Graduate Hotels Will Have You Wishing You Were in School Again
This university-centric hotel chain brings new life to America's coolest college towns.
Whether you’re planning a trip to your alma mater, discovering a smaller city on a summer road trip, or moving your kids into college in the fall, a stay with Graduate Hotels promises a unique experience unto itself. Each of its twenty-seven locations is intrinsically tied to the history of the local culture, city, and university. Graduate Hotels, hence, the name, are located in major college towns across the U.S. The brand brings a boutique hotel experience to cities where there are rarely any unique options.
My first Graduate Hotel stay was over a long weekend in July in Providence, Rhode Island — and I have since made it a point to stay at Graduate whenever possible. It’s one of the only hotels that has truly won me over with playful and thoughtful design, overall quality of the stay, and smart business strategy. Graduate Providence recently opened after renovating the historic Biltmore Hotel downtown near both Brown University and RISD. Upon entry, the lobby is enchanting, like entering a Wes Anderson-inspired collegiate dream — a feeling that carried over to each property I visited. Even better, the hotel is dog friendly — an important amenity when traveling with your pup.
The second stay was at Graduate Eugene, in Oregon, close to the University of Oregon campus. Known as Track Town, where Nike reigns supreme, Graduate Eugene brings the brand's history to life with 144 Vintage Nike posters and display of 44 pairs of iconic Nike sneakers (including Graduate’s prized possession, a pair of highly coveted Moon shoes) in the lobby. Sports aside, the design from lobby to room is inspired by the Pacific Northwest landscape with massive wooden tables, hues of dark green, and indigenous-influenced patterns and art by local artists.
With minimalist design at peak popularity from vacation rentals to hotels large and small aiming to win over millennial travelers, Graduate Hotel's approach is the polar opposite — creating a refuge with abundant locality in its maximalist style. Patterns, colors, and textures shock the eye but keep you looking at intimate details from the carpet to the art; there is not a dull moment. The hyper-local design celebrates the community of each property and there's an intentional lesson in the interiors, — from the bright yellow rubber duck-lined wall at Eugene’s indoor pool to Bloomington, Indiana’s ceiling of basketball chandeliers. It's part of why I try to stay at Graduate properties; the consistency of discovery and history with the design is refreshing.
The only elements you'll find standard across all Graduate Hotels are the beds, linens, and bathroom amenities. And, if you find school supplies thrilling, the brand's all-day cafe, Poindexter, has wallpaper made from thousands of sharpened pencils across each location.
My most recent visit was a quick one-night stay at the newly opened Graduate Nashville, located in Midtown near Vanderbilt University. Nashville's southern charm was instantly felt by the bright floral patterns, candy-colored portrait of Minnie Pearl, and the sound of country music coming from the karaoke bar which can only be topped by Music City skyline views at the rooftop restaurant. And to make the perfect night, the room was blessed by a portrait of Dolly Parton hanging over the bed.
Founded in 2014 by Ben Weprin, the CEO noticed the void of lifestyle hotel brands in the nation’s leading university towns and the need to highlight the importance of these thriving communities that are entrepreneurial hotbeds and homes to major hospital systems and notable museums. In just five years, the brand opened twenty-three locations from the Pacific to the Atlantic, with a Dallas property set to open this summer followed by three in the fall and UK properties in early 2021. As a fast-growing international hotel brand dedicated to highlighting the spirit of local communities and inspiring nostalgia of our college days, you're bound to become as big a fan as I am — no matter where you went to school.