For many of us, filling up our passports with evidence of our international adventures is a significant life goal. But, unfortunately, fulfilling that goal can be easier said than done.
While your travel passport may have been collecting dust the past few years, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, you have the opportunity to fulfill a different travel goal.
The McMenamins Passport challenge allows collectors to earn stamps for visiting McMenamins locations around Oregon and Washington and earn great prizes along the way.
If you’re a fan of McMenamins or simply looking for an excuse to travel and visit historic and unique locations in Oregon and Washington, then the McMenamins Passport challenge is for you.
Read on to learn about McMenamins, the McMenamins Passport, and how you can get started earning your stamps.
What is McMenamins?
McMenamins is a chain of hotels, theaters, concert venues, breweries, and pubs sprinkled throughout Oregon and Washington.
Founded in 1985 by brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin, the first McMenamins was a brewpub in the southwest Portland suburb of Hillsdale. The first theater was the Mission Theater and Pub, which opened in 1987. The brothers expanded into the hospitality business in 1990 with the opening of McMenamins Edgefield, a converted 74-acre site in Troutdale, Oregon.
Today, there are 62 McMenamins locations throughout the Pacific Northwest. Locations range from Roseburg, Oregon, to Bothell, Washington, over to the Oregon coast, and east to Bend, Oregon. However, most locations are in and around Portland, and most other locations are up and down the I-5 corridor within a day trip from Portland.
McMenamins properties are unique in that many are rehabilitated historic properties, including former schools, mortuaries, Elks Lodges, and other distinctive buildings. In addition, nine properties are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Not only are McMenamins converted from unique and historic properties, but each location also has a distinctive and quirky theme all its own. From mismatching chandeliers in the Courtyard Restaurant at Kennedy School to the wall of sinks at McMenamins on Monroe in Corvallis to the giant chandelier in the Crystal Ballroom, each location has something different to offer.
And it isn’t just the setting and décor that are unique. McMenamins also offers their own selection of handcrafted beer, wine, and cider, along with classic pub food such as burgers, salads, and sandwiches.
While staples such as tater tots and the signature Terminator stout, and Hammerhead beer can be found at any location, McMenamins also typically offers other selections related to the local area. For example, locations on the coast offer seafood dishes along with the typical pub fare.
However, the most exclusive aspect of McMenamins is the McMenamins Passport.
What is the McMenamins Passport?
The McMenamins Passport functions similarly to a traditional passport in that you receive stamps for each location you visit. However, in this case, the places to visit are all the McMenamins locations, and you can earn more than one stamp depending on which location you’re visiting.
To start earning stamps, you’ll need to get your McMenamins Passport book, which looks very similar to a real passport. You can purchase a McMenamins Passport at any of the locations for $35. You must be 21 years old to purchase a passport and earn stamps, but once you’ve started, you can take as long as you want/need to collect all the stamps.
The pages in your passport booklet are arranged by location. Larger locations with hotels, theaters, and restaurants will typically have their own page, whereas pub-only locations will be grouped based on location. For instance, the five Portland eastside locations are grouped together on page 15.
As you earn stamps and fill up a page, you’ll be able to earn prizes. Sometimes you must fill up an entire page, such as by visiting each pub on the eastside of Portland, but other times you’ll earn a prize by visiting a particular geographical location without having to fill the page. For example, you’ll receive separate prizes for earning stamps at the four locations in Eugene and the location in Roseburg even though they’re on the same page in the passport.
Each time you visit a McMenamins location, you can earn a stamp(s) for that location. The caveat is that you’ll need to make a purchase and be prepared to show your receipt to earn stamps. However, you are not required to have a meal or stay at a location to earn stamps, so you could also choose to purchase something in the gift shop or something as simple as a drink.
Earning stamps at pub-only locations is straightforward. Make a purchase and earn a stamp. It gets a bit more complicated at hotel locations that have multiple stamp-earning opportunities in the same place.
In general, you’ll only be required to make one purchase to earn all the stamps at a given location. However, locations with theaters may also require you to purchase tickets. It’s also important to check the hours of the various bars and restaurants if you plan on visiting a hotel location, as some of these may not always be open.
Earning a stamp from the front desk of hotel locations also requires a bit of a scavenger hunt. Called the Passport Photo Hunt, you’ll need to solve a riddle and take a selfie with the specific photo, piece of art, or poster referred to in the riddle. Finding the photo will likely require you to walk around the location, so be prepared to work a bit for the hotel stamps.
In addition to earning stamps for visiting each location, you can also earn stamps and prizes for participating in various experiences, such as seeing a movie, taking a brewery tour, or visiting a spa. You can also collect stamps for visiting McMenamins during events throughout the year, although these are just for fun.
As you fill up pages in your passport, you’ll earn prizes, and once you earn all the stamps at all the locations, you’ll be eligible for the grand prize.
While your passport doesn’t have an expiration date, you will need to make sure you earn stamps at any new locations that open while you’re collecting to earn the grand prize.
You’ll earn many fun prizes as you collect stamps. As you fill up the pages in your passport, you’ll be eligible to get free food such as tots or burgers, gift cards, merchandise, and exclusive passport items. Sometimes there is a set prize, and sometimes you’re able to pick from a selection of three or four different things. You’ll also earn a $20 gift card for every four McMenamins experiences you complete and earn stamps for (pages 4, 5, and 6).
Note: you don’t have to redeem your prize at the time you earn it. However, when you do redeem your prize, an employee will sign and date that page.
The Grand Prize
The prizes you earn along the way are excellent bonuses, but what you’re really after with the McMenamins Passport challenge is the grand prize. You earn the grand prize once you’ve earned the stamps at all 62 McMenamins locations.
Only redeemable at McMenamins hotels, the grand prize includes:
- Overnight stays
- A pair of concert or movie tickets
- Drinks at Happy Hour prices Sunday through Thursday for the first year after you’ve completed the passport (must show your passport)
- An invitation to the Cosmic Tripster Party (exclusively for those who’ve completed a passport)
- Passport merchandise showing you’ve completed the challenge
You’ll also be officially designated as a Cosmic Tripster and gain access to the Cosmic Tripster Clubhouse at Edgefield.
McMenamins Passport Tips and Tricks
Above are the nuts and bolts of the McMenamins Passport program and how and what you can earn. However, as a McMenamins Passport stamp collector and friend to several Cosmic Tripsters who’ve completed the challenge, I’d like to offer the following tips and tricks.
- Pace yourself – don’t try to complete your passport within a few months as you’ll likely burn out on the experience and the food.
- Strategically plan your trips – make a plan to visit locations in relatively close geographic areas simultaneously.
- Complete with friends – the experience is more fun if you have someone to share it with. So find a few friends also working on the McMenamins Passport challenge and plan trips to earn stamps.
- Take road trips – you’ll need to travel a bit to complete your passport, so plan day trips or weekend getaways with family and friends to turn your quest into a fun retreat.
- Stay elsewhere – McMenamins hotels are beautiful and unique. They’re also expensive. On your journey, I’d recommend staying in more affordable accommodations unless there is a deal available.
- Make small purchases – collecting stamps can get expensive if you eat full meals and have drinks at every location. I’d recommend making one small purchase, such as a drink or appetizer, especially when you’re visiting multiple locations on the same day or trip.
Moral of the Story
The McMenamins Passport challenge is a fun and unique experience that encourages you to get out and see all that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
From the beach to the high desert and everywhere in between, filling up your McMenamins Passport is the perfect adventure to share with your family and friends and a great excuse to get out and explore.
Is the McMenamins Passport going on your bucket list?