There is so much to love about Portland. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m listing off the places I love most by category. For February 14th, here are 14 places I love in Portland.
5 Restaurants I Love in Portland
These are all on the East side with the exception of Bamboo Sushi, which has locations in all 4 quadrants of Portland. An urban girl at heart, I like to walk to dinner so my favorites are within a couple miles of one another.
Por Que No – Delicious tacos, margaritas, and ceviche
Guero– This place started as a food cart and the lines have moved down the street to their brick and mortar location for good reason. Don’t miss the guacamole with pickled carrots on the side.
Apizza Scholls– Great pizza and beer selection. Get there early as they close once they run out of dough. They do take limited reservations.
Harlow– This is my favorite spot for a healthy lunch. If you are under the weather, the Wellness Toddy is a must. Need a pick me up? Skip the coffee and get a Stumble Bee.
Bamboo Sushi– This is the best sushi I’ve found in Portland. My favorite date night spot.
5 Coffee Shops I Love in Portland
There are so many great coffee shops in the Rose City but these are my go-to spots.
Crema– Great baked goods and ample seating to get some work done. Bring your headphones, this is a social place, not a quiet place.
Never Coffee Lab– A great stop between Mt. Tabor and Laurelhurst Park with unique coffee drinks. Try the Rich Kid.
Either Or– Coffee, cocktails, lunch… Hunker down on a rainy day, this place has it all.
Prince Coffee– Known for their Stroopwafels but I always order the quiche.
Oracle Coffee– Incredibly unique coffee drinks on the south waterfront. You feel more like you’re in a trendy cocktail spot than a coffee shop. Don’t be surprised if you run into some Fall Out Boy fans.
4 Outdoor Stores I Love in Portland
The Mountain Shop– Our go-to place to rent skis, snowshoes or any other outdoor equipment.
Yes, today, the first Friday in June is National Donut Day. Now, before you think that the “time to make the donuts” guy has gone mad with marketing schemes, this holiday dates back to 1938. The donut was introduced to American Soldiers in Europe during WWI and was later used as a Salvation Army fundraiser. The day commemorates the donut lassies who brought our soldiers delicious doughy comfort on the front lines.
Speaking of lines, here are a few places you can stand in line to get some donuts in Portland:
Voodoo– The lines are longer downtown and usually much more manageable at the Eastside location. The doughnuts are a kid’s dream and they serve Stumptown to keep the adults happy.
Pip’s– These mini doughnuts are becoming more and more popular judging by the line. They are best eaten there, hot, and fresh. If you are a chai aficionado, this is your doughnut shop. If you are a coffee connoisseur they are serving Extracto. They have even introduced the cutest little truck to bring these delights right to you!
Blue Star– I dig this place. Limited menu, local vendors, simple design. If they have the Orange/Olive Oil when you’re there, I highly recommend it. Coffee = Stumptown.
Coco Donuts– Adorable pink decor with a full espresso bar. This is my favorite classic donut shop. Well, kind of classic. You can get a respectable long john or buttermilk donut but the must-have lavender latte is something you won’t find at the mom & pop shops of yesteryear.
I recommend a donut crawl. After all, it is National Donut Day.
As my move to Portland drew near, everyone asked if I watched Portlandia. I had seen it, but it seemed too satirical to give me a sense of the real place. Upon moving here, I realized, it was less satire than I thought. I found myself chuckling when I saw something happen that reminded me of an episode. Even so, Portlandia wasn’t for me. I craved other shows filmed in Portland.
While I lived in Chicago, I watched more than one show simply because it was shot in Chicago. I loved to see familiar locations or point out fake ones, looking at you ER. This year, I got my wish of some new, locally shot, Portland shows that are entertaining and have Portland references and locations for interactive viewing.
This one is especially fun for me because it has no shortage of scenes in Portland coffee shops. Since I make a habit of touring coffee shops with my friend Erin* it’s provided endless opportunities to mumble names of coffee spots until I land on the correct one then rewind to actually watch the scene. There are stickers in the lockers from Sizzle Pie and Voodoo coffee cups. The authentic Portland references are endless and so much fun to spot.
Everything Sucks is set in 1990’s Boring, Oregon. It’s full of after school special flair mixed with American Pie awkwardness. In one scene the characters discuss how everyone stops to take a picture by the Welcome the Boring sign but nobody actually drives into town. As I drove up to the mountain to do some skiing recently I felt the urge to actually drive into Boring. The music consumed via diskman and 90’s fashion are an amazing throwback. Oregon references are there from the state flag to the sadly painted Mt. Hood behind the high school news desk and the $4.75 Oregon minimum wage sign.
The Perfectionists is a spinoff of Pretty Little Liars. The show is set in Seattle but was being shot in Portland recently. How do I know this? The Craft Service people were in line in front of me at Coco’s buying up all the donuts. The pilot is set to air in 2019 and I will probably feel the need to watch it with a Coco’s lavender glazed in hand.
Upon moving to Portland, I soon learned that the Pacific Ocean in Oregon is not “the beach” but rather, “the coast”. Herein lies the difference. The “beach” evokes thoughts of sunshine and swimming in the water. The “coast” provides natural wonders like tide pools and hiking trails that overlook the ocean. It also provides water so cold it requires a wetsuit for prolonged exposure in any season.
At first, I was disappointed by the coast. Being an hour from the beach was a big selling point for me moving to Portland. I’m a girl who loves to make a day of laying in warm sand in a swimsuit, alternating paddle boarding and reading a good book. I was surprised the first time we went to the coast in the heat of summer to find the air cool and the water cold.
Over the last few years I’ve reset my expectations and learned to love the coast. I still largely thought of it as somewhere to go in the summer but a Veteran’s Day trip changed all of that.
Autumn at the coast is beautiful. The moody coloring of the Pacific Ocean served as a backdrop for a weekend cooking with friends and playing board games. Simple pleasures that my self-induced hustle and bustle hadn’t allowed in a long time.
How to enjoy Autumn at the Oregon Coast:
Trade in your flip-flops for rain boots- The kids let the tide chase them & it felt good to put my feet in the water even though I didn’t want to get wet.
Bring a good raincoat, hat, and gloves- It seems to mist even when it’s not raining. Being warm and dry made it so much more enjoyable.
Grab a cup of hot cocoa or coffee – For me, there is nothing better than a hot drink to warm me from the inside while taking in the vastness of the ocean. We were in Oceanside which is a pretty sleepy town but managed to find a hot cup at the Blue Agate Cafe just above the entry to the beach.
Take a walk down the beach & stop to play – The Fall brings a different kind of beach play. The kids used washed up sticks and seaweed to build a structure on the beach. No sand toys required. We even broke open a few rocks to find Agates.
Reflect-there is nothing like the ocean to remind me that life ebbs and flows. This served as a wonderful message right before the busy holiday season.
The weather seems to break even on rainy days. If the rain stops, stop what you are doing and run to the beach!
Labor Day weekend, we decided to try a family backpacking trip. There are many who can’t wait to share their backpacking skills with their children. My knowledge consisted of reading Wild a few years ago and perusing REI eblasts.
Earlier in the summer, a 19-year old relative who was living with us decided he was going to attempt the Timberline Trail alone. Since it seemed like a terrible idea to let someone in my charge do this alone, my husband went with him and was hooked. Mix that with my son’s desire to go camping and my desire to attend the Timberline Labor Day Music Festival and our plan was set in motion.
We cobbled together what we had for packs and supplies and borrowed the rest from friends. Having never even car camped (which I have learned is not sleeping in your car) we were really starting from scratch for anything beyond our day hiking supplies. Here is what we took for one night on the trail.
Tent– Mountain Hardware Shifter 4. We borrowed it this time but I’ve already scouted them out at the Columbia Employee Store and intend to get one the next time I’m lucky enough to score a pass. Set up took minutes and the footprint and rain fly are included. It weighs about 8 lbs. which was manageable to carry while being roomy enough for all of us.
Sleeping pads– We had one which I had scored at the REI Garage Sale. It was pretty bulky but definitely the most comfortable. I bought simple foam pads for my kids as they were a low cost, low weight option. At 1/2 lb. each they were fantastic. We invested in a light weight, higher quality pad for my husband who seems to be sold on the backpacking life.
Sleeping bags– The night we went was only getting down to the high 50s so we were able to get by with the one warm bag we have, the kid’s sleepover bags and a legit backpacking one borrowed from a friend.
Trail snacks– We brought a few bars and dried bananas as well as nuts. Our trek in was under 4 miles but I was really skeptical about how the trail food was going to taste and wanted backup.
Food– Beyond snacks we needed dinner once we made camp and breakfast to get us back in the morning. We found freeze dried food at both Freddie’s and REI. REI has a much larger selection but Freddie’s definitely had the basics. Most of the options contained meat but there were a few pescatarian and vegetarian options. Here is what we tried:
Alpine Air smoothies– My kid’s really wanted these at REI and being novices we wanted to try all manner of trail food so we grabbed a couple. We used water bottles and shook it vs. the the recommended slow stirring. The flavor was good but they ended up a bit thinner than expected and lumpy.
Backpacker’s Pantry Creme Brûlée– My husband and I are pretty big Creme Brûlée fans and it just seemed fun to have a fancy dessert in the woods. It was more like pudding with burnt sugar topping but delicious nonetheless.
Oatmeal- For breakfast we brought oatmeal in those little cups like I kept in my dorm room. It worked perfectly and we were able to pack out our light weight paper cartons instead of washing out dishes in the morning.
Coffee- I can’t face morning without a hot cup of coffee. We brought the Stanley coffee press and some Stumptown. If you are willing to rough it some Via from Starbucks would be a smaller/lighter solution for backpacking but this was my first time out and I wasn’t ready to be that rugged.
Water– We each brought 2 larger water bottles and our Steripen so we could refill from the river before heading back. The Steripen has been in our day hiking bag for a few years in case of emergency. It worked great but I would buy a filter to remove fine particulates if we find ourselves drinking backcountry water very often.
Camp Stove Set– This was the latest addition to our camping/emergency preparedness purchases. The MSR stove kit was light and packed up small.
Backpacks– We cobbled together a larger backpacking pack I bought some years ago, one I scored from REI Garage recently when it looked like a family trip was inevitable, our day hiking pack for my daughter and an old school bag for my son. Any backpack can become a hiking backpack with some mini bungee cords.
Clothes– Everyone but my husband packed sleepover style. Bathing suits for the river, pjs and a change of clothes to hike out in. We could probably pack the same amount of clothes for a 3 day trip and be fine but can you ever be too safe when peeing in the woods? We skipped the water shoes because we were not going to be fording any rivers this trip but going any further they would’ve been necessary.
Paper– We packed bio-degradable toilet paper and some much needed small sheets of paper towel.
Food bag & rope– My research showed that although bears are not a huge concern on Mt. Hood it’s important to hang your food away from your tent to avoid rodents and squirrels bunking with you.
Zip-lock bags– I packed a handful of things like playing cards and toothbrushes in ziplock bags to keep them clean. By the end of the trip we had repurposed a few for messy bits that needed to be packed out.
Poop shovel– Thank goodness we never had to use this but I was able to pick up a lightweight plastic one at Freddie’s for about $5.
Things I wish we would’ve brought: Trekking poles
Things we didn’t need: Swim suits
Weight we could shed: If we became more avid backpackers I would upgrade our sleeping bags to more compact, lighter ones like the one we borrowed. I would also reduce the size and weight of my sleeping pad.
With nine snow days under our belt this winter, I feel like I’m back in Chicago without the plows or salt. Fortunately for our new mayor, Portlanders are a bit more understanding than Chicagoans when it comes to snow.
January is a time for goals and I was ready to hit the ground running. Then the ground froze. What’s a girl to do but take a deep breath and make the best of it.
Here’s what you need to know for snow day fun in Portland.
Snow in the city is rare. 2017 has seen the most snow in Portland since 1980. The average snowfall for the city is only 4″ per year. Hardly enough to have much winter fun with. This year we made the most of what we call our 2nd winter break.
Go Street Sledding
We discovered that several Portland streets are unofficial sledding hills. The long time locals know which streets make great sled runs and are careful to avoid driving down them when it snows. We took a run down Ankeny along Laurelhurst park that sent us sailing over a block! After almost driving down a prime sledding street I asked neighbors which streets to avoid. To me, it is uniquely Portland that people will take the long way around to ensure fun takes priority.
We saw neighbors out on their skis from the time snow covered the streets until it started dissipating a few days later. Since few people drive in Portland when it snows and they don’t plow the neighborhood local streets, there were endless courses for Cross Country skiers.
Terrain in the park that I had hardly noticed before emerged as glittering sled hills. People of all ages, bundled up in clothes usually reserved for a weekend on the mountain, convened in the parks for winter fun. The best part of park sledding was witnessing what qualified as a sled. Hipsters on Rubbermaid lids laughed alongside kids who had pool whales that spun down the hill. I had been fortunate enough to be at Freddie’s when they had a few sleds this winter and picked up two. By the end of the week of snow, both had been repaired with candle wax and dryer tape but we kept going.
Ice Skating without the mall
If you want to ice skate in Portland, you usually have to do it with the faint smell of a food court looming. Due to the stretch of days below freezing our neighborhood pond froze over and we took our ice skates out for some old fashion fun. Most people were out there in boots sliding around. It was a great way to make the most of a cold stretch. We did have to be careful to avoid the darker ice especially after hearing about someone who fell through shortly before our arrival.
Get a sled ahead of snow. They sell out fast when there is snow in the forecast and most winters you only get one chance.
Ask your neighbors which streets should be reserved for sledders when it snows.
The beautiful thing about moving across the country is that we can drive to numerous places we have never seen. My family and I are still trying to find our perfect coastal spot in the PNW but the search is proving to be a lot of fun.
For Labor Day we decided to try the Long Beach Peninsula, again. We drove up there about a year ago and stayed at a quaint little inn in Ilwaco but since that trip, I read about other spots that made me want to give this beautiful beach another try.
This beach is famous for kite flying. We got our kite going and anchored it in the sand where it flew itself for the next 2 hours. When it comes to dining there are plenty of choices but most are mediocre quality and overpriced. I learned my lesson after the first trip and made reservations at some of the places with better reviews.
Here are my favorites from both trips:
Buoy Beer Company (Astoria) – A perfect place to stop for lunch on your way to the Long Beach Peninsula. There is almost always a wait but you can wait with a delicious beer and my kids love the glass floor where sea lions laze the day away. The views of the Columbia River and surrounding landscape are breathtaking.
Adrift Hotel– I saw the Adrift from the beach on our first trip to the Peninsula. I knew that is where I wanted to stay if we returned. It did not disappoint. The perfect blend of laid back beach fun and urban chic. We took the complimentary bikes for a couple of rides along the the beachfront trail. The second floor common area provided some lively games of fusball and shuffleboard. You can pick up some local wine or beer and a DVD in the lobby too.
Horseback Riding– We rode horses down the beach with Back Country. This was a highlight for my daughter who loves all animals. This place is a bit odd and you might end up with a donkey, like a few people in our group, but at $30 per person for a 1-hour ride it was well worth it.
Cranberry Museum– I am perennially sucked in by a good roadside attraction. When I read about the Pacific Coast Cranberry Museum I had to check it out. This is a demonstration farm and museum. It’s free but if you ask my husband he’ll tell you it costs $15. I had read about Starvation Alley juice in Sunset and had to try it. Turns out the bottle from the Cranberry Museum gift shop costs $15. I discovered they also sell it in the lobby of the Adrift for $10.
The Depot– We went for happy hour which we discovered is only honored in the off season. Regardless, we stayed for a drink and some food. I’m glad we did. Everything we ordered was delicious. I especially liked the chowder which was fresh and light. Make a reservation as this place is small.
Pickled Fish– This restaurant on the 4th floor of the Adrift has a spectacular view of the ocean. The food and drinks are well thought out and I liked everything from the pizza to seafood dishes. We made late reservations so we could check out the bands which start at 8:00 or 9:00 depending on the day of the week.
Shelbourne Inn Restaurant– This pub in a quiet little inn has good food. We stopped in for lunch. The service was slow but friendly.
Cape Disappointment– Great hiking trails to a secret beach, lighthouses and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. We hiked then headed back across the parking lot to the interpretive center which has exhibits about the expedition west as well as the evolution of the Coast Guard in the area.
Discovery Trail– We rode bikes along this beautiful wooden path that runs beside the beach. If you go South from downtown you can ride all the way up to Cape Disappointment.
Cottage Bakery– This is an unfussy, old fashioned bakery. There are plenty of donuts and classic pies to choose from. Although it’s right along the main drag this place feels like it’s there for the community and not a tourist trap.
Kite Shops– There are some interesting kite shops to check out along Pacific Ave but I found them largely overpriced. Who could blame them? You don’t want to be caught at this beach without a kite. The second time we went I got this kite ahead of time from Amazon and it was a hit.
Make reservations for dining
Buy your kite before you go
Call ahead as we found several websites for area businesses to have inaccurate or out of date hours and information.
What is Portland known for? Coffee, beer, roses and bikes come to mind. So, I sat wondering as I watched the Blazer’s playoff game last week, why is it called Rip City? The short answer is an announcer randomly said it in 1971 and a professional sports starved Portland grabbed on.
Here are a few of Portland’s Nicknames and their origins.
Rip City- In 1971 the Trailblazers, who now prefer the Blazers since it doesn’t sound as much like Jailblazers, were behind in a game against the Lakers. Jim Barnett made a shot from just past half court to tie the game and Bill Schonely, the play-by-play announcer, yelled “Rip City- Alright!” It seems he just said it in excitement and oddly it stuck. In a Sports Illustrated piece he was asked what it meant and he replied “something good, something positive.”
Rose City- Roses have made a few appearances in Portland’s history. Twenty miles of roses were planted in Portland to celebrate the Lewis and Clark Centennial, a sort of World’s Fair that drew 1.6 million visitors to Portland in 1905. The International Rose Test Garden opened in Washington Park in 1917 and is the longest running public rose test garden in the US. In 1917 Portland introduced the Rose Festival which is the city’s largest annual celebration to this day. Maybe the longevity of this name is why Portlanders seem to have a lock on the ability to stop and smell the roses.
Stumptown- This nickname comes from the early days of Portland when many trees were cut down for the settlement of the emerging city. Rapid growth was happening in the 1800’s the way it is now and there was just as much criticism about the haste with which the growth was happening. Trees had to be quickly cleared to make room for the roads. As the trees were felled, the stumps remained in the ground, and rumor has it caused all sorts of accidents. Being a town that likes to wear rose colored glasses, Portlanders found a use for the stumps- jumping between them to cross the muddy roads.
PDX- This is simply the airport code. It is the nickname I find myself using most, especially when texting. Other airport codes like ORD (Chicago) or MCO (Orlando) in no way evoke the place, PDX just sounds like amazing rapper slang for Portland. Even the old airport carpet has a place in Hipster culture.
Be careful what nonsense you yell in Portland. It may one day be imbedded in the culture. “Rip City, Alright!”
We had lived in Portland for just over a year when we took our first road trip to Seattle. When leaving Chicago, my kids were very concerned about the lack of an American Girl Place and adjacent Lego Store in Portland. I promised we were only a few hours away from Seattle and they had both. This promise, which I was reminded of often, mixed with my need for a big city speed and directness fix finally made us plan the trip.
As we loaded the car, my 19 year old self was in heaven thinking of the all the bands and concert venues I had read about in Rolling Stone during my college years. I could almost smell the weed and Doc Martians while the Singles soundtrack played in my head. Fast forward a couple of decades, a husband and 2 kids and this was my new playlist…
The Gum Wall– The famous gum wall had just been steamed down a week earlier and I had every intention of adding to a new generation of candy graffiti. Once we located the wall in Post Alley we found a Target nearby and bought our gum. I chose Hubba Bubba and my husband grabbed Big League Chew. Back at the gum wall his choice emerged the clear winner. Big League Chew is the best for gum art on brick walls. It’s stretchier and stickier. We took a few pics, then my daughter stood in the glow of the Alabi Room sign and asked for some hand sanitizer.
Pike Place Market– Pike Place did not disappoint. Touristy? Hell yeah but the fish mongers are a must see and they have fun with the crowd. They even have a little fish on a stick that they move when people get up close. The bathrooms were surprisingly clean if you need one while in that area.
On the way back from the bathroom we spotted a barber on one of the many underground layers of Pike Place. My son desperately needed a haircut so we went in. He got a great haircut and I learned that old barbershops don’t have InStyle and People, they have Playboy and Penthouse.
The Original Starbucks– We walked by the Original Starbucks and the line to get a drink there. It was cool to see but being Portlanders now we had already gotten coffee at a micro-roaster.
The Waterfall Garden Park– The waterfall garden was between the above mentioned micro-roaster and our hotel and is a beautiful place to enjoy a morning or afternoon or evening cup of coffee.
Ivar’s Seafood– Ivar’s was put on the must-eat list by my friend who is a Seattle native. It was kitchy and serves some delicious chowder. We just hit the walk up counter on Pier 54 for a quick lunch.
The Curiousity Shoppe– Right by Ivar’s was an old fashioned curiosity shoppe with plenty of souvenirs and some old world creepy stuff.
Amazon Store– Up in the University District is the only Amazon storefront in the country. All of the books are whatever price they are on Amazon that day. It was like a dream come true to a girl like me who wants Amazon prices but loves an actual bookstore. If you want some coffee with that book the Amazon store is only steps from this Starbucks which features Reserve brews, beer and wine.
Voula’s– While in the University District we were hungry so I shot a text to a University of Washington alum who pointed us to this classic greasy spoon that did not disappoint.
We also walked around by the Space Needle, Chihuly Gardens, etc. but we were soaked and ready for dry clothes and a hot meal by that point. As promised, the trip included a stop at the American Girl Place and Lego Store. They are much smaller than Chicago and not even in Seattle but rather in the North Suburbs. My kids didn’t care. It had been worth the wait.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner and some recent sunshine I thought I’d highlight some of the things I love about Portland.
The coffee: Oh, the coffee. It’s roasted fresh all over our fair city and it makes me long for Portland when I’m away drinking not so freshly roasted coffee. If your valentine loves coffee a bag of Heart coffee would make a great gift or you could try your hand at being a barista and give your lover a hot cup in bed with a heart of top.
Spring comes early: Unlike the winters that can last well through March in the Midwest, Spring comes early. My spring bulbs are coming up and there are crocuses popping out of Portland lawns all over. I had to ask a neighbor about this last year. Portlanders pride themselves on being weird in all seasons and it seems it’s a tradition for people to throw in some crocus bulbs in their lawns so they will pop up as one of the first signs of Spring.
The Portland Nursery Help Desk: I’ve popped in with a few questions since moving here and they are always a wealth of knowledge. The other day I stopped by to do some garden recon and discovered it was a ghost town. This could be in part that it’s early in season or that they don’t have the coffee cart open yet (thank goodness Tabor Space is nearby). I am determined to get my old apple trees bearing edible fruit this year so I stopped at the help desk with some questions. As usual they had several solutions for me. Unlike the summer months there was nobody in line behind me so I got an extended tree consultation and walked away, once again, in love with this free service. If you can’t make it in they have a lot of information on their website too.
The sense of community: I’m not the only one feeling the love for Portland. According to the latest report Oregon is the most popular state to move to for the 3rd year running. Although there in no doubt the natural beauty and mild climate are a draw, once you get here there is an almost old fashioned sense of community. Neighbors know each other and stop to say hello. Even with busy lives they stay connected with sites like Nextdoor and neighborhood Facebook pages. The multitude of little free libraries always make me feel the love the way those honor system farm stand boxes did when I was growing up in Michigan.
There are so many things to love about Portland. Happy Valentine’s Day.
When I began telling friends and colleagues that we were moving to Portland I was met with varied reactions ranging from “Portland is so you” to “how are you going to handle all of the rain?” I found that rain question especially hilarious when it was asked one February morning as I arrived in my Chicago office looking like Kenny from South Park after standing on an elevated train platform in 13 degree temperatures.
Last winter, our first in Portland, I was thrilled. Although we did not have much snow to play in on the mountain, the winter was mild. I gardened all winter and was so excited to harvest some overwintering foods come spring. We even did some landscaping in February and laid new sod. Natives kept repeating almost daily, “this is not normal.”
Fast forward to this winter. Now on day 17 of grey and rainy I am experiencing what I thought I was immune to- The Portland Depression. The urge to stay in bed. Fighting back tears for no reason. These are not things in my personality. The grey is really affecting me and no amount of this city’s amazing coffee seems to be curing it.
I have been taking vitamin D like it’s a lifesaving drug. I am wondering if my husband has a happy light in one of the boxes beneath our Christmas Tree. The precautions native Portlanders advised me to take are all too real a year later, as normal returns.
Fortunately normal also brings fresh snow on the mountain and an opportunity to take advantage of something Portlanders have been raving about-playing in the snow on the mountain but not having to shovel it in the city.
It’s that time of year again, full of traditions and wonder. So I wondered what would become our traditions in our new city of Portland. Here are a few we have checked out as well as my holiday lights wish list.
I love this one. It’s a street of neighbors that bring the holiday spirit. It’s just a campy block that you can walk down with hot cocoa and coffee in hand. The sense of community in Portland is something I love and this is a perfect example. We will be doing this again when it starts up on the 15th.
Last year we bought a membership to the zoo and I was excited to check out zoo lights. There was a lot of hype about this one. It was fun but we won’t be adding it to our annual menu. Frankly it was a bit crowded and the lights were better suited for younger kids. If you come from a bigger city, it just falls a bit short.
We just went to the Grotto a week ago and it is magical. If you want lights and the true meaning of Christmas this is your place. You are encouraged to bring non-perisable food to donate on your way in. There is a beautiful nativity and the singing in the chapel was so peaceful. There is a petting zoo for kids and it is largely uncommercial wonder.
Still on my wish list are the Christmas Ships and Winter Wonderland at the raceway. In the meantime Clark Griswold seems to have moved in across the street so I’ll just enjoy the light show from the dry comfort of my home.
I was never one to wander the flat paths of the Midwest where my allergies ran roughshod. That said, I am a top 10 list adventurer and Multnomah Falls almost always makes the list in Portland. What started as a trip to a tourist attraction taught me that Portland offers more than a path through the woods and I was hooked.
Here is my list of favorite (mostly family friendly) hikes so far.
This place is a tourist trap for sure. If you are glass half-full that means there’s coffee and a nice bathroom. The people who come to see the falls vs. hike them drop off quickly and you are left with a less crowded path the higher you go. We took a picnic and played in the water at the top mid-summer. It was glorious.
This is a lazy Sunday hike because it’s mid-gorge (exit 40) so there is a little more drive time than the Western Gorge hikes. You can see some beautiful scenery from the car though and the hike offers amazing views in less than a 2 mile jaunt.
Although there are several shorter hikes in Forrest Park my favorite is Lower Macleay trail to the Pittock Mansion. It’s 5 miles round trip but even my kids can tackle this one. Best of all, when you are finished you’re already in Portland and minutes from a delicious brunch.
Runner up: Mt. Tabor– You can take a fully paved path or mix in some trails. I like to run these urban paths for beautiful views of the west hills.
This is a great one for tired kids or less physically fit guests who want to do a waterfall hike. The first mini-waterfall is close to the start of the hike and wets their whistle to keep them going to the larger payoff less than a mile further.
This is a 5 mile hike close to the city that gives you over 1,000 ft. of elevation gain and amazing views of the Gorge from the top. There is a large rocky area where many people stop to have a snack and visit with the chipmunks. The summit is breathtaking.
Put on your ugly water shoes because this one is a hike in water, over logs submerged in water, to a larger bit of water where you can amble up some rocks and dive in to the cheers of onlookers. It’s cold and can get pretty deep for kids in parts but it’s well worth it. Note: there is no bathroom or porta-potty at the trailhead.
There is so much good food in Portland not to mention awesome bike shops, museums, etc. I’m the type of person who likes to dive right in and see everything but that can be a drain on the wallet.
Whether you are moving to Portland or just visit often you should get the Chinook Book. We were given the Chinook book as a housewarming gift by one of my husband’s co-workers. I’m now obsessed and have both the app and the paper book. Unlike the big coupon books I’m used to with gross fast food chains and box stores the Chinook Book is so Portland. It’s largely local businesses and all businesses have to meet their sustainability criteria. I’ve become a huge fan of the app because I’m still getting to know Portland and you can search what’s “near me”. Sometimes I do it just to see what local businesses are around for a quick snapshot of a neighborhood I’m less familiar with. Sometimes it shows a 2-for-1 coffee coupon and I have to debate whether to save it for when I’m with a friend or slam two right then. This is Portland after all.
We deemed this the “summer of fun”. We had a house full of visitors which made everyone less homesick. It also provided the perfect excuse to explore Portland like a tourist. We made sure to try at least one new adventure or restaurant with each visitor too. Sometimes it was a huge success and sometimes an epic fail but when I go to (or past) the places we tried I get the warm feeling of friendship all over again.
Here is my list of staples for visitors:
Powell’s is a hit with all visitors but especially the young ones. Getting to hold books in your hands is a lost pleasure in the age of Amazon & ebooks. The employees at Powell’s are top notch professionals. When my daughter requested a non-fiction book on Mermaids, the info. desk personnel tried very hard to find her one. My friend even found the obscure books written by two of his friends on the shelves.
*tip- Powell’s has used books too. They are co-mingled with the new ones so dig through the stack and you may find your selection at a discount.
My husband finds VooDoo to be grossly overrated. Here is why you need to go anyway. The downtown location allows you to stand in line in front of a porn theatre and make cream filling jokes to pass the time. The flavors are unique and there is even a rapper series you can try to complete (Marshall Mathers, ODB and the blunt). When you say you went to Portland, people will ask if you went to VooDoo so you might as well go and have a donut & some Stumptown coffee.
*tip- Go to the location on the East side of the river for a shorter line and a mechanical elephant to ride if you are under 150 lbs.
Salt and Straw
Salt and Straw is a foodie ice cream shop. There is a reason there’s a line and there is a reason it’s not full of kids (unless you count hipsters). You will often find local harvest items or even local brews in these unique concoctions. When you do reach the front of the line they are happy to give you a taste of some flavors to help you make a good decision.
*tip -You can skip the line if you are just grabbing pints from the freezer and head straight to the register.
Admittedly I never really trusted the food trucks in Chicago, exempt the cupcake truck which I loved. I didn’t like that I had to follow them on twitter to know where they were or that there was exhaust involved. Now that I am here I get the Portland Food Cart obsession. The food carts in Portland have a lease and generally stay put in a designated lot. They can be found in almost every neighborhood in Portland. Many of them have amazing food and the lots offer something for everyone in one place. Just don’t expect it to be quick. You can expect about the same timing as ordering in a restaurant.