Ohhh Portland! All of my life, I have thought that Austin, TX was the weirdest city in the United States. Well, I was wrong! Portland takes weird to a whole new extreme. We’re talking blue hair everywhere, random pianos on the sidewalks, and donuts shaped like…eh hem…male anatomy. They even host the largest naked bicycle ride in the world every year! Fortunately [or unfortunately depending on who you talk to!], we missed getting to witness that by just one week, but luckily there is plenty to do in Portland every other week of the year. Here are my top 5 things to do if you happen to find yourself in the Rose City for a long weekend.
1. Stand In Line
Nope…not a joke! Portland is home to several original eateries that are so good, you’ll find a line wrapped around the block at pretty much any time of day. And let me tell you, they’re all worth the wait!
The original Voodoo Doughnut is located in Portland. Voodoo boasts kooky and crazy donuts like the Voodoo Bubble (Dubble Bubble flavored), the Voodoo Doll (cream filled, chocolate donut shaped like—you guessed it—a voodoo doll!), and several NSFW flavors!
Although Voodoo is the most popular donut shop amongst tourists, many Portland natives would argue that Blue Star Donuts actually has the best donuts in town. And I have to say, I think I agree! Try the Valrhona Chocolate Crunch. It’s custard-filled and Oh So Good!
Finally, if you’re all tapped out on donuts, make your way to the cute Alphabet District neighborhood—tree lined streets with shops, restaurants, and Christmas lights galore—for Salt & Straw ice cream. You’ll smell the fresh waffle cones from down the block and the flavors like Freckled Woodblock Chocolate (my favorite) and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper sound weird but are absolutely creative and incredible. Not saying we went here as a pre-dinner snack, but I’m also not not saying that!
2. Check Out The Views From Above
Downtown Portland is uniquely positioned so that, on a clear day, you can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Jefferson way off in the distance. The best way to see these snowcapped beauties and the rest of the city from afar is from waaaay up high!
There are two great options for doing this in Portland. The first and cheaper option is the Portland Aerial Tram. The tram rises 500 feet above town from the Waterfront neighborhood up to a viewing deck at Oregon Health & Science University’s main campus hospital. The trams run continuously throughout the day, so for only $4.70 for a round trip, this is the perfect option for a quick view.
The more expensive, but totally worth it option is to eat at Portland City Grill. This award-winning restaurant owns the 30th floor of the US Bancorp Tower in Downtown Portland. The menu features steak, fresh seafood (the crab cakes are amazing), and more. The restaurant is slightly pricey, but if you can time your reservation for when the sun is setting, you’ll be treated to a view like this:
3. Stop And Smell The Roses
One of Portland’s most popular nicknames is “Rose City” and boy is there an abundance of these bright flowers here! Rose bushes line the streets and highways, but one of the spots any visitor to Portland must check out is the International Rose Test Garden. Located in Washington Park, the Rose Garden is free to enter and lined with countless rows of all colors and varieties of roses. It’s a sight for sore eyes for sure!
Side note: how cute are my parents?!
4. Head To The Portland Saturday Market
Street vendors EVERYWHERE! The food, the performers, the arts and crafts…all of it is proudly Portland Weird. The name is a little bit of a misnomer because the market is open every Saturday and Sunday in the Old Town. The Portland Saturday Market is definitely worth a walk-around to take in all of the sights and sounds.
5. Take A Brew Tour
Any trip to Portland would be incomplete without tasting all of the different craft brews that the city has to offer. Fun fact: out of the fifty states, Oregon has one of the lowest taxes on beers. This is why breweries seem to be even more common in Portland than Starbucks!
Mississippi Avenue in North Portland sets a perfect scene for a day of brewery hopping. Try the Nopo Industrial Ale Trail. Five breweries all teamed up in a guide-yourself, walking tour of the district. Start at Stormbreaker and make sure you grab your ale trail passport. From there you will make your way to Ecliptic, down to Widmer Brothers, Labrewatory, and finally to Ex Novo. If you get your passport stamped at all five, you win a prize! I love any motivation to keep drinking 😛 The area is casual and all of the breweries have their own personality and flare.