Portland Rose Garden

Welcome to the City of Roses. Portland is so quirky, progressive and politically correct it has earned the distinction of being satirized in a sketch comedy series (Portlandia – Independent Film Channel). Bring your sense of fun and your all weather shoes.

Where to Eat?

At a brew pub, of course! You’re in the Pacific Northwest so sud-sipping is required. Portland prides itself on local micro-brews and beer lovers will not be disappointed.

Beerwise, I’m very fond of Deschutes Brewery (210 NW 11th Ave).  Their Black Butte Porter and Mirror Pond Amber are both excellent choices.

If you’re a dog lover go to Lucky Lab (915 SE Hawthorne Blvd).  You can enjoy good pub fare while being in the company of man’s best friend, as many people bring their canines to the pub.

McMenamin’s Beers (photo byChristopher)

For atmosphere, no one does it better than McMenamin’s. Pioneers in micro-brewing, the McMenamin brothers had such success that they expanded into theaters, hotels, and dances halls- all serving their famous beers.  Many of their properties are historic buildings which they have restored, adding luscious gardens and delightful artwork.  You can drink in the name of historic preservation.  Their pubs are ubiquitous.  Here are a few of the best known Portland locations:

Bagdad Theater and Pub – 3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.
Kennedy School – 5736 N.E. 33rd Ave
Crystal Ballroom and Hotel – 303 S.W. 12th Ave.

For more information on Portland’s Beer scene checkout Beer Advocate.

Don’t like beer? (Really?) Try one of the many food carts.  A few years ago the city revamped their regulations making it much easier to own and operate a food cart.  The phenomenon blossomed and the streets of Portland now offer a plethora of ethnic delights for relatively little money.

Where to Stay?

The AAE Portland Downtown hotel  is perfect for the budget traveler with excellent rates and a convenient location.

Staying at a  bed and breakfast  might put you out a few more dollars, but offers a chance to enjoy some of Portland’s scenic neighborhoods.

McMenamin’s has three hotels in Portland, all located in historic buildings and allowing you easy access to that most important of amenities- beer.

What to Do?

Washington Park dominates the hills on the west side of Portland. In addition to a great view of the city, it’s attractions include the International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Garden, Oregon Zoo, Hoyt Arboretum, Portland Children’s museum and the world Forestry Center.  There are picnic areas, tennis courts, even an archery field.  The amphitheater near the rose garden hosts concerts and other performances in the summer and the zoo also hosts weekly concerts.

Endless options in Powell’s City of Books by Malcolm Tredinnick

That’s all well and good, you say, but it’s raining.  Naturally.  All that greenery has a price.  To while away a soggy afternoon, head to Powell’s City of Books (1005 W Burnside). Powell’s is a Portland institution and the largest new and used book store in the world.  It has multiple stories (no pun intended) and occupies an entire city block.  You can easily spend hours here, and if you stick to used books you may be able to escape without spending too much money (no sales tax in Oregon!).  When you enter the store, head for the information desk and ask for the maps.  They’ll give you one of the store as well as a walking map of downtown Portland.  Then let yourself get lost amidst the shelves…

City Explorers Tip:

Trimet, the local public transport system, offers some useful free applications for your smart-phone or i-thing:

“PDX Bus” has a trip planner, maps and arrival times for all Portland public transit.

“Walk There!” is a free app which guides you through ten walks in and around the Portland metro area – a great way to get familiar with the city.

If you want to experience something truly quirky- time your visit for Trek in the Park, an annual event in which a local theater group performs episode from the original Star Trek series.

Or if you happen to be in Portland in mid-September, head to Chapman Elementary School at twilight to see the incredible spectacle of thousands of birds entering a chimney within a matter of minutes.

A Day Off the Beaten Path:

Portland’s Forest Park covers over five thousand acres, making it the largest park within city limits in the United States. It connects with various other parks and together they offer a 40-mile hiking loop.  The most famous trail, the Wildwood Trail meanders through more than 30 miles of lush woodland.  Get a map, pack a lunch and dress in layers.

At times you will be rewarded with beautiful vistas of the city.  Most of the time, you won’t remember that you’re in a city at all.  The trail can be accessed from multiple points.  I like to start at Pittock Mansion (a historic home/museum which is also worth a visit), or from Cathedral Park to enjoy a view of Portland’s loveliest bridge.

Wildwood Trail by Robert Nunnally

Either way, the only disappointing thing about the trail is that you probably won’t have time to do all of it.
So there you have it- beer, books, nature. Wildlife and wild life.  Enjoy your stay and follow the advise of a popular local bumper sticker: Keep Portland Weird!

2 replies
  1. Judy
    Judy says:

    Great post, Jennifer! Hard to pick Portland Highlights, but I think you did a good job. For not being a “touristy” city, Portland has incredible variety and attractions. One thing you missed: Saturday Market and the waterfront area. Great arts & crafts, food, music, views and wonderful walking along the Willamette River. Open March through December. Really, not to be missed!

  2. Jennifer Choban
    Jennifer Choban says:

    Absolutely true! Saturday market (located underneath the west side of the Burnside bridge) is delightful and definitely one of the funnest places to eat. Waterfront park hosts multiple festivals- my favorite of course being the Blues Festival on fourth of July weekend.


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