For a long while, Portland, Oregon was a city I overlooked. I always thought of Seattle and Vancouver when I considered visiting the Pacific NW. After winning free tickets to go anywhere in the contiguous U.S, I knew I wanted to go as far away from my place in Washington, D.C as possible, so my choice to go to Seattle seemed appropriate. I had such a lovely time during my trip to the Emerald City, I knew it wouldn’t be my last foray to this region. A Seattleite once told me that if I liked their hometown, I would really enjoy Portland. Soon thereafter, I found myself making the trip to the ‘other’ Brooklyn of the west (ahem, Oakland).
Portland is commonly thought of as a place full of hipsters, environmentalists, and outdoors enthusiasts that lacks diversity. While this is true in part, there is so much more to this eclectic city. If you visit at the right time, the weather can be near perfect with the ability to roam by foot or bike quite comfortably. I am always appreciative of any suggestions from locals, but I also tend to take my fair share of time wandering and going with the flow. During my fall visit the weather consisted of intermittent cloudy skies with tinges of sunshine, just right for exploration. I soon found out that there are plenty of things to do and many places to discover in the city quite simply known as PDX.
Ride a bike: One of the best ways to tour Portland is by bike. Portland is often at or near the top of the list as the most cycled city in the United States (Minneapolis is the other). A part of Portland’s green sensibilities are due to the amount of people who tend to predominantly travel around the city by bicycle. It’s not quite Amsterdam, but it seems to be well on the way. You can’t go wrong by choosing two wheels when roaming this very bike-friendly town.
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall: During my bike tour, we passed The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. As we approached I noticed a large Appollo-esque sign displaying the name, Dave Chappelle! I became a bit giddy at the thought of getting the chance to see one of my favorite and most respected comedians of the current era. To no surprise, I found out his show was sold out, but I remained positive I would find a way. Mr. Chappelle didn’t disappoint. There are all types of performances showcased at this historic mainstay. If you’re into various forms of art and theater shows, I would suggest checking the schedule before your visit.
Japanese Garden: For some reason I have developed a fascination with trees and taking pictures of them. Some of my favorite shots are from here. These meticulously manicured gardens sit overlooking the city. Not only can you get some great pics of beautiful plants and trees, you can arrange to buy versions of them. You can also get some great panoramic photos of the city as well.
Farmer’s Market: I’ve become more conscious of what I put in my body, so I have a certain appreciation for fresh and organic food. You can find things we would all expect at a farmer’s market and so much more. This market serves eight areas throughout Portland during the week. I highly suggest one of the most visited weekend markets nestled within the beautiful grounds of Portland State University.
Salt and Straw: My persistent sweet tooth wasn’t going to let me pass by this place without trying some of its famous homemade ice cream. You’re likely to wait in line at one of the locations of this popular spot. They specialize in creating interesting flavors (honey balsamic strawberry with cracked pepper, anyone?) to go along with the freshly made waffle cones made in store. One word – yummy.
Stumptown Coffee: This coffee is sold all over the country, but there is something to be said about going to the birthplace. If you love a good cup of joe, you must check out one of the locations. I visited one of the downtown locations adjacent to a cute boutique hotel.
Pine State Biscuits: This place has become very popular among locals and tourists alike. Even though I eat more like a vegetarian nowadays, I had to try their chicken biscuit. Their speciality biscuit menu is well-known and often raved about in the press. You’ll see your fair share of ‘hipsters’ either in the line to order or working behind the bar.
If skiing, mountain climbing, camping and other outdoor activities appeal to you, plan to take a least a day or two to visit Mt. Hood. If you have champagne tastes and enjoy trying speciality cocktails, head over to Teardrop lounge where they craft fancy drinks and take ice very seriously(yes, ice). And if you’re into music like me, you’ll appreciate the many options you have to see all kinds of live music at a variety of bars/lounges, clubs, and theaters.
Portland offers a variety of things to do, see, and experience for everyone. Although you may not run into too many others who look like you in this beautiful and proudly quirky town, your experience will be enhanced by the kind people and the hues of natural beauty.