Presenting ‘Portland, Oregon, USA’ according to Siân of SianJKavanagh.com.
The “Whereabouts” series is now taking guests! Have a location to share? Pitch your idea here.
When I talk about Oregon, and Portland in particular, I can’t help but gush. This is a city, nestled within a state, that seemingly has it all; drive an hour west of Portland and you will find yourself with your toes in the Pacific Ocean. Drive an hour east and you will discover Mt. Hood where you can hike, ski, and play until your heart’s content. Venture south and you will find deserts and forests. Stay in the city and you will meet some of the friendliest (and occasionally) strangest people, spending your time eating, drinking, and laughing your way around. To love Portland is to ride your bike naked with thousands of strangers once a year, or to hike in and around the city until you’re covered in rain water, dirt and bruises.The city is divided by the Willamette River (to sound like a local, pronounce it: wil-A-met) and connected by many bridges; find your favourite (mine is Tilikum Crossing) and walk it regularly. Portland is a treasure trove of culture, food, and art, but be careful to not tell any locals that you’re enamored with Oregon and hope to move there. Oregonians are fiercely territorial and hope to keep Portland a secret (though, it seems, the secret has already been let out).
Portland Oregon and sloe gin fizz, if that ain’t love then tell me what is.
Loretta Lynn and Jack White
1. Witness the fitness of the Timbers
Portlanders are passionate about their sports with the biggest city teams being the Portland Trailblazers for basketball, the Portland Timbers for men’s soccer, and the Portland Thorns for women’s soccer. The Timbers Army take over downtown pubs, restaurants, and streets on any given game day. The Rose City Rollers create an intense energy during their games of roller derby. The University of Oregon Ducks down in Eugene dominate on the American football front, and it’s worth going to watch a Ducks game, even if you’re not into football, for the fans, showmanship, and tailgating.
2. Roll up to the finest food carts
Portland is the ultimate foodie city; you will probably gain 10lbs and need to take out a mortgage but it’s so worth it. Take advantage of Oregon’s sprawling coastline fresh catches and go grab some seafood at Jake’s on the west side or Cabezon in NE. Any trip to Portland wouldn’t be complete without stopping off at the food carts to sample one of the hundreds of cuisines available. My favourite food carts are on SE Foster at the Portland Mercado – I seriously had the best cubano of my life there. Beer and wine are huge in Oregon and you would be mad to visit without going to a local brewhouse or taking a day trip for wine tasting. Spanish coffee at Huber’s (Portland’s oldest restaurant) is a photogenic treat, though if you end up having more than one you’ll be singing and dancing your way home. And don’t forget to treat yourself to a pint and pie at The Toffee Club on SE Hawthorne and watch English football with some hardcore footie fans.
3. Scour the stacks at Powell’s
AKA the largest independent bookstore in the world. This beauty takes up an entire city block and four floors, and is filled with thousands of books on every imaginable topic. I can’t be in Portland without visiting Powell’s for hours on end. Make sure you have a couple of hours to kill and a decent literary budget because no matter whether you consider yourself a book lover or not, you will get lost and you will fall in love.
Where? 1005 W Burnside St, Portland, OR 97209
4. Swing by the sexy nightlife
It sounds weird but Portland has more strip clubs per head than any other city in the US. Go and visit Casa Diablo Vegan Strip Club, where the only meat is on the pole, or Devil’s Point strip club on a Sunday night for their Stripperoke, an extraordinary combination of amateur karaoke and professional back up strippers.
5. Adventure onto Multnomah Falls
After all that eating and drinking it is important to move that body, so head on out to Multnomah Falls down the Columbia Gorge to take in the awe inspiring sights and some beautiful hikes. You don’t have to venture too far out of the city as it is only an hour drive away making it the perfect road trip. Be sure to take you camera and rain coat. There are also so many stunning parks and gardens to explore within Portland. Mt. Tabor is east of Hawthorne Boulevard and worth spending some hours playing around waiting for the sunset. Laurelhurst Park, south of Burnside Street on the east side, is a beautiful inner-city park worth a wander in between coffee shops and book stores. Washington Park is a MAX ride west and home to miles of gorgeous trails and the fantastic Japanese gardens.
- In the summer be sure to check the Movies in the Parks series that happen weekly in different parks around the city. When the weather is a little cooler and wetter, go explore a brewpub cinema such as the Kennedy School in NE or Living Room Theater in SW.
- Weed was legalised last year in Oregon. If you are over 21, feel free to explore the hundreds of new shops offering flower, pre-rolled, and edibles. Just remember there is no public consumption, and be weary that smoking any substance has been banned in all public parks for over a year now.
- Go check out the relaxed Bula Kava House serving the ancient Fijian Kava brew on SE Division Street. This root brew offers a mild relaxation and is famous for lacking any addictive properties or hangover, though for safety purposes you must be over 18 to consume it. Grab a colouring book and a couple of friends, and prepare to have a couple of chilled hours talking, laughing, and loving life.
- Portland is famous for its vibrant music scene: catch live music almost any night of the week. Find international touring artists at the Crystal Ballroom, Roseland Theater, Doug Fir, or Wonder Ballroom. For the local scene check out Mississippi Studios, Aladdin Theater, Euphoria Basement, or The Know.
How To Get Around
Get around using the MAX, Streetcar, or bus. Portland public transportation can get you almost anywhere in the city. You can also work those thighs like a local and rent a bike (or unicycle, if you fancy.) Nike, whose world headquarters are located in Beaverton, OR, have just introduced a new bikeshare program for Portland called Biketown, aimed at locals and tourists. If you must take a cab, know that it is literally impossible to hail a taxi in PDX so you will have to book ahead, or use Lyft as the transportation app of choice.
Things To Avoid
- Voodoo Donuts SW. Though the donuts are delicious and reasonably priced, the lines at the downtown Voodoo are insane 24/7. Save yourself a couple of hours and visit their NE Sandy location, just 10 minutes away.
- Parking or trying to drive around Portland during rush hour. If you must rent a car, try using a service such as Zip Car or Car 2 Go which both offer hourly rates on car rental, and you don’t have to worry about downtown parking tickets. The professional Portlanders bike, walk, or MAX their way around the city.
- Chinatown. There is a lot of homelessness in Portland. This is just a fact, and many of the Portland Homeless Shelters and Services are located in Chinatown. There are some fun restaurants located nearby, but be weary of your surroundings and don’t spend time there alone at night. It is never the best idea to give money to people begging in Portland. Ask instead if they would like food and offer them hot drinks in the winter, cold water in the summer, and healthy long lasting snacks (such as granola bars) year round. Other items to donate to individuals or shelters include: women’s sanitary products, hats, gloves, blankets, underwear, socks, toiletries, and other life necessities.
On the accommodation front – If you’re on a budget, Portland Hawthorne Hostel has shared, dormitory-style rooms starting at $15 per night in the heart of SE. If you have money to spend, Ace Hotel in SW is just blocks away from Powell’s Bookstore, The Roxy, and the downtown Food Cart Hub, starting at $100 per night.
Looking for something in the middle? Try Airbnb! There are an amazing selection of rooms scattered around different neighborhoods with prices starting as low as $20 per night (but for a full apartment closer to nightlife and shopping streets, expect to pay at least $40-60 per night.)
Siân Kavanagh is a proud Scouser (from Liverpool, England) who has lived in The Netherlands, Oregon, Mexico, and Ho Chi Minh City. She has worked as a staff writer and photographer for Word Magazine, event manager at Saigon Outcast, and works freelance for a variety of publications and businesses. When she is not furiously writing articles and attempting to overcome writer’s block, she can be found salsa dancing, exploring Vietnamese cuisine, and making xe om drivers laugh with her terrible Vietnamese language skills. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.