It’s been a busy month for visitors!
We had my cousin come into town, then my sister, a friend from LA and then Paul’s parents – who took an epic road trip from Toronto and drove a uHaul full of our crap to Portland, Oregon. We’ve been showing people around town that I wanted to finally put together a GREATEST HITS Travel Guide to Portland.
Also, if you’re looking for a place to stay – check out my post on Hotel Vintage!
Here’s what you just can’t miss on your first visit:
8 AM – Fuel up. Hit the ground running with a hot coffee and first pick of all the freshly made donuts over at Blue Star Donuts in the Pearl District. My favourite is the Bourbon Basil Blueberry and Mexican Hot Chocolate.
9 AM – After grabbing your donuts, hit the road for the roughly 45-minute drive to Multnomah Falls – Oregon’s tallest waterfall. This place gets crowded, so the best time to go is first thing in the morning.
Give yourself at least 30-60 minutes to hike around and explore before you head back into Portland. The hike to the very top is about 11 switchbacks – bring water!
11 AM – BRUNCH! I have all sorts of strategies for not having to wait in line for brunch. If it’s a weekday head to Tasty ‘N Alder (everything is good), Sweedeedee (baked goods + eggs, above) or Broder Nord (Swedish brunch) – you likely won’t have to wait too long. Call ahead if you can and check wait times.
If it’s the weekend, I like going to Verde Cocina for their thick chunks of sweet bacon in the Buenas Dias Breakfast Platter. I’ve never had to wait at the Pearl District location. This is a great spot if you’re with a big group.
1 PM – After brunch, head on over to Portland’s beloved bookstore, Powell’s Books they have a great little souvenir section. Do walk around the Pearl District and visit a few of my favourite stores like Porch Light, Made Here PDX and the second biggest Anthropologie store in the country! Free People, Madewell and Lululemon are also just around the corner and there’s tax-free shopping in Oregon.
3 PM – Grab a Biketown bike and ride along the waterfront trail and see the city by bike.
Make a pit stop at Voodoo Doughnuts to check out their crazy creations and cool donut art! They are a Portland institution.
4:30 PM – Probably time for an afternoon break at your hotel. If not, keep your momentum going with a zen visit to Lan Su Chinese Garden (usually open until 6 PM). It’s not too far away and you could Uber there. Unplug, relax and refresh with a hot tea and a snack at the on-site Teahouse.
7 PM – If you’re ready for dinner, I recommend heading over to SE Division to the Tidbit Food Pod for a casual, outdoor food cart dinner. There are bathrooms, covered seating, picnic tables and beer. It’s also pet-friendly! I really like the ramen and Japanese curry bowls from Hapa PDX and shopping at the all-natural beauty airstream, Menagerie (above).
8 PM – Don’t stuff yourself because you’re going to want to join the line forming in front of Salt & Straw Ice Cream just down the street. It will be some of the best ice cream you’ve ever had – not to be missed!
9 PM – After dinner, stop by Cascade Brewing for a sour and fruit beer tasting. NY Times recently named one of the Kriek beers one of the best sours in America. The Douglas Fir Lounge, Hale Pele, and Pepe le Moko (above) are also a few fun bars to grab a nightcap.
8 AM – Ready to pedal for your breakfast smoothie or Acai bowl? Moberi on NW 23rd has a smoothie blender attached to a bike in front of their food cart (it’s all very Portland). This is a great place to grab a quick and healthy breakfast.
9 AM – Go hiking! Work off all that delicious food on the Redwood Trail nearby. You’ll be treated to a beautiful path lined with gorgeous redwood trees. Drive, Uber or bus to Hoyt Arboretum – there’s parking and washrooms here. Grab a map and follow the Redwood Trail all the way to the Redwood Deck for the best views.
10 AM – Since you’ll already be in the area, do pay the small admission fee and visit one of the BEST Japanese Gardens in America. You’ll feel so relaxed after walk through the lovely Portland Japanese Garden with its zen rivers and bridges.
After your visit, the International Rose Test Garden is just down the hill and offers beautiful views of Mount Hood on a clear day.
Noon – Ready for lunch? The Portland Farmers Market at PSU happens on Saturday until 2 PM year-round. It’s a great place for food souvenirs and lunch at the Pine State Biscuits tent with their fried chicken, biscuits, and gravy is a favourite of ours.
2 PM – Walk over to Pioneer Courthouse Square, it’s considered Portland’s Living Room with lots of events and programming year-round. Pioneer Place Mall is right across the street and the Made in Oregon store inside is a great place to shop for locally-made goods. I also love the Nordstrom nearby for more tax-free shopping.
4 PM – If you’re looking to shop more small, local boutiques – I would recommend going over to NW 23rd and walking along the strip there for some one-of-a-kind finds! Just set your google maps to the Marine Layer store which is full of soft clothing and is in the middle of all the action.
6 PM – Ready for dinner? Pok Pok for Thai food is one of the most famous restaurant destinations in Portland. You need to go early and be prepared to wait. If you can show up at 5 PM – even better. It’s not the usual curry and Pad Thai affair – but something a little different. Let your server guide you on your first visit.
If you can’t get into Pok Pok, Whiskey Soda Lounge (same owners) across the street serve a similar menu and their famous fish sauce wings! You can also try your luck at Ava Gene’s down the street. I also really like Bollywood Theater for Indian food nearby.
8 PM – Grab a cab and head about 20 minutes outside of downtown to the very unique McMenamins Kennedy School for a nightcap. It’s an old elementary school that has been repurposed into a hotel, movie theatre and venue with multiple restaurants and bars. It’s wild and so very Portland.
If you have time on Sunday, to make sure to visit the Portland Saturday Market. Shop for souvenirs from local artisans in this juried marketplace. There also a couple food carts and vendors on-site if you wanted to grab lunch here as well. Contrary to its name, the market runs on BOTH Saturday AND Sunday!
Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg of all the amazing things to do in Portland. If you have more time, here are a few other places to check out and a couple other Portland restaurants I’ve reviewed.
Pine Street Market – A new Food Hall featuring some of the best restaurants in Portland. Do go to Marukin Ramen for a hot bowl of noodles from this Tokyo shop. I also really like the Spanish rotisserie chicken at Pollo Bravo.
Nong’s Khao Man Gai – It’s crazy that something as simple as rice and chicken can be elevated to something with so much flavour. Nong has perfected this recipe and her Thai chicken dish is a must-eat while in Portland.
Tea Tasting at Smith Teamakers – The SW location has a brand-new tea room, cold nitro iced teas on tap. You can also see their factory and buy teas to take home from their retail space.
Olympia Provisions – Right across from Smith Teamakers is Olympia Provisions, the premiere Salumeria of Portland. Stop in for a charcuterie of artisanal meats and a glass of wine.
DAY TRIP OPTION
If you have a bit more time in Portland and want to get out and do something active – I definitely suggest the Tree to Tree Adventure Park Aerial Obstacle Course I just did. It’s a super fun way to just be outside and in the trees while challenging yourself with something new.
See my full post on this Treetop Trekking Adventure just an hour outside of Portland.
Are there any other places I should add to my list?