14 Places I Love in Portland

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. Places I love in Portland

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. 

Next Adventure-Large store with plenty of selection of outdoor gear and a separate water sports shop open in the summer.

US Outdoor Store– Great outdoor store in downtown Portland. Don’t miss the bargain room upstairs.

Columbia Employee Store– If you are lucky enough to get a pass from someone who works at Columbia, the employee store is filled with Columbia, Mountain Hardware, Prana and Sorel, about 50% off retail. 

Happy Valentine’s Day Portland! Enjoy eating, sipping and shopping in the loveliest city in the West.

National Donut Day

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.

National Donut Day

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.

*Originally published 6/3/16

Snow Day in Portland

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.


Enjoy it!

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.


Cross-country skiing

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.


Park sledding

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.


I thought it only rained here

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.


Nicknames & Nomenclature

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!”


For the Love of Portland

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.

Holiday Lights

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.


Peacock Lane

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.


Zoo Lights

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.


The Grotto

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.

Take a hike!

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.


The Classic- Multnomah Falls

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.


The Lazy Sunday-Wahclella Falls

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.


The City Hike- Forrest Park

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.


The Quick Payoff- Ponytail Falls

(from Horsetail Falls trailhead)

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.


The Date Hike- Angel’s Rest

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.


The Excuse to Wear Water Shoes- Oneonta Falls

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.


Happy Hiking!






Portland in 2 days

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.

VooDoo Donuts

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.

Food  Carts

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.




Portland Time

From food to checkout lanes Portland is not in a hurry. Maybe this goes hand in hand with how nice everyone is. I guess it’s hard to be so helpful AND keep a line moving but Portland is falling just short of Island Time.


I was standing behind a women in line at Freddie’s and the check out fella proceeded to have an entire conversation with her after her order was complete. Trying to stifle my annoyance I waited, internally steaming, until he began scanning my items. With a bright smile, he checked me out chatting casually with my son. My anger started to calm because he was so genuinely pleasant.


This summer my husband was starving at the Mt. Hood Ski Bowl and was drawn to a slice of pizza like a moth to a flame. The service worker did not want to serve him the pizza perched before him because it was about an hour old and it would only take him “about 15 minutes to make a fresh one”. It’s an amusement area, the food is supposed to be overpriced and taste like cardboard. Not in Portland.


Then there are the food trucks. The whole concept of my food coming from something on wheels indicates speed to me. Although the people who own them have probably shaken the hand of the farmers supplying their ingredients, you will surely feel like that handshake has transpired between placing your order and receiving your food. Similar to the Freddie’s experience the forgiveness comes when you bite into your food.


My friend, also a city gal, has taught me that some of them (sushi truck on 28th) will take a phone order so you don’t have to wait so long once you arrive. For now, I will continue to find workarounds until Portland speeds up or I complete my assimilation.