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Things to see, do and taste in Portland, Oregon
In my first twenty-four hours in Portland, I lunched at a food pod, hiked an active volcano, ate a spelt cookie, and saw more deep V shirts with skinny jeans than I can count.
Portland is a small city, but it’s a hub of artistic creativity, sustainability, and outdoor enthusiasts. At first glance, what struck me most was Portland fashion and how it was different from...well really any other city. At my first bite of vegan chorizo burrito I was won over to the food scene. And the first sighting of sunshine was enough to send us plunging into the woods, giddy with our good fortune.
Portland is broken up into quadrants: NE, NW, SE, SW. The Willamette River splits the city into East and West, with multiple bridges spidering the city skyline. The West side is seen as a bit more high end, while East of the river Portland earns its low-key gritty hipster reputation.
In Washington, DC we call them food trucks and they move around from place to place. In Portland they’re called “pods” or “food carts” and they stay put, nicely camped out in a trailer park of food options. The whole atmosphere is festive, the food is top quality, and I imagine that the outdoor and open aspect of it builds a sense of community.
The Laughing Planet
An excellent café! I had my first ever spelt cookie as a pre-hike power snack. You feel like you’re nourishing your body while enjoying the gooey chocolate and crunch of macadamia nuts. The Laughing Planet’s mission is to serve fast, delicious, local and nutritious food. They recently won Portland’s BEST award for good business and sustainability practices.
Portland has a real DIY (Do-It-Yourself) movement, and they extend this to their beer making. Some have gone as far as calling it America’s Microbrew Capital. At Deschutes, I tried the house-made white IPA, and a beet and walnut burger with whipped goat cheese. Thumbs up all around!
These theatre pubs are sprinkled everywhere throughout the city (and elsewhere in Oregon and Washington). True to Portland nature, they don’t make too much of an effort at looking classy and are fairly cheap and down-to-earth brewery establishments. You can get a beer and watch a movie, see a concert, and more. Drinking and entertainment, what’s not to like?
If you do any stumbling about in southeast Portland, you’re sure to stumble on this. Directions: when you see a hill, just keep going up. Mount Tabor is actually an active volcano, though now it is covered with peaceful and mossy old forest. My biggest surprise was the diversity of people I saw enjoying the view and the outdoors. There were the usual joggers and bikers, but a fair number of hipster city kids were cruising around and picnicking.
This is one of the biggest urban forests in the North America. Indeed once you’re in the forest it’s shocking to think how near the city actually is. The 70 miles of hilly paths appeals to Portland's outdoorsy edge.
Forest Park is one of the largest urban green spaces in North America. A quick drive gets you out of the city center and onto lush forest trails.
Yoga: a cultural norm
Everyone and their dog does yoga in Portland. And they do it hard core – “hot yoga” in which the studio temperature and humidity is elevated to rainforest levels will make you sweat buckets. Ahhh…purge those toxins!
Portland City Grille
With a 180 degree view of sunny Portland (joke), the Portland City Grille is a great place for travelers to perch themselves and grab a cup of coffee. In the evenings it's packed with locals in search of a swank happy hour.
Looks like a spaceship and gives you a great view of the city, the “tram” is a ski lift like contraption used to transport people between the two Oregon Health and Science University medical centers. When OHSU looked to expand their center at the top of the hill and build a second location at the river’s edge, it was found that an aerial tram would be far more efficient than shuttling people up and down in buses.