Nov 3, 2021 - Things to Do

Staycation at this Arkansas-themed hotel for $101

arkansas hotel lobby filled with signs

The lobby of the Graduate in Fayetteville is filled with eclectic, dorm-room-style decor like these signs. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

With red plaid print wrapped around the outside, the Graduate in downtown Fayetteville makes a statement even before you get inside.

The big picture: The city's largest hotel may look like a gift from the street, but it's the interior that was the biggest surprise for me, a first-time visitor to Arkansas, here to meet the Axios NWA team IRL.

  • The walls of the lobby are covered with kitsch like the street signs you might see in a fraternity house at the University of Arkansas, just a half-mile west of the hotel.
  • A collage of American flags surrounds the Arkansas banner as I boarded an elevator.
  • Then there was the camo print carpet in my room. (I've learned since what a big deal hunting is here — read Axios NWA's dedicated newsletter on deer season.)

My thought bubble: As much as this wouldn't be my personal home decor, it was just right for this 234-room hotel in a bustling college town.

mirror selfie in front of a wall of flags
That's me, wondering how I ended up here. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

Flashback: The lodging, sometimes referred to as a love letter to the Fayetteville community, reopened under its new Graduate brand in fall 2019.

  • Formerly known as The Chancellor, the 1980s hotel was fully renovated in 2019 with an estimated investment of at least $1.2 million on top of its $31 million sale price, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported at the time.
  • The Graduate closed for three months during the pandemic and has struggled with staffing issues since, according to The Arkansas Traveler.

I didn't notice staffing troubles during my two-night stay. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful — the front desk even answered my 10:30pm text asking for a bottle of water, promptly delivering it to my door.

What to expect: Graduate has a long list of amenities, plus its location is prime if you want easy access to U of A and Dickson Street.

  • I didn't visit the indoor-outdoor pool, but the hotel's website tells me it in fact exists.
  • There are also complimentary bike rentals. (How NWA of them!)
  • And it's pet-friendly.

On the menu: The biggest bummer for me was that there was no complimentary breakfast — just coffee.

  • The lobby restaurant and bar do, however, serve breakfast and dinner with dishes ranging from a breakfast burrito ($7) to Razorback tots ($14) and a burger ($15) for dinner.
  • The cocktail list includes a few themed drinks like the Arkansas mule ($12), and an elderflower and Tito's cocktail called the Ms. Fayetteville ($12).
lobby of hotel with red ceiling
The restaurant and bar are located inside the Graduate's lobby right by check-in. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

How to book a room: Rates start at $101/night, but anytime there's a U of A football game, prices jump. On Nov. 4 and 5, for example, rooms are going for $649.

Pro tip: Every summer, Graduate sells a select number of "hall passes" for $500. These grants guests unlimited night-stays at any Graduate hotel across the country during the month of July.

  • We're talking Nashville, Columbus, Minneapolis and other cities with Axios Local newsletters (wink).
  • Keep your eyes peeled for details in the spring.

In the meantime, here's a quick tour of Graduate Fayetteville:

hotel bed
Peep the camo carpet. Also, there was another bed in my hotel room, but it was messy. Photo: Emma Way/Axios
nightstand in hotel room with rotary phone
I loved the details on this nightstand, but FWIW, the rotary phone doesn't work. Photo: Emma Way/Axios
view from my hotel room in fayetteville
The view from my hotel room. Photo: Emma Way/Axios
full hotel room
Sorry 'bout the messy bed. Photo: Emma Way/Axios
hotel bathroom
My hotel room bathroom had funky print, too. Photo: Emma Way/Axios
flags on a wall
The flags sans a mirror selfie. Photo: Emma Way/Axios

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