5 Perfect Portland Days
The arrival of summer brings with it more than just budding roses, music festivals, and the overwhelming scent of SPF 30. It also usually launches a three-month-long parade of guests too smart to visit during grayer days. Armed with NYT clippings and Portlandia DVDs, these visitors already are smitten with our little indie city. Now it’s time to show them not just the clichés they hunger for, but the depth of your local knowledge. Start with these five itineraries, built for five very different types of visitors. Whether you tag along or simply tape one to the bathroom mirror for your guests to find their own way, we’ve saved you the cognitive energy it takes to dream up the perfect day. Yup, that’s right: summer just got easier.
ITINERARY #1: THE FIRST TIMER
In which we remind you of all those tried-and-true tourist destinations to show your guests, while suggesting some new classics that might just upstage them
The Standard: Washington Park Rose Test Gardens—But we also suggest: Peninsula Park or Elk Rock Garden
The more than 5,000 rose plantings at Peninsula Park—Portland’s first rose garden—ought to sate your flower fix, and the Mount Hood vista from Elk Rock’s estate patio is actually better (we think) than the faraway perspective at the Washington Park garden.
The Standard: Multnomah Falls—But we also suggest: Elowah Falls
Thumb your nose at the crowds as you pass Multnomah on your way to the less-frequented (but equally beautiful) Elowah cascade, a 289-foot froth-monster at the end of a gentle mile-and-a-half hike.
The Standard: Voodoo Doughnut—But we also suggest: Blue Star Donuts
Blue Star may subtract the “ugh” from the proper spelling of “doughnut,” but Micah Camden’s first foray into circular doses of sugar also takes the “ugh” out of the out-the-door-down-the-block wait. We’ll overlook the lexical transgression for a lifetime supply of crème brûlée glazes. 1237 SW Washington St.
The Standard: Powell’s—But we also suggest: Special Collections Room at the Central Library
You really shouldn’t skip the greatest bookstore in the Milky Way (Powell’s). Nor should you miss the chance to ogle the stunning, 100-year-old, A. E. Doyle–designed Central Library, where a first edition of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is on display in the John Wilson Special Collections room. 801 SW 10th Ave.
The Standard: Portland City Grill—But we also suggest: Noble Rot
With its impressive 30th-story views, PCG is still the spot to take your parents (and any others for whom the dream of the ’90s is alive and well). But Noble Rot’s fourth-floor east-side view of Portland’s skyline—plus a smart wine list and locally sourced dishes—shows off our 21st-century cool. Get a free tour of the rooftop garden every Tuesday at 5 p.m. 1111 E Burnside St.
ITINERARY #2: IN-LAWS
If beards and tattoos frighten your relatives, introduce them to Portland’s softer side with this laid-back exploration of our culinary, art, and shopping scenes. (Note: tat-free tour not guaranteed.)
10 AM: Schoolhouse Electric
Ten-year-old Schoolhouse Electric’s modish mix of furniture, home décor, and light fixtures feels as much like an art gallery as a store. Tour the eclectic inventory, espresso in hand, courtesy of the in-store Ristretto Roasters café, a signature example of PDX’s microroasting legacy.
2181 NW Nicolai St.
11 AM: Laura Russo Gallery
The Pearl District (and its cadre of galleries) was still an urban planning zygote when this sleek and welcoming space began showcasing Northwest artists in Nob Hill nearly 25 years ago. It’s every bit as approachable today.
805 NW 21st Ave.
12 PM: Oaks Bottom + Sellwood
Fuel up for the easy three-mile wander through bird-watching paradise Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge at Lompoc’s nearby Public House, a branch of one of Portland’s original microbreweries. Plus, Sellwood’s many-block-long antique mall promises plenty more leg stretching if you’re still suffering from IPA-and-goat-cheese-burger-induced guilt. 1621 SE Bybee Blvd.
2:30 PM: Oui Presse + Hawthorne
Perhaps no place puts Portland’s preciousness on display better than this cute bakery/magazine shop/café. But if you seek more, just head east on Hawthorne. 1740 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
5 PM: SE Wine Collective
Everyone’s mother-in-law warms up with a glass of pinot from Bow & Arrow, one of the four urban wineries bottling vino at this new urban sipping spot. 2425 SE 35th Pl.
6 PM: St. Jack
Rustic French cuisine gets a Northwest touch (think roasted coho with braised artichokes) at this upscale restaurant that’s so quaint even you will coo when you walk in the door. Rookie mistake: skipping dessert. Alissa Rozos’s chocolate almond torte is heaven on a plate. 2039 SE Clinton St.
8 PM: Heathman Hotel
Rest assured your family will be well cared for at 86-year-old Heathman Hotel, which believes “service is still an art.” (Ahem, restaurant industry workers.) See the proof for yourself tomorrow at Afternoon Tea—the Heathman is one of the only places in Portland still offering this truly continental affair. 1001 SW Broadway.
Talking Point The Hawthorne Bridge must lift at least partially every eight hours in order to ensure its 103-year-old parts don’t get stuck.
ITINERARY #3: BIKEABLE ADVENTURES WITH YOUR TRAGICALLY HIP OLD COLLEGE ROOMMATE
Now that you can afford more than ramen and Rainier, show your former roomie the trendier side of Portland.
Start at the Jupiter Hotel: This mod hotel’s 81 rooms come with bikes ($35 per day to rent), and with plenty of nearby cycling streets and lanes, your pal has an ideal home base for a two-wheeled exploration of Portland cool. From $129
Le Pigeon: It never gets old. Sit at the bar, order the chef’s five-course tasting menu, and let Gabriel Rucker, the punk-French cook who put a bird—and a Beard Award—on Portland’s culinary scene, blow your #$&%ing mind. 1 block
The 811 Building: Soak in all things vintage, handcrafty, and indie-avant-artsy at Haunt, Sword & Fern, Nationale, and the Adams and Ollman gallery. 2 blocks
Rontoms: Ping-Pong on the back patio. Winning’s not required. Trying is. 2 blocks
Tender Loving Empire: Retrieve your ironic-but-earnest Portland
Public Domain: We’re the only town in America that could possibly host coffee happy hour: $2 espressos with a shot of Pellegrino to wash ’em down.
Animal Traffic: For all your vintage Pendleton needs.
Ground Kontrol: Throwback video games. Beer. Need we say more?
Low Brow Lounge: Baby hipsters were born (and probably made) here back in the 1990s.
Colonel Summers Park: You don’t have to join the kickball game being played in perpetuity here, but you do have to watch, at least for a minute.
The Tannery Bar Any place that hangs a giant neon sign for longneck Rainier out front automatically qualifies as ironic. The extensive vinyl collection, well-crafted cocktails, and excellent small plates (we recommend the Monte Cristo) make this cozy spot actually cool.
Hollywood Vintage: Because the only thing cooler than angular eyewear is really old angular eyewear. The hat selection is also particularly fetching, in a midcentury-modern way.
MISSISSIPPI & ALBINA AVENUES
Mississippi Studios: Portland’s natty nano concert venue.
Mississippi Marketplace: The Big Egg, Native Bowl, and German beer bar Prost marked the evolution of Portland’s food cart scene in 2009.
Radar: Discover delicious Scandinavian-style brunch items like baked eggs and smoked bluefish pâté at this tiny spot with fancy cocktails designed by one of the bartenders at NYC’s legendary Death & Co.
Albina & Sumner: A record store (Mississippi Records), modern art (Museum of Modern Art), and a retro bar with a stuffed dead animal (Red Fox Bar), all on one block. The only thing more twee than this trifecta is brunch spot SweeDeeDee around the corner.
Sunset at Skidmore Bluffs: Behold the beauty of the sun sinking over the city, Forest Park, and a vaguely industrial landscape. Disregard the sneers from the skinny-jeans people who think they “found” these NoPo bluffs first. Keep your tallboy discreet.
Anywhere between 10th and 33rd, but especially Barista Café, Ampersand, Monograph Bookwerks, and the Bye and Bye, where the combination of fat mason-jar cocktails and skinny vegans proves incredibly entertaining.
Division Leap: St. Johns’s veritable emporium of impossible-to-find zines, rock-show posters, and strange outsider art from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s is open by appointment only. (Consider taking one of the Jupiter’s two on-site ZipCars for this venture.)
Talking Point: In 1897, Sullivan’s Gulch held Cycle Park, an amphitheater filled with bike tracks and a carnival-like atmosphere at NE 18th and Halsey.
ITINERARY #4: YOUR SISTER & HER TWO KIDS
A guide to showcasing Portland’s wonderful quirkiness while keeping the kids happy (and your sister sane)
+ The kids make their own pancakes (and a mess).
+ Boozy breakfast drinks (there are five mimosas on the menu)
+ Someone else to clean it all up
– A likely hourlong wait
= Totally worth it
4246 SE Belmont St.
Few cities our size claim their own aerial tram. Ours gets you within steps of Marquam Nature Park, a 180-acre ode to native plants like bigleaf maples, red cedars, and western hemlock.
I scream, you scream, the entire country is screaming for this boutique ice creamery—which, in its short two-year existence, has already logged way more than 31 quirky flavors. Among our favorites: Sea Salt with a Caramel Ribbon, and Freckled Woodblock Chocolate. Multiple locations.
The bad news: not enough people visit the bronze statues commemorating our famed children’s author at this Grant Park fountain. The good news: little ones can splash with Ramona and Ribsy without much interruption. NE 33rd Avenue and Brazee St.
Don’t give us that look (or eye roll). Name another 219,000-square-foot hands-on paean to science that includes a submarine, planetarium, and instructions for making flubber. Yeah, thought so. It’s easy for us to forget how truly awesome OMSI is, too. Remind yourself with a visit to the (hands-off!) mummies exhibit. 1945 SE Water Ave.
Fast is important when it comes to feeding kids. But so is flavor when it comes to feeding you. Boke Bowl’s heaping, steaming noodle bowls—like the pork dashi with buttermilk fried chicken—make both a priority. And there’s even PB&J steamed buns for the little ones. Plus, the SE Water Avenue location will introduce the next generation to some new vocabulary: industrial chic. 1028 SE Water Ave.
If you can get over the Day-Glo décor (you can), Northrup Station’s reasonable rates, kitchen suites, rooftop deck, and complimentary breakfast make it an ideal option for stashing sis and her family. And it puts her within blocks of places to trade out her mom jeans for something sharper at trendy NW 23rd shops like Sloan and Blake. 2025 NW Northrup St.
ITINERARY #5: COLLEAGUE
How to show off your town, impress your boss, and endear yourself to colleagues—without looking like you’re trying
Talking Point The wrought-iron gate at the northeast corner of Pioneer Courthouse Square came from the swank Hotel Portland, which stood on the site from 1890 to 1951.