There will be a moment during your visit to Portland, Oregon when you’ll have an epiphany. Maybe it won’t happen during your blissful stroll through one the city’s giant public parks, your nostrils fresh with the scent of pine trees and clean air. And it might not hit you during your $3 lunch at one of Portland’s plentiful food carts, your taste buds humming to a savory, cheesy mac n’ cheese made with locally produced Tillamook Cheddar. It might not even cross your mind as you get lost in aisles of Powell’s, a temple of a bookstore that fills an entire city block. But at some point you’ll be overwhelmed by how much you’re enjoying yourself and start to wonder: could I live in Portland? Why am I not here already?
Portland is a place that seems as if it was created with travelers in mind. Everything about it, from the city’s accessible size and convenient public transportation, to its killer food and beer culture, top-notch shopping and easy access to nature, is made to appeal to the visitor in ways that feel welcoming, inspiring and surprising. In a word: wonderful. Sure, as a visitor it’s easy enough to glance over the city’s problems: the unemployment rate is currently hovering above 10%, and for much of the year the city is shrouded in a gloomy, misty haze of rain. But these facts ultimately pale in comparison to the reasons why Portland is such a forward-thinking, livable destination.
Could you live in Portland? Or maybe you’re just curious about making a visit? Keep reading below for our Portland tips.Getting in, getting around
Portland visitors will arrive at Portland International Airport (PDX), located about 45 minutes from the downtown city proper. Don’t bother with a taxi – for just over $2, you can jump on the clean, speedy Light Rail to whisk you towards downtown. Public transport is a big win here: a one-day pass covering rides on all city light rail, bus and street car lines is just $4.75. Travelers who are renting/driving a car will find there’s ample street parking, though the city does have occasional traffic gridlock (no place is without a few flaws, right?).
Portland is bisected by the Willamette River, and most addresses and neighborhoods identified by their relationship to this body of water. On the West side of the River you’ll find Portland’s main commercial center. Just North of this (in the Northwest) is the Pearl District, a humming district of art galleries, shopping and killer cuisine. In the NW, the area along 23rd Avenue is also popular for shopping.
The East side of Portland is decidedly more low-key, but definitely worth a visit. In the Northeast you’ll find plenty to check out on Mississippi Avenue. The happening Southeast is anchored by plenty of great dining and shopping along Hawthorne Boulevard.
What to do
With so much to see, eat, buy and explore in Portland, a better question for first-time visitors might be, what shouldn’t you do?
- Have a brew – like beer? Welcome to Nirvana. Boasting one of the largest concentrations of microbreweries in the country, you’d be hard-pressed to come to Portland and not enjoy one of the town’s outstanding, locally-crafted beers.Though you can’t go wrong at most bars, spots like Deschutes, Henry’s Tavern and Laurelwood get consistently high marks.
- Eat out – not only is Portland a great town for beer, it’s also a great town for outrageously fresh, delicious food. One of the greatest features of Portland is the city’s many cheap food carts. Ditch that bland bag lunch and track down tasty fare with the locals, like Schnitzel sandwiches and tip-top Thai food at Nong’s. At night, head to the SE for dinner at Pok Pok, one of Portland’s best restaurants.
- Parks – Portland’s reputation for livability and beauty has a lot to do with the city’s plentiful parkland. It’s a great way to spend the day, enjoying a blissful trail hike, riding a bike or simply stopping to smell the roses. Check out Forest Park, one of the nation’s largest urban parks. During the summer, stop by Portland’s Rose Garden for thousands of the colorful flowers overlooking the city’s downtown.
- Shop local – the diversity and quality of Portland’s small-scale retail is unmatched. Visitors will be hard-pressed to track down a chain store and everywhere you look are creative, one-of-a-kind handmade goods. The mother of all bookstores is Powell’s, a modern-day “Great Library” bursting with new and used tomes. Music lovers flock to stores like Mississippi Records in Portland’s Northeast.
Killer food and drink. Blissful nature. Quirky local shopping. What’s not to like about Portland? Perhaps it’s time you came to check out this buzzing Pacific Northwest capital for yourself. But consider yourself warned – spend a weekend in Portland and you’ll come away wanting more.