Great for Instagram but not for spending the night: Review of the Moxy Portland Downtown
Editor’s note: Welcome to our new TPG hotel reviews! We’re trying out some novel formats as we rate hotels around the globe, aiming to help readers decide where to stay and where to skip. We’ll still do some of our signature in-depth versions, as well as longer-form pieces for hotels we think readers will be the most curious about. For now, though, we’re going to keep things snappy and give you all the information you need if you plan to visit the same hotels that we decide to check out.
On a related note, before booking any travel, be sure to keep up to date with our country-by-country guide to pandemic-era travel restrictions and requirements.
Stemming from a desperate need to get some fresh air and escape the concrete jungle of New York City for a few days, my friends and I flew cross-country to spend an outdoorsy weekend in Portland, Oregon, full of hiking, apple-picking and brewery-hopping. It was just what the doctor ordered — and I even got to check Oregon off my list as the last state I had yet to visit on the West Coast.
With virtually no prior familiarity with Portland, we wanted to find a hotel downtown with easily accessible public transport options that we could take advantage of to explore the city.
A colleague suggested I try the Moxy Portland Downtown, which opened its doors earlier this year. If you’re unfamiliar with Moxy hotels, this millennial-focused brand with locations in bustling urban centers aims to offer a “lifestyle hotel” that pares down the standard amenities you’d find in a full-service property, but attempts to compensate with highly styled public areas, not to mention a dose of street-inspired room decor.
I was curious to see if the Moxy brand appealed to my (fellow Gen Z) friends and me since the label is among the most quickly expanding within the Marriott portfolio. There are currently 90-plus Moxys out there — with 119 coming down the pipeline — now spanning major U.S. cities as well as European markets since the brand’s initial launch in 2014. Would Moxy become my new go-to Marriott chain?
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As the name would suggest, the Moxy Portland Downtown is indeed in the heart of the city’s downtown. And while the gray-brick facade is unassuming — blending with the overcast skies of Portland — the neon pink “Moxy” sign seems unabashed about grabbing the attention of passersby. (As was the sophomoric window painting of pumpkins and signage to “Come Hang With Us!” that was up for Halloween.) The hotel strives to stick out from the uninspired banks and corporate buildings that surround it with a leisure vibe and a heavy emphasis on having fun and being social while you’re staying.
Instead of a check-in desk, for instance, would-be guests are directed to the bar for their room keys … which means that if the bartender is busy shaking up seasonal cocktails, you might not get into your room for a while. Just as the hotel bar doubles as a front desk, the lobby likewise doubles as a place to hang out with friends, work with colleagues or play a random assortment of games like Connect 4 and Jenga.
The space is playfully decorated, but the branding may not be everyone’s cup of tea and feels, at times, downright excessive. Case in point: Menus labeled “FEED ME NOW!” and a key drop-off box that reads, “Drop them nasty keys here.” We get the point, Moxy, you’re edgy.
The Moxy Portland is located in the heart of downtown, so it’s easy to get there via public transport from Portland International Airport (PDX). Follow signs for the light rail in the airport and hop on the MAX Red Line, which drops you off a block away from the hotel for just $2.50 per ticket. This commute will take you about 40 minutes. If you need to get to the hotel (or anywhere in downtown Portland) in a pinch, a rideshare will take under 20 minutes and cost you $20-$30.
The Moxy Portland Downtown contains just 197 rooms. Though the website advertises a “Forest Park Suite” with two bedrooms, I couldn’t find any available dates to book. Interestingly enough, I found the suite on Airbnb bookable for $377 per night (excluding occupancy taxes and cleaning fees). This makes me believe that suites are quite limited, and if you have Marriott elite status, suite-level upgrades likely won’t be in the cards. Regardless, traditional room rates are affordable and start at $120 per night. For my weekend stay, I paid $130 plus $21 in taxes and fees per night.
With the big news of Marriott Bonvoy eliminating award charts in March 2022, you can book this Category 5 property for 30,000-40,000 points per night — for now. If you have a free night award with your Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card, this would be a good use of your up to 35,000-point certificate as you should be able to book this property most times of the year.
- I loved the views of downtown Portland from my standard room’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
- As an exercise fanatic, there’s no greater feeling than using a brand-new fitness facility. Although there’s no squat rack, the Moxy Portland sports a dumbbell rack, various cardio equipment and even a Peloton bike, letting me get my spin fix.
- The lobby was expansive, with plenty of seating areas — ideal for lounging by the fireplace after a long day of exploring Portland. The free Wi-Fi was speedy and there were plenty of outlets to charge up devices.
- Though the staff is limited compared to a full-service hotel, everyone I encountered was friendly, attentive and hospitable. The staff was on hand with a full first-aid kit when my friend cut himself, and they allowed us to store our bags for nine hours on our last day between checkout and our red-eye back to New York.
- Affordability is the biggest selling point of the Moxy Portland. I paid roughly $130 per night to stay here over the weekend, so it felt like a bargain.
- The design of this hotel is both a pro and a con. Trying to be trendy and Instagrammable, the decor felt questionable and flashy like an overdecorated college dorm room — think blinding neon elevator lights and rainbow-colored climber’s rope dangling from the ceiling.
- Pitch-black hallways and few lights in the rooms made for a gloomy ambiance.
- Downtown Portland is empty on weekends, so this might not be the place to stay if you’re looking for nightlife. Instead, try neighborhoods like Nob Hill in northwest Portland or Buckman, located across the Willamette River.
- Housekeeping is on-demand only. You’ll need to call the front desk the night before to request service for the next day.
- Rooms were small and stripped-down versions of what you’d expect from a normal hotel room. For instance, instead of drawers, there’s just under-bed storage and a few hangers, and the desk is a fold-down desk.
Rooms at the Moxy Portland exude a warehouse vibe thanks to concrete floors and ceilings and open floor plans. My Cozy King room still felt small, though, clocking in at just 184 square feet. The king bed, with mustard-colored pillows, took up most of the room, but luckily I found the distinct firmness of the mattress comfortable for lounging and working.
There’s nowhere to store your luggage, and instead of a closet or dresser, all you get is a few hangers and an under-bed drawer so … pack light? While the rotary phone felt pleasantly retro, the 55-inch wall-mounted TV with Chromecast was decidedly contemporary. There was even a sound machine to help drown out the city noise.
Travelers who have to work will find a folding desk on the wall and a metal-frame chair along the wall next to the bed. A word of caution: The USB ports are unfortunately hot-wired to the room’s lights, so if you want to charge your devices overnight, plug into one of the regular sockets instead. There’s no bar or minifridge either, so only pack nonperishable snacks.
The bathroom was serviceable, if sterile, though the Pharmacopia products were a nice touch. Like the main room, there wasn’t much storage or any surfaces to stow your toiletries. And while there was a sliding door separating the bathroom from the main room for privacy, there was no shower door, making it easy for water to seep into the rest of the bathroom.
Food and drink
Moxy hotels reward guests checking in with a complimentary welcome drink: a signature house cocktail, wine or beer. Here, the libation included Bacardi Dragonberry, a sticky-sweet rum that brought back nauseating memories from my college days. Happily, the bartender swapped it out with vodka for me, which made for a much nicer start to my stay. The drinks prices were moderate otherwise, ranging from $5 to $12, with 20% off at happy hour from 4-7 p.m. daily.
There’s technically no room service, though the bar is open and sells food to go 24/7, including white cheddar mac and cheese, and a ham and cheese pretzel. That said, the hotel plans to honor the city’s famous food carts and add three of them to its public areas in the future. We skipped the in-house offerings and instead went to brunch nearby at Pine State Biscuits and brought back late-night pho from Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen.
Amenities and service
Service was minimal aside from the bar. That said, I have to hand it to the bartenders (who also served as the receptionists) as they played several roles manning the floor at the Moxy. Still, the employees never seemed stressed and remained fun-spirited. While the hotel is still relatively new, I could see the Moxy Portland being a magnetic spot for both visitors and city dwellers — especially during happy hour — as the hotel becomes more well known in the area.
Out and about
I’m a firm believer that the Pacific Northwest is one of the most underrated destinations for enjoying the crisp fall weather and the changing of the leaves. But no matter which season you decide to visit Portland, there are some beautiful neighborhoods that any nature lover will adore in and outside the city. We even rented a Zipcar to drive to a nearby apple orchard and hike Mount Hood National Forest for a day.
Most Portlanders will tell you that downtown isn’t the best place to stay as you’re mostly near offices. However, I’d argue that the Moxy Portland can be a decent home base for a short visit since many other neighborhoods are walkable and you’re near plenty of public transportation options.
If you love a good beer, Portland is known for its breweries, many of which are no more than a 15-minute walk away from the Moxy. I especially loved Deschutes Brewery (you must try the manchego grilled cheese and the garlic aioli fries) and Von Ebert Brewing for delicious IPAs. The iconic Portland Saturday Market, where dozens of artisans and food trucks will gather, is also a 15-minute walk away along the river.
Finally, the hotel is a 25-minute bus ride from the gorgeous International Rose Test Garden in northwest Portland, which is also near the Portland Japanese Garden and the imposing Pittock Mansion — all of which are must-see tourist attractions.
The Moxy Portland and its rooms are wheelchair accessible, with a ramp that takes you to the lobby bathroom. The doorways are wide, though I’d note that the rooms are small and the lack of floor space and the under-bed storage may not be the most ideal for wheelchair-using guests.
Once you stay at one Moxy, you can basically get a feel for what the others are like. While it’s clear that the Moxy Portland is targeted to young travelers flying solo or visiting with their significant others or friends, the value of the hotel is decent if you don’t mind the pared-down offerings. Generational differences (and the over-the-top branding) aside, the Moxy Portland is unconventional but convenient for those who won’t spend too much time in their rooms and plan to get out and explore the city.
Featured photo by Stella Shon/The Points Guy.
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