Arts & Entertainment

Husky Guide to Tacoma’s new McMenamins Elks Temple

One month has gone by since McMenamins Elks Temple opened up shop in Downtown Tacoma. Originally constructed in 1916, Tacoma Elks Temple served as Tacoma’s location of the Elks Lodge. These venues housed the nation’s active social organizations that were common during the early 20th century. In the 1960’s, The Elks Lodge membership collectively decided to move to a new location in Central Tacoma, which served as a community event space for several years before its abandonment in 1986, where it sat vacant for 33 years before McMenamins purchased it in 2007. After years of planning, McMenamins Elks Temple boasts over 41,000 square feet and is now the epitome of lively nightlife in Downtown Tacoma. This massive entertainment complex is comprised of seven floors and features six restaurants and bars, 45 guest rooms and a large concert hall. Anyone who steps into McMenamins is bound to have a great time, but here are a few tips as you embark on your seven floor journey.

Remember from which way you came

McMenamins is like a giant maze. Be prepared for a night full of “Did we already go this way?” and “No, I think the game room is just around the corner.” Not-so-clearly marked bars, restaurants and rooms combined with the lack of a map makes navigating McMenamins a bit difficult. Of course, part of the adventure is to explore and see what you happen upon, but to make sure you truly see everything, just be sure to remember which floors you’ve already explored. When in doubt, just follow the music to the Spanish Ballroom concert hall and make your way from there.

Find the secret speakeasy

The rumors are true: there is a secret bar located deep in McMenamins Elks Temple. Although it’s location will not be spoiled, it is a definite must when visiting McMenamins — and its secrecy makes it all the more alluring. Situated behind a hidden door is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bar with some seating as well. Make the journey to find this intimate, little gem by taking a closer look at any suspicious-looking walls. This room is only for adults 21 years or older, so please drink responsibly.

Look for the many balconies

With so many floors and experiences to choose from, it’s easy to stay focused on the interior of the complex. While the inside of McMenamins is absolutely gorgeous, the views from the windows and balconies of the Puget Sound area, the entirety of Downtown Tacoma and The Spanish Steps are breathtaking. There are several unmarked balconies on almost every floor throughout the venue, and enjoying them on a clear night is definitely encouraged. Not only are they a great way to take in the city, but they also serve as a breath of fresh air from all of the bustling activity within.

Check out the many art pieces

Part of what makes McMenamins different from other venues in Downtown Tacoma is their dedication to interior visual art. As you travel between them, each floor puts forth a different feel and theme, accentuated by the art pieces adoring the walls that make the venue come to life. McMenamins’ interior walls also feature photography and artwork that celebrate Tacoma’s history, as well as the other McMenamins located in historical sites throughout the Northwest. In the midst of roaming from floor to floor — exploring something new around every bend — remember to look up and around so as to admire the artistic inspiration behind McMenamins.

Alex Alderman

Alex is studying sustainable urban development. She loves going to events around Tacoma and telling people about them. Her goal is to use her degree to make cities more sustainable.