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September 19, 2012

Hot Spots and Highlights of Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon-145902329(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)blog
Portland, Oregon skyline (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Portland, Oregon, might be nicknamed the City of Roses, but after vacationing there I think it could also be called the City of Beer, the City of Coffee, or an all-encompassing City of Food. Having lunch on my first day in PDX with a local Portlander, she told me that I better enjoy eating and drinking because that is what Portland does well. Thankfully, those two activities are high on my list of 'Things I Like To Do While On Vacation,' so I knew I was going to be just fine. Though I certainly did enjoy the local fare, I also found there was a ton to see in this easy-going town, and a good excuse to work off your dinner.

The city is very walkable, but if you want to conserve energy, it has a MAX light rail system that runs anywhere you'd like to go, and usually for free. And even though you might see people walking around in their pajamas, the city itself is very clean. Upon my arrival, one of the first things I saw was a city worker Windexing the trash cans and recycle bins... sparkling trash cans... yes, Portland has them.

So with map of downtown in hand, hit some of these hot spots and highlights of Portland, and, of course, stop and smell the roses.

Visit Powell's Bookstore
1005 W Burnside Street
Powell's is the largest independently owned bookstore in the world; it takes up an entire city block (68,000 square feet to be exact). The store has been around for more than 40 years, and, on average, 6,000 people walk through its doors each day to get a cup of coffee and browse the selection of nearly one million books that line the shelves.

Drink Stumptown Coffee
Multiple Locations Throughout the City
Stumptown Coffee has become a well-known coffee brand and is served throughout the United States. It all started back in 1999 in a store across the Willamette River on Portland's Division Street. It has been said that this is where the Portland coffee revolution began. There are other Stumptown Coffee Roaster locations downtown if you prefer to walk for your morning joe.

Walk the Pearl District
East of I-405 and North of W Burnside Street
Portland is largely broken up into eight neighborhoods, and one of the main, but most touristy, areas to visit is the Pearl District. This section used to be the warehouse district, but it has been reclaimed and is now known for its great food and collection of eclectic shops. KEEN's first retail store is on 13th Avenue. BridgePort Brewing, Oregon's oldest craft brewery, is also in the most northern section of this pedestrian-friendly district.

Visit the International Rose Test Garden
400 SW Kingston Avenue
The International Rose Test Garden is on the western side of the city in Washington Park, and it's a must-visit. The garden has nearly 10,000 roses and features more than 600 varieties. Walk among the flowers and choose your favorite, or jump in on a daily free tour to learn more information about the park itself.

Visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden
239 NW Everett Street
This garden opened in 2000 and is exactly one city block (approximately 40,000 square feet) in size. Lan Su is considered the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China and features more than 300 species of traditional plants. Admission is required.

Stroll through the Portland Saturday Market
SW Ankeny and Naito Parkway
This market has been kicking since the mid-70s and features more than 350 vendors on Saturdays and Sundays. All crafts are handmade and unique to the area. It's an authentic place to pick up a souvenir and support the local economy.

Ride the Portland Aerial Tram
3303 SW Bond Avenue
This tram takes passengers between Oregon Health and Science University's Marquam Hill campus and the South Waterfront district/OHSU's Center for Health and Healing. See views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Saint Helen, and downtown Portland as you travel 3,300 linear feet at 22 mph, but look quick because the ride is only three minutes.

See the Portlandia Statue
1120 SW 5th Avenue
Located on top of the third floor of the Portland Building, this statue is the second-largest hammered-copper statue in the United States. (The largest is the Statue of Liberty.) The sculpture is from the city's seal and is a woman who symbolizes welcoming traders into the city's port in ancient days.

Eat and Drink
All the food I had while in Portland was tasty, but here are some of the highlights...

Salt & Straw
2035 NW Alberta Street
Portland might be well-known for its farm-to-fork food, but Salt & Straw is the kind of farm-to-cone you're not expecting. All of its ice cream is handmade with local organic ingredients. Flavors can change, but choose two or three and do a taste test while you stand in line to decide (and, yes, there is always a line, and it goes slow, but it is worth it!). One of its best selling flavors is Sea Salt ice cream with Caramel Ribbon--talk about a sweet, salty combo. Seasonal flavors can be anything from Rocky Road to Sweet Summer Corn Buttermilk Sherbet.

Noble Rot
1111 E Burnside Avenue
Though the name of this restaurant might be a slight turnoff, the breathtaking views from the windows and the patio of downtown Portland are a must-see. Rot is known for its locally sourced menu and wine flights. There is even a roof-top garden that supplies most of the herbs and vegetables for its summer creations.

Riffle NW
333 NW 13th Street
Focusing on sustainable seafood, Chef Ken Norris creates some seriously delicious meals. The restaurant is in the Pearl District, and I would describe it as refurbished warehouse meets nautical style. While you wait for a table, grab a drink and say hello to Dave, one of Portland's top bartenders.

Bunk Sandwiches
211 SW 6th Avenue
If you're in need of a yummy lunch, Bunk Sandwiches is a must. The chalkboard menu describes a handful of delicious concoctions, from the chicken salad to the grilled PB&J. The location is small, so either plan on take-out, grab one of the few bar stools at the counter, or hope the weather is nice so you can sit outside.

Food Trucks/Carts
Multiple Locations throughout the City
Nearly 700 food carts operate in Portland, most at established places such as SW 10th and Alder, SW 5th and Stark, or SW 3rd and Washington. Mississippi Market Place, across the river, was one of the first dedicated food-cart spaces in Portland and has become a place of obsession for food-truck lovers.

Voodoo Doughnuts
22 SW 3rd Avenue
When you're walking around the city, you'll likely see people carrying around pink boxes... follow the delicious smell and you'll find a line of patrons waiting to order the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. Some of its famous doughnut creations include a Maple Bacon Bar, Captain my Captain topped with Captain Crunch cereal, and so many others that it's hard to choose. The only bad thing, besides the calories, is that the stores only accept cash; that good thing is that the doughnuts are relatively cheap. All three locations are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but if you want to skip the lines, go early in the morning. You'll want to buy a dozen, but I recommend sharing one among three people... or you might want to just crawl into bed for a nap because of the sugar rush.

Kenny & Zuke's Delicatessen
1038 SW Stark Street
Hunt no further for an authentic Jewish deli. Ken Gordon and Nick Zukin, the founders of Kenny & Zuke's, are considered "artisans" of pastrami. Their menu features plenty of other options though, from breakfast to happy hours to dinner platters. Eating here, you can tell that everything is fresh. The dining area is airy and comfortable, and the waitstaff is kind.

Fish Grotto
1035 SW Stark Street
Fish Grotto claims to bring you some of the freshest plates that Portland has to offer, and from what I have seen, it's making good on that promise. Its food is cooked to perfection, and the plating presentation takes this dining experience up a notch.

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Related Topics: Trip Ideas · US Travel


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Nice post! I feel like you hit all of the top must-see destinations in Portland. it is truly an awesome/eccentric town that I like refer to as "Asheville on Steriods".

Greay article! Made me want to go back to Portland and try some of the restaurants you reviewed! Next time you are in Portland, check out Forest Park. Amazing trail running and hiking under the canopy of gorgeous old trees.

Nice round up. I love parks in portland especially Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park, The Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, and Mill Ends Park.

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