We were lucky enough to spend a few days exploring the laid-back city of Portland and all it has to offer. No matter what you’d like to do, eat or drink you can trust that Portland has it all.
A is for Alder Street Food Cart Pods
With roughly 500 food carts in the city, Portland’s metro area offers innovative, top-quality cuisine without breaking the bank. The resurgence of the food cart scene has grown organically and sums up the city’s passion for supporting small local businesses. Downtown Portland is home to some of the largest and longest-running food cart pods. The collection at S.W. Tenth Ave. and Alder St., boasts the one-dish wonder (chicken and rice) of Nong’s Khao Man Gai. On our visit we fell head over heels for the Blue Cheese Please at PDX Mac & Cheese Bar – a very generous portion of M& C with blue cheese crumbles, spinach, breadcrumbs, balsamic glaze and bacon – well worth a visit.
B is for Books, Powells City of Books
From its humble beginnings in 1971 Powells has grown into an independent legendary Portland landmark. No trip to Portland is complete without popping into the world’s largest new and used bookstore. Restoring our faith in the non-electronic pastime, bookworms can explore an entire city block worth of books. You name it and they probably have a book on it along with many neat and eclectic offerings. And what place in it’s right mind in Portland would go without having its own coffee shop? Grab a book and a good cup a joe and you’re ready to settle in, Portlandian style.
C is for Craft Breweries
In recent years craft brews have grown in popularity and continue to grip the world but Portland has been downing inspired concoctions for decades. With over 60 craft breweries in the city, Portland is arguably the craft brew capital of the world. And we’re not talking 60+ average brew houses. Oh no, we’re talking top class operations. In fact, four of the country’s largest operating craft breweries are based in Oregon (Widmer/Craft Brewers Alliance, Deschutes, Full Sail and BridgePort), all with headquarters or outposts in Portland. Proudly known as “Beervana,” the breweries range from large, nationally distributed breweries, to small, yet highly respected, neighbourhood brewpubs. We spent an afternoon watching the tennis and sipping on a flight of Deschutes brews of choice – FYI, food was pretty good too!
D is for Distillery Row
Back in 1985 Portland’s Clear Creek Distillery led the way for the movement in the city, crafting pear and cherry brandies from Hood River fruit. McMenamins was another early adopter of micro-distilling launching the Edgefield Distillery in 1998 producing craft whiskey, brandy and gin. Today the US is craft-brew focussed and around 40% of the Oregon Distillers Guild, are based in Portland, with many congragating around “Distillery Row” in Southeast Portland. Open for tastings and occasional behind the scenes tours, this collection of artisan producers includes House Spirits Distillery, with the ever-popular Aviation Gin; New Deal Distillery, which offers a vodka lineup that includes flavours infused with cacao nibs and Southwestern chili peppers; and Stone Barn Brandyworks,producing fruit brandies that tickle the taste buds. And with an abundance of noteworthy cocktail bars, it’s always a good time for a cocktail in Portland.
E is for Elements
There’s no point in denying that it rains in Portland — much like there’s no point trying to convince you that the weather is glorious – but it may not rain as much as you may think. For rainaphobes visiting between July-September the weather couldn’t be more idyllic for the Pacific Northwest. Rain is rare and the days are warm with averages around 25° C. Not to mention that the evenings are long and drawn out with the sun setting around 9pm in June and July. Even as the year creeps into October the days can be mild with sunny spells. Come November and December both the temperature and rain fall and although it gets much chillier than the Summer, the temperature only falls below freezing a few times each year. The rain however cannot be avoided – but rain in Portland means snow on nearby Mount Hood. As for Spring, days often start rainy and end up with blue skies and glistening sunshine. What more could you ask for?
F is for Farm to Table
Portland has long enjoyed a strong food reputation. The city is situated at the northern end of the fertile Willamette Valley, which sports a favourable climate for raising a dizzying variety of crops. A close proximity to the Pacific Ocean, rivers and lakes yields magnificent fresh seafood. And Eastern Oregon’s rugged high-desert plains are well suited to raising livestock and grains. Easy access to high quality ingredients helped propel Portland’s rise to culinary stardom. Agriculture in Oregon is a $5.4 billion industry, and Portlanders eat locally raised foods year-round. The state leads America in production of blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries and black raspberries, as well as hazelnuts and chanterelle mushrooms. Within Portland, more than 20 open-air farmers markets, have opened over the past two decades, carrying local (mostly organic) produce, regionally raised meats and more. A festival atmosphere prevails, and they are popular spots for stocking up on ingredients as well as enjoying market-fresh dishes. The Saturday morning Portland Farmers Market at Portland State University is the largest, where many local chefs gather supplies for restaurant menus.
G is for Go Green
Portland is possibly one of the greenest cities in the USA boasting more than 345 miles of developed bikeways, including dedicated lanes, off-street paths and shared bicycle boulevards. Also Portlanders recycle 80% of their waste, the highest rate in the nation.
H is for Happy Hours
Everyone loves a happy hour and Portland’s long list is seemingly too good to be true. It has to be one of the best way to taste everything the city has to offer. Most restaurants feature special menus before the dinner hour, and a number offer deals from 9pm onward. Be sure to check them out.
I is for Ice Cream
Everybody loves a soft scoop of ice cream and nobody does it better than Salt & Straw. They encapsulate Portland; local, independent and creative to the core. The success spawns from the unexpected artisanal recipes that people just can’t get enough of. Strawberry with balsamic vinegar and black pepper, pear with blue cheese, and Arbequina olive oil might raise eyebrows, but as Shakira sings, taste buds don’t like. Wait…that’s not right. Either way these flavours sing. Watch for limited-edition offerings, like the Spooktacular Series out this Halloween!
J is for Japanese Garden
Considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside Japan, this beautiful retreat displays five distinct Far Eastern garden styles within the tall Douglas fir walls of Northwest Portland’s Washington Park. For more than 50 years, the garden’s winding pathways and bridges have guided visitors past elements including raked stone gardens and a waterfall with a koi pond designed to inspire meditation. If Portland’s laid back vibe isn’t relaxing enough then the Japanese Garden is a peaceful oasis. We’d recommend a Summer time visit.
K is for Killingsworth / Alberta Arts District
Culturally diverse and bursting with Portland pride Alberta Street is a feast for the senses with boutiques, art spaces and bars, as well as cafés and restaurants whipping up irresistible eats. Each month, the Last Thursday street festival attracts throngs to the area, with musicians, artists, food carts and other indie-spirited residents partying past sundown. If you are hoping to grab a delicious bite to eat then we highly recommend Bollywood Theater – Mumbai meets Portland in this casual dining experience, complete with fairy lit outdoor lighting, throw back Bollywood movies and as expected from Portland, a craft cocktail menu to rival the best. Foodies shouldn’t skip nearby N.E. Killingsworth, specifically the intersection with N.E. 30th a few blocks north of Alberta. Naomi Pomeroy’s Beast put this area on the map, and Autentica, Expatriate, DOC, Nonna and Yakuza Lounge have fortified the neighbourhood.
L is for Locally Made
One of the things that we loved about Portland was how creative people were but also how they harnessed that creativity to inspire a city that now thrives with locally produced items across almost all industries. We came across a fab store that showcases just that. MadeHere was founded by a team of incredibly proud Northwesterners that have opened stores in the city dedicated to exhibiting the talents of artists, designers and makers based in the Pacific Northwest. The talent was out there, that was clear to see, but MadeHere has created a space to bring all of these talented folk together, whether they bake, stitch, weld or brew, MadeHere offers some of the greatest gifts to be found in Portland by some of the unsung talents from the region.
M is for Mount Hood
So this one is not in the city itself but roughly 50 miles east of Portland. Despite this it is still well worth roadtrippin’ over to visit even if it is just for the day. The magnificent Mount Hood is glorious in all seasons, but it’s a special delight to take in the brisk fresh air atop Oregon’s highest peak in the Winter. You can hire a car from Hertz at PDX Airport and zoom on over to Mount Hound. The drive takes around an hour and a half on a good day so make sure you leave early to make the most of the day.
N is for Nob Hill
Nob Hill is the blueprint for an idyllic American neighbourhood. Walkable (which can be hard to come by in the US), tree-lined sidewalks, beautiful Victorian homes, some of which have been turned into trendy shops, artsy boutiques and locally owned book stores. Dotted amongst the independent shops are a few of the nations more popular chains such as Levi’s and Urban Outfitters. If you enjoy people watching, and who doesn’t, then park your butt at one of the many coffee bars and restaurants with sidewalk seating for optimal viewing opportunities.
O is for Oregon Wine
Wine grapes were first planted in Oregon in 1847, but it wasn’t until the 1960s that the area’s acclaimed winemaking tradition began. Prime growing conditions, favourable soil types, and a temperate climate have fostered the state’s more than 670 wineries, at least 500 of which are located in the Willamette Valley. Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Portland, this premier wine-producing region has helped Oregon rank second in number of wineries and fourth in gallons of wine produced, nationally.
P is for Pittock Mansion
History lovers can step back in time and step foot into the turn-of-the-century Pittock Mansion. Set high in the West Hills above Northwest Portland, Pittock Mansion offers impressive views of the city and its surroundings, as well as a revealing glimpse of Portland’s past. The mansion is characterized by its impressive architecture and 23 art- and antique-filled rooms, where you can learn about the city’s history and the fascinating success story of early Portland moguls Henry and Georgiana Pittock, instrumental in the early development of Portland.
Q is for Quirky Fact
Portland’s nicknames include City of Roses, Stumptown. Bridgetown and Beervana. Or one of out favourite quirky facts is that the Clinton Street Theater has shown “THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE” (almost) every Saturday night since April 1978, only taking off holidays.
R is for Rose Test Garden
The international Rose Test Garden may not immediately be on your list of things to do but if you pick a beautiful sunny day, there are few things more romantic than strolling around these impeccable gardens. Established in 1917 to rescue European rose hybrids from the ravages of World War I, it is an olfactory experience not to be missed. Visit the garden during peak season (May through September) to see 8,000 rose bushes representing some 590 varieties on the 4.5-acre site in Washington Park.
S is for Stumptown Coffee Roasters
It is no secret that coffee is the elixir of the USA so when Stumptown Coffee took Portland’s caffeine lovers by storm in 1999 it was no surprise to us that it took off. What started as a single roastery quickly expanded to the rest of Portland and, more recently, New York City and Seattle. Stumptown hit the nail on the head with its emphasis on direct trade and flavour profiles of different coffee varieties. For a truly Portlandian coffee experience complete with impressive latte art there isn’t a better place to grab a latte in the city.
T is for Tax-Free Shopping
Need we say more…
U is for Unique Buys at Boys Fort
We stumbled across Boys Fort on our first wander around Portland and were utterly blown away. Why don’t more shops like this exist? It is a gifting paradise for all those that are difficult to buy for. The carefully assembled collection of handmade local, US made products and vintage one of a kind finds should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Portland. It is a destination all of its own. Whether you are looking for beard oil, leather goods , camping bags or beautiful coffee table books, Boys Fort is the place to be.
V is for Voodoo Doughnuts
Be a part of the deep fried doughnut revolution and tuck into one of the now famous Voodoo Doughnut’s delicious doughy morsels. The crazy flavour combos draw crowds of people into the tiny shop so be prepared queue. We suggest trying the Memphis Mafia – fried dough with banana chunks and cinnamon covered in glaze, drizzled in chocolate and peanut butter with peanuts and chocolate chips on top. Mmmhmm.
W is for West End
Just south of Powell’s Books and west of the downtown retail core, the West End has refined its unruly roots to foster some of the city’s most authentic tastemakers. The Ace Hotel started the retro-chic renaissance, and now everything from the long-lasting leather wares of Tanner Goods to the hearty cocktails at Clyde Common seems to pack an extra punch.
X is for X Marks the Spots
And by X we mean the plethora of incredible displays of public artwork painted on the side of buildings all around the city.
Y is for Yum
Possibly the best time of the year to sample Portland’s gastronomic delights is Portland Dining Month in March. It is a must for all foodies. The event continues to impress each year with participating restaurants across Portland serving up three-course dinners for around $29.
Z is for Zooming Around
Driving can be tedious in a city. Not to mention that parking is almost always a nightmare, but Bird scooters have recently hit the streets of Portland making it fun and most importantly, easy to get around. The electric scooter-sharing start-up seems to be popping up all over the US and we love it! Download the Bird app, locate a scooter and off you zoom.
If Portland is just one of many stops on a road trip make sure to book a insta-worthy car at Hertz for the ultimate on the road experience #HertzTrip
Car hire with Hertz.co.uk collecting from Seattle and returning to Los Angeles costs from £719 for a week. For further road trip inspiration, head to the Hertz Road Trip Planner and discover iconic and off-the-beaten track routes, downloadable maps and insider guides www.hertz.co.uk/p/american-
For more information about Portland please visit www.travelportland.com