I’ve always envied Europeans that they can country hop whenever they please even on the most limited budget. But Cascadia is its own kind of Europe—and Portlanders, too, can roam internationally.
Take a half-day on Friday and scoot on up to Vancouver, B.C. The weather might not be much better right now—the average high for Feb-March is 50 degrees— but what British Columbia lacks in climate it makes up for in breathtaking scenery, juxtaposing gleaming high-rises against snow-capped mountains and a vast bay. A mere 6-hour drive from Portland (or 8 hour train ride), this buzzing international metropolis is a completely attainable weekend getaway.
Stay near Gastown and take part in the trendy, if quirky, night scene. The Urban Hideaway Guesthouse (581 Richards St) provides a homier experience among the concrete and steeel. It’s the last original house in the city and lies somewhere between a hostel for fleeting travelers and lodging for an extended stay. Breakfast fixings are included, as are hand-written notes from the owner (and permanent resident), Ken. Prices are more-than-reasonable (about $50/night), shoes are left at the door, and chances are you’ll meet a variety of travelers from across the globe.
Recommended by several locals, Gastowm's The Diamond (6 Powell St, 2nd Floor) would fit in well with Portland's highbrpw mixology scene. Serving a wide variety of whiskey drinks at just above $10 a pop, the people watching is interesting enough that you might be inclined to take the hit and stay for two.
Then head to the The Flying Pig (102 Water St) for dinner. A knowledgeable staff and casually fancy vibe make for a fantastic experience. I ordered the chicken/potato option (Mount Lehman Roasted Half Chicken w/mash and veggies) and as a self-proclaimed chicken/mash connoisseur, it was some of the best I’ve had. To drink, I had the Dark and Storm, a whiskey and ginger beer concoction served in a mason jar and packing a (delicious) punch.
Check out the food and handmade goods at Lonsdale Quay Market before taking the sea bus across the bay to North Vancouver. Once there, hop on another bus to get to the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park (you can also take your snow gear and ride this bus to the slopes). While you have to pay to partake in this forest wonderland (roughly $30 for adults), the 450ft long suspension bridge, “treetop adventures,” and a cliffwalk jutting out from the side of a ridge made the splurge well worth it, even for an Oregonian who thought she was immune to beautiful conifers.