Call it what you will, and it has a lot of names, Stumptown, Bridgetown, City of Roses, Rip City, or PDX but there’s just something about Portland, Oregon. A definite vibe, but it’s hard to sum up exactly, it’s a sort of Pacific Northwest Goth meets LA hipster vibe with a splash of… well, weird.
After 10 days exploring the Oregon Coast this self described city girl needed a dose of hustle and bustle and a good cup of coffee, so we made a beeline for Oregon’s biggest city.
We only had two full days, but we made the most of them. We took tours, visited multiple gardens and museums, ate delicious food and lost ourselves in the world’s largest bookstore!
Getting Around Town
In my humble opinion walking is the best way to discover a new city, and Portland is a very walkable city, but if you’re not up for walking the Portland Streetcars and Biketown rentals (sponsored by Nike) are both readily available.
Almost immediately we came upon the #instafamous Portland Oregon Old Town Sign.
But First, Food.
Portland is well known for their food truck culture, there are literally hundreds of them set up in what are known as pods, but I’m going to admit to you right now, that I’m not a fan of food trucks, and didn’t eat at a single one.
Don’t worry, we didn’t starve! In fact we ran out of time before we could eat at all the highly recommended places on our list. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen
Location: Downtown – 835 SW Second Avenue
Luc Lac Vietnamese Kitchen kept popping up during my Portland research, and as soon as I saw the ceiling covered in light pink umbrellas I knew I’d be going, but when my friend Erin, over at Oregon Girl Around the World, recommended it as well, that sealed the deal!
Thankfully, we loved everything else about it too. From friendly fast service to delicious and plentiful servings, Luc Lac was a highlight of our Portland dining experience.
Pine State Biscuits
Location: Central East Industrial District – 1100 SE Division
I LOVE biscuits, so a visit to Pine State Biscuits was at the top of my dining wish list. We arrived just prior to closing, which meant we avoided the ever present out the door line I’d heard so much about.
We went with the most popular item on the menu: The Reggie, a Fried chicken, bacon & cheese biscuit topped with gravy. Trust me, it tasted way better than my photo gives it credit for. We couldn’t resist a side of cheese fries and the seasonal pop tart, and washed all this deliciousness down with a large jar of sweet tea.
Location: The Pearl District – 1101 NW Northrup Street
Carlita’s, described as Mexican with a Northwest flair, was walking distance from my hotel making it the perfect place to meet my bestie for a girls night out! The food was delicious, though spicy, and the service and atmosphere were great. Carlita’s is 21 and over.
Lauretta Jean’s Pie Bakery
Location: Division – 3402 SE Division Street
We are a pie loving family, so resistance was futile when we came across Lauretta Jean’s Pie Bakery. Nothing says summer like a fresh slice of warm pie with a scoop of melty ice cream, or a dollop of fresh whipped cream.
Location: Downtown – 22 SW 3rd Avenue
Don’t miss a visit to the quirky Portland favorite Voodoo Doughnut! As you might imagine they have a plethora of fun flavors and shapes on offer, all of which are delicious.
Voodoo Doughnuts is cash only, but you’ll find an ATM onsite. P.S. We didn’t visit Blue Star or Salt N Straw, both of which are local favorites, because we visit the LA locations often.
Location: 1005 W Burnside Street
One of the first places we stopped upon our arrival, was Powell’s Books. They claim to be the world’s largest bookstore selling both new and used books, and I believe it. One could literally get lost, so we paired up and set off to explore. Good thing our hotel was just a few steps away because we came away with a bag of literary treasures.
Alberta Street Arts District
Location: Alberta Street between Approximately 15th and 30th
My never-ending quest for street art led me to the Alberta Arts District where we found street art murals and slap tags aplenty!
This quirky and fun neighborhood is filled with one-of-a-kind boutiques, art galleries, coffee shops, dive bars and more.
After we’d had our fill of art and the 95 degree heat, we settled into the blissfully air-conditioned and very friendly neighborhood bar, Binks.
Stay tuned for more about this fun area in a future post…
The Pearl District
You’ll be hard pressed to find any evidence of the once run down industrial warehouse district that is now known as the Pearl District. Instead you’ll find a vibrant and thriving neighborhood, with charming wooden sidewalks, city parks, and one-of-a-kind shops and restaurants.
Portland Rose Test Gardens
Location: Washington Park
Opened in 1917 the International Rose Test Garden is home to over 7,000 rose plants and 550 varieties. Roses are sent from around the world to be tested for color, fragrance, resistance to disease and other attributes.
We loved walking up and down the rows taking time to smell the roses, and reading all the different names.
The Rose Test Garden is open from 7:30 am – 9:00 pm daily and offers free public tours daily at 1:00pm, from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
Location: Washington Park
Having visited Portland’s Japanese Garden a few years ago, we were pleased to see the extensive renovations and additions, which were completed since our last visit, enhancing what was already a spectacular place.
Check the Japanese Garden website for the information on the hours and admission prices as they vary throughout the year. Complimentary tours are included with your admission.
You might also be interested in: Portland Oregon City of Roses
Ground Kontrol Arcade
Location: Old Town/Chinatown – 115 NW 5th Avenue
From Dig Dug to Mortal Combat, Centipede to Donkey Kong you’ll find all your old favorites at the Ground Control classic arcade, or if you prefer pin ball they have 27 different machines. We found this to be a perfect place to beat the heat on a sweltering hot summer day, and to give our kids a break from playing tourist.
If shoveling quarters into arcade games isn’t your thing, or if you run out of quarters before the rest of your crew there are multiple bar areas where one can hang out.
All ages noon-5pm daily, 21+ from 4:30pm-close.
Street Art Walking Tour
Portland Street Art Alliance
In hindsight a walking tour on a 95 degree day probably wasn’t the best idea, but having scheduled it in advance we decided to give it a go. The extreme heat really put a damper on our ability to stop and enjoy the art, but we did our best, and saw quite a lot!
We may have stopped in the middle to cool down with boozy pops from the Portland Roasting Company.
Our tour was booked through the Portland Street Art Alliance. Stay tuned for more about Portland’s street art scene.
Portland Photo Tour
Wanting to see the city’s skyline and bridges I decided to book a small group tour with Portland Photo Tour. This way I’d be able to take all the night photos I wanted safely and without torturing the rest of my family.
Stay tuned for more about this fun experience…
The Ace Hotel Portland
Location: 1022 SW Stark Street
Prior to this trip the last time I stayed at an Ace Hotel, was my wedding night. I thought I’d give it another chance… the jury is still out. I will say that the location was great, as was the Stumptown coffee shop.