Taking a trip to Portland, Oregon was an unusual choice for me… While I’ve visited many European cities and towns, I have yet to see some of our own cool places right here in America.
Portland really surprised me, sure I figured I would love it, I just didn’t realize how much!
One of our Uber drivers mentioned that they call Portland one of the most European cities in America; so no wonder I was in awe with it! Side note…I’ve found uber drivers to be great tools of local knowledge in almost every place I travel, and Portland was no exception!
Portland isn’t as old as most of the other cities I would deem “European like” (what comes to my mind is Boston, New Orleans), the European vibe comes from the cities liberal, progressive and environmentally friendly attitude–similar to cities in Western Europe–as well as its love for public transportation and public spaces. It reminded me a of a mix of Seattle and Berkeley with its own incredibly unique flair. Just about everywhere you eat incorporates farm to table and locally sourced ingredients (all the more reason to love it!).
Portland has a lot of pride! And it’s evident in every local you meet. “Keeping Portland Weird” is something you will definitely appreciate even after short visit.
It has the largest number of microbreweries in the U.S., the Willamette Valley is just North, many different districts to explore, waterfalls a plenty (including Multnomah Falls), and a knock out food scene to boot… it’ll keep you busy for days!
Here are my top suggestions not to miss on your Portland trip!
Take a tour or rent a car and see Multnomah Falls! The Columbia River Gorge Scenic area has over 77 waterfalls! And taking any tour or renting a car and making the 45 minute drive will allow you to see quite a few of these. The most popular being Multnomah Falls.
Multnomah Falls is the largest waterfall in the state of Oregon. There are two tiers to the waterfall, with a small footbridge in the middle.
I don’t know if my eyes weren’t quite adjusted yet but the greenery in Oregon is out of this world! It feels like you entered a land of hobbits.
While you’re out on your waterfall tour, its definitely worth checking out Mount Hood. A great way to see Mt Hood is by paying a visit to Timberline Lodge, a National Historic landmark. The lodge is considered a architectural wonder built and furnished by local artisans during the Great Depression and was even featured in the movie The Shining! It’s stone work, masonry, hand woven draperies, glass mosaics, incredible timber work and carved panels make it a craftsman’s museum and a really cool place to stop!
Wildwood Adventures offers a Gorge Waterfalls and Mt Hood tour which I highly recommend! Although if you’re wanting to get out and hike, it’s more to your advantage to rent a car so you have ample time to do so.
Blue Star Donut vs. Voodoo Donut
Voodoo Donut is very Portland-esque, is definitely on lots of Portland itineraries “must-sees”. It’s known for it’s unconventional ingredients, eclectic decor and iconic pink boxes (you’ll start noticing people carrying these all over town!).
I checked it out… It’s cool! The flagship location in downtown Portland is an area worth walking around.
However the donuts at Blue Star win for sure! Unless of course you really dig the unusual toppings Voodoo has to offer (e.g. fruit loop covered donut…). I’m more of the gourmet donut person and Blue Star does not disappoint!
Portland International Rose Test Garden
Even if you aren’t obsessed with roses this is really cool! There are over 7,000 rose plants with 550 different varieties. Walking around this garden you’ll see so many uniquely colored roses and get to smell fragrances you would have never imagined… It definitely worth an afternoon stop on your Portland itinerary.
Pine Street Market
Pine Street Market place is a great place to experience a uniquely Portland food space. It’s a “foodhall” and marketplace in the historical Baggage and Carriage building. Inside you have various mouth watering options to choose from and a communal eating space. It truly has a Portland vibe. Some of the great choices include Spanish cuisine from Pollo Bravo, Japanese ramen from Marukin Ramen, Israeli street food from Shalom Y’all, pizza and bread goods from Trifecta Annex, as well as coffee and dessert options!
Speakeasy: The Bible Club
Another very Portland thing to do is check out their awesome speakeasies. We checked out the newly opened Bible Club and it did not disappoint. Literally a tiny yellow old house with no signage outside, once you walk in you’re in for a surprise…
Deemed a pre-Prohibition-era museum that you can drink in, this place is truly unique. Everything from the decor to the bartenders’ tools date back to before 1930. The staff is super friendly too!
The small menu includes roasted mushroom mac n cheese, french onion soup, warm biscuits and duck confit. The specialty drink menu does not disappoint either…They have categories to choose from like Shaken, Stirred, Varied, Spirit Driven, Fruit Forward, and Herbaceous. And if you can’t decide (like me), the bartender (who invented all of these recipes) is there to walk you through your palate preferences.
Food Trucks on Alder
You can not go to Portland and not try the food trucks!!!
We asked every local we could which area had the best food trucks, and the most consistent answer we got was Alder between 9th and 10th. Though there are so many different areas with great food trucks to choose from, I don’t think you could go wrong anywhere!
Some of the notable mentions in this particular area were The Grilled Cheese Grill, The Frying Scotsman, Mac & Tree’s, Wolf & Bears, Traditional Polish Cuisine, and Number 1 Bento.
Our plan of attack was to walk the entire block and check everything out first and then decide. I was completely impressed with the character and style of each of these food trucks. They are each decorated to the nines, you can tell each owner has put a lot of work into them.
As for finding the best food trucks, you could never get your fill in just one lunch. There are so many good options! We had a good idea of which we wanted to try, but made the mistake of standing in front of Raya, a Greek food truck, discussing our options for just a little too long…the chef offered us a sample of the chicken souvlaki, and it was game over!
While Portland is big, it definitely made the world feel small when I approached the sweet owner of a Traditional Polish Cuisine food truck…
I couldn’t not say hello to a fellow Polack. When I mentioned I was Polish he asked for my last name. To my surprise, he repeated it and then wrote it down on a napkin spelling it correctly! Turns out he knows a Habdas too! It’s crazy how small the world can feel at times 🙂
There is so much more to Portland, but I will have to post about the rest separately! This is a good enough start to keep you busy for a few days!