When you think Pacific Northwest, chances are that Portland comes to mind, right after Seattle. The city has earned a reputation from its quirky, “Keep Portland Weird” mentality and pivotal role in the hipster movement. Craft beers almost outnumber the bearded men in flannels, and there are so many corner coffee shops that you couldn’t visit them all without going broke. To save you from the temptation of trying, we’ve put together a list of things to check out while you’re in Portland.
1. Eat food from a truck: Portland is a foodie’s paradise featuring everything from upscale fine-dining to local farm-to-table fare; you can find just about anything you want. The true Portland dining experience, though, comes from its food carts. The city features over 500 trucks and carts located throughout the city, oftentimes grouped together in pods to make a multicultural feast that much easier. If you leave Portland before you eat food from a truck, possibly in the rain, it’s arguable that you haven’t experienced the city.
2. Try the local brews: If you’re of age and enjoy adult beverages, then when in Portland, you must drink the beer. While the region does have standout wines and great cocktail bars, the city truly shines in its craft beer. With the most breweries per capita of any city in the US, there is literally something for everyone — if you don’t like beer, it’s probably because you haven’t tasted the right one yet, and chances are, the right one is somewhere in Portland.
3. Feed your sweet tooth: Skip Voodoo Donuts. Dessert is plentiful in the city, and while the pink box may be iconic, it’s a long line for a run-of-the-mill donut with some cereal tossed on top. Instead, try some of the unique flavors at Blue Star Donuts, or hit up Salt and Straw for decidedly hipster ice cream. If you’re looking for something a little more decadent, try some drinking chocolate or international truffles at Cacao — it might even help you sleep better and kick that jetlag!
4. Drink some whiskey in detention — really! Kennedy School is a historic elementary school that was remodeled by McMenamins, a regional brewery. The hotel features a handful of restaurants, several bars (including the aforementioned Detention Room), soaking pools, a movie theater, and a ton of character.
5. Visit the Portland Saturday Market: While you’re there stroll along the riverfront. Even if you’re visiting outside the summer months, don’t fear. The Portland Saturday Market runs every weekend from March to December and draws crowds every weekend; even when the sky is grey, Portlanders welcome the chance to get outside and enjoy some fresh air to help combat the seasonal blues that can hit the area.
6. Enjoy shopping tax free. Oregon is one of two states that doesn’t have a sales tax, so unless you order something online and have to enter a billing address, anything you purchase will be free of those extra dollars. Head to one of Portland’s shopping districts for everything from quirky souvenirs to upscale fashion.
7. Get lost in Powell’s City of Books. It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. The bookstore takes up the better part of a city block and fills several stories (pun intended). It’s easy to lose the better part of a day browsing the stacks and visiting the rare book room, but you’ll inevitably leave with some treasures. It’ not unheard of to find signed texts from previous author visits!
8. Visit a learning center: Portland may not have the same reputation for museums that East Coast cities do, but there’s still plenty to learn. Visit one of the many learning centers like the World Forestry Center, the Portland Art Museum, or Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, known to locals as OMSI. If you’re traveling with kids, they’re sure to love the interactive nature of OMSI, and if you’re traveling without kids, look for an OMSI After Dark event, where the museum is taken over for some adults-only fun.
9. Visit local landmarks: If museums aren’t quite your style, unearth some local history by learning about regional landmarks and the story of the how Portland came to be. The Pittock Mansion, pictured above, tells the story of early 1900s living and the changes the city went through, while the Portland Underground exposes a more questionable side of the city.
10. Enjoy the views: Get up above the skyline and check out the view. Depending on your style, there’s a handful of options. Portland City Grill is a penthouse restaurant in the heart of downtown with amazing panoramic views of the city; just try to go during an off-hour, or you’ll be hard-pressed to find seating. If you want something a little more unique, ride the aerial tram that descends into the city center. Finally, if you’d rather be in nature, pay a visit to Mt. Tabor and climb the volcanic cinder cone without leaving Portland’s city limits.
11. Visit gardens: Speaking of nature, the lush greenery and amazing fauna are what truly make the Pacific Northwest. There are nearby hikes for all experience levels, or you can visit one of many gardens. Urban and community gardening has taken the metropolis by storm, but if you’re looking for something more established, try the International Rose Test Garden, Rhododendron Garden, or the Japanese Garden. Each option offers acres of foliage to get lost in while exploring the city.
Have you been to Portland, what’s on the top of your Portland bucket list? Comment below!