-reasonably priced. The theater is the school’s former auditorium, it’s large and open so you really can keep an eye on your minis, while also sitting on a comfy couch or arm chair. And if that’s not enough, the Theater Bar sells delicious nibbles that are delivered to your seat. It’s fantastic. Period.

The soaking pool is an outdoor gem in an interior courtyard. Surrounded by lush gardens, this ceramic work of art is sure to delight you and your minis. There is a small locker room with two private changing areas for a quick bathing suit switcheroo. Then head outside and get your warm water soak on. You’ll love the underwater tiled bench all along the perimeter of the pool. It’s ideal for relaxing and/or keeping your littlest ones close. Having absolutely no chlorine – just warm, steamy salt water galore – you’re afloat with the greatest of ease.

Hungry? The Courtyard restaurant is large and sunny (if it’s sunny outside). The light fixtures are worth a moment’s pause for their beauty and the outdoor fireplace is a splendid mosaic of tiles. Pretty and cozy…what else do you need? Oh yeah, food. Prepare for the usual McMenamin’s fare…tater tots for all! Burgers, pizza, salads, sammies, their McMenamin’s beers and wines round out the pub grub. Full bar, too.

Or for an imaginary vacation during lunch/dinner have your vittles in the Cypress Room. They play reggae, push island-inspired specials, roll concert clips and love the rum, mon. The pipe sculpture is neither subtle nor unimpressive. If it’s warm sit outside on the back patio among the vines. Kids welcome until 10:00 pm

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Catch The Bus: Thing to Know Before You Go
Mommy & Me Matinees run Tuesday – Thursday around 2:30 pm and cost $3 per person. If your kids are young and fidgety, bring toys or books to help keep them occupied. A big bag of popcorn (available at the theater) also helps. Family matinees run Friday through Monday and are the first two showings of the day. Tix are still $3 each and should be age appropriate for little scholars.

The soaking pool is open 10:00 am – 8:00 pm everyday for non-hotel guests, and costs $5 per person. Pay at the front desk on your way in and bring your own towels. If you’re there in the evening you can grab a cocktail in the Honors Bar on your way out to the water. They’ll provide the plastic cup. Oh yeah.

The Courtyard Restaurant is open for three square meals a day plus Happy Hour. Grilled cheese, burgers, pizzas and corn dogs feed the little buckaroos. Breakie of granola, eggs or French toast can start any day off right, morning glories. If it’s crowded/busy, it can be slooooow going getting your meals. Bringing snacks and entertainment is never a bad idea. Switching lunches can be pretty rad, too.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
The Boiler Room Bar was once (wait for it) the boiler room. It is a destination in and of itself, but the ginger snaps are not welcome. If you can shimmy in for a drink or some down time sans le bebes, check out the two-floor space full of deconstructed radiators, pipes and other metal work, play a little shuffleboard, shoot some stick and crank the tunes via jukebox. They serve pub grub and a bar full o’ booze as well.

If you like bourbon, single malts, cigars, cigar smoke and being amongst adults only – make your way to the Detention Bar.  It is small in size yet large in living. And just as you’d imagine by the name, this bar just begs for bad behavior. So go ahead and buy a stogie.  And take a cab home. And sleep on the couch.

Rock ‘N Roll K School
Thursday night meet Family Frolic. Family Frolic meet Portland families ready to get out and down. Make your way to what was once the gym (aptly named the Gymnasium currently) for bands of many genres changing weekly – honky tonk, bluegrass, 80s, country, singer songwriters, kindie rock faves like Professor Banjo among others. Shows start at either 6:00 pm or 7:00 pm and are FREE. There is a bar in the back of the room, lest you walk too far.

Passing Notes in the Hall: The Inside Dish
It can get hot in the gym when everyone has their boogie on. Leave your coats in the car. Or in a heap in the corner, you pick. Hotel guests can bring their pets for an additional $15 tacked on to the room rate and use the soaking pool anytime (another coupla selling points for your visiting BFFs). If the hotel is booked with wedding guests or a family reunion, the pool may feel tight if the guests all head for a plunge at the same time. Neighbors who live between NE 22nd and NE 42nd and NE Prescott and NE Columbia swim for free, but be sure your license has your accurate address for proof. Last but oh so far from least, you lucky duck you. Go ahead and buy McMenamin’s beers to go or ship ‘em anywhere within Oregon.

Be True to Your School
There is much to see here at the Kennedy School. Try to budget in some roaming time and check out alumni photos, posters for shows upcoming or past, or make a day of it at one of their holiday events – like the kid-heavy merriment on May Day, the St Patty’s Day family-friendly music fest or indoor trick or treating on Halloween that starts nice and early at 5:00 pm rain or shine, it’s cool to love your Kennedy school. And walking around with a libation in hand and your munchkins happily meandering along checking out the sights and stories lining the walls is nothing short of old school satisfying.

The Kennedy School
5736 NE 33rd
Portland, Or  97211

Have you visited the Kennedy School Recently? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below. 

— Liz Overson

Thanks for the photos, Kennedy School!