The biggest mistake people make when planning a visit to Portland is not spending enough time to enjoy everything it has to offer. Not only is there plenty to do within the city itself, it also functions as the perfect base for exploring much of the rest of the state.
Mt. Hood’s year-round skiing is 90 minutes by car, the Columbia Gorge’s stunning hiking trails are only a 45-minute drive and the Willamette Valley wine region is just under an hour’s drive. If you do find yourself with only a day to spare, here is an idea of where to go and what to do to get a taste of this vibrant and happening city.
With non-stop flights from Vancouver (and now) Calgary direct, you can take the early flight and land just in time for breakfast. Head straight for the Pearl District for stop number one …
1. Kenny & Zuke’s Delicatessen
This local favourite has brought back the tradition of handmade Jewish deli food in Portland. Its humble beginnings as a farmer’s market booth were quickly replaced with three locations throughout the city, due to such tremendous demand.
And while a Jewish delicatessen may seem a strange choice for brekkie, its all-day breakfast offerings include bagels, omelettes and corned beef hash—all made fresh to order.
Of course, for the very daring there is their featured Breakfast Dog. Yes, you guessed it, grilled all beef sausage complete with eggs, bacon & cheddar … enough said!
You’ll likely need a respite after the Breakfast Dog and as luck would have it, you’re within a block and a half of a true Oregonian landmark for your next stop.
2. Powell’s Books
Filling an entire city block, Powell’s Books has more than one million volumes and five hundred thousand titles, making it one of the largest independent bookstores in the world.
A true Portland icon, you can easily lose yourself in here for hours and they defy you to come up with a title they don’t have.
After all that literary stimulation, you’ll likely be ready for a coffee break and a snack. Look no further than a block up from Powell’s Books to your next stop, the home of 'donuts for grownups'.
3. Blue Star Donuts
While Voodoo Donuts is well known among tourists, Blue Star Donuts has burst onto the artisanal donut scene (yes there are that many) fast becoming the local favourite.
Made fresh daily from a classic Brioche recipe, they feature flavours both expected (lemon poppy buttermilk, raspberry) and unexpected (Mexican Hot Chocolate, Blueberry Bourbon Bliss) that will literally melt in your mouth. They also serve Portland’s own Stumptown Coffee to help you wash down these French-inspired delights.
If you need something a bit stronger than coffee it may be time to drop into one of the more than 60 craft breweries for a pint of the State’s finest.
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4. Deschutes Brewery
To say Oregon has ignited the craft brew scene would be a vast understatement. With so many local craft brews to choose from it’s hard to pick one, but Deschutes is without question among the best.
According to locals in the know, the trend in beer right now is to focus on lighter, less hoppy beers like a Pilsner or Lager. Some of the other notable breweries at the moment are Commons, Upright, Gigantic, Ecliptic and Hopworks.
The daring beer taster may be more interested in Hair of the Dog, Breakside or Burnside Brewing. If you’re sticking to downtown you can stop at Pints, New Old Lompoc on 23rd and Bridgeport, all of which (along with Deschutes) are along the streetcar route.
Of course, you need to keep your wits about you to enjoy the rest of your day, which makes the next stop perfect timing. In a city known for focusing on local, seasonal and sustainable products, no visit would be complete without a stroll around a Farmer’s Market.
5. Farmer’s Market - Portland State University (PSU)
Open year round, the Farmer’s Market at PSU is an absolute must in a city renown for celebrating everything local. Vendors include farms, orchards, bakeries, creameries, butchers, coffee roasters and chocolatiers.
Now that you’ve worked up a bit of an appetite for lunch, it’s time to discover why Portland’s Food Carts have been named the best street food in America.
6. Food Cart ‘Pod’ - 10th & Alder
More than 600 food carts populate the city on individual corners or at ‘pods’ like the one at 10th & Alder, which has more than 60. Whether you feel like a bagel, a burger, stir fry or taco, the options are seemingly endless at this location alone.
As tempting as the cuisine can be, maybe just opt for a snack from a food cart, because you’re about to embark on a culinary walking tour that will require some curiosity and plenty of room in your stomach.
7. Forktown Food Tour - Alphabet District
Now that you have a reasonably thorough knowledge of the Pearl District in the heart of downtown, it’s time to discover one of the burgeoning surrounding neighbourhoods. None it seems is more representative of the local, seasonal foodie scene than the Alphabet District.
In order to maximize your time and find the best food outlets, you’ll need to enlist the local knowledge of Forktown Food Tours. This three-hour culinary walking tour snakes through the funky area, stopping at a former saloon, a handmade Jewish deli, an authentic French bakery, a distilling company, wine bar and chocolatier.
With night fast approaching, you might want to start thinking about freshening up before you ease into your evening activities. If you’re searching for a place to stay that invokes history and character and is a little off the beaten path, look no further than one of McMenamin’s historic hotels.
8. McMenamin’s Edgefield Hotel (Troutdale)
Twenty minutes from downtown Portland, Troutdale is home to McMenamin’s Edgefield Hotel. A former Poor Farm, the century-old hotel houses over one hundred guest rooms.
In true McMenamin’s fashion, every free-standing building that’s not accommodation or a restaurant is a pub! This includes the Little Red Shed, which seats up to eight people, and the Black Rabbit House, which seats all of three.
With 10 pubs in total, an excellent restaurant, a first-run movie theatre and live music every night, you can enjoy an evening out with plenty of options without leaving the property.