Portland, Oregon, aka the “City of Roses” was in full bloom when my Mom, sister and I met up there last weekend…along with about 250,000 enthusiastic fans of their annual Rose Festival & Parade. It didn’t work so much for us. I think you have to be a local to really appreciate the endless number of floats or the Marching Band presented by Standard TV and Appliance.
But regardless of the parade, Portland has all the necessary fixin’s for assembling one fun-filled, action-packed, girlfriend getaway. Big-city activities including a wide variety of museums, art galleries, performing art venues, farmers markets and gourmet restaurants provide endless choices for cultural stimulation and are mixed with small town charm virtually guaranteeing that this will turn into a long-term love affair.
Well-planned, sustainable and compact, the city is easily navigated by foot or bike. Or take advantage of the free transportation which includes historic street cars and trolleys or MAX, an urban light rail line when you’re ready to explore the different neighbourhoods – they each come with their own unique style and lots of great shops.
More good news: there is no sales tax on your purchases.
SEE & DO:
Pittock Mansion – A stunning Victorian mansion in the hills of west Portland (with incredible city views) filled with gorgeous artwork and furniture collected by the original owners. Perched next to Washington Park, many visitors come to hike ending with a picnic on the grounds.
Powell’s City of Books – Heaven for book lovers, this landmark store, located in the trendy, Pearl District, offers one entire city block of new and used books in 3,500 sections. The Museum of Contemporary Crafts (with an excellent gift store) is located nearby.
Meander through the various hoods- A few good ones to explore are Hawthorne/Belmont, similar to San Francisco’s bohemian Haight-Ashbury district, Central Eastside where previously gritty docks and warehouse are now home to many creative artists, designers and chefs, and the Alberta Arts District, a yuppie fave due to the great selection of fashion-forward shops. Some weekly crowd-pleasers are Alberta’s Last Thursday art stroll, First Thursday wine tasting and art openings in the Pearl District and the newest addition is First Friday Eastside Gallery artist receptions.
Saturday Farmers’ Market– located on the grounds of Portland State University. Locals and tourists alike shop the booths filled with artisanal foods and sustainable agriculture. There’s plenty of free samples, live music and entertainment, and lots of grassy spots for relaxing.
Living Room Theater– you’ll feel right at home in this cosy cluster of mini-theaters where you can enjoy a film while sipping a hand-crafted ale or a nosh from their café menu.
Tip: Portland Walking Tours, led by resident experts, offers many excellent walks such as a tasty sounding Epicurean Excursion.
The food scene in Portland is phenomenal, regardless if you’re indulging in an elegant five-course meal or sharing bites at one of the food-cart “cities”.
Just a few suggestions to get you started are:
Little Bird Bistro, a new offshoot of the Franco-friendly Le Pigeon. Beast offers prix-fixe, communal dining under the helm of local celeb chef, Naomi Pomeroy. Our fave cluster of food carts was at 10th and SW Adler, where the choices read like a United Nations registry. Don’t miss Nong’s Khao Man Gai, for some succulent Thai steamed chicken and rice (splurge by adding chicken livers for an additional $1.00)
We absolutely loved the effervescent vibe of the boutique Hotel Monaco (a Kimpton property) located in the heart of downtown and just a short stroll from the Willamette River waterfront. Our brightly-colored suite was huge with high ceilings, super-comfy beds, large picture windows, a sitting room that could be closed off by sliding doors and all sorts of fun, girly touches such as the adorable stuffed teddy perched on our bed, Gilchrist & Soames toiletries, lighted cosmetic mirrors, fresh flowers, and plush terry robes that came in assorted animal-prints–with contrasting slippers. (Next time however, I’m going to ask them to remove the scale.)
The Monaco staff are superbly trained and could not be more accommodating; starting with housekeeping that efficiently changed all our bedding to hypo-allergenic (our girl never lost her smile) to everyone at the front desk who patiently provided us with maps, easy directions, and tons of good sightseeing/dining suggestions. The palatial lobby makes an inviting gathering space with a crackling fire, newspapers and stacks of informative sightseeing pamphlets. Tea and healthy fruit-flavored popsicles are thoughtfully provided in the afternoon, and they also offer a complimentary wine tasting paired with an amuse bouche provided by their restaurant, the Red Star Tavern and Roast House, every night.