Outings + Activities | Travel | Eastside

Going Back to School at Bothell's One-of-a-kind New McMenamins Hotel

From a cool swimming pool to a movie theater, original art, music and pubs galore, Bothell's upcycled Anderson School is equal parts history and future

McMenamins/Kathleen Nyberg
McMenamins/Kathleen Nyberg

Bothell has always had its small-town charms – the historic Main Street, the Park at Bothell Landing, the Sammamish River Trail, Country Village – but it hasn't really been considered a top attraction for families from across the region.

That's changing, and fast. Less than two weeks ago, McMenamins, a Portland family of restaurants and hotels known for infusing its projects with quirky history, original art and community spirit (not to mention microbrews), opened its Anderson School resort /complex in downtown Bothell, right next to the Pop Keeney Stadium and three blocks from Main Street. 

Similar to the famed McMenamins Kennedy School hotel in Portland (which has been named the nation’s quirkiest hotel by TripAdvisor), the Anderson School took a 1931-built school that had already lived several lives in its 80-plus years and turned it into 5.5 acres of hotel, restaurants and entertainment venues designed to simultaneously celebrate Bothell’s history and help catapult the town to the next level. The end result is a collection of spaces that are family friendly in the best possible sense – welcoming to children but mindful of grown-up pleasures such as live music, intriguing art, quirky history, good beer, pub food, firepits and Seahawks games. 

And talk about upcycling: The brothers (the company is owned by Brian and Mike McMenamin) completely refashioned a 1930s-era school, but maintained enough of its original art-deco touches and school feel to hit our collective nostalgia button. Prime example: You can now enjoy a beer or coffee in the principal’s office!

The Anderson School’s general manager Jared Prince — a dad himself — was kind enough to take me on a tour of the premises last Monday. He spoke highly of the Bothell community's support of the project: “We have been overwhelmed by how the community has embraced us," he says. "We’ve never seen anything like this.” 

Here are some top highlights of the Anderson School local families will want to know about:

Swimming pool. McMenamins/Kathleen Nyberg

Saltwater swimming pool: Oh, we Puget Sound parents love to know about a new swimming pool, and the Anderson School's community pool is a keeper, especially for parents of little kids. Built on the premises of the old school pool, it is almost Olympic-sized, and its non-chlorinated water is heated to 90 degrees (it uses a saltwater system). Depths range from shallow (4.5 feet) to shallower (around 2.5 feet). While you won’t find amenities for thrill seekers (no slides, waves or rope swings) its expansive hours of operation (public hours are seven days a week from 10 a.m.–10 p.m.) should make up for that.

Bothell bonus: As part of McMenamins' partnership with the city, Bothell residents can use the pool free of charge; non-residents pay $6 (ages 4–17) to $8 (adults); kids 3 and under are free. (Prince notes that they hope to hire a pool director and offer lessons in the future.)

Northern Lagoon restaurant above the pool: Another bonus of the swimming pool is the Northern Lagoon, a tiki-themed, narrow restaurant/bar overlooking the pool. “This is my kids’ favorite,” says Prince. The art – including wooden Hawaiian-style statues and a hung canoe – and the view of pool should keep the kids entertained, and the pub-style menu is spiced up with additions such as coconut shrimp. The kids' menu, the same across various restaurants, is affordable, if a bit generic (chicken fingers, pizza, etc.).

McMenamins/Kathleen Nyberg

Tavern on the Square: The Anderson School’s old cafeteria has been turned into the resort's biggest restaurant, decorated with art-deco touches, wood panels throughout, and distinctive chandeliers that are a hallmark of Anderson School decor. A roaring fireplace at the back adds coziness, and there’s enough bustle even on a low-traffic day that noisy kids would easily fold in. Food skews more sophisticated than other eateries (upscale pub for lunch; Northwest seafood and entrees for dinner), and while I had some minor complaints on the day my husband and I ate there (lamb burger and truffle fries were lukewarm), the dishes were well-prepared and the brewed-on-the-premises Woodshop IPA was very cold, crisp and hoppy. 

Upscale movie theater: Across the courtyard from the Tavern on the Square and behind the main lodge, find the Anderson School movie theater, a charming space (more chandeliers, vintage posters) comfy with rocker seats where you can also order up pizza, beers and more. Some but not all films will be family friendly (currently showing is The Martian); minors have to be accompanied by a parent. Tickets range from $7–$9 and there are upscale concessions. Find current showtimes here; and yes, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens will be playing, starting Dec. 17.  

The Woodshop. McMenamins, Kathleen Nyberg

The Woodshop: Just as it sounds, the school's old woodshop has been turned into a bar/pub with flatscreen TVs, shuffleboard, pinball games and pool tables. Can you say Seahawks games? The day I visited (midday on a Monday) the feel was not especially family friendly, but general manager Jared Prince assures me kids are welcome and I can definitely envision my 6-year-old happily manning a pinball machine while keeping an eye on Russell Wilson. Just behind the Woodshop is the onsite brewery; you can look through windows at the brewing process. The menu is pub fare from tots to salad, Natural beef burgers, grinders and more. (Note: Kids are allowed in all venues, but there are some restrictions, such as not being allowed to sit at the bar.)

Art-gallery schoolhouse hotel: Even if you have no plans to stay in the hotel, located in the original brick school building, it's worth a wander. Former classrooms have been turned into 72 guest rooms, each with a full bathroom, and flat-screen TV; and the principal's office has been turned into a cozy, woodsy bar that offers espresso and baked goods as well as cocktails, beer and wine.

But the real draw is the art and history: Based on meticulous research by McMenamins staff historians, each room commemorates a distinctive Bothell resident/alum of the school (two founders of the band Heart, Senator Patty Murray, and pieces of original art were commissioned to celebrate many of these folks.

Painting of Tommy Thompson, famed Bothell wing jumper

The resulting artwork, on display along the hallways and in the rooms along with reprints of old photos and historical write-ups, is varied and intriguing, from a rock-and-roll painting depicting the Bothell founders of the band Heart to a whimsical painting about daredevil wing jumper Tommy Thompson. (Note: Room prices range from $145–$300 a night, and pets are allowed in some for an extra fee.) 

Courtyard. McMenamins/Kathleen Nyberg

Courtyard, music and more attractions: The campus-like feel of the Anderson School complex is anchored by an expansive Courtyard area outdoors (between the Tavern, main lodge, Woodshop and movie theater/concert hall) that has many tables and chairs (some with cover) and six firepits. Though not busy the day I was there, general manager Prince assures me it's been packed, and I can see the draw. "The courtyard is the heart of the whole thing," he says. There is also a small stage for summer concerts. 

As with other McMenamins properties, the Anderson School is committed to supporting local live music. Currently, you'll find all-ages music most Friday nights starting at 7 p.m. and some Thursdays as well in the Thorndyke Room, a smaller venue that's part of the Woodshop building. Haynes Hall, the old gymnasium, is poised to be a bigger concert and event space. See the full calendar of events.

Finally, if you're on a date night, you might check out The Shed, a cozy cocktail and whiskey bar in the courtyard area with a huge brick fireplace. And the gift shop, aka The Market, is brimming with McMenamins goodies from candy and T-shirts to wine and beer (pull in to a 15-minute parking space to fill your growler). 

One caveat: For families, I offer this caution: If trends continue, the Anderson School is shaping up to be busy pretty much all the time, so plan accordingly. Weekdays and off hours are a good time to check it out.

Upcoming events at the Anderson School

Halloween: This Saturday, the Anderson School is hosting trick or treating in the hotel from 4:30–6:30 p.m. (Afterwards, drop the kids home and come back for live music from Tubuluba afterwards.)

Thanksgiving buffet: A grand Turkey Day buffet will be spread in Tavern on the Square from 1–7 p.m. Prices are $35 adults; $21 kids ages 5–12; free for kids 4 and under, reservations required.

Breakfast with Santa: All six of the Anderson School's Breakfast with Santa events have already sold out. The good news is that general manager Prince said they may add two more, so check back. 

If you go...

Where: McMenamins Anderson School is at 18603 Bothell Way N.E., Bothell

Info and reservations: 425-398-0122, mcmenamins.com

More to see in Bothell

Want to make a day or weekend of it? The Bothell area offers many more local attractions, including:

- Sammamish River Trail and the Park at Bothell Landing: Bike, walk or play, just a few blocks away from the Anderson School.

- Country Village: With train, Santa, lights and roosters (and shopping, of course), it's an especially fun destination for families around the holidays

- Woodinville wine country: Just a few miles away, find family-friendly wineries inluding Efeste

Also note that the McMenamins Anderson School project is part of a series of developments to revitalize downtown Bothell. Look for upgrades to the City Hall, Park at Bothell Landing, Pop Keeney stadium, the Main Street area and more in the years to come. 

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