by Lisa Meyers McClintick
After a day of exploring the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and its pretty waterfalls along the historic byway, the BEST WESTERN PLUS Hood River Inn provides a family-friendly getaway without giving up the cherished river views.
It’s definitely worth upgrading to a River View room, most of which have patios or balconies for watching boats go by, water sport enthusiasts or windsurfers harnessing the Columbia’s famous wind speeds.
Parents and families can relax on the balcony, stroll along riverside trails near the property or head to the onsite heated hotel pool, which has clear walls to protect swimmers from Columbia River winds, but allows them a superb view.
Pet-friendly and with lots of outdoor space for kids to roam, this 194-room BEST WESTERN property continually ranks as a top family hotel option in the Columbia River Gorge region. It features modern, Pacific Northwest Asian-influenced dÃ©cor, rich with wood, green tones and lush photography inspired by surrounding forests.
The onsite Riverside restaurant also embraces views of the gorge with generous windows and an outdoor patio that can be a beautiful spot to kick off a summer day.
Even without the appeal of the Columbia River location — not to mention a snow-capped Mount Hood rising above the southern horizon and Mount Adams rising to the north on the Washington side — the community of Hood River hums with its own laid-back, outdoorsy charm, a place where you can happily fly a kite, hop on a bike, grab a cold beer and pizza or share a huckleberry shake and homemade fruit pies. Hood River’s Fruit Loop — a scenic drive through its valley, dotted with wineries, orchards, farm stands and other attractions — could alone entertain kids for a weekend.
The hotel location provides an ideal home base for day trips to Oregon’s fruit valley, gorge museums, the high desert to the east, lush rainforests and waterfalls to the west, and even Mount Hood, which maintains enough snow that you could ski in August.
At the same time, there’s enough to do without leaving the hotel and its riverfront location. Families who need a serious downshift can find a comfy lounger facing the Columbia, let kids splash in the water or cartwheel across the grounds, and relax as the river keeps on flowing.
Our Editor Loves
- A pool overlooking the Columbia River
- Easy access to Hood River's downtown and Fruit Loop
- Riverfront water sports and trails
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
With BEST WESTERN PLUS Hood River Inn's best asset being a riverside setting, it's worth the extra money (usually a $20-per-night increase) to reserve a room that faces the Columbia. The third-floor rooms with balconies offer the best views, but first-floor river-facing rooms also are nice because it's easy to get outside and on the riverside trail and let active kids run. Request a room in the east wing if you have toddlers so you're closer to the pool area and can reach it more quickly without going through the lobby and past the restaurant in wet suits.
The inn has a handful of ADA accessible rooms designed to help guests with vision, hearing or mobility challenges. The hotel is also popular with dog owners who can reserve one of the designated pet-friendly rooms for an extra $12 per day.
Rollaways are $12 per night. Portable cribs and play yards are complimentary and come with Coverplay slipcovers. Rollaways and cribs are both first-come, first-served.
Standard rooms are about 365 square feet and come with a queen and sofa sleeper, two queens or a king bed. Pick the double queens or king configuration if you need room for a crib or rollaway.
Amenities include a mini-fridge, microwave, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV's with cable television, a desk/work area, coffee maker, hair drivers, iron and ironing board and complimentary USA Today newspapers on weekdays. Beds feature Sealy Posturepedic mattresses and pillows made with duck down, although you can request hypoallergenic pillows without feathers. About 42 rooms have bathrooms with showers only, so request a tub if you have young children to bathe.
Standard rooms are located in east and west wings, parallel to the river and to the right and left of the lobby and onsite restaurant. River-facing rooms include balconies or patios.
Larger families can reserve connecting standard rooms that can sleep eight guests when rooms with two queen beds are combined.
If you want extra amenities, such as more living space for little ones who need to move around a lot, you can upgrade from a standard room to a suite within the main hotel. These also may include a whirlpool bath, a wet bar or fireplace. There also are three, two-bedroom suites that include king beds and room for one or two rollaways or cribs.
If you're traveling with extended family or friends or plan to stay longer than a few days, the homiest option can be found within these five suites. They were built around 2008 in a separate building adjacent to the main hotel. They're the most luxurious option with sleek Pacific Northwest dÃ©cor and configurations that can offer one-, two- and three-bedroom units with full modern kitchens.
Headed to Spokane and needed to stop for the night. What a lovely surprise! Everything from the room, pool, river view, restaurant and staff was perfect! Will definitely return for a longer stay! Absolutely wonderful!!!
We splurged and stayed in the Waucoma Suite in the west wing. This river view room is actually two standard rooms size. The right side is the living area and kitchen. It has a sleeper sofa, two stuffed chairs, dining table and chairs, and gas fireplace which does heat nicely. The other half of the suite has the king bed ( very comfy), and a nice stuffed chair. This is a handicapped room. We have a daughter in a wheelchair. The room was very accessible with extra wide doors and plenty of room to maneuver in the rooms. Bathroom has floor level walk in large shower equipped with handrail, folding bench, and a very adjustable shower head on hose. Both halves have access to large private balcony over looking the river. Second floor unit, room 263.
Pool and Spa
The hotel's heated outdoor pool offers riverside views of the Columbia River and rolling hills on the Washington side. That makes it especially alluring for parents who'd rather snag a lounge chair and soak up spectacular sunsets across the gorge than play Marco Polo. Even kids will likely enjoy the river views -- especially if boats are sailing by or they can spot someone trying out water-powered rocket boots.
The pool, which is located on the hotel's east side, stays sheltered from wind and cold by clear walls. They also heat the deck in winter, making it possible to enjoy it through most of the year -- especially with a steamy whirlpool that also offers sweeping views.
Pool depths range from about 3 to 5 feet, so bring water wings, life jackets or floating devices for young children. It's not a huge pool, but that can make it easier to supervise more than one child and be the parental lifeguard. The pool opens at 7 a.m. and stays open until 10 p.m. daily.
There is a bathroom, shower, sauna and indoor spa in the fitness facility next to the pool. It's a handy place to change into dry clothes. Otherwise, it can be a long, drippy walk through the lobby and past the restaurant to reach west-wing hotel rooms.
The hotel has a beach along the river that can be used for swimming or paddle boarding. There are outfitters along the riverfront west of the hotel that can offer lessons in kite surfing, windsurfing, paddle boarding and kayaking, for a fee.
The BEST WESTERN PLUS Hood River Inn offers free seasonal bike rentals. They're a good option for rides along the river or biking into downtown for shopping, exploring and grabbing pie or ice cream. The paved trail along the river in front of the hotel does have some buckles and bumps, so don't let the scenery get too distracting.
Skiing and Rafting
For families craving high-adrenaline adventures, the hotel offers ski packages for Mount Hood Meadows (2,150 skiable acres and 2,777 vertical feet) about 30 miles away and discounts on whitewater rafting on White Salmon River's rapids.
The hotel offers free wine tasting passes for guests who want to visit a dozen participating wineries in the Columbia River Gorge. Besides being good for complimentary wine tasting at the vineyards, it also can be used for 25 percent off a bottle of local wine at the hotel restaurant or lounge.
The BEST WESTERN PLUS Hood River Inn's onsite restaurant, Riverside, boasts one of the community's most scenic dining locations thanks to its generous windows and location on the banks of the Columbia River.
Dining on the patio with boats and kite-surfers to watch makes this an especially appealing place for kids, but also romantic for parents who can enjoy balmy mornings or sunset views.
A hot, sit-down breakfast is included complimentary with most reservations and includes hearty choices, such as a chorizo scramble, bacon-prime rib hash, omelets or a veggie bowl with seasonal vegetables, lentils and black quinoa or oatmeal with a spiced, locally grown pear. There are additional made-to-order options not included with the room (such as a gluten-free options, pancakes with huckleberry syrup, and homemade cinnamon rolls on Sundays). Kids can order French toast, cereal and scrambled eggs. Breakfast is served from 6 to 11 a.m.
Lunch options, served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. offer a mix of soups such as clam chowder or smoked salmon chowder, salads with steak or a chopped salad, fish and chips, homemade veggie burgers, classic sandwiches and a baguette layered with shrimp and Dungeness crab. Dinner, served from 4 to 9 p.m., expands with grilled calamari, crab cakes, grilled pizza, homemade gnocchi, sirloin, rib eye and a fresh fish of the day.
Lunch and dinner options for kids include grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, a cheese pizza, burger and fries, fish and chips or pasta.
Booster seats and high chairs are both available.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Check-in starts at 4 p.m. and check-out is at noon.
The Art of Smart Timing
The BEST WESTERN PLUS Hood River Inn stays open year-round, but summer definitely ranks as the high season. Not only does it usher in the warmest, sunniest weather for water sports on the river and whitewater rafting, but it's also the tastiest season. The hotel is just minutes from the Hood River Fruit Loop, a worthy scenic drive and good way to fill up the mini-fridge with fresh berries, pears, apples and peaches.
Spring visitors may enjoy the largest roar from gorge waterfalls and see area orchards in bloom if they time a visit just right. Autumn visitors can enjoy fall colors with maple, tamarack and aspen trees plus peak season at the wineries and apple orchards.
Winter visitors can find ski and snowshoe trails or head up Mount Hood for skiing about 45 minutes away. Be prepared for temperatures to plunge 20 to 30 degrees when driving up Mount Hood -- no matter what season it is.
The BEST WESTERN PLUS Hood River Inn sits about 55 miles east of Portland International Airport along I-84 or 220 miles from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport via I-5 and I-84. It's best to rent a car to reach the hotel and for getting around to area attractions. Be prepared for $1 tolls on the bridge that crossed the Columbia River from Hood River to White Salmon, Washington.
Be sure to leave time to stop at overlooks, Multnomah Falls and other scenic waterfalls between Portland and Hood River.
There is a gas station and convenience store adjacent to the hotel for fueling up and grabbing easy snacks and drinks. It's also an easy stroll across the parking lot to the Starbucks and McDonalds.
You'll need your own vehicle to explore this region well, especially the Fruit Loop, Mount Hood and the many state park and national forest sites. Keep cash handy for occasional day-use fees or $1 tolls on some bridges between Oregon and Washington. If you have valuables -- especially expensive electronics -- leave them in your hotel or out of sight in a locked truck. The hotel has bikes you can use for about a mile-long ride to Hood River cafes, but that's best for tweens and teens given the hills once you reach downtown.
For Mom and Dad
If parents are able to sneak away from the kids, it's relaxing to go for a walk along the river, have a glass of wine on the riverside patio or catch some free live music most weekends in the Cebu Lounge where there is room to do a little dancing. You can also reserve an individual or couples massage at the spa in the fitness center near the pool.