My Travels: Fun Things To Do In Portland, Oregon

{On our first day in Portland, Oregon we walked downtown along the river, coffees in hand.}

Earlier this month I traveled with my sister-in-law, an aspiring resident sure to land a spot at any hospital she wants (even though I selfishly hopes she stays in Kansas City),  to Portland, Oregon. Although she had an interview at OHSU on Monday, we were able to enjoy a fun-filled weekend where we explored the city and tried our best to imitate locals. We stayed at The Mark Spencer Hotel in the Pearl District, which positioned us so that we would be in walking distance of lots of fun things. Here are my top places to see and things to do in Portland if you ever find yourself in this city, the natural habitat for hipsters everywhere.

{I found my magazine, The Herb Companion, amidst the massive newsstand selection in the legendary Powell Books.}

Indulge in a few tourist attractions. Even though we tried to mask ourselves as locals, we ventured to the two most recommended “tourist sights”: Powell Books and Voodoo Doughnut.

Powell Books is ginormous. Words can’t even explain. (It has a map for crying out loud.) I wish that I was looking for a good book right now (I currently have seven recently purchased/recently checked-out from the library/recently borrowed titles on my nightstand) because I could easily spend a few hours here. Alas, I didn’t make it out of the young adult section. But it makes me very happy to see a bookstore continue to thrive. I don’t know how Powell Books does it, but maybe there’s hope for us fellow geeks after all.

{It was really hard to decide on a doughnut from Voodoo Doughnut. I mean … look at that revolving shelf of doughy goodness!}

Voodoo Doughnut is quintessentially quirky and a bit overwhelming. Tucked away in the Chinese district, this little shop offers out-of-the-box doughnut varieties, including Bacon Maple Bar—a doughnut topped with maple frosting and strips of bacon. We opted for Mango Tango, a doughnut filled with mango jelly topped with vanilla frosting and tang, and Old Dirty Bastard, a doughnut topped with chocolate frosting, Oreo’s and peanut butter. I only wish that each doughnut had a mini label. Every interesting doughnut I saw compelled me to ask the server “What’s that one? And what’s that one? What about that one?” Also, it’s cash only, so whatever you do, don’t lie to the homeless man sitting outside of it. If you tell him that you only have credit cards on you he will call you out on it.

{Cheers and happy HOLLA-days.}

Drink local beer. Don’t judge; Portland is famous for their microbreweries. I enjoyed a drink at some of our restaurant stops, but the majority of my beer tastings took place at Portland’s annual Holiday Ale Festival, an event we came across by accident while walking around downtown. It was very crowded and there were way too many lines, but there was delicious beer so who could complain. Among my favorites were Natian Brewery’s HOLLA-Day Ale, Seven Bride Brewery’s Drunkle 2011 and Off the Rail Brewery’s SIN After SIN.

{A scenic view of Portland, Oregon and Mt. St. Helen at the Hoyt Arboretum.}

Enjoy all of the pretty trees. My husband didn’t quite understand why I kept sending him pictures of trees on my phone while walking around the Hoyt Arboretum. “They’re just trees,” he said. No they’re not! They’re beautiful, breathtaking and beyond ordinary! Perhaps you just have to experience it for yourself, but a forest filled with more than 1,000 different kinds of trees, including the gorgeous Douglas fir, is beautiful to me. I mean … look at them! Also, who can complain about that view?

{On our first night out we ate at Fish Grotto, a seafood restaurant and wine bar.}

Eat, eat, eat. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When I travel I believe it is a must to eat out at lots of great local eateries, and I did just that. I enjoyed oysters at Fish Grotto, fish and chips at Rock Bottom Brewery, a burger at little big burger, brunch at The Park Bistro and Brasserie Montmarte, and other various foods at other various restaurants. All were very good. And they’d better be! According to my cab driver, “Portland has the best food in the world.”

{Merry Christmas everyone!}

Things I missed out on: wine tasting at one of Portland’s legendary wineries, hiking in Forest Park—the largest wooded urban park in the United States—visiting the International Rose Test Garden—a garden filled with more than 7,000 luscious rose bushes—and dining at one of Portland’s trendy food carts. We either ran out of time, it was the wrong season for that kind of thing, or every time we visited one when we were actually hungry they were closed! (I’m still a little bitter.)

Have you ever been to Portland, Oregon? What was your experience like there? What are your favorite things to do when traveling? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “My Travels: Fun Things To Do In Portland, Oregon

  1. im headed there for new years eve to visit a friend…you just made me more excited about it! thanks! 🙂

  2. @racheldangerweight Have the best time! Portland was tons of fun; I’m sure you’ll have a blast. Keep in touch and let me know what you love (or hate) about this city. 😉

  3. looks like you had a great time! i’ve been to one winery just south of portland, but didn’t have time to explore the city. it looks amazing! i did eat at a food truck there before, though. SO GOOD.

  4. There is rarely a trip to Portland that doesn’t include a stop at Powell’s. I love stocking up on new reads at great prices. Otherwise I always enjoy walking by the water and wandering around Washington Park, especially visiting the Japanese garden. Oh, and you must plan another trip just for the wine – maybe two days & a driver!

  5. @kimberlyloc All of the food carts looked amazing. Every time we walked by them we were on our way to lunch or dinner. We had decided to grab lunch there on Sunday, but apparently they close on Sunday! (At least the ones close by our hotel.) It was tres sad. I love that food carts are a thing in Portland. They all looked delicious! When I go back I will definitely break bread at a few in order to make up for not dining at one during this trip.

    @The Joyful Shoehorn Thanks so much for stopping by! If I ever return to Portland there is no doubt in my mind that I will make an effort to return to Powell’s. It’s like its own mini book city. 🙂 Also, thanks for the additional suggestions. We were so sad that wine tasting didn’t fit into our short schedule, although we did make it a point to drink local wine at the restaurants we ate at. Any must-visit winery suggestions for future trips?

  6. I’ve always wanted to explore Portland, Oregon, it’s always seemed like a beautiful place. And now your pictures have reinforced my need to go there!

  7. @candidsmiles I’m so happy to be your source of inspiration. 🙂 You’ll have to tell me all about your trip once you go, okay? Hope to see you soon!

  8. Pingback: Goodbye 2011; Hello 2012 |

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