I showed up in Portland after a nice road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping in Carmel and San Francisco, and then straight up through the middle of Oregon until the beautiful city was upon me as the view changed while my car drove over one of it’s many bridges. The day drive up was 10 hours (something that would’ve seemed daunting to me when I first started this adventure in January, but by now my only response was “eh, I could knock that out in a day”). Funny how time and experience and distance can easily change your perspective on things.
Nonetheless, I arrived a little exhausted but mostly excited to soon discover if Portland would live up to the hype. News flash: It did!
I rented a small apartment in SW downtown. It was near Portland State University, close to bus lines and the MAX, and within walking distance to a whole lot of awesome (including the Portland Downtown Market, and Powell’s Books, but more on that later). Portland is very centrally located and very biker/pedestrian friendly. After being in my car for a couple of days, I find it always good to spend sometime apart, you know… to strengthen the relationship ;). This set up has kept us going for many miles, and in Portland it was very easy to get around while my car rested up. I did use my car to get to several amazing hikes (within a 2 hour drive) and also to get out to the fabulous Oregon coast (also within a 2 hour drive!). Additionally, SW downtown has easy access to the highway if you need to escape, and is close to parks and bike paths. All in all, a very cool place to reside for your time in Portland.
A lot of my working for Portland was out of my apartment. This was mostly because if it’s lovely set up of a table facing a window and natural light coming through. Due to a lot of my clients being on east coast time, I found it easy to get up early and work from home, then at about 3pm, go explore Portland and beyond. This set up made for some pretty long days, but they were well worth it.
When I wasn’t working at my home office, I was working out of the Context Partners office. Context Partners is a client of mine, and they invited me to speak to their team about my travels and how I dive into the local scene so quickly everywhere I go. After my presentation they decided to be my adopted work office for my remaining time in the city, and for that I was quite grateful.
THINGS YOU MUST DO
DOWNTOWN FARMERS MARKET: Float on over to possibly the most amazing farmer’s market I’ve stumbled upon in my travels this year. The best part about being in SW is that this market is practically in your backyard. The paths of the park are lined with a ton of local vendors, selling everything from garlic & herb gluten free bread (soooo good!) to mushrooms, sea veggies, tomatoes so red you want to eat them on the spot, and oh so much more. I’m afraid my description doesn’t do it justice. You’ll have to experience for yourself. With the food vendors and live music, you can easily make an afternoon out of this.
McMENAMINS – THE KENNEDY SCHOOL: The McMenamins are known for renovating buildings while still preserving their historical quality. Any of their buildings in Portland would suffice. I had the pleasure of checking out The Kennedy School, with peculiar art on the walls, many restaurants inside, and a movie theater with couches for the first 5 rows.
POWELL’S BOOKS: If you’re headed to Powell’s books, expect to spend some time in there. No seriously, just clear out your afternoon because that way you won’t feel guilty when you get there and discover the store takes up a whole city block (and then some!…. 2 buildings!). Powell’s books is the perfect place to get lost in Portland. I recommend going in with no expectations so you can wander to your heart’s delight, and also stopping in their cafe for a cup of jo.
LAST THURSDAYS ON ALBERTA STREET: This takes place in NE Portland. I just so happen to stumble upon this local scene and I highly recommend it. I think it has the perfect blend of the many walks of life that make up Portland. Also, there is music on every corner and some of the shops stay open late. Have a bite or a drink (at one of the bars or restaurants that line the street) and then stroll on through this amazing scene.
GARDENS: Portland has some amazing garden attractions. Among them the International Rose Testing Garden, The Japanese Garden and the Chinese Garden. All featuring tranquil scenery to take your breath away. If you’re looking to take some nice pictures or to sit in peace for a while, either of these would do just fine. Although I highly recommend going early or whenever they open so you can have more of the place to yourself.
THE OREGON COAST: This is a must! Get in your car and go. You can easily spend all afternoon on the coast. Its a beautiful drive, but be sure to stop and get out of the car. There are spectacular restaurants and beaches that line the coast. Grab a cup of coffee from a local cafe, walk down to the beach and enjoy the view. Some of the massive rock formations actually have pathways cut through them so you can walk through and get to other parts of the beach. For this to be so close to the city, you’d be crazy to not take advantage.
HIKE: There are a ton of trails within a 2 hour distance of Portland. I used the Portland Hikers Field Guide to find the ones that I went on. One of my favorites was Falls Creek Falls. If you go early, you’ll have this trail all to yourself. It’s a steady incline to get to the falls, but the view, and the sound of the water rushing down, is absolutely worth it.
VINEYARD WINE TASTING: Take an afternoon and go to a vineyard. There are so many. Make sure you get one with a nice view and then casually sample the wine. The best thing to do here is to also talk with your server about the wines. Trust me, they know best and also have some good stories to tell.
EAT GOOD FOOD
Now, I am a more of a health nut, so my choices were definitely on the healthy side, but if you are a foodie, there’s no reason for you to not live it up in Portland. I can’t recall one bad food experience my entire time there. That should tell you a lot.
Places I went that I loved :
- Bamboo Sushi (in NW Portland, sit at the sushi bar, and let the chef be your menu)
- Salt & Straw (also in NW Portland, perfect place for dessert. There’s a long line. Its worth it)
- Prasad Cafe (amazing vegan, raw vegan food. Extremely fresh and great flavors too!)
- Barista (in NE Portland, good cup of coffee, outdoor seating, hipster scene)
- Back to Eden Bakery (nice spot for a quick lunch, delicious and dense kale salad)
- Widmer Brothers Brewing (they even had gluten free beer!)
- Blossoming Lotus (another good vegetarian/vegan spot)
- Andina Restaurant (well made drinks, incredibly delicious food, make a reservation)
- Zeus Cafe (in SW Portland, centrally located, nice bites and drinks)
- Pok Pok (amazingly good food, arrive early, expect a wait, but it’s worth it)
- Fireside PDX (Delicious food and drinks)
- The Huckleberry Pub (delicious drinks, nice upstairs patio)
I was fortunate enough to have a friend waiting for me when I arrived in Portland. We originally met back when I was in Boulder Colorado, and both of us were in Boulder for a short stint of time. When I found out she lived in Portland I was incredibly excited to have a fellow adventurous spirit waiting for me when I arrived. It was with her help that I got introduced to other great people and had some fabulous experiences. I also used CouchSurfing.org to find new friends and have some great activities lined up.
Additionally, I got to play tour guide for my friends who visited for a long weekend from Florida. This allowed me to really dive into all that Portland had to offer.
Portland, I will miss your crisp air, clean water, beautiful bridges, and funny Portlandia references. You haven’t seen the last of me, that’s for sure.