Oregon’s largest little city celebrates the great outdoors, a bevy of breweries and its vaunted hipster vibe
You don’t have to be tragically hip to enjoy a visit to Portland, Oregon. Portland is a city that opens its arms to anyone and everyone, which has helped hone its reputation as one of the most tolerant towns in America. Portland is situated in the verdant Willamette Valley separating the Pacific Ocean from the Cascade Mountains, thus providing convenient access to both. But the cultural amenities of the city itself—its culinary richness, parks and green spaces, multiple recreational opportunities and a beer fancier’s paradise—are sure to keep travelers occupied in town for days. It’s one of those cities that once visited many ask, “Why don’t I live here?” It’s a question you’ll have to pose for yourself. Portland is waiting.
Getting Around Town
Portland’s dedication to public transportation makes having a car unnecessary unless visitors travel to the surrounding areas. Downtown is connected to the rest of the region with a streetcar, buses and the MAX light-rail system. City blocks in Portland are about half the size of those in most cities, so walking is frequently an option downtown. It’s an easy walk to the Pearl District and to Washington Park.
Portland Japanese Garden
While in Washington Park and in a gardening state of mind, don’t miss the Portland Japanese Garden, located a little farther up the hill. Newly renovated, the five traditional gardens are bastions of tranquility encompassing footpaths, koi ponds, and exquisite plantings showing off Japanese cherry trees and maples. Architect Kengo Kuma’s Cultural Village is a new addition where visitors can immerse themselves in Japanese arts.
Portland Art Museum
For a mid-sized city, the Portland Art Museum offers an impressive collection of Asian, European and American art. Of special note is the Center for Native American Art, which showcases historic and contemporary art from 200 tribes, with emphasis on those of the Pacific Northwest. The Jubitz Center for Modern and Contemporary Art encompasses six floors, including an impressive photography gallery. Current exhibitions include “Quest for Beauty: The Architecture, Landscapes and Collections of John Yeon,” through Sept. 3. Also, the media art of Jennifer Steinkamp will be on display July 8-Sept. 17.
The City of Roses
Portland’s climate and soil are perfect for growing roses, which is why the city’s official nickname is “The City of Roses.” And visitors won’t find a better display than at the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park near downtown. Four and a half acres of terraced plantings show off thousands of rose bushes representing more than 500 varieties. In addition, it’s a great place to take photos of the city, laid out below with iconic Mount Hood in the background, visible on a clear day.
First Thursdays in the Pearl
Just north of downtown, The Pearl District is one of Portland’s most desirable neighborhoods boasting legendary restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and an infectious vibrancy. One of the best ways to get to know The Pearl is on First Thursdays, when thousands of people converge and create a neighborhood celebration once a month. Originally intended to focus on the arts, the event has grown into an entire scene unto itself.
America’s Beer Capital
Did the microbrew phenomena begin in Portland? It’s hard to verify and ultimately irrelevant, but many today think that Portland is the beer capital of the United States, if not the world. The local not-for-profit organization, Portland Beer, reports that the city boasts 99 breweries, which offer more than 10,000 different beers in 237 styles. They say IPAs rule in Portland. Visitors can decide for themselves July 26-30 when the 30th Annual Oregon Brewers Festival returns to Waterfront Park. More than 80 area brewers will have samples for sale along the banks of the Willamette River.
Shopping the Pearl District
Some of the most interesting shops and boutiques in the Pacific Northwest are located in the Pearl. For example, Anne Bocci Boutique and Gallery (pictured) is a shop packed with women’s apparel, gems, jewelry and art at 416 NW 12th Ave. At French Quarter Linens, 530 NW 11th St., they believe your bed is your blank canvas and they can make it a work of art. Nau, at 304 NW 11th St., focuses on sustainability with clothing designed to have minimal environment impact. Curate Home, 901A NW Davis, is a relative newcomer, with a distinctive collection of accessories, gifts, décor and art for the home. The largest used and new bookstore in the world, Powell’s Books, encompasses an entire city block on the edge of the Pearl District, 1005 W. Burnside. Powell’s also carries rare and collectible books and contains a popular coffeehouse, World Cup.
Where to Stay
Aloft Portland Airport
This is a modern hotel with a hip vibe, sleek lines and decor. Located near the airport, just two stops away on the MAX light rail system. Rooms from $205/night.
9920 NE Cascades Pkwy.
An historic hotel in business since 1913 and the Portland home-away-from-home for numerous VIP guests over the years. Fresh off a recent makeover, the hotel is convenient to all of downtown. Rooms from $342/night. 309 SW Broadway
A quirky, creative, 51-room hotel in the middle of everything. Lots of inventive artwork sets the scene. Live music in the bar. Some rooms use shared baths. Rooms from $125/night.
303 SW 12th St.
Kimpton RiverPlace Hotel
Wonderful riverside setting downtown with a variety of accommodations from regular rooms, suites and cottages. Plus, the staff is really dog friendly. Rooms from $344/night.
1510 SW Harbor Way
Stay in the lap of luxury at this renovated boutique hotel within walking distance of many downtown attractions. Pet tolerant. Rooms from $504/night.
525 SW Morrison St.
Where to Dine
This is a swanky, ultra-chic, hotspot atop the Nines Hotel. Chef Gregory Gourdet is dedicated to the highest quality Asian cuisine and it is evident in the wok-fried chili prawns and crispy squid in spicy miso. It offers a quick break from Portland’s overarching casual nature and great views of the city. 525 SW Morrison St., 503-802-5370
One of Portland’s treasured traditions is Sunday brunch at Genie’s Café, where the ingredients are fresh and largely locally grown. Bring your appetite and the kids.
1101 SE Division St., 503-445-9777
Leave the hipster vibe at the door and enter a true fine dining, yet unpretentious experience. The steaks are cooked to perfection and the seafood is amazing; try the Breton fish stew.
1239 S. Broadway, 503-222-5070
A small and very popular French-inspired bistro with adventurous menu combinations. How about the ahi tartare with pork ribs with a foie gras ice cream for dessert? Reservations necessary. 738 E. Burnside St., 503-546-8796
Taking it to the Street
Eating street food is an integral part of the Portland experience. The city’s largest food-cart lot is just a few blocks south of Powell’s Books between 9th and 10th Avenues on Washington Street. Here you’ll find upwards of 50 food carts serving inexpensive, generous portions of everything from Ethiopian injera to noodle bowls.