Travel Destinations: The Joys of Portland (Oregon)

I always thought of Portland as a smaller Seattle, but actually Portland has its own quirky personality that holds its own against its bigger neighbor. I met up with my friend and her toddler to explore Portland. We stayed at the Portland Airport Holiday Inn to keep our expenses low and there was no charge for parking. My friend had rented a car because she was exploring the area to see if she would like to live there. She along with many Californians had the same idea. I have talked to several Portland locals and they had remarked that Portland was home to many California refugees.

A small city of approximately 200,000 there are two reasons that a Californian would appreciate Portland. First the traffic is nowhere like California traffic. It was relatively easy to find a parking place. Second, Portland is compact (still) and you can go from one end to the other in about 20 minutes. The thing that struck me about Portland was how earnestly environmentally conscious they are. People actually use their bicycles as a form of transportation not as a leisure activity. Ahh, the joy of Portland travel, the alternate transportation kind where you get to experience the scenery and be part of the city's bustle.

Photos by Flightkeeper

Portland Children's Museum
Portland Children's Museum
Natural Garden at Portland Japanese Garden
Natural Garden at Portland Japanese Garden
Mid Lake Pavillion at Portland Classical Chinese Garden
Mid Lake Pavillion at Portland Classical Chinese Garden
Chinatown Gates
Chinatown Gates

Enjoying an Inexpensive Weekend

On our first day, one of the hottest days that Portland can remember, we decided to have an easy day, and have a late breakfast at Bijou Café, which concentrates on using organic ingredients. The restaurant was light and airy. The food was well prepared and tasted good. I had the eggs with sausage and hash. The potatoes were excellent although the sausage was somewhat bland. My friend had had the special, a cheese omelet prepared like a quesadilla. She liked it very much. The coffee was good although I noticed that the restaurant had such a strong exhaust system that there was no brewed coffee smell, which I missed, that permeated the restaurant. The prices were reasonable as well; entrees were in the $8-$12 range.

We headed for the Portland Japanese Garden, but it was so hot in the middle of the day that we decided to postpone the garden and go to a place that was air conditioned and a place that our little boy can run around to his heart’s content, The Portland Children’s Museum. Inside was everything that a little kid would want. There was a water area where a kid could play with all sorts of water toys and bubbling pipes and splash around to their utter delight and fascination. There’s also a stage area where the budding actor/actress/director could play drums, direct, or be emcee/comedian/actor. For the creative types there was a clay room and for the shopping types there was a make believe supermarket where you can buy fake groceries. (That was particularly cute). Most of all there was a huge play area where you one can play with all sorts of balls, large blocks, and various other colorful items that kids know what to do with. A kid can spend an entire day inside and find a lot to do.

Toward the late afternoon we headed for the Japanese Garden. Consisting of five acres, you can spend the day in looking at the beautiful settings, waterfalls, a sand garden, a natural garden, and a rock garden. On a hot day, it was a great way to while away the afternoon in a fragrant setting. We couldn’t leave without visiting the International Rose Test Garden which was a few steps away and where seemingly thousands of different kinds of roses were blooming.

For dinner, we headed to one of Portland’s many microbreweries. One that had a very reasonable menu was the Bridgeport Brewpub at NW Marshall Street. We had their beer sampler, nine beers for 7 bucks. Not a bad deal. I had the French Dip and my friend had the Shepherd’s Pie. Our little one had the macaroni and cheese which we adults loved. It was a big portion for a little kid and we knew it was meant for sharing.

On our second day, another unusually hot one, we headed for the Portland Chinese Classical Garden which was located in Old Town and not far from Chinatown where we spent a few hours enjoying the fragrant setting of another type of garden. Afterwards, my friend dropped me off at the Museum of Contemporary Craft while she went to the Museum of Science and Industry. The Museum of Contemporary Craft only accepts donations. It is a small gallery with interesting displays. Afterwards, I headed for Powell’s Bookstore which was just a few blocks away.

Who can go to Portland and not end up in Powell’s Bookstore? It is legendary and legendarily huge. You can get lost in it. I however headed for the coffee shop to wait for my friend and her son.

For dinner, we decided to again splurge but in an inexpensive manner. We headed off for Nicholas’s at 318 SE Grand Avenue, a middle eastern restaurant where the prices are unbelievably low for the portions that you get and the food is delicious. I had the mezza consisting of a lamb skewer and kafta and came with falafel, tabouli, and a huge sheet of fresh and hot pita bread. All for only $9! Needless to say we rolled out of the restaurant with a big belly and money still in our wallets.  Hence we discovered another joy of Portland travel, very reasonable prices, that alone should prompt many to visit this wonderful city.

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Comments 5 comments

Treasured Pasts profile image

Treasured Pasts 7 years ago from Commerce, Texas

It is a wonderful city. Thanks for the tour.


Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 7 years ago from The East Coast Author

I'm glad you liked it Treasured, I appreciate your comment.

MikeNV profile image

MikeNV 6 years ago from Henderson, NV

Hi, I have actually spent a lot of time in Seattle and Portland. Very different cities. Portland is actually way larger than you noted. There are almost 600,000 people within the city limits and with sprawl nearly 2 million in the area. The part of Portland in which you stayed is the North East Area... very close to the Columbia River.

Portland just feels small because there are so many areas that are "part of" Portland. Lots of hidden parks and so many trees. What makes the area unique is if you draw a circle from the downtown area you'll note there are cities and population in ALL directions... Gresham, Beaverton, West Linn, Lake Oswego, Oregon City, etc.

It's an amazing place that would take weeks to explore. You are lucky you hit it on a hot and sunny day. Winters there are dreadfully bleak all grey and cloudy.

Portland does not have as many cool hang outs as Seattle. It's "Queen Ann Hill" is NW 23rd Street. On the East Side you have the "Lloyd District" and to the SE you have Belmont and Hawthorne Avenues.

There is a bicycle path that runs next to the interstate from Vancouver Washing extending for almost 20 miles to the south and Oregon City.

It's just an awesome place to visit when it's sunny. Plus if you ever get the chance to hit the Oregon Coast on a Sunny Day it's spectacular. Years ago Oregon passed a law that prevents private ownership of beaches so that everyone can enjoy them.

I'm glad you have a good time, and hope you get a chance to go back and visit. I hope to go up that way again next summer.

Seattle is much larger in scale as it's surrounded by the Sound and Lakes not rivers. A similar but different feel. You should spend some time there too.

One big big plus for Portland over Seattle is the Food. Portland has tons of Restaurants... I heard once more than any city west of the Mississippi per capita. So many great places to eat and every type of food! Finding good food in South Seattle area is really pretty hard. Downtown Seattle has good places to eat, but other than that you have to cross the lake over to the Bellevue area.

I'm a bit of a Travel Hound been to every major city from San Diego up to Bellingham near the Candian Border. If only I had more time! I just wish I knew more about the East Coast.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

I haven't been there for about ten years but used to visit for work quite regularly. The Rose Festival was quite an event, with all the riverside walkways and the boats lit up like Christmas trees. Budweiser had a team of twenty heavy horses on display. Good memories.

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 6 years ago from The East Coast Author

Thanks for sharing your information Mike NV and Paraglider.

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