My Travels to Portland
I think I was about 6 years old the first time I visited Portland, Oregon. It was a family camping trip in one car with 4 kids, 1 big dog and 2 parents who smoked (in the car) and played opera music on the radio. That’s about all I remember from that vacation. And to this day I shudder when I hear opera music!
Two years ago my friend Margaret said, “Hey, let’s go to Portland, I’ve got free tickets to a concert”. Live music, road trip, summer… three of my favourite things… it was an easy “yes” and we had a blast. But we only scratched the surface of Portland.
So last fall when my friend Charlene said, “Hey, do you want to go to Portland in January?” it took no time to say yes!
Here’s a big list of great things we discovered on our 4-day weekend in Portland in January, plus some things I want to do next time… so you can plan your own visit to this iconic American city.
Great Way to Get to Portland
Road trips are fun, but someone’s always got to take the wheel. Why not take the train? Amtrak runs daily service to and from Portland from both north (Vancouver) and south (Los Angeles) starting points. It’s comfortable, cost-effective, and you start the weekend’s fun before you arrive!
Great Place to Stay in Portland
Travelling with a group is more fun and economical when you can share accommodations, so Airbnb is the ideal solution. We found a great space for up to 6 people in a home in Nob Hill, a charming neighbourhood in the NW section of Portland. It was just perfect… exceptionally clean, well-stocked, and located within easy walking distance to, well, everything you want to do!
Even just taking a walking tour around the Nob Hill neighbourhood is a feast for the eyes if you are an architecture buff, like me. Victorian-styled homes are the norm, and there is a lot of brick, plus some newer more contemporary builds as well. It all adds up to an architectural diversity that is a feast for the eyes.
Great Food, Glorious Food, in Portland
Portland has a thriving foodie scene and there is no shortage of restaurant options, from the neighbourhood pub, to trendy breweries to more upscale eateries.
After our long hike in Forest Park (see below), sharing a pizza at the neighbourhood pub definitely hit the spot.
Even getting groceries is fun in Portland. From Whole Foods to Trader Joe’s to the newest hip & happy New Seasons Market, there is nothing but organic goodness. You can just wander the aisles looking at all of the hippy-dippy offerings and ready-to-eat food. One of my travelling companions said, “Why would you even cook if you can just come here and get these amazing ready-made meals?”
While wandering the downtown core one day looking for a lunch spot, we stumbled upon a restaurant whose sign said, “oldest restaurant in Portland”. Sounded intriguing! We walked in to a dark, somber place but the host told us to follow him to the back. Well, we entered the most stunning old-school restaurant! A 3-paned stained-glass skylight on the high ceiling let in such beautiful, soft light. The solid wood tables and booths were matched by a very long, solid wood bar tended by a gentleman who knew his stuff. We enjoyed table service par excellence, and menu items to die for. All for an exceptionally reasonable price. Huber’s, a place of legends. And a legendary lunch in my books.
The line-up told us there was something good at the end of it. But the wait was too long or we would have missed our train home. So… next time I travel to Portland one of the first stops will be Voodoo Doughnuts, where “the magic is in the hole”!
A Great Brew-Ha-Ha Weekend*
The New York Times says, “There is no place in the country better known as a bastion of good living, leisure and happy inebriation.”
Portland’s beer culture is infectious, even when you’re not really a beer drinker! And while the craft beer scene has exploded recently across North America, apparently Portland had it going on way before the rest of us.
Filled with chic boutiques, galleries and dining destinations, the upscale Pearl District and charming Nob Hill (aka Northwest Portland) are just a quick streetcar hop from downtown Portland. Home of the historic Brewery Blocks, where Henry Weinhard launched Portland’s brewing legacy in the 1860s, the area also claims stalwarts like BridgePort and a diverse mix of regional and local breweries, making it a favorite site for a Beervana pilgrimage. (Travel Portland)
The 3 stops we made on our Brew-Ha-Ha day tour through Portland’s Brewery Blocks were:
- Fat Head’s Brewery, where we all sampled and enjoyed their flagship Bumble Berry beer (and giant chicken wings!)
- Rogue Ales Distillery & Public House, for those who Dare, Risk, Dream
- 10 Barrel Brewing Company, the party place!
*Thanks to Charlene for coining the “Brew-Ha-Ha” phrase
Great Place to Hike in Portland
Remember when I mentioned it was my friend Charlene who suggested we travel to Portland for a long weekend? Well, Charlene is a hiking junkie so Portland’s Forest Park was high on our list of places to see. And for a hiking buff like me, it was pretty much nirvana.
With over 5,000 acres of urban parkland, a vast system of hiking trails, second-growth and old growth forest, this oasis in the middle of the city is a great place to spend a day. And we were extremely fortunate to be able to hike on a warm & sunny day in the middle of January (often overtaken by the many joggers in the park).
Great Places to Shop in Portland
I’m not an avid shopper, but when I learned about a shop that “features an inspired collection of reclaimed, vintage, bohemian and industrial home goods”, I was hooked and I just had to go to CityHome. At first my travel companions were a bit skeptical but once we got there, they too were drawn in to the magic of the place.
My love of interiors photography means I drool over good interior design, and this warehouse space was filled with inspirational design vignettes and funky home goods.
During our walkabout through Portland’s funky-chic Pearl District, we also shopped at West Elm, Patagonia, Icebreaker, a packed-to-the-rafters vintage consignment clothing store, and Storables (another nirvana place for organization nuts like me). We were on our way to shop at REI, but got stopped by our Brew-Ha-Ha adventures.
And of course, the big daddy of places to shop in Portland…Powell’s City of Books. Wow. It’s great to see an independent bookstore thriving in our digital world. And this one is definitely thriving! The place was packed on a Sunday afternoon and my wanderings around the four stories of books gave me plenty of things to see and photograph.
Great Things To Do and Places to See Next Time in Portland
- Nob Hill is home to many boutiques, galleries and restaurants and we only scratched the surface on this visit. Next time I travel to Portland, I want to spend more time exploring Northwest 23rd and 21st Streets
- We walked through Old Town Chinatown on our way to Union Station and I vowed to go back at night to photograph all of the old-school neon signs. There is also a Saturday market to go to and of course, Voodoo Doughnuts.
- We didn’t cycle on this visit, but with the ease of the Biketown rentals, it’s a must-do next time.
- Pips & Bounce sounds like a ton of fun! Ping-pong tables in a bar. Yes please!
- Portland’s coffee culture rivals its Beervana moniker. Quick research shows me there are plenty of coffee crawl options to get a buzz on. Next time!
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